Friday, August 31, 2012

The Joy of Six: Memorable Manchester United v Southampton Matches

From the George Best show in 1971 to United's title win at the Dell in 2000, via a 1976 FA Cup final upset.

England: Premier League Previews & Predictions

Liverpool and Arsenal will each be hoping to pick up their first Barclays Premier League win of the season when they meet at Anfield this weekend. In Saturday's late kick-off, champions Manchester City host QPR in a repeat of last season's epic final-day fixture. Manchester United travel to St Mary's to take on promoted Southampton after picking up their first win of the season against Fulham last weekend but will be without Wayne Rooney, who is set to miss up to a month through injury.
Swansea and Everton will be hoping to continue their 100% starts to the new season, as Michael Laudrup's side host Sunderland while the Toffees travel to West Brom. Elsewhere, Tottenham welcome Norwich to White Hart Lane with both sides still searching for their first win. Fulham make the trip across London to face Sam Allardyce's West Ham, while Wigan and Stoke meet at the DW Stadium. On Sunday, Newcastle entertain an Aston Villa side still to register a point.


Lawro's Predictions

Paul Merson's Predictions

10 Things to Watch the Weekend

Weekend Previews: Spain, Italy, Germany

Spain: La Liga

Italy: Serie A

Germany: Bundesliga

Jonathan Wilson: Champions League Draw Baffles and Surprises

There are times when Uefa's seeding system seems significantly flawed and, while a Champions League group that pits Real Madrid against Manchester City, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund promises fun for everybody not directly involved, it does suggest major problems with the whole process. The champions of the three highest ranked sides in the Uefa coefficients surely shouldn't be meeting at this stage. Nothing highlighted the vagaries of the coefficient system quite so much as Dortmund's position in Pot Four. If ever evidence were needed that the Champions League is a tournament that protects the status quo and resists usurpers, this is it. Dortmund have won the past two Bundesliga titles and are on a record unbeaten run. The suggestion that they are anything other than an extremely good side is laughable. And yet, because their titles were preceded by several years in which they made no impression on European competition, they are ranked alongside Nordsjaellend, BATE and CFR.

The Mill + Deadline Day Insanity


Van der Vaart moves to Hamburg
Stoke complete Adam signing
Sinclair completes move to Man City
De Jong leaves Man City for AC Milan
Dempsey turns down move to Aston Villa
Fulham sign Richardson from Sunderland
Liverpool make bid for Sturridge on loan

European Match of the Weekend: Barcelona v Valencia

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has work to do on his defence before the visit of Valencia this weekend after errors from Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano handed Real Madrid the Spanish Super Cup.

UEFA Europa League: The Groups


Young Boys


Atletico Madrid
Hapoel Tel-Aviv
Viktoria Plezn


Borussia Monchengladbach


Club Brugge


FC Copenhagen
Steaua Bucharest


PSV Eindhoven


Sporting Lisbon


Inter Milan
Rubin Kazan
Partizan Belgrade


Athletic Bilbao
Sparta Prague
Hapoel Kiryat Shmona




Bayer Leverkusen
Rapid Vienna



Michael Cox: European Football in Review

The European football season has gotten off to an enthralling start. Going forward, I plan to review the highs and lows across the continent at the end of each month. Here's the first installment. 

UEFA Champions League: The Groups

Thursday, August 30, 2012

UEFA Champions League: The Group Stage Draw is Today

The champions of England, Spain, Italy and Germany could all be drawn in the same Champions League group on Thursday in Monaco.

Thirty-two clubs feature in Thursday's draw in Monaco, which will divide teams into eight groups of four. Teams from the same country cannot be drawn against each other in the group stages, which run from 18/19 September to 4/5 December.

Uli Hesse in Germany

Among many other things, the first matchday of the new Bundesliga season proved that many clubs have bought wisely, not least the two that are expected to slug it out for the league title.

Jim White: Name five famous Belgians? Just look at the Premier League

One of the weariest jokes in British comedy – one dog-eared through overuse – involves the difficulty of naming five famous Belgians. A gag that must always have gone down a bomb in Brussels and Bruges, it ignores the fact that Rubens, Herge, Audrey Hepburn, Rene Magritte and Georges Simenon are names familiar in many a British household. And that’s without even mentioning Plastic Bertrand.

The sneery assumption behind the gag is that Belgium is a sort international adjunct, forever withering in the shadow of its neighbour France, contributing little to international culture beyond chocolate and urinating statuary.

The Mill Insane-a-Thon

Thursday's Rumours


Moussa Dembele on Wednesday signed with Tottenham but further doubt was cast on the future of Rafael van der Vaart as Andre Villas-Boas continued to revamp his squad.

Transfer deadline day: The expert view from across Europe

Berbatov has medical at Fulham

New-look AC Milan taking long road back to the top

Passengers on one of Milan's old orange trams witnessed an odd sight on their commute this summer. As they slowly made their way through via Turati in the centre of the city, those looking out of the window caught a glimpse of a crowd that had gathered outside the office block where AC Milan's headquarters are located. A ceremony was taking place. Prayers were read out, flowers laid and candles lit. The mood was mournful. It was a funeral for the club. Passers-by stopped to read the epitaph that the mourners had left at the entrance. "AC Milan December 16, 1899 — July 22, 2012," it read, "he lacked affection for his loved ones."

Michael Bradley may miss qualifiers

U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley is in doubt for next week's World Cup qualifiers after he strained a muscle in his right thigh.

Spanish Super Copa: Real Madrid Defeat Barcelona

Real Madrid 2 - 1 Barcelona

Richest Bundesliga Move Ever: Javi Martinez Joins Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich signed midfielder Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao in the richest transfer in the 50-year history of the Bundesliga. The 23-year-old Spanish defensive midfielder cost Bayern 40 million euros ($50 million), breaking the previous transfer record set when Mario Gomez joined Bayern from VfB Stuttgart in 2009.

Alecko Eskandarian's Best XI: Underrated Players in Major League Soccer

Here is my list of lunch-pail guys who don't necessarily get the stats or glory, but are vital to their team's success.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Athletic Bilbao’s Wantaway Stars

Barcelona fans are happy with their 100 per cent winning start to the season, more so because Real Madrid fans are bewildered why their side has managed just a draw and two defeats from their first three games. The champions hope that new signing Luca Modric will add an incisive touch and speed of thought absent in their performances so far. Other talking points in Spain concern the dreadful crowds (the derby game between Getafe and Real Madrid was watched by just 8,000), ridiculous kick-off times and high ticket prices, but in Bilbao there's a different agenda — and not only because Athletic have started the season with two heavy losses.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

After just one game of the new campaign, the obituaries are already being written for one top-flight German side in serious decline.

Hamburger begin new Bundesliga season without any relish.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

Milan's ponderous performance exposes the folly of a lack of investment in new recruits and raises fresh doubts over the manager's capacity to get the best out of the players he has.

Milan's painful Serie A defeat piles pressure on Massimiliano Allegri.

Americans Abroad

Another high-profile American likely to be on the move is Oguchi Onyewu, who is far from the given for Sporting Lisbon's first team that he was a season.

After a rough national team showing in May and June, Onyewu is still trying to fight his way back onto Jurgen Klinsmann's radar, but his being left off Sporting Lisbon's teamsheet again on Monday adds credence and rationale to the Portuguese reports linking him to clubs in Spain and France.

That the lumbering center back was sending non-game-related tweets during Sporting Lisbon's match on Monday is a further indication of someone who will not be staying put much longer.

The Rest

Amy Lawrence: Exit Luka Modric but will Tottenham send a big-money message of intent?

The only way for Daniel Levy to combat the scepticism around White Hart Lane is to be audacious and ambitious between now and the closing of the transfer window.

Jeremy Wilson: Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger believes he has plenty in reserve if Theo Walcott leaves

Another day and yet another Arsenal first-team regular edges towards the exit door. The obvious interpretation of news that Theo Walcott’s six-year spell at Arsenal is nearing its end is of another hammer blow to Arsene Wenger’s grand project at the Emirates.

At one level, that is true. Wenger does want to keep Walcott and, following the departures over the past 15 months of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Robin van Persie and Alex Song, Arsenal face being without six of the 10 outfield players who generally started during the 2010-11 season.

Yet, as Wenger has consistently argued, each circumstance is different and should be considered in isolation. And it is clear that the current Walcott situation has far more in common with the losses of Clichy and Song than Van Persie, Nasri and Fabregas. Of the latter trio, Wenger was convinced by their world-class status and genuinely distraught at being forced into a situation where he must sell.
With Walcott – as was the case with Clichy and Song – the position is rather more nuanced. 

The Mill +

Wednesday's Rumours


Paul Wilson: Premier League clubs are signing No10s, but none are English

The Arsenal flyer shows that England can still produce valued wingers but where are all the native No10s?

Theo Walcott's pace is still an asset but No10s have the greatest currency.

Brian Blickenstaff in Germany: Bundes-Blogging, Week 1

Opening days always feel a little uneasy. It doesn't matter whether you're in the United States or Germany, watching football or baseball. I'm not talking about nerves, either. Nerves are obviously part of it: The players look anxious, as do the fans, who have spent the offseason consuming transfer news and carefully calibrating expectations.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Wrap

Braga booked its place in the group stages of the Champions League after coming through a penalty shootout against Udinese Tuesday night. Elsewhere, Anderlecht left it late before wrapping up a 3-2 aggregate victory against Cypriots AEL. Joining them in the lucrative group stages are Dinamo Zagreb, who won 1-0 in Maribor to seal a 3-1 aggregate success.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sid Lowe in Spain

After summer troubles, capped by wantaway Javi Martínez and Fernando Llorente, the new season has brought no respite.

Athletic Bilbao impotent as Marcelo Bielsa's project unravels apace.

Tim Vickery in South America

Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini was frustrated when his striker Sergio Aguero was called up by Argentina for a friendly against Germany two weeks ago.

And he is exasperated to see Aguero's name in his country's squad for the coming World Cup qualifiers.

The trip to Germany came just a few days before City began their defence of the Premier League title. And Aguero's injury means that he has limited chances of being fit in time to play for his country next month. A journey across the Atlantic is quite possibly not an ideal part of the player's recovery. Mancini's position, then, is totally understandable.

But so too is that of Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella.

The Mill +

Tuesday's Rumours


Spain: Malaga's Champions League journey clouded by financial crisis

When Malaga's status rocketed following a takeover from the Qatari royal family, it appeared that the route to the promised land of Champions League football would be a smooth one. But the Andalusians head to Athens for the return leg of their Champions League play-off with Panathinaikos on the back of a journey that has taken a twist or two more than even the most thrill-seeking fan would have hoped for. Financial problems have meant La Liga's biggest spenders of last season have become the only team in Spain not to sign a single player this summer.

Good Looking Kits

There are plenty of good looking kits being showcased across Europe as the 2012-13 season gets underway. counts down the 10 best home kits in Europe this season.

Fergie car ban! United boss puts his foot down on young players

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has banned the club's young stars from driving flashy sports cars from new sponsors Chevrolet. United recently signed a multi-million-pound deal with the American car giant, who will become  the name on the club's shirts from the start of the  2014-15 season. As a gesture of goodwill, Chevrolet immediately offered United's first-team stars a choice of luxury cars and understandably many of the club's big names plumped for iconic Corvettes.

MLS Week 25 Power Rankings: Crew's long search pays off

Columbus' international scouting success, Dane Richards' pending European move and a look at the rest of the happenings from Week 25 of the MLS season:

Tottenham Hotspur in market for £80m worth of talent after Luka Modric's £33m exit to Real Madrid

Tottenham Hotspur have launched bids or inquiries for around £80 million worth of playing talent, with their squad overhaul gathering pace on Monday following Luka Modric’s £33 million departure to Real Madrid.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers gives Raheem Sterling a dressing down in Fox Soccer documentary

Raheem Sterling, so impressive in Liverpool's draw with Manchester City last weekend, was the subject of a dressing down by Brendan Rodgers in a pre-season training session in which the manager threatened to 'send him home on the next plane' if the youngster talked back to him while instructions were being given.

Sterling must have taken Rodgers's tough words to heart, then, as a month ago when the clip was filmed as part of a forthcoming documentary about Liverpool for an American audience the winger appeared to be an emblem for what Rodgers perceived as a lack of application amongst some of his players.

Jonathan Wilson: Football has gone back to the back three, but why can be a mystery

A dozen teams in Europe's top five leagues had three at the back at the weekend, but it's hard to see what Roberto Mancini thinks Manchester City get out of this tactic.

Phil Ball in Spain

And so, after two weeks of La Liga, we have the usual scene. Barcelona and a team from Madrid at the top, only the latter are Rayo Vallecano, the team from the 'hood who have won their two opening games and are threatening to be this season's Levante. Their cult-hero striker Michu is now the darling of Swansea in the Premier League, but Rayo may have found a valid replacement in Leo Baptistao, a young Brazilian who made his debut at Betis on Saturday night and scored the winner.