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Dec 3, 2012 12:38am
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LEVERKUSEN, Germany – With hopes of a fourth consecutive Spanish league title
fading, Barcelona is turning its full attention to defending its European crown
— which is bad news for Bayer Leverkusen. Fran Tarkenton Jersey . Both sides are having
domestic troubles going into their meeting in Tuesdays Champions League round of
16 first-leg match, but it is arguably Barcelona which has more to prove.
Saturdays 3-2 loss at Osasuna, coupled with Real Madrids 4-2 win over Levante on
Sunday, left the defending Spanish champion 10 points behind its bitter rival,
which has dropped only eight points all season. Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola
suggested Monday night that his side was struggling under the weight of
expectation. “You have the feeling that if we dont win the Champions League its
a failure,” he said, before rejecting the notion of European success as a
“replacement drug” to atone for failure in the league. “The Champions League is
always difficult at this stage. We know how close it can be. Thats why I dont
understand this argument,” Guardiola said. Barcelona defender Dani Alves put
Saturdays setback aside, preferring instead to look ahead. “Of course the points
difference is big, but were in a different competition now and we have to
concentrate on that,” the Brazilian said. Leverkusen has problems of its own,
having claimed only one win in its last seven games while the club is at odds
with its midfielder Michael Ballack. The former Germany captain hasnt played for
Leverkusen since managing director Wolfgang Holzhaeuser described his transfer
back to the club as a “failure.” Leverkusen failed to win any of the three games
in which Ballack remained an unused substitute, but any thoughts Leverkusen
coach Robin Dutt may have had of giving the 35-year-old a final hurrah on the
big stage were dashed Sunday, when Ballack tore a calf muscle in training.
Ballacks injury is just the latest to affect Dutts side. Winger Sidney Sam and
Switzerland striker Eren Derdiyok were both ruled out with foot injuries, the
latter after stepping on broken glass in his bathroom last week. Leverkusen
missed their attacking presence in the 1-0 loss Borussia Dortmund on Saturday,
when the side looked anything but inspired. “On Tuesday, it could be a tick more
difficult,” Dutt said. Leverkusen is currently sixth in the Bundesliga on goal
difference. “Were not dreamers but realists,” said Leverkusen sporting director
Rudi Voeller. “We want to make sure of the Europa League place and secure
international football that way.” Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes described
Tuesdays match as “a classic David vs. Goliath game.” Still, his side hasnt
given up hope of progressing to its first Champions League quarterfinal since
reaching the final in 2002, when Ballack was in his first stint at the club.
“Miracles are always known to happen,” Holzhaeuser said. Dutt, too, is drawing
on positive thoughts. “You always think youve experienced everything in
football. But you havent experienced anything yet. This story also has to be
written first,” said the Leverkusen coach. Nonetheless, Dutt is aware of the
monumental task his side faces. “Barcelona are better than Spain. You only have
a chance when you get your tactics perfect and Barcelona have a bad day,” he
said, before joking that a 5-0 win would suit Leverkusen just fine. Barcelona
captain Carles Puyol insisted that the Catalans were focused on all competitions
after enduring only their second loss of the season. “Well fight to the end in
all three competitions, whoever thinks the opposite is wrong,” he warned on
Sunday. Puyol said the players were “not machines” that could be connected one
day and disconnected the next. “We have to give everything every game, and well
do this until the end of the season.” Guardiola spared Andres Iniesta and Xavi
Hernandez from Osasunas frozen pitch with Tuesdays game in mind. Cesc Fabregas
made only a late appearance from the bench meaning the visitors will have an
almost fully fit squad, apart from the long-term absences of David Villa and
Ibrahim Afellay. Midfielder Sergio Busquets was the main doubt after missing two
games but travelled with the team to Germany. “He completed most of (Mondays)
training,” Guardiola said. “Well see how he progresses and make a decision
then.” Guardiola has been using a number of reserve players recently, with
wingers Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello making significant impacts, while
midfielder Sergi Roberto started on Saturday alongside Thiago Alcantara. But all
signs point to the return of Xavi and Iniesta on Tuesday, which could help to
spark a sub-par Lionel Messi to reach his own lofty heights. “Our target is to
play to get to the quarterfinals and then take it step by step,” Guardiola said.
He played down Barcelonas chances of becoming the first side since AC Milan in
1990 to successfully defend its European crown. “Times have changed since Milan
last did it. Nobody else has done it since, so it shows how difficult it is,” he
said. Instead, Guardiola — a former Barcelona midfielder — pointed to what his
players had already achieved. “These guys are part of the history of football
and theyre going to try to win it again,” he said. Leverkusen is happy to play a
part in that history. “Weve been looking forward to this game for weeks, for the
fans and for our young players to play against the worlds best team,” Voeller
said. “Of course its a dream.” Voeller, a former Germany striker and coach, said
his side would “of course” attempt to get a positive result against Barcelona.
“But they arent quite so bad. You look at them sometimes and say, Ah, how lovely
they play. For the players its great to see at first hand how they do it and why
they are so good.” __ AP Sports Writer Paul Logothetis contributed from Madrid.
Kyle Rudolph Jersey . Sanchez was among a
group of five riders who broke away on the final ascent of the day, the Mur de
Peguere, as the three-week race entered the Pyrenees on Sunday. He then made his
decisive move 11 kilometres (7 miles) from the finish to claim his fourth Tour
stage win. Percy Harvin Jersey . Their shock was even
greater when that advantage was gone, and they were suddenly locked in a tie
game in the opening minute of the third period. In the end, it all worked out
for the Devils, who got another surprising goal from fourth-line forward
Ryan Carter in the closing minutes and escaped with a win that put New Jersey on
the brink of a spot in the Stanley Cup finals. http://www.nflnikeminnesotavikings.com/chris-doleman-jersey
.B). As part of the approval, BCE and Rogers will be required to spend $7.5
million over the next seven years on new sports-themed programming by Canadian
independent producers. The federal broadcast regulator also repeated its
assertion that companies are prohibited from offering television programs on an
exclusive basis to their mobile or Internet subscribers. Christian Ponder Jersey . Come Thursday,
Gibson reconsidered. “Hes got a chance of doing damage,” Gibson explained before
Thursdays game against the Pirates. “Hes due.” Kubel sure was. Kubel homered
twice, Joe Saunders pitched seven effective innings and the Diamondbacks beat
Pittsburgh 6-3 on Thursday. Christian Ponder Womens Jersey . Murray will
face No. 1 seed Roger Federer of Switzerland for the gold medal in a rematch of
the Wimbledon final in July, a match Federer won 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. HOUSTON
Make no mistake about it, things arent pretty for the Houston Astros. They have
the worst record in baseball and are barrelling toward their second straight
100-loss season. But on Friday night this terrible team walked off the field
winners after a dramatic ninth-inning rally for a 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee
Brewers. Brian Bogusevics RBI single in the ninth inning capped the Astros
two-run rally. It was the first win this season for Houston in its last at-bat
and breaks a five-game losing streak. It was Houstons first walk-off win since
last Sept. 26, according to STATS LLC. “It was a good feeling. Theyre fun and
when you wait this long for one its really fun,” Bogusevic said of walk-off
wins. “Its been a long time since weve had some good things happen for us. Weve
played a lot of close games but havent come out with wins.” The Astros won for
the fifth time in 39 games. The only team since 1900 to lose at least 35 times
in a 39-game span was the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, who finished 36-117 under
Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack, according to STATS. Wilton Lopez (4-1) struck
out two in a perfect ninth inning for the win. Houston manager Brad Mills has
talked day after day about wanting to see his team be rewarded for its
improvement. He couldnt stop smiling after the National Leagues youngest team
finally was. “It was just good for them to get something for it,” he said. “The
coaches have been doing a great job of keeping the guys upbeat. The guys were
just thrilled to death, and its nice to see, no doubt.” The Brewers have lost 10
straight on the road for the first time since 1992. Houston trailed 3-2 entering
the ninth. Brett Wallace walked with no outs and was replaced by pinch-runner
Tyler Greene, who was making his Astros debut after being acquired in a trade
with St. Louis on Thursday. He stole second base and advanced to third on a wild
pitch by John Axford (4-7), who was charged with his eighth blown save. “I dont
know if Ill keep using (Axford) there or not,” Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke
said. “Maybe depending on the matchups, well give him a chance. We thought this
was a good opportunity to get him in there and get him back to the guy that we
know he is.” Steve Pearces RBI single to centre tied it at 3. “You could tell
something good was going to happen,” Pearce said of Houstons momentum growing in
the ninth. Adrian Peterson Jersey. “You could see the
body language of the pitcher, the crowd, and you could feel it coming.” Pearce
advanced to second on the play on an error by centerfielder Carlos Gomez. Gomez
made up for his miscue when he made a running, over-the-shoulder catch on a long
fly ball to deep centre by Scott Moore. Bogusevic followed with a hard-hit
grounder to centre to give Houston the win and send the Astros spilling onto the
field for a rare celebration in this dreadful season. The players dashed to mob
Bogusevic, who tried unsuccessfully to get away from the pack, sending the party
into the outfield. “It was a really good inning, everybody did their job,”
Bogusevic said. “It was a bunch of things that needed to be executed that were
all executed, which was really good to see because it hasnt always been that
way.” Indeed. Houston has struggled to get the key hit or pitch to close out
close games this season. The Astros are 0-11 in extra-inning games and have 22
one-run losses. Rickie Weeks had a career-high three doubles for the Brewers.
Houstons comeback win ruined a good night for Milwaukee starter Mark Rogers. He
didnt allow a hit until the fifth inning and gave up three hits—all singles
—with one run in a career-long seven innings. Rogers, who replaced
Zack Greinke in the rotation, struck out a career-high eight with two walks.
Carlos Corporan drove in Houstons first run with a single in the fifth inning
and added a solo homer in the eighth. Houston starter Bud Norris yielded eight
hits and three runs—two earned—in seven innings but didnt factor in the
decision to end his winless streak. Norris hasnt won since May 21. Ryan Brauns
double gave Milwaukee a 1-0 lead. Weeks doubled in the second, fourth and
seventh innings. Each of the hits landed in almost the same spot in the corner
of left field. Houstons first hit came with one out in the fifth on a bunt
single by Scott Moore which dribbled down the left field line. Weeks opened the
seventh with his third double and scored on a single by Jean Segura to put
Milwaukee ahead 3-1. NOTES: Houston recalled OF Fernando Martinez from Triple-A
Oklahoma City on Friday. ... Milwaukee RHP Shaun Marcum, on the 60-day DL with
right elbow tightness, is on a rehabilitation assignment with Single-A
Wisconsin. ’ ’ ’ 

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