Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Ask most football fans about what day in the season they looked forward to the most in the past and the FA Cup would have often topped the list, but the grand old competition is on the wane.
This year, four Premier League fixtures will be played before the trophy-starved Manchester City and Stoke City take to the Wembley turf for a shot at glory, the irony being Manchester United could clinch the league title about 20 minutes before their bitter city rivals try to win their first piece of silverware since 1976.
Is this farcical and disrespectful to the FA Cup or a sign the times-are-a-changin’? Money rather than trophies seems to rule modern football, so it’s no surprise to see the lucrative Champions League taking over as the ‘must win’ competition.
Just another night of footballing action and another trophy for the all-conquering Barcelona, who on Wednesday clinched their third successive La Liga title despite a laboured 1-1 draw away to Levante.
Manchester United will be hoping a similarly weary Barcelona turn up at Wembley for the Champions League final on May 28, hopefully having themselves recently won their top domestic honour, the Premier League.
On Tuesday the bank-rolled Manchester City outfit reached the Champions League qualifiers for next season and could even secure an automatic berth if they pip Arsenal to third place in the Premier League. That would be a real kick in the guts to Arsene Wenger, who has barely spent anything in comparison to City since he took over the North Londoners in 1996.
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.
Barcelona destroyed their fierce domestic rivals 5-0 in November, and although the gap at the top of La Liga remains difficult for Real to peg back, they looked a very difficult team to beat against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League quarter-finals.
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?
Strong belief in emulating the 1999 treble must surely be gripping Old Trafford after Manchester United’s somewhat fortuitous 1-0 win at Chelsea in their Champions League quarter-final first leg, but Alex Ferguson and his troops will also be aware they are still a long way from crossing the finish line first in any competition.
With Wayne Rooney losing his appeal to have a two-game ban reduced and the ever-present threat of injuries crippling a squad well short of the talent of the 1999 crop, United will once again have to dig deep into their resources as the strength-sapping season reaches its climax.
As the weekend approaches we can all start getting excited about domestic football again and the increase in stories and transfer speculation.
Welcome back to a new week of football stories but not before we’ve taken you through our roundup of the weekend’s action around Europe.
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.