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Page last updated at 21:32 GMT, Wednesday, 27 April 2011 22:32 UK

Wednesday football as it happened


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By Sam Lyon

2225: A night to get just about everybody talking then, huh? In the end, Lionel Messi ensured we won't remember the Real-Barca clash simply for the scrappy, ill-tempered affair it was for long periods - but has he done quite enough to ensure Barcelona are through to the Champions League final just yet? I suspect their might be potential for a twist in the tail when the two sides meet again next week, myself. As for Fulham, a precious three points for them tonight as they all but complete their late-season renaissance pull away from the drop zone - and, in short, that made for an absorbing night's football all round didn't it? The action doesn't let up for long, mind, so make sure you join me - Sam Lyon - this weekend for what promises to be another barn-storming Premier League, Championship and lower league programme. See you bright and early on Saturday? Jubbly.

jamesa18 on Twitter: "So I make that 8-2 to Barcelona on season aggregate. Can Real Madrid shorten the deficit? Find out next week..."

Saj Chowdhury reports:
"A beautiful end to a too often ugly match. We are unlikely to see the likes of Lionel Messi many times again, so savour every moment he's on that pitch, people, I'm telling you."

Ian Hughes reports:
"Fulham produced a display of verve and fluency that makes you wonder just how they ended up among the relegation battlers - but three points here have virtually rid them of those fears now. A good night for them men - less so for Bolton."

2217: But what did our match reporters make of things? Well...

2215: It would appear Jose Mourinho has been typically robust in his official post-match press conference - now that he's been allowed out of the dressing room - with men on the scene tweeting that the Real Madrid manager says he is "disgusted at the world we live in", that "no one has any chance against Barca like this" and that "yes, we have already been knocked out". Look out for those on the website later this evening now won't you.

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt: "Messi is just different class, what a player he is!! Great assist of Afellay when he came on too - played brilliantly."

Rajigolo on Twitter: "Madrid got what they deserved in the end, too negative. Guardiola too good for mind games. Mourinho is clearly rattled."

2211: Clint Dempsey, by the way, in scoring his 32nd and 33rd Premier League goals for Fulham tonight, became their outright top scorer in the Premier League era ahead of Brian McBride (32) and Steed Malbranque (32). Which is nice.

2208: And what about Fulham? Well Mark Hughes's boys jump five places to ninth in the table with their ever-so comfortable 3-0 win over Bolton, all but ensuring their Premier League survival for another season and giving themselves a fair ol' shout of a top-10 finish at the same time. They now lie one place and four points off Bolton, who just weren't at the races today. How Arsenal must wish the Trotters had played like that last week.

Ben_Chattaway on Twitter: "Messy for 75 mins and Messi for 15 mins. Amazing stuff."

DamianMcGintyCT on Twitter: "As bad as the diving was, people have missed the fact that Madrid were awful - worst semi-final performance I've ever seen from a Mourinho team..."

2202: All this talk of Lionel Messi - it's worth noting that his goal tally this season, in Europe at least, is not yet a record Infostrada Sports tell me. To achieve that, he'll have to beat Ruud van Nistelrooy's effort of 12 Champions League goals for Manchester United in the 2002-03 season. With 11 already, however, few would bet against Messi going on to beat that by the end of the season.

uglyfatmidget on Twitter: "Phew. Finally the 90 minutes of build-up is over. Now to the real spectacle - Mourinho's post-match press conference!"

Paul, London via text: "El Messi Master Show!"
Erm... OK...ish.

lawanhawizy on Twitter: "What does Messi think he's doing?! Ruined a perfectly fine game of handbags!"

2155: Wow. In an unprecedented move from Uefa, they've refused to allow either teams' players or staff to give an initial reaction to events at the Bernabeu as they have locked the sides in their respective dressing rooms in Madrid. Love it.

2153: Blimey, Twitter's gone mad. You've clearly got a lot to say about tonight - so get in touch by Tweeting the commentary via the hashtag #BBCFootball, Tweeting me @sampatricklyon or texting in via 81111 (UK). You've got half an hour to get yourself heard.

Full time
2151: FULL-TIME Fulham 3-0 Bolton

2149: Referee Anthony Taylor has obviously not seen enough of the match at Craven Cottage just yet. Dum de dum.

saqrajan on Twitter: "Every game Messi plays with Barca should be called El Classico... pure class."

2146: Urgh... coding error... refresh please!

2145: Petering out to a finish at Craven Cottage, where Fulham are strolling to a precious three points against a not-quite-up-for-it Bolton. Fulham 3-0 Bolton.

2144: Thanks to martin_ltfc, then, for summing up events from the Bernabeu quite nicely. Gawd bless Lionel Messi huh? Just as it looked like petulance and bickering would win the day, up steps the little maestro to show us all how the beautiful game can still be played - albeit by a divine few. For the second night in succession, the away team emerges from a Champions League semi-final first leg with a 2-0 win... and it looks odds-on like we're set for a Man Utd-Barcelona final at Wembley come 28 May. Unless... anyone believe in miracles?

martin_ltfc on Twitter: "Such a poor game, play-acting galore, poor refereeing for the red card and then Messi, pure brilliance."

Full time
2139: FULL-TIME Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona

2138: Keep-ball from Barcelona and almost complete domination of the football.

2136: As we roll into stoppage time, Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola - how ill-judged does his rant at Mourinho appear now? - throws Sergio Roberto on for David Villa. Expect a huge smile to break across Josep's face in a couple of minutes.

JeetRajani on Twitter: "El Messico?"

Barcelona goal: Lionel Messi - quite good at football. It's a quite stupendous goal from unarguably the greatest footballer in the world as Lionel Messi, picking the ball up 35 yards out, charges at the Real Madrid defence, glides past three defenders as if they're not even there, and then clips in a delightful finish that leaves Iker Casillas no chance. It's a beauty - is it the goal that kills the tie?

2132: GOALFLASH Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona (Messi)

westwingjosh on Twitter: "'El theatrico?'"
Stretching it... but I like it.

Yellow card
2128: Hhmm... Emmanuel Adebayor might just be lucky to escape with a yellow card there as he swings an arm and catches a Barca player in the face. It could have been red and nine men for Real - instead it's just a booking.

2126: All of a sudden at the Bernabeu, Real Madrid really look to be feeling that missing man. Barcelona are looking consummate on the ball and Real Madrid's hopes of repeating their 2002 success - when they beat Barca on the way to their last Champions League trophy success - appear to be slimming by the minute.

Fulham goal: Game over at Craven Cottage now as Brede Hangeland rises to thump home a header from Danny Murphy's free-kick. Bolton's heart never seemed to be in this one and the Cottagers can start planning for Premier League football again next season for sure.

Barcelona goal: Breakthrough! And what an important goal this could be. Substitute Ibrahim Afellay is the creator, bursting down the right and crossing into the six-yard area for Lionel Messi to flick home a fine finish. It's his 51st goal of the season, fourth in his last four visits to the Bernabeu, and 10th in 11 Champions League games this season. Staggering.

2122: GOALFLASH Fulham 3-0 Bolton (Hangeland)

2121: GOALFLASH Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona (Messi)

2119: Real Madrid free-kick, 33 yards out, Cristiano Ronaldo over it... it's well over. Hhmm.

2118: Meanwhile, Bolton are still unable to find their rhythm at Craven Cottage and Fulham are pressing for a third. More goals seem likely in this one, but only at one end at the moment.

neelohith on Twitter: "Terrible scenes. Two of the best football teams in the world resorting to diving and bickering."

2116: First Barcelona change of the night from the Bernabeu, Ibrahim Afellay on for Pedro. Twenty minutes left in this one.

2113: Fabulous save! Best effort of the night so far at the Bernabeu as Barca's David Villa - the most dangerous player out there tonight at times - cuts in from the left from Xavi's pass only for Iker Casillas to pull off a tremendous stop on the stretch hurling himself to the left. Superb.

2111: With the whistles screaming down from the stands Real have their best chance of the half, Cristiano Ronaldo rising to meet Xabi Alonso's free-kick 12 yards out but heading over. Good chance, that.

Red card
Real Madrid red card: And now Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho, for his protestations following the sending-off, much watch the rest of the match from the stands after being sent from the touchline by the referee. The atmosphere is hostile to say the least.

2109: RED CARD, Jose Mourinho, REAL MADRID

Red card
Real Madrid red card: Unbelievable. For the fourth time this season Real Madrid will finish a match against Barcelona without their full quota of players. Pepe is the man dismissed by referee Wolfgang Stark this time for a flying tackle on Dani Alves, the German hesitating only a moment before brandishing a red card. Yes, the Real defender's tackle was high, no he didn't get the ball, but I have to say that looked a touch harsh.


2105: Back in Spain, Marcelo produces a brilliant tackle to rob striker Pedro inside the Real area. Referee Wolfgang Stark waves play-on despite penalty shouts from Barca players.

Fulham goal: Another huge step towards safety - and deservedly so. Clint Dempsey is again the goalscorer - moments after Moussa Dembele had hit the bar from 20 yards - as he turns in from six yards after Eidur Gudjohnsen's flick-on.

2104: GOALFLASH Fulham 2-0 Bolton (Dempsey)

2102: Back under way at Craven Cottage, Fulham 1-0 Bolton.

Yellow card
2101: Oh you have to give that at least a 5.8. Possibly a 5.9. There's contact - just - on Pepe by Javier Mascherano, but the Real defender makes the most of it and throws himself spectacularly through the air at an impressive height, pulling off a triple-pike-with-half-twist for good measure, before returning to earth with a quadruple roll. It does it's job, too, as Mascherano is booked. Theatrics.

Tom, Inverness via text: "El Scrapico?"
Best so far.

2058: Cynical. Sergio Ramos goes into the book for a blatant and deliberate foul on Lionel Messi - and the Real full-back will now miss the second leg.

2057: The latest possession stats suggest Barca have had 72% of it. Woah. And just for clarification, Barcelona still have 11 men on the field - Jose Pinto, sent off as a substitute, will of course not now be allowed to come on.

2055: He's come up trumps there, though, the veteran Barca defender, Carles Puyol getting back well to block Cristiano Ronaldo's goalbound effort from the angle after the ball had found a way behind the visitors' defence.

2053: It would appear, then, that Emmanuel Adebayor will head up a one-man attack for Real with Cristiano Ronaldo attacking from deep on the right. Tough ask for makeshift Barca left-back Carles Puyol you would think.

2051: Fine early chance for Barcelona as Pedro lays it back to Lionel Messi on the edge of the Real Madrid box, the Argentine's snap-shot well blocked by Sergio Ramos.

2050: Back under way in the Bernabeu, just the one change - Emmanuel Adebayor on for Mesut Ozil for the hosts. Real Madrid 0-0 Barcelona.

Red card
2049: Confirmation through, then, that Barca sub keeper Jose Pinto was sent off for his part in that half-time bust-up.

sudharma on Twitter: "El Farcico?"
Lovely stuff

Half time
2048: HALF-TIME Fulham 1-0 Bolton
Ian Hughes's HT snap-shot:
"Fulham comfortably ahead at Craven Cottage, with Clint Dempsey running the show - the goalscoring American has been inventive and clinical. Bolton need to improve significantly if they are to get back into the game."

2047: And there's your half time at Craven Cottage.

2045: Best chance of the match for Bolton, meanwhile, Tamir Cohen volleying goalwards on the turn from just inside the area but providing a simple enough save for Mark Schwarzer in the home goal.

2044: "Well, errr.... in the words of David Cassidy... while he was still with the Partridge family... I think I love you..." Yep, Hugh Grant is at Craven Cottage. Loves his Fulham, that boy. Loves 'em.

2041: And now, according to Adrian Chiles, it appears as if Barca's substitute keeper Jose Pinto was red carded for his part in that melee. Blimey.

2039: What on earth? ITV have just shown an incident after the half-time whistle blew at the Bernabeu with players and staff from both sets of teams coming together around the tunnel in a handbag-frenzy bust-up involving literally dozens. Gawd knows what started it, and a spot of pushing and shoving aside it didn't look too menacing, but this match is threatening to boil over in exactly the wrong way. Spare a thought for poor ol' referee Wolfgang Stark in the second half, please.

2036: Another Fulham effort as Moussa Dembele tries his luck from outside the area, but his shot is deflected over the apex of the goal. From the resulting corner Brede Hangeland heads over the bar unmarked. Chances.

mikl_em on Twitter: "El Clazzzzzzzico?"

Half time
2035: HALF-TIME Real Madrid 0-0 Barcelona
Saj Chowdhury's HT snap-shot:
"Unsurprisingly, this is not the open game many were hoping for. Barcelona have been far more patient in their build-up than they were in the Copa del Rey defeat and that tactic almost paid dividends twice. If they could sneak one soon then it may finally become an El Clasico."

2033: The half-time whistle blows at the Bernabeu.

2031: Real chance! In both senses of the word! Cristiano Ronaldo does brilliantly to get the ball out of his feet 30 yards out and fires a dipping shot in that Barca keeper Victor Valdes does well to parry. Mesut Ozil's follow-up is saved but he was offside anyway.

Yellow card
2030: It turns out, by the way, Alvaro Arbeloa received a yellow card for earlier collision with Pedro - strange - and Dani Alves has just joined him for a foul on Angel di Maria. Neither were particularly bad, but referee Wolfgang Stark is being given a terrible time by both sets out there. Not good.

Someone has struck the woodwork
2027: Back at Craven Cottage, it's still Fulham creating the chances, Moussa Dembele this time latching on to a through ball and firing a low shot in from the edge of the box, forcing Jussi Jaaskelainen into another decent stop. Moments later Eidur Gudjohnsen is clean through and chips his effort at goal, only for Jaaskelainen to get just enough on it to deflect it on to the post.

Dave via text: "Hell Clasico?"
Like it.

Joe_Medlam on Twitter: "How about 'El Placid-o'"

2024: This has been brewing to be fair. Pedro goes down off the ball after a harmless collision with Real's Alvaro Arbeloa and it sparks all sorts of pushing, shoving and general arm-waving from both sets of players. Nothing in it, the classic definition of handbags.

2023: ...Cristiano Ronaldo slams it into the wall. Ho hum.

2022: Hold on... Real Madrid free-kick, outside left of the area... 16 yards out...

2019: You're right, though, it's not a rip-roarer. Real 0-0 Barca.

2018: Your pun attempts at turning 'El Clasico' into something underlining how tight/dull the game at the Bernabeu is are nothing short of woeful. 'El Bore-o', for example? Puh-lease. That is all.

Fulham goal: Safety beckons. Bolton fail to deal with a corner and when Chris Baird hooks the ball back into the box, Clint Dempsey is on hand to lash high into the net from 12 yards out. As it stands, Fulham are eight points clear of the drop.

2015: GOALFLASH Fulham 1-0 Bolton (Dempsey)

2013: I tell a lie - the way Cristiano Ronaldo was just seen waving his arms about screaming suggests he's one frustrated ol' soul. That or he is being attacked by a swarm of invisible wasps. One or t'other, I'd wager.

2012: I'll tell you who is putting a shift in tonight - Cristiano Ronaldo. The boy in white is everywhere so far. Whether that's tactical or a sign of his isolation up front, though, is anyone's guess.

2010: Until now - and only a fine save low down from Iker Casillas at his near post keeps Real Madrid level after Xavi had been set free in the Real box by Lionel Messi's excellent through-ball. Good chance, good effort, good save. Much better all round.

2009: And then it's back to a case of as-you-were with Barcelona dominating the ball, but frustrated in their attempts to get in behind the Real defence.

2006: Back at the Bernabeu and Real, out of nothing, force a corner... which Angel di Maria, receiving it short, wastes. Shame.

2005: Oh dear - and now a sitter for the hosts at Craven Cottage, Eidur Gudjohnsen - unmarked eight yards out - contriving to spoon Clint Dempsey's centre over the bar with the goal at his mercy. Awful effort.

2004: Over at the Cottage, Fulham are the first to get an effort in, Clint Dempsey's decent low effort pushed away by Jussi Jaaskelainen in the Bolton goal.

2003: No prizes for over-analysing Real Madrid's approach tonight - it's tight, it's defensive, it's unambitious. They're letting Barcelona have all the ball they want in their own half before snapping at their heels the moment they cross the halfway line. It's making for uninspired stuff so far.

2000: And in the night's other monster game... we've kicked off at Craven Cottage. Fulham 0-0 Bolton.

1959: According to the guys on ITV, Barcelona have had 67% of the ball so far. Impressive. Pep Guardiola's men certainly looking the more comfortable on the ball but, a couple of long-rangers aside, not a huge amount to write home about in terms of chances just yet. Yet.

1956: Effort! David Villa does excellently to cut in from the right past Marcelo and then Pepe and his left-foot shot from just outside the area only narrowly zips past Iker Casillas's far post. Good shot.

1955: Real strike Cristiano Ronaldo is already sniffing round Javier Mascherano at centre-half like a hayfever sufferer in mid-summer. The Argentine already uncomfortable.

1952: Referee Wolfgang Stark - unsurprisingly - is finding that pretty much each and every decision he makes tonight will be wildly contested by either, and even both, sides. Tough ask for the German this evening and a fitful start at the Bernabeu.

1950: First shot on goal of the match and it's a well struck volley from 25 yards by Xavi that is comfortable enough for Real keeper Iker Casillas. Real respond with a long-ranger of their own - Cristiano Ronaldo's effort similarly comfortable for visiting keeper Victor Valdes.

1948: As expected, Carles Puyol is at left-back for Barcelona, who are so depleted by injuries at the back. Also as expected, Barca seeing plenty of the ball early on.

1946: We are up and running at the Bernabeu, people...
Real Madrid 0-0 Barcelona.

1945: FULHAM v BOLTON (2000)
Ian Hughes reports:
"While Fulham have the luxury of being able to field an unchanged line-up, Bolton will have to do without the services of the injured Daniel Sturridge - the man who did so much damage to Arsenal last time out. However, the Trotters have brought in Tamir Cohen, who scored the winner against the Gunners."

1944: Just time for me - courtesy of InfostradaSports - to hit you with some knowledge. Tonight, Real and Barca embark upon the semi-finals of a European competition for a record 27th time apiece. These two also dominate European trophy wins (Real Madrid with 11, Barcelona 10) while, bizarrely, both teams have scored 886 goals each in European competition. In 212 previous El Clasico's, by the way, Real have won 86 to Barca's 82, with 43 draws. Barely a camel's eyelash to choose between them on paper, then... what about on the pitch? We're about to find out...

1940: It will surprise absolutely no-one to learn that the Bernabeu is absolutely rocking - and then some. Stunning. T-five til kick-off, people, and the players are in the tunnel.

irishnick23 on Twitter: "Lots of predictions for a Madrid win 'cause they have the special one. But Barca have Messi."

Ben in Shrewsbury via text: "RE: Jez (below)... Erm, Sturridge v Zamora, one out with an injury, the other on the bench! Going to be interesting!"

1937: FULHAM v BOLTON (2000)
Schwarzer, Baird, Hangeland, Hughes, Salcido, Gudjohnsen, Sidwell, Murphy, Dempsey, Davies, Dembele. Subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Johnson, Senderos, Etuhu, Kakuta, Zamora.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Lee, Muamba, Cohen, Taylor, Elmander, Kevin Davies. Subs: Bogdan, Petrov, Gardner, Klasnic, Moreno, Blake, Wheater.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

1935: The Premier League boys going for a Real Madrid win, then...

Man Utd striker Wayne Rooney: "Any predictions for tonight's game? I think 2 1 Madrid, Ronaldo and Di Maria, Villa for Barca."

Everton defender Phil Neville: "Homework time with kids-then El Clasico!!!! Madrid win tonight Barca rattled!!"

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere: "I think Madrid will win... Mourinho will prove he is the 'special' one!"

Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone: "Mourinho's mind games seem to be getting to Pep! Could give Madrid the edge tonight!"

1930: By the way, regular readers will know I don't do predictions - and I never will - so as a special treat, I'm going to throw out the thoughts of a few footballers... ready...?

Saj Chowdhury reports:
"So Real replace injured midfielder Sami Khedira with Lassana Diarra, while Raul Albiol comes in at centre-back for the suspended Ricardo Carvalho. Barcelona welcome back captain Carles Puyol who has been out for two games with a hamstring injury. Seydou Keita keeps his place in midfield with Andres Iniesta sidelined with a calf injury."

Teeniesta11 on Twitter: "I'm loving all these puns. The 'they think I'm talking about the Real-Barca game but I'm really talking about Fulham-Bolton game' thing!"

are unchanged from the side that drew with Wolves, with Bobby Zamora (tweaked back) on the bench. Daniel Sturridge misses out for Bolton, however, after failing to recover from an ankle knock. Tamir Cohen starts.

1923: RE: 1915 - the Champions League final is of course on 28 May, not 18 May as my typo suggested. Refresh and all will become clear(er). Aces.

whiskey920 on Twitter: "The manager of the away team's gotten them to play some lovely football. Can only see a win for them tonight. C'mon Bolton!"

1921: Now, yes, I know I poo-pooed tonight's Premier League encounter a bit but, come on, Fulham themselves are selling tickets for the match for a quid! Doesn't exactly scream hot ticket does it? There is still something riding on it, though. Oh yes. Fulham, just five points clear of the drop zone, are far from mathematically safe from relegation, for example. Yes, many of the teams below them couldn't buy a win with a wink and a smile, but you'd still expect Mark Hughes's side to put a shift in tonight. And with possible Europa League qualification through the Fair Play League in mind, it could be interesting to see to what lengths the hosts will go to avoid tackling, jostling and general mischievousness, at least. As for Bolton, mid-table beckons for them so it is a case of playing for pride after their FA Cup semi-final humiliation. And if last week's destruction of Arsenal's title bid is to go by, that is nothing to be sniffed at tonight by a long shot. In short: be excited people. Be very excited.

imaginechandra on Twitter: "As a Man Utd fan, I want this game to be like a war with couple of suspensions for the Wembley showdown."

Anthony Lacey at the Cottage via text: "Just at the stadium, atmosphere already electric (cough), sun is shining on what I reckon will be a historic victory for the men in White! Come on Fulham!"

1915: What do we reckon then folks? These two are simply playing for the right to play Manchester United at Wembley on the 28th May, right? Sir Alex Ferguson's men took a giant leap towards that showpiece with a 2-0 demolition of Schalke in Germany last night - and let's be honest, following Barcelona's defeat of Arsenal and Real's victories over Tottenham earlier in the competition, a British side is due some success against the Spanish giants, surely? Could this year be Sir Alex's Euro hat-trick?

Chris from Horsham via text: "Well at least we know who's got the stronger bench... Kaka, Benzema, Higuain and Adebayor. Amazing strength in depth for Madrid."

sehohan94 on Twitter: "Why is Mourinho playing Cristiano Ronaldo up front? Higuain or Benzema? He is also playing Diarra, Alonso and Pepe who are all quite defensive."

1908: If, however, you're after something more current by way of analysis, you'll probably want to read David Bond's assessment of the "Clasico of clasicos" as well as Sam Sheringham's "Inside guide to El Clasico". But, you know, only after reading my pieces from last year and in between my commentary this evening. Obviously.

jacqueezdad on Twitter: "Don LaFontaine you sure ain't. Your intro didn't include 'In a world where football is life and the rest is all detail...'"

1905: Oh, and as luck would have it - not to mention in an act of blatant self-promotion - I, Sam Lyon, only wrote a three-part feature on Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola around this stage of the competition last year. Admittedly, it only bears casual scrutiny now that Mourinho is no longer manager of Inter Milan, but call me an unequivocal egotist if it isn't the finest piece of writing comparing the two great men on the BBC website on 19 April, 2010... ever. Ahem.

Gawthaman on Twitter: "'Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol' is the best quadrequel in the history of cinema."

Nags, Kent via text: "Assuming the Rocky comparison applies, Madrid obviously the spirited hero...this leg will see Real come back to win 2-1, before lulling everyone to a sleep by parking the bus in game five."

1902: Now then, what was all that nonsense about 'it being personal' about then? Well, Real boss Jose Mourinho - as is his wont - stoked the fires ahead of tonight's match by suggesting Barca counterpart Pep Guardiola belongs to a new breed of coach who "criticises correct decisions by referees". Guardiola, a man previously about as easy to rile as a teddy bear under sedation, responded with an expletive-filled rant. Shock. Horror. Whether you consider Mourinho's mind games as 'genius' or Guardiola's response as 'cracking up' probably depend on whether you're Sir Alex Ferguson or Kevin Keegan. For me, it's playground stuff - and I dare say neither set of players will be overly concerned by the spat at all come kick-off at 1945 BST.

PicklyBob on Twitter: "Obviously Star Wars IV is the best. A true clasico!"

Real Madrid:
Casillas, Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Albiol, Marcelo, Alonso, Pepe, Diarra, Ozil, Ronaldo, Di Maria. Subs: Adan, Kaka, Benzema, Granero, Garay, Higuain, Adebayor.
Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Busquets, Puyol, Xavi, Mascherano, Keita, Pedro, Messi, Villa. Subs: Pinto, Jeffren, Milito, Afellay, Fontas, Roberto, Thiago.
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)

ChrisJack28 on Twitter: "Barcelona for the first time look like a team who can be beaten. They need to be reminded that they are still favourites."

Jez, Putney via text: "Sturridge vs Zamora, the two best English strikers this season. Got to be interesting!"

Aaron_Rogan on Twitter: "I think it will be like the fourth Harry Potter film after the managers actions, a goblet of fire."

1855: FULHAM v BOLTON (2000)
Ian Hughes reports:
"Tonight's Premier League offering could be billed as the Big Fat Gypsy Wedding to the Wills n' Kate showpiece going on in the Champions League. But hey, the invitations to the big one are in shorter supply than kind words between Mourinho and Guardiola. So here we are, at Craven Cottage, where Fulham will be desperate for three points that would give them a fantastic chance of securing their top-flight status. Now THAT would be a proper reason for a street party and some bunting. Bolton are already safe but could prove unruly guests as they aim to keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for a Europa League spot."

Saj Chowdhury reports:
"This five-course El Clasico is now on to the mains. Barcelona all but sealed the league two weeks ago with a draw at the Bernabeu before Real Madrid riled the Catalan side to win the Copa del Rey in extra-time a few days later. And now for the Champions League semi-final. It seems as if Jose Mourinho's niggle-and-rush tactics and his verbal jousting have got under the skin of counterpart Pep Guardiola. So has Real's wily coach finally managed what many have failed to do and broken Barca's resolve? Or has Guardiola prepared the ultimate riposte? Whatever the answer, be prepared for skills, shots, confrontations and tantrums."

1852: Time, now, to hear from our match reporters...

1849: FYI... here are the Real-Barca results so far this season.
29 Nov 2010: La Liga: Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid
16 Apr 2011: La Liga: Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona
20 Apr 2011: Copa del Rey: Barcelona 0-1 Real Madrid (aet)

What of tonight's encounter, then? Will it be the genius that is Rocky IV or the cringe-enducer that is Alien (Resurrection) IV, huh?
*Pulls pin out of conversation grenade with a "which fourth-part-of-a-film-franchise-is-best/worst" curve-ball and throws it in the mixer*

whereswalters1 on Twitter: "April-the month that just keeps on giving. El Clasico, NL Derby, Arsenal-Man U, Man U-Chelsea, Chelsea-Spurs. Bring on kickoff!"

Kt in London via text: "I don't think I have ever been so excited about a match that doesn't involve any English teams!"

Lassana Diarra comes in to the Real Madrid side at the expense of the injured Sami Khedira, while Carles Puyol returns to the Barcelona defence after a muscle strain. Andres Iniesta does indeed miss out for the visitors with a calf strain.

MegaDarkpros on Twitter: "Biggest game of year. Grey haired tactician v Former player for the club. I mean of course Fulham v Bolton."

mpearse on Twitter: "Barcelona have something to prove after the Copa Del Rey defeat, but I feel José's mind games & no Iniesta for Barca will mean a Real win."

1841: But by all means do get in touch with all your other musings, thoughts and predictions concerning tonight's fixtures of course, please. Feel free to drop me your own El Clasico pt IV intros for example. Although, if I'm honest, any that put mine totally to shame will most likely be binned. Standard. You know the drill... Tweet the commentary via the hashtag #BBCFootball, Tweet me @sampatricklyon or text in via 81111 (UK). It really is that easy.

1839: Cue thousands of messages debating the "best domestic league in European football". Let's not get into that, hey? Dull.

1838: And even if a match between two of the biggest clubs in the world on one of the greatest stages in football in the most fiercely-contested European cup competition in the game doesn't excite you... you weirdos... I've only got the Premier League tie between Fulham and Bolton at Craven Cottage that some people are already calling the Premier League tie between Fulham and Bolton at Craven Cottage, haven't I? Now, admittedly, barring a dramatic late-season slump to relegation for the Cottagers there's not a huge amount riding on it. But this being the finest (ahem) league competition in Europe, don't be surprised if it's a barn-stormer.

1835: Anyway, for those still working out what the blooming hell I'm yapping on about, welcome to our coverage of Real Madrid v Barcelona and their Champions League semi-final first leg. It's only the fourth time these two have met this season, so you might expect they have few surprises left for each other. That's without factoring in the Jose Mourinho effect, though, of course. A man who could start a fight in an empty room. A man for whom mind games are second nature. A man who considers himself more cunning than a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University [doffs cap in direction of Blackadder]. Trust me, it really is personal.

1833: All right, Don LaFontaine I aint. It might help if I had some mood music playing behind video clips of two-footed lunges, oversized gestures from the touchlines and fans celebrating wildly in the Nou Camp and the Bernabeu, right? Erm, then again, maybe not.

1830: *Adopts movie trailer voiceover tone*. "They started off as friends... coach and player bound by a simple desire... they worked together, learned from each other, won together... but it couldn't last. These days it's different. These days they sit on opposite sides of the divide. These days, they're ultimate rivals. This April, brought to you by Sam Lyon productions, one of the motion-football events of the year... it's El Clasico pt IV: This Time It's Personal."

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Champions League results

27 Apr 2011 23:59 UK

Barclays Premier League table snapshot

As it stood on 27 Apr 2011 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Man Utd 34 39 73
2 Chelsea 34 37 67
3 Arsenal 34 31 64
4 Man City 33 21 59
5 Tottenham 33 8 55
6 Liverpool 34 12 52
7 Everton 34 5 47
8 Bolton 34 1 46
9 Fulham 34 4 42
10 Stoke 34 0 42
11 Newcastle 34 1 41
12 Sunderland 34 -10 41
13 Aston Villa 34 -12 41
14 West Brom 34 -15 40
15 Birmingham 34 -17 38
16 Blackburn 34 -15 35
17 Blackpool 34 -22 34
18 Wigan 34 -23 34
19 Wolves 34 -23 33
20 West Ham 34 -22 32

see also
Wednesday's football photos
27 Apr 11 |  Football

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