SoccerLens Archives for January 2011

This season’s miracle, Eric Abidal

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We tend to forget due to our overwhelming passion, that football is just a game. We perceive it as so much more as we are enthralled every single day of our lives with a topic, subject, drama or elation that entails of the sport we love. Besides all that, other issues in the game occur that are more important as they relate to serious aspects in life as a whole.

Football Transfers Preview: Ins and Outs for the Six Premier League Title Contenders

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The title race is looking like a genuine four-horse race for next season with any one of Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchesters City and United in with a shout of the title.

In this article, I look at why they fell short- or in the case of United, won the league- and what is needed this summer for a successful challenge in the forthcoming season.

Dave Jones sacked from Cardiff City

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After Cardiff City's exit against Reading in the semi-finals of the Championship play-offs, Dave Jones has been sacked as manager. Jones spent six years at Cardiff, leading them to the 2010 play-off final where they were defeated by Blackpool. The Liverpudlian has paid the ultimate sacrifice for his side's inability to get over the final hurdle and get promotion to the Premiership.

Adidas: Own The Game Event – Video

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adidas recently hosted an exclusive event to promote the launch of their new adiPower Predator boot, inviting football bloggers and selected fans to join the adidas crew and adidas sponsored footballers in testing out the new Predator, as well as hosting a football match between football bloggers (Soccerlens' scored 2 goals and won the man of the match, heh!

Pep Guardiola’s achievements at Barcelona are far from complete

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At 40 years of age Pep Guardiola has already implemented himself into one of the greatest coaches in modern history. 29 years his senior Sir Alex Ferguson, the man who sat in the opposite dugout at Wembley on Saturday night, conceded his Manchester United team were inferior to the young pretender's Blaugrana who put on arguably, the most beautiful 90 minutes of football in a European Cup Final.

United In Character: The Good And Bad Of Ferguson’s Manchester Reign

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As Manchester United parade their 19th league title, the rain-soaked celebrations are an appropriate metaphor for the 2010/2011 season.

On one hand, they've won their 19th league title (12th under Ferguson), a title United fans wanted more than the Champions League for the last two years, and a title they've richly deserved.

What Manchester United Must Do To Knock Barcelona Off Their Perch

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The obituaries being written about Manchester United's OAPs for the last five years are now finally relevant. Gary Neville and Edwin van der Sar have retired, Paul Scholes might have by the time you read this article and Ryan Giggs is holding back the development of younger players with more long-term value to the club.

The Champions League Final: or how Manchester United gave Barcelona a helping hand

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Stephen O'Sullivan points out that if you're playing the best team in the world, it's never a good idea to make it easy for them.

The Manchester United players and staff queued up last night to hail Barcelona as, amongst other things, the best team they'd ever seen; Rio Ferdinand ("they were the deserving winners"), Nemanja Vidic ("we have never played against a team like Barcelona"), even Alex Ferguson himself ("I think it is the best team we have ever played"), all going on record praising their conquerors.

Missed Opportunity: Manchester United Refuse to Abandon Old Principles and the Barcelona Myth Rolls On

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"Totally outlcassed"; "you just can't argue with that they're just too good!"; "we're the best of the rest, at least...". But a selection of the comments I have heard from Manchester United fans in the wake of their club's second capitulation to Barcelona's incomparable passing football in three years.

The Champions’ League Final: Five Things We Learned

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Five Things we learned from Barcelona's 3-1 trouncing of Manchester United:

1. It's definitely now time for Sir Alex Ferguson to trust his younger players

Paul Wilson has already argued this in The Guardian, and he couldn't be more right. How is it possible that a club of United's stature and resources can roll up in the Champions' League final against the best passing team in the world some argue the best EVER and stick a 37-year-old ex-winger into the centre of midfield?

Barcelona Overtakes Dream Team By Winning 2011 Champions League

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Every Barcelona team aspires to Cruyff's Dream Team, which won the Champions League with Pep Guardiola in the side in 1992 at Wembley Stadium. Aspire with very little hope of fully emulating. Except now, this Barcelona generation has gone one better by winning two Champions Leagues, both against Manchester United, the second fittingly enough in Wembley.

2011 Champions League Final Lineups

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Dimitar Berbatov, Manchester United's record signing and Premier League top scorer, isn't even on the bench in the Champions League final. Otherwise it's an adventurous Man Utd team, with the same steady lineup Sir Alex Ferguson has preferred for the recent string of big matches, with Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs in central midfield.

Transfer Window Preview: Who do you want your club to sign this summer?

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With the domestic leagues finished and only the Champions League final to play on Saturday, football fans across Europe are probably feeling a little blue this week. Work rumbles on, the newest Icelandic ash cloud threatens to disrupt our holidays and, most importantly, the new season won't get underway until August!

Transfer Window Preview: Who do you want your club to sign this summer?

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With the domestic leagues finished and only the Champions League final to play on Saturday, football fans across Europe are probably feeling a little blue this week. Work rumbles on, the newest Icelandic ash cloud threatens to disrupt our holidays and, most importantly, the new season won't get underway until August!

Five Reasons For Manchester United Fans To ‘Believe’

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Manchester United versus Barcelona is not a mismatch, despite what your friends are saying, and United don't have to just focusing on stopping the Catalans, despite what that article you read said. Of course Barcelona will walk out at Wembley as favourites, and they should; they're capable of playing football like no-one else.

Chicharito Looking To Become 3rd CONCACAF Player to Play In and Win Final

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Saturday's final between Manchester United and FC Barcelona has a number of storylines. For those in the CONCACAF region one storyline that sticks out is the inclusion and impact that Mexican sensation Chicharito can make on Saturday's championship.

While the Mexican's ascent into stardom will receive a boost from winning the finale Saturday he's not the first player from the CONCACAF region to play in the final.

Champions’ League Final: A Five-Point Plan for United to Beat Barcelona

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With the mainstream media already whispering suggestions that Sir Alex Ferguson is considering a radicalplan for 'if and when' Barcelona take the lead in the Champions' League Final this evening, it's a wonder over a billion people are even bothering to watch. Whilst Barcelona are certainly the better ball-playing side and simply can't be outplayed in midfield, I believe and I have touched on this elsewhere that with the right tactical approach they can be reduced to being merely 'another very good side'.

2011 Champions League Final: Word From The Managers

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It is being billed as potentially the ‘best' Champions League Final in the last decade by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson who will be hoping to avenge a Barcelona side that seemingly eased to victory in the 2009 final.

Today's event will be watched from all four corners of the world as its top two club sides go head to head in a battle of skill, flair, efficiency and pride.

Nigel Reo-Coker: From West Ham to Aston Villa to…Fulham?

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There was once a time when this Croydon-born, Sierra Leone raised central midfield dynamo was captaining West Ham United into the FA Cup final of 2006 to face the might of Liverpool. Reo-Coker, a former England under-21 captain, was the lynchpin in a midfield containing talents such as Yossi Benayoun and Matthew Etherington, yet Reo-Coker still stood out as the main force in the West Ham side.

VIDEO: Barcelona v Manchester United. Two Teams, One Cup.

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Barcelona v Manchester United. Two teams, one cup. Here's the video:


Pirlo vows to lead Juventus’ rise back to the pinnacle of Italian football

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New Juventus signing Andrea Pirlo believes that he can provide a major contribution to help Juventus return to being a top team in Italian football. Pirlo, who signed from Serie A rivals AC Milan on a three year contract, arrives at the Stadio Delle Alpi on a free transfer. The 72 capped Italian midfielder hopes to bring glory back to the city of Turin, with Juventus not winning a Scudetto since the 2002-03 season.

How much does it cost to attend the 2011 Champions League final?

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The 2011 Champions League ticket prices caused an uproar amongst football fans but consider this the casual fan is unlikely to get a ticket through either club (even regular club supporters found it very difficult given the criteria for application) and with a major chunk of the tickets being given to UEFA sponsors and delegates (and partners to 'resell' as part of travel packages), the common fan is left with two options:

Either watch the 2011 Champions League Final at home (on TV or through a live blog) or buy a ridiculously expensive ticket for Wembley.

The myth of Barca’s ‘beautiful game’

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Barcelona's foul play is hidden away in their exorbitantly high percentage of possession says Andy Simanowitz.

FC Barcelona are widely regarded in football circles as not only the best team in the world but perhaps the best team the world has ever seen. This belief is fuelled not only by the team's unprecedented success on the domestic and European stages but also by the aesthetic qualities of their attacking play.

The myth of Barca’s ‘beautiful game’

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Barcelona's foul play is hidden away in their exorbitantly high percentage of possession says Andy Simanowitz.

FC Barcelona are widely regarded in football circles as not only the best team in the world but perhaps the best team the world has ever seen. This belief is fuelled not only by the team's unprecedented success on the domestic and European stages but also by the aesthetic qualities of their attacking play.

Manchester United vs Barcelona: What Might Just Happen

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Pre-amble

. ITV's irrepressible Andy Townsend proffers the sort of arcane wisdom for which he has become so renowned over the years:

'Well, first of all, right, this Barca are a top, top side make no mistake it's not just about your Messis and your Xavis, they've got Puyol in there who's not afraid of gettin' stuck in, Alves the right-back, and Iniesta's a crackin' little player an' all.

Why 2011 is turning into a pivotal year for English women’s football

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Stop the presses! England to win the next World Cup! This could be our year!

Well, not quite. I'm not talking about the men, I'm talking about the women. Hope Powell's England women's side has quietly been making great strides in the international arena, though you probably wouldn't have heard given the lack of coverage and focus that the national media places on women's sport in general.

First name on the Barcelona team sheet? Sergio Busquets

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First name on the Barcelona team sheet? Messi. Xavi. Sergio Busquets.

As Sergio Busquets clutched the World Cup in his hands on the 11th July 2010, a footballing fast-track journey started only 22 months ago, was complete. In less than two seasons, the 21-year old had broke into the Barcelona First Team, cemented his place, been called up to the Spain squad, and lifted the World Cup.

FIFA Politics: Sepp Blatter accuses Mohammed Bin Hammam of bribing Jack Warner

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Update: The FIFA Ethics Committee has opened proceedings against Jack Warner and Mohammed Bin Hammam over possible charges of bribery (official FIFA statement). The committee is due to meet (and most likely decide) on May 29th, just a couple of days before the June 1 elections date (and funnily enough, on a Sunday, right after the Champions League final).

Why FIFA cannot (and will not) tackle corruption

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I was recently interviewed for a Polish newspaper as part of a feature on FIFA ahead of the 1 June elections. The Q&A is below, but as part of the preamble it's important to point two things:

One, journalists and bloggers have very limited attention-spans, and seem incapable of stepping back looking at events in an historical context.

Harsh lessons to learn for Cardiff after second successive playoff failure

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It is back to the drawing board for Cardiff City following their second successive failure in the Championship playoffs.

The Bluebirds' 3-0 aggregate defeat to Reading in last week's semi-final was a bitter pill to swallow for the supporters, particularly with their side still well in with a shout of automatic promotion just days before the season finale.

The Ten-Year EPL Table: Chelsea ahead of Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton ahead of Tottenham and Man City

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The English Premier League since 2002 has featured thirty-eight clubs, twenty-four of which have been in England's top flight for three seasons or more. It's been a helluva ride: we've seen the record for fewest points broken (twice), seen Newcastle slip from the Champions League to the Championship and we witnessed Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Guus Hiddink, Claudio Ranieri and "Big Phil" Scolari all take charge of Roman Abramovich's Chelsea for varying short periods of time.

Two of Premier League’s best players missing from ‘Team of the Decade’

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Selecting the best team of a decade can be a flawed approach you miss the players who straddled the previous and current decades, you forget players who were great in the first half of the decade and you give undue importance to players of the latter half of the current decade.

Still, if you can expect anyone to make 'reasonable' picks, it would be Premier League managers (like Avram Grant), right?

David de Gea set to sign for Manchester United

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Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague broke the news on Revista de la Liga that Manchester United prospect David de Gea will be in the Old Trafford nets next season. The 20 year old goalkeeper should be unveiled in the near future as a United player for around £17 million and will be seen as an immediate replacement to retiring goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

Is David Nugent the archetypal ‘yo-yo’ striker?

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Portsmouth striker David Nugent is out-of-contract this summer and the one-time England international is keen to resolve his playing situation one way or another in the coming weeks.

The former Bury trainee enjoyed a good footballing education at Gigg Lane in League Two, earning a move to Preston North End, who, at the time were challenging for Championship promotion.

Castrol’s Premier League Team Of The Season

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Castrol Football have used their year-round football stats to pick out the 11 best performers (in a 4-3-3 formation) in the English Premier League of the 2010/2011 season. Have a look, then discuss in the comments / share your picks for the best XI.

Joe Hart

The England international kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season (18).

U.S. releases its roster for Gold Cup, Spain friendly

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After delaying the release of the U.S. national team roster, head coach Bob Bradley finally came out with his list of the 23 men who will wear the red, white, and blue in the U.S. team's June 4 friendly against Spain and in the CONCACAF Gold Cup June 5 through 25. As has become expected, the roster is a mix of youth and experience, and it is not without its areas for concern.

Five Thoughts on U.S. Gold Cup Roster

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After a little bit of a wait Bob Bradley released the U.S.' Gold Cup roster and there were a few surprises included. With that in mind here are five or thoughts about the U.S. roster and how it affects their chances in the championship.

1. The return of Freddy Adu

It's been a while since Adu figured into the U.

All he needs is love – the defence of Mario Balotelli

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Mario Balotelli, the clown prince of football, has had a turbulent life with an abundance of misdemeanours that have left scars all over his undeniable talent

The press condemn with a thirsty disgust his petulance and attitude, whilst ignoring the tribulations he has had to endure.

The Next Chelsea Manager: God

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It seems that Roman Abramovich will have to sigh and wait again to receive a glimpse of hope in his quest to turn Chelsea into a club associated with the 'sexy football' that Barcelona have taken to the pitch through the last few seasons.

Abramovich wants to 'Barcelonize' Chelsea. More interestingly though, Abramovich seems intent on turning his team into a Barcelona through adopting the type of management of the Catalan club's fiercest rivals.

England’s squad for Switzerland qualifier announced

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Fabio Capello has revealed his original 26 man squad for the Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland on the 4th June with Bobby Zamora earning an England call-up after a string of impressive performances, including his double against Arsenal in a 2-2 draw this weekend. Wayne Rooney's suspension rules him out of the qualifier and Fulham striker Zamora is called up in the forwards along with Sunderland striker Darren Bent and Tottenham strikers Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe.

Ryan Giggs, Imogen Thomas, the super-injunction and Twitter (Video & Opinion)

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In the Ryan-Giggs-Imogen-Thomas-super-injunction comedy (the 3D version comes out this summer, but you can see a trailer below), public outrage (generated by the press) at the enforced censorship has muddled the actual issue.

Ryan Giggs is a footballing legend 12 league titles and his longevity outweigh whatever Wales could not accomplish at the international level and yes, he is, alleged extra-marital affair or not, a role model for aspiring footballers everywhere.

Birmingham keep McLeish, but say promotion next season is a must

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Alex McLeish has kept his job at St. Andrew's, despite Birmingham's last-day relegation to the Championship, but has been told by the board that he must lead the side back to the Premiership.

The Blues went down, due to a defeat against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and other results not going their way, and there were rumours that Birmingham City owner Carson Yueng would sack the Scotsman.

Goal Getter Top of the List for Ipswich Boss Jewell

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Ipswich Town boss Paul Jewell is desperate to get his hands on a 20-goal-a-season striker to reignite the Blues' Championship promotion hopes for 2011/12. The Suffolk side have toiled in the absence of an out-and-out goalscorer for several seasons and it has left Town hamstrung in the midst of the Championship table for a number of seasons.

Factfile: 2011 Champions League Final

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Manchester United and Barcelona meet at Wembley on Saturday to battle it out for the mantle of the best side in European club football. Dominant in their domestic leagues, sides laden with international superstars and a track record of success in the competition, the pair have been at the pinnacle for the last decade.

Brave Blackpool Prove There’s No Room For Romance In The English Premier League

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Perhaps it is because Romanticism eludes any attempt at a concise definition that it has become a term so freely tossed into the melting pot of football criticism and punditry.

Like all great modern ideas (some say all great modern ideas are Romantic, but it's probably best to ignore that debate for now), Romanticism's is an osmotic essence, or lack thereof; it affirms the boldest of concrete thoughts in the most wild and wildly paradoxical ways.

Ancelotti a scapegoat for much bigger problems at Chelsea

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After being knocked out in the last eight of the Champions League, Chelsea have finished in second place, Carlo Ancelotti has been fired and along with an ageing side; the cracks now visible at Stamford Bridge may be a bigger than they appear.

On Sunday 22nd Chelsea Football Club made an announcement that stated "Chelsea Football Club can confirm that Carlo Ancelotti parted company with the club today".

Wigan fighting for their lives on Survival Sunday.

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This town is a rugby town. The red and white horizontal stripes of the Warriors have always been the biggest team in the Greater Manchester town of Wigan, dominating the Rugby Super League with names such as Martin Offiah, Jason Robinson and Andy Farrell standing tall as the sons of Wigan. The blue and white vertical stripes, those that share the DW Stadium with their rugby league brothers, are represented as the lesser sibling of the Warriors in a town that is synonmous pie eating and harsh North Western living conditions.

Gold Cup Challengers: Which nation can make noise in June?

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While the Gold Cup has traditionally been a battle between Mexico and the United States the coming edition has the best chance to yield a different finalist in quite some time. Honduras, Costa Rica, Canada and Jamaica are all legitimate threats in the tournament and are capable of beating either favorite in a knockout stage game.

Two stories fit for champions – Eric Abidal and Darren Fletcher

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So it's Manchester United versus Barcelona at Wembley on May 28th in a rerun of the 2009 CL final which saw Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o ensure the trophy went to Barcelona. This time round Manchester United will be looking to exact revenge and with Wayne Rooney in good form, there is no reason why they cant be the team to put Barca to one side.

Manchester United v Barcelona: Two of the best, but who’s better?

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Not only are Barcelona the best club football team in Europe, they also possess the nucleus of the side that is the best international side in Europe and the world.

As such, it's fairly straightforward to expect a straight comparison of Barcelona's starting XI with any other team's first XI to be weighed in Barcelona's favour.

Manchester United v Barcelona: Two of the best, but who’s better?

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Not only are Barcelona the best club football team in Europe, they also possess the nucleus of the side that is the best international side in Europe and the world.

As such, it's fairly straightforward to expect a straight comparison of Barcelona's starting XI with any other team's first XI to be weighed in Barcelona's favour.

The Highest Earning Footballers

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We've looked at the world's highest paying football clubs, but who are the world's highest earning footballers (including bonuses and sponsorship income)? We've put together a short video to highlight the world's top five highest earning footballers who do you think makes the list?

Pick your own top five (make sure you factor in sponsorship income, as that's a big part of players' annual income), and then watch the video below to confirm how many you got right.

The Highest Earning Footballers

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We've looked at the world's highest paying football clubs, but who are the world's highest earning footballers (including bonuses and sponsorship income)? We've put together a short video to highlight the world's top five highest earning footballers who do you think makes the list?

Pick your own top five (make sure you factor in sponsorship income, as that's a big part of players' annual income), and then watch the video below to confirm how many you got right.

This Summer’s Best Free Transfers

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Is your club completely skint? Still waiting for your Arab oil sheikh to sink billions of his black gold profits into your first team? Just like the rest of us, you'll probably we waiting a long time. As Manchester City fans are going to find out in the next few seasons, money can't guarantee you long-term success.

Barcelona v Manchester United: 2011 Champions League Final

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Barcelona v Manchester United. Manchester United v Barcelona. The stage is set for Wembley Stadium to host the two best football clubs of the last decade as they go head to head on Saturday, 28 May 2011.

The records reel off the tongue effortlessly: Five league titles in seven years for Barcelona, four league titles in five years for Manchester United.

MLS: Sounders-Timbers not as progressive as some hope

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SEATTLE – Since the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers inaugurated Major League Soccer's Cascadia Cup rivalry on Saturday night, fans and journalists alike have been proclaiming that the game was revolutionary for soccer in the United States. However, it may have just illuminated yet again why soccer is not the biggest sport here.

Barcelona vs Manchester United – What has changed since 2009?

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2008/2009 was all-in-all Barcelona's season. Pep Guardiola led his childhood club to glory like no other manager had done before him.

United on the other hand, weren't too bad the whole season. They were back again in the UEFA Champions League final to defend the title that they had won last year against Chelsea.

Champions’ League Final: Why A Neutral Should Support Manchester United

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Blasphemous though it may seem, for all the dazzling array of skills which they bestow upon me as a mere spectator, I do not worship at the altar of Barcelona. I worship at the altar of football. Despite the Catalan club's increasingly jubilant marketing campaign, there is a distinction between the two.

2011 Champions League Final Live Blog: Barcelona – Manchester United

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Whichever way the 2011 UEFA Champions League final goes, both of these teams will be remembered as dynasties.

Manchester United are playing their third Champions League final in four years, an astonishing testament to consistency and excellence in a competition more often ruled by luck and fate.

Stats: Resurgent Wayne Rooney is Manchester United’s central threat against Barcelona

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Wayne Rooney's resurgent goalscoring form in 2011 and his increasingly central role in Manchester United's build-up play means that he is the key man for the Red Devils in the Champions League final at Wembley.

Although Rooney had struggled with injury and off-pitch troubles in the first half of the season, he has gradually proved himself again on the pitch and since the new year has made significant improvements in his performances in a Manchester United shirt.

Stats: ‘Unstoppable’ Messi set to torment Manchester United defenders

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Lionel Messi's incomparable dribbling skills this season could be the decisive factor in a tight clash with Manchester United.

Messi has completed 6.5 dribbles per 90 minutes in Champions League games this season, nearly two more than any other player in the competition. It highlights both Barcelona's reliance on Messi to produce the magic in every game he plays as well as his relentless consistency.

Stat Attack: Manchester United v Barcelona: 2011 Champions League Head To Head

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As part of our extensive Barcelona v Manchester United Champions League final coverage on Soccerlens, today we look at key head-to-head stats between the two Champions League finalists.

VAN DER SAR v VALDÉS

Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has saved 91% of the shots he has faced this season in the Champions League, a higher ratio than any other ‘keeper.

Breaking Down the CONCACAF Gold Cup Favorites: A look at the United States and Mexico

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CONCACAF's regional championship is just two and half weeks away and two teams are the clear favorites to take the Gold Cup and a coveted spot in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. Those two teams: the United States and Mexico.

These two teams are the deepest and most talented squads in the North and Central American region, but which is the favorite?