The build up is now on for this weekends Johnstone Paint Trophy which seed Carlisle United make the return trip, having lost to Southampton in last years final. This time they will start as slight favourites despite their recent defeat to their challengers Brentford, who have lost both their previous appearances in the final.
Carlisle have been in the final on 5 previous occasions, winning in 1997 and losing the other four, however apart from last years thrashing they have normally given a good account of themselves.
Whoever wins the clubs will at least have gained a welcome financial windfall, and Carlise, who despite dwindling crowds recently reported a £110,000 half year profit, expect to generate an additional £250,000 in revenue from the game. This sum would only be enough to pay a top Premier League players wage for a couple of weeks, however for League One clubs this can make the difference between success and administration.
The weeks Euro qualifying results went largely to plan with the top seeds winning their games and only Albania’s bad tempered 1-0 win over surprise side Belarus raising any eyebrows.
The British Teams had mixed fortunes with England winning comfortably against Wales (effectively ending Wales’ slim hopes) and the Republic of Ireland recording a good 2-1 win over Macedonia. Northern Ireland gained a credible 0-0 draw with Slovenia and despite their earlier 2-1 defeat in Serbia, they remain just about alive in the quest for secon place in their group.
After 5 games it s already looking like the usual suspects will be in the finals, with Germany, Holland, France, Italy & Spain all well clear already, and while the other four groups are currently quite tight, England with their Superior Goal Difference look likely to join them.
The Republic of Ireland in Group B have a tough test ahead as although they are joint top with 10 points any one of four teams could take that group, and Britains only other challenger Scotland look like missing out again in a tough Group I, which includes Spain, The Czech Republic and Lithuania. Finishing third looks like their best hope.
The Champions League Semi Final draw has paired Britains best hopes Chelsea & Manchester United guaranteeing an English presence in the last 4, but probably dashing any hope of an al English final. The final 8 are comprised of 3 English Clubs, 2 Spanish, and one each from Italy, Germany and the Ukraine.
Looking at the ties objectively we expect the final four to comnprise Inter Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid & Chelsea, although with teams of this quality anything can happen and some exciting football looks instore.
Inter Milan v Schalke 04 Real Madrid v Tottenham Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk Chelsea v Man Utd
Nikica Jelavic grabed an extra-time winner as Rangers triumphed ove Old Firm rivals Celtic in the Scottish League Cup final yesterday. In a bad tempered match littered with petty fouls it was Rangers who took the lead through Steven Davis after 24 minute, however the lead was short lived as Joe Ledley headed Celtic level on 31 minutes.
Thereafter both sides had chances, with Rangers just having the better of them but it was no surprise when the game went to extra time. The decisive goal came after 98 minutes when Jelavic fired in off the post and in doing so ended Celtics hopes of the domestic treble.
Celtic were reduced to 10 men late in extra time when Izaguirre earned a straight red for a pointless barge on Weiss, and Diouf managed to maintain his ill disipline by picking up a Yellow card despite only being brought on for the final 3 minutes!
The official attendance was 51,181 and overall there were 45 fouls 5 Yellow Cards and a sending off. So much for the players being on their best behaviour following their unpleasant Scottish Cup meeting.
Slightly against the odds its Darlington an Mansfield who will compete in the 2011 FA Trophy final, after both earned balttling draws in the second legs.
Darlington who trailed 2-0 at one stage in the 1st leg held out for a 0-0 draw at their North East Neighbours in a game of few chances so progressing 3-2 on aggregate.
Mansfield who won their home leg 1-0 lost the Kennelworth road tie 1-0 so extra time had to be played. Luton who finished normal time with 9 men after Gnakpa received a second yellow card in the 84th minute and then Lawless was shown a straight red for an elbow on Kyle Nix. Not surprisingly Mansfield dominated the extra time but Luton held out until two minutes from the end of extra time when Mansfield were awarded a slightly harsh penalty. Briscoe fired his spot kicjk straight at Pilkington in the Luton goal, however was able to fire in the rebound to send the Stags to Wembley for the first time since 1987.
The FA Trophy Final is scheduled to be played on 7th May 2011