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.
European competition is almost over for another season after Braga and Porto booked their places in the Europa League final in Dublin.
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.
I had been told the Stade Velodrome had a great atmosphere and after the constant noise the Marseille fans made in Wednesday’s 0-0 Champions league draw with Manchester United, I have one question – what would it be like if the stands had roofs?
Despite the dire match, the supporters at either side of the ground never stopped chanting and banging drums for a second. If the Velodrome wasn’t open to the elements I can only imagine that the noise would be even louder and give the home side an even bigger advantage.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s match-winning performance against Olympique Marseille on Tuesday has helped defuse the fierce criticism he attracted for his irresponsible sending off against Almeria at the weekend.
The Portuguese forward, a world record signing for the La Liga club in the close season, apologised for the two yellow cards he picked up — one for ripping off his shirt to celebrate a goal (which had the effect of showing off his bulging muscles to the cameras) and the second for recklessly kicking an opponent.
France’s Ligue 1 cannot compare with England’s Premier League or Spain’s La Liga in terms of worldwide profile or star quality on the pitch but on Sunday Lyon and Marseille produced the sort of spectacular entertainment Chelsea v Manchester United just could not match.
I had not expected much from this match, which ended in a depressing goalless draw last season. Both teams had played in the Champions League earlier in the week – yes, there are French teams in that competition — and I suspected they would play conservatively, probably settling for draw.