Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

The cat flashes his claws

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Karim Benzema has shrugged off the disparaging label of being Real Madrid’s pussycat and turned himself into a fearsome feline under Jose Mourinho.

In the space of a year, the 24-year-old has gone from expensive bench warmer to first-choice leader of the line at the world’s richest club by revenue, and won over a skeptical coach.

Benzema was a match-winning substitute in Tuesday’s King’s Cup first leg win at home to Malaga, when a weakened side skulked in at halftime trailing 2-0.

The French international helped galvanise his team after the break, tormenting the visitors’ defence with his pace and link-up play and bursting through the middle to grab the comeback winner late on.

Sports review 2011 – A memorable year for the wrong reasons

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By Steve Keating

The trouble with putting together a top 10 list of the year’s biggest sports stories is that one person”s number one is another person”s 10.

For those of us lucky enough to spend our time chronicling these events the period before New Year is generally one of reflection where we, like every other sports fan, take stock of what we have seen.

Soccer team of the year?…APOEL Nicosia

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Alright, alright I know most of you will be screaming “what about Barcelona?” right now but they get so many plaudits that I thought I could argue a contrarion position.

Yes World, European and Spanish champions Barca have been brilliant and in time we may say they were the greatest ever club side to play the game.

DRS in cricket…to use or not to use?

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By Sudipto Ganguly, India sports correspondent

The inconsistent use of the Decision Review System (DRS) has put the International Cricket Council (ICC) in the firing line once again, strengthening the already popular notion that the governing body is helpless against the wishes of its most influential member board – India.

As the rest of the cricketing world went up in unison in a huge appeal, like a stern umpire, India once again shook its head and refused to budge on the use of technology in the game.

Packers dilemma: To rest or not to rest?

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You’re Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, it’s the final game of the regular season against the Detroit Lions, and you’ve got a dilemma: play your strongest team, a winning combination, or rest your stars fearing serious injuries to any of them.

What do you do? McCarthy said on Monday he wants veteran left tackle Chad Clifton to play the game, he wants Clifton’s experience for the playoffs so naturally he needs a run out against the Lions. Easy.

NFL Week 16 Christmas Lineman picks

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By Steve Keating

Well, after two weeks of 4-2 the Lineman is still searching for that perfect Christmas gift and hopes he has found it with this six-pack of holiday picks.

Keeping in the spirit of the holiday season, the Lineman offers you all the best and may all your picks be winners HO HO HO.

Can the Clippers break the Laker stranglehold on LA?

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By Larry Fine

The Lakers have owned Los Angeles in the NBA sense for 50 years since moving to the City of Angels from the Land of 10,000 Lakes where they were born the Minneapolis Lakers.

 Now with a startling suddenness since the end of the NBA lockout, the famed franchise with its 16 NBA titles looks ripe for a challenge for local hoops supremacy from their Staples Center co-tenants – the perennially sad-sack Los Angeles Clippers.

All I want for Christmas is…NBA – five teams and players to watch

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The new NBA season took a while to come around after a five-month lockout spent negotiating an improved labor agreement. What better day to start than Dec. 25. Merry Christmas!

Read the season preview here courtesy of Larry Fine, and our American sports editor Julian Linden weighs in with five players to watch as well as five teams sure to set pulses racing over the shortened 66-game programme.

Swedish football family suffering Christmas unrest

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By Philip O’Connor, Scandinavia sports correspondent

Sweden’s soccer year officially came to an end last week with Wednesday’s traditional press conference and Christmas lunch at the football association’s Rasunda headquarters.

The normally sedate affair was given extra spice by Alexander Gerndt’s conviction the previous day for domestic violence and the FA’s reaction to it.

Post-Christmas cheer in Oslo for out-of-contract players

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By Philip O’Connor, Scandinavia sports correspondent

For many football fans, the post-Christmas blues will be banished by the prospect of their club buying big when the transfer window opens in January.

But the out-of-contract players taking part in the FIFPro Winter Tournament in Oslo are hoping to get their futures sorted out before the window opens again.

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