Friday, September 24, 2010

Wags & Stags

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.

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.

Ball boy wants to fight opposing goalkeeper

With Belgian Jupiler League minnows Lierse attempting to hold down a 1-1 draw against powerhouse Anderlecht, even the home side's ball boy tried to do his part to waste time.

Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Preview

Koeln - Hoffenheim

Bayern Munich - Mainz
Eintracht Frankfurt - Nuernberg
Schalke - Borussia Moenchengladbach
St Pauli - Borussia Dortmund
Stuttgart - Bayer Leverkusen
Werder Bremen - Hamburg

Wolfsburg - Freiburg
Kaiserslautern - Hannover


Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Roma has handed Claudio Ranieri a vote of confidence before their clash against Inter Milan. AC Milan host Genoa hoping to return to winning ways after going three games without a victory. Struggling Fiorentina host Parma on Sunday desperate to claim their first win of the campaign having mustered just two points in four games.


Spain: Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

Just a week ago, most of us were celebrating a surprisingly competitive beginning to this La Liga season.

Real Madrid held by Mallorca, Barcelona defeated at home by Hercules and Valencia winning their first three. That is exactly what we wanted to see: an open tournament in which more than two teams have something to say.

Seven days and two consecutive victories by Real Madrid and Barcelona later, things seem to be slowly going back to their Old Firm ways. Or maybe not - take a look at this week's quiniela as we may be about to witness a couple of surprises...

As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

Table-toppers Chelsea arguably face their toughest test of the season so far when they take on Manchester City. Elsewhere, Liverpool aim to bounce back from their midweek slump in the Carling Cup when they host Sunderland, Arsenal are in action against newly-promoted and in-form West Bromwich Albion, while on Sunday Manchester United make the short trip to Bolton Wanderers. West Ham United lock horns with London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at Upton Park with the latter reeling from their painful 4-1 loss to their North London counterparts. Everton are in action against Fulham at Craven Cottage.


Manchester City vs. Chelsea: Preview

Lawro's Predictions

Ex-coach attacks Roberto Mancini's 'crazy' training at Manchester City

Roberto Mancini's training methods at Manchester City have come under renewed scrutiny amid allegations that he is overworking his players and subjecting them to the possibility of unnecessary injury as well as potentially costing the club millions of pounds.

Carlos Tevez, the City captain, and Craig Bellamy, now on loan at Cardiff City, both questioned Mancini's training regime last season and the latest criticism comes from the club's former conditioning expert, Raymond Verheijen, reflecting on "the enormous amount of injuries at Manchester City" and speaking of his hope that "Mancini will finally question his training methods".

Arsenal property deals send profits to record high

Arsenal Football Club has announced record pre-tax profits of £56m.

The Premier League club also said it had paid off all debt on its Highbury Square property development of flats, built on the ground of its old stadium.

Tom Adams: Rewind to 1994-95

An embarrassing penalty shoot-out defeat to Brentford in the Carling Cup on Tuesday night continued what has been a difficult start to the season for Everton. In fact, it has been the Toffees' worst start to a campaign since 1994-95, when a dismal run of form led to the departure of Mike Walker. But, under his predecessor Joe Royle and his self-styled 'Dogs of War', torment gave way to elation in a most unexpected conclusion to the season.

Dominic Raynor: Off The Ball

Off The Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.

This week, Mario Balotelli reveals his three biggest regrets, Stephen Bywater apologises for his 'erotic' art installation, a Honduras goalkeeper shoots at journalists and Micah Richards and Adam Johnson pay £12,000 for a date with Jordan.

Italy: Serie A Midweek Review

Juventus and Roma both suffered defeats while Rafa Benitez's Inter Milan showed their championship credentials.


Spain: La Liga Thursday Review

Villarreal and Malaga both won on Thursday while Sevilla's draw at home means they missed the chance to go top.


Derby County goalkeeper criticised for sex doll art

A professional goalkeeper has aroused the anger of his neighbours by displaying an artwork featuring a blow-up sex doll in his garden.

The Joy of Six: Uncapped Players

From Brian Clough's on-field consigliere to Spurs' ersatz Xavi, we look at six players who deserved international honours.

Germany: Bundesliga Beat

The midweek round of games are the second rarest thing in the German Bundesliga, so hopefully your midweek time was well spent soaking in some German football (the first rarest thing in the Bundesliga, of course, being a goal from Mario Gomez). The week provided a couple of shock results, which has set up several good matches this weekend.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast examines tonight's marquee clash between New York and Los Angeles and surveys the rest of the Week 26 action.

Norman Hubbard on Everton

The back pages make for miserable reading on Merseyside right now. Similarly embarrassed in this week's Carling Cup, such small consolation as Liverpool can derive comes from the fact that they are three points and three places above Everton.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Zidane coy over son Enzo as Spain prepares call-up

World football icon Zinedine Zidane said he had no preference which national team his sought-after son Enzo played for, as a potential France v Spain tug-of-war over the 15-year-old gathered momentum. Enzo, named after Zidane's hero, the former Uruguay star Enzo Francescoli, was born in France but has spent the past nine years in the Spanish capital where he is already a star of Real Madrid's youth team.

Earlier this month former World Cup winner Zinedine said he would decide which side his son plays for when the teen is called up.

Grant Wahl: Klinsmann was this close to U.S. job

How close did Jürgen Klinsmann come to taking the U.S. men's national team job? Awfully close, judging by what the German coach and playing legend says. In an interview with on Tuesday, the California-based Klinsmann told me:

Marina Hyde: It's tight at the top of The Plonkership

In an alternative title chase, managers could receive points for witlessness, disingenuousness and babyishness.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Mainz are created in their manager's image - young, eager players happy to learn new things. And teach rivals a few too.

Thomas Tuchel's carnival club party on as Mainz maintain perfect start.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

The unfashionable Verona club humbled Napoli at San Paolo and are rolling back the years to their annus mirabilis.

Chievo's Flying Donkeys take to the skies again.

Italy: Serie A Wednesday Review

Inter Milan thrashed Bari to go top of the Serie A table after four rounds while high-flying Cesena crashed. Brescia followed up their impressive weekend win over Chievo with another fine 2-1 win over Roma to climb to third. Sergio Floccari's equaliser prevented AC Milan from returning to winning ways as Lazio earned a deserved point in a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico. Sebastien Frey earned Fiorentina a point with a string of spectacular saves in his side's 1-1 draw at Genoa.


Sid Lowe in Spain

They should be a disaster, a shadow of last season. Yet, pick up the paper this morning and what's this? Valencia joint top.

Valencia fatalism gives way to optimism.

Spain: La Liga Wednesday Review

Barcelona laboured for a home win against Sporting Gijon while Valencia's perfect start to the season ended at the Mestalla.

Valencia's 100% Primera Division record was brought to a halt as Atletico Madrid held Los Che to a 1-1 draw at the Mestalla.


First XI: League Cup Breakthroughs

In recent years, managers have used the Carling Cup to give their young stars a chance to shine, while a number of players from the lower leagues have found their way into the limelight through the competition.

ESPNsoccernet selects the First XI players who rose to fame in the League Cup.

England: Carling Cup Round-Up and Reports

Liverpool's poor start to the season continued as they were sent crashing out of the Carling Cup by League Two side Northampton 4-2 on penalties in a night of shocks. Shola Ameobi's last-gasp winner secured a surprise 4-3 win for Newcastle to send Chelsea crashing out as well. Nicolas Anelka's two late goals looked to have been enough to force extra-time at Stamford Bridge, but Ameobi's glancing header from Jonas Gutierrez's cross sealed an impressive win for the Magpies. West Brom also came from behind to beat Manchester City 2-1. Jo's left-footed strike put the visitors ahead on 19 minutes, but two goals in quick succession from Gianni Zuiverloon and Simon Cox sent Roberto Mancini's men crashing out.

Scunthorpe 2 - 5 Manchester United
Daniel Taylor at Glanford Park

Chelsea 3 - 4 Newcastle
Jamie Jackson at Stamford Bridge

Liverpool 2 - 2 Northampton (2-4)
Tim Rich at Anfield

Titus Bramble released on bail after rape allegation

"This has been a very difficult day for everyone at the football club, no one more so than Titus, who categorically refutes the allegations that have been made against him," said the Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn in a statement. "He strenuously denies any wrongdoing and will be doing everything within his power to clear his name.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jonathan Wilson: Berbatov a misunderstood genius

When Dimitar Berbatov was a child, he idolized Robert De Niro, so it perhaps isn't surprising he plays the cold-eyed assassin well. There is a coldness about him, a sense of calculation that fits uneasily into a Premier League environment in which "passion" remains the foremost of all virtues. If anything, though, he probably resembles less De Niro than Clint Eastwood, laconic and unfussy, almost everything he does performed with an ironic glint.

England: Wednesday's Carling Cup Preview

Northampton and Scunthorpe will have their sights set on causing Carling Cup upsets when they meet Liverpool and Manchester United, respectively, in the third round.

Phil Minshull on La Liga

On Friday night, I could have constructed a long list of things that I didn't expect to see on Monday morning but, if I had then erased anything sordid or relating to my personal life, Valencia sitting pretty in La Liga's number one spot would have featured very near the top.

Tim Vickery in South America

Chelsea's start to the season shows it is not easy for a competition to retain both quality and competitive balance.

The Premier League has a collective TV deal, with a more equitable distribution of television money than some other major leagues. Even so, those clubs with a wealthy benefactor or a huge fan base can put themselves streets ahead of weaker rivals, while only a handful of clubs go into the season with any realistic chance of winning. A dose of predictability is the price paid for the quality on show.

It is the opposite of domestic football in Argentina, where the first division has become wildly unpredictable. However, the price paid for this excitement is a lack of quality.

Again, from River Plate's official website...

Sunderland's Titus Bramble arrested over rape claim

The Premier League defender and his brother, Tesfaye Bramble, were arrested at the Vermont Hotel early on Wednesday and are being questioned by detectives.

Spain: La Liga Tuesday Review

Real Madrid are top after beating Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu while Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao also won at home.


England: Carling Cup Round-Up, Reports & Fallout

Arsenal needed until extra-time to dispose of Tottenham 4-1, while Owen Coyle's Bolton suffered a shock defeat to Burnley in Carling Cup action on Tuesday night. League One hosts Brentford also caused a major upset as they held struggling Everton to a 1-1 stalemate in regular time before dumping the Toffees out 4-3 on penalties.

Tottenham 1 - 4 Arsenal
John Brewin at White Hart Lane
Redknapp: Nasri dived for penalty

Brentford 1 - 1 Everton (4-3)
Jason Burt at Griffin Park
Moyes accuses Brentford fan of throwing bottle

Stoke 2 - 0 Fulham
Rory Smith at Britannia Stadium

Sunderland 1 - 2 West Ham
Louise Taylor at Stadium of Light

Wolves to take action

Premier League side Wolves have condemned the attack on Notts County's visiting coaches at Molineux on Tuesday. The incident happened after Wolves' 4-2 Carling Cup extra-time win over League One outfit Notts County.

As some of County's visiting coaches departed, they were attacked with bricks near Wolves' ground.

Mexico ban Arsenal striker Carlos Vela for six months over hotel party

Mexico's Carlos Vela and Efrain Juárez have been banned for six months by their national federation for allegedly throwing a party at a team hotel following a friendly against Colombia earlier this month.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spain: La Liga Midweek Preview

Valencia will attempt to keep alive the only remaining 100% record in the La Liga when they take on Atletico Madrid. Madrid, who have taken seven points from a possible nine under new coach Jose Mourinho, tackle Espanyol while Barca host Sporting Gijon on Wednesday. Sevilla, who are second in the standings, are at home to Racing Santander on Wednesday while fifth-placed Villarreal host Deportivo La Coruna on Thursday.


England: Carling Cup Third Round Preview

Carling Cup third round action midweek sees several all-Premier League clashes including the big North London Derby on Tuesday. The North London Derby cup tie is just one of several involving Premier League teams which include Stoke City against Fulham, Sunderland against West Ham United, Aston Villa against Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea against Newcastle United and WBA against Manchester City.


Sid Lowe in Spain

The defeat of Atléti in Madrid was a huge relief for Barça, but also, in a strange way, for the hyped-up-to-the-hilt rojiblanco.

Atlético's great expectations grounded by brilliance of Barcelona.

Americans On The Continent: French Topping

Carlos Bocanegra and Saint-Etienne cruised past Montpellier 3-0 at home to go top of the league for the first time this season. A vintage performance from the back four and some breathtaking attacking play from leading scorer Dimitri Payet and French youth international Emmanuel Riviere helped lead Les Verts to victory and the number 1 spot in French Ligue 1.

Bocanegra played the full 90 at left back for Saint-Etienne as they secured their second clean sheet in six games.

Americans In The UK: Dempsey's Dagger

Clint Dempsey’s acrobatic header provided Fulham with a valuable draw at Ewood Park.

Gunmen kill three people in soccer-related shooting

Police said Monday that gunmen opened fired on Honduran football fans from a passing automobile, killing three people as they walked toward a stadium for a match.

It was the second violent incident in two days involving Motagua, although the two appeared unrelated.

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas out for three weeks

He is certain to miss Saturday's game at West Bromwich Albion as well as the trip to Serbia to take on Partizan Belgrade in the Champions League.

He joins Theo Walcott, Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen, Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey and Nicklas Bendtner on the treatment table.

The actual home team treatment room at the Emirates. Note there are only five tables...

Soccer Europe's Weekend Reports

Serie A

Premier League

The Diving Twat...

Carlisle: For Bradley, vote of no confidence

Observers of the U.S. men's national team were treated to an example of chaos theory in action on Monday. Jurgen Klinsmann broke his silence, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati didn't, and now manager Bob Bradley looks even more vulnerable than when he first took the job almost four years ago.

Steve Davis on MLS

Know your Major League Soccer --
Five things we learned from Week 25:

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The summer signing from Japan's J-League was the star of the show in last night's Revierderby.

Shinji Kagawa, the jewel in Borussia Dortmund's crown.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

'This is a team that has balls,' declared Claudio Ranieri in a pre-match rant. Their draw with Bologna suggested otherwise.

Roma lacking testicular fortitude as press gets under Ranieri's skin.

Phil Ball in Spain

Usually, when you have been through a period of suffering, the return to normality enables you to see life in a different way. Everything seems interesting again, the birdsong seems sweeter and even the in-laws seem wonderful somehow. In footballing terms, a decent spell in the Second Division means that when you return to the top flight, the sensations are giddy ones, and the visit of teams like Real Madrid lends the weekend a sort of intangible richness, like that tingly feeling you had as a kid, just before Christmas Day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Fifth Official: Play it again, Sham

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a five-star weekend.

Messi escapes serious injury, set to miss two games

Barcelona star Lionel Messi will miss the club's next two games with a sprained ankle, after tests revealed that the injury he picked up against Atletico Madrid is not as serious as first thought.