Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Exciting Europa League deserves some respect

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If the rip-roaring action from Matchday One in the Europa League is anything to go by,  proposals to scrap the continent’s second-tier competition in order to expand the money-spinning Champions League to 64 teams would be an ill-judged decision.

Allowing as many as six teams from Europe’s top leagues to enter the Champions League would devalue the competition’s name as much as it would dilute its quality, with too many nondescripts trying to punch above their weight.

Likewise, it would deny many unheralded teams the kind of attention that came the way of Swiss outfit Young Boys Berne after their enthralling 5-3 home defeat by Liverpool in which the lead changed hands time and again throughout the absorbing Europa League contest.

How about Olympique Marseille’s late comeback in a 2-2 draw at Fenerbahce, Maribor’s shock 3-0 win over Panathinaikos or Chile striker Eduardo Vargas celebrating his debut in Europe with a hat-trick in Napoli’s 4-0 rout of AIK Stockholm?

English plight in Europe is no fluke

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Anyone who might have assumed the deteriorating form of English clubs in Europe since Manchester United won the 2008 Champions League resulted from a convergence of misfortunate circumstances such as tough draws or mounting injuries to key players has been emphatically refuted.

Come Thursday, the Premier League might be left without a single club to represent it in either the Champions League or the less fancied Europa League, where Manchester rivals City and United were not just beaten but also played off the park last week by rivals many of their fans will have considered second-class opposition.

And Porto will play…..Europa League draw provides some stardust

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There was the usual hushed silence and then sudden intake of breath heard in Nyon on Friday, though not for the Champions League Round of 16 draw but the first two ties of the Europa League Round of 32.

Holders Porto will play mega-rich Manchester City, they were the first two names out of the little plastic balls when UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino was finally able to open the second after Davor Suker had tried and failed, and Ajax Amsterdam will take on Manchester United.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Thursday – Champions League recap

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/Where to start after four brilliant Champions League quarter-finals, even if the intrigue for next week's second legs has all but gone from three of the ties with Barcelona leading Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1, Real Madrid 4-0 up against Tottenham Hotspur and Schalke 04 in total charge against holders Inter Milan after the 5-2 triumph at the San Siro.

However, the appetite has most certainly been whet for the very probable 'Clasico' semi-final between Real and Barcelona, a meeting of the world's two best players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. April 26 or 27 and May 3 or 4. Do not miss these dates. Not that Spain's two leading clubs are thinking that far ahead.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Friday – Champions League draw special

SOCCER-EUROPA/Well well well. Now the Champions League really is wide open..

So here's that quarter-final draw again:

Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur

Chelsea v Manchester United

Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk

Inter Milan v Schalke 04

As Gary Lineker put it, there will be an English team in the semi-finals, but could Tottenham make it two sides? Real are certainly not invincible.

Now, before taking a look at all the domestic leagues over the weekend, a recap of Thursday's highlights from the Europa League. Quite a night of upsets.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Tuesday

SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPThe pain for Arsenal fans just rolls on it would seem, as a trip to my office's kitchen confirmed on Monday when I heard two voices grumbling about "Van Persie" and "not enough shots".

The North London club's woes of the last two weeks or so have been much publicised, but perhaps at last there is some news to cheer Gunners fans up in the return of former keeper Jens Lehmann? Who would you prefer in goal? Lehmann, or Arsenal's only currently available goalie Manuel Almunia, in good form in the last two matches against Barcelona and Manchester United?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Europa League final — live

We'll be providing updates direct from the Hamburg Arena, where Atletico Madrid look to land the first leg of a possible Cup double in the final of the Europa League against Fulham.

The English side have upset the odds all season, knocking out the likes of Juventus and Hamburg on their way to the final. Join us for all the details from a couple of hours before kick-off.

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