Friday, September 21, 2012

The Incredible Tim Howard

It's hard not to love Tim Howard. On the field, the New Jersey-born goalkeeper is a tightly wound bundle of athletic intensity. Off it, he conveys the nobility and earnestness of a throwback gentleman-athlete. 

In his seventh season at Goodison Park, Howard talks about Everton in a way others might characterize Howard himself, "This is such a hardworking, no-nonsense team, as blue-collar as it comes," he explains with a quiet pride. "Everyone respects us. Supporters of other clubs always tell me they cheer for Everton when their team is not playing."

England: Premier League Weekend Previews, Predictions, Etc.

With European competition having returned in midweek, Sunday takes full focus for the Premier League's heavyweights as Liverpool's meeting with Manchester United comes under the greatest scrutiny. The second day of the weekend also sees matches between defending champions Manchester City and Arsenal, Newcastle United and Norwich City, and Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers. Chelsea do not have as long to rest as they host Stoke City on Saturday, while Southampton welcome Aston Villa, Everton travel to Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion take on Reading, West Ham United and Sunderland meet and Fulham travel to Wigan.


Paul Merson's Predictions

Lawro's Predictions

Ten Weekend Questions

Ten Things To Look Out For This Weekend

Weekend Previews: Spain, Italy, Germany

Spain: La Liga

Italy: Serie A

Germany: Bundesliga

Europa League Wrap

Liverpool kicked their Europa League campaign off with a thrilling 5-3 win over Young Boys in Switzerland on Thursday. Tottenham and Newcastle United were held to 0-0 stalemates by Lazio and Maritimo respectively while Chilean Eduardo Vargas scored a hat-trick as Serie A outfit Napoli trounced AIK 4-0. Yuto Nagatomo scored an injury time equaliser for Inter Milan as they drew 2-2 with Rubin Kazan while Joey Barton made his Marseille debut – his suspension does not apply to European fixtures – in another 2-2 draw against Fenerbahce of Turkey.

Jeff Carlisle: Julian de Guzman a DP bust? Not anymore

The tag of Designated Player bust usually sticks to a player like superglue. Once the early poor performances are turned in, it doesn't matter whether it's Denilson, Lothar Matthaus or Nery Castillo, there is little to stop the ensuing downward spiral. That is, unless the player in question is FC Dallas midfielder Julian de Guzman. 

When Football Tattoos Go Wrong

Lukas Podolski is so enamoured with his new home at the Emirates that he is already talking about getting the club's crest as a tattoo to go along with a similar ink he has of boyhood team Cologne. However, the German internatuional should be warned, football fans and tattoos don't always make for happy endings.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast assesses D.C. United's gritty 1-0 win at Philadelphia and scans the competitive and important weekend scene.

Racist taunts sour Tottenham's Europa League draw against Lazio

Three of Tottenham Hotspur's black players were subjected to racist abuse from a section of the travelling Lazio support during the 0-0 Europa League draw between the clubs at White Hart Lane on Thursday night.

In front of the Uefa president, Michel Platini, Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and the substitute Andros Townsend were the targets of monkey chants when they ventured in front of the enclosure containing 1,500 Lazio fans.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Six things to watch out for in the Europa League this week

Expect to see Brendan Rodgers putting faith in young Liverpool players, a revived Internazionale side and hot competition between Tottenham and Lazio.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is thinking of buying a five-star hotel in Paris

When a superstar player arrives in a new city, a pristine suburban McMansion is often thrown into the transfer deal. Since arriving in Paris in July, however, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been living the Alan Partridge dream by taking up residence in a hotel. The Swedish striker's temporary residence is Le Bristol, a preeminent five-star luxury hotel around 200 meters from the Champs-Élysées that has a history spanning three centuries. A night's stay will typically cost no less €730, and PSG's box office signing currently drops €3,000 a day to stay in his suite.

The Secret Footballer: Playing abroad? Welcome to the new culture club

There is a theory that playing abroad will open your eyes to the more technical side of the beautiful game. While this may be true, it can also cause major disruption and stress on your family life.

As anyone who’s embarked on any form of travelling/excuse not to do proper work (I know … I’m a footballer, oh the irony), mixing with people from different cultures and religions can be a real eye opener. Modern football has given many young people a worldly outlook on life despite spending little time abroad themselves.

Most, if not all, British clubs are now sensitive to the cultural differences within their squads and the needs that arise for those players with different beliefs to our own, whatever they are. But I only really appreciated what some of our finest imports experience when they are plying their trade in foreign climes when I found myself playing abroad.

Is the Europa League really all that bad?

Liverpool celebrate in 2001

‘Thursday nights, Channel Five.’ The catchy terrace rendition of The Piranhas’ Tom Hark record reached its peak last season when Manchester City and Manchester United were dumped into the Europa League – it sums up England’s attitude towards the competition. For rival supporters of Tottenham, the song has already started doing the rounds this term due to their unfortunate demotion from a Champions League spot. This also details how many actually pay attention to the Europa League as Channel Five no longer cover the tournament. But, in a refreshing manner, Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has defended the Europa League, claiming it is a prestigious title to win as his side prepare for their opening group stage clash with Lazio. It’s certainly not an easy trophy to bring back to British shores as only Liverpool, in 2001, have achieved that in the past 28 years – so why has such a neglected competition been so hard to win?

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Wrap, Briefs, Reports, Talking Points

Chelsea found a new Champions League hero as Brazilian Oscar scored twice for the holders in a 2-2 draw against Juventus and Barcelona had yet another command performance from Lionel Messi to thank for a 3-2 win over Spartak Moscow on Wednesday. Bayern Munich banished some demons in their first European fixture since their bitter final defeat by Chelsea in May with victory over Valencia and Manchester United, with plenty to prove after last season's woes, also began with three points.

Manchester United 1 - 0 Galatasaray

Chelsea 2 - 2 Juventus
Amy Lawrence: Oscar steals the show

Barcelona 3 - 2 Spartak Moscow

Zac Lee Rigg: Riquelme going out in his own style - baffling and beautiful

Riquelme's future is uncertain after a perplexing press conference leaving the only certainty the pure languid beauty of his game.

The 34-year-old claimed that he was "empty" and would leave Boca Juniors, where he started his career. Boca suspended his contract last week, making him a free agent. On Friday, Riquelme called a press conference to clarify his future. Kind of.

"I feel I play better than before," he said. "So if you have a team, just let me know and we'll kick a ball about."

USA vs. Australia: Abby Wambach Goal - Sept. 19, 2012

Why are so many Colombians keen to play in MLS?

Portland Timbers are just one MLS club mining a rich seam of talent in Colombia – where clubs often need to offload players.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Previews

The UEFA Champions League is here once again with 32 teams all out to prove that they are indeed the best football team on the continent.

Half of the teams have already played their opening match, leaving us with eight enthralling matchups to enjoy on Wednesday—and we've got a complete preview of each one.

Will Manchester United struggle in the opening group match? Will Juventus be too strong for defending champions Chelsea? Will there be an upset nobody saw coming?

Let's take a look at the eight Wednesday matches we'll see.

Chelsea vs. Juventus
Preview II
Michael Cox: Tactics

Manchester United vs. Galatasaray
Preview II

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Wrap, Briefs, and Reports

Real Madrid fashioned a stunning comeback to beat Manchester City 3-2 in a classic Champions League match with a last-gasp Cristiano Ronaldo strike in their Group D opener on Tuesday.

There were also wins for Paris St Germain, who beat Dynamo Kiev 4-1 on their return to the competition after eight years, newcomers Malaga, who beat Zenit St Petersburg 3-0 and former Champions League holders Porto who won 2-0 at Dinamo Zagreb.

In a clash of ex-European title winners Borussia Dortmund beat Ajax Amsterdam 1-0 while seven-times European champions AC Milan were booed off after a 0-0 home draw against Anderlecht.

Arsenal rode their luck to beat French champions Montpellier 2-1 away after conceding an early penalty.


Ben Lyttleton: Highlights From Opening Night

Real Madrid 3 - 2 Manchester City
Henry Winter at Estadio Bernabéu
Richard Williams at Estadio Bernabéu
Jamie Jackson at Estadio Bernabéu
Jonathan Wilson: Real Madrid flawed but talented enough to hold off Manchester City
Richard Williams: Mancini chose the wrong target for his anger in Joe Hart
Michael Cox: Tactics
Spanish Press Reaction

Montpellier 1 - 2 Arsenal
David Hytner at Stade de la Mosson
Jason Burt at Stade de la Mosson

Not So Forgotten Story: Manchester United v Galatasaray, 1993

Few had expected much from Galatasaray in the European Cup, but United were out of their depth on the pitch amid terrifying hostility and harassment off it.

During that trip to Istanbul 19 years ago, Ferguson said United were "exposed … to as much hostility and harassment as I have ever known on a football expedition". In his autobiography, Gary Pallister went further. "It was a terrifying business which had nothing to do with sport, and can be categorised objectively as an absolute disgrace." A number of United players were assaulted by police; Steve Bruce was almost maimed by a flying brick; and 164 United fans were thrown in the cells without food or drink and then deported for the crime of breathing in oxygen. But, as Rob Hughes wrote in the Times, this was all a "violent smokescreen to a more horrid truth" – that United, and English football, were out of their depth in the European Cup.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sid Lowe in Spain

Piotr Trochowski's first-minute goal gets the job done and leaves José Mourinho's side eight points behind Barça in La Liga.

Sevilla bring back the good times as they cut through Real Madrid.

Ten things to look out for in the Champions League this week

How will the new PSG fare? | Is this the year for Arsenal? | Italian clubs could be in for a tough time.

Phil McNulty: Can a British Club Win the Champions League?

The Uefa Champions League's power to surprise was illustrated perfectly by the hazards Chelsea negotiated to claim the prize owner Roman Abramovich craved most last season.

On the brink against Napoli, Abramovich sacked Andre Villas-Boas and handed the levers to his right-hand man Roberto Di Matteo to take control of an unlikely journey to success.

Survival against Napoli and victory against Benfica acted only as the starter for the main courses of victory over holders and overwhelming favourites Barcelona - achieved largely without the ball - and ultimate triumph on penalties against Bayern Munich in their own Allianz Arena.

As the journey starts again for holders Chelsea this week, Premier League champions Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Scottish champions Celtic will be aiming to go as far as they can.

Here's my assessment of their chances...

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Previews

The 2012-13 UEFA Champions League group stage gets underway on Tuesday evening, with Arsenal and Manchester City both in action in their respective pools. It's been four months since Chelsea ended an agonising wait for European glory in Munich, and this time around the English sides have the chance to claim victory on home soil, with Wembley the stage where the prize will be decided next May. The Gunners and Premier League champions City will both get things started on the road on Tuesday as they bid to emulate the Blues' success from last season.

Alan Smith: Real Madrid v Manchester City: Areas where the Champions League opener can be won and lost

Graham Hunter: Real Madrid, in mini-crisis, face champs of England

José Mourinho v Roberto Mancini: This one is personal

Mourinho and Mancini renew acquaintances

Real Madrid vs. Manchester City: Preview
Montpellier vs. Arsenal: Preview

Americans Abroad: Altidore back in the saddle

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Late drama at the AWD Arena, Henry Kissinger comes home and is there a hidden agenda at declining Hoffenheim?

Hannover's injury-time win over Werder diminished by shirty official.

England: Monday Night Football Report + EPL Table

Everton 2 - 2 Newcastle

2Manchester United430110559
4Manchester City42209638
5Swansea City421110467
6West Bromwich Albion42116427
8West Ham United42114317
10Tottenham Hotspur41216515
11Newcastle United412156-15
12Stoke City40404404
13Aston Villa411245-14
14Wigan Athletic411248-44
16Norwich City403127-53
18Queens Park Rangers402229-72

MLS Power Rankings

Four MLS contenders enter a busy week with some decisions to make, and the overall quality rises as the playoff chase heats up following MLS' Week 28.

Team of the Week

Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid (D.C. United)

Defenders: David Horst (Portland Timbers), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas)

Midfielders: Marcelo Sarvas (Los Angeles Galaxy), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Julian de Guzman (FC Dallas), Alvaro Fernandez (Chicago Fire)

Forwards: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Eric Hassli (Toronto FC)

Richard Williams: Real Madrid malaise goes deeper than Cristiano Ronaldo's unhappiness

After criticising the commitment of his players, José Mourinho finds himself in uncharted territory at the Bernabéu.

Eduardo Alvarez in Spain

Two seasons ago, on one of the random and always fun occasions on which Phil Ball and I swap columns, I decided to watch a game at the Vicente Calderon pretending that I was an Atletico Madrid supporter, against my mother's wise advice.

The puzzling results of the experiment - every person I spoke to recognised me as a Madridista as soon as I opened my mouth - led me to run a second, less daring but almost as enjoyable, undercover operation last season.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

The Rossoneri's defeat to Atalanta means they have lost their first two home games, and sees the pressure grow on Max Allegri.

Milan's lack of imagination sees them break unwanted 80-year record.

Gabriele Marcotti: Monday Musings

Football Weekly: Arsenal in form as the Champions League returns

AC Jimbo's got Michael Cox, James Horncastle and Jacob Steinberg in the pod for this edition of Football Weekly, and it's a humdinger all right.

We start by riffing on the action from the Premier League, which saw Arsenal hit sorry Southampton for six and Tottenham register their first victory under AVB.

Next we hear from Sid Lowe as we turn our attention to the Champions League and Manchester City's trip to crisis-laden Real Madrid, before discussing Manchester United's match against Galatasary and Chelsea's tricky fixture against Juventus.

Finally, we give a bit of love to the Europa League, which sees the aforementioned Spurs take on Lazio, and Liverpool travel to Bern in Switzerland to face Young Boys.

Monday, September 17, 2012

England: Monday Night Football Previews

Who: Everton vs. Newcastle
When: 3pm EDT
Where: Goodison Park, Liverpool

Real Madrid v Manchester City: Player-by-player who has the best first XI on paper?

Roberto Mancini claims that Manchester City aren't facing Real Madrid on an even footing when the sides meet due to the Spanish club's history of success in Europe. But player-for-player, do the English Champions actually have a better starting XI?

England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports, Talking Points

Manchester United and Arsenal cruised, while Manchester City and Chelsea were held to draws. Aston Villa secured their first league win of the season, defeating Swansea 2-0 at home. Liverpool moved out of the relegation zone as a Luis Suarez strike secured them a point at Sunderland. Elsewhere, Dimitar Berbatov marked his first start and home debut for Fulham with two first-half goals, one from the penalty spot, to put them firmly in the driving seat in their home game against West Brom.

Manchester United 4 - 0 Wigan 

Stoke City 1 - 1 Manchester City

Queens Park Rangers 0 - 0 Chelsea

Arsenal 6 - 1 Southampton

Sunderland 1 - 1 Liverpool

Reading 1 - 3 Tottenham

Weekend Reviews for Spain, Italy, Germany

La Liga
Barcelona continued their 100% start to the season with a 4-1 win over Getafe, while Real Madrid suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at Sevilla thanks to Piotr Trochowski's second-minute strike.  Atletico Madrid almost threw away a four-goal lead against Rayo Vallecano but held on to edge a thrilling encounter 4-3.

Serie A
Juventus came from behind to extend their perfect start to the season with a comfortable 3-1 win at Genoa - but Napoli, Lazio and Sampdoria remain on the pace with the champions after victories. The curse of the San Siro continued for AC Milan as they lost 1-0 to Atalanta, having also been beaten by the same scoreline by Sampdoria in their previous home game. Inter Milan picked up their second away win of the season thanks to a 2-0 victory at Torino.

Oh, they're so happy!!

Champions Borussia Dortmund were 3-0 victors over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday to extend their unbeaten record to 31 matches and move up to third in the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich maintained their perfect start to the season with a convincing 3-1 victory over Mainz at the Allianz Arena. Szabolcs Huszti scored his second goal of the game and was sent off for over-celebrating two minutes into stoppage-time as 10-man Hannover clinched a thrilling 3-2 victory at home over Werder Bremen.

World Cup 2014: Fifa and Ronaldo unveil Armadillo as mascot of Brazilian edition of tournament

Spain had Naranjito the smiling orange in 1982, France Footix the football playing rooster in '98, now Brazil have chosen an endangered armadillo as the mascot for the 2014 World Cup.