Friday, April 15, 2011

Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview & Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

Real Madrid and Barcelona will embark upon an intriguing four-game showdown on Saturday as the season approaches its climax.The two sides will meet in the La Liga this weekend with the title effectively at stake.



Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Inter Milan, who are third in Serie A and five points behind league leaders AC Milan, travel to the Ennio Tardini stadium to face Parma on Saturday.

AC Milan, meanwhile, will be without Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Saturday's match against strugglers Sampdoria.

Ibrahimovic, who is the team's joint top scorer with 14 goals alongside Alexandre Pato, will start a three-match ban this weekend.

Second-placed Napoli are three points behind Milan and riding a four-match winning streak in Italy as they go into their home clash with European hopefuls Udinese.


England: Premier League Previews & Predictions

The relegation battle takes centre stage on Saturday, before Arsenal face Liverpool on Sunday looking to narrow the gap on Manchester United. The action kicks off on Saturday with five intriguing encounters, including a vital clash at Bloomfield Road between Blackpool and Wigan. West Ham are another side in deep trouble after back-to-back losses halted what appeared to be a very promising revival and dropped them back into the relegation places. Aston Villa are the visitors to Upton Park this weekend. Birmingham are just three points clear of the trapdoor after struggling to find consistency all season but will be confident of making a decisive move up the standings when former manager Steve Bruce brings his Sunderland side to St Andrews.


Arsenal vs. Liverpool
Dominic Raynor's Preview
Paul Merson's Preview

Midlands Battle Lines Drawn

Lawro's Predictions

England: FA Cup Semi-final Previews & Predictions

Manchester City vs. Manchester United

U.S. TV: Saturday, April 16 at 12:15pm EDT on Fox Soccer Channel
Preview I
Preview II
Five Epic Manchester Derbies

Bolton vs. Stoke City
U.S. TV: Sunday, April 17 at 11am EDT on Fox Soccer Plus
Preview I
Preview II
Stuart James: Pulis gets what he wants from Stoke
Paul Fletcher: How Coyle has transformed Bolton

Lawro's Predictions

The Joy of Six: FA Cup Semi-final Memories

From a Welsh wine bar owner to Alan Cork's beard, via Gazza and Giggs genius, here are some of our favourite recollections.

The Big Interview: Paul Scholes

In a rare interview, the Manchester United legend Paul Scholes says he is considering retirement after a glittering career.

Could FA Cup semi-final be Paul Scholes's last Manchester derby?

The Island of Arsenal

Will an American billionaire change the culture of England's most glamorous soccer club?

UEFA Europa League: Thursday Review

Sporting Braga capped a historic night for Portugal in the Europa League as all three Primeira Liga teams went through to the semi-finals. Starting the night level after a 1-1 draw away to Dynamo Kyiv last week, Braga survived the 28th-minute dismissal of Paulo César to earn a goalless draw which saw them through on away goals.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast discusses Portland's stellar home debut before previewing the weekend fixtures.

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, Barcelona begin the Clasico mind games by giving Real Madrid the manita, Diego Maradona's 1986 Golden Ball is 'melted down' by the mafia, Nemanja Vidic almost cries, Luis 'The Owl Kicker' Moreno boots a human and an awful statue of David Beckham is unveiled in Iran.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Six of the best: The pick of the crunch games in the Premier League run-in

Wherever you look at the Premier League table, every team is involved in a battle of some sort. Mid-table mediocrity has failed to gatecrash the party this season.

But some sides are more desperate than others for points and as the number of games whittle down, the fixture list still has some real crackers in store.

The last day of the season always has the final say on an affair or two but where are the biggest battles in the final run-in? Sportsmail looks at six of the most important games that will have a major impact on the title race, a Champions League spot and the biggest relegation free-for-all ever seen.

Gabriele Marcotti: Ancelotti's future up in the air

The thing about Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is that very few people have heard him speak. Fewer still have heard him speak in a language they understand. And when Abramovich does speak, it's never in public or to the media. As for the people he employs to actually run Chelsea -- primarily club Chairman Bruce Buck and Chief Executive Ron Gourlay -- they talk very little and say even less.

And so you can attribute pretty much anything you like to Abramovich. Roman likes chocolate. Roman enjoys cold showers. Roman wants to buy the Eiffel Tower. Roman wants to sign Lady Gaga. Anything is possible. Anything is plausible. Because Roman won't tell you otherwise. And official denials from club spokesfolks are not taken seriously.

Four Battles, One War: Winner takes all for Barcelona and Real Madrid

Sid Lowe: Europe and Spain's biggest rivals prepare for four installments of El Clásico in only 18 days, culminating in the all-important Champions League semi-final.

Rod Gilmour: Forget a lazy end of season run-in. Barcelona and Real Madrid are set for four games in 18 days, starting with La Liga on Saturday and ending with a tasty Champions League semi-final double header.

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Reports, Analyses & Fallout

Tottenham 0 - 1 Real Madrid (agg. 0 - 5)

Kevin McCarra at White Hart Lane
Phil McNulty at White Hart Lane
John Brewin at White Hart Lane
Player Ratings
Italian Press View

Schalke 04 2 - 1 Inter Milan (agg. 7 - 3)
Report I
Report II

Brighton and Hove Albion manager Gus Poyet already plotting Championship success

The collective hangover had barely cleared on Wednesday morning before Brighton and Hove Albion — and their manager Gus Poyet — were preparing for the dawn of a new era.

Tom Adams: Rewind to 1997

On Tuesday night, Lionel Messi set a new record when recording his 48th goal of a wonderful season for Barcelona. The previous holder of the club record was Ronaldo, who in his solitary season at the club in 1996-97 won both the Copa del Rey and the Cup Winners' Cup under Bobby Robson, before his career at Camp Nou was truncated by a bitter contractual dispute.

First XI: Friendly Fire

After Mark Noble and Rob Green's confrontation during West Ham's 3-0 defeat at Bolton on Saturday, we look back at some of the players who have turned on their own team-mates.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Previews

Tottenham vs. Real Madrid (agg. 0 - 4)
U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Channel at 2:45pm EDT
Preview I
Preview II
Preview III
Tom Adams: Only pride at stake for Spurs
Jose taunts Tottenham

Schalke 04 vs. Inter Milan (agg. 5 - 2)
U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Plus at 2:45pm EDT
Preview I
Preview II

Caught in the trap: Savage's Spiderman haircut is latest shocking style in football

Bas Savage has raised the bar for the wackiest haircuts in football.

With Dagenham and Redbridge battling for survival in League One, the striker attempted to inspire them for their clash against league leaders Brighton with a Spiderman design sprayed on his head.

A Chechen Strongman's New Toy: Legendary Soccer Trainer Ruud Gullit Takes on Grozny

Dutch soccer star Ruud Gullit was a legend in the 1980s. Now he is the new manager of Chechen team Terek Grozny as part of a pet project by Chechnya's hardman leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who hopes football success can help rebuild his battered country. But critics accuse Gullit, who used to be an outspoken proponent of human rights, of selling out.

Grant Wahl's Mailbag

Mailbag time this week. Let's dive in:

What do you think of the U.S. failing to qualify for the U-20 World Cup?

-- Freddie Smith, Kalamazoo, Mich.

High-flying Brighton & Hove Albion halfway towards the Lizard's target

With promotion secured, chairman Tony 'the Lizard' Bloom is one division away from his aim of Premier League football by 2019.

The new stadium...

Ups and Downs

BBC Sport outlines the promotion and relegation issues - and European qualifiers - in England and Scotland.

Fiorentina - The Most Profitable Club in Serie A

Over the years, there have been many reasons for football fans to admire Fiorentina, not least the myriad midfield talents of such creative stars as Giancarlo Antognoni, Roberto Baggio and Manuel Rui Costa and the goalscoring prowess of the prolific Gabriel Batistuta. Others have been attracted to the romance of following a club from Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, while fashion gurus have simply appreciated the distinctive purple of the team’s shirts, which inspired the club’s Viola nickname.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Reports, Analyses & Fallout

Manchester United 2 - 1 Chelsea (agg. 3 - 1)

Phil McNulty at Old Trafford
Paul Hayward at Old Trafford
Richard Jolly at Old Trafford
Kevin McCarra at Old Trafford
Jonathan Wilson: 4-3-2-1 to no avail
Five Things We Learned

Shakhtar Donetsk 0 - 1 Barcelona (agg. 1 - 6)
Report I
Report II

Americans Abroad

All the rumblings about Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury being the future, and perhaps even the present, of the United States forward corps must have ignited quite the fire under a couple of goal-starved American strikers this past week.

U.S. World Cup strikers Jozy Altidore and Herculez Gomez ended extensive goal droughts with impressive tallies over the weekend and allayed some fears and worries among national team fans in the process.

New York Times has stake in Liverpool

American ownership's hold on the Premier League's elite clubs continues with the news that the New York Times Company owns a stake of 16.58% in Liverpool Football Club.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Previews

Manchester United vs. Chelsea (agg. 1 - 0)
U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Channel at 2:45pm EDT
Preview I
Preview II
Preview III
Preview IV
Alan Smith: How Chelsea can win
Henry Winter: Ghosts of European past keep Sir Alex's spirit alive

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Barcelona (agg. 1 - 5)
Preview I
Preview II
Preview III

Tim Vickery in South America

Have Chelsea done a good deal acquiring Sao Paulo striker Lucas Piazon, who joins the club next year when he turns 18? Sao Paulo are certainly happy. The deal enables them to sell a player who has yet to appear in their first team, bring top-class centre forward Luis Fabiano back to the club - he scored 118 goals in 160 appearances for Sao Paulo between 2001 and 2004 - and still have some money left over.
Whether Chelsea can feel as pleased with themselves, only time will tell.

Sid Lowe in Spain

Having criticised mallorquines in his Son Moix tenure, Gregorio Manzano's return with Sevilla was always going to be lively.

Let them eat paella: Real Mallorca give Manzano a white-hot homecoming.

Arsenal takeover: Stan Kroenke's American success should give hope to Gunners fans

Who is Stan Kroenke, where does his money come from, and what changes will he make at Arsenal? Jeremy Wilson travelled to Denver last January to find out.

England: Monday's Premier League Reports + Table

3 - 0
Manchester City

Richard Jolly at Anfield
Andy Hunter at Anfield

Club Played W D L GD PTS
Man Utd3220933869
Man City3216882056
West Brom3210913-1339
Aston Villa3291013-1337
West Ham3271114-1832

Steve Davis on MLS

Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things you should know about Week 4:

Manchester City outcast Adebayor finds peace of mind at Real Madrid

Before he scored the first two goals in Real Madrid's 4-0 Champions League win over Tottenham Hotspur last week, Emmanuel Adebayor did what he does before every game. He thought of all the people that had written him off. It's not a short list. It starts with the friends of his parents back in Kodjoviakope, a Togolese town on the border of Ghana, who said he should not play soccer, includes coaches at Metz and Monaco who criticized his attitude, and takes in senior figures at Arsenal and Manchester City, with whom he has not always seen eye-to-eye.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Mirko Slomka's hardworking side have overcome tragedy to give themselves a chance of Champions League football.

Hannover emerge from the shadows for tilt at European dream.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

Luca Toni was dismissed as a flop by Genoa's president - but his winner against his old club kept Juve's European hopes alive.

Luca Toni tastes sweet revenge as Juventus win lunchtime thriller.

Phil Ball in Spain

Do forgive me for starting with Scunthorpe United this week. Their 4-1 win at home to Queens Park Rangers in the English Championship was a result that demonstrates the wonder of football. Scunthorpe started the game at the foot of the table, QPR at the top. The former had won the fewest home points all season (16) whilst QPR had won the most points away (32). QPR had also won six of their previous seven games, whilst Scunthorpe had lost six of their last seven and not beaten their visitors since the Jurassic Period. I used the phrase 'counter-intuitive' for last week's crop of results, and for a while on Saturday night we had a similar game to the English one, with bottom side Almería playing at Barcelona (ok - the top side were at home) and taking the lead on 49 minutes when Corona, otherwise known as M. Angel Garcia Perez-Roldan, scored a rather good goal.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday MLS Breakdown

The crazy opening matches in Vancouver's debut MLS campaign have revealed two unassailable truths about these Whitecaps. One of those conclusions – a significant home-field advantage created by a loud, English-style temporary stadium packed with fervent supporters– benefits the playing staff. The other – the fortitude to fight and persist through adverse circumstances – reveals the tenets used to mold this expansion squad by coach Teitur Thordarson.

Spain: La Liga Weekend Review

Barcelona remained on top of La Liga after this weekend when they beat bottom club Almeria 3-1 on Saturday. Valencia took a giant step towards securing themselves a third-place finish in the Primera Division with a 5-0 victory over local rivals Villarreal at the Mestalla. Sevilla's hopes of breaking into the top four were effectively ended with a 2-2 draw at Mallorca.


Italy: Serie A Weekend Review

AC Milan maintained their three-point lead at the top of Serie A by winning 2-1 at Fiorentina. Lazio moved up to fourth with a 2-0 victory over Parma to spoil Franco Colomba's first match in charge. Luca Toni scored a late winner to earn Juventus a 3-2 win against his former club Genoa.

Udinese's hopes of playing in the Champions League next season were dealt a further blow with their second consecutive defeat, a 2-1 reverse at home to Roma.

A penalty from Francesco Totti in the 57th minute put the Giallorossi in front, but Antonio Di Natale levelled two minutes from time.

Totti's second with the final kick of the game broke Udinese's hearts and earned Roma all three points to get them back into the hunt for a top-four finish.


The Fifth Official

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 week brimming with potential victims.

EPL Round-Up

Liverpool v Man City
Manchester City keeper Hart fires warning
Football's top flight turns into Fight Club
King Coyle's Bolton transformation
Guzan seeks Villa talks

Chelsea and Ancelotti on the brink

If you were looking for someone to save your season, and perhaps your job, would that person really be Benayoun?
Benayoun issues rallying cry

Barca and Real to meet 4 times in 18 days

The byline for Paul Hayward's article runs 'after a week when Real Madrid and Barcelona beat Europe 9-1 the prospect of four Clásicos in 18 days enters thrilling view'. Hopefully that'll be the case, rather than a mass of overhype and overkill.

Artistry and anger vie as Real and Barça stage world series

European Weekend Review

European review

La Liga round up
Ligue 1 round-up
Serie A Round -up
Bundesliga round-up

Bayern lose patience and sack Van Gaal

England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports & Analyses

There were no great shocks in the EPL this weekend. The top teams won, the bottom teams lost, ManU eased past Fulham, Chelsea forced out a win, Blackpool continued to slide, as did Wolves. The biggest winners must be Aston Villa, who won while their rivals lost, while Arsenal will be glad to be back scoring goals.

Blackpool 1 - Arsenal 3
Gunners keep title hopes alive
Richard Jolly at Bloomfield Road

Tottenham 3 - Stoke 2
Redknapp insists Spurs can clinch top four spot after edging out Stoke

Manchester United 2 - Fulham 0
United's stroll in park ahead of 'special week’

Bolton 3 - West Ham 0
Cracks show as Noble and Green clash

Chelsea 1 - Wigan 0
Blues eek out win
Kevin Palmer at Stamford Bridge

Wolves 0 - Everton 3

Kroenke set to take control at Arsenal

It looks like the real world has caught up with the double-barrelled controllers of Arsenal. American Stan Kroenke [ 'we don't need his money and we don't need his sort'] has taken a majority stake in the Gunners and has agreed terms for the purchase of the remaing stock which values the club £731 Million.

Kroenke takes full control of Arsenal
Who is Stan Kroenke?
'Kroenke will respect Arsenal legacy'