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Ask most football fans about what day in the season they looked forward to the most in the past and the FA Cup would have often topped the list, but the grand old competition is on the wane.
This year, four Premier League fixtures will be played before the trophy-starved Manchester City and Stoke City take to the Wembley turf for a shot at glory, the irony being Manchester United could clinch the league title about 20 minutes before their bitter city rivals try to win their first piece of silverware since 1976.
Is this farcical and disrespectful to the FA Cup or a sign the times-are-a-changin’? Money rather than trophies seems to rule modern football, so it’s no surprise to see the lucrative Champions League taking over as the ‘must win’ competition.
The Champions League is the biggest club competition in the world and generally where players peak, so Wednesday’s semi-final first leg should be the best of the recent encounters between the Spanish rivals.
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.
Real Madrid 1 Barcelona 1. Pictures of the teams suggest they were both pleased with the result but you would imagine Barcelona came away the happier side. Though Real were down to ten men for almost the entire second half so must be relieved not to have lost.
Who gained the upper hand then from the first of four clasicos between last Saturday and May 3? Wednesday will be an interesting affair in the King’s Cup final, a one off match as opposed to the two-legged Champions League semi-final.
Barcelona destroyed their fierce domestic rivals 5-0 in November, and although the gap at the top of La Liga remains difficult for Real to peg back, they looked a very difficult team to beat against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League quarter-finals.
You’d have thought that the frankly obsessive interest most of us here at Reuters Soccer Blog Heights take in football would see us approach this competition with the pitiless, sweeping brilliance of Celta Vigo in their ‘EuroCelta‘ heydey of 1998-2000*.
It may well be, then, that the signing of the impressive, energetic Glen Johnson at full-back turns out to be a more significant bit of transfer business than the much criticised decision to sell Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid.
Never let it be said that we at Reuters Soccer Blog shirk a challenge. Our attempts at score prediction on the opening weekend produced results that were modest at best but never fear, we’re straight back in for another shot (that’ll doubtless be blasted over the bar).
Once again, please send in your own predictions … they can scarcely be any worse than ours, and if you do especially well, we’ll gladly let you lord it over us here on the blog.
Something strange is happening in English football. Stoke City, one of the less fashionable teams in the Premier League, have started a trend that has swept down through most levels of the game.
Rory Delap is the man responsible, with his long throws directly involved in seven of Stoke’s first 13 goals of this season, scored between August 16 and November 1.