Pitchside Europe

  • European Match of the Weekend: Rennes v Marseille

    Valbuena and Biyik

    Marseille can go top of Ligue 1 this weekend but they must beat a Rennes side boosted by their Cup heroics in what promises to be an enthralling clash in France.

    L’OM lie one point behind joint-leaders Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon, but Rennes are only two places behind in fifth as they look to qualify for Europe.

    “Rennes are fighting us for European places, and they have just qualified for the Coupe de la Ligue final,” Marseille boss Elie Baup said.

    “That kind of thing gives you confidence, and at home they are always strong. They will give us many problems.”

    Rennes, who are six points behind

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  • New Year, new coaches in Germany

    A change can be as good as a rest but in the Bundesliga it seems combining the two is even better - at least it is if last weekend's results are anything to go by.

    One of the enduring charms of the German top flight is that the five-week winter break enables struggling teams to recharge their batteries in the sun and stop the rot. Take the examples of clubs who have changed their head coach since December:

    Schalke 04

    Schalke kicked off the New Year in style on Friday with a nine-goal thriller. New coach Jens Keller, replacing Huub Stevens, made a winning start as the Royal Blues edged

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  • Liga giants retain grip of football earning league

    Real Madrid and rivals Barcelona proved that passion for Spanish football remains undimmed despite the country's financial crisis, cementing their place as the highest revenue earners in the world's most popular sport, business services group Deloitte.

    Madrid, who won the Spanish league last May for the 32nd time, became the first club in any sport to generate more than 500 million euros in annual revenues, Deloitte said in its annual Football Money League for 2011-12.

    The perennial Spanish rivals retain loyal domestic support, attracting crowds in excess of 80,000 despite Spain's recession

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  • Shoots of recovery seen at Espanyol

    Four ladies sat perched on high chairs behind glass, smiling patiently, but without a customer between them. Prices were posted clearly on the window in front, the cheapest being 35 euros for 90 minutes up in the corner.

    If anyone wandered close to the windows, they were immediately approached by shady figures from the darkness offering tickets at half the advertised price. Or even less. Two fans bagged VIP seats in a prime position, with food and drink thrown in for just 20 euros. Another only wanted to be with the hardcore action behind the goal.

    Espanyol’s fine 40,500 capacity stadium on

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  • Genoa always going around in circles

    At the presentation of Gigi Delneri in late October, Genoa president Enrico Preziosi expressed his opinion that "rationality doesn't belong" to supporters of the club. To give him his due, there was some justification for the statement. For instance, memories of how Genoa ultras had temporarily stopped a game with Siena last April and demanded that the players hand over their shirts because, being battered 4-0 at the time, they were apparently "unworthy" of them, were fresh in the mind.

    Still, it's a wonder that those in the press room didn't laugh. Coming from Preziosi, this was particularly

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  • Power Rankings: Madrid close gap on Barca

    Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Valencia in La Liga (AFP)

    Barcelona's slip-up in La Liga over the weekend has seen Real Madrid close the gap at the top of our European Power Rankings.

    Barca slumped to a shock 3-2 defeat at Real Sociedad - their first loss in the Spanish league for 29 games - and as a result dropped a huge 74 points in our list of the continent's finest teams.

    And while that was not enough for the Catalan side to be knocked off their lofty perch, Madrid were able to edge closer to the leaders by picking up 35 points following their 5-0 romp against Valencia.

    That defeat for Valencia sees them lose 35 points, but Los Che manage to

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  • Financial reality bites for French clubs

    LilleDebuchySome say January is not a good time to buy players, but it is surely not a good time to sell them. Nevertheless, with the obvious exception of Paris Saint-Germain, French clubs appear ripe for the plucking this month as they continue to haemorrhage talent abroad.

    The summer departures of Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud - the two best players in Ligue 1 last season - were a huge blow to their clubs, but seeing Chelsea and Arsenal splash the cash to sign that duo from Lille and Montpellier respectively was not necessarily a blow to the overall prestige of the French game. In many ways it was an

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  • European Team of the Week: January 18-20

    Paul Pogba's magnificent strike for Juventus against Udinese puts him at the forefront of our European Team of the Week.

    The Frenchman scored two goals, one of which was a 30-yard scorcher that could put him in contention for the Puskas Award, such was its quality.

    Fellow two-goal heroes David Silva, Angel Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Giampaolo Pazzini also make the cut in our free-scoring side.

    The Premier League is represented by in-form Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, and Swansea defender Ben Davies.

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  • European match of the weekend: Valencia v Real Madrid

    Two sides underperforming by their own standard in La Liga this season go head-to-head at the weekend as Valencia welcome Real Madrid.

    The match will be the second time in a week the two teams have met each other after the midweek Copa del Rey clash, which Real won 2-0 at the Bernabeu thanks to a Karim Benzema strike and an own goal from Andres Guardado.

    And with the second leg of that quarter-final on the horizon, these two teams are getting to know each other very well.

    The latest instalment is at the Mestalla which is for most teams a fearsome place to go, yet not so much for Madrid.


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  • Introducing Southampton’s Mauricio Pochettino

    It started so well for Mauricio Pochettino at his last club, Espanyol. The new Southampton boss was a Blanquiazules (blue and whites) legend who’d played 275 league games as a central defender in two spells. England fans might remember him as the Argentina defender who brought down Michael Owen to earn England a penalty and the game’s only goal in the 2002 World Cup finals.

    Pochettino mixed youth with shrewdly purchased imports like compatriot Pablo Osvaldo, and experienced pros like Cameroonian international goalkeeper Carlos Kameni (now Malaga) and Luis Garcia (not the former Liverpool

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