Champions L eague Qiu Qiu semifinals preview
Old acquaintances meet again
The semifinal clashes in this season’s Champions League have joined old foes who have run against one another many times in the European competitions.
Manchester United and Barcelona have played seven games in the UEFA’s competitions while Liverpool and Chelsea have met on six occasions, all of them in the last three years.
United and Barcelona have a very evenly balanced Qiu Qiu score with two wins for each team and three draws. The Red Devils have been a bit more successful as they achieved a better score on two occasions, with one tie and one loss.
Their first encounter took place in the Cup Winners’ Cup quarterfinals in 1983/84, when United performed a sensational comeback against total favorites that Barcelona were at the time with Diego Maradona and Bernd Schuster in their ranks. The first leg on Camp Nou ended 2-0 for the Catalans, but a young Mark Hughes helped United towards an unlikely 3-0 at Old Trafford in the return match.
After surviving infamous episodes at Barcelona and Bayern, Hughes returned to Manchester in 1988, in time to lead his old club to another unexpected triumph. With two goals the Welshman knocked down Cruyff’s Barcelona in the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup finals.
Hristo Stoichkov and Romário gave Barça a wonderful 4-0 win over United in the 1995 Champions League group stage, which ultimately cost the English side a place in the quarterfinals.
Finally, in 1998/99 these two teams played two spectacular 3-3 draws in the group stage, but these scores favoured United, who went through together with Bayern, and in the end beat no other than Bayern in the finals at Camp Nou.
In the previous three seasons Liverpool topped Chelsea twice in Champions Cup semifinals and between those matches other two encounters ended with goalless draws. Amazingly, in the six games only three goals were scored, two for Liverpool and one in Chelsea’s favour. One of these goals, scored by Liverpool’s Luis García in 2005, was in fact illegal, which makes the two teams’ scoring output even more miserable.
Liverpool after “Croatian Cruyff”, Luka Modric
Dinamo Zagreb have received the first formal offer for their star midfielder
Luka Modric. The offer came from five time European champions, Liverpool, according to leading Croatian daily, Vecernji list.
The Croatian press recently published reports that Newcastle, Tottenham,
Chelsea and Arsenal all expressed interest in the 22-year-old midfield schemer,
but Liverpool seems to have made the first concrete move to seize Modric. The
player carries a 23 million euros price tag, but Dinamo may be willing to offload him for a mere 20 million.
Should the prospective buyers wait until the end of the European Championship, the price could rise in accordance to Modric’s performance.
The youngster bearing an uncanny physical resemblance to Johan Cruyff is a creative, goal-scoring midfielder who has won so far two League titles, one FA Cup and one Croatian supercup, and a third consecutive league championship is virtually secure, as well as a second successive place in the FA Cup finals.
“I am truly honoured if it is true that Liverpool want me. I watched them break Arsenal. That was a magnificent game. Only the biggest teams can play so well against an opponent as strong as Arsenal,” said Modric.
Porto celebrate title, but is it too early?
FC Porto have become the first team from a major European soccer league to have secured this season’s title…unless the Portuguese FA strip them of six points as punishment for attempted corruption.
Porto have already celebrated their third consecutive title after beating Estrela Amadora 6-0 last Sunday, but the celebrations could prove premature if the disciplinary procedure within the FA is finalized during the next couple of weeks. It seems that during the 2003/04 season Porto arranged for certain referees to direct two of their League games, which in the eyes of the FA constitutes an attempt at corruption.
Maximum punishment for this is the subtraction of six points, but Porto are certain to clinch the title even without these points seeing that their advantage over Benfica and Sporting is so huge.
The club’s chairman Pinto da Costa on the other hand faces a two year suspension.
Playing at high altitude could be fatal, say doctors
The Brazilian side Flamengo of Rio de Janeiro claim to have collected evidence of the dangers of playing at high altitude. The red and blacks received a facsimile from a group of Bolivian and Mexican doctors who had concluded that playing
high above sea level could prove fatal. The doctors reached this conclusion after studying the death of a 23-year-old soccer player last year during a game in the Bolivian mountain city of Potosí.
The physicians performed all sorts of heart and blood tests on various players who had played at altitudes of above 2500 meters and determined that athletes indeed can die in such conditions.
The Brazilian media claim the Bolivian authorities tried to prevent the publication of the said report since their country’s FA is struggling to persuade FIFA to withdraw the ban on playing international matches above 2700 meters. Other countries involved in the struggle against FIFA are Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, while Brazil and Argentina largely support the ruling.
According to the medical science, athletes should have to spend two weeks adapting to high altitude before playing a soccer match, which is impracticable due to the condensed playing schedule.
Mijatovic tries to lure Cristiano Ronaldo to Madrid
Real Madrid’s sports director Predrag Mijatovic travelled to Manchester last week to discuss a possible transfer with Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes.
According to Spanish tv station Sexta, Real Madrid are prepared to play
no less than 125 million euros for the magnificent Portuguese player,
which is five million more than the Spaniards had previously offered.
Last summer Manchester United were unwilling to accept 120 million
euros, so it is unclear how five million more could make a difference.
Still, Real Madrid hope Cristiano could be theirs for much less in two
years time, when he would be able to invoke UEFA’s controversial
Webster ruling, allowing players over 23 to buy off their contract by
simply paying the club their remaining wages.
Getafe protests over favouritism towards Valencia
Angel Torres, chairman of Madrid giant killers Getafe, is furious over the Spanish League’s treatment of his team in view of the forthcoming Cup finals to be held on April 16th.
What angers Torres is the fact that the League allowed Valencia to bring forward their League game against Rácing from next Sunday to Saturday.
Curiously, the League also said it would allow Getafe to play against Zaragoza on Saturday, but that change of date would not mean anything to the Madrid team.
In fact, it would complicate their life rather than make it easier.
The reason is Getafe played their UEFA Cup quarterfinals second leg against Bayern on Thursday, so meeting Zaragoza on Saturday would be a terrible ordeal for them.
“A solution would be fielding juniors against Zaragoza, but we are not going to do that in order not to hurt other clubs. Therefore we shall ask for the resignation of the League chairman José Luis Astiazaran,” said Torres.
Since Zaragoza is a relegation threatened team, Getafe vows to field a full team to guarantee the regularity of the competition.