Reuters Soccer Blog
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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.
And these particular German rivals have Raul, the pocket poacher who proved far too wily an opponent when they lost to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals in 2000.
But the motivation is there for manager Alex Ferguson, who after 25 years spent overhauling Liverpool’s domestic record, has admitted he is more than a little envious of their red rivals’ European success.
So this week’s Champions League quarter-final action is over and the semi-finals are set up. As expected Real Madrid strolled through their second-leg against Spurs and will now face Barcelona. The Spanish giants are set to clash four times in 18 days, including Saturday’s La Liga match at the Bernabeu and the King’s Cup final on April 20 in Valencia.
After their astonishing win at the San Siro, Schalke 04 finished off the job against Inter to set up a meeting with Manchester United.
Enjoy. That we will. Cristiano Ronaldo is back for Real Madrid and Gareth Bale for Tottenham Hotspur as four teams prepare for their biggest games this season in the Champions League quarter-final first legs on Tuesday.
Spurs forward Rafael van der Vaart is returning to the Bernabeu and would clearly love to make an impact on his old side.
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 to you all wherever you may be, and let’s start with some advice from Barcelona defender Dani Alves about his teammate and arguably the best footballer in the world, Lionel Messi.
The fast-passing Catalans snuck past Valencia last night, while over in Germany Raul was making the headlines for scoring the goal that sent Bayern Munich crashing out of the German Cup in the semi-finals.
Raul’s decision to join Schalke 04 in Germany rather than one of the English sides interested in taking him will have plenty of Real Madrid fans scratching their heads, I suspect. “What is he doing going to the Bundesliga when he could have gone to la Premier?” I can hear them ask. ”What a step down after playing for Real in the Best League In The World (TM)!” “And where is this Schalke place anyway?”
So pretty good news for the Bundesliga then, eh? It’s rare for a player of Raul’s considerable reputation, and even more distinguished salary, to choose Germany over England and he hasn’t even gone to Bayern, the one big beast of the Bundesliga.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso, Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa, Esteban Granero and Ezequiel Garay have all been added to a squad that finished second in the league under Juande Ramos last year.
Owen Wyatt has invested in new 3-D technology to provide a fresh look at Real Madrid chances of knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League.
Click on the video above to hear our views on the key battles at Anfield, and a look at what the Spanish papers and Real Madrid players are saying ahead of the match.
The likes of Paolo Maldini, Raul, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes might be handsomely paid by their clubs, but the fact they have spurned chances to get even richer elsewhere suggests they share at least some of the fans’ devotion to the colours they wear.
Inter Milan’s Patrick Vieira recognised this recently when talking about his former Juventus team mate Alessandro Del Piero.