Friday, August 26, 2011

The Joy of Six: Surprise Early-Season Leaders

From Dave Bassett's Wimbledon to Carlisle's glory run in the mid 70s, here are half-a-dozen surprise early-season leaders.

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

With a second round of strike action averted, the La Liga season begins with the fixture between Barcelona and Villarreal the pick of the lot. Elsewhere, there is an intriguing clash at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan where Sevilla host big-spending Andalusian rivals Malaga. Malaga, whose week-one fixture would have pitted them against Barca, have brought in the likes of Santi Cazorla, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Joaquin and Jeremy Toulalan this summer. Atletico Madrid have also splashed the cash following the summer departures of key players Sergio Aguero, David de Gea and Tomas Ujfalusi, including spending an initial 40million euros - rising to a possible 47million euros - on prolific Colombian Falcao. Atletico being their campaign at home to Osasuna.


Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

Arsenal go to Manchester United with a squad that does not appear to carry the same threat without Cesc and Nasri, while Tottenham host Manchester City having signed Emmanuel Adebayor on loan from the Blues. Juan Mata is the latest player to arrive at Chelsea and the Spanish winger's new side take on Norwich following his midweek move. ston Villa and Wolves contest a Midlands derby in the first game of the weekend at Villa Park.


Aston Villa v Wolves: Preview
Wigan v QPR
Blackburn v Everton
Chelsea v Norwich
Swansea v Sunderland
Liverpool v Bolton

Newcastle v Fulham
Tottenham v Man City: Preview
West Brom v Stoke
Man Utd v Arsenal: Preview

Premier League Spotlight

Paul Merson's Predictions
Lawro's Predictions

UEFA Champions League: Essential Guide to Group Stages

Telegraph Sport runs the rule over the English teams' Champions League opponents.

The Mill +

Friday's Rumours


Italy: Paolo Bandini's Serie A 2011-12 Season Preview

Strike action will disrupt the opening weekend, but this could be a very open season in Italy.

Johnson latest German to join U.S. men's squad

Jurgen Klinsmann isn't the only German switching to the U.S. men's team.

Fabian Johnson, who started for Germany in the final of the Under-21 European Championship just two years ago, switched allegiance to the United States and was among 24 players chosen by Klinsmann on Thursday for exhibitions against Costa Rica and Belgium next month. The midfielder joins right back Timmy Chandler, a German-born defender who made his U.S. debut earlier this year.

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard (Everton, England), Bill Hamid (DC United).

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Edgar Castillo (Club America, Mexico), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg, Germany), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Clarence Goodson (Brondby, Denmark), Zach Loyd (Dallas), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis, Mexico), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York)

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Salt Lake), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim, Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht, Belgium), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado), Robbie Rogers (Columbus), Brek Shea (Dallas), Jose Torres (Pachuca, Mexico)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Teal Bunbury (Kansas City), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles).

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast battens down the hatches for Irene and evaluates this weekend's matches.

UEFA Europa League: Roma crash out, Scots sent packing + Draw

Slovan Bratislava produced a spirited display at the Stadio Olimpico to cause the biggest upset of Thursday's Europa League play-off round by eliminating Italian giants Roma with a 2-1 aggregate victory. Sevilla were also high-profile casualties of the play-off round after drawing 1-1 at home to Hannover. Hearts' progress always looked unlikely after their 5-0 first-leg defeat to Tottenham and a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane against a second-string Spurs side confirmed their exit. Celtic crashed out after losing 3-1 to FC Sion on the night and on aggregate. Rangers were the closest of the SPL clubs to advancing but despite dominating NK Maribor for most of the game, it was the Slovenian side who held on for a 1-1 draw, which secured a 3-2 aggregate victory. Dalibor Volas gave NK the lead and though Carlos Bocanegra equalised with 15 minutes to go, the Gers could not find the crucial second.

Group Stage Draw

Italy: Strike delays start of Serie A season

The Italian Players' Union (AIC) had hoped to reach a resolution with the Lega Serie A over a new collective bargaining agreement but talks in Milan broke down again on Friday morning.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

UEFA Champions League: The Draw

Group A: Bayern Munich, Villarreal, Manchester City, Napoli.

Group B: Inter Milan, CSKA Moscow, Lille, Trabzonspor.

Group C: Manchester United, Benfica, FC Basel, Otelul Galati.

Group D: Real Madrid, Lyon, Ajax, Dinamo Zagreb.

Group E: Chelsea, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, Genk.

Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund.

Group G: FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St. Petersburg, FC Apoel.

Group H: Barcelona, Milan, FC BATE Borisov, Viktoria Plzen.

Nasri delivers broadside at Arsene Wenger after signing for Manchester City

"The fans here are passionate. They remind me a little of Marseille. Arsenal have good fans but they are not as passionate since they moved from Highbury to the Emirates. I remember when we played against Manchester City [last season] and lost 3-0 and the crowd were amazing. That is what I want.

"When you play football you want a good atmosphere and the stadium is unbelievable. When I saw the fans, they had tattoos and were passionate and that's what I want. I'm here to play football, enjoy it and win the title, not for the sun or something like that."

Why Juan Mata has the poise and maturity to suit Chelsea

Looking back at photographs of him signing for Valencia in July 2007, shaking the hand of a smiling Juan Soler - the president who brought the club to near-financial ruin - it is a reminder of just how much Mata has experienced in a mere four years in eastern Spain, and how his maturity has shone throughout.

The Mill +

Thursday's Rumours


England: Carling Cup Round-up

League Two Aldershot caused a big shock in their first round clash at West Ham as they claimed a 2-1 win. Liverpool eased into the third round of the Carling Cup with a 3-1 win over League One Exeter City at St James' Park.


Jonathan Wilson: Samuel Eto'o takes step into the unknown with Anzhi Makhachkala

"Samuel Eto'o completed his £20m move to Anzhi Makhachkala on Wednesday." It's a sentence that feels odd, even in the inflated, globalised world of modern football. Eto'o, still one of the best forwards in the world, going to Dagestan, somewhere most western Europeans have heard of, if they've heard of it at all, only for what a Moscow official euphemistically termed "low-level Islamic insurgency".

Previously, Russia has provided a home for up-and-coming players from South America and Africa, the fabled stepping-stone into the big leagues of western Europe, and for those on the way down. Occasionally, as when Maniche and Costinha joined the Portuguese influx at Dynamo Moscow, it seems Russian football is about to join the mainstream. The Portuguese experiment at Dynamo didn't work, though, and the recognised players in their late 20s left and life went on much as before.

Sid Lowe in Spain

Every time they say goodbye, La Liga dies a little. Now Juan Mata has signed for Chelsea from Valencia, just as Sergio Aguero signed for Manchester City from Atlético Madrid. For fans of City and Chelsea, the transfers are fantastically exciting, two great additions to two teams aspiring to win the Premier League. For the Spanish league, they are frightening. Despite the injection of around 75 million euros, the transfers are confirmation of a worrisome trend.

UEFA Champions League Playoffs: Wednesday's Review, Reports & Analyses

Arsenal overcame a tough test against Udinese to secure their place in the Champions League group stage after recording a 3-1 aggregate win. Lyon also booked their path to the next phase after a 4-2 aggregate victory over Rubin Kazan. Benfica put in an impressive performance at home to FC Twente, recording a 3-1 triumph that saw them progress. Belarusian side FC BATE Borisov are also through following a 2-0 victory over Sturm Graz. FC Viktoria Plzen added their name to the hat with a 2-1 (5-2 on aggregate) scalp of Copenhagen.

Udinese 1 - 2 Arsenal (3-1 agg.)
Kevin McCarra at Stadio Friuli
David Hytner at Stadio Friuli
Richard Williams:
Arsenal forwards secure qualification
Nigel Winterburn's Take

Jon Carter: Rewind to 1963

Ever since they became global icons, footballers have been the target of criminals and terrorists. In 1963, one of the finest players ever to lace up his boots, Real Madrid's Alfredo Di Stefano, was kidnapped in order to attract publicity for the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) campaign against government corruption in Venezuela. After 56 hours, on August 26, he was released unharmed.

Spanish Strike Ends

The Primera Division season will finally get under way on Saturday after a second weekend of strike action was averted. Talks between the Liga de Futbol Profesional (LFP) and Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) finally reached a resolution on Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sports Has a New Salary King

Move over, Peyton Manning. Stand aside, Alex Rodriguez.

The highest-salaried athlete in professional sports these days may be a Cameroonian soccer player named Samuel Eto'o, who will play his home games for an obscure club in the violence-wracked Caucasus region of Dagestan, Russia.

UEFA Champions League Playoffs: Wednesday's Previews

Arsenal arrive in Italy for the second-leg of their crucial UEFA Champions League qualifier against Udinese holding a slender 1-0 lead from last Tuesday. Elsewhere, French Ligue 1 giants Lyon travel to Russia to play Rubin Kazan holding a 3-1 lead and will be confident in their chances of making the group stages for yet another season. Dutch side FC Twente travel to Portugal to play Benfica with plenty to do, having conceded two away goals in last Tuesday's 2-2 draw.


Udinese vs. Arsenal
Preview I
Preview II
Preview III
Key Battles

The Mill +

Wednesday's Rumours


Carlos Tevez: The billionaires' fight over his ownership revealed

Unpublished documents show the striker is at the centre of a legal battle between oligarchs exiled from their homelands.

Now, previously unpublished documents seen by the Guardian appear to lend a greater understanding than ever before of Tevez, the superstar in his gilded cage. They show how he has been traded five times and loaned out three times by businessmen who "owned" him, including Joorabchian, and have made millions for themselves.

Argentina: River come to terms with second-tier football

River’s relegation can be neatly charted along the Kübler-Ross five-stages of grief lines, moving through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and then, finally, acceptance.

FC Dallas defender John close to joining Blackburn

American defender George John is close to joining English Premier League club Blackburn from FC Dallas. To avoid the necessity of obtaining a British work permit, John has traveled to Greece - his grandparents' homeland - to collect a passport from another European Union country.

UEFA Champions League Playoffs: Tuesday's Wrap

Bayern Munich made sure of their place in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday with a 1-0 win at FC Zurich completing a 3-0 aggregate play-off win. Villarreal had a more difficult task on their hands this evening, heading into their encounter against Odense 1-0 down, but a convincing 3-0 win at El Madrigal saw them turn things around. There was late drama in Cyprus as APOEL also overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit to clinch a 3-2 aggregate triumph over Wisla Krakow. Second-half goals from Wilton Figueiredo and Pontus Jansson were not enough for Malmo, who won 2-0 on the night against Dinamo Zagreb but lost 4-3 on aggregate. The Genk-Maccabi Haifa tie required penalties to separate the teams, the Belgians winning the shootout 4-1 after their 2-1 triumph on the night had made it 3-3 on aggregate.


Italy: The All-Transfers Serie A XI

Serie A (should) return this weekend and there have been many changes to the teams within Italian football's top division with new coaches at Roma, Juventus and Inter as well as a whole raft of new players at every club across the league. While there have been some major talents lost - Javier Pastore's move to Paris Saint-Germain chief among them - there are also some excellent players arriving. Here's our pick of the best transfers, with a starting XI picked from those beginning the new season in brand new colours.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Father of Chelsea player Mikel found in Nigeria

The kidnapped father of Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel was freed Monday after detectives traced him to a sprawling city in northern Nigeria and arrested his abductors.

Olusola Amore, a spokesman for the country's federal police, told The Associated Press that investigators followed Michael Obi's trail from central Nigeria's Plateau state to Kano, one of the nation's largest cities.

There, officers raided the area where Obi was held, freeing him and arresting his kidnappers, Amore said.

Roberto Gotta in Italy

The Serie A is a marketing miracle whose case history should be a mandatory part of every course in business schools around the world. 'Why?' you may, or rather should, ask. Consider what follows.

Almost every year, a match-fixing scandal erupts, leading to point deductions, bans and a general feeling that what we see out on the pitch - especially results from March onwards - should not be trusted in its entirety. The Lega Serie A, the top-flight's governing body, is a fractious assortment of owners and directors who should be sued for improper use of the term 'league' by bona fide organisations like the NFL, as the clear goal of most of them is to create an uneven playing field and a financial divide with the others.

Most games are played in dilapidated, uncomfortable grounds where access is complicated by a general lack of advance information about something as simple as how to get a ticket - and you do not even need to get off the couch anyway, as the Lega's complete sell-out to television networks means you can access every game on one of the two available platforms.

Tim Vickery in South America

Has Javier Zanetti's international career finally come to an end?

New Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella paid tribute to him last week - and then left him out of the squad to face Venezuela and Nigeria. He has forced his way back before after being dropped but at the age of 38 can he really come back again?

One of the most remarkable aspects of Zanetti's haul of 145 international caps is that the total could have been even higher. The Inter Milan stalwart was controversially left out of the squad for both of the last two World Cups - despite the fact that Argentina have had such difficulty producing full-backs.

The Mill +

Tuesday's Rumours


Arsenal confirm Samir Nasri has agreed terms to join Manchester City and will not play in Champions League

Samir Nasri was today on the brink of finally joining Manchester City after Arsenal confirmed they had agreed terms with their Premier League rivals.

Americans Abroad: Jozy gets a brace, Dempsey has an up and down week takes a look at what some of the best Americans playing abroad were able to do over the past week.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Werder Bremen lost their way intermittently last season but now seem back on track judging by their thrilling performance against Freiburg.

Picture-perfect Wesley brings Werder Bremen's start back into focus.

Monday Night Football: Reports & Analyses

Manchester United
3 - 0

Kevin McCarra at Old Trafford

Richard Jolly at Old Trafford

Five Things We Learned

Ernst Bouwes in Holland

Should reports in the blogosphere be believed, Netherlands will clLinkimb to the top of the new FIFA World Ranking when it is released on Wednesday. This changing of the guard comes as current leaders Spain have lost three friendlies since they were crowned world champions last summer, while the Dutch have been undefeated since. Obviously, it is just statistics, but it is an indication of the progress the team has made since the appointment of coach Bert van Marwijk after Euro 2008.

Lahm: Klinsmann Doesn't Do Tactics

"The experiment with Klinsmann was a failure. We were only working on our fitness in training. He didn't care much for tactical stuff," he wrote. "It was up to the players to come together before a match and discuss how we were going to play. ''All the players knew after about eight weeks that it was not going to work out with Klinsmann. The remainder of that campaign was nothing but limiting the damage."

Monday, August 22, 2011

The barra bravas: the violent Argentinian gangs controlling football

From the slums of Buenos Aires, there's only one escape – football. To play like Maradona or Tevez is the ultimate dream, but off the pitch there's another option: joining one of the violent gangs who control the sport.

An extraordinary report of life among the world's most dangerous fans.

Monday Night Football: Manchester United vs. Tottenham

Where: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
When: 3pm EDT
Preview I
Preview II

James Lawton: Wenger will not walk away, but he remains in retreat from hard reality

If Arsene Wenger was a field general rather than one of the most distinguished football managers ever to look as though he had reached his wits' end, his situation would be much more ruthlessly appraised.

This would be, it has to be said, in the unlikely event that it had not already been resolved.

As it stands, there is a compelling case that he is suffering from a severe dose of battle fatigue – and that his leadership is in previously unimagined disrepair.

Reports: Anzhi to sign Eto’o on Monday

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o's mega-money move from Inter Milan to big-spending Russian Premiership side Anzhi Makhachkala is likely

Reports said that Anzhi will pay Inter 25 million euros ($36m) plus performance-related bonuses for the Cameroon skipper.

According to media rumours, Eto'o will receive around 20.5 million euros a year in wages, making him the world's top-earning footballer.

Manchester United signs DHL as $66M training kit sponsor

Manchester United has become the first English club to sign a sponsor for its training uniforms, securing a deal with express delivery and freight firm DHL worth around $66 million.

The Mill +

Monday's Rumours


England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports and Analyses

The second round of Premier League fixtures saw the Manchester City bandwagon roll on, Wolves briefly top the table, QPR grab a shock win and Arsenal slip to a soggy home defeat.

Newcastle took the spoils in the Wear-Tyne derby at the Stadium of Light while Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish grabbed his first win in charge of the club at home to Blackburn.

Elsewhere, Chelsea had to come from behind to beat West Brom at Stamford Bridge, Swansea picked up their first Premier League point thanks to a goalless draw with Wigan and Stoke scored an injury-time equaliser to grab a draw at Norwich.


Sunderland 0 - 1 Newcastle
Louise Taylor at the Stadium of Light

Arsenal 0 - 2 Liverpool

David Hytner at the Emirates Stadium
Paul Wilson at the Emirates Stadium

Everton 0 - 1 Queens Park Rangers

Rory Smith at Goodison Park

Bolton 2 - 3 Manchester City

Kevin McCarra at the Reebok Stadium

Five Things We Learned I
Five Things We Learned II

Garth Crook's Team of the Week
Team of the Week

Getafe fans urged to become sperm donors and breed more supporters

In a desperate bid to build its fan base, Spanish football club Getafe has released a video urging fans to become sperm donors in order to breed more season ticket holders. The tongue-in-cheek video opens with a fan standing in front of an empty stand under the words: "There's a problem: there aren't many of us."

The film, shot in the style of a 1970s porn film, shows young women in a room whose walls are covered with Getafe posters, flags and scarves, drinking a potion that turns them into sex-mad zombies.

Robbie Keane begins Galaxy life with promise he can fulfil MLS goals

The Irishman may not have Beckham's celebrity appeal but his debut goal proved he has the quality to justify his contract.

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.