Friday, August 13, 2010
While the rest of the English leagues are already a week old, the top-flight raises the curtain on the new campaign this weekend. Champions Chelsea are the favourites to retain their title, but they do not open their campaign until later on Saturday. Likewise, Manchester United will have a bit of a wait before joining the fray as they kick-off the return of Monday Night Football.
Team News & Predictions
Paul Merson previews Tottenham vs. Manchester City
Dale Johnson previews Tottenham vs. Manchester City
Mark Lomas previews Chelsea vs. West Brom
John Ley preview Manchester United vs. Newcastle United
Wolves have more firepower up front, but defensive frailties may mean another busy season for Marcus Hahnemann in goal.
The Latics have stayed in the Premier League for five seasons and won a reputation for developing players. Now they really need to start playing attractive football.
Fabio Capello will speak to David Beckham about his international future following the furore after the manager announced the former captain's fate in a television interview.
Take a look at how all 20 teams will look this season. If you want a closer look at your team's home, away and third kit, click on the relevant shirt.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed he is on the brink of signing a new contract at the Emirates Stadium.
Manchester City are set to complete the signings of James Milner and Mario Balotelli in the next few days, manager Roberto Mancini said on Friday.
Welcome to Wags and Stags where we pit the Barclays Premier League's perfect pairings against each other as they represent their respective clubs in our fun-filled game.
Representing Blackpool...Nikki Sanderson...!!
We've trawled squads around the country to select the Premier League stars - and their better halves - to "play" for their clubs in our contest of glitz and glamour.
A couple will represent each team taking part in the Premier League this season and be matched as per their club fixtures in a battle of brains, brawn and beauty.
Click on the match-up and vote for your favourites. We will then see how our Wags and Stags league table compares with the real thing.
The onus remains on the rest of the league to catch up with the champions. As such, no team has strengthened enough to really challenge Bayern Munich – at least according to this column (which happened to be spot on with predicting the Leverkusen demise last spring).
Here is a breakdown of the teams by their chances for the next season.
The new season is nearly upon us and Off The Ball will be scratching around the underbelly of professional football for some bizarre and often inexplicable revelations every step of the way.
This week, we have Manchester United spending £7.4 million on some bloke from the Portuguese third division, Steven Gerrard claiming Joe Cole is better than Lionel Messi, Patrice Evra's attack on Lillian Thuram and a referee running for his life.
Excited by the start of the EPL? No, I guess not. And are those Guardian previews a touch too long? Well, here are a couple of lines on each team, just to keep you in touch before tomorrow's kickoff.
Arsenal - Wenger's kept Cesc, but it's at the back where he needs to do some work. Fans will be hoping Koscielny is as good a new signing as was Vermaelen, but the whole defence needs to function better as a unit. A keeper, rather than just a shot-stopper, would help. The attacking should take care of itself.
Aston Villa - Everything was set for a solid, unspectacular season, with a 7th or 8th place finish. Then O'Neill messed it up by resigning. Their fans, in fact all fans, will be praying to every God out there that Sven won't be his replacement. Surely Bradley or Jol would be a wiser choice.
Birmingham - Surely won't repeat last season's success, especially as the promised 40 mil spending spree hasn't materialised. But they've brought in the lanky Zigic and still have the well-oiled defensive partnership of Dann and Johnson, so no need for Blues fans to get worried.
Blackburn - Most likely to be as ugly on the eye as their manager Allardyce is on the ear. Unfortunately his kick-and-rush is quite effective, so they are unlikely to go down. Shame.
Blackpool - Halloway's press interviews will certainly be amusing, but he's a better manager then his wacky character allows to be seen. They also have a decent player in Charlie Adam. That said, it'll be a miracle if they don't go down.
Bolton - Should do well under Coyle, and play some nice football to boot. Re-signing Klasnic is a good move, though they may miss Wilshire. Coyle will be hoping to get more out of Elmander.
Chelsea - Their aging squad will catch up with them soon, but perhaps not quite yet. Terry, Malouda and Lampard will be happy to be back at Chelsea. Chelsea will be happy to have Essien back. As always, they could do with more flair, but are still a good bet for the title.
Everton - Christmas came early for Toffees fans with Arteta and Rodwell resigning. If they stay fit and Everton hit the road running, which they often don't, Mo's men could well do some damage this season.
Fulham - It's after the Lord Mayor's speech for Hughes. The Welshman's track record is pretty good, but it's going to be tough to match Hodgson's success, not to mention rapport with the fans. Keeping Zamora fit and buying Bellamy would help.
Liverpool - Many saw Hodgson as a boring, safe, anti-Benitez replacement, but his pre-season work of keeping Gerrard and Torres, while bringing in some good signings, has slightly risen the optimism at Anfield. The defence should be better organised but when Torres breaks down who's going to get the goals? Ngog?
Man City - God only knows what will happen to this Frankenstein's monster. A shed load of cash brings plenty of new signings, but also plenty of pressure. Getting them to function as a team won't be easy. Their signings look good, but none really sets the pulse racing. Balotelli could make things more interesting, though.
ManU - Hernandez should prove good support for Rooney, but if Smalling can do the same for Vidic is doubtful. He could need it, as Rio seems to be falling to bits. That, and a lack of creativity in midfield [Ozil?] could make it difficult for them to regain top spot.
Newcastle - The Championship was won convincingly, but the team isn't that different from the one relegated two seasons ago. Maybe Fatty Campbell will eat them up the league. Unlike poorly supported clubs such as Wigan, NCFC fill their stadium, so let's hope they stay up.
Stoke - It's not easy to like the Potters. There's the route-one dominated football, the general thuggery and the manager's a bit of a dick. But there's no doubting the results. And they're also less dour than teams like Blackburn and far better supported than teams like Wigan, so seeing them stay up won't be so bad.
Sunderland - Not only has Bruce brought in his favourite, Titus Bramble, he's recruited his usual 4 or 5 unknown players from around the globe. A couple of whom usually turn out pretty good, so mid-table shouldn't be a problem.
Tottenham - Recreating last season's success could prove difficult. They only seem to have one fit central defender, the CL could be a distraction and Joe Cole turned them down. But with Bale, Lennon and especially Modric, their wing play should delight.
West Brom - It's hard to see the archetypal yo-yo team doing anything other than playing some attractive football, producing the odd surprise result and then going back down to the Championship. A nightmare first 6 fixtures won't help things.
West Ham - The jury is still out on the Mr Toad/Jabba the Hut/Orc/Fat Tony/Baron Silas Greenback/Boss Nass likealike Avram Grant. But he'll be hoping to retain Parker, get the best out of Cole and praying Green has short term memory loss. He'll also be able to help find a new masseur.
Wigan - Martinez will continue to build an entertaining team. Entertaining, because they play attacking soccer, but also because their defence is as brittle as a cheese cracker. Sadly, Wigan is a rugby league town, so they'll be watched by two men and a dog. Could be a tough season.
Wolves - Surprised most by staying up last term, but second season syndrome will be tough to avoid. No doubt Mick McCarthy will continue to build a team in his own image - nice and dour.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
They may be more streetwise under Roberto Di Matteo, but West Brom face a battle to avoid a fourth Premier League relegation.
Carlo Ancelotti's march to a Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season at Stamford Bridge was not without stumbles, while Sir Alex Ferguson's Old Trafford empire had to be fortified by the relatively meagre rations afforded by a Carling Cup victory.
Manchester City's latest splurge of summer spending will only increase demands for at least a trophy at Eastlands, while Liverpool - my flawed title tip last term - responded to a dismal campaign by replacing Rafael Benitez with Roy Hodgson.
Martin O'Neill's sudden departure from Aston Villa only adds to the drama ahead of the new season, while the return of Newcastle United and Blackpool to the top flight provides both stature and romance.
So, with cracks in the crystal ball repaired, it is time to predict how the Premier League might play out in 2010/11.
Here is my read on how the 20 Premier League clubs will finish, with the caveat that rosters could still change because we're in the midst of the transfer window.
Yet no matter how often that particular f-word is repeated, it won't wash away the sobering reality of the Americans' meek capitulation to a young, inexperienced, yet talented Brazil team. Aside from a frenetic opening 25 minutes, the U.S. was dominated in all phases.
"Thank you for helping me during the World Cup, but probably [he is] a little bit old," Capello said. "Thank you."
They had saved their loudest for him, and when the hook came, they were ready for him. That outburst into a camera in Cape Town had clearly not been forgotten. As the boos rained down on him, he provided a swift reminder of his behaviour that night when sarcastically waving at all corners of the ground before refusing to take his seat in the dug-out and then blazing down the Wembley tunnel. Wayne Rooney's relationship with England fans is on the sharpest of rocks and the significance of what looked rather like a goodbye gesture will only be speculated upon.
Kevin McCarra at Wembley
Richard Williams:Theo should have gone to South Africa
Liverpool have confirmed the signing of Juventus midfielder Christian Poulsen for a fee of €5.475 million. Poulsen, 30, joined Juventus from Sevilla in 2008 and made 33 Serie A starts in two seasons in Turin. He also anchored the Denmark midfield in all three of the country's appearances at the World Cup finals.
Poulsen and Totti get physical...
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Too good to go down but not good enough to challenge for Europe, this should be another season of boring-but-welcome consolidation for the Mackems.
An Argentinian court ruled against the Juventus star as he was ordered to pay indemnity for his challenge on Roberto Pizzo on 14 August 1994.
The victim required surgery and a lengthy recovery period after being “kicked” by the then 17-year-old during a match in Buenos Aires.
Most girls get a piece of jewellery as their first gift from a serious boyfriend. I knew my husband was the man for me when he turned up with a billboard-sized advertising poster.
Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner has said Martin O'Neill left his job as manager because they "no longer shared a common view as to how to move forward".
The PhD student who helped to plot England’s downfall at the World Cup has revealed the key secrets behind Germany’s crushing 4-1 win.
After France's shambolic World Cup, the new manager has replaced the entire squad. But which of his young side will impress?
The Liverpool board meets tomorrow without formal offers or proof prospective buyers have any money.
This was what Brazilian fans expected of its national team at the World Cup: free-flowing football, clever passes and a youthful core of exciting players, led by Alexandre Pato and Neymar. O jogo bonito, the beautiful game, was on display -- at least Brazil's half -- in New Jersey, and it was more than enough to defeat an almost full-strength, lackluster U.S. national team, 2-0.
Davis: U.S. no match for Brazil
Vickery: Brazil's future hopeful
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Aston Villa players texted images of champagne bottles to each other to celebrate manager Martin O'Neill's exit
Just last week O’Neill, who had a huge bust-up with Nigel Reo-Coker last term, told a group of Villa players at training that they looked like they “hated” him.
And he recently ordered the squad to “get your trainers” to do extra running when Richard Dunne urged him to introduce more ball work.
Wycombe Wanderers striker Jon-Paul Pittman began the League Two campaign with a wonder strike, helping his squad to a 2-0 victory.
With James Milner seemingly on his way to Manchester City for an awfully inflated £30 million, Goal.com runs down a list of the 10 most overpriced transfers of British players…
Premier League players in tabloid exposés will continue to be the norm rather than headphone-free stars engaging with their public.
"[Lionel] Messi can do some amazing things, but anything he can do Joe can do as well, if not better. He used to shock us in training by doing footy tricks with a golf ball that most players can't even do with a football. I really fancy Joe for the [player of the year] award this season."
First, because they are outsiders in South America's equivalent of the Champions League.
Mexico is in North America. The distance between Mexico City and Buenos Aires, for example, is further than that between London and Mumbai. Guadalajara and Porto Alegre, home city of final opponents Internacional of Brazil, are even further apart.
Chivas are in a different hemisphere from their opponents in this campaign - Velez Sarsfield of Argentina, Libertad of Paraguay, Universidad de Chile, and now Internacional.
The Mexicans, then have clocked up plenty of air miles in the quest to become the first team from their country to win the Libertadores.
The former Leicester City and Celtic manager was lured out of his self-imposed break from football by the chance to rebuild Villa, and was followed within weeks by Randy Lerner's arrival at Villa Park.
It seemed like the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but recent weeks and months have seen a bitter power struggle develop.
So just what did O'Neill produce in his four years in charge? Goal.com UK takes a look...
He has been installed as the Bookies' favourite to replace O'Neill, who quit the club on Monday just five days before the start of the new season. With American Randy Lerner holding the purse strings at Villa Park, Bradley was immediately linked with the vacant post.
Monday, August 09, 2010
"Aston Villa can confirm that Martin O'Neill has resigned as manager of the football club with immediate effect,'' the club said in a statement. "Kevin MacDonald, reserve team manager, has assumed the role of caretaker manager and will prepare the team for the opening Premier League game of the season against West Ham on Saturday at Villa Park.''
England crisis for Fabio Capello: Wes Brown and Paul Robinson quit, 'injured' Michael Carrick plays and Ashley Cole blanks boss
Fabio Capello's bold new era started in total farce with Paul Robinson and Wes Brown announcing their England retirements hours after a recall and Michael Carrick playing for Manchester United when the Italian thought he was injured.
Capello was further embarrassed by Ashley Cole, who appeared to inadvertently snub his offer of a handshake after the FA Community Shield at Wembley.