Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

By the way…the European season has started

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RTR2E8Q7[1]ZANETTISMALLNevermind Iker Casillas hoisting the World Cup, it doesn’t seem five minutes since Javier Zanetti had the European Cup on his head while sporting that crazed grin back in May.

Yet here we are again at the start of another European season. In fact the likes of Juventus and Liverpool have already begun competitive action in Europa League qualifiers and this weekend France’s Ligue 1 begins and England’s Community Shield pits double winners Chelsea against runners-up Manchester United.

It all feels a bit surreal and excitement among fans does not seem to be as palpable as previous seasons. The World Cup was a letdown for many and the transfer market is as dead as a dodo.

Could the beautiful game be losing some of its spark?

The harsh economic realities in the rest of industry are filtering through to soccer. AS Roma are up for sale after big debts and Liverpool are hunting for a buyer while Manchester City are the only European club spending big given no “must haves” were really discovered in South Africa.

Inter and Blackpool restore faith in the footballing dream

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Teams win against all the odds only in Hollywood movies.

Not true. Yet again real life has outstripped even the wildest fantasies of the greatest scriptwriters.

Italian football, overshadowed by England and Spain, was in the doldrums after their clubs failed to make any impact in the Champions League in the previous two seasons.

Champions League final, Bayern Munich v Inter Milan — live

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Join us for tonight’s Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in Madrid. Will it be Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho who wins the competition for the second time? Either way, we’re expecting a belting final at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Should Europa League winners qualify for the Champions League?

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Rules and competition formats which apply to other sports can rarely be implemented in soccer but UEFA may want to have a look at the benefits of a European club basketball formula if it is to further improve the Europa League.

The winners of Eurocup, the continent’s second-tier club basketball competition, win a berth in the Euroleague — the equivalent of
football’s Champions League — and the move has had only a
positive effect in attendances and the overall quality of teams.

Spurs seize their “now or never” opportunity

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It was a case of “now or never” for Tottenham this season as, if they had failed to snatch fourth place and a passport to the Champions League, they might never had had another shot.

Crashing the “big four” has been the target of half-a-dozen clubs in the last decade and Spurs went close with two fifth-placed finishes in 2006 and 07.

Guardiola needs to show mettle after Mourinho mugging

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Failure and Pep Guardiola are words that haven’t appeared together in the same sentence for some time, but the Barcelona coach has a big task on his hands if he is to prevent them being applied to his side’s end of the season.

He was right to argue after Wednesday’s Champions League exit to Inter Milan that it was hardly a case of his team being a victim of their own success.

Are Inter fans getting overexcited too early?

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Reaching a European Cup final for the first time since 1972 is success in itself for Inter Milan fans, as witnessed by the delirious scenes at Milan Malpensa airport as the team arrived back from eliminating holders Barcelona.

Jose Mourinho’s side are on for a treble, unprecendented in Italian soccer, but they have not yet tied up Serie A (two points ahead with three games left), the Italian Cup (final against Roma May 5) or the Champions League (final against Bayern Munich May 22 in Madrid).

Barcelona v Inter Milan — Champions League live

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Barcelona attempt to come back from a 3-1 defeat in the first leg when they host Inter Milan at Camp Nou. Will it be a happier night for Lionel Messi? Can Pep Guardiola get his own back on Jose Mourinho? Or will the Italians confirm their superiority and make it through to the final in Madrid?

Bayern Munich booked their place after a hat-trick from Ivica Olic earned them a 3-0 win in the second leg against Olympique Lyon and a 4-0 victory on aggregate. Read on in the live blog for details on how that happened.

Barca, Inter trade blows before European showdown

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/It’s considered irresponsible for a coach to call for fans to intimidate visiting teams and referees, just as it courts controversy to accuse rivals of diving a lot.

The restrictions on coaches are not so tightly applied to players so it was Gerard Pique and Thiago Motta who waded in to do the dirty work, in the buildup to Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final return between Barcelona and Inter Milan.

Did Barcelona sleep through the Inter videos?

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Inter Milan’s masterclass performance against Barcelona will have impressed many, including Pep Guardiola, and produced just the first-leg outcome the tie needed to set up a gripping return leg at the Nou Camp next Wednesday.

Graceful after his first two-goal defeat since he took over at Barcelona, Guardiola refused to blame the fact his team had endured a 14-hour coach ride to Milan after volcanic ash from Iceland grounded flights across Europe.
But, having said he had made good use of the trip by watching Inter videos, Guardiola might wonder whether some of his players had taken a nap when they should have been paying attention.

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