Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Starting today, Madrid-based Reuters sports correspondents Iain Rogers and Mark Elkington will be writing a regular Monday column on La Liga for the Reuters soccer blog.
In its inaugural edition, Iain looks at the how the great rivalry between Spain’s dominant clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid has taken on an added piquancy this season and reviews some talking points from the weekend league action.
Barca and Real facing off on three fronts
Catalonia versus Spain. Barcelona versus Madrid. Pep Guardiola versus Jose Mourinho. Lionel Messi versus Cristiano Ronaldo. Sandro Rosell versus Florentino Perez. Victor Valdes versus Iker Casillas and so on and so on.
The well-documented and often bitter rivalry between Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid stretches back many decades and across many levels.
So Real Madrid finally broke their last 16 jinx and made the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2004 with a solid home performance against Olympique Lyon. Can’t imagine anyone left in the draw would like to face Jose Mourinho’s men when the last eight and semi-final draws are announced on Friday.
Which team would you want? Managerless Schalke 04? Real are divided on that given they would then face former striker Raul. Or Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk? Tottenham Hotspur would appear to be another one of the weaker teams left but at this stage of the competition any side is a threat.
That Champions League and drama undoubtedly go hand in hand was again in evidence after another tense night in Europe, with one blog even describing Inter Milan’s comeback victory over Bayern Munich as one of the best Champions League matches of all time.
As if that’s not enough, a “Little Pea” was scoring a double for Manchester United to send them through to their 11th quarter-final in just 19 years of the competition. No club has reached the last eight on more occasions.
Good day everyone and welcome to a new week. Following a great weekend of footballing action and with so much at stake over the next few days in Europe, there is plenty to discuss.
Let’s begin with a look at the FA Cup quarter-finals, and please add the weekend of April 16/17 to your diaries as the Manchester derby will make its way to Wembley for the semi-finals while Stoke face Bolton.
Mark Elkington in Madrid on Real’s over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo
Jose Mourinho´s chances of repeating last season´s treble winning campaign with Inter Milan at Real Madrid depend, in part, on him breaking the side´s reliance on the world’s most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 26-year-old Portugal forward has netted an impressive 34 goals in all competitions this season, 24 of those coming in La Liga, but it´s when he doesn´t score that the problems arise.
The Portuguese, who turned 48 on Wednesday, has been pressing for a centre-forward since the start of the season when Real set out with Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema as their two recognized frontmen.
Jose Mourinho’s constant pressuring of Real Madrid for another striker has finally paid off, with director general Jorge Valdano saying they were in the market for a number nine.
In the past, many top clubs would have been worried that the world’s richest club by income according to the Deloitte’s Football Money League, would be turning the heads of their prize assets.
It’s strange that when 2009 winner Lionel Messi was awarded the combined FIFA Ballon d’Or award on Monday there was shock in the Zurich auditorium and around the globe.
He is clearly the best player in the world but most fans and pundits had expected one of Barcelona team mates and Spain World Cup winners Andres Iniesta or Xavi to take the prize.
World, European and Italian champions Inter Milan have been stunned by coach Rafael Benitez’s attack on their lack of ambition.
The Spaniard, after just six months in charge, has called for signings in the January transfer window or else he will speak to his agent about his future.
Jose Mourinho’s gamble of swapping Champions League holders Inter Milan for recent underachievers Real Madrid looks to have paid off following a group stage where his new side excelled.
In contrast, Inter stumbled through to the last 16 in wholly unconvincing fashion, suggesting the coach with the Midas touch was right to bet the Italians would not be able to repeat the highs of last season’s glorious treble.