Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

Soccer Break Friday

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SOCCER-EUROPA/Friday. That means almost weekend. Which means yet more football. When does it ever stop? We don’t want it to though, especially with some cracking FA Cup games in store as well as Europe’s top sides slugging it out in their respective leagues.

First however, here’s our take on the Europa League action on Thursday. Some nicely poised ties, though it was not a good night for Liverpool or Manchester City, or Mario Balotelli for that matter.

This blog argues Balotelli is damaging his Man City career. What do you think? Balotelli is undoubtedly talented, just not consistent enough. Perhaps time will tell.

As for Liverpool, the Europa League is their only realistic chance of silverware this season. Was it disappointing to see so little urgency at the start of the game? Or do you feel the league match against Manchester United took a great deal out of Kenny Dalglish’s men?

Soccer Break Thursday

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/Breathe in. Breathe out. The Champions League is over for this week after a tense two days of last 16 drama. And now for Europa League action on Thursday with yet more top sides in action.

First of all however let’s dissect the Champions League from Wednesday where underdogs Tottenham Hotspur and Schalke 04 progressed past their more fancied rivals, AC Milan and Valencia respectively.

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.

Does Hodgson deserve a crack at top job?

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SOCCER-EUROPA/I was chatting to a bunch of Fulham fans after last night’s Europa League final defeat and the question they all asked was, “What did Roy Hodgson say about his future?”

You can tell why they would be anxious. The man who saved them from relegation after coming in midway through the 2007-08 season, guided them to seventh at the end of the next campaign and then on into their first major European final will not be short of job offers, you wouldn’t think.

Europa League final — live

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We’ll be providing updates direct from the Hamburg Arena, where Atletico Madrid look to land the first leg of a possible Cup double in the final of the Europa League against Fulham.

The English side have upset the odds all season, knocking out the likes of Juventus and Hamburg on their way to the final. Join us for all the details from a couple of hours before kick-off.

First Europa League final has a familiar feel

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SOCCER-EUROPA/The first Europa League season, following its rebranding from UEFA Cup, draws to a close with a final line-up no-one would have expected here in Hamburg, but still, there is a familiar feel heading into this match.

Fulham’s roller coaster ride is reminiscent of the journey made by Spain’s Alaves, when they made it all the way to the final in 2000-01.

Europa League semi-finals — live

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The Champions League has brought little joy to English clubs this season but the Europa League has been a different story, with Liverpool and Fulham both in with a chance of making the final.

Join us for live chat and on-the-spot details from our reporters as Liverpool take on Atletico Madrid and Fulham face Hamburg in the semi-final second legs.

Liverpool miss Torres more than Atletico

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SOCCER-EUROPA/We were treated to the all too rare sight of rival fans standing and sportingly applauding each other at the end of the Europa League semi-final first-leg between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool at the Calderon on Thursday.

The Spanish club’s 1-0 victory had not poisoned the atmosphere, as so often happens, and both sets of supporters sang out the name of former Atletico striker Fernando Torres, now at Liverpool, to the tune of “I love you, Baby.”

20 long years for Liverpool faithful

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Madrid-based correspondent Martin Roberts writes:

SOCCER-EUROPA/One anniversary Liverpool fans will not be celebrating this summer will be the 20 years since their side last won a league title, a long wait that not only frustrates supporters but must dent any team’s claim to be more than also-rans.

It must be humiliating for those supporters who can remember when Liverpool had the League trophy ready and waiting if a home win sealed the title – all they had to do was fetch it down from the trophy room and give it a quick polish.

Fate of Hamburg’s Labbadia hinges on Europa League

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SOCCER-GERMANY/Hamburg SV coach Bruno Labbadia’s job has been hanging in the balance for weeks. But any development on that front was put on ice when Hamburg advanced to the Europa League semi-finals against Belgium’s Standard Liege on Thursday.

There is no denying, however, that Labbadia has underperformed at Hamburg, desperate for some silverware after a title drought that stretches back decades. After a very good start to the season, they imploded after the winter break, admittedly, in part, due to major injuries to key players including strikers Mladen Petric and Paolo Guerrero.

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