Friday, May 25, 2012

Spain: Copa del Rey Final Preview

Pep Guardiola aims to end four-year Barcelona reign with one last trophy against Athletic Bilbao
Barcelona can cap four illustrious years under Pep Guardiola with a 14th trophy when it plays Athletic Bilbao in Friday's Copa del Rey final.

Rewind to 2004

One man who has become synonymous with the Roman Abramovich era at Chelsea is Ivorian striker Didier Drogba. Arriving in 2004 for between £24-26 million his powerful presence up front led the club to unprecedented success and although he also found many critics for his theatrical performances under challenges, Drogba ensured his place as one of the greatest foreign players in Premier League history before he decided to leave after winning the 2012 Champions League title.

The Joy of Six: Club vs. Country Friendlies

From Barcelona hosting Brazil to Arsenal taking on France, via England's trip to Aylesbury and the great brawl of China.

Friday MLS Forecast

San Jose and Sporting Kansas City clash in the match of the weekend on Sunday afternoon, plus a glimpse at the rest of the Week 12 fare.

Meet Jack Butland – England's third choice goalkeeper for Euro 2012 who has only played for Cheltenham

An injury to England's third choice goalkeeper, John Ruddy, has seen Roy Hodgson call up a callow replacement in to his European Championship squad. But who is Jack Butland? No, seriously, who is he?

Topless protester attempts to snatch Euro 2012 trophy in Ukraine

Femen says Euro 2012, which will run in Ukraine from June 9 to July 1, will lead to a surge in prostitution in the former Soviet republic and entrench the country as a sex tourist destination in Europe.

"We needed to tear down this trophy to show that this phallic symbol does not need to stand on a pedestal, when our country is being turned into a brothel. UEFA have arranged this with our politicians in order to win back the money that has been put into the Euro 2012" said fellow Femen activist Oleksandra Shevchenko.

Sid Lowe in Spain

The Barcelona manager's final game will be against the man to whom went for advice upon first considering a career as a coach in 2006.

Pep Guardiola comes full circle for a reunion with Marcelo Bielsa.

Europe's top 50 transfer targets for summer 2012 – In pictures

I'll take Skrtel on my team...

A look at the players who will be on the shortlists of all the major clubs across Europe this summer – in no particular order – from Eden Hazard to Carlos Tevez, via Neymar, Gareth Bale, Falcao and more...

Norman Hubbard on Roberto Martinez and Liverpool

Roberto Martinez has been to Boston before. It was February 2004 when the Spaniard visited York Street. But that was Boston, Lincolnshire, not Boston, Massachusetts. Then he played the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw for a Swansea side mid-table in League Two. Now he has been discussing becoming the latest addition to an illustrious list, including Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish: the Liverpool managers. Martinez had seemed set for a summer of change long before the invitation from Fenway Sports Group arrived. After 29 games, only Wolves prevented Wigan from propping up the Premier League. They had 22 points. Oakwell, not Anfield, beckoned next season. Instead, after spending three-quarters of the last two seasons in the relegation zone, a promotion may be on the way.

Wigan's subsequent, startling renaissance may suggest Martinez is the flavour of the month. Had Dalglish been dismissed two months earlier, it is improbable the Spaniard would have figured on the shortlist to succeed him, and yet the timing and manner of Wigan's ascent suggests that, behind the ever-present smile, there is a manager of mettle.

Grant Wahl: Dempsey eyes next challenge after historic season with Fulham

Clint Dempsey leans forward in his seat and tells a story. Back in his hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas, during his days in the second grade, an old, crusty gym teacher named Coach Long staged a kickball game one afternoon between the boys and the girls. Dempsey played hard, just like he always does, but then came an unexpected twist. "Coach Long cheated and let the girls win," Dempsey says, "and I jumped up and tried to punch him." There were consequences, of course: Dempsey said he "got pops" at both the principal's office and at home that night, and he missed an ice cream party. (Coach Long, who presumably wore those tight-fitting BIKE coaches' shorts, also retired after that school year. "Hopefully it wasn't because of me," Dempsey says.) But the point is clear: Deuce does not like to lose. Never has.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Argentina: Racing Club players threatened by gun-toting fans

Armed Racing Club fans stopped a player in the street and threatened to shoot him in the legs if their team failed to win their next game, a team mate who witnessed the incident said. Giovani Moreno and Federico Santander had just pulled out of Racing Club's training ground in their car when another vehicle pulled in front of them and forced them to stop, Santander said. Two men got out and threatened Moreno with a gun. "They told Gio they would shoot him in the legs and would ruin his career," Paraguayan Santander told a radio interview late on Tuesday.

Paolo Bandini in Italy: The Bandinis 2012: An utterly exhaustive review of the Serie A season

From ghost goals to moped escapes, the best games and worst gaffes, it's our end-of-season Italian football awards.

England: Player Ratings for Various Clubs 2011-2012

Uli Hesse in Germany

It's become a heart-warming tradition to open the end-of-season column with what football is all about - goals. Those among you who've been following for a while know very well what's coming now, but let's spare two sentences for the new kids on the block. Once the season has ended in the five major European footballing countries - England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain - I calculate how many goals per game those leagues have produced and compare the numbers.

It's partly just a habit I accidentally picked up and now can't kick, partly a perplexing puzzle, as the result never seems to change: the German Bundesliga has the most goals per 90 minutes of football, the French Ligue 1 the fewest. Yes, for the 22nd year in a row, to be precise: since the 1989-90 season (when England topped this particular chart by the narrowest of margins), the Bundesliga has again outscored the other major leagues. Taking into account how often I have typed a sentence like that over the past ten years, you'd think I expected this result - but no, not this time.

Grant Wahl: Donovan candidly discusses future, retirement in wide-ranging Q&A

It hit me for the first time listening to Landon Donovan on Wednesday: the U.S.'s all-time leading scorer may be closer to the end of his soccer career than any of us thought. Donovan turned 30 in March, and he's back with the national team here for the first time in eight months ahead of the U.S.'s five games between May 26 and June 12. But Donovan is also a player who freely says that after playing in three World Cups, winning four MLS Cup titles and amassing 138 national team caps, his hunger isn't the same anymore. On Wednesday he spoke of wanting to play two more years with club and country "and then sort of reevaluate it from there," as he put it. Donovan doesn't give a lot of interviews these days -- and almost never a one-on-one -- but he did sit down with a group of four U.S. journalists for 30 minutes on Wednesday ahead of Saturday's friendly against Scotland in Jacksonville (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Galavisión). Donovan was thoughtful and candid, too. Here are several nuggets from the interview, edited for length and clarity:

Joey Barton hit with 12-match ban for violent conduct in QPR's 3-2 defeat against Manchester City

Joey Barton will no longer be involved with the Queens Park Rangers first-team after yesterday receiving a 12-match ban from the Football Association.

Paul Hayward: No sensible Premier League manager will take a risk on disgraced Joey Barton

Jonathan Wilson: Juan Román Riquelme and Boca have the final word – just for a change

Oops! Wrong Riquelme...

Juan Román Riquelme never changes. He is the eternal question at the heart of Argentinian football, the solemn-faced representative of a romanticised former age constantly rebuking the present for not being quite as graceful, quite as thoughtful, as he is. He can be frustrating. He can drift around the field like a bored ghost. He is politically manipulative. Martín Palermo admitted his decision to retire last season was in part prompted by the fact that he could not stand occupying the same dressing room as Riquelme any longer. Riquelme's complaints about the pragmatic style Boca Juniors tend towards under Julio César Falcioni almost prompted the coach to quit in February, despite having ended a three-year trophy drought by winning the Apertura three months earlier.

And yet he remains a wonderful footballer capable of turning games in the blink of an eye.

Goalline technology to be tested during England's friendly with Belgium

Goalline technology is to be tested at England's friendly against Belgium at Wembley on 2 June.

The Hawkeye system will be installed at the national stadium for the match, which will be Roy Hodgson's first home game in charge of England.

If there are any close calls, however, only the scientists monitoring the system will know the results – the referee will not be informed.

If the tests are successful, the go-ahead for technology is expected to be given on 2 July.

Europe: Honours List 2011-12

A run-down of all the honours across Europe's top leagues, and qualification for the 2012-13 Champions League and Europa League.

Serie A:
Champions League: Juventus (champions), AC Milan
Champions League final qualifying round: Udinese
Europa League group stage: Napoli (Coppa Italia winners)
Europa League final qualifying round: Lazio
Europa League third qualifying round: Inter Milan
NB: Serie A has lost a Champions League place to the Bundesliga from 2012-13.
Relegated: Lecce, Novara, Cesena
Promoted to top flight: Torino, US Pescara. Plus one from Sassuolo, Hellas Verona, Varese and Sampdoria via play-offs. One match remaining in regular season.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Chelsea won the Champions League.  We'll be back on Thursday.