Friday, March 09, 2012

McCarthy's Musings: 2012 MLS National TV Preview: ESPN, NBC jockey for top billing

MLS raised the stakes for its national broadcasts at the exact moment it reached an agreement with NBC Sports last year. The three-year pact places NBC alongside long-time MLS partner ESPN in this particular realm. It also sets up an intriguing scenario in which the two rival networks will share the stage over the next few years and perhaps position themselves to snatch the package outright when the TV contracts expire at the end of the 2014 season.

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Calcio gets an early start once again this week, making room for Napoli and Inter to compete in the Champions League. The nerazzurri will welcome Marseille to the San Siro on Tuesday, needing to stop the French side from grabbing that crucial away goal. Napoli, who won 3-1 in Naples, are at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, where they'll face Chelsea. But before we get to that there's a whole host of Serie A to be played. Fortunately for Inter and Napoli, their competition on Friday doesn't seem particularly intimidating. Of course, that means Inter will be held to a dull 0-0 draw in Verona, while the partenopei will be beaten by a dour Cagliari side.


Louise Taylor: Fearful five have 11 games to avoid relegation and save reputations

Fearful Five, indeed...

Which two of QPR, Blackburn, Wolves, Bolton and Wigan are best equipped to stay up?

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

With 11 games remaining in the Premier League this season, the race to avoid relegation is entering the final furlong. Just two points separate the bottom five and with four of those sides in action against each other, it promises to be a key weekend in the battle at the bottom. Bolton host QPR to kick-off proceedings on Saturday lunchtime, before struggling Wolves and Blackburn Rovers contest a six-pointer at Molineux. At the opposite end of the table, both Manchester clubs play on Sunday while Roberto Di Matteo takes charge of Chelsea for the first time in the league for their clash with Stoke.


Everton vs. Tottenham: Preview

Premier League Spotlight

Team News

Paul Merson's Predictions

Lawro's Predictions

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

Jose Mourinho's all-conquering Real Madrid will hope to make it 11 league victories in a row against Real Betis at the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera on Saturday. Madrid remain 10 points ahead of Barcelona, who head into Sunday's trip to managerless Racing Santander with plaudits ringing in their ears following yesterday's Champions League trouncing of Bayer Leverkusen. In other matches this weekend, third-placed Valencia host Real Mallorca while Levante will look to stay hot on the heels of their city rivals when they travel to fellow European hopefuls Malaga. Athletic Bilbao follow a Europa League clash with Manchester United by facing Osasuna, Espanyol host Rayo Vallecano and Granada visit Atletico Madrid.



Sid Lowe: Lionel Messi now bears comparison with Diego Maradona

The striker's five goals against Bayer Leverkusen have left many in no doubt that he is a better player than El Diego.

UEFA Europa League: Thursday's Review & Reports

Athletic Bilbao stunned Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford to leave the hosts' Europa League hopes hanging by a thread. Premier League leaders Manchester City suffered a shock 1-0 defeat in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie at Sporting Lisbon. PSV Eindhoven scored twice late on to keep their hopes in the competition alive, despite being totally outplayed by Valencia in their 4-2 defeat at the Mestalla. AZ Alkmaar took a 2-0 first leg lead over Udinese thanks to goals from Maarten Martens (63) and Erik Falkenburg (84).


Sporting Lisbon 1 - 0 Manchester City

Jamie Jackson at the Estádio José Alvalade
Mark Ogden at the Estádio José Alvalade

Manchester United 2 - 3 Athletic Bilbao
Kevin McCarra at Old Trafford
Henry Winter at Old Trafford
Andy Hunter: Fernando Llorente exposes Manchester United's frailties in defence
Richard Jolly: Bielsa's Brilliant Bilbao

Paolo Bandini: How Michael Bradley became Chievo’s Captain America

Mirko Vucinic is not accustomed to battling superheroes. The Juventus forward’s selfishness in possession might make him a villain in the eyes of his own club’s supporters but it is hardly the sort of offence which catches the attention of mankind’s fictional protectors. As he advanced towards the edge of the Chievo penalty area somewhere around the 70-minute mark on Saturday night, it’s safe to assume the last thing he was expecting was a visit from Captain America.

Cesc Fábregas Interview

The midfielder is happy to be home in Barcelona but the Gunners are often in his thoughts.

'Wenger will bring Arsenal back to where they belong'

Grant Wahl: 2012 MLS Season Predictions

Another MLS season is upon us starting this weekend, and I've been working the phones and the pressing the flesh to get ready for the 2012 campaign. Come back on Friday for my interviews with all 10 MLS East coaches, a companion to my interviews with all nine MLS West coaches. But for now let's look into the crystal ball for my predictions on MLS '12:

Rewind to 1966

The year of 1966 has become forever associated with England's World Cup success. However, on the domestic scene, it also saw one of Manchester United's greatest ever days - March 9 - as a 19-year-old George Best announced himself to the world with a stunning two-goal performance against Benfica in the quarter-finals of the European Cup that helped his side to win 5-1. 'El Beatle', as he would become known in the Portuguese press, had arrived.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

UEFA Europa League: Thursday's Previews

Both Manchester United and Manchester City will be seeking to book a spot in the quarter-finals of the Europa League when they play Athletic Bilbao and Sporting Lisbon on Thursday. Valencia host PSV Eindhoven at the Mestella Stadium and manager Unia Emery is not letting the fact that PSV lost 6-2 to FC Twente over the weekend delude him into the fact that the match will be an easy one.


Manchester United vs. Atletic Bilbao
Preview II
Sid Lowe: Athletic Bilbao's Bielsa – obsessive and dangerous for United's chances

Sporting Lisbon vs. Manchester City

The Mavericks: Faustino Asprilla: All Guns Blazing

Faustino Asprilla is one of the finest players ever to have emerged from Colombia, a player who drew comparisons with the likes of Pele and Garrincha at his peak. Nicknamed the Octopus and described by former Italy coach Edmondo Fabbri as "extraterrestrial", this rubber-legged forward approached the game in a manner most men could not conceive. But there were problems. He had a penchant for women, nightlife and, worst of all, firearms.

Sid Lowe: Piqué's referee dispute, Copa del Rey final set, more La Liga notes

News and notes from around La Liga.

Preseason MLS Power Rankings: Defending champ Galaxy on top

With the 2012 MLS season nearly upon us, it's time to look into our crystal ball and project the next nine months of action. What do we see? Despite plenty of non-playoff teams making vast roster improvements that should lead to as entertaining a season as the league has seen, expect more of the same in terms of final outcome in 2012.

Roger Johnson puts his Wolves future in doubt after turning up drunk for training

The crisis engufling Wolves has intensified after it emerged that former captain Roger Johnson turned up drunk for training on Monday.

Is Barcelona's Lionel Messi the greatest player ever?

Following his record-breaking five-goal exhibition against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, Telegraph Sport writers debate whether Lionel Messi, at just 24, should be acknowledged as the greatest player of all time.

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Review, Reports, Reaction

Lionel Messi became the first player to score five goals in a single Champions League match as Barcelona booked their place in the quarter-finals with an emphatic 7-1 win against Bayer Leverkusen. APOEL goalkeeper Dionissis Chiotis was the hero as he saved twice in a 4-3 penalty shootout victory to send the Cypriots into the quarter-finals of the Champions League at the expense of Lyon.


Barcelona 7 - 1 Bayer Leverkusen (10-2 agg.)
Pete Jenson at Camp Nou
"Now in same class as Pele and Maradona"

APOEL Nicosia (4)1 - 0(3) Olympique Lyon (1-1 agg.)

England: FA Cup Round of 16 Replay Report & Complaint

Tottenham 3 - 1 Stevenage 
Paul Doyle at White Hart Lane 

Gareth Bale 'went down easily', says Mark Roberts

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson reignites Luis Suárez racism row

"Evra was clever at Old Trafford. Luis didn't shake his hand because Evra's hand was down there. What else is Luis supposed to do? Would you go to shake someone's hand if their hand is way down there by their side? Course not. "But then, because Luis didn't do it, Evra has pulled him back by his arm as he walked on, as if to say to everybody: 'Look, I wanted to shake his hand and he didn't …' "Evra probably stayed up all night thinking about how to do that. The whole thing was ridiculous."

Republic of Ireland fans vent frustration over Trapattoni tactics

Republic of Ireland Team. UEFA European Championship West Germany 1988
15.06.1988. Hannover. Group stage. Republic of Ireland - USSR 1-1
Back row:
Michael Mccarthy, Frank Stapleton, Patrick Bonner, Kevin Sheedy, John Aldridge, Anthony Galvin
Front row:
Raymond Houghton, Ronald Whelan, Christopher Hughton, Christopher Morris, Kevin Moran
Optimism and excitement in the Republic of Ireland have given way to cynicism and a hardening of attitudes ahead of the country's first appearance at a major championship in 10 years. The national team's veteran Italian coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, has not been without his critics for his conservative tactics and regimented approach during his four years in charge. But many have been willing to concede that it has achieved its aims by leading the Irish to a European Championship for the first time since 1988.

Podolski closes on Arsenal move

On his way to North London...?

Cologne striker Lukas Podolski is set to move to Arsenal in a €13 million (£10.9m) move in the summer, according to ESPNsoccernet sources. Podolski, 26, has been strongly linked with a move to the Gunners at the end of the season after expressing frustration with life at Cologne, who are currently 14th in the Bundesliga and are only three points off the relegation zone.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Reports & Analyses

Arsenal 3 - 0 AC Milan (agg. 3-4)
Henry Winter at the Emirates Stadium
David Hytner at the Emirates Stadium
Richard Williams at the Emirates Stadium
Jim White at the Emirates Stadium
Amy Lawrence: Five Talking Points
Wenger rages after loss

Benfica 2 - 0 Zenit St. Petersburg (agg. 4-3)

Marina Hyde: How would Roman Abramovich react to being a laughing stock at Chelsea?

Chelsea's benefactor appeared to have escaped fans' vulgar ingratitude, but has André Villas-Boas's sacking changed that?

Uli Hesse in Germany

And just like that a title race that had been blown wide open only a few weeks ago looks almost slammed shut. Over the past weekend, no less than three of the top four suffered unexpected defeats away from home while table-topping Borussia Dortmund beat FSV Mainz 2-1, despite Mohamed Zidan (whom we featured last week) extending his spooky streak by scoring his fifth goal in as many games since rejoining Mainz. Title-holders Dortmund have thus managed to put considerable daylight between themselves and the pack. They now lead Bayern Munich by seven points, having trailed them by three as late as January, and Borussia Monchengladbach by eight. As we already pointed out last week, Schalke 04 are for all practical purposes out of the race for good, eleven points behind Dortmund.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sid Lowe in Spain

Despite a miraculous weekend win, a decisive relegation born of years of mismanagement beckons for struggling Real Zaragoza.

If Real Zaragoza go down it could be permanent.

Juve Problems Drawing Attention

Antonio Conte has been called many things by Juventus fans since his arrival as a wide-eyed young player back in 1992. Dedicated. Hard-working. Inspirational. Leader. Captain. One thing he has never been, either as coach or as lynchpin midfielder of those dominant Marcello Lippi sides of the mid-to-late-'90s, is a cause of concern. Yet now, after seeing his team stutter against Chievo to what was their 12th draw of the campaign, that is precisely what he is in danger of becoming. Such is the reverence with which he is regarded by those who hold the club dear, the doubts are - for now at least - only being voiced quietly, whispered carefully in hushed tones even among the more vocal of the club's tifosi, not wishing to upset nor undermine their man.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Previews

Arsenal vs. AC Milan (0-4)
Preview II
Amy Lawrence: Wenger to play strongest side
Jeremy Wilson: Wenger has gut feeling

Benfica vs. Zenit St. Petersburg (2-3)

Tim Vickery in South America

Argentina will be hoping Lionel Messi is finally starting to transform his stunning club form with Barcelona to the international arena following his magnificent hat-trick in the 3-1 win against Switzerland. The hints were there late last year, in the second half of the World Cup qualifier away to Colombia, and now the Switzerland game has surely consolidated the Messi-Sergio Aguero link-up at the heart of the Argentine attack. The pair have had a natural rapport for years, built up when they roomed together during the 2005 World Youth Cup, and now that understanding is clearly visible on the pitch through their pacy, dazzling exchanges.

Americans Abroad

Clint Dempsey scored twice on Sunday as Fulham routed Wolves 5-0, while Jozy Altidore scored in a 3-1 AZ win.


Jay DeMerit Journal

In his third blog post, DeMerit talks about Clint Dempsey being a world-class player, rivalries in both England and in North America and travel as a MLS player.


Steve Davis: 2012 Western Conference Preview: L.A., Seattle lead a strong field

Just as it was last season, the MLS West appears to be the healthier of the two conferences, containing the past three MLS Cup champions.


Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The top clubs are showing a lack of ambition so complete that it's surely unparalleled in 49 years of Bundesliga football.

Bayern, Mönchengladbach, Schalke – does any one want to win the league?

Paolo Bandini in Italy

Sweet dreams have been hard to come by for the Biancocelesti boss, but victory switched the pressure to his opposite number.

Rome derby delight helps Lazio manager Edy Reja sleep easier at last.

Manchester City's Mario Balotelli admits mistakes over strip bar jaunt

Balotelli emerged from a Liverpool strip bar in the early hours of Friday morning ahead of Saturday's game at home to Bolton Wanderers despite a club curfew. "I didn't do anything wrong at the club," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. "But I understand that if she [his girlfriend Raffaella Fico] had gone with her friends to a strip club, I would have been very angry. "If you love a woman, you can avoid causing that pain. That was my first mistake. The second was to go two days before a game."

The Trawler: Reading festival, Justice for Ipswich

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

Although I recognise that it's not the most glamorous of things to do, I always like to reserve one week per season to talk not just about the ocean liner, but about its engine room too. La Liga has settled into a pattern that will always be of interest, and not a week goes by without something newsworthy taking place - but the Second Division is also important, and by this stage of the season the candidates for promotion are usually well established.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Will Ferrell interviewed during Mexico v Colombia match, answers all questions with ‘Chicharito’

During halftime of the Colombia's 2-0 win over Mexico in Miami on Wednesday night, Will Ferrell appeared on the Spanish-language telecast with co-stars Diego Luna and Genesis Rodriguez to promote their upcoming movie, "Casa de mi Padre."

David Moyes' ambition remains strong at Everton after 10 years in charge at Goodison Park

'Project' appears to have replaced the word 'club' in the lexicon of many ambitious young managers, but do not expect David Moyes to bandy around such buzzwords.

England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports, Analyses, Teams of the Week, Table, Etc.

Manchester United claimed a crucial victory over Tottenham to boost their hopes of defending the Premier League title, while Arsenal took control of the race for fourth thanks to an inspired Robin van Persie. Andre Villas-Boas lost his job as Chelsea manager following defeat at West Brom, the Tyne-Wear derby ended in a draw and Wolves dropped into the relegation zone after being hammered by Fulham.


Liverpool 1 - 2 Arsenal
Paul Wilson at Anfield
Duncan White at Anfield
Andy Hunter at Anfield

West Brom 1 - 0 Chelsea
Dominic Fifield at The Hawthorns

Manchester City 2 - 0 Bolton Wanderers
Paul Doyle at the Etihad Stadium

Tottenham 1 - 3 Manchester United
Kevin Palmer at White Hart Lane
Daniel Taylor at White Hart Lane

Newcastle 1 - 1 Sunderland
Louise Taylor at St. James' Park
Jason Burt at Sports Direct Arena
Sunderland's Lee Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon banned

Fulham 5 - 0 Wolves
David Hytner at Craven Cottage

Team of the Week
Team of the Week II

Five Things We Learned

1Manchester City27213369195066
2Manchester United27204366273964
3Tottenham Hotspur27165652331953
6Newcastle United2712873939044
9Stoke City27106112738-1136
10West Bromwich Albion27105123435-135
11Norwich City2798103844-635
14Swansea City2789103034-433
15Aston Villa2761293035-530
16Queens Park Rangers2757152846-1822
17Blackburn Rovers2757153860-2222
18Wolverhampton Wanderers2757153056-2622
19Bolton Wanderers2762192956-2720
20Wigan Athletic2748152352-2920