Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Spain look forward to ‘Bon Nadal’ in Barcelona

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spain

Spain got the draw they wanted for the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic, with Rafa Nadal to get the tie underway at 1600 GMT on Friday with his singles match against Thomas Berdych on Friday.

It has been, to say the least, a testing time for Nadal of late, with the Spaniard having to fight his way back from an injury that kept him out of Wimbledon and wrecked his chances of finishing the season as world number one.

At the ATP world finals in London last week he lost all three of his matches without winning a set and watching him train here in Barcelona he appears to have lost a little weight, which may or may no account for the fact that those booming groundstrokes result in rather fewer winners these days.

Still, here in Barcelona Nadal is back on clay and it’s hard to imagine the man form Mallorca failing to beat Berdych and giving Spain the start they want.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Arsenal emerge as shining light in Champions League

Out of eight Spanish and English teams playing in the Champions League this week, only Arsenal were victorious.

Was this a blip for the two powerhouses, or is it another indication that Europe's top club competition is becoming more balanced?

Ricky Rubio and the Sportswrap speed special

 

Ricky Rubio is the one that got away from the NBA. The number five draft pick opted to spend another year or two in Spain rather than join the Minnesota Timberwolves and FC Barcelona are understandably elated to have got him.

Click the video above to see Rubio celebrate his 19th birthday by helping Barcelona demolish Fenerbahce in the Euroleague. We also take a look at Jenson Button’s homecoming after his Formula 1 world title victory, and why batsmen the world over should be glad a certain Usain Bolt opted for track and field over cricket.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

What price Barca retaining the trophy in the Bernabeu?

Manchester United palpably failed to become the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era but few would bet against Barcelona managing the feat next season.

And where would be the perfect place for Pep Guardiola's stylish side to achieve it? The Nou Camp? No, next year's final is in Madrid and the Barca fans I spoke to in Rome after the game could not think of a better venue to show their rivals and world football that they are undisputed kings.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Barcelona beat Manchester United — your views

Barcelona deposed Manchester United as European champions with an outstanding 2-0 victory in the Champions League final at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.

Samuel Eto'o struck the opener after 10 minutes when he cut in from the right past Nemanja Vidic with surprising ease and his low shot beat United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar at his near post. Xavi cracked a free kick against a United post at the start of the second half before Lionel Messi sealed the win after 70 minutes when he scored with a beautifully timed header from Xavi's cross.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Champions League final: Barcelona 2 Manchester United 0

Full-time: Barcelona 2 Manchester United 0. Samuel Eto'o 10, Lionel Messi 70 Thanks for all the comments. New thread going here. Please stop by. From Mark Meadows at the Stadio Olimpico: - - - - Not quite the dream final. United just didn't turn up after that initial burst came to nothing. Barca did what they had to do without being amazing. Did Fergie's talk of greatness in the buildup get to his men? I've never seen United look so nervy. Well done Pep Guardiola.
- - - - 2-0 to Barcelona. Messi nods in after a hanging cross for what is a rare header from the Argentine. Ferdinand was no where near him. Game over? A chant of MESSI, MESSI MESSI rings out from my right. - - - - Wayne Rooney, who has been quiet all night and is now patrolling the right wing, has just failed to put two crosses in to the dangerzone with United well-placed. Dimitar Berbatov is taking off his tracksuit... And he's on for Park.
- - - - Park is a hair's breadth from nodding in a Rooney cross, and Park's got longish floppy hair. United resorting to old fashioned English crosses to try to get a foothold back in the game. - - - - 53: Xavi strikes the post with a low freekick and Van der Sar barely moved at first. Tevez has hardly touched it since coming on. How many packs of gum does Fergie have? - - - -
50: Messi wants a penalty for a push in the box but the referee and most of the neutrals shake their heads. - - - - Tevez on for Anderson was pretty predictable given the Brazilian did nothing in the first 45. Tevez has the chance to make a name for himself on what could be his last game for United. Henry tests Van der Sar from close in. - - - - A curious first half, that. United made such a good start that I bet many of their more pessimistic fans were just waiting for Barcelona to get one against the run of play. United were very cool after going behind. They could probably do with getting in amongst the Barcelona midfield a bit more, stop Barca winning the ball back so quickly. Plenty of time before they have to panic. - - - - 45: Messi has just stormed into the box and Van der Sar fluffed the safe and the ball nearly ran free. That's got the Barca crowd really excited, especially with United's midfield all over the place at the moment. Half-time. - - - - 43: Victor Valdes, who took a bit of a knock earlier and is not taking goalkicks, has just been forced to rush out of goal to prevent Ronaldo from a clean run on goal. He'll be needing some treatment at halftime. - - - - 35: United looking a bit nervous, especially in defence with some tentative passing. Strange for the holders... The fans in Red look especially tense too. - - - - 25: Xavi curls a freekick just over. That caused a lot of ooohs from the crowd. Lionel Messi had earlier shot over but United have still had the better chances despite being behind. - - - - 16: Is former United defender Gerard Pique a lucky man? The Barca centre-back blocks a barnstorming Ronaldo run and gets a yellow, but some in the press box are howling that he was last man. Ryan Giggs shoots over with the free kick. - - - -
10: 1-0 to Barcelona: Samuel Eto'o. Completely against the run of play Eto'o beats Nemanja Vidic very easily to get into the box and his shot goes in despite Edwin van der Sar getting touch. That followed two more good chances for Ronaldo. Was Barcelona's first attack... - - - - 2: Cristian Ronaldo, who looks dashing in all white (Real Madrid might like that) tests Victor Valdes with a long range free kick first up which the keeper spills. Park Ji-sung is unable to get the rebound on target. The United fans suddenly get noisier. - - - - 1: Barcelona kick off.

Pre-match:

Now the teams are in, and there are no big surprises (see below) here's Mike Collett's view from the press seats at the Stadio Olimpico:

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Who will be the Angels and Demons in Rome?

The new Angels and Demons movie is based in Rome so it got us thinking who might end up being an angel or a demon after Wednesday's Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona.

Will one of the goalkeepers drop a clanger or will Cristiano Ronaldo belt one in again from 40 metres? It's a big pitch at the Stadio Olimpico, but I can see Lionel Messi running the length of it with the ball at his feet...

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

United happy to be wearing white…just like 1991

New thread on this here...

Manchester United's Red Devils will be wearing angelic white in Wednesday's Champions League final, just how Alex Ferguson likes it.

Barcelona are the nominal home team for the 'dream final' in Rome and as their famous claret and blue tops clash with United's usual red and their first choice blue away kit, the holders will wander onto the pristine Stadio Olimpico pitch in white.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

A Champions League final with no fear of failure… It could be a classic

Major finals featuring the best teams and the best players, the ones we talk up in advance as being for the connoisseur, often turn out to be the most disappointing, don't they? Maybe it's stage fright, too much respect for the opposition or the stakes being just too high, but great teams often seem to save their worst football for finals.

There are exceptions, of course. The 2005 Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool produced exquisite football in the first half from the Italians, and drama that will live long in the minds of anyone who watched it as Liverpool came back.

One down, two more to come for Barcelona?

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There were nervous moments for Barcelona in the first half of the King’s Cup final but a three-goal nine-minute burst from Lionel Messi, Bojan Krkic and Xavi helped them to a 4-1 win over Athletic Bilbao and the first leg of a possible treble.

The league title could be their this weekend, on Saturday if Real Madrid fail to win at Villarreal or failing that on Sunday if they can manage a point at Real Mallorca.

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