Reuters Soccer Blog
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Spain’s much-maligned King’s Cup struggles to make an impression these days with La Liga and the Champions League squeezing it into a distant third in terms of prestige and matches poorly attended.
But this week’s Cup action served up a veritable feast of drama that more than matched what is generally served up in the other two competitions.
Atletico Madrid’s madcap victory over Recreativo Huelva earned them the last quarter-final berth on Thursday, with a thriller at the Calderon.
Having lost 3-0 in the first leg, to a team in the wrong half of the second division, Atletico stormed into a 4-0 lead.
Lionel Messi hogged most of the headlines thanks to his wonderful hat-trick at Tenerife, but it was the performances of a pair of teenagers who had pundits, coaches and team mates purring following the weekend’s La Liga action.
Barcelona’s Spanish forward Bojan Krkic has been around for a while –- he made his first-team debut in a friendly in Egypt in 2007 -– but all three of Messi’s goals came from passes supplied by the 19-year-old and coach Pep Guardiola was effusive in his praise.
Real Madrid and coach Manuel Pellegrini were on the business end of some damning newspaper headlines on Wednesday after their humiliating exit from the King’s Cup at the hands of third-tier Alcorcon.
In the build-up to the match, Kaka suggested pride and the club’s history would inspire the players to a dramatic comeback from the 4-0 away defeat in the first leg.
It seems almost beyond dispute, though, that whenever the Spaniard is unavailable Liverpool look ill equipped to challenge for the title, a situation hardly helped by the sales of Xabi Alonso, Robbie Keane and Alvaro Arbeloa in the past year.
Barcelona’s new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic was given a glowing report by Pep Guardiola after their Spanish Super Cup victory over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
But the doubts remain as to whether his qualities will be enough to replace or improve upon those the side have lost with the swap deal which sent former number nine Samuel Eto’o to Inter Milan.
If your first reaction on hearing about the Samuel Eto’o-Zlatan Ibrahimovic deal was “How much?” then I can assure you you weren’t the only one.
To land Ibrahimovic, who is due to be presented this evening at the Nou Camp, Barcelona will not only hand over the Cameroon international striker but will also give Inter Milan a reported 45 million euros and the loan, for one season, of Aleksandr Hleb.
One of the cruellest insults thrown at Florentino Perez during his first spell at Real Madrid was that the president had turned a great team into football’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters.
“Highly intelligent” and “Arsene Wenger” sit neatly together in countless newspaper columns outlining the exploits, achievements and travails of the cerebral Arsenal manager.
Consequently there was no elaborate deconstruction required following an interview with a French television channel at the club’s training ground this week.
Spain’s sports journalists will be doing their best to outdo one another in superlatives after a performance that ranks right up there with the 5-0 Barça managed at the Bernabeu with Johan Cruyff in their team in 1974.
Real Madrid’s Portuguese defender Pepe faces a lengthy ban that could extend to the end of the season after he had an astonishing Zinedine Zidane moment against Getafe on Tuesday.
I had the evening off and watched the match in a Madrid bar and the looks of disbelief on the faces of the punters around me reminded me of the reaction to the Frenchman’s headbutt in the World Cup final in Berlin in 2006.