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Blog - ESPN FC United

Top four on line in Liverpool vs. Man Utd

50-50 Challenge
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 By Simon Kuper

How Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney think on the field

Great players such as Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi reveal a truth we often miss in the frenzy of top-class football: It's much less spontaneous than it looks.

One freezing night this January, I was sitting in the Camp Nou with a Barcelona official, watching Barca-Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Cup. When the game kicked off, the official said, "Watch Messi."

It was a puzzling sight. The little man was wandering around, apparently ignoring the ball. The official explained: "In the first few minutes he just walks across the field. He is looking at each opponent, where the guy positions himself, and how their defense fits together. Only after doing that does...

John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Remembering Rooney, Owen and Shearer on their England debuts

Take a look inside England's training as Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Harry Kane and more test their skills with some great goals and saves.
Could Harry Kane, left, follow in Alan Shearer's footsteps and score a goal on his England senior team debut?

Last week was the best of his whole life, said Tottenham's striker Harry Kane after a Saturday hat trick against Leicester City had followed his first call-up for England's senior squad.

This next week might be even better, should he score against Lithuania on Friday or Italy on March 31. If that happens, then this really could be Harry's game.

Alternatively, Kane might hit the buffers, and find that international football is a step up from the Premier League. Playing for England is a different...

 By Lee Roden

When Sporting meet Benfica, historical rivalry leads to new tensions

The Portuguese capital Lisbon came to a halt on Monday as legendary footballer Eusebio was laid to rest.
The Estadio Jose Alvalade, home to Sporting, was the scene for the latest meeting of two of Portugal's biggest clubs.

In the latest edition of ESPN FC's derbies series, which features eyewitness insights into some of the biggest rivalries in world football, Lee Roden went to Lisbon for the clash between Portuguese giants Sporting and Benfica. 

ESPN FC'S DERBIES SERIES

- River Plate vs. Boca Juniors, by Sam Kelly
- Man City vs. Man United, by Iain Macintosh
- Celtic vs. Rangers, by Chris Jones
- Benfica vs. Sporting CP, by Lee Roden
- Apr. 2: Everton vs. Liverpool, by Jeff Carlisle
- Apr. 16: Olympiakos vs. Panathinaikos, by Michael Yokhin
- Apr. 30: Schalke vs. Borussia Dortmund, by Uli Hesse

LISBON, Portugal -- At 5 p.m the Benfica supporters start to march from their own stadium into the enemy's heartland. It's Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. They have been gathering outside the Estadio da Luz for around two hours. Once the number of red shirts reaches 2,500, the...

Barcelona stay top as Juventus close in with PSG and Chelsea also climbing

ESPN FC's Shaka Hislop reveals his latest power rankings for this week which feature Arsenal's inclusion in the Top 10.
ESPN FC's Sid Lowe believes there is a high probability that Barcelona will drop points before season's end and afford Real Madrid an opportunity to win La Liga.
The ESPN FC panel discuss an incredible weekend in the world of football with Manchester United's win and Barcelona's El Clasico victory highlighting the action.

With the last international break of the season upon us, club sides are taking a breather ahead of one final push. The latest edition of the Power Rankings shows that Barcelona continue to be in the rudest of health.

1. Barcelona (no change)

It was all about the Clasico in Spain last weekend and Barca prevailed, thanks to a set-piece goal and a moment of sheer quality from Luis Suarez. It all means that, with 10 games to go, Luis Enrique's men have a four-point lead in La Liga. There's a long way...

Raffael, the No. 9.5 who embarrassed Manuel Neuer

Manuel Neuer's blunder allowed Raffael to open the scoring at Bayern Munich on Sunday.

What are the chances of getting a birthday present from Manuel Neuer? Borussia Monchengladbach's Raffael Caetano de Araujo, known simply as Raffael by all in Germany, turns 30 on Saturday, and he should have plenty of cause to celebrate after the shock 2-0 win at Bayern Munich. The Bavarian giants lost a meaningful home league game for the first time since October 2012, with Raffael taking centre stage with a brace.

Both of the shots should have been routine saves for the Bayern goalkeeper, and...

English strikers are back on top form in the 2014-15 Premier League season

Take a look inside England's training as Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Harry Kane and more test their skills with some great goals and saves.
England manager Roy Hodgson has attempted to dampen the hype surrounding Harry Kane, after handing the Tottenham striker his first England call-up.

Harry Kane's rise has been so swift, so startling and so seemingly unstoppable that there seems to be an unofficial competition to make the most outlandish prediction about his prowess and progress. So here is one: The Tottenham striker could prove a once-in-a-millennium player.

Or, to clarify and place in its proper context, Kane stands a fine chance of becoming the first Englishman to claim the Premier League's Golden Boot in a season that started in the 21st century.

Not since Kevin Phillips scored...