Pitchside Europe

  • Real Madrid v Manchester United: What Europe thinks


    At the draw for this season’s Champions League round of 16, one tie stood head and shoulders above the other seven.

    Manchester United and Real Madrid, with a dozen European Cup successes between them, are among the favourites to win another Champions League title every passing season, but in 2012-13 only one will see the last eight after they were paired in the first wave of knockout fixtures.

    The latest meeting of two of European football’s superpowers, another round in the managerial battle between Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, and the sight of Cristiano Ronaldo lining up against his

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  • ‘Balotelli of the Bench’ in trouble again

    There are lies, damned lies and then there's the one told by Delio Rossi.

    It's Sunday afternoon and we're deep into added time at Marassi. Sampdoria are 3-1 up against Roma. They're seconds away from victory. Sat in the stands, club legend Roberto Mancini is preparing to applaud their players off the pitch, in particular Gianluca Sansone, who marked his debut with a belting free-kick, and Mauro Icardi, who scored yet again.

    But for now, play continues beneath him. Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic commits a foul close to the dug-out. It prompts Rossi, the Sampdoria coach, to rise from his bench

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  • Real Madrid thrash United in the financial stakes

    Since Real Madrid last played Manchester United, getting a 6-5 aggregate win in the 2002-03 Champions League quarter-finals, the Spanish side have given their English rivals a thorough drubbing in the financial arena.

    United, who play at Real's Bernabeu stadium in Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg, topped Deloitte's Money League for eight years between 1997 and 2004. Then the Spanish champions surged past and they have led the way in annual income ever since.

    Real became the first club to surpass the 500-million-euro (£430m) threshold last season, according to Deloitte's latest

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  • Power Rankings: United chance to hunt down Madrid

    A combo picture shows Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United's Dutch forward Robin van Persie (AFP)

    Ahead of this week's eagerly-awaited Champions League clash, Manchester United managed to close the gap ever so slightly on Real Madrid in our European Power Rankings.

    United's 2-0 win over Everton in the Premier League saw them glean 14 points over the past seven days, while Real were only awarded eight for their 4-1 victory against Sevilla.

    Heading into Wednesday's big game at the Bernabeu, there are now 380 points between the two great clubs, but United have a great chance to hunt down the Spanish giants over the upcoming two-legged tie.

    Still way out in front at the top of our elite list

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  • Lyon in disarray ahead of Spurs tie

    When the draw for the Europa League knockout stages was made just before Christmas, Lyon looked like one of the teams to avoid. Now, coming into their tie with Tottenham Hotspur, things are far from rosy in the Ligue 1 club's garden.

    Halfway through the domestic season, OL sat in second place in France's top flight, behind Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference only.

    Fast forward six weeks, and they are six points adrift of the capital club, who now look set to run away with the title after all.

    While Tottenham are unbeaten in ten Premier League games and Gareth Bale is in the form of his

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  • European Team of the Week: February 8-10

    You'll be seeing a lot of this man in the next few days. The one on the right, we mean. His name is Cristiano Ronaldo, and he plays for Real Madrid. He scores lots of goals, he thinks he's excellent and he's right.

    Cristiano looks particularly pleased this week because he has managed to overshadow Lionel Messi, scoring a hat-trick against Sevilla while Messi rather pathetically managed just a single goal against Getafe.

    On Wednesday, Cristiano and Real Madrid play his old team Manchester United in the Champions League. It's going to be ace.

    Also in the Team of the Week - Cristiano's friend

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  • European match of the weekend: Lazio v Napoli

    Two of the top sides in Italy go head-to-head as Lazio host Napoli in Serie A (Saturday 19:45 GMT).

    Napoli enter the weekend in second place, just three points behind Juventus, while Lazio are a further six points behind the Partenopei in third.

    Should Napoli secure a win away in the Eternal City it will only further enhance their prospects of securing a first Serie A title since Diego Maradona helped them to league glory in 1990.

    Napoli's modern-day hero Edinson Cavani is the man to watch, having scored 18 goals and claimed two assists, putting him joint level with midfielder Marek Hamsik in

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  • Schalke struggling to stop freefalling

    Three months is a long time in football.

    Back in October when Schalke 04 won at arch rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Ruhr Valley Derby, life looked rosy for the Royal Blues. They were third in the Bundesliga, seven points behind leaders Bayern Munich and just two behind surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt. Now they're in freefall, with the gap to Bayern now 22 points, and champions Dortmund still 10 points away.

    Dutchman Huub Stevens, voted coach of the last century in his first spell at the club, was sacked just before Christmas and since then star player Lewis Holtby has jumped ship to join

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  • Why February is the cruellest month for Barca

    February is usually the worst of months for Barcelona; season after season, they stutter.

    In 2010-11, their 16-match winning run came to an end in the year’s second month with a draw against Sporting Gijon. They were also beaten by Arsenal in London. A year earlier, 2009-10, they lost for the first time that season, at Atletico Madrid, and were also held by Stuttgart in Europe.

    Last year, they were defeated at Osasuna in February – only their second loss of the season. And in 2009, the year they won all six trophies, they tripped in February too, with a draw against Betis and a loss to

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  • All Italian eyes rest on Balotelli

    Do spare a thought for Giampaolo Pazzini. After scoring twice in a 2-1 win against Bologna on January 20, 2013, the Milan striker was promised by chief executive Adriano Galliani that there were no plans to bring in a rival in the transfer window. One can only imagine then his reaction to La Gazzetta dello Sport's front page last Wednesday, which declared that "Balo is back," the Photoshopped red of his 'crest' haircut signifying he'd joined Milan from Manchester City.

    Conscious that he hadn't kept his word, Galliani picked up the phone to call Pazzini. He reassured Milan's second top scorer

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