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Thursday, Sep 03rd

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Copa Del Rey: Barca contain Madrid in thriller at Nou Camp to progress

Barcelona fought off a spirited comeback from Real Madrid to draw their Copa Del Rey Quarter-final second leg 2-2, a result which saw them edge out the reigning cup holders 4-3 on aggregate. Coming into the game with a one-goal advantage, Barcelona went two further goals ahead via Pedro and Dani Alves just before halftime, but were pegged back by Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in the second period. Los Blancos however could not find the decisive third goal, with Barcelona advancing to the semifinals of the cup competition.

Needing to overturn a first leg deficit on the road, Real almost had a dream start to the encounter at the Nou Camp, coming close to scoring within 11 seconds of the kickoff. Gonzalo Higuain stole the ball inside the Barcelona half from Gerard Pique and advanced towards goal, only for his strike to roll past Barca goalkeeper Pinto's goal. Higuain had another chance to score a minute later, his header this time denied by Pinto.

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Copa del Rey: Barca come from behind to stun Madrid

The words 'Groundhog Day' would have appropriately filled the air around the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night as Barcelona inflicted further pain on Real Madrid. The 1st leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals began brightly for the home side as Cristiano Ronaldo silenced his critics with a clinically taken goal in the 11th minute.

But it was the Catalan show after that as the Pep Guardiola's men slowly but eventually broke-down a defensive Madrid side. Carles Puyo levelled proceedings from a corner on 49 minutes before Eric Abidal got the winner in the 77th minute. A one goal lead isn't comprehensive going into the 2nd leg, but Barca will be more than confident of protecting it at the Nou Camp in a week's time.

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Sunday European wrap: Inter edge AC Milan in derby, Barca survive Betis comeback

All eyes were on the San Siro on Sunday night as AC Milan and Inter clashed in the Milan derby. Inter edged out their fierce rivals 1-0 thanks to a 2nd half goal from Diego Milito and are now just five points behind AC Milan, who are a point-off Juventus at the top. In what was a bad day for the top three in Serie A, Juventus drew 1-1 against Cagliari while Udinese suffered a surprise 3-2 defeat against Genoa. Over in Spain, Barcelona edged past Real Betis 4-2 at the Camp Nou to stay in touch with Real Madrid at the top.

Italian Serie A:

AC Milan 0-1 Inter Milan

The Rossoneri dominated possession in the 1st half, but struggled to translate that into meaningful chances. Inter actually put the ball in the back of the net within five minutes through Thiago Motta, but the goal was incorrectly disallowed for offside. Alexander Pato and Ricardo Alvarez fluffed their lines for both sides respectively before Esteban Cambiasso struck the woodwork with a fierce shot towards the end of the half. Nine minutes into the 2nd half, Milito took advantage of Ignacio Abate's mistake to advance into the box and fired a shot past Christian Abbiati. AC Milan huffed and puffed in search of an equalizer that never materialized. Milan slip to 2nd place while Inter are just a point off 4th paced Lazio.

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Barca on top of the world after hammering four past hapless Santos

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Barcelona's reign over football extended from the European realm to the rest of the world after they brushed aside Santos at the World Club Cup final in Yokohama. The game that was billed as tiki-taka vs jogo bonito, Messi vs Neymar ended up as an extremely one-sided affair as Barcelona overwhelmed their South American counterparts. The game was sealed in the first half as Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas found the back of the net to leave Barca 3-0 up before the break. Messi added a fourth late on to complete the rout as Barca claimed their 2nd World Club title.

Muricy Ramalho made just one change to the side that beat Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 in the semi-finals, with Leo coming in at left-back as former Manchester City midfielder Elano dropped to the bench. The deadly duo of Borges and Neymar formed the attacking pair up front. The midfield had Arouca and Henrique sitting in the centre while Paul Henrique Ganso and Danilo attacked from the wide positions. Bruno Rodrigo and Leo were given the responsibility of marshalling the wide areas while Edu Dracena and Druval covered central defence.

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Europa League Round of 32 Draw: Manchester City face Porto, neighbours United go up against Ajax

ryan_giggs1The draw for the Europa League's Round of 32 was held in Nyon earlier today, and it threw up numerous exciting clashes, with all the English clubs being handed tough opponents. The biggest names in the draw were undoubtedly Manchester United and Manchester City, both of whom dropped into the Europa League folliwng disastrous Champions League campaigns.

Premier League leaders Manchester City will face-off against defending champions FC Porto, who also come into the competition after finishing 3rd in their Champions League group. Neighbours Manchester United, meanwhile, have been handed a match against Dutch giants Ajax. Ajax and United have a combined total of seven European Cup's between them, but that will count for nought as they fight to extend their European campaign. However, the third English side Stoke City, have perhaps been handed the toughest of the draws, with Valencia being their opponents. Tony Pulis' men will certainly go into this one as underdogs, although their physical style of play may just overwhelm their Spanish opponents.

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Arsenal land Milan, Chelsea get Napoli & Barca meet Leverkusen in Champions League Round of 16 Draw

rvpThe draw for the first knock-out round of the UEFA Champions League threw up some tantalizing match-ups as expected with reigning champions Barcelona earning what promises to be a tough clash with Bayer Leverkusen, London's footballing aristocrats Arsenal running into the might of AC Milan and the pride of West London Chelsea facing an exciting contest with another Italian side Napoli. The two teams who were easily the most surprising names in the draw, APOEL Nicosia and FC Basel, face contrasting opposition. While the Cypriot side might fancy their chances of pulling off an upset against French powerhouse Lyon, Basel face an uphill task against 4-times champions and German giants Bayern Munich.

Real Madrid will be strong favourites to continue their 100% record in the competition thus far this season as they take on Russian CSKA Moscow. The other Russian side in the competition, Zenith St. Petersburg will feel a lot better about their draw with Portuguese side Benfica standing between them and a place in the last eight. And finally, 2010 Champions Inter Milan take on the other French side still alive in the competition, Marseille.

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Europa League Thursday Wrap : English teams falter as other big names go through

Thursday night dished out another entertaining set of Europa League games that decided the fates of many clubs trying to make a late attempt to squeeze past the competition into the next round. It would be fair to say though that the British contingent did not have the best of times, as Tottenham, Birmingham, Celtic and Shamrock Rovers all crashed out of the competition. The likes of Udinese and Hannover, however, claimed favourable results that helped them go through, while big names PSV Eindhoven and Atletico Madrid earned victories as well.

Group A:

Shamrock Rovers 0 - 4 Tottenham Hotspur

For Spurs, the equation to qualify was quite daunting. They had to beat Shamrock Rovers by five goals, and hope that PAOK beat Rubin Kazan to be able to snatch second place from Rubin. However, the only hope was that they were playing Group A whipping boys Shamrock Rovers, and though they came mighty close to getting the big win they needed, they fell short by a bit in the end. Harry Redknapp brought with him only 15 players, choosing to keep his regulars in England for the game. However, his fringe side got off to a good start, when Steven Pienaar made a scoring return from injury just before the hour mark. That lead was doubled by a brilliant Andros Townsend strike and Jermain Defoe's finish on the stroke of halftime had put the Spurs home and dry. Youngster Harry Kane added a fourth towards the end of the game, but it wasn't enough for Tottenham, whose losses earlier in the campaign came back to haunt them in the end.

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