Thursday, 17 March 2011

Up for the Cup!

So, here we are midway through March and the football season is starting to build towards its climax. This last week saw the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and the culmination of the “round of 16” in the Champions League. The finals of both competitions will take place at Wembley Stadium, London in May.

Wembley Stadium, London, England

In the European matches most games went the way you would expect, and the quarter-final line-up will include 3 English teams, 2 Spanish, 1 Italian, 1 German and 1 Ukrainian team. The draw for that next round will take place tomorrow (Friday) and could see some interesting match-ups. From what I have seen so far, Barcelona stand head and shoulders above the other teams left in the competition and everyone will be hoping to avoid them if at all possible.

The surprise team of this season has been Tottenham, who have gone one better than their North London rivals Arsenal in this year’s competition. Who is to say that they won’t go even further? Under Harry Redknapp’s expert direction, they have entertained hugely throughout their campaign, and goals and comebacks have been in plentiful supply. It would be a refreshing change to see a different team in this year’s semi-finals, and I would not bet against Spurs being that side.

Domestically, the FA Cup is one stage further on than the Champions League, with the semi-final line-up already decided. There were some very entertaining matches in the quarter-finals, especially those games involving the less fancied teams. The semi-finals will take place on the weekend of 16th/17th April at their new home of Wembley Stadium, despite the fact that all 4 competing teams come from north of Nottingham. I understand that finances dictate that the FA needs to use Wembley Stadium as much as possible, but the finances of the cash-strapped supporter never seem to be taken into account – or don’t matter!

Back in the day, both of these matches would have taken place at a neutral club venue – maybe Hillsborough for the Manchester derby and Villa Park for the Stoke/Bolton game. But now, because the FA overspent on rebuilding Wembley, all of the fans of those clubs will have to traipse their way down to London for the semis – and, for 2 sets of supporters, back again for the final in May. Once again, the fan in the street is the last person to be considered amongst the high finance of modern-day football.

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