Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stoke City prepare to leave their mark on the Europa League

They might not be able to pass their way past Barcelona, but Stoke can still prosper in Europe's secondary competition.

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Previews

Last season's Premier League title winners, Manchester United, travel to old rivals Benfica in Group C, while Manchester City, who finished third in the English top flight, make their debut against Napoli at Etihad Stadium. Elsewhere, United's other Group C rivals, Swiss champions Basel and Romanian title winners Otelul Galati, meet at St Jakob-Park in Switzerland. Four-time European Cup winners Bayern Munich, whose Allianz Arena will host this season's final, and Villarreal provide City's other opponents in Group A and the pair start their campaigns in Spain. Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid face Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia. Group D's other game sees sleeping Dutch giants Ajax host Lyon. Ahead of their match against Trabzonspor in Italy, Inter Milan will be confident of eventually progressing from Group B, with French champions Lille also hosting CSKA Moscow.


Manchester City vs. Napoli

Inter Milan vs. Trabzonspor
Inter defense under scrutiny

Benfica vs. Manchester United
Preview I
Preview II

Americans Abroad: Jones, Bradley, Holden sit and wait to play

What could have been a landmark weekend in the seasons of three first-choice U.S. national team midfielders turned out to be nothing more than a wait-till-next-time occasion.

Jermaine Jones remained an afterthought at Schalke despite not being moved during the recent transfer window; Michael Bradley failed to see the field in his first game as a member of Chievo Verona in Italy; and Stuart Holden's anticipated comeback to Bolton's first team was put on hold for at least another week.

International Friendly Preview: Argentina vs. Brazil

The creation of the Superclasico de las Americas - a new competition which, if given its official suffix of 'Copa Doctor Nicolas Leoz' also includes the name of the CONMEBOL president - has given South America another clash between Brazil and Argentina.

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

Holders Barcelona recovered from the shock of conceding a goal after just 23 seconds against AC Milan - only to blow their chance of victory at the death. In the other game in Group H, Champions League debutants Plzen fought out a 1-1 draw with Belarusian side BATE Borisov in Prague. Fernando Torres failed to break his goal drought for Chelsea in their Group E opener against Bayer Leverkusen, but the Spaniard was the driving force behind his side's impressive 2-0 victory. There was further good news for Chelsea in Group E as Valencia failed to break through a resolute Genk defence at the Cristal Arena in Belgium and were forced to settle for a goalless draw. Ivan Perisic earned Borussia Dortmund a deserved point in their Group F clash with Arsenal at Signal Iduna Park just when Arsene Wenger's men looked set to claim a fortunate win. In the same group, Marseille grabbed a valuable 1-0 win over Olympiakos in Greece thanks to a 51st minute strike from Luis Gonzalez. Marseille had substitute Rod Fanni sent off in injury time. Porto had to come from behind to see off nine-man Shakhtar Donetsk with a 2-1 victory in a controversial opener in Group G. Also in Group G, Zenit St Petersburg blew a 1-0 lead to fall 2-1 to APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus.


Barcelona 2 - 2 AC Milan
Sid Lowe at Camp Nou

Chelsea 2 - 0 Bayer Leverkusen
Richard Williams at Stamford Bridge
Jason Burt at Stamford Bridge

Borussia Dortmund 1 - 1 Arsenal
Henry Winter at Signal Iduna Park
Kevin McCarra at Signal Iduna Park
David Hytner at Signal Iduna Park

Champions League Veterans XI

Andre Villas-Boas will become the youngest coach to conquer Europe if he leads Chelsea to Champions League glory this season. The Portuguese will be 34 when the final comes around next May, making him nearly two years younger than Jose Villalonga Llorente was when he led Real Madrid to victory in the European Cup's first edition, in 1956.

Villas-Boas is so young that it's worth considering there are still jobbing players in the Champions League his age (33) or older this season. We're not just talking about faded, bit-part hangers-on either. This XI illustrates not just Villas-Boas' remarkable youth relative to the field he commands, but also the staying power of some of the best players of their generation.

Here is ESPNsoccernet's Champions League Veterans XI (aged 33 or older):

The Big Interview: Sergio Aguero

On a cool early evening in Manchester, high above a city that now defines his new world, Sergio Agüero and a football are inseparable. He cradles the ball as he talks, stroking it with a smile whenever he sounds exuberant or intrigued by the latest twist in a journey that has taken him from a rough quarter of Buenos Aires to Madrid and now Manchester. Here, in an old English industrial city that has audaciously reinvented itself, Agüero has begun his latest adventure with a deadly flourish.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SSN Exclusive: Arsenal vs. Swansea: Alec's take

This is just a little addendum to Bobby's comments about the Arsenal / Swansea game. I was also at the match, so here's my take...

Above it was a bit of a turgid affair which, on the whole, must have disappointed most Arsenal fans. Okay the Gunners won, but if they can't beat Swansea, with their open, attacking style, then things really are bleak.

At the back I don't really share Bob's opinion that 'the Mertersacker/Koscielny pairing shows immense promise'. We are talking Swansea here. His lack of pace meant Mertersacker was caught the wrong side a couple of times, once requiring a great Szczesny parry to bail him out. But he at least understands how to defend. There was one tackle, in which he robbed his opponent with the proper side-on technique that should be shown to the rest of the Arsenal defense 10 times a day. So he should do well with Vermaelen. It's not that Koscielny is a bad player, but I'm not sure he'll ever be top class. He always looks so nervous, which can't make for the best partner. The upcoming Dortmund and Spurs games will be truer tests of the pairing.

As Bob mentioned, the main problem was in midfield, where there was a general lack of movement. With everything too static, van Persie kept dropping back to get into the game. Swansea's job was then made easy as Arsenal had all their players in such a small area. Arteta is a finder, meaning those around him have to make runs, not stand around waiting for something to happen. But as usual, Walcott didn't take the initiative and Arshavin was just too bloody lazy. So there was no penetration. Up front, I don't know why Wenger didn't change things later in the game by playing two forwards.

Swansea were impressive considering they only lost due to a keeper fuck-up. They probably regret waiting until the last 10 minutes of the game to play the more direct football which made Arsenal nervous.

One thing that disappointed was the fact the game was a 'sell out', but one in five seats were empty.

List of Live Soccer Matches on US TV for September 13 to September 15

Another week, another opportunity to watch live soccer matches each day between Tuesday and Thursday. The key phrase for soccer fans this week is "Champions League," as UEFA and CONCACAF action resumes. Fans graced with either multiple televisions or the ability to view FOX Soccer channels on their mobile devices could watch up to three live matches at once on Tuesday and Wednesday, and there's also late night soccer on TV each day during the midweek.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Previews

The 2011 UEFA Champions League group phase begins on Tuesday evening as Chelsea host German side Bayer Leverkusen. In the same group as Chelsea, Belgian champions Genk embark on their first Champions League group stage campaign as they host Spanish giants Valencia. Arsenal too have German opposition in their opening as they face a tough-looking trip to the Ruhr as they come up against Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund. The other game in that group sees Greek champions Olympiakos host French giants Marseille in Athens. In Group H, two of world football's Colossus' collide as European champions Barcelona play host to AC Milan. The other game in Group H sees Czech champions Viktoria Plzen make their Champions League group debut as they tackle Belarus outfit BATE Borisov. Finally in Group G, Europa League holders Porto face a tough opener as they welcome Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk to Portugal. The final match sees Cypriots Apoel Nicosia return to the group stages as they welcome Zenit St Petersburg to the GSP Stadium.

Barcelona vs. AC Milan
Preview I
Preview II

Chelsea vs. Bayer Leverkusen


Borussia Dortmund vs. Arsenal

Raphael Honigstein:
Dortmund hoping for Arsenal lift

UEFA Champions League: Borussia Dortmund Welcomes Arsenal

Americans Abroad

Oguchi Onyewu –
Sporting Lisbon

Oguchi Onyewu finally made his debut for Sporting over the weekend, playing well in a start and getting 90 minutes as the Lions scored three goals in the last 15 minutes to beat Pacos Ferreira 3-2 in the Portuguese Super Liga.

The Rest

Sid Lowe in Spain

It's bizarre that Barcelona's 2-2 draw at Socieded has led some to think La Liga isn't that unbalanced, when it clearly is.

Reports of La Liga's demise were exaggerated – but not that exaggerated.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The secret, dark machinations of the Bundesliga fixture list could be why Bayern Munich are off to a flyer this season.

Why are Bayern Munich having so much fun in the Bundesliga?

Paolo Bandini in Italy

There were 35 goals in the opening weekend but unfortunately for Inter coach Gian Piero Gasperini, four came against his side.

Serie A arrives with a bang and Gasperini is already feeling the heat.

UEFA Champions League Guide

goes in depth to give you the full lowdown on all the 32 teams in the UEFA Champions League for 2011-12.

Steve Davis on MLS

Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things we learned from Week 26:

Check around the 1:50 mark...

Monday Night Football: Report

Queens Park Rangers
0 - 0

Jamie Jackson at Loftus Road

The Trawler: Sven's end, All Black hat-trick

Welcome to The Trawler, your weekly submersion through the teeming waters of life in the Championship, League One and League Two. You might be surprised what you find down there.

Phil Ball in Spain

It's taken a while to get back into La Liga's swing this season. Every season, since I was a kid, the sudden interruption of football into the green baize of late summer has always been slightly annoying, like having your birthday a few days before Christmas. It feels good, but not quite as good as it should. It always takes a few weeks to accept the noise and the hype of the new season, until, when the leaves begin to turn, you're hooked again and into the groove.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Night Football: Queens Park Rangers vs. Newcastle United

Former Newcastle man Joey Barton's debut is expected to provide added spice to the Magpies' Premier League trip to QPR on Monday evening.

Chelsea quiz Fernando Torres over criticism of 'slow', 'old' team-mates

The centre-forward spoke to the official website of the Spanish league last week, with an English translation later appearing on the player's personal website. Torres, who has endured a dreadful run in front of goal since his £50m transfer from Liverpool, was quoted as criticising Chelsea's "older" players as "very slow", and describing his new team-mate Juan Mata as a necessary signing.

Monday MLS Breakdown

Bobby Rhine's sudden passing leaves FC Dallas at a loss -- Popular former player and broadcaster left a broad mark on FCD and Schellas Hyndman's side must figure out how to cope with the emotional strain.


England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports and Analyses

Another Premier League weekend, and another match ball each for a Manchester United and Manchester City striker as they both maintained their 100 per cent records. On Saturday, City were first up as they hosted Wigan Athletic at the Etihad Stadium. Carlos Tevez returned to the City line-up for the first time since his tantrum ridden summer, but he was the sideshow as Sergio Aguero, courtesy of three assists from the sublime David Silva, smashed home his first hat-trick in English football in a 3-0 triumph. Wayne Rooney collected his second Nike T90 Seitiro in succession with a treble at Bolton in Saturday's late kick-off. United romped to a 5-0 win as Javier Hernandez marked his return to the side with a brace. Liverpool, though, could not maintain their unbeaten start to the season as they came unstuck at Stoke City - who find themselves in the top four after their hard fought 1-0 triumph. Elsewhere on Saturday, and Arsenal also claimed victory - but the three points courtesy of their 1-0 win over Swansea did little to lift the recent gloom from around the Emirates as the performance as a whole was far from convincing. Tottenham finally got their season going with an excellent 2-0 win at Wolves, who had been unbeaten. The final game on Saturday was keenly contested as Aston Villa twice came from behind to deny Everton at Goodison Park in a 2-2 draw.


Georgina Turner's Review

Stoke City 1 - 0 Liverpool

Sachin Nakrani at the Britannia Stadium

Arsenal 1 - 0 Swansea

Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium

Bolton 0 - 5 Manchester United

Richard Jolly at the Reebok Stadium

Team of the Week

How the new boys fared

Five Things We Learned

Five Thoughts

Italy: Serie A Weekend Review

Juventus hammered Parma 4-1 to get life at their new 41,000-seater stadium off to the perfect start. Palermo struck twice late to stun Inter Milan 4-3 in their opener at La Favorita. Fiorentina were 2-0 winners at home to Bologna, Alberto Gilardino putting a summer of transfer speculation behind him with the 20th-minute opener. Roma boss Luis Enrique's awkward start at the club continued with a 2-1 home defeat to Cagliari.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Review

Real Madrid remained top of the Primera Division table after beating Getafe, but Barcelona dropped their first points of the new campaign against Real Sociedad.


Jurgen's next XI: The most deserving lineup of players yet to make an appearance under Jurgen Klinsmann

A lineup of players who should be receiving their first caps under the new boss sooner rather than later.

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.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SSN Exclusive: Arsenal vs. Swansea: Bobbie's Match Report

Nick and Bobbie enjoy a day out...

Two weeks ago Arsene Wenger soiled thousands of perfectly pleasant family Sunday afternoons by leading his hapless squad of kids and veterans to slaughter in Manchester. I happened to be in Milwaukee for a beach weekend which ended with my entering a sulk so deep and dark that I was incapable of eating or even speaking to my family members. Wenger's reaction was a transfer day shopping spree in which he loaded up players that many have judged to be second rate. Due to fortunate circumstances I found myself in London for the Gunner's first match since those infamous events and I among millions waited with baited breath to see how the reshaped squad would respond.

I was set to rendezvous with my tickets guy, a longtime season ticket holder, at The Twelve Pins pub, a classic match day meeting place near Highbury stadium. I was reminded somewhat of my last visit to the old Detroit Tigers stadium-- a century's worth of local history had lost its immediate locus but the institutions themselves soldiered on. I still hadn't shaken the funk that had taken hold of me while watching the 8-2, but walking through the Gunners gear-wearing crowd to the bar I had a revelation-- in mostly watching these matches by myself or with casual fans I had few people with whom to connect and share genuine feelings about the given outcome, resulting in my developing an overly negative outlook about the team even when they were winning. It felt truly comforting to be amongst the true fans and to share in their optimism about the club. While they're in a bad patch and have dug themselves into a sizable hole in trying to finish fourth (even the most stalwart fans will admit that contending for titles is out of the immediate question), the fans still believe in the club and the manager and have hope for the future. Or alternately perhaps that warm feeling was due to mixing beer, jet lag and four hours of sleep.

After linking up with my group and finishing a few more beverages we all set out for the Emirates. As we neared Highbury the fans took over the roadway, walking down the middle with little concern for traffic. Highbury itself has a very different look about it since the renovations were completed, though even so its relatively low profile is a huge contrast to the monolithic Emirates. Our seats, while in the upper deck, were excellent as always. There are no bad seats at the Emirates and it's still as stunning now as it was when it opened four years ago. What followed could at best be described as a nervous and uncertain display, though a timely goal after a freakish mix-up between a defender and the Swansea gave the Gunners the three points they so desperately needed.

Rather than recap, I'll give you readers a handful of observations. The team played well in the first half, generally keeping the ball and getting into a variety of promising but rather nonthreatening positions. In the second half they were just rotten. Emmanuel Frimpong tackled very well and his positional play was good but he seemed hopeless as soon as he won the ball, continually giving it away all over the pitch. He shows immense promise but has a long way to go before he's close to the finished article. He seemed more mobile than Alex Song and in time may develop into a more well rounded player. Aaron Ramsey was terrible from start to finish. He was less involved than in previous games and his passing was terrible. He seems short of confidence in his new role as the focus of midfield. Arteta played a simple and effective game in the first half but was dire in the second before coming off. The Mertersacker/Koscielny pairing shows immense promise. Mertersacker was as slow as advertised but was always in the right place and tackled very well. Koscielny looked liberated by having a solid player behind him and was free to play a much more aggressive role than we've seen in the past, to great effect. Theo Walcott had a terrible game and Andrei Arshavin continues to look out of shape and lazy despite his wonderful finish for the decisive goal. To say Robin Van Persie looked frustrated by the service he got would be an understatement. He kept dropping deeper on the pitch to get involved and was thus often too far from goal to look dangerous.

Benayoun came on in the second half and looked like the player I remember from Portsmouth- neat touches and nice running on the ball but nothing resembling a final product. Wojciech Szczesny was immense and saved Arsenal's bacon numerous times in the second half as Swansea grew in confidence, looking fantastic collecting crosses and making a critical save in injury time. His emergence is easily the best thing that's happened for the club over the last year. Finally Maroune Chamakh came on to the field and looked decent at collecting and distributing the ball without ever looking like a dangerous player. He needs a goal in the worst way to get him back on track.

Taken objectively it was actually a fairly ugly match, but as a depressed fan I must say it was a wonderful day. Feeling the love of the crowd as they sang "We love you Arsenal" and observing the dedication and optimism of the fans in and around the ground worked wonders for my own feelings about the club. And of course at the end of the day there's just nothing like bagging the first win of the season to restore a little bit of faith. Watch this space as Sanford himself should be giving a report on the next home game against Michael Bolton's Wanderers.