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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.

There is of course more top European action on Thursday in the Europa League, which has a distinctly Portuguese feel this year. Not that Spain's Villarreal agree mind you.

In 2003, who can forget the young Jose Mourinho leading Porto to UEFA Cup glory and the way he would rise to the top of the managerial tree in years to come. This time round there could be a similar story. Porto's current coach is Andre Villas-Boas, who used to work under his compatriot. Could he be the new Mourinho? Watch this space...

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Friday

SOCCER-WORLDThe first day of the fourth month means April fools day, so we would really love to hear from you if there are any dubious stories doing the rounds.

Here are some. Frank Lampard’s ‘goal that never was’ at the World Cup is to be finally given. Ronaldo will start playing for Spain. And here is a list of five other classics from the past.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Thursday

SOCCER-CHAMPIONSGareth Bale. The dashing Welsh winger primed to scare the living daylights out of England on Saturday. Injured. Did anyone else hear that collective sigh of relief from England fans today?

But what about Tottenham Hotspur fans. Are you worried your star man’s recent struggles with injury could hamper your club’s Champions League quarter-final chances against Real Madrid?

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:

Inter v Bayern means repeat of 2010 Champions League final

SOCCER-SPAIN/Holders Inter Milan will face Bayern Munich, the team they beat to clinch the trophy last season, in the Champions League last 16 with a repeat of the 2006 final also due after Barcelona were drawn to meet Arsenal. 

Bayern might actually be favourites given Inter's struggles so far this term while Barca and Lionel Messi destroyed Arsenal in the quarter-finals second leg last season despite the two sides' similar style of play.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Five things we learned, or had confirmed, in Monday’s “Clasico”

SOCCER-SPAIN/CLASICO1. Lionel Messi is a more effective “big game player” than Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese may be the world’s most expensive player but Argentina forward Messi has got the better of the man whom he succeeded as World Player of the Year on their last four meetings.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Champions League podcast – 4

Kevin Fylan is joined by Owen Wyatt, Mark Meadows, Jon Bramley and Martyn Herman for a look at the week's Champions League matches. Will Real Madrid be too much for AC Milan? Our panel seems to think so.

Listen!

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Will Rooney’s departure signal United’s decline?

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/Wayne Rooney's demand for a move away from Manchester United has stunned manager Alex Ferguson, especially given the striker's poor form and support the club have given him through personal problems.

After winning three successive Premier League titles with United and the 2008 Champions League, Rooney enjoyed his best personal season with the club in 2009-10 -- when his impressive tally of 34 goals in all competitions was only enough to bring  the League Cup to Old Trafford.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Champions League podcast, episode 3

This week the podcast panel discuss the clash of European aristocracy at the Bernabeu, where nine-times winners Real Madrid host seven-tiems champions AC Milan, plus the Wayne Rooney saga and the plight of Liverpool.

Kevin Fylan is joined by Owen Wyatt, Mark Meadows, Jon Bramley and Toby Davis

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Rooney’s place on United periphery needs urgent resolution

SOCCER-ENGLAND/In eight months Wayne Rooney has plummeted from "the best player in the world" to a substitute against West Bromwich Albion and his current position on the Old Trafford periphery will need to be sorted out very soon.

Manchester United's fans -- and their American owners -- do not expect the England striker to be warming the bench, particularly when the player says he is fit, even if manager Alex Ferguson says otherwise.

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