Friday, April 20, 2012

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

The first team could be relegated from the Premier League this season on a weekend where matters at the top and bottom of the table will move closer to a denouement.


Arsenal v Chelsea (12.45pm), Aston Villa v Sunderland, Blackburn v Norwich, Bolton v Swansea, Fulham v Wigan,  Newcastle v Stoke, QPR v Tottenham

Sunday: Man Utd v Everton (12.30pm), Liverpool v West Brom (4pm), Wolves v Man City (4pm)

Premier League Spotlight

Arsenal vs. Chelsea: Preview
QPR vs. Tottenham: Preview

Team News

Paul Merson's Predictions

Lawro's Predictions

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Italy's footballers will return to the pitch this weekend with heavy hearts following the death of Piermario Morosini. Last weekend's games were called off after the Livorno player collapsed and died last Saturday during a Serie B game at Pescara.


Saturday's Fixtures:
Chievo vs Udinese, Napoli vs Novara, Catania vs Atalanta, Parma vs Cagliari

Sunday's Fixtures: Fiorentina vs Inter Milan, AC Milan vs Bologna, Cesena vs Palermo, Genoa vs Siena, Lazio vs Lecce, Juventus vs Roma

Spain: La Liga Weekend Previews + Quiniela

Real Madrid and Barcelona have little time to dwell on this week's Champions League setbacks as the latest 'El Clasico' takes centre stage on Saturday.


Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: Preview


England: Football League Weekender

Ashton Gate, Bristol

With just a handful of games to go, promotion and relegation beckons in our latest rundown from the lower divisions.

Friday MLS Forecast

Weighing the tribulations of the past with an eye toward the future.


Former MLS and U.S. national team defender Frankie Hejduk announces retirement

Good times, indeed...

“I want to thank my family and all of my teammates, trainers, equipment managers, front office staffers, coaches and fans for making my life that much more special, both on and off the field,” Hejduk said. “We all share a special bond that’s tough to explain to anyone outside that circle, but the memories we share and the good times we had will never be forgotten or matched."

UEFA Europa League: Thursday Review

Atletico Madrid beat Valencia 4-2 while Sporting Lisbon remained undefeated in European home games this season after a 2-1 comeback win over Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the Europa League semifinals on Thursday.


Fox Networks to Televise Nine EPL Games on May 13

Fox said it will broadcast matches on FX, SPEED, FSN, FUEL TV, Fox Soccer and Fox Soccer Plus, with one simulcast on FOX Deportes. One game will be available on and two on Fox Soccer 2Go.

Raphael Honigstein: Champions League Review

Two narrow wins for the home-sides in the first legs have left both Champions League semifinals beautifully poised. Real Madrid and Barcelona, are still just about favorites to progress to the final in Munich, but the margins this week were so small as to give both Bayern and Chelsea reasons to be confident. Here are seven observations from the first round of skirmishes where Bayern beat Madrid 2-1 and Chelsea edged Barcelona 1-0.

John Brewin: Atkinson must regain quick perspective

Sunday's teatime FA Cup semi-final saw Martin Atkinson achieve the type of infamy that referees probably fear most. Atkinson's copybook has already been blotted by his part in awarding Clint Hill's goal that never was, and the fudging of Mario Balotelli's vile hack at Alex Song, but this was an error set to enter Tottenham legend. That a huge terrestrial audience looked on as Atkinson gave the Juan Mata goal that never should have been compounded the misery.

Mancini bemoans refereeing standards

Mancini would not be drawn on specific incidents, but City's title rivals Manchester United have benefited from two controversial penalty decisions - against QPR and Aston Villa, with Ashley Young at the heart of both - in the past fortnight.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sid Lowe: Spain's also-rans transform themselves into racing certainties for Europe

La Liga may look like a lopside competition dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid, but the success of Spanish teams across Europe shows their football is a lot stronger than it looks.

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Semi-final First Leg Reports, Analyses, Etc.

Chelsea 1 - 0 Barcelona

Richard Williams at Stamford Bridge
Phil McNulty at Stamford Bridge

James Lawton: Didier Drogba lets go of the histrionics to summon up his old heroics for Chelsea
Dominic Fifield: Five Talking Points

Player Ratings

Spanish Press Reaction

Liverpool bin weekly magazine as John W. Henry continues to make cuts at Anfield

Buh bye...

The root-and-branch American review of operations at Liverpool, which was being personally supervised on Merseyside by principal owner John W Henry yesterday, has led to the club ditching its popular weekly club magazine in favour of a monthly publication, to be published by the same London company which produces Manchester United's magazine and match programme.

'Singing section' to be introduced at Old Trafford to increase decibel levels of 'dead' Manchester United fans

Manchester United supporters are on the threshold of winning their long-standing campaign for a dedicated singing section at Old Trafford, giving them the chance to deny visiting fans the chance to taunt them with Sir Alex Ferguson’s complaint after a match four years ago that “the crowd were dead; it was like a funeral.”

Some United fans are not in favour of shifting away fans, who in the case of Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Stoke City and – before relegation – Hull City, contribute hugely to the atmosphere.

But Fulham attracted a mere 320 fans on March 26 and even Newcastle United failed to sell their allocation this season. In European competitions, visiting clubs must give seven days notice of the allocation sold but no such rule applies in the Premier League, which has left United with empty seats and the financial hit.

Argentina: Téo Gutierrez's Future is Unclear

It ended with a midafternoon taxi ride. Teofilo Gutierrez was escorted out of the home of rivals Independiente and into a taxi by one of the directors of his club, Racing Club de Avellaneda, and informed that he should go home. It had been another torrid afternoon for "Téo," a 26-year-old Colombian international, and a player described by Juan Román Riquelme as "the best center forward in the whole country." With Téo, it's never about a lack of ability though. Since his arrival in Argentina, his goal-scoring exploits have gradually been more and more overshadowed by his controversial acts. In a country that has no real issue with simulation or gamesmanship, the fact that Téo's conduct has so enraged people gives you an insight into this complex character.

Rewind to 2005

Chelsea and Barcelona's recent rivalry reignited at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, but it began in 2005 as Jose Mourinho and Frank Rijkaard clashed over accusations that the Barca manager had spoken to referee Anders Frisk at half-time. The two games - culminating in a wonderful 5-4 win for the Blues on aggregate - were quickly overshadowed by events off the pitch that turned the clubs into two of the most bitter rivals in European football.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Semi-final First Leg Previews

Who: Chelsea vs. Barcelona

When: 2:45pm EDT
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England
U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Channel


Preview II
Preview III
Preview IV

Sid Lowe: Fábregas ready to shine on London return
Sid Lowe: Comeback kid Cuenca gives Barca edge on wing
Paul Hayward: Chelsea need spirit of old guard to have any chance
Dominic Fifield: Drogba's power or Torres's pace?
Daniel Taylor: Chelsea's goal redemption, not revenge

How Barcelona have been held or beaten this season

The Championship: Cardiff City close on play-offs after 68-yard strike

Mackay full of praise after Mark Hudson's Cardiff City wonder goal.

Nike brings hoops to the new U.S. national team home kit

Nike has unveiled the new home kit for the U.S. men's and women's national team and it has hoops. The red and white stripes and blue collar of the shirt are an obvious nod to the American flag and are also reminiscent of the 1994 away kit. There's also a "tonal sash" across the front like the previous iteration. Here's a better view of the shirt...

Reading Promoted to Premier League: How club went from relegation fodder to top of the class

Telegraph Sport examines Reading's remarkable turnaround to return to the Premier League after four-year absence with football's unsung manager Brian McDermott.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Semi-final First-leg Reports & More

Bayern Munich 2 - 1 Real Madrid

Jason Burt at the Allianz Arena
Kevin McCarra at the Allianz Arena

Jonathan Wilson: How did Bayern Munich outflank Real Madrid?

Martin Rogers: Ronaldo's failure to make the difference costs Real Madrid

Sam Kelly in Argentina

It was a great weekend for football headlines in South America's southern cone. In particular in Argentina, which we'll get to in just a moment, but no piece about the weekend just gone would be complete without at least a passing mention of Salvador Cabanas, who turned out for his boyhood club in Paraguay's third division on Saturday to make his return to professional football 26 months after he was shot in the head in a Mexico City nightclub. An amazing comeback.

When his team-mates arrived in the dressing room they weren't pleased. Goalkeeper Sebastian Saja punched him, at which point Teo (as he's known here) delved into his kitbag and took out what's been variously described as a toy gun, a paintball gun, an air rifle, and (by a friend of mine with contacts at Racing) a real gun. Predictably, chaos ensued.

Ovrebo: My Errors Cost Chelsea in 2009

Tom Henning Ovrebo, the referee of the controversial Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona in 2009, has admitted that he made mistakes in the game that denied the Premier League side a place in the final.Ovrebo found himself at the centre of a firestorm at Stamford Bridge at the end of the second leg three years ago, having rejected four reasonable penalty claims from the home side - then managed by Guus Hiddink - during the 90 minutes, as they eventually went out to Andres Iniesta's last-minute strike.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Semi-final, First-Leg Previews

Who: Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid

When: 2:45pm EDT
Where: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Channel

The Big Interview: Dani Alves: 'At Barcelona we are taking football back to its origins'

Barcelona's buccaneering right-back explains that staying true to attacking principle is secret of Catalan club's ongoing success.

Americans Abroad Recap: Jozy Altidore keeps up excellent form with a screamer

The U.S. international forward scored his 18th goal of the season, but it wasn't enough as AZ suffered a vital loss in its title chase.

The Rest

The Invincibles, SAS and Cantona - 20 Years of the Premier League

The Premier League has revealed the shortlist for its 20-year awards. Here Kevin McCarra reflects on the period's highlights.

Kevin McCarra's team of the Premier League era:
Schmeichel; G Neville, Adams, Desailly, A Cole; Ronaldo, Keane, Scholes, Giggs; Shearer, Henry.

Barney Ronay: Clamber aboard the annoyed-by-Barcelona bandwagon while you can

Irritation with Barça worship can reach new heights this season – enjoy it while you can because their era, like all others, will end.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

Case of 25-year-old midfielder had many similarities with the recent Fabrice Muamba affair, although this time there was no happy ending.

Piermario Morosini's death was tragedy that not only Livorno suffered.

MLS Week 6 Power Rankings: Focal point on disciplinary committee

More discipline awaits after a physical Week 6 in MLS that also saw Sporting Kansas City rise to the top.

The Trawler: Donny go down, Vaz Te does a Rooney

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 McNulty: What was the best Premier League match of the past 20 seasons?

Try to pick the best match of the Barclays Premier League's 20 seasons and supporters will arrive at hundreds of different conclusions. Different games mean different things. Was it a match full of goals? Was it a match that saved your team from relegation? Or was it a match that won your team a title? All purely subjective and all designed to provoke debate from now until the time the Premier League celebrates its 40th anniversary but all part of what has made England's top tier such a compelling product.

Fabrice Muamba: Bolton midfielder discharged from hospital

Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba has paid tribute to the London Chest Hospital staff after being discharged. The 24-year-old was technically "dead" for 78 minutes after suffering a cardiac arrest and collapsing in a game against Tottenham on 17 March and had been in hospital since then. "I am naturally very pleased to be discharged from hospital," he said. "I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to every single member of staff who played a part in my care."

England: Monday Night Football Reports, Analyses, Etc.

Arsenal 1 - 2 Wigan Athletic
Jeremy Wilson at the Emirates Stadium

David Hytner at the Emirates Stadium
Sam Wallace at the Emirates Stadium
Roberto Martínez and Wigan Athletic rewarded for sticking to their guns

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Jürgen Klopp's low-budget Borussia Dortmund showed unity – and unlike Bayern Munich played with an insatiable will to win.

Hungry wolves of Dortmund win title and give Bayern a lesson in desire.

Phil Ball in Spain

I was reading in an English magazine this week that all the records that are being broken by Messi, Ronaldo and their respective clubs reflect well on the Spanish league, in the sense that there is a filtering down of the quality - exemplified - in the magazine's view, by such events as Athletic Bilbao's recent humbling of Manchester United and the presence of five teams in the two European competitions' semi-finals. On the other hand, according to the editorial, it was just 'too easy' for the top two clubs now, and this was creating an unhealthy situation which could only get worse, given the relative financial clout that these two clubs continue to enjoy. This is a magazine for which I have to utmost respect (I was bothering to read it), but I still find this view of La Liga difficult to accept.

Monday, April 16, 2012

England: Monday Night Football Preview

Who: Arsenal vs. Wigan

When: 3pm EDT
Where: Emirates Stadium, London
U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Channel

Monday MLS Breakdown: Top of the table battles offer a chance to evaluate the league's current elite

New York and San Jose adhered to the typical hallmarks of a MLS game, while Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City offered a more European-style approach.


Phil McNulty: Time For Technology

Martin Atkinson's anguish was revealed by Harry Redknapp as the latest calls for the introduction of technology reached a crescendo deep inside Wembley. Tottenham manager Redknapp had spoken to referee Atkinson after a decision - and indeed a wider issue for world football - had been highlighted once more in a moment that helped to define Chelsea's 5-1 win in the FA Cup semi-final. With Chelsea leading 1-0 Atkinson, well-positioned and close to the action, ruled Juan Mata's 49th-minute shot had beaten a desperate scramble by Spurs duo Ledley King and Benoit Assou-Ekotto and crossed the line. Initial suspicions proved ominous for Atkinson and were confirmed by the evidence of replays - it had not and Tottenham were the victims of a serious injustice.

Paul Marshall in Germany: Dortmund Win Galactic Battle

On my last visit to the Veltins-Arena this season, Darth Vader and several stormtroopers were stationed outside, waging a promotional battle on behalf of the Empire - and George Lucas' pension fund - on Schalke fans. At Saturday's Revierderby, even the Lord of the Sith would have been a more popular visitor than Jurgen Klopp, the man the blue-and-white half of the Ruhr Valley consider their very own leader of the Dark Side.

Schalke 1 - 2 Borussia Dortmund

Italy: Serie A Postponed After Morosini Death

Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini has died
in hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest during his team's Serie B match at Pescara.

Spain: La Liga Weekend Review

Valencia lost 4-0 to Espanyol on Sunday weakening their hold over third place but Malaga failed to win against Real Sociedad and so remain a point behind. On Saturday, Real Madrid maintained their four-point lead over Barcelona in La Liga's title race as both sealed hard-fought victories on Saturday evening. Real Madrid scored twice in the final 15 minutes as they came from behind to beat Sporting Gijon 3-1. Barcelona were also forced to work hard before Lionel Messi's second-half double earned them a 2-1 victory at Levante.


England: FA Cup Semi-final Reports, Analyses, Fallout

Liverpool 2 - 1 Everton
Andy Hunter at Wembley
Duncan White at Wembley
John Brewin at Wembley
Player Ratings

Tottenham 1 - 5 Chelsea
Henry Winter at Wembley
Dominic Fifield at Wembley
Richard Williams at Wembley
David Hytner: Five Talking Points
Hillsborough Anniversary: Chelsea 'embarrassed' as fans ruin minute's silence at Wembley
Player Ratings

Stuart James: Young Has History of Diving

Manchester United's England winger has been throwing himself to the ground since his Aston Villa days to win his team a penalty.

Has Ashley Young finally taken one dive too far?

England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports, Team of the Week

Carlos Tevez got back into the swing of things, quite literally, as Manchester City hit six on the road at Norwich, but Manchester United remain out in front after offering the perfect response in a home date with Aston Villa. Swansea made a welcome return to winning ways against relegation-haunted Blackburn and West Brom broke through the 40-point barrier with a narrow victory over struggling Queens Park Rangers. Elsewhere, on a weekend which saw the Premier League schedule disrupted by the FA Cup semi-finals, Wolves slipped ever closer to the top-flight trapdoor after playing out a stalemate at Sunderland.


Norwich City 1 - 6 Manchester City
Paul Doyle at Carrow Road

Manchester United 4 - 0 Aston Villa
Richard Jolly at Old Trafford
Kevin McCarra at Old Trafford
Mark Ogden at Old Trafford

Team of the Week

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.