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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.
In Wednesday’s other match Chelsea coasted through against FC Copenhagen, little surprise there. However Fernando Torres was again left waiting for his opening goal at the London club after coming on as a substitute in the 68th minute.
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.
Breathe in. Breathe out. The Champions League is over for this week after a tense two days of last 16 drama. And now for Europa League action on Thursday with yet more top sides in action.
First of all however let’s dissect the Champions League from Wednesday where underdogs Tottenham Hotspur and Schalke 04 progressed past their more fancied rivals, AC Milan and Valencia respectively.
A fine Wednesday to you all, and a few statistics to begin with. Attendance at the Nou Camp: 95,486. Estimated crowd noise (in decibels): 121.8. Estimated noise of a referee’s whistle (in decibels): 121.8.
The operative word above is estimated, because of course we have no idea, but a quick dig around on the internet shows some debate about whether Robin van Persie could have heard Massimo Busacca’s whistle despite the defeaning noise at the Nou Camp.
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.
Big deal says Bayer Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes after their 3-2 loss to Nuremberg on Sunday. He is quick to reject any of the tags that Leverkusen have had to deal with for much of the past 15 years, like “Neverkusen” and “Vizekusen”.
If anyone had said at the start of the season that a pensioner fresh out of retirement would steer perennial underachievers Bayer Leverkusen to the top of the Bundesliga at the halfway mark, they would have been called mad.
If they had also reckoned that Schalke 04 would be hot on their heels, they’d be thought of as even crazier.
Schalke 04 had high hopes for the 2008/09 season but after only a few weeks it was clear the pre-season favourites, with only three wins in the first nine league matches, were just non-starters.
Coach Fred Rutten saw things go even worse as they were eliminated from the Champions League, then the UEFA Cup and were even dumped out of the German Cup by second-division Mainz.
Paolo Guerrero scored twice for Hamburg SV on Sunday in their 2-1 win over Schalke 04, whose consolation was scored by his compatriot Jefferson Farfan.