Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Short and sweet today with little news on Monday and plenty of action to look forward to this week.
Manchester United will look to stretch their Premier League lead against Newcastle United on Tuesday, though will their Wembley antics distract them? ‘A hole lot of trouble for United’ read one headline.
The week’s big game, big being an understatement, is Real Madrid v Barcelona in the Spanish King’s Cup final. Jose Mourinho, silent before last Saturday’s ‘clasico’ which prompted a walkout by media in protest, has a tactical dilemma. Play with caution and risk the wrath of former club great Alfredo Di Stefano or attack and risk a hammering from Barcelona’s slick forwards.
What would you suggest the Portuguese coach does?
A recap of the past few days looks at Villarreal’s push for Champions League football next season in La Liga after Monday’s 1-0 win over Real Zaragoza, and the usually dogged Stoke City’s five, yes five, goal FA Cup semi-final win on Sunday against Bolton Wanderers who are enjoying a great season in the Premier League.
When you consider the importance Barcelona attaches to its Catalan identity, and the number of great local players the club has produced, it seems strange that Catalan coaches, or at least first team coaches, have had so little influence.
There have been a few, from Roma Forns back in 1927 through Josep Samitier, the great former player, and more recently the likes of Llorenc Serra Ferrer (actually Mallorquin) and Charly Rexach.
Nerves are totally understandable at the end of the season with so much at stake.
Even seasoned campaigners get afflicted by the jitter bug, with Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan losing the lead twice in a 2-2 draw at Chievo on Sunday with a fourth straight scudetto almost theirs.
Anyone remember Arsenal’s Steve Morrow being dropped by Tony Adams in the 1993 English League Cup final? Well this guy in Spain got injured all by himself….
This is from our main website.
Real Betis striker Sergio Garcia will be out for a month after injuring his knee while celebrating scoring the opening goal in the 3-3 home draw against Numancia.
Quite a few sceptical eyebrows were raised when Real Madrid gave Bernd Schuster the boot back in December and brought in Juande Ramos.
After an impressive spell at Sevilla, Ramos had faltered badly at Tottenham and it seemed the Real board were taking a big gamble in bringing him back to Spain with a contract until the end of the season.
Barcelona were so proud of the slick passing move that led to Bojan Krkic’s second goal during the 2-0 win at Almeria on Sunday that they have published all the statistics surrounding the strike.
In the 53rd minute, Xavi won the ball and gave it to Lionel Messi which was the first step in an uninterrupted 37 pass move that lasted one minute 49 seconds, the league leaders said on their website.
Spain overcame 44 years of underachievement on the international stage when they were crowned European champions at Euro 2008. Not only did they win the tournament, but their players, their style and their attacking ambition were hailed around the world.
However, that success appears to have had a detrimental effect on their domestic teams, who have traditionally been some of the strongest performers in Europe’s club competitions.
Rafa Benitez celebrated a famous victory over his hometown club when Liverpool beat Real Madrid 1-0 in their Champions League last 16, first leg on Wednesday.He outfoxed his counterpart Juande Ramos with an astute tactical display, but anyone linking the Spaniard with a move to the Bernabeu in the near future would be mistaken.
Real Madrid are in limbo. Former president Ramon Calderon sacked Bernd Schuster in December and installed Ramos on a contract to the end of the campaign, and then was forced to resign in disgrace after a vote-rigging scandal at a club general assembly was exposed.
Back in December, when the draw for the first knock-out round of the Champions League was made, Liverpool could be forgiven for feeling pretty pleased with the prospect of renewing their acquaintance with Real Madrid. How different things look now.
Back then, Liverpool were top of the Premier League, six points ahead of a Manchester United side facing a fixture pile-up and struggling for form. Real Madrid, in apparent disarray after sacking coach Bernd Schuster, were 12 points behind Barcelona, having just lost 2-0 to their arch-rivals.