Friday, September 17, 2010

Grant Wahl: Soccer On TV This Weekend

Back by popular demand: By my count there are 46 live games from 11 countries available for viewing in the U.S. this weekend. As a service I’m also putting “Critic’s Pick” games in bold:

Sid Lowe: Mascherano's compatibility with Barcelona's style questioned

The question got straight to the point -- and, though it appeared innocuous enough, the point was a sharp one.

"Have you learned any Catalan yet?"

Javier Mascherano just looked a little bemused and mumbled something about how, erm, well, y'know, I will. Deep down, he could have been forgiven for thinking: "Of course not, you complete idiot. What kind of stupid question is that? I've been here only a week. Give me a chance, will you?"

The Joy of Six: Route-One Goals

From John Fashanu to Miroslav Klose, via John Barnes, we recall half a dozen great long-ball strikes.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

Manchester United's clash with Liverpool is the pick of a full programme of Premier League fixtures this weekend. Elsewhere, high-flying Blackpool face a daunting task as they travel to Chelsea, Arsenal make the trip to the North East to Sunderland, struggling West Ham will be without head coach Avram Grant at Stoke City while Wigan Athletic welcome Manchester City to the DW Stadium.


Jamie Redknapp on Manchester United vs. Liverpool

Dale Johnson on Stoke vs. West Ham

Mark Lomas on Sunderland vs. Arsenal

Lawro's Predictions

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Chievo are keen to enjoy the view from the top of Serie A as they bid to make it three wins from three against Brescia. Rafael Benitez's Inter Milan will try to end Palermo's unbeaten run at the Renzo Barbera stadium. Udinese and Juventus will meet at the Friuli stadium with both teams seeking their first win of the campaign. Fiorentina coach Sinisa Mihajlovic is also looking for win number one when he leads the Viola against the club he once played for, Lazio.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview

Early-season pacesetters Atletico Madrid play host to reigning champions Barcelona Vicente Calderon this weekend. Real Madrid will look to continue their steady progress under new coach Jose Mourinho when they make the trip to last season's Segunda Division champions Real Sociedad on Saturday.


Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Preview

Schalke face bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund on Sunday as the highlight of a weekend of local derbies.

Although most eyes will be focused on the Arena AufSchalke, local pride will also be at stake in Hamburg, where St Pauli host their illustrious neighbours on Saturday, in Kaiserslautern, where Hoffenheim are the visitors, and in Wolfsburg, where Hannover arrive for the battle of Lower Saxony.

Germany: Bundesliga Beat

It's rivalry weekend in the Bundesliga as two of the premier derbies in Germany take place in the fourth round. The next nail-biting, white knuckling weekend of German football is headlined by two of the local derby matches. St. Pauli and Hamburg meet in the Hamburg derby, while Schalke hosts Dortmund in the Rhine River Derby.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast breaks out the Five Points for last night's pulsating 2-2 draw between FC Dallas and New York and reviews its Week 25 picks.

Europa League: Thursday Review

English sides Liverpool and Manchester City both won their Europa League group matches while holders Atletico Madrid lost.

Dominic Raynor: Off The Ball

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, Jens Lehmann is told he's a muppet who belongs in an asylum, Togo send a fake team to Bahrain, Jay-Z wants to buy Arsenal and UEFA tell Bayern Munich fans they're very naughty boys.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ryan Babel may still be 'the next Henry'. But probably not at Liverpool

Roy Hodgson has followed Rafa Benítez in failing to allow his Dutch forward the opportunity to shine at Anfield.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

A little more than a year ago, Twente Enschede manager and England native Steve McClaren became an unwitting YouTube star when he adopted a strange, affected Dutch accent in an (ostensibly) English TV interview with a local station. There were initial fears that the former England manager might try out a mock German inflection in his new role at VfL Wolfsburg as well, but in fact, his tenure has brought about lingual confusion of the opposite kind: an increasing number of "Wolves" supporters have taken to voicing their frustrations in English, with somewhat mixed results.

At Home With Stephen Ireland

Stephen. With his girlfriend Jessica Lawlor.

At their crib in Chesire.

He got rid of the jeep with the pink wheels.

But kept the pink room.

He put ‘Ireland’ on his pool table.

Even though.

He’ll never play on it.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Round-up, Reports & Analyses

Arsenal hit Braga for six, while Chelsea also carried their unstoppable domestic form into Europe by thrashing MSK Zilina. Real Madrid also made a winning start, while AC Milan beat Auxerre and Bayern Munich defeated Roma.


MSK Zilina 1 - 4 Chelsea

Jamie Jackson at Stadion Pod Dubnom

Arsenal 6 - 0 Braga
Henry Winter at the Emirates
Tim Vickery at the Emirates
Kevin McCarra at the Emirates
Dominic Fifield: Defensive doubts remain

Real Madrid 2 - 0 Ajax
Oliver Brown at the Bernabéu

AC Milan 2 - 0 Auxerre

Bayern Munich 2 - 0 Roma

Quotes of the Week

"Aston Villa is not a club on the same level as Liverpool, let's be objective and honest. It's a club that according to me has belonged between seventh and 12th place in the Premier League." Gerard Houllier endears himself to his new supporters. For the record, Aston Villa have finished in the top six for nine out of 18 seasons in the Premier League.

"They think to themselves, 'if I play a game for the first team all these girls will be after me, I will be invited to all these nightclubs, I will be able to get a new car and buy myself a nice flat'". Rio Ferdinand laments the mindset of young footballers. Pot. Kettle. Black.

"Because I'm rich." Mario Balotelli's reported response when quizzed by police officers after crashing his car over why he had £5,000 in cash in his back pocket.

The Rest

Carlisle: Did Toronto jump the gun?

Without question, Johnston's ouster was a long time in coming. Toronto is set to miss the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, a spell that would match San Jose's barren run from 1997-2000, and the one constant throughout TFC's period of futility has been the involvement of Johnston, who was the team's inaugural head coach before moving upstairs. That Johnston burned through countless players and four coaches during his time in charge speaks little of his long-term thinking.

As for Preki, his dimissal is puzzling.

Norman Hubbard on Liverpool

The stock answers that were repeated ad infinitum have been replaced by detailed explanations delivered in a brand of English honed in the 1950s, Scandinavians may be succeeding Spaniards as this season's preferred accessory and there have been the customary criticisms of some of his predecessor's players, but there may be reasons Roy Hodgson's regime at Liverpool feels somewhat familiar.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Key Previews

Chelsea and Arsenal get their UEFA Champions League campaigns underway as the English pair tackle MSK Zilina and Braga respectively on Wednesday night. Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, who won the Champions League with Inter Milan last season, sees his talented side lock horns with Ajax at the Bernabeu in Group G.

Chelsea vs. MSK Zilina
Roman returns to where it all began

Real Madrid vs. Ajax

Preview I
Preview II
Ronaldo & Mourinho United

Arsenal vs. Braga
Preview I
Preview II
Tim Vickery on Braga

Bayern Munich vs. Roma
Preview I
Preview II

AC Milan vs. Auxerre
Preview I
Preview II

Richard Williams: Antonio Valencia's injury leaves Manchester United lacking options

Park-Ji-sung, Ryan Giggs, Gabriel Obertan or Bébé may fill in for the injured Ecuadorian, but his absence will be keenly felt.

Jeremy Wilson: Legacy stands tall for Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger

Can any manager truly be regarded among the all-time greats of the British game if he does not win the European Cup? It is a debate that will rage should Arsène Wenger’s remarkable tenure at Arsenal end without the addition of a Champions League victory to his CV.

Just like Chelsea, it is the one trophy of real consequence that continues to elude Arsenal, although the consistency of both clubs during the past decade suggests that it is only a matter of time.

What now for Manchester United supporters' green and gold campaign?

When David Beckham wrapped a green-and-gold scarf around his neck following AC Milan’s Champions League defeat at Manchester United last March, a tangible sense of revolution was in the air at Old Trafford.

McCarthy's Musings: Shakeup In Toronto Highlights Busy Day In MLS

Mo Johnston and Preki are sacked by TFC as clubs make moves around the league.

Diego Maradona wants to replace Carlos Queiroz as Portugal coach

Diego Maradona is among a trio of Latin American coaches keen to replace the sacked coach Carlos Queiroz and revive Portugal's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Round-up, Reports & Analysis

Antonio Valencia's horror injury overshadowed Rangers' impressive point at Manchester United as Tottenham drew away to Werder Bremen. Barcelona had to come from behind to beat Panathinaikos, while Inter Milan were made to work hard for a point away to FC Twente. Valencia brushed aside Bursaspor on their travels and FC Copenhagen snatched a last-gasp victory over Rubin Kazan. Benfica saw off the challenge of Hapoel Tel-Aviv and Lyon enjoyed a 1-0 success against 10-man Schalke.


Manchester United 0 - 0 Rangers
Richard Jolly at Old Trafford
Kevin McCarra at Old Trafford
Phil McNulty at Old Trafford
Player Ratings

FC Twente 2 - 2 Internazionale Milan

Werder Bremen
2 - 2 Tottenham
Stuart James at the Weserstadion
Player Ratings

Barcelona 5 - 1 Panathinaikos

'Fake' Togo team played Bahrain in friendly

Bahrain beat who they thought was the Togo national team 3-0 in Bahrain last Tuesday, but Togo officials have claimed to have no knowledge of the match. It has emerged the players may not have been professional footballers or even Togolese nationals but mystery still surrounds their true identity.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Steve Davis on MLS

Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things we learned from Week 24:

Jonathan Wilson: Gyan an early hit for Sunderland

The most expensive arrival in the transfer window couldn't have hoped for a much better start to life in the Premier League. There was skepticism about the $20.4 million Sunderland paid to buy Asamoah Gyan from Rennes. That he is a talented player seems self-evident -- although it's not so long ago that that wasn't the case -- but in today's depressed market it seemed a lot of money for a player who hasn't even played in the Europa League, never mind the Champions League.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Key Previews

Manchester United

Preview I
Preview II
As good as it will get for Rangers
Ferguson calls for calm as Rangers fans arrive

Werder Bremen vs. Tottenham

Preview I
Crouch confident

Barcelona vs. Panathinaikos

Lyon vs. Schalke 04

Twente Enschede vs. Internazionale Milan
Preview I
Preview II

Sid Lowe in Spain

Barcelona had not lost a home league game for 16 months, but two goals from Nelson Valdez gave Hércules a deserved victory.

Nelson Valdez hails a 'dream come true' as Hércules shock Barcelona.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

To see Milan outdone by a team whose combined squad wage bill amounts to less than Zlatan makes on his own was striking.

Milan's frailty laid bare by Cesena.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Unfancied clubs count their blessings but the returning Germany captain curses his luck.

Hoffenheim and Mainz surge on as records and Michael Ballack tumble.

Teams of the Week

La Liga: The Best

Serie A: The Worst

Premier League: The Best

Americans In The UK: Toffees Late Rally Bails Out Howard

Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta scored in stoppage time to grab a stunning draw against Manchester United.

Americans On The Continent: French Delight

Carlos Bocanegra and Saint-Etienne pulled off a big win in France.

England: Monday Night Football Report + EPL Table

Stoke City
2 - 1
Aston Villa

Tony Pulis's late return sets up Stoke City for dramatic victory.

September 14, 2010 P Pts
Manchester United48
Aston Villa46
Manchester City45
Wolverhampton Wanderers45
Tottenham Hotspur45
Bolton Wanderers45
Newcastle United44
Blackburn Rovers44
West Bromwich Albion44
Wigan Athletic44
Stoke City43
West Ham United40

Roberto Gotta in Italy

Serie A is now what the English First Division used to be. Perhaps it's still not a league where almost anyone can win the championship on any given season, as was the case in England in the '60s. But - with tactical sophistication having become oddly mixed with the kind of back-four defending managers have nightmares about - it has been hugely entertaining and given everybody a chance.

Phil Ball in Spain

Lots of stuff is improbable, but never forget that it's possible. The last time Barcelona met Hercules in the Camp Nou was during the Alicante side's last one-season stay in the top flight in 1996, and the visitors pulled off a 3-2 win. Pep Guardiola was playing that evening, and scored an own goal. Bad karma, it would seem. But the only people who put this Saturday's encounter down as a '2' on the quiniela were either Hercules fans or anonymous grannies having a flutter.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bundesliga Beat: Week 3 Review - Big Boys Continue To Disappoint

Bayern Munich, Stuttgart, Schalke, Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen still missing near the top as Hoffenheim and Mainz continue to impress.


Luka Modric's leg is not broken

Bobby Zamora's leg is broken

Michael Ballack's shin is broken

England: Monday Night Football Preview

Stoke City vs. Aston Villa

Monday MLS Breakdown

It took a proper game of football to snap Los Angeles out of its funk.

Columbus traveled to Los Angeles for the much-anticipated clash on Saturday night without the trepidation most teams feel when they face the Galaxy. The Crew did not aspire to stack numbers behind the ball and tempt the Galaxy to break them down. Instead, the Eastern Conference leaders arrived with the intent to stand toe-to-toe with one of their fellow heavyweights and let the chips fall where they may.

Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Review

Mainz made it three wins from three Bundesliga matches while Wolfsburg are still without a single point under Steve McClaren. Taner Yalcin's first senior goal earned Cologne all three points at home to St Pauli. Werder Bremen made it five seasons without defeat at the Allianz Arena as they held Bayern Munich to a goalless draw.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Review

Barcelona were left stunned as Nelson Haedo Valdez struck twice to give promoted side Hercules a famous 2-0 win at the Nou Camp. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho enjoyed a winning home debut as Real Madrid got their campaign up and running with a narrow 1-0 victory over Osasuna. Centre-back Ricardo Carvalho netted the only goal of the game just after half-time to give Madrid the spoils in a match they dominated but struggled to finish off a battling Osasuna side.


Italy: Serie A Weekend Review

Chievo are the surprise leaders of Serie A - and the only club to have a 100% record after a 3-1 victory at Genoa. Zlatan Ibrahimovic endured a debut to forget as he missed a late penalty in AC Milan's shock 2-0 defeat at Cesena.

Sampdoria are in a clutch of teams with four points after an entertaining 3-3 draw at Juventus.

Luigi Del Neri's Juve, who went down 1-0 at Bari in their opener a fortnight ago, trailed to Nicola Pozzi's 36th-minute strike but got back on terms through Claudio Marchisio two minutes before the break.


Calcio Debate: Why Milan Were Humiliated By Cesena, Rino Gattuso Must Not Play, Serie A Is The Most Competitive League In Europe

Unlike the Premier League where anyone below the European places are often crushed 6-0 by Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, there are no easy games in Italy. Only the Bundesliga can get even close to matching Serie A for competitiveness throughout the league. Indeed, things are so tight this season that many critics believe that 70 points may be enough to win the Scudetto.

European Football Weekends: Holmesdale Fanatics - Crystal Palace FC

Five years ago, a group of hardcore Palace fans, who'd become frustrated at the lack of soul at Selhurst Park and in football in general, formed one of the UK's first ultra groups. They drew on their experiences on the old Holmesdale terrace, combined with the ultra movement, and have now completely transformed the atmosphere at matches. Relative silence has been replaced by vast waves of sound.

England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports & Analysis

A Wayne Rooney-less Manchester United threw away two points at Goodison Park, Chelsea maintained their imperious start to the season while Blackpool recorded their second away win of the campaign. Elsewhere, Lee Cattermole went from daft to just down right brainless, Fulham earned their first triumph under manager Mark Hughes, Tottenham's mediocre beginning to the term continued while there are concerns over Liverpool striker Fernando Torres' form.

Everton 3 - 3 Manchester United
Andy Hunter at Goodison Park

Arsenal 4 - 1 Bolton
David Lacey at The Emirates

Manchester City 1 - 1 Blackburn
Richard Jolly at Eastlands

West Ham 1 - 3 Chelsea
Kevin Palmer at Upton Park

Birmingham 0 - 0 Liverpool
Richard Jolly at St. Andrews

The Fifth Official: Some Angry Young Men

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 five-star weekend.