Friday, October 29, 2010

The Joy of Six: Big Wins

From Scotland's shellacking at the 1954 World Cup to a 149-0 thumping in Madagascar, here are half-a-dozen hammerings.

Spain: Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

Everything worked out like a dream this week: work, family, social and other forms of interaction. The last few days have been so utterly positive that I'm feeling enlightened, empowered, discerning, king-like, able to do no wrong.

Will this be the week? Will I get the perfect ten? The stars are aligned and I can't wait to start. As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.

UEFA awards 3-0 win to Italy after Serbia trouble

UEFA has awarded Italy with a 3-0 victory after their Euro 2012 qualifier against Serbia in Genoa was abandoned due to crowd trouble. Serbia will also have to play their next two home games behind closed doors.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

Expect goose bumps when Newcastle United do battle with Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby at St James' Park.

Elsewhere, Aston Villa play out the Second City derby against Birmingham, Blackburn Rovers welcome champions Chelsea to Ewood Park and Arsenal host bottom-of-the-table West Ham United.

Bloomfield Road, Blackpool, England

Manchester United lock horns with Tottenham Hotspur while Liverpool make the short trip to Bolton Wanderers.

Preview I
Preview II

Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Preview
Blackburn Rovers vs. Chelsea: Preview

Paul Merson previews Sunday's matches

Lawro & Robbie Williams' Predictions

Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Preview

Bayern Munich - Freiburg

Koeln – Hamburg
Kaiserslautern – Borussia Moenchengladbach
St Pauli – Eintracht Frankfurt
Wolfsburg – Stuttgart
Werder Bremen – Nuernberg
Schalke – Bayer Leverkusen

Bruchwegstadion, Mainz, Germany

Mainz – Borussia Dortmund
Hoffenheim – Hannover

This weekend includes tantalising tests between Mainz and Dortmund, Schalke and Leverkusen, and Wolfsburg and Stuttgart.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview

Real Madrid will look to avoid becoming the latest big gun to fall foul of Hercules this weekend while Barcelona host Sevilla. Fourth-placed Valencia will attempt to get back on track when they host bottom club Real Zaragoza, who are still searching for their first win in La Liga this season.


Estadio José Rico Pérez, Valencia, Spain

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Juventus will face a stern test against second-placed AC Milan, who are two points behind league leaders Lazio and riding a four-match winning streak.

Red-hot Lazio, meanwhile, travel to La Favorita to meet Palermo.

Third-placed Inter take on Genoa at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Friday hoping to spark their campaign into life.

La Favorita, Palermo, Sicily...

Roma coach Claudio Ranieri will be under pressure to take a victory at home to Lecce. Fiorentina welcome back Adrian Mutu when they travel to Sicily to take on Catania.


Edwin van der Sar at 40: Manchester United's iceman stays cool

Van der Sar joins the Premier League fortysomethings but the goalkeeper seems anxious to carry on making saves.

Chris Hughton unbowed while sack rumours persist at Newcastle United

Newcastle's 'on-trial' manager is not about to be distracted, before the Tyne-Wear derby, by talk of his possible replacement.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast reviews Colorado's victory over Columbus and shares its weekend selections.

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, the Chilean miners lose a costly bet with the president, a red-carded footballer drives his 4x4 at the referee, Dynama Brest bring on a 56-year-old sub, a Paraguayan defender is duped by a fake kidnapping and they ink it's all over for Paul the Octopus.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Manchester City forward Carlos Tevéz facing race to be fit for Manchester United clash

Carlos Tevéz has been given permission to return to Argentina for "three to four days" by Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini after being told he is likely to miss next month’s potentially-explosive Manchester derby due to injury.

Let's hear it for the media's army of Wayne Rooney shrinks

The media no longer understand the concept – "footballer wants more money" – without recourse to an army of doctors.

The Big Interview: Michael Owen

The Manchester United striker admits age and injuries have taken their toll but he remains determined to go out at the top.

Michael Owen insists he's still good enough for Manchester United.

Grant Wahl: Concussions take toll in soccer too

When Taylor Twellman won Major League Soccer's MVP award in 2005, he threw his head at balls in the penalty box with the force of a bird smacking into a window. That's how the U.S. and New England Revolution forward scored 101 goals in eight MLS seasons -- and how his playing career took an irretrievable turn on Aug. 30, 2008.

England: Carling Cup Round-Up

Theo Walcott's double helped Arsenal rout Newcastle 4-0 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals of the League Cup. Aston Villa defeated Burnley 2-1 and West Ham beat Stoke 3-1 in Wednesday's other matches, which both went to extra time.


Norman Hubbard on Roberto Di Matteo

There has never been a better time to be an Italian manager in England. Roberto Mancini possesses the world's biggest transfer budget. Carlo Ancelotti is a languid, likeable double winner. Fabio Capello may be heavily criticised but, for £6 million a year, he is prepared to accept that. And then there is the man who represents the revelation among his compatriots in England, Roberto Di Matteo.

Kyle McCarthy: MLS Playoffs: First-round Preview

When the MLS postseason starts, one maxim serves as a guiding principle.

Expect the unexpected.

The well-worn phrase may appear a bit trite on the surface, but it pops up time and again as the eight chosen teams battle for the right to lift MLS Cup every year.

Steve Davis: MLS Playoffs: First-round Preview

Taking a look at the first round of the MLS playoffs, which begin this week:

Tom Adams: Rewind to 1999

On Sunday, Newcastle and Sunderland meet at St James' Park to contest the Tyne-Wear derby. Eleven years ago, the same stadium played host to one of the most notorious incidents in the history of the North East's premier match as Ruud Gullit dropped his captain Alan Shearer. It was a bewildering decision that exposed the poisonous atmosphere surrounding the club, and led to Gullit's departure from Newcastle after they were beaten 2-1 by their local rivals.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

England: Wednesday's Carling Cup Previews

Aston Villa vs. Burnley

Newcastle vs. Arsenal

West Ham vs. Stoke City

Martin Tyler Column

Martin Tyler's stats and facts column is here!

Every week he will be here to offer you statistical gems to make your day, impress your mates and, on occasion, to settle the odd bet.

Sky Sports' voice of football and his back-up team of experts are here to answer your questions and queries on all things statistical and historical from the beautiful game.

The Big Story Of MLS In 2010? A Derby Is Born

But the most important number is 90.

As in it’s 90 miles from PPL Park to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Jonathan Wilson: Premier League title far from a formality for early leader Chelsea

Under normal circumstances in the Premier League, you'd look at a side that was five points clear with a quarter of the season played and assume it was strolling toward the title. These, though, are not normal circumstances.

Chelsea has been the best team, scoring four more goals than anybody else and conceding five fewer. Beyond statistics, it feels as though Chelsea has been playing the best football.

Quotes of the Week

"I thought I would either stay with Portsmouth, move to a Premier League club or go to Scotland. In between thinking about all that, there was my wedding to Amanda to organise. Somehow it all converged at a single point, the morning after my stag do. I received a phone call from an unknown number. I don't usually answer those, but I was still drunk and so I picked it up. Much to my astonishment the man on the other end was Steve Coppell." David James reveals the real reason why he joined Bristol City.

"I've got to play him, really, because I met him out shopping with his mum the other day. She was quite a big girl so I've got to play him. I wasn't going to mess with her, believe you me." Mrs Palacios ensures son Wilson is given a rare start by Spurs boss Harry Redknapp.

"People are going to make mistakes and to be a referee I think you have to be a masochist." Michel Platini conjures up images best left to the imagination.

The Rest

Manchester United's young devils - a lot of promise but far from polished

As Javier Hernandez establishes himself as Manchester United's latest young talent, Rory Smith looks at six other promising players coming through the ranks at Old Trafford.

Paul the octopus is dead – but conspiracy theories are thriving

No sooner had death's tentacles slackened their grip on Paul's squidgy body than the first conspiracy theory concerning his demise emerged like a cephalopod from a crevice.

Not everyone, it seems, is prepared to accept the news that the "psychic" octopus – who made such a splash over the summer by successfully predicting the results of World Cup games – passed away on Monday in the comfort of the German aquarium he called home.

Owen out for weeks with new hamstring problem

Michael Owen has suffered a fresh hamstring injury and will be out of action for "a few weeks".
Owen has been out with a groin injury after being substituted in Manchester United's 0-0 draw with Sunderland on October 2. He was back in training last week but picked up a hamstring strain ahead of Tuesday night's Carling Cup win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

England: Carling Cup Round-Up

Javier Hernandez was again the hero for Manchester United as he came off the bench to score the winner in their Carling Cup fourth round clash with Wolves at Old Trafford. League One Brentford suffered heartbreak at St Andrews as they lost on penalties to Birmingham City. Roberto Martinez ended the run of his former club Swansea as his current charges Wigan sealed a 2-0 win at the DW Stadium.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ballon d'Or shortlist puts English football in its place

With not a single English name on it, the 23-man Ballon d'Or list will induce many a wince around Premier League clubs

Sid Lowe in Spain + La Liga Table

With a talented group of youth talent added to astute signings, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight for Villarreal's miracle.

Out of Villarreal's old orange grove grows 'the perfect football eco-system'.

Real Madrid86201820
Sevilla FC8422314
Atlético Madrid8413313
Athletic Bilbao8314010
Real Sociedad8314-110
Sporting Gijon8224-68
Racing Santander8215-97
Deportivo La Coruña8044-114
Real Zaragoza8035-83

Raphael Honigstein in Germany + Bundesliga Table

His side rock bottom and a victim of Mainz's success, Zvonimir Soldo got the axe. But the buck shouldn't stop with him.

Köln in meltdown as Zvonimir Soldo is shown the door.

Borussia Dortmund97111422
Hannover 969513116
TSG Hoffenheim9432415
Bayer Leverkusen9432315
Hamburg SV9432215
SC Freiburg9504015
Werder Bremen9423-114
Eintracht Frankfurt9414513
St Pauli9414-113
Bayern Munich9333012
VfL Wolfsburg9315-110
VfB Stuttgart9216-17
Schalke 049135-66
Borussia Monchengladbach9135-136
FC Cologne9126-85

Paolo Bandini in Italy + Serie A Table

The Romanian is in difficulties again at a time when Fiorentina need him to bolster their injury-depleted attack.

Fiorentina need returning Adrian Mutu to help them through a bruising time.

AC Milan8521717
Chievo Verona8413213
AS Roma8233-59

England: Tuesday's Carling Cup Preview

Holders Manchester United host struggling Wolves, while high-flying West Brom travel to Sven Goran Eriksson's Leicester in the fourth round of the Carling Cup. Elsewhere, Birmingham welcome Brentford to St Andrews, and Wigan boss Roberto Martinez sees former club Swansea arrive at the DW Stadium.


Europe: Teams of the Week

Serie A

La Liga

England: Premier League

Germany: Bundesliga

Americans In The UK: Mike Grella Sparks Near Comeback For Carlisle

On-loan striker Mike Grella started for Carlisle on Saturday, scoring a fine goal which inspired his squad in their match against Charlton Athletic.

The Rest

Americans On The Continent: Moving Up

Steve Cherundolo and Hannover 96 secured a vital win to slide into the top three in the German Bundesliga.

The Rest

Newcastle United Join Everton In The Race For American Loan Star Landon Donovan

Magpies manager Chris Hughton has identified Donovan as an ideal replacement for Hatem Ben Arfa, who is not due to return to action until March after suffering a double leg break against Manchester City earlier this month.

Donovan, 28, is also desired for his versatility as he can play as a striker or in midfield and Hughton is desperate to strengthen his attacking options in January to provide support for Andy Carroll.

Sheikh Mansour takes spending at Manchester City past half-billion mark

Manchester City's owners have injected another £80m into the club, taking Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan's investment since buying City in 2009 to more than £573m.

According to documents released to Companies House last Monday, Mansour purchased 37,547,169 new shares in the Eastlands club on 30 September, each costing him £2.12. It amounted to £79.6m of fresh investment. The sum is small change for the Abu Dhabi billionaire, but it raises fresh questions about City's capacity to meet new regulations coming in to force from next season.

Paul the World Cup octopus dies in his tank in Germany

Paul the octopus, an unlikely star of the 2010 World Cup who 'predicted' the outcome of eight matches, has died at an aquarium in Germany.

Tim Vickery in South America

The game runs on passion, from fans, players and coaches. Take the passion away and the game is nothing but too much is deadly. Football has brought countless benefits, but there is also plenty to lament from stadium disasters to lives lost in pointless conflicts. Uncontrolled human emotion can be a very terrible thing.

Uli Hesse in Germany

The story of that logo goes back to the 1980s. The exact year is a matter of debate, because the man who got the ball rolling was drinking heavily then.

Thus the details are hazy, though St Pauli's recent centenary exhibition says the year was 1987 and circumstantial evidence has me presume that's correct.

What happened that spring was that a punk rocker known as Doc Mabuse passed through the famous Hamburg funfair called the Dom on his way to a St Pauli game and somehow arrived at the ground with a pirate flag in his hand. (These days, he sometimes says he actually paid for the flag, but that's far-fetched.)

Phil Ball in Spain

I was invited to dinner last Friday night by some colleagues from the day job, all of whom were women. This does not guarantee, in any shape or form in the Iberian Peninsula, that the evening's conversation would not revolve around football, but the way that the long table was arranged, with myself at one end and the only other bloke at the other, led me to believe that some sort of conspiracy had been arranged beforehand to keep us apart. Then again, the chap at the other end was a Catalan, and a famous one at that, at least in the world of education. Conditioned by an unspoken law in these northern parts that on a Friday cena (supper) you cannot talk shop, the evening's conversation revolved pleasantly enough around a variety of stuff, until, that is, the Catalan gent mentioned Joan Laporta.

Monday, October 25, 2010

SSN Separated at Birth: Andy Carroll and Kevin Federline

Both of these knuckleheads are known for playing and scoring in leagues well above their talent level.

Mutu explains waiter incident

According to Corriere dello Sport, Mutu’s representatives Nino D’Avirro and Michele Ducci said: “Mutu reacted to a series of repeated and serious racist insults and the threat that he would end up like the Romanian nurse who was killed by a punch in the Rome metro.”

Benzema Still Struggling at Real

France coach Laurent Blanc and Jose Mourinho, in charge of Real Madrid, used to spend hours talking football when the pair crossed paths at Barcelona during the 1996-97 season. Blanc was a player then, and Mourinho part of Bobby Robson's coaching staff (they were often joined by fellow players Gica Popescu, Luis Figo and, ironically, current Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola). Nowadays the two coaches are still on friendly terms, and it's safe to assume that at the moment, one subject dominates their conversations more than any other: France and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema.

Five decades of England football players cashing in

How did England's top players earn a crust in days gone by?

Italy: Serie A Weekend Review

Stefano Mauri inspired Serie A leaders Lazio to a 2-1 victory over Cagliari at the Stadio Olimpico. Inter Milan lost ground on the leaders as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Sampdoria.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Review

Villarreal moved back to within a point of La Liga leaders Real Madrid after a hugely impressive 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid.


England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports & Analyses

Arsenal overcame 10-man Manchester City to climb to second in the table, Liverpool claimed a much-needed win but remain in the relegation zone while Javier Hernandez helped Manchester United to an away day triumph at Stoke City. In light of City losing to Arsenal, Chelsea extended their advantage at the summit to five points as they saw off Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Off the back of their dramatic UEFA Champions League tie at Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur played out a 1-1 draw with Everton at White Hart Lane. West Bromwich Albion continue to operate in the heady heights of the table following their fourth top-flight three-point haul of the season. The Baggies rose to see off Fulham, although the victory came in controversial circumstances.


Manchester City 0 - 3 Arsenal
Richard Jolly at City of Manchester Stadium
Kevin McCarra at City of Manchester Stadium

Tottenham 1 - 1 Everton
David Lacey at White Hart Lane
Kevin Palmer at White Hart Lane

Chelsea 2 - 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge

Stoke City 1 - 2 Manchester United
Stuart James at Britannia Stadium

Liverpool 2 - 1 Blackburn
Andy Hunter at Anfield

Rooney Aftertaste

Wayne Rooney wasn't even in the country this weekend but last week's ill-advised saga still leaves a bad taste in the mouth, according to's Alex Dunn.

Star Exports: The Top 20 U.S. Soccer Players In Europe

With foreign stars like Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez, and David Beckham moving to the MLS, the U.S. soccer league has certainly boosted its international profile. But what about the quality of homegrown talent in America? Perhaps the best way to gauge the true standard of U.S. soccer is to examine the impact that American players are making abroad—specifically, those who've hopped across the pond to prove themselves in Europe. Where the likes of Alexi Lalas and John Harkes first trod, more and more Americans are following, and if they're having an impact anything like Landon Donovan did at Everton last season, then U.S. soccer talent is sure to start making a splash in the world's biggest leagues. So, who's currently flying the flag highest overseas? If only there was a post looking at, say, the Top 20 U.S. Soccer Players in Europe. Oh, you asked? Well, here you go...