By DAN KARELL
In the final weeks ahead of the 2014 World Cup, soccer fans around the world will be treated to an extra El Clasico showdown.
Barcelona drew Real Sociedad, 1-1 (3-1 winners on aggregate), on Wednesday in the Copa Del Rey semifinals, setting up a highly anticipated cup final against Real Madrid on April 18. The two hated Spanish rivals are already scheduled to meet in La Liga action on March 22 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Back to full fitness, Lionel Messi produced some more magic when he weaved through four defenders before firing a deflected shot in for a goal in the 27th minute to give his side the lead. Sociedad’s Antoine Griezmann scored a late consolation goal in the 87th minute but his club didn’t have enough time to tie the game on aggregate.
It will be the 37th time Barcelona has appeared in a Copa Del Rey final.
Here are some more stories to kick off your Thursday:
ARSENAL-MAN UNITED ENDS IN STALEMATE
Arsenal failed to take advantage of a key opportunity with Manchester United in town.
Knowing that they could return to the summit of the English Premier League on Wednesday evening with a victory, Arsenal failed to overcome Man United and were forced to settle for a scoreless draw. Man United had arguably the best chances in the game, with Robin Van Persie mis-firing within the first few minutes and nearly scoring late if not for a terrific save from Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed frayed nerves as a result of Arsenal’s 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool last Saturday as a reason they couldn’t find the back of the net. Man United boss David Moyes came away the happier manager though, saying that he was happy to take four points off Arsenal this season.
“I felt we were nervous, yes,” Wenger told The Guardian. “It is not worrying because we care about what we do and when you concede five goals like we did on Saturday … we are only human beings and that is always what you get after a game like that.
“Sometimes you don’t score because the team was highly focused not to concede. That maybe restricted our game going forward a little bit because we were certainly hit by the five goals we conceded on Saturday. You could feel that here. When you are hit like we were, the players want not to lose it and we could have lost it in the last five minutes.”
CUP ROUNDUP: NAPOLI KNOCK OUT ROMA, BAYERN ADVANCE
AS Roma’s dream of making it back to the Coppa Italia final is over.
On the back of a scoreless draw against rival Lazio in the Derby della Capitale last Sunday, Roma were unceremoniously knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Napoli, who defeated the Romans, 3-0 (5-3 on aggregate). All three goal-scorers for Napoli were new signings this season, beginning with Jose Callejon followed by Gonzalo Higuain and winter signing Jorginho.
Even without Franck Ribery and a few other missing starters, Bayern Munich had no problem on the road against woeful Hamburg in a 5-0 victory. Mario Mandzukic had a hat-trick and Arjen Robben and Dante each chipped in with goals of their own to help the club advance to the semifinals.
Dimitar Berbatov meanwhile quickly endeared himself to fans with a 114th minute goal in to save AS Monaco in the Coupe de France against Nice. It was his first goal since joining the club at the start of February.
CLUB LEON OPEN COPA LIBERTADORES CAMPAIGN ON HIGH NOTE
Club Leon have carried their recent domestic form into the 2014 Copa Libertadores.
In their opening match against Brazilian club Flamengo, Club Leon came out 2-1 winners at home. Former Wigan Athletic forward Mauro Boselli scored a first half penalty kick for the Mexican club before Victor Caceres tied the score two minutes before halftime. However, Franco Arizala put Leon ahead for good in the 68th minute from a scrum in the box following a corner kick. Flamengo played nearly the entire game down to ten men after Amaral was sent off in the 12th minute.
Also in action on Wednesday evening was Venezuelan side Deportivo Anzoategui drawing Peñarol of Uruguay, 1-1, and Deportivo Cali in Colombia defeating Paraguay’s Cerro Porteño, 1-0. Allegations of racism marred the 2-1 victory for Peru’s Real Garcilaso over Cruzeiro.
UEFA president Michel Platini has decided to award the 2013 UEFA Presidents Award to Johan Cruyff. (REPORT)
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan remains sidelined by nerve issues in his back. (REPORT)
Ashley Cole faces an uphill climb to make the England squad for the World Cup. (REPORT)
David Villa is back in full training with Atletico Madrid after recovering from a thigh injury. (REPORT)
Manchester City have reportedly signed 20-year-old Argentine Bruno Zuculini. (REPORT)
What do you think of these reports? Excited to see another El Clasico final? What was to blame in Arsenal’s scoreless draw with Man United? How dominant is Bayern Munich this season?
Share your thoughts below.