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A European night at Anfield is a trip back in time

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I had heard a great deal about the fabled Anfield atmosphere on European nights but nothing quite prepared me for my first visit.

Quite a night I chose as well. The 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid in what was the first meeting on Merseyside between the two European powerhouses will sit high on anybody’s list of magnificent Anfield occasions.

The atmosphere on the day of the match was great, as hundreds of Real fans took in The Cavern district and Liverpool’s impressive waterfront but it was the walk to the stadium that brought home quite what the European Cup means to Liverpool fans.

Huge banners were paraded through the terraced streets that surround the looming stadium. Boarded up shopfronts displayed murals of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, two of the club’s greatest managers, although I didn’t see one of Rafael Benitez (well, he is yet to bring the league title back to Liverpool).

FA Cup — life in the old pot yet

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Speaking as someone who once sat in a brick-built outhouse at the bottom of the garden for five years writing a book about the FA Cup, I have rather a soft spot for the old pot.And so, it seems, after all these years, do Arsene Wenger, Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and many other managers, some of whom have not always treated the competition with the respect I still think it deserves.It seems almost every year at about this time, the same stories are run about how the FA Cup has lost its magic and the competition is now a mere end-of pier show compared to the Champions League and Premier League.The doomsayers point to dwindling attendances at grounds and dipping TV viewing figures to prove the FA Cup is not what it was.Last season the jump-on-a-bandwagon team proclaimed the cup “was back” because of all the upsets along the way that meant that just one Premier League team — Portsmouth — reached the semi-finals. Portsmouth v Cardiff was an “old-fashioned” final, a throwback to the 1920s and 1930s.This season the same voices are proclaiming the cup is dead again because Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton are all in the last four with Arsenal set to join them, although Hull City are still involved, and can still of course win it for the first time in their history.But the critics can’t have it both ways. Some years there are upsets, some years there aren’t — and irrespective of the outcome, an FA Cup match does have a different atmosphere, a different tempo and a different level of excitement to a league match, even if both teams are in the same division and regularly play each other.I was at Fulham v Manchester United on Saturday and saw a magical performance from Michael Carrick, Carlos Tevez and their team mates as United crushed the home side 4-0.Despite modern improvements there is still a timeless feel about watching matches at Craven Cottage next to the River Thames, just as there is still a timeless feel about the FA Cup.Sometimes it ebbs, sometimes it flows. I still believe that for most fans, nurtured on just a little history who still appreciate the romance of the game, you can’t miss it for a moment.PHOTO: Everton’s Marouane Fellaini (R) challenges Middlesbrough’s Justin Hoyte during their FA Cup quarter-final at Goodison Park, March 8, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Vlog on the Pitch: table football special

Owen Wyatt has invested in new 3-D technology to provide a fresh look at Real Madrid chances of knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League.

Click on the video above to hear our views on the key battles at Anfield, and a look at what the Spanish papers and Real Madrid players are saying ahead of the match.

Did Spain’s Euro 2008 win jinx the clubs?

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Spain overcame 44 years of underachievement on the international stage when they were crowned European champions at Euro 2008. Not only did they win the tournament, but their players, their style and their attacking ambition were hailed around the world.

However, that success appears to have had a detrimental effect on their domestic teams, who have traditionally been some of the strongest performers in Europe’s club competitions.

What are United’s quintuple chances now?

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Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson dismissed the suggestion in his usual style.

After beating Spurs on penalties to win the English League Cup final on Sunday he was asked if United could complete a “quintuple” of trophies.

Klinsmann silences doubters … for now

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Juergen Klinsmann, who has turned German soccer upside down the last four years with a dynamic and modern approach to the game, has once again managed to silence the domestic naysayers, at least for the time being.

Bayern’s 5-0 thrashing of Sporting Lisbon put an abrupt halt to the media speculation that Klinsmann’s job was on the line after Bayern lost three of their first four Bundesliga matches since the start of the second half of the season in January.

Vlog on the Pitch talks title racing with Wenger

Join vlogmeister Owen Wyatt as he takes the plunge and asks John Arne Riise whether he’s still a better player than Andrea Dossena, the man who replaced him at Anfield.

And talking of the Premier League, Arsene Wenger thinks Liverpool’s title hopes are still alive, and that none of the top teams are playing to their full potential. Dare to disagree with Wenger? Let us know in the comments, or record your own video rant and send us a link. If we like it, we’ll embed it here.

Round one to Liverpool, but don’t believe Benitez rumours

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Rafa Benitez celebrated a famous victory over his hometown club when Liverpool beat Real Madrid 1-0 in their Champions League last 16, first leg on Wednesday.He outfoxed his counterpart Juande Ramos with an astute tactical display, but anyone linking the Spaniard with a move to the Bernabeu in the near future would be mistaken.

Real Madrid are in limbo. Former president Ramon Calderon sacked Bernd Schuster in December and installed Ramos on a contract to the end of the campaign, and then was forced to resign in disgrace after a vote-rigging scandal at a club general assembly was exposed.

So are we set for another all-English Champions League final?

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There’s still a long way to go to the final in Rome but from what we saw over the first legs of the opening knock-out round of the Champions League a lot of people will be expecting another all-English affair at the Olympic Stadium.

If you take Mark’s dad as an authority, and I’m sure he knows as much as anyone, serie A sides are unlikely still to be challenging but is there anyone else capable of preventing another Premier League tour match?

Real Madrid v Liverpool — what a difference two months make

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Back in December, when the draw for the first knock-out round of the Champions League was made, Liverpool could be forgiven for feeling pretty pleased with the prospect of renewing their acquaintance with Real Madrid. How different things look now.

Back then, Liverpool were top of the Premier League, six points ahead of a Manchester United side facing a fixture pile-up and struggling for form. Real Madrid, in apparent disarray after sacking coach Bernd Schuster, were 12 points behind Barcelona, having just lost 2-0 to their arch-rivals.

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