Friday, February 24, 2012

England: The North London Derby

Who: Arsenal vs. Tottenham
What: The North London Derby
Where: Emirates Stadium, London
When: Sunday, February 26, 8:30am EST
U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Channel
Preview II
Preview III

Henry Winter: RVP the only Gunner in my North London XI

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

It has been a season of misery for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger but they have the chance to restore some pride this weekend in the Premier League. After successive defeats, by AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League and Sunderland in the FA Cup, Arsenal welcome North London rivals Tottenham to the Emirates on Sunday. Manchester City have a two-point lead at the top of the table and they host Blackburn, while Manchester United will look to keep the pressure on against Norwich. Elsewhere, another man under pressure Andre Villas-Boas sees his Chelsea side take on Bolton as Wolves, led by Terry Connor, play Newcastle at St James' Park.


Team News

Premier League Spotlight

Paul Merson's Predictions

Lawro's Predictions

England: Carling Cup Final Previews

Who: Liverpool vs. Cardiff City
What: Carling Cup Final
When: Sunday, February 26, 11am EST
Where: Wembley Stadium, London
U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Channel
Preview II
Preview III

Andy Hunter: Dalglish has priorities straight for Wembley return

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon believes defending champions AC Milan are the team to beat but insists his side will not go down without a fight this weekend. The Turin giants go into Saturday's top Serie A game against league leaders Milan at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium as the only unbeaten team in Italy.


Spain: Eduardo Alvarez's Weekend Quiniela

Last season, most La Liga followers spent the final third of the tournament focusing in the long list of candidates for relegation. At one specific point, up to eleven teams could end up in the Segunda División, which set up an exciting end of the season. Things have changed slightly this year, with an interesting twist. After 23 matches, only seven points separate the 4th and 17th spots, which means that a decent run from a current theoretical relegation candidate could end up in a serious challenge for European football next season. This leads us to two conclusions: a) Villarreal supporters, please wait some more matches before throwing the towel and b) When team #17th beat team #5 (scroll down to match #5) on Sunday, we can't call it an upset anymore nor complain about it. Just get on with it and try to forget our seasons' total one more week. Shall we? Remember, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.


Donovan, Dempsey on U.S. roster for Italy match

Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are on the U.S. national team roster for next week's exhibition game at Italy and could play together for the first time since Jurgen Klinsmann was hired as coach last summer. The attacking pair were among 21 players selected for Wednesday's match in Genoa.

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England), Nick Rimando (Salt Lake)

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Geoff Cameron (Houston), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg, Germany), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Clarence Goodson (Brondby, Denmark), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland, Denmark), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham, England)

Midfielders: Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona, Italy), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim, Germany), Jermaine Jones (Schalke, Germany), Jose Torres (Pachuca, Mexico), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim, Germany)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Alkmaar, Netherlands), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles)

Carling Cup final: Liverpool's return to Wembley, 16 years on from the Spice Boys, cream suits and all that

Liverpool make their return to Wembley on Sunday for the Carling Cup final, their first appearance at the national stadium since an infamous visit in 1996.

On 11 May that year they were the beaten opponents as Manchester United secured a second double in three seasons thanks to a late Eric Cantona goal:

UEFA Europa League: Thursday's Review & Reports

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored a hat-trick to see Schalke edge past Viktoria Plzen 3-1 in extra time while Atletico Madrid wrapped up an easy 1-0 win over Lazio. Tim Matavz scored twice as Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven blazed into the last 16 of the Europa League by wrapping up a 6-2 aggregate victory over Trabzonspor. PSV will face Valencia in the last 16 after Los Che also made it through at the expense of Premier League Stoke. Frank de Boer's Ajax gave Manchester United a mighty scare at Old Trafford before Sir Alex Ferguson's men nudged through 3-2 on aggregate to book a last 16 meeting with Athletic Bilbao. Matias Fernandez scored a late winner for Sporting Lisbon against Polish side Legia Warsaw, which was enough to see the Portuguese side 3-2 on aggregate after a 1-0 win on the night.


Manchester United 1 - 2 Ajax (agg. 3 - 2)
Richard Jolly at Old Trafford
Andy Hunter at Old Trafford

The Joy of Six: League Cup Final Upsets

Birmingham shocked Arsenal; can Cardiff do the same to Liverpool? Eyebrow raising is what this cup is all about …

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Amy Lawrence on the Champions League: Five Things We Learned

Basel Keeper Yann Sommer

Napoli's Edinson Cavani enhanced his already gilded reputation and the art of defending among Europe's elite has gone to pot.

Five Things

Arsenal-Tottenham derby 'the most crucial' in Arsene Wenger's reign

On the face of it, there is no reason why Tottenham's trip to Arsenal on Sunday should carry more significance than previous north London derbies. Two fierce local rivals, three keenly contested Premier League points and one much-coveted set of bragging rights - so far, so familiar. But scratch beneath the surface and an entirely different picture emerges. "This is the most important derby in Arsene Wenger's 16 years as Arsenal manager," former Gunners right-back Lee Dixon tells BBC Sport. "It comes at a very poignant time in the club's history."

Arsenal v Tottenham: clubs release joint statement urging fans to behave at North London Derby

Arsenal and Tottenham have issued a joint statement warning supporters that anti-social behaviour during Sunday's north London derby will not be tolerated.

Feeling the Heat in Naples

Naples is a curious mix of grimy alleys and grand avenues. As I found out on my first visit there this week, it is a place crying out for some TLC. In parts every single building and available space is covered with graffiti, while few of the ornamental fountains along the seafront are in working order. t is also a city with huge social difficulties: not far from the main tourist area is a huge shanty town, the like of which you'd never expect to see in western Europe. Football is a huge release for the public and by half-past-three on Tuesday afternoon the Stadio Sao Paolo was already starting to fill up as fans sought out the best seats.

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Round of 16 First-Leg Reports

The last kick of the game is a header...and the winning goal for Marseille

Marseille 1 - 0 Inter Milan

Report II

Basel 1 - 0 Bayern Munich
Report II

Manchester City's Hulk chants were unsporting, claim angry Porto

The opportunity for Manchester City's supporters was too good to pass up. Their team were on their way to a 4-0 win against Porto and the opposition had a striker going by the name of Hulk who was showing signs of frustration. "You're not incredible," the home fans sang. Hulk, real name Givanildo Vieira de Souza, certainly did not look like he had superhuman powers as Sergio Agüero inspired City to a 4-0 victory to send them into the next round of the Europa League with an aggregate 6-1 victory. Porto, however, have not seen the funny side. The Portuguese club are now preparing an official complaint in which they will ask Uefa to open disciplinary charges against the Premier League leaders – and they are denying it has anything to do with an apparent humour bypass.

UEFA Europa League: Wednesday's Reports

Manchester City 4 - 0 Porto (agg. 6 - 1)

Kevin McCarra at the Etihad Stadium
Richard Jolly at the Etihad Stadium

Sid Lowe: Valencia's Banega joins the hall of fame list of bizarre injuries in Spain

Martin Palermo
It happened last Saturday. Valencia midfielder Éver Banega filled his car with petrol and went into the shop to pay. There was just one problem: he'd left the handbrake off. When he came out, his car was rolling away. So he tried to stop it the way a footballer stops a ball -- with his foot. The car crushed his ankle, breaking his fibula. Banega was operated on and although the operation was a success, he will be about of action for six months. Let's be honest: at first it was funny. But when the news hit, you just felt desperately sorry for him. Six months, for goodness' sake. And all because he forgot to leave the handbrake on

Norman Hubbard: The £85 Million Team

Building a title-winning team often takes time and involves huge skill. It needs the ability to assemble a squad and to select the first 11, the organisational prowess to set a side up, and the coaching talent to improve footballers. It needs the tactical expertise to perm the right players and choose a suitable system. It requires the right personalities in the dressing room, an appropriate blend of youth and experience, with sufficient leaders but not too many egos. It can depend upon having the right personnel off the field, whether the chairman and chief executive or the scout and goalkeeping coach. But for the purposes of this exercise, it only entails money and the facility to spend it well. The task is to construct a side capable of lifting the Premier League trophy. The complication - because the taskmaster is neither Sheikh Mansour nor Roman Abramovich - is that the 11 men to take the field must come in for a total amounting to no more than the £50 million Chelsea spent in making Fernando Torres the costliest player in the country.

Goalkeeper: Shay Given (Aston Villa, £3.5 million).
Defence: Danny Simpson (Newcastle, £750,000), Younes Kaboul (Tottenham, £5 million), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal, £9.7 million), Jose Enrique (Liverpool, £6 million).
Midfield: Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham, £8 million), Scott Parker (Tottenham, £5.5 million), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle, £4.3 million), Craig Bellamy (Liverpool, free).
Attack: Demba Ba (Newcastle, free), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United, £6.9 million).
Total cost: £49.65 million.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Round of 16 First-Leg Previews

Drastic solutions are needed to end Inter's dire run of form plus the pressure builds at Bayern Munich.

Champions League pressure builds for Internazionale and Bayern Munich.

Marseille vs. Inter Milan

Basel vs. Bayern Munich

Tevez apologizes to Manchester City after 5-month feud

Carlos Tevez finally apologized to Manchester City on Tuesday following a five-month feud that has cost him close to 10 million pounds ($17 million) and could soon return to action for the club after withdrawing an appeal against his latest fines. The Argentine forward has not played for the Premier League leaders since September when he refused to warm up during a Champions League match and only returned last week from a three-month unauthorized absence at home.

Cost of Glazers' takeover at Manchester United reaches £500m

Despite seven years of success under the Glazers' rule, United have leaked half a billion to service the debt-laden ownership.

The Question: Why is the back three resurgent in Italy?

Napoli's Champions League victory over Chelsea was just part of a wider return to a formation that has suddenly become fashionable again.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Round of 16 First-Leg Review, Reports, and Analyses

Sideshow Bob, indeed...
Chelsea's troubles worsened after sloppy defending led to a 3-1 loss at Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday, and nine-time winner Real Madrid was held to a 1-1 draw at CSKA Moscow.


CSKA Moscow 1 - 1 Real Madrid
Sid Lowe's Report

Napoli 3 - 1 Chelsea
Richard Williams at the San Paolo
Henry Winter at the San Paolo
Daniel Taylor at the San Paolo
Paul Hayward: Club and Manager in Chaos
Italian Press Reaction
Player Ratings

Americans Abroad: Onyewu out 8 weeks for knee surgery

The Portuguese club says medical scans performed Tuesday revealed a torn ligament and meniscus in Onyewu's right knee, an injury sustained in Sunday's 1-0 victory over Pacos Ferreira.

Uli Hesse in Germany

It seems safe to assume that Michael Preetz, Hertha Berlin's general manager, is an avid reader of these Bundesliga updates. Last week, we bemoaned most clubs' tendency to fill managerial vacancies with coaches who have just recently been fired by a competitor. Three days later, Preetz announced the most unexpected coaching coup since Borussia Dortmund signed Udo Lattek in 2000, seven years after Lattek had retired from the game. The first rumours of Preetz's surprise signing began making the rounds on Friday, a few hours after Christian Wulff had resigned as President of Germany. It would be taking things too far to suggest the rumours overshadowed Wulff's demission, but they were certainly more of a talking point among journalists during the evening game between Hoffenheim and Mainz - yet another one of those lacklustre 1-1 draws Hoffenheim are turning into an art form - than the match itself. "Did you hear that about Hertha," the reporters whispered to one another, "and Otto Rehhagel?" And more than one writer replied: "Yes, but I just can't believe it's true."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sid Lowe in Spain

Underperformance, mistrust, bitterness, late payments and a power vacuum … yet Málaga could still grab fourth in La Liga.

The biggest joke of all is that Málaga may make the Champions League.

MLS: Where 1,000 miles is a short trip for away supporters

Fire fans invade Toronto
When Tom Dunmore and 300 fellow Chicago Fire fans travelled to see their team play Toronto FC in 2007, they were met with incredulity: "When we got there, the stadium security just didn't know what to do. They had no concept of how to handle people travelling together in a large group to cheer their team on away from home." Their hosts' consternation was perhaps understandable at the time, not least because it was their grand opening home game. But what the Chicago fans found then is still common for many seasoned away supporters, though these negative experiences are as underappreciated as is the phenomenon of away travel in MLS itself. It's often ignored outside the United States, but there is a strong tradition of large groups travelling to support their teams, but this is at the amateur collegiate level. In professional sport, MLS is out on its own. Given the distances, the commitment of its away fans is without doubt world class; literally, few go further.

Thierry Henry to rebuild £6m London mansion to make va-va-room for 5,000 gallon fish tank

Thierry Henry has lodged controversial plans to demolish his £5.9 million north London house and replace it with a larger property - incorporating a 40ft high fish tank that will cost £250,000 to build. The former Arsenal striker wants to rebuild his luxury home – which was completed only in 1999 and is described as one of the finest examples of modern architecture in the UK – to accommodate it. Stretching 40ft from the bottom of his house to the very top, it will take 5,500 gallons of water to fill, house 300 fish and cost a staggering £250,000 to build. His proposals detail the extravagant four-storey aquarium.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Round of 16 First-Leg Previews

CSKA Moscow vs. Real Madrid

Preview II

Napoli vs. Chelsea
Preview II
Dominic Fifield in Naples
Roberto Gotta: Chelsea face tough San Paolo test
Chelsea ready to complain over racist chants
Martin Christenson: Chelsea Beware Cavani

Sturridge target of sickening racist chants as Chelsea arrive in Naples

Chelsea players were subjected to sickening racist abuse as they arrived in Naples on Monday. A crowd of Napoli fans gathered outside the team hotel and responded to the sight of black Chelsea players by performing disgusting chants.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Not much can be won in Switzerland on Wednesday night. But a whole season under Jupp Heynckes could be lost.

Bayern slips make Champions League clash with Basel a do-or-die mission.

Tim Vickery in South America

Of the many images football has left in my mind, one of the most intriguing comes from a pre-match warm up more than 15 years ago. Flamengo were about to play Internacional in the Brazilian Championship. Reunited for the first time since winning the World Cup just over two years earlier, Romario and Bebeto were exchanging passes. Bebeto was sleek and somehow vulnerable, like a cheetah. Romario was stocky and merciless, a perfect hyena. The two made natural hunting partners. It is inconceivable that Brazil would have won USA 94 without them. But it was one thing for the pair of them to knuckle down and work together for the limited time frame of a tournament, especially with a big prize at the end. Doing it week in week out at club level would surely be a different matter. The pair had big egos and different temperaments. Now they were together at Flamengo, how would they get along? Would they fire together or end up sniping at each other?

Americans Abroad

After weeks of patiently waiting his turn following the completion of his transfer to the Premier League, former New York Red Bulls center back Tim Ream stepped onto the field in a Bolton uniform, starting and playing all 90 minutes in Bolton's 2-0 victory over Millwall in the FA Cup. Ream was solid overall, from his distribution to his marking, helping the Trotters advance to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup for the second straight season. Ream showed no signs of a lack of fitness despite his long stretch of inactivity, and his skill set has made a favorable impression on Bolton manager Owen Coyle.

Tim Ream, D, Bolton -- Started, played 90 minutes in Bolton's 2-0 victory over Millwall in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday. Bolton will play either Tottenham or Stevenage in the quarterfinals of the tournament. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start

The Rest

Torres hasn't lost his flavour with Pepsi as £50m flop keeps place alongside A-listers

He hasn't scored in 20 games, West Ham want him, but £50million Chelsea flop Fernando Torres is still considered to be part of football's A-list.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

After another horror show, the match with Marseille is already being billed in some quarters as decisive for Claudio Ranieri.

Inter's latest let-down put in proper perspective by a nine-year-old.

Phil Ball in Spain

It was about five minutes into the game and I was running with the ball towards my own area, under pressure from a high-lying midfielder. Contemplating a longish pass back to my own 'keeper, the opposing centre-forward read my thoughts and cut off the route. Partly out of desperation, but also because it was my only party trick, I stepped over the ball with my right leg, feinted to go left, and then moved sharply to the right, back into the space that my dummy had won for me. I was out of trouble, and the crowd whistled their approval, not because it was particularly special but because the guy to whom I'd sold the dummy was Billy Bremner. But don't get too excited - it was a charity match and he was no longer in his prime.

Monday, February 20, 2012

England: Chelsea in Crisis

Daniel Sturridge has insisted Chelsea are not a "divided unit" under Andre Villas-Boas. Villas-Boas last week admitted his "project" was not backed by all of his players after reports emerged he was openly challenged by some of them during a training-ground summit eight days ago. However, Sturridge claims Chelsea are "a family" and will prove it during what could be a season-defining fortnight. "We are all together as one and we are not a divided unit," he told Chelsea TV. "We are a family and we've got a good unit going here and I think maybe we will see that in the next few games." Chelsea are currently on course for their worst season since Roman Abramovich bought the club and need a positive result in Tuesday night's Champions League last-16 first leg at Napoli to ease the pressure on Villas-Boas.

Henry Winter: Villas-Boas needs new ideas fast
Avram Grant: Villas-Boas could be sacked at any point
Alan Hansen: Players need to put egos aside
Sam Wallace: Villas-Boas is so right to put the boot into dressing room 
David Pleat: Chelsea badly need support striker

England: Arsenal in Crisis

Arsene Wenger this weekend used logic as a guard. Sadly, the science of reasoning in football has been extinct for decades, if indeed it ever existed. Even Andre Villas-Boas' continued impersonation of an amalgamation of British sitcom characters, Gordon Brittas and Frank Spencer, could not completely bury Arsenal's manager in the weekend news agenda following the FA Cup capitulation at Sunderland. It was the conclusion of the week from hell for Wenger. The humiliation at AC Milan in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League was followed by confirmation Per Mertesacker had undergone ankle surgery. Events at the Stadium of Light were then given the additional bleakness of a burgeoning injury list now containing Aaron Ramsey, Sebastian Squillaci and Francis Coquelin.

Michael Cox: What are Arsenal good at?
Jim White: Troubles deepen for Arsenal's soft touches
Nigel Winterburn: Players let Wenger down
Jeremy Wilson: Five Points For Arsenal Board To Consider
Jonathan Wilson: Decline due to idealism or fundamentalism?

The Trawler: No Stranger to the Limelight

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.

Gabriele Marcotti: Milan makes a statement on behalf of Serie A in the Champions League

What you're left with is a team that relies heavily on Ibrahimovic, yes, but also one with enough matchwinners who, on their day, can raise their game. From Robinho to Boateng to Pato, there are enough guys here who can pull off the superstar act when needed. And that, more than anything, is what makes Milan dangerous. The Champions League isn't about consistency, it's about standout performances. If the right guys lift their game at the right time, the rossoneri can hang with anyone. Even Barcelona and Real Madrid. And if Ibrahimovic -- another one whose production is sometimes marred by Nasdaq-like volatility -- also happens to click on the night, well, Milan is going to be a serious headache for any opponent.

England: FA Cup Review, Reports, Team of the Week, Etc.

The Magic of The Cup: Tottenham face Stevenage at the Lamex Stadium

Liverpool booked their place in the sixth round of the FA Cup with a 6-1 victory over Brighton at Anfield. Sunderland are also through to the quarter-final stage after a excellent 2-0 victory over a lacklustre Arsenal. Elsewhere, Stevenage claimed a famous replay with Tottenham after holding Harry Redknapp’s men to a goalless draw, while Birmingham and Chelsea will replay after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Review + Draw

Chelsea 1 - 1 Birmingham City
Jamie Jackson at Stamford Bridge

Sunderland 2 - 0 Arsenal
Luke Edwards at the Stadium of Light
Louise Taylor at the Stadium of Light

Stevenage 0 - 0 Tottenham
Phil McNulty at the Lamex Stadium
Daniel Taylor at the Lamex Stadium

Liverpool 6 - 1 Brighton
Andy Hunter at Anfield
Richard Jolly at Anfield

Team of the Week

Five Things We Learned

European Review

Only four goals for him this weekend...
Lionel Messi underlined his standing as the best player on the planet as Barcelona romped, but Real Madrid continue to set the pace in Spain. AC Milan put the finishing touches to a productive week to take to the front in Italy, while Borussia Dortmund's winning run continued in the Bundesliga. Elsewhere, there was no separating the top two in France and PSV Eindhoven suffered a rare defeat to throw the Eredivisie title race wide open.


The Fifth Official

Few of us like a Monday morning, 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.