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Soccer Break Friday – Champions League draw special

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SOCCER-EUROPA/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.

Portuguese clubs lead the way in the second-tier European club competition with three representatives; the Netherlands have two sides in the last eight while Spain, Ukraine and Russia all have one.

What are your feelings on the Europa League? Prestigious cup worth winning, or would you rather your team wasn’t in it at all like Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben?

Soccer Break Thursday

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/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.

Soccer Break Wednesday

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/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.

Soccer Break – Friday edition

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SOCCER-SPAIN/Lionel Messi one day, Cristiano Ronaldo the next. It does not get any better than seeing the world’s best players at the top of the their game after Ronaldo’s hat-trick inspired Real Madrid to a 7-0 hammering of Malaga.

There’s plenty to get your teeth into here, while other Real blogs are debating the future of midfielder Kaka. Could you see him in the Premier League?

Real suffering Ronaldo-dependency in their pursuit of silverware

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Mark Elkington in Madrid on Real’s over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo

SOCCER-SPAIN/Jose Mourinho´s chances of repeating last season´s treble winning campaign with Inter Milan at Real Madrid depend, in part, on him breaking the side´s reliance on the world’s most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 26-year-old Portugal forward has netted an impressive 34 goals in all competitions this season, 24 of those coming in La Liga, but it´s when he doesn´t score that the problems arise.

Soccer Break – Monday edition

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPHello and welcome to Reuters Soccer Blog’s new daily digest where we’ll recommend some of the best stories on the internet for you to read over morning coffee/afternoon tea/cocktails (depending on your time zone).

Where better to start with a look at Birmingham City’s last-gasp win over Arsenal in the England’s League Cup final, the drama of which is depicted in our photo of the 89th minute goal that left the north Londoners still yearning to end that trophy drought.

Not quite a feast of football in tasty Lyon

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/It was my first trip to Lyon to see Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid and though I knew what to expect on the field given the Spanish side’s troubles here in the past, I had no idea what the city or its famed cuisine would be like.

In the end, the food in one of France’s gastronomic centres probably outshone the fare on the pitch although it was a decent game with both sides fighting for every ball in the cold and the rain.

Real Madrid battle French demons and knockout round jinx

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SOCCER-SPAIN/Olympique Lyon’s Stade de Gerland has proved to be something of a graveyard for Real Madrid’s European ambitions over the last decade.

The nine-time European Cup winners travel there for a Champions League last-16, first leg on Tuesday with an abysmal record to look back on from previous visits – three defeats, no goals scored and six conceded.

Champions League returns — can anyone stop Barcelona?

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/BUSQUETSHow we’ve missed the Champions League. It’s nine weeks since the line-up for the last 16 was completed and a couple of months since the draw offered up a handful of belting ties, including Inter Milan v Bayern Munich in a repeat of last season’s final.

We’ll have to wait a week for that one, with the more leisurely format these days meaning we see just two matches a night. This week, we can look forward to AC Milan v Tottenham and Valencia v Schalke on Tuesday, with Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk and Arsenal v Barcelona on Wednesday.

Chambery’s French passion underlines renaissance of domestic cups

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SOCCER-FRANCE/Fifth division Chambery’s stunning win over top-flight Sochaux to reach the French Cup quarter-finals has got a lot of people talking and I think it’s fair to say domestic cup competitions around Europe are enjoying a bit of a resurgence.

As this week proved with other games, Cup shocks are nothing new in France – something I knew before moving to Paris on Monday — but the fact newspapers and fans are stilll excited about Chambery’s run speaks volumes.

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