Friday, September 10, 2010

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The most explosive match on the German soccer calendar has seen its fair share of scandals and shenanigans over the last few years -- from hundreds of inflatable penises in the stands, to stolen fan banners, to cyberattacks on Schalke 04's official club Web site, to even mass brawls between rival supporters in provincial train stations.

On Sept. 19, the 77th Revierderby between Schalke and BV Borussia Dortmund will set another remarkable precedent: A significant section of Borussia supporters will boycott the game in the Veltins-Arena. For the first time in decades, there will be huge gaps in the away fans' section.

Spain: Key La Liga Weekend Previews

Real Madrid vs. Osasuna

Barcelona vs. Hercules

Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid

Sevilla vs. Deportivo La Coruna

Italy: Key Serie A Weekend Previews

Internazionale Milan vs. Udinese

Juventus vs. Sampdoria

Cesena vs. AC Milan

Cagliari vs. Roma

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

Wayne Rooney faces an antagonising reception at Goodison Park as the Premier League action returns following a two-week international sabbatical. Manchester United lock horns with Everton, with Rooney set to feature at his old stamping ground keen to focus on his football amid ongoing allegations surrounding his private life. Elsewhere, a Theo Walcott-less Arsenal host Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea make the short trip to London rivals West Ham United, newly-promoted duo Newcastle United and Blackpool meet while Liverpool round off the fixtures on Sunday at Birmingham City.


Mark Lomas on Everton vs. Manchester United
Paul Merson on Everton vs. Manchester United

John Brewin on West Ham vs. Chelsea

Team News

Lawro's Predictions

Manchester City 'driven nuts' by Manchester United's taunting banner

Garry Cook, the Manchester City chief executive, has hinted at the club's escalating rivalry with Manchester United by admitting in the documentary Blue Moon Rising that Old Trafford's banner taunting City for their failure to win a trophy in almost 34 years "drives us nuts".

RBS moves to force George Gillett and Tom Hicks to sell Liverpool

Tom Hicks and George Gillett's ill-starred reign as owners of Liverpool looks like having less than a month to run after the club's loans with Royal Bank of Scotland were placed into its toxic-assets division.

The deadline for the refinancing of the owners' personal loans from RBS is 6 October, and that now looks set to be the date that Hicks and Gillett's association with England's most successful club will end. The bank's decision to switch the debts to its Global Restructuring Group is the strongest possible signal that these loans will not be extended.

Tom Adams: Rewind to 2002

On Saturday, Wayne Rooney returns to Merseyside to face his boyhood club Everton, with the maelstrom of a personal crisis overshadowing his contribution on the pitch. Sympathy is likely to be in short supply from a Toffees support that once idolised Rooney, who in 2002 burst into the national football consciousness with a goal of brilliant audacity against Arsenal. This is the story of the rise to prominence of one of England's finest talents, and most notorious tabloid darlings, of modern times.

The Joy of Six: Overhead and Scissor Kicks

From Mr Fallrueckzieher to Roger Boli, via Mark Hughes, here are half a dozen of the best acrobatic belters ever.

West Ham anger fans revoking Lyall and Greenwood families' privileges

West Ham United have sparked anger among their fans by taking away privileges from the families of John Lyall and Ron Greenwood without notice. The late managers are East End royalty, having been responsible for the only meaningful trophies West Ham have won in their 115-year history.

Dominic Raynor: Off The Ball

The international break may have come and gone but Off The Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.

This week, Arsenal misfit Mathieu Flamini gatecrashes Serie A's highest paid XI, a botched bicycle-kick leaves Dirk Kuyt out injured, Manchester City launch a blue movie and Scotland fans boo England via Liechtenstein.

Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Review

Hoffenheim - Schalke

Borussia Dortmund - Wolfsburg
Borussia Moenchengladbach - Eintracht Frankfurt
Hamburg - Nuernberg
Hannover - Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg - Stuttgart
Bayern Munich - Werder Bremen


Mainz - Kaiserslautern
Koeln - St Pauli


Carlos Queiroz Sacked As Manager Of Portugal

The move comes after Queiroz was banned for six months following his interruption of a doping testing session, despite Queiroz himself claiming relationships with the Portuguese Football Federation "have always been great" only yesterday.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast chats with one of MLS' rising stars before assessing the Week 24 slate.

Eduardo Alvarez in Spain

The beginning of the Spanish football season can indeed be catalogued under the 'anti-climactic' tab. Not only did La Liga take a break after just one weekend of football but, during that same break, the national team suffered their toughest defeat in several years at the hands of Argentina.

Italian player strike to bring Serie A to halt

Serie A has been thrown into crisis after the Italian Professional Players' Association (AIC) voted to go on strike on the weekend of September 25-26 and bring the league to a halt.

The players are protesting against the failure to agree a new collective-bargaining agreement between AIC and the Lega Calcio which would guarantee players' rights.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Sid Lowe on Rafael Benítez

Few coaches seem to have divided opinion quite like the Spaniard. Good guy, bad guy; guilty as sin, innocent victim. He is solely responsible for the miserable fate that befell Liverpool; no, he is responsible for the club's greatest moments and was slain by the political and economic civil war at Anfield. There is something about Benítez that forces you to take sides. With him or against him, ally or enemy, there is an intensity, almost an anger, about judging his legacy. About the debate as to whether he was a Good Liverpool Manager.

Grant Wahl Mailbag

I figured it was time for a soccer Mailbag, so the 'Bag (that's me) decided to put one together for this week's Planet Fútbol column. Let's dig in:

Martin Rogers Column

Manchester United fans are not short of things to think about right now: the spectacular form of English Premier League rival Chelsea, more concerns over the on-and-off-field actions of Wayne Rooney and questions over whether the current squad is deep enough to mount a strong title challenge this season. Now it seems there is something else for supporters of the Red Devils to ponder – a bunch of struggling North American shopping malls.

Italy: Top Salaries (after tax) in Serie A

The Rest

Brian Laudrup faces lymphoma battle

Former Denmark striker Brian Laudrup, part of the side that won the European Championship in 1992, has been diagnosed with cancer.

Cassano-loving pitch invader finally gets his wish

Antonio Cassano's biggest and most elusive fan, Mario Ferri, apparently survived the punishments of FIFA and the South African police for invading the Spain-Germany World Cup semifinal to celebrate the success of his crusade with Cassanno himself. Just after the opening kickoff of Italy's 5-0 win over the Faroe Islands in Florence on Tuesday, Ferri made his fourth Cassano-related pitch invasion. Wearing his signature Superman shirt, Ferri bowed down before the player he has risked his safety and freedom for, then gave Cassano a kiss before he ran off without any interference from security officials.

Carlisle: U.S. hopes 13 is lucky number

Last week, an online petition created by the USA Bid Committee to support hosting the 2018 or 2022 World Cup surpassed 1 million signatures. Impressive for a nation that in some quarters still isn't considered a "soccer country."

Yet a vastly more important number to the U.S. is 13, which is the number of votes needed from FIFA's 24-man Executive Committee to secure the right to host one of the tournaments. And with FIFA conducting its official inspection tour of the U.S. this week, it's clear the process has reached a critical phase.

Karim Benzema and his moody Bleus give French rare glimpse of cohesion

The oft-maligned France side have forced a hostile national press into a volte-face with a vibrant win over Bosnia.

Norman Hubbard on West Ham

Football clubs' identities evolve. There was a time when West Ham were the epitome of stability during a 90-year spell when they only had five full-time managers. Like many of their counterparts, they have already had six in the last decade and the co-owner David Sullivan has denied a seventh will soon be engaged to replace Avram Grant.

Defoe ruled out for six to eight weeks

Defoe, who was stretchered off while playing for England late in Tuesday night's 3-1 win over Switzerland in Basle, suffered an ankle knock and the player had insisted he would to be fit to face West Bromwich Albion this weekend.

However, Defoe is now due to miss the first half of Spurs' maiden Champions League campaign and is also a major doubt for England's next Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley on October 12.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Hodgson: Kuyt could be out for more than a month

Roy Hodgson fears Dirk Kuyt could be out for longer than the four weeks first anticipated following his shoulder injury, though the unpredictable nature of the problem means the forward could also return ahead of schedule.

Phil McNulty: Capello facing big decisions

Now though, with the business of getting six points from England's two opening games successfully concluded, Capello must get it right all over again by the time surprise package Montenegro come to Wembley next month.

Capello must make a decison over the destination of the captain's armband, with Rio Ferdinand on schedule to return after the knee injury he suffered in England's first training session at their Rustenburg World Cup base.

Even if Ferdinand is in the team, and this should not be automatic after the performance of Jagielka in England's wins against Bulgaria and Switzerland, I do not believe he should return as captain.

Rohan Ricketts: The Truth About Sex and Footballers

When I was first thrust into the limelight at Spurs, I was exposed to a whole different lifestyle: the clubs, restaurants, cars and women. I soon discovered that there’s a sense of entitlement that comes with the money and fame of being a footballer which makes you think you can do anything you like and no one can hurt you. When I went on tour with one of my former clubs, girls would make their way to the rooms of the players and just knock on the room doors offering pleasures.

Italian fan ID card gets off to a bad start

6 September ~ This the debut season of Italian football's Tessera del Tifoso, or fans’ ID card scheme. There have been protests about the card ever since it was first mooted and plenty more have been made in the last few weeks. During the season opener at the Stadio Olimpico, a large group of Roma’s ultras remained outside the stadium, leaving an entire block of the usually chock-full Curva Sud glaringly empty. At the Serie B game between Empoli and Pescara I saw a number of the home side’s ultras choosing not to enter the ground, but instead setting up a Subbuteo table outside.

Carlo Ancelotti autobiography offers insights into winning and eating

It would be hard not to develop a fondness for the Chelsea manager while reading his smart and surprising book.

A manager and an entertainer...

Culture of secrecy still surrounds gay footballers

More than one in four British professional soccer players, coaches and referees polled in an online survey personally know gay footballers currently in the game.

Researchers Ellis Cashmore and Jamie Cleland have sent the findings of the survey of more than 3,000 fans and football professionals to both the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association.

“Of the professional players, coaches and referees in the survey, over one in four (27 percent) personally know gay players currently in the game, though none have taken the step of coming out,” Cashmore said in a statement released to Reuters.

FIFA inspectors to visit White House

FIFA’s World Cup inspectors will have breakfast at the White House on Wednesday, a highlight of their three-day tour of potential stadiums and facilities for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. FIFA’s executive committee votes on both hosts Dec. 2, and the U.S. is the eighth of nine stops on the tour. Europe is expected to be awarded the 2018 tournament, with England, Russia, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands competing.

The U.S. is up against Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea for 2022. The American bid is likely to be boosted by China’s interest in hosting in 2026— FIFA rules specify consecutive World Cups can’t be on the same continent, meaning an Asian host in 2022 would eliminate China as a 2026 site. Australia is part of soccer’s Asian confederation.

Arsenal to assess Theo Walcott's ankle injury

The 21-year-old faces a spell on the sidelines after suffering the injury in England's 3-1 Euro 2012 qualifying win over Switzerland in Basle on Tuesday.

Euro 2012 Qualifying: Tuesday's Results and Reports

0 - 2
itical win

Ireland 3 - 1 Andorra:
Best yet to come

1 - 3

Strong start continues
Richard Williams:Rooney restored
Five things we learned

2 - 1

Night of near disaster

Norway 1 - 0 Portugal: Bad to worse

Turkey 3 - 2 Belgium: Turks stay perfect

International Friendly: Argentina 4 - 1 Spain

Batista gives Argentina cause to wonder

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Fire/Galaxy: I went to the Herbalife Rally and a Soccer Match Broke Out

The LA Galaxy came to town on Labor Day weekend to sell some supplements and play a match and I took a party down to Toyota Park to check it all out. Sadly the Euro stars Beckham and Ljundberg were both excluded from game day rosters due to injury and yellow card accumulation, but the chance to see league leaders lock horns with a Fire team desperate for 3 points along with another chance for new Fire signing Nery Castillo to finally make any sort of impact provided more than enough excitement on the day. The match itself was a bit static; Gonzalo Segares was sent off in the 21st minute for an elbow that may have been either unintentional or one of the craftiest cheap shots I've ever seen and the Fire spent much of the match playing patient defense and counter attacking. Young stud goalie Sean Johnson stoned Lando's penalty kick following the foul and proceeded to have a lights out match, coming up with a number of key saves and generally dominating his box. Nery Castillo was again anonymous, his only notable contribution being a nice but tame shot on goal from a free kick in the second half that was easily saved. The Fire took the lead at the end of regulation on a stunning free kick goal from Collins John, who has now tallied 3 goals against the Galaxy in 2 games, and gave the lead back deep into extra time on a sloppily-defended corner kick goal very similar to the goal that sunk us in Seattle last week. Simply put this team has no idea how to hang on to the ball and kill the clock, and if they don't make the playoffs this year they'll know why.

Post author Bobbie BS in the middle in the blue shirt, along with fellow attendees Ivar, Tomppert and Matt

The real item of note at the game was the "Galaxy" fan contingent. In my 10+ years of having season tickets for the Fire I've seen various incarnations of the traveling fan, from enthusiastic drunks from Columbus wearing foam banana costumes to seasoned DC United traveling fans with fully appointed busses bitter over Freddy Adu's failure to launch. However I've never seen anything like this year's Galaxy turnout. Since the Beckham signing the Galaxy have sold their shirt sponsorship to Herbalife, a dietary supplement producer who have been favorably compared to AmWay and unfavorably to a cult. It seems that there must have been a corporate push to turn out big Herbalife fans for this game as my section was full to the brink with them. Perhaps 1/5 of the fans were wearing Galaxy gear; the rest were wearing what looked like bright green Herbalife branded cycling jerseys. All of them were holding personal banners that said "Galaxy" on one side and "Herbalife" on the other. They did a few organized chants- some of "gal ax y! gal ax y!", a few of "me hi co! me hi co!" (they were largely a latino group), but mostly the chants were endless enthusiastic repetitions of "HER BA LIFE! HER BA LIFE!". Many of the men had neon green paint in their hair, matching their Herbalife shirts. Obviously I think this is pretty weird and I don't really know what to make of it. It certainly puts the typical "we want hard core fans, not AYSO outings" discussion into stark relief; these fans really didn't give a crap about the team or the sport, they were there because their brand had ordered them to make a showing in support of said brand. I suppose this is good for the Galaxy in some way, but none of those fans really seemed to identify with the team and none of the cheering had anything to do with what was happening on the field. Are Galaxy home games similarly lobotomized? I have no idea but I think it's unsettling.

Wayne Rooney affair: prostitute 'had sex with 13 premiership stars'

One source quoted in the Daily Star said: “She deliberately targeted footballers because they’re so rich, flash and fundamentally not the sharpest pencils in the box.

Tim Vickery in South America

Testing times for Argentina caretaker coach Batista.

Sid Lowe in Spain

Real Madrid's transfer policy has so often been to buy that season's Balón d'Or winner, as if France Football was doing its scouting; Real's strategy has been to buy the season's outstanding player, the World Cup's greatest star. This summer it couldn't -- and it couldn't because it'd just sold them. Because Europe's outstanding players over the last 12 months have probably been Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben.

The same Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben whom Madrid ditched last summer. The same Sneijder and Robben who won domestic doubles with their new clubs. Correction: led their new clubs to domestic doubles. The same Sneijder and Robben who reached the World Cup final with Holland. The same Sneijder and Robben who faced each other in the Champions League final. While Real Madrid won nothing.

US defender DeMerit close to Wolfsburg move?

DeMerit was released by Watford at the end of last season, but played in all of USA's games at the World Cup and the defender is believed to be keen on a move to the Bundesliga where he would join new signings Simon Kjaer and Arne Friedrich in the backline.

Jonathan Wilson: Gerrard's best position for club and country remains open to debate

The problems are twofold: practical and theoretical. Very simply, box-to-box players are slipping out of fashion for the same reason wingbacks are; because they cover a huge amount of ground, they have to be fitter than everybody else, and with improvements in general fitness and sports nutrition and the increase in the pace of the game, the number of players who can cope with the physical demands of the role is decreasing. Gerrard is one who still can, but there must be a tactical framework to accommodate him.

Simon Burton: France head for Bosnia convulsed by horror over defeat by Belarus

Things might not be as bad as Laurent Blanc's team think after their opening loss … but they may be about to get worse.

Kevin McCarra: Fabio Capello's only concern must be to guide England to a crucial win

The England manager has more important things to dwell on than his adopted nation's obsession with scandal.

Villa to appoint Houllier

Gerard Houllier is set to be confirmed as the new manager of Aston Villa this week. After spells managing Liverpool and Lyon, Houllier is currently the technical director for the French national team, but he has scheduled a meeting with French Football Federation president Fernando Duchaussoy to follow Tuesday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Monday MLS Breakdown: Scheduling Concerns Draw Garber's Attention

MLS commissioner, others plot ways to make MLS clubs more competitive.