Friday, October 05, 2012

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

It promises to be another pulsating weekend in the Premier League as the action kicks off with Manchester City at home to Sunderland and concludes with Manchester United's trip to Newcastle. The early weeks of the season have ben gripping and it is Chelsea who lead from Everton ahead of the latest round of matches, while at the bottom there are three teams still waiting for a first victory.

Man City v Sunderland
Chelsea v Norwich
Swansea v Reading
West Brom v QPR
Wigan v Everton

West Ham v Arsenal

Southampton v Fulham
Liverpool v Stoke
Tottenham v Aston Villa
Newcastle v Man Utd

Milan v Internazionale and Marseille v PSG serve up a real Super Sunday

It is not often that El Clásico has to fight for its status as the most glamorous fixture in Europe, but then this is no ordinary weekend on the continent because battling Barcelona and Real Madrid for top billing on Sunday are the Milan derby and a huge match at the top of Ligue 1 between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain. There have been worse support acts, although because all three matches overlap each other there is one dilemma: trying to find the time to watch them.

Everywhere you look, there are intriguing subplots, whether it be the clash of old and new money in France, or how the Milanese sides will cope against each other on a wretched San Siro pitch, where both have suffered this season.

El Clasico vs. Milan Derby: Which Is Better and Why?

If you're a fan of derby football—and who isn't—this weekend is going to be a good one.

Real Madrid visits Camp Nou to take on La Liga leaders Barcelona Sunday at 1:50 ET. Los Blancos are wallowing away in sixth place in the table, a whopping eights points behind their rivals.

Happy 50th. They're both pretty good...

Meanwhile, AC Milan will have the home-field as they take on Intern Milan Sunday at the San Siro at 2:45 ET. Milan has started the season miserably with just seven points from six games, while Inter is right in the mix early up in third place with 12 points.

It's the biggest match of the year for each team, but which matchup is bigger? This year and in many recent ones, it's no question El Clasico trumps the Milan Derby. But what about historically?

Weekend Previews for Spain, Italy, Germany

After a sluggish start to the season Real Madrid look to be clicking into gear as they head to arch rivals Barcelona hoping to reduce the gap.

AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani believes the Rossoneri have more than just statistics in their favour as the first Milan derby of the Serie A season looms.

One of my favorite photos...
Bayern Munich hope they will have something to celebrate when they pay their annual visit to the city's Oktoberfest after hosting Hoffenheim on Saturday.

Ashley Cole: FA are a 'bunch of t***s'

Chelsea defender Ashley Cole has labelled the Football Association a "bunch of t***s" after his evidence was called into question in the written reasons for John Terry's punishment for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.

Red Bulls have 3 of 4 highest-paid MLS players

The MLS Players Union released updated salaries on Thursday, with former Everton midfielder Cahill joining ex-Arsenal striker Thierry Henry ($5.6 million total compensation) and Rafa Marquez ($4.6 million) on the high-spending Red Bulls, who replaced general manager Erik Soler with Jerome de Bontin on Tuesday.

UEFA Europa League: Thursday's Review & Reports

Italian teams Inter Milan and Lazio earned their first group-stage victories in the Europa League on Thursday, but Athletic Bilbao was soundly defeated by Sparta Prague to continue last season's runner-ups poor start to the campaign. In other results, France forward Loic Remy scored twice in Group C leader Marseille's 5-1 thrashing of AEL Limassol, fellow French club Bordeaux was sunk 3-0 at Newcastle and Hannover beat Levante 2-1 despite playing with 10 men for 80 minutes. In another surprising result, unheralded Hungarian side Videoton swept past Sporting Lisbon 3-0 in Group G.


Newcastle 3 - 0 Bordeaux
Louise Taylor at the Stadium of Light

Panathinaikos 1 - 1 Tottenham

Liverpool 2 - 3 Udinese
Andy Hunter at Anfield

Uefa urge clubs to talk up 'prestigious' and 'dramatic' Europa League in attempt to enhance competition's image

Uefa have taken steps to improve the image of the Europa League, urging club officials to refer to the competition in glowing terms, a move which Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas adhered to on Thursday night.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast contemplates yet another personnel change in New York and scans the weekend fixture list.

Real Madrid v Barcelona – what's it like to play in el Clásico?

Steve McManaman remembers what life was like when nothing mattered more than beating Barcelona.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

UEFA Europa League: Thursday's Previews

Neftci FC: Champions of Azerbaijan 
Liverpool will look to continue their impressive run of form when they host Udinese in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday. Other marquee fixtures of matchday two see Inter Milan travel to Azerbaijan to face Neftci in Baku in Group H.PSV thumped VVV Venlo 6-0 on Sunday, giving them a confidence boost ahead of a tricky home tie against Napoli in Group F. Newcastle United host Bordeaux in Group D, Tottenham travel to Greece to face Panathinaikos in Group J and Marseille welcome the visit of AEL in Group C.


Liverpool welcome Udinese, masters of talent production

Newcastle vs. Bordeaux: Preview

Real Madrid's Luka Modric: From Balkan warzone to the Bernabéu

Former Tottenham playmaker has had a shaky start in Spain, but the trials are nothing compared to those in his early life.

Football Weekly Extra: Hart-break for Dortmund and relief for City

AC Jimbo returns to the helm, accompanied by Jonathan Wilson, Gregg Bakowski and CNN's Pedro Pinto.

Pedro tells us about his afternoon with José Mourinho this week, we hear from Sid Lowe in Spain, and Raphael Honigstein is also on the line to talk about Borussia Dortmund's performance at the Etihad.

Jonathan also tells an epic naval story and reveals his ignorance of Snoop Dogg, as well as the panel discussing etymology and Pedro's adoration of Carlton Cole.

Grant Wahl: Inside Barcelona: Xavi's passion, ambition evident on field, in person

Xavi Hernández Creus -- or, as most of us call him, Xavi -- is a lot of things: the creative hub of Barcelona's otherworldly passing attack; a self-described "football romantic" who's convinced Barça is fighting for the soul of the sport; and, not least, a serial champion, the winner of one World Cup and two European crowns with Spain to go along with three Champions League and six Spanish league titles with Barcelona.

But the 32-year-old Xavi is something else, too, which I learned during a lengthy sit-down conversation at Barcelona's training headquarters in Sant Joan Despí. He's one of the top five athlete interviews I've had in 16 years at Sports Illustrated. Maybe it's because Xavi is at a stage in his career when his accomplishments give him the security to be candid and speak his mind. Or maybe he just has the gift, rare among elite athletes, to find the right words to describe his artistry and the world around him.

UEFA Champions League: Team of the Week & Ten Things We Learned

Formation: 3-4-3

Joe Hart (Manchester City)
David Luiz (Chelsea)
Leandro Salino (Sporting Braga) 
Jores Okore (FC Nordsjælland)
Eliseu (Málaga CF) 
Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev) 
Jonas - (Valencia CF)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) 
Gary Hooper (Celtic)
Robin van Persie (Manchester United) 
Vitali Rodionov (BATE Borisov) 

9) Some of the finishing this season has been ridiculous

As Jeff Stelling pointed out, there have been 93 goals so far in the Champions League this season, the highest total in 10 years. It's easy to see why. While the group stages can often be stodgy, some of the finishing this year has been a delight to watch. On Wednesday night we were treated to three chipped finishes (in ascending order of cheek: Aaron Ramsey, Cristiano Ronaldo and Eliseu); a curling, raking shot across the keeper (Porto's James Rodríguez) and an amazing bicycle kick (Karim Benzema). Roll on the highlights shows. 

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Action

Borussia Dortmund supporters make their way to the Etihad Stadium
Manchester City salvaged a draw at home to Borussia Dortmund while Cristiano Ronaldo put Anderlecht to the sword and Arsenal won on Wednesday night in the Champions League. Milan saw Zenit recover from two goals down before completing a 3-2 away win over the Russian champions in their Group C match. James Rodriguez scored a sumptuous 83rd-minute winner as Porto moved to the top of Group A with a 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain. Souleymane Camara grabbed a late equaliser as 10-man Montpellier salvaged a point in their 2-2 draw with Schalke.

Manchester City 1 - 1 Borussia Dortmund
Henry Winter at the Etihad Stadium: The scoreline is an impostor, a mask of many Manchester City blemishes on Wednesday night. Mario Balotelli, a model of composure with a late penalty, rescued a point for the champions of England but it was a miracle that they were still in contention then anyway. Only a series of saves from the brilliant Joe Hart had prevented the champions of Germany from disappearing over the horizon.
Stuart James at the Etihad Stadium
Mark Ogden at the Etihad Stadium

Arsenal 3 - 1 Olympiakos
Sam Wallace at the Emirates Stadium
Kevin McCarra at the Emirates Stadium
John Brewin at the Emirates Stadium
Jeremy Wilson at the Emirates Stadium

Ajax 1 - 4 Real Madrid
Nicholas Rigg: Kaka back to his best at Ajax

Zenit St Petersburg 2-3 AC Milan

Charlie Davies reaches settlement in civil suit

American soccer player Charlie Davies reached a settlement with businesses that served alcohol to the woman responsible for an auto accident in which he suffered severe injuries three years ago.

Davies, 26, had filed a $20 million lawsuit last year against the owners of Shadow Room, a Washington nightclub, and Red Bull North America, which hosted a private party at the K Street establishment on the night of the crash.

A confidentiality agreement prevents the sides from discussing terms of the deal.

Top 20 Best Goalkeepers in the World: In Pictures

England manager Roy Hodgson apologises over Rio Ferdinand selection gaffe on London Underground

Hodgson was travelling to the Emirates to watch Arsenal play Olympiakos on Wednesday when he fell into conversation with some supporters. "I am disappointed that a stray conversation has been reported in that way," said Hodgson. "All I remember was that I was talking to quite a lot of people on the Tube and one guy said 'is Rio in the next squad?' and I think I might have said 'I don't think so'. It's a mistake and I need to apologise for that. "This is one of the hazards I suppose of travelling on Tube trains when you go up to London which is the best way for me to travel and then speaking to people who ask me questions rather than sitting there tight-lipped refusing to ever open my mouth. I've paid for it. I shall learn in future and maybe this will be a lesson for all the people who see me on the Tube in future: please don't be too offended if I refuse to answer any questions you ask me."

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Previews

Arsenal and Manchester City are both in action at home on an intriguing night of UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday. Arsenal are looking to build on the three points they picked up in Montpellier when they host Greek side Olympiakos at the Emirates Stadium.  The other Group B clash sees Schalke, who are level with the Gunners on three points at the top of the standings, travel to Montpellier. But the English team with the toughest assignment is surely Manchester City as they take on Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad Stadium.  In the other match in that group, nine-time champions Real Madrid take on four-time winners Ajax at the Amsterdam Arena. Elsewhere in Europe, AC Milan look to shrug off their disappointing start to the campaign by enjoying success in the early kick off at Zenit St Petersburg.


Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund plot success in Europe at Manchester City's expense
Raphael Honigstein: Why Lewandowski is key

Arsenal vs. Olympiakos
Preview II

Guillem Balague: The Big Showdown

Real Madrid travel to top-of-the-table Barcelona on Sunday for the first El Clasico in the league this season.

Jose Mourinho's side trail their arch rivals by eight points after six games and know a result at the Nou Camp is vital to the aspirations of retaining their La Liga title.

Here Sky Sports expert Guillem Balague assesses how the two teams are shaping up ahead of this weekend's mouth-watering encounter...

Paul Wilson: Manchester United must beat Newcastle to maintain invincible myth

St James' Park is a tricky fixture but Manchester United's mask is slipping and they desperately need to win there on Sunday.

UEFA Champions League: Looking Back at Tuesday's Action

Belarussian side BATE Borisov caused one of the biggest shocks ever seen in the Champions League when they stunned last season's beaten finalists Bayern Munich 3-1 on Tuesday. The other likely title contenders all won with European champions Chelsea easily beating FC Nordsjaelland 4-0 away while Barcelona saw off Benfica 2-0 in Lisbon but lost Carles Puyol with a dislocated elbow before Sergio Busquets was sent off. Like Barca and BATE, Manchester United maintained their perfect start with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over CFR Cluj in Romania. The game between Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk finished 1-1 in Turin. There were wins for Valencia, who beat Lille 2-0 while Celtic ended a run of 20 Champions League away matches without a win after a last-minute 3-2 triumph at Spartak Moscow. Braga, in contrast, maintained their fine European record on the road, winning 2-0 at Galatasaray.

CFR Cluj 1 - 2 Manchester United
Mark Ogden in Cluj
Jamie Jackson in Cluj
Martin Rogers: Van Persie has found a home at United

FC Nordsjaelland 0 - 3 Chelsea
Jeremy Wilson in Copenhagen
Dominic Fifield in Copenhagen

BATE Borisov 3 - 1 Bayern Munich
Belarus Soccer Champion Becomes a Serious Contender

Benfica 0 - 2 Barcelona
A Costly Victory in Lisbon

Highlights and Lowlights

Americans Abroad (A More Comprehensive List)

Primera Division
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Malaga - In the 18, did not play in Malaga's 4-0 victory over Real Betis on Saturday.
SEASON: 0 games

Segunda Division
Carlos Bocanegra, D, Racing Santander - Started, played 90 minutes in Racing Santander's 1-1 draw with Numancia on Saturday.
SEASON: 9 games, 9 starts (7 games, 7 starts with Rangers)

Jonathan Wilson: Inconsistent Arsenal still lacks 'moral courage' despite changes

Some things never change. All season the question has been whether Arsenal had, at last, found the defensive resolve to make it a genuine threat for honors. A 2-1 loss to Chelsea on Saturday provided the answer; the same old flaws, the same old weaknesses persist. It can seem, at the highest level, as though soccer is primarily about control of midfield: dominate there, and the chances will come. But that is assuming all else is equal, and for Arsenal it rarely is. Beyond all tactics, beyond all technical ability, beyond motivation and passion, there is a quality of being able to win, of gamecraft. It's hard to define: a toughness, a ruthlessness, a canniness; Brian Clough called it "moral courage." It's a quality that means you take chances when they matter most, that means you don't concede soft goals, that means you stand strong in the face of pressure, that you kill games when you need to. It's the thing that makes you win even games, or games in which the opponent has the edge. Arsenal doesn't have it, and they probably haven't had it since Patrick Vieira left the club in 2005.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Previews

Chelsea, Manchester United and Celtic all face away games in the UEFA Champions League on what promises to be another thrilling night of European action. Barcelona were given a fright by Spartak and will be keen to put on more of a show in Portugal against Benfica, who held Celtic to a goalless draw in their opening fixture.

FC Nordsjaelland vs. Chelsea

BATE Borisov vs. Bayern Munich 

CFR Cluj-Napoca vs. Manchester United

Benfica vs. Barcelona

Sid Lowe in Spain

Barça struck a psychological blow ahead of El Clásico in a breathless match containing five goals, a controversial red card and a 94th-minute winner from super-sub David Villa.

Barcelona seal 'comeback of champions' as Sevilla scream blue murder.

England: Monday's EPL Match Report

Queens Park Rangers 1 - 2 West Ham

Tim Vickery in South America

Veteran Colombian midfielder Gerardo Bedoya came up with something special for his record-breaking 41st sending off.

Playing for Santa Fe in the big Bogota derby against Millonarios, first, in full view of the referee, he flattened Jhonny Ramirez with an elbow.

The red card had been already brandished, but Bedoya was not finished. Before taking his leave, to his own subsequent mortification, he stuck a boot into the face of his prone opponent.

Some of the predecessors of Ramirez in the blue shirt of Millonarios are feeling similarly violated. Last week Felipe Gaitan, the club's new president, floated the idea of giving up the league titles won by Millonarios in 1987 and 88, the last two championship wins in their history. It has provoked a furious reaction from the coach and some of the players of that team. Elsewhere, though, the idea has met with a positive response, since the motives behind it are clearly noble.

Spain: La Liga Xtra

Jon Driscoll and Terry Gibson discuss Real Madrid's return to form ahead of Sunday's Clasico.

Jamie Jackson: NBA may have the answer for those diving into the debate on simulation

In the blue corner stands Manchester City's Sergio Agüero who believes overseas players get a rough ride from officials when fouled.

In the red corner is the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who is clear that foreign footballers are the biggest culprits when it comes to diving.

Thespianism on the football field is hardly a new problem and is not confined to the national game. What Fifa calls "simulation" is known across the pond in America's NBA as "flopping" or "acting".

The joke currently running in the multi-billion dollar basketball league is that NBA champions should not receive a winners' ring but an Oscar for their theatrics.

This does not come from disgruntled fans or the media but from the top. During the 2012 playoffs David Stern, the NBA commissioner, said: "I think it's time to look at [flopping] in a more serious way because it's only designed to fool the referee. It's not a legitimate play in my judgment. I recognise if there's contact [you] move a little bit, but some of this is acting. We should give out Oscars rather than MVP trophies."

Paolo Bandini in Italy

There was only one winner in the latest battle between Zdenek Zeman and Juventus. And it wasn't the Roma manager.

Zeman's football falls flat as Juventus meet questions of substance with style.

Americans Abroad: Altidore’s run continues

Jozy Altidore’s dream season continued last week as he scored two goals for AZ Alkmaar. First, on Thursday, Altidore converted a late penalty kick to help AZ to a 4-1 Dutch Cup victory over SC Veendam. The U.S. international’s strike beat the keeper as he placed it in the top left corner of the net.

On Sunday, Altidore scored AZ’s second goal as the club played a wild game against RKC Waalwijk. The goal itself was splendid as Altidore outmaneuvered several defenders before slotting one past the keeper. The final score was 3-3 and despite Alkmaar’s mid-table position, Altidore has been a revelation thus far. His eight Eredivisie goals are a league best and his nine goals in all competitions put him on pace for a spectacular season.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Foreign players only have themselves to blame if referees think they are diving (except Nani)

Wayne Rooney is booked following a dive against Villa...
Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested foreign players only have themselves to blame if they are not treated fairly by Premier League referees.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Hoffenheim's match with Augsburg went ahead despite their midfielder's induced coma, but the atmosphere at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena was too fraught to produce a match of note.

Emotions run high as Hoffenheim play on for Boris Vukcevic.

Football Weekly: Arsenal and United stutter, Sid strafes with stats

Max Rushden and guests review the weekend's football action in the Premier League and Europe.

The final show of Max Rushden's brief, but highly enjoyable, tenure ends with another pod worthy of the good ship Football Weekly.

Max is joined in the studio by Barry Glendenning, Paolo Bandini and Jacob Steinberg to discuss Barry's culinary preferences, radioactive mice, and all the weekend's big football news.

Meanwhile there's a call to arms for referees to strike, and Sid Lowe discusses a perfect weekend for Real and Barcelona.

Please leave your thoughts and tributes to Max below the line. James Richardson returns on Thursday to discuss the midweek Champions League action.

Phil Ball in Spain

Superliga Feminina
It was a Royal Society weekend. I saw three live games, each one involving Real Sociedad. I watched their Juvenil Nacional side lose 2-1 to Antiguoko in a game of such quality that you felt that the future was assured. Two hours later I was taking my seat for the Basque derby in Anoeta between Real and Athletic (2-0), and the next day I watched the Superliga Feminina match between Real and Atletico Madrid (0-1). You'll excuse the local indulgence this week, but there were several conclusions to be drawn.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Weekend Action

Let's begin in Spain. Ronaldo scored three to lead Real Madrid to victory yesterday. Barcelona had to come back to defeat Sevilla 3-2 on Saturday. Cesc helped with a goal and this fine piece of acting. The two sides clash this coming Sunday in Barcelona. 

Over in Holland Yank Abroad Jozy Altidore scored again to help Alkmaar get a draw. Jozy is now the leading scorer in the top Dutch league with eight goals. So, that's pretty cool.

Let's continue on to Italy where Napoli and Juventus both won to remain top of Serie A. The Old Lady thumped Roma 4 - 1 while Napoli edged 10-man Sampdoria. Elsewhere, AC Milan could only draw, and Inter and Lazio both claimed victories. Here's the table.

In England the big result was Spurs' win at Old Trafford. They hadn't done that since 1989. It was a five-goal thriller. In a London Derby, defensive frailties again struck Arsenal as Chelsea left the Emirates 2-1winners. Manchester City needed a late goal from Eden Dzeko to win at Fulham, while Everton continued their fine start with a victory over Southampton. Liverpool also won, away to Norwich. In Monday Night Football action, QPR host West Ham in another London Derby.

Some stuff happened in Major League Soccer, too. You can read about it here.

And that's the Monday round-up for you. SSN's resident three-year-old was a bit of an ass this morning and I don't have the energy to find the articles. We'll give it another shot tomorrow.  Onward!!

Richard Jolly: An overdue exit for Kean

Steve Kean's week began with rumours that he had turned up for training the day after being sacked and ended with him resigning. It was hard to say which was the more surreal. Perhaps, though, it was the latter. As gallows humour became a growth sport in Blackburn during his reign, supporters joked bleakly that even in the event of a nuclear holocaust, Kean would remain at Ewood Park and as manager. To their despair, he was the great survivor. Now, finally, he is gone, claiming he has been forced to resign and his position at the club has become untenable.

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.