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Stoke fans seek Diouf return

 By Rob Train

Casemiro must replace Toni Kroos in Real Madrid's best XI

The ESPN FC crew talk to Charlie Davies about whether or not Real Madrid have lost their place among Europe's top teams.
ESPN FC's Steve Nicol and Alexis Nunes weigh in on whether the politics surrounding Real Madrid are damaging the team.

It has been a long audition, but Casemiro's performances this season should lead to a curtain call for Toni Kroos in the Real Madrid engine room. After the 4-0 Clasico debacle and given Casemiro's current form, there is simply no way to justify the German's inclusion in the side at the expense of the Brazilian.

In a recent interview, the man who unearthed Casemiro, Nilton Moreira, said: "Ever since he was small we saw him as a Dunga or a Mauro Silva because of his marking and his distribution." 


 By Shaka Hislop

In-form Barcelona replace Bayern Munich atop the Power Rankings

ESPN FC's Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop believe Barcelona are the best team in the Champions League.
The ESPN FC team debate which European power is in better form between Spanish side Barcelona or German side Bayern Munich.

Given what they achieved over the last week, there was only side who could top Shaka Hislop's Power Rankings!

1. Barcelona (+1)

Away to your biggest rivals without your best player? No worries, said Barcelona, who humiliated Real Madrid at the Bernabeu with a superb display of attacking football. Three days later, with Lionel Messi back in the starting XI, they beat Roma 6-1. Barcelona have scored 28 goals in their last nine games in all competitions. Wow.

2. Bayern Munich (-1)

It might seem...

Portland Timbers' improved defense down to Borchers and Ridgewell

New England's Charlie Davies joins ESPN FC's Dan Thomas and Steve Nicol to preview the MLS conference final second legs.
The ESPN FC panel discuss whether or not FC Dallas will be able to overcome their 3-1 first leg deficit against Portland.

Sometimes, one trade can make all the difference.

At the conclusion of the 2014 MLS season, Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter and general manager Gavin Wilkinson knew what the side needed most, and that was defensive help. The team conceded 52 goals over the course of the campaign, and while the midseason arrival of center back Liam Ridgewell helped solidify the back line, even more reinforcements were needed.

Wilkinson and Porter had a specific profile in mind in terms of what kind of defender...

 By Ben Pearce

Tottenham team effort validates Pochettino's Europa League gamble

Harry Kane scored his 10th goal in all competitions as Tottenham advanced to the Europa League knockout stages.
ESPN FC's Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop believe Tottenham have to focus on their encounter against Chelsea.

Eyebrows were raised when Mauricio Pochettino took an almost full-strength squad to Azerbaijan and then picked most of his senior players against Qarabag less than three days before a crucial Premier League showdown with Chelsea at midday on Sunday.

It remains to be seen how those decisions will affect Spurs, and the top-four battle, at the weekend -- but the Argentine will feel justified in his decisions for now, after this mature 1-0 victory which ensured Tottenham qualified for the knockout stages...

Chicharito has impressed but Bayer Leverkusen must improve

Bayer Leverkusen fought back to get a 1-1 draw against BATE Borisov in their UCL group stage match.
ESPN FC's Shaka Hislop reacts to David De Gea's comments that Chicharito is among the world's best.
Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea reminisces about playing alongside Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez.

As the calendar year winds down, Bayer 04 Leverkusen still don't really know what to make of 2015-16.

"The next few weeks will show whether the first half of the season was top or a flop," said midfielder Christoph Kramer with typical bluntness after his side's 1-1 draw at BATE Borisov on Tuesday night.

In tricky conditions, Roger Schmidt's team had come close to winning in Belarus, but the disappointing final result dragged them to the edge of elimination from the Champions League and threw up some...

 By Andy Mitten

Manchester United fans' frustration grows as entertainment diminishes

ESPN FC's Alexis Nunes and Shaka Hislop preview the battle of the top two in the Premier League.
Round 14 sees Manchester United square off against top of the league Jamie Vardy and Leicester City.

After Wednesday's 0-0 draw with PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United's fourth goalless stalemate in seven games, a friend emailed.

"I compare the club to a bath," he wrote. "The water was leaking quickly down the plug hole when [David] Moyes was here. [Van Gaal] came in and put a big plug in there to shore things up. Problem is that now there are no bubbles and the water's flat and lifeless.

"I'm completely nonplussed by the football. [I still] buzz off the buildup and rushing to the ground, buzz off...