Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Xabi Alonso’s 30th birthday on Friday has prompted an avalanche of praise for the Real Madrid midfielder and has also served to highlight the former Liverpool man’s importance in coach Jose Mourinho’s plans for Spanish and European domination.
Widely regarded as one of the finest players of his generation, as well as one of the most astute purchases by big-spending Real president Florentino Perez, the quietly-spoken Alonso has gone from strength to strength since joining Real for a fee of 35 million euros ($47 million) at the end of the 2008-09 season.
Spraying passes around the pitch from the centre of midfield with consumate ease and unleashing a crunching tackle when necessary, he is the well-oiled cog at the heart of Mourinho’s Real machine and it would be hard to see them mounting a realistic challenge to great rivals Barcelona without him.
Mourinho has used him more than any other player this season, more even than captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
It is a bit early to single out Manchester rivals United and City as the only title contenders this season, but it appears highly likely that Arsenal will not be among the chasing pack now headed by the new-look Liverpool and Chelsea.
What is more, the 8-2 hammering the Gunners suffered at Old Trafford suggests that Arsene Wenger’s side might even struggle to finish in the top six, unless the Frenchman can swiftly turn around their fortunes.
Dominating football news on Tuesday are the allegations by David Triesman to a UK parliamentary inquiry that several FIFA executive committee members asked for favours in return for their votes for England’s 2018 World Cup bid.
Startling stuff, especially with the FIFA presidential election less than a month away and a third of the 24-man executive committee having been accused of corruption.
The Premier League title race is reaching boiling point and Ferguson is hot under the collar that his team did not get a penalty in their 1-0 defeat to Arsenal.
They might be running away with the Premier League title and facing a side who are 10th in their own table (ok, those portents look pretty rosy), but they have come unstuck the last two times they have lined up against German rivals in the semi-finals.
Real Madrid 1 Barcelona 1. Pictures of the teams suggest they were both pleased with the result but you would imagine Barcelona came away the happier side. Though Real were down to ten men for almost the entire second half so must be relieved not to have lost.
Who gained the upper hand then from the first of four clasicos between last Saturday and May 3? Wednesday will be an interesting affair in the King’s Cup final, a one off match as opposed to the two-legged Champions League semi-final.
Hello everyone at the start of this new week, where before we talk Champions League and give a reminder of the weekend’s action, there’s news of another foreign takeover.
Arsenal are not enduring the easiest of times on the pitch but on Monday announced that American billionaire Stan Kroenke is taking over the club. Arsenal fans, what are your thoughts? Will this new era usher in drastic changes such as a new manager?
How can the upcoming domestic matches beat this week’s European action for goals? 19 were scored in Thursday’s four Europa League quarter-finals, with a further 18 coming in the four Champions League last eight ties on Tuesday and Wednesday.
What the top leagues around Europe do have however is drama, with most leagues set to go down to the wire, whereas only two out of eight of next week’s quarter-final second legs are in the balance.
Where to start after four brilliant Champions League quarter-finals, even if the intrigue for next week’s second legs has all but gone from three of the ties with Barcelona leading Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1, Real Madrid 4-0 up against Tottenham Hotspur and Schalke 04 in total charge against holders Inter Milan after the 5-2 triumph at the San Siro.
However, the appetite has most certainly been whet for the very probable ‘Clasico’ semi-final between Real and Barcelona, a meeting of the world’s two best players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. April 26 or 27 and May 3 or 4. Do not miss these dates. Not that Spain’s two leading clubs are thinking that far ahead.
Well well well. Now the Champions League really is wide open..
So here’s that quarter-final draw again:
Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea v Manchester United
Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk
Inter Milan v Schalke 04
As Gary Lineker put it, there will be an English team in the semi-finals, but could Tottenham make it two sides? Real are certainly not invincible.
Now, before taking a look at all the domestic leagues over the weekend, a recap of Thursday’s highlights from the Europa League. Quite a night of upsets.