Friday, March 26, 2010

The Joy of Six: Lobs, Chips and Dinks

From Karel Poborsky's scoop to Antonin Panenka's outrageous smart-arsery, half a dozen examples of exquisite elevation.

Guillem Balague's Column

Guillem previews the big games in Spain and answers your questions.

Mancini charged by the FA

Roberto Mancini has been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association following his clash with David Moyes.

England: Premier League Previews & Predictions

Manchester United and Arsenal both face potentially troublesome away fixtures this Premier League weekend while Chelsea welcome seventh-placed Aston Villa to Stamford Bridge.

Elsewhere, Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp tackles his former club Portsmouth, Gianfranco Zola will reportedly be fighting to keep his job against Stoke, Burnley do battle with Lancashire neighbours Blackburn while Liverpool meet Sunderland.

Preview I
Preview II
Preview III

Lawro's Predictions

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Roma coach Claudio Ranieri is thrilled with the way his troops are playing ahead of "match of the year" against Inter Milan.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview

Real Madrid will hope to maintain their title charge when they host Atletico while Barcelona travel to Real Mallorca.

Facing two derbies in four days - Real are at Getafe tonight - may not be the ideal way of trying to keep pace with Barca at the top of the table, but Manuel Pellegrini's side can feel confident heading into Sunday's clash at the Bernabeu.


Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Preview

This week’s high-profile matches include Bayern Munich/Stuttgart and Leverkusen/Schalke.


Bochum – Eintracht Frankfurt

Bayern Munich – Stuttgart
Hannover – Koeln
Werder Bremen – Nuernberg
Mainz – Wolfsburg
Hertha Berlin – Borussia Dortmund
Bayer Leverkusen – Schalke


Hoffenheim – Freiburg
Borussia M’gladbach – Hamburg

Boca Juniors 2-0 River Plate: Gary Medel Wins Superclasico For Hosts

Yesterday 50,000 people marched through the centre of Buenos Aires to remember the 34th anniversary of Argentina falling under the control of a military dictatorship.

This afternoon the same number of people turned up to another charged atmosphere, this time it was the rearranged Superclasico match between Boca Juniors and River Plate.

The Week That Was: Messi Too Good For Words

This was the week in which Ji-Sung Park revealed he's fuelled by frog juice, Inter's Balotelli was pictured wearing an AC Milan shirt, the press ran out of words to describe Lionel Messi and Juventus goalkeeper Antonio Chimenti broke his hand punching a table.

Friday MLS Forecast: Week 1

The Forecast returns for 2010 with a brief look at Thursday night's season-opening clash in Seattle and an extended review of the weekend slate.

Seattle open MLS season with Philadelphia win

Major League Soccer new boys the Philadelphia Union were taught a tough lesson as the Seattle Sounders opened the 2010 season with a home victory at Qwest Field.

A few of the 36,241 at the match last night...

Sid Lowe in Spain + Thursday Results

In the end, testicular fortitude just wasn't enough. Nor was shouting a lot. Or even a glorious Sevillista past in which he didn't just bleed for the cause but made others bleed for it too.

Manolo Jiménez pays at last for Sevilla going from bad to worse.

Real Madrid climbed back above Barcelona to the top of La Liga when Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain netted twice each to seal a convincing 4-2 victory at city rivals Getafe on Thursday.

Paolo Bandini in Italy + Thursday Results

Ranieri might not like to admit it, but his Roma side are genuine contenders for the Scudetto – as Internazionale may discover.

Claudio Ranieri the Roma revivalist aims to spoil another Milan party.

Napoli revived their hopes of claiming Serie A's final Champions League qualifying slot and dented Juventus's when they heaped more misery on the Turin side with a 3-1 comeback win on Thursday.

The Napoletanos celebrate their win over Juve...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SSN MLS Precap

MLS Season is here. There are about a million previews out there and SSN isn't about to try to get in depth with this. Here's a 30 second team-by-team pre-cap.


Toronto: They had a somewhat less radical makeover this offseason than in the last few. Former MVP Dewayne DeRosario leads the charge. A good bet to play for MLS Cup at home in the fall.

New England: They had a rough year with the injuries last year but still managed to finish third in the East. Coach Steve Nichol is still there and Shalrie Joseph is still pulling the strings in midfield. Should be solid.

DC United: Will the fans be too distracted by Philly fans throwing beer in their faces to watch the game? The rumor mill has another stadium deal falling through; could the winningest team in league history be moving? New coach Curt Onaflo has a thin roster to work with. Possibly disappointing.

Jersey Metrobull: New GM, new coach, new stadium, same talk about buying all of the best players in Europe. Theirry Henry is supposed to be coming after the World Cup; I'll believe it when I see it. The new stadium is by all accounts amazing, but it's not actually going to win them any games. Foreign management's track record in MLS is spotty at best, and we are talking about the Metrostars here- they will probably suck.

Philadelphia Union: New boys in the league but their fans have been traveling to DC and NJ for years to harass the locals. Head Coach Peter Nowak is dearly loved by SSN and his roster looks fairly good. However new arrivals generally struggle and the Union probably won't be hoisting MLS Cup this year.

Columbus Crue: champs two years ago, the Crue struggled with roster depth last year. Guillermo Barros Schelotto may still be the best player in the league. Expect them to contend.

Chicago Fire: New coach, new players, Blanco's gone (for now) and they canned 2008 keeper of the year Jon Busch with 5 days to go before the season opener. Hopefully the team will play to McBride's strengths and new boy/Euro washout Collins John is able to recover some of the magic of their pairing at Fulham a few years back. Expect to see a lot of counter-attack. As always, SSN picks the Fire to win it all.

KC Wizzarrds: Still playing in a 10k seating baseball park, no more Claudio Lopez. Want more? Tough titty.


LA Gals: The Bruce is back for year three. Lots of money tied up in injured Beckham and to-be-sold Lando, who deservedly will head back to England, probably to a bigger club who want the shirt sales. Looking at a tough year.

LA Goats: they fired Preki. They got some guys and got rid of some guys. Kljestan's year to prove he's the man. Guess what? He's not.

Red Star Houston Dynamo: They're getting older but they've still got the best coach in the league. New stadium is in the works. Strong contenders in the west.

Royal Salt Lake: the latest poster boys for everything wrong with MLS Cup. Losing record, got hot at the right time, got to the finals because their keeper is great at stopping penalties, won it all. Beckerman's hair still grosses me out. They should struggle with continental play suddenly on their docket.

Dallas Burn: It's teams like this that keep SSN from picking individual MLS game results. Obviously they won't lose them all, but could you imagine picking these clowns to win anything week in and week out? Yuck.

San Jose: another potential stadium deal. They'll be a lot better than in previous seasons. It's time for Bobby Convey to put up or shut up. Actually, he doesn't really talk much, does he?

Colorado Arsenal: guaranteed a big win at home on 7/4, per usual. That's all we can predict for sure. One of these years they'll put it together, maybe.

Seattle Sounders: opening season is over and now they're just another team, albeit one with a massive season ticket base, an underwear model making plays, a gameshow host as the owner and a plastic field. They didn't do much with the roster, which may be showing some signs of age. If Nate Jaqua can stay healthy they'll be in the hunt. That was a joke.


Big crowds in the East as the Sons of Ben hit the road and New Jersey finally finds out if the problem with the draw was Giant stadium or if it really was the shitty product they put on the field, nobody watches any games on TV during the World Cup and a sub-.500 team plays for the championship, again proving how utterly pointless the entire season really is. Fire to win it.

England: Premier League Midweek Previews

General Preview

Portsmouth vs. Chelsea
Pressure building on Blues

Aston Villa vs. Sunderland
Villians keen to overcome rocky patch

Blackburn vs. Birmingham
Rovers unbeaten in last six home matches

Manchester City vs. Everton
Lescott misses out on reunion

Quotes & Chants of the Week

"It's not true that we don't love him, we love him a little too much."
Inter Milan's Marco Materazzi feels the love for team-mate Mario Balotelli - left behind for the Chelsea game following a 'blazing row' with Jose Mourinho.

"We should do like Rocky Marciano and retire while the going's good, because it won't get any better than this."
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson after knocking out the heavyweights of Juventus in the Europa League.

"Nigel Clough took one look at it in the Derby car park and said 'Did you get a two-for-one on your teeth?'"
Robbie Savage after turning up for training with his car re-sprayed brilliant white.

"It was the best thing he did. I appreciate the days are gone when you can go around assaulting people, but home truths shouldn't hurt."
Ipswich boss Roy Keane fondly recalls the day when he was punched by Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest.

"We're all tanned and he looks like he's been hiding in the closet for a few months."
LA Galaxy's Chris Klein on the return of Landon Donovan from Everton.

"Same old Terry, always cheating."
Blackburn fans after a foul by Chelsea captain John Terry.

"Does your father know you're (rubbish)?"
Cambridge United fans to Histon's Charlie Sheringham - son of Teddy - after he missed a penalty.

The Rest

Italy: Serie A Midweek Preview

The title race is being run at a snail’s pace at the moment with Inter struggling in their last three games against Genoa, Catania and Palermo, amassing just 2 points in the process. Their bitter city-rivals Milan however seem to be lenient in their attitude towards chasing them down, also dropping needless points at home to Napoli in week 29. Inter will look to get back to winning ways by defeating Livorno, who have slipped to the foot of the table, while Milan travel to Parma, who are out to consolidate a mid-table standing. Third placed Roma will seek to take advantage of their Milanese title rivals’ stumbling by winning away at mid-table Bologna.

Spain: La Liga Tuesday Roundup, Mid-Week Preview and US TV Listings

For FC Barcelona, they would one of the last teams to welcome a mid-week round on the surface because if they can negotiate past Arsenal in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League, they would endure a sixteen match stretch over the span of just fifty-six days. All told, they would have a mid-week game along with a weekend match every week from March 14 to May 9.

Basement boys hold Sevilla, manager is sacked.

England: Wednesday's FA Cup Quarter-Final Replay Previews

Who: Tottenham vs. Fulham
When: 3:45pm EDT
Where: White Hart Lane, North London

U.S. TV: None
Preview II
Dempsey Dreaming of Final

Wolves hammer it home: West Ham United's Gianfranco Zola is in trouble

West Ham 1 - 3 Wolves

Dominic Fifield at Upton Park

Tim Vickery in South America

In 'Back Home,' his excellent account of the 1970 World Cup, Jeff Dawson does a disservice to the first kings of the global game - after 90 minutes of their quarter-final with the Soviet Union, he writes "the score is that old Uruguayan party piece, 0-0".

Just 16 years earlier, Uruguay produced a very different party piece in the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. They beat Scotland 7-1, ended England's campaign in with a 4-2 win in the quarter-finals, but then fell 4-2, after extra time, to the great Hungarians in the semi-final.

It was the first time Uruguay had lost a World Cup match and six years later, when World Soccer magazine was launched, its inaugural edition carried a feature arguing that this was the greatest match ever played.

In recent decades it has been Brazil who have been renowned for artistic football, but once upon a time this image belonged to Uruguay.

First XI: World Cup Upsets

For all the pre-tournament talk of the haves and have nots, World Cups have always had the propensity to provide a shock or two.

As the likes of North Korea and New Zealand look to become conquering heroes in South Africa, we take a look at the First XI greatest upsets of all time.

France go down to Senegal in 2002...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

England: Tuesday's Premier League Preview (West Ham vs. Wolves)

West Ham have lost their last four Premier League matches and face the first of two crucial home games, with Stoke visiting on Saturday. They hope to welcome back captain Scott Parker, while Carlton Cole is pressing for a start after coming off the bench at Arsenal, along with Benni McCarthy. Julian Faubert, Kieron Dyer, Danny Gabbidon and Jack Collison could all be available, but Manuel Da Costa is suspended.

Sid Lowe in Spain

Barcelona's talisman is so sensationally good at the moment that comparisons with football's greatest players are wholly justified.

Man ... Superman ... Leo Messi.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

A resounding win over Bayer Leverkusen has given the Nineties giants the platform for a late assault on the Champions League places.

Dortmund emerge from the shadows with a little help from the Panther.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

'Milan-Day' was supposed to be the moment Inter lost their grip on top spot, but Milan could not live up to the billing.

Serie A sighs as Milan flop on Superlative Sunday.

Americans In The UK: Dynamite Dempsey Propels Fulham

Clint Dempsey scored the series-winning goal for the Cottagers as the London club blasted past Italian giants Juventus in the Europa League.

The Rest

Americans On The Continent: Eddie Johnson Scores for Aris

Eddie Johnson started and played the full match for Aris against Panionios, scoring their only goal on the day as they drew 1-1.

The Rest

Newcastle silent as Steven Taylor suffers 'broken' jaw in Andy Carroll incident

Steven Taylor, the former England Under-21 captain, has suffered a suspected broken jaw in a training-ground incident involving Andy Carroll, his Newcastle United team-mate, presenting the club with an unwanted distraction as their promotion campaign enters its final, pivotal stages.

Amy Lawrence: Bordeaux and Lyon bring new wave of French optimism

With more managers than any other country still in the Champions League, France has much to shout about.

Red Bulls christen $200M stadium with win

On a picture-perfect night many fans longed for, the New York metropolitan area finally got its own soccer stadium Saturday. A sellout crowd of 25,000, many in shirt sleeves on a 73-degree night, filled long-discussed and much-delayed Red Bull Arena and watched the Red Bulls roll over Brazil's Santos -- Pele's old team -- 3-1 in a chippy exhibition.

Phil Ball in Spain

Once a year at least, this column likes to look down below to see what's happening in the 'Silver Division', as they call it here in Spain. There are still thirteen games to go in Segunda 'A', but it's worth knowing something about the sides who are in the push for top-flight status next season. Later on we can return to talk a little about what's being going on up deck, but first let's pay a visit to the engine room.

Monday, March 22, 2010

En Fuego: Lionel Messi

Zaragoza vs. Barcelona -- Messi's second is fabulous

MLS 2010 Team Preview: Seattle Sounders FC

After making the playoffs and winning the U.S. Open Cup in their inaugural season, the Sounders decided to make minimal personnel changes in 2010.

Dave Mackay defends Brian Clough’s memory

The curse of The Damned United has struck again. Johnny Giles, the former Leeds United midfield player, sued the publishers of the acclaimed David Peace novel after being painted in a Machiavellian hue. He won.

Clough’s widow, Barbara, was deeply upset by the book, but had no legal recourse given libel laws and the dead.

Now Mackay has negotiated a settlement with the producers of last year’s film version in which he was seen breaking the players’ revolt at Derby to accept the manager’s job behind Clough’s back.

“They twisted it,” he said. “I would never have done anything that was disloyal to him. I wasn’t even at Derby at that time.”

Monday MLS Breakdown: New MLS CBA Satisfies Significant Objectives For League And Players Union

MLS and the MLS Players Union finally struck a deal for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement on Saturday. The new pact offers positives for all parties, according to Kyle McCarthy.

Italy: Serie A Weekend Review

Milan failed to take full advantage of Inter Milan's draw against Palermo as Leonardo's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Napoli at the San Siro. Meanwhile, Antonio Cassano got the only goal after 77 minutes as Sampdoria climbed above Juventus to fifth in the table with a 1-0 win in the evening game.

Spain: La Liga Weekend Review

Barcelona are level with Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table after registering a 4-2 win over Real Zaragoza. Barcelona winger Lionel Messi produced yet another masterclass to single-handedly destroy Real Zaragoza. Real Madrid continued their perfect home record but they were given a scare by Sporting Gijon before winning 3-1. Madrid produced little of note during a disappointing first half against a determined Sporting, and a shock looked on the cards when the mid-table visitors took a 53rd-minute lead through David Barral. However, that goal served to spark Madrid into life and within four minutes they were 2-1 ahead thanks to strikes from Rafael van der Vaart and Xabi Alonso.

England: Premier League Weekend Review + Special Reports + Table

Chelsea dropped two crucial points in the title race as Manchester United opened up a four-point gap over the Blues after coming from a goal down to beat bitter rivals Liverpool 2-1. Elsewhere, Arsenal recorded a sixth win on the spin despite being reduced to 10 men, both Tottenham and Manchester City kept up their respective hunts for fourth place while Iain Dowie's first game in charge of Hull City got off to a losing start.

Manchester United 2 - 1 Liverpool

Richard Jolly at Old Trafford
Kevin McCarra at Old Trafford

Blackburn 1 - 1 Chelsea
Joe Lovejoy at Ewood Park

Aston Villa 2 - 2 Wolves
Richard Jolly at Villa Park

Arsenal 2 - 0 West Ham
David Hytner at Emirates Stadium

Played GD

1 Man Utd 31 47 69
2 Arsenal 31 40 67
3 Chelsea 30 42 65
4 Tottenham 30 26 55
5 Man City 29 18 53
6 Liverpool 31 18 51
7 Aston Villa 29 17 50
8 Everton 30 6 45
9 Birmingham 30 -3 44
10 Fulham 30 -1 38
11 Stoke 30 -6 36
12 Blackburn 30 -17 35
13 Sunderland 30 -6 34
14 Bolton 31 -20 32
15 Wigan 31 -30 31
16 Wolves 30 -24 28
17 West Ham 30 -14 27
18 Burnley 31 -33 24
19 Hull 30 -35 24
20 Portsmouth 30 -25 13