Friday, November 12, 2010

Spain: Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

The weeks leading to the hugely anticipated first Clasico of the season have brought us distressing news: the match will be played on the night of November 29: a Monday. The previous Sunday, Catalans are due to vote in the elections to their Parliament (Catalonia's legislative body), and La Liga's governing entity believes that playing the match on that same Sunday would generate 'security issues'.

What a way to spoil El Clasico! Probably the most interesting part of the build-up to such an event lies on the preceding hours, when you spend a whole Saturday or Sunday afternoon watching footage from old games and interviews with former players, arguing endlessly with friends about what may or may not happen, awaiting impatiently for the line-ups to be announced...

Similar to other experiences, preliminaries indeed enhance the final climax. On the bright side, we can blame politics for one more thing now.

Let's start. As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.

The Joy of Six: TV Football Pundits

From Eamon Dunphy to Brian Clough, via Danny Blanchflower and Jimmy Hill, here are half a dozen broadcasting gems.

Sam Kelly in Argentina

After the will-he, won't-he saga surrounding his contract negotiations, after the repeated demonstrations, in nearly every match, of how much his team are missing him, and after a long injury layoff, Juan Roman Riquelme returned for Boca Juniors on Saturday. Perhaps fittingly, he did so against his first club, Argentinos Juniors - who also happen to be the club that current Boca manager Claudio Borghi took to the title back in May.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

Manchester United's travel to Aston Villa, Manchester City welcome Birmingham to Eastlands, Blackburn make the trip to Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool are away at Stoke City, Everton lock horns with Arsenal and Chelsea meet Sunderland. West Ham United boss Avram Grant will come under extreme pressure if his side do not see off Blackpool at Upton Park. Newcastle host Fulham, Wolves welcome Bolton, and Wigan and West Brom clash.


Team News

Aston Villa vs. Manchester United:
Paul Merson's Preview
Aston Villa vs. Manchester United:
Robin Hackett's Preview

Stoke City vs. Liverpool: Jon Carter's Preview

Lawro's Predictions

Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Preview + Table

Two important local derbies take centre stage with Bayern Munich hosting Nurnberg and Cologne playing Borussia Monchengladbach. Bayern are already 12 points behind league leaders Borussia Dortmund and that gap will increase if the Westphalians win their home game with Hamburg tomorrow night. Anxiety is also affecting Wolfsburg and Schalke, who have failed to live up to expectations so far this season and will both be aiming for three points when they meet at the VW-Arena. Bayer Leverkusen can climb into second if they can win at St Pauli, while Hoffenheim and Freiburg could both have a place in the top three up for grabs when they meet on Sunday.


Borussia Dortmund119112028
Bayer Leverkusen11632621
Eintracht Frankfurt11614919
TSG Hoffenheim11533718
Hamburg SV11533218
SC Freiburg11605-118
Bayern Munich11443216
Hannover 9611515-716
Werder Bremen11425-814
VfL Wolfsburg11416-113
St Pauli11416-613
VfB Stuttgart11317310
Schalke 0411236-49
FC Cologne11227-98
Borussia Monchengladbach11146-167

Spain: La Liga Weekend Previews + Table

Villarreal will be out to prove the fight for the title is not just another two-horse race this season when they take on Barcelona. Pacesetters Madrid will be following that match with interest as a draw would give Jose Mourinho`s men the chance to stretch their lead at the summit to three points on Sunday when they go to Sporting Gijon. Stuttering Valencia will hope to get back on track when they host Getafe at the Mestalla.

Guillem Balague's Previews

Real Madrid108202226
Sevilla FC10523017
Real Sociedad10514116
Atlético Madrid10424114
Athletic Bilbao10415013
Sporting Gijon10244-610
Racing Santander10316-710
Deportivo La Coruña10244-710
Real Zaragoza10145-77

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview + Table

A massive weekend in Italy with the Milan Derby heading the fixture list. Elsewhere, Roma travel to Juventus and Lazio face Napoli. Cesena travel to Tuscany to face Fiorentina inspired by their midweek 1-0 triumph over Lazio.


AC Milan11722923
AS Roma11533018
Chievo Verona11434115

Major League Soccer Cup Semifinals Preview

With the chase for MLS Cup down to four contenders, it's time for a capsule look at each conference final. Due to the wacky bracket set-up, which will hopefully be gone next season, all of the Major League Soccer survivors hail from the West.

Colorado Rapids v San Jose Earthquakes
Saturday 9:30 pm ET - Fox Soccer Channel

Los Angeles Galaxy v FC Dallas
Sunday 9:00 pm ET - ESPN2

Sid Lowe: Copa del Rey losing significance

The phone lines opened at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. At the same time, ATMs all over Spain were activated. Tickets were on sale for Atlético Madrid's Copa del Rey match against Universidad de Las Palmas at the Vicente Calderón -- the ground where the fans are proud of their loyalty and where season-ticket sales actually increased in the summer in which Atlético was relegated. When the lines closed that evening, 12 long hours later, 24 tickets had been sold.

Yes, 24.

Andy Carroll's capers are small beer compared to champagne George Best

At the height of his notoriety, George Best once had similar restriction placed upon him.

He was due to give evidence in court on behalf of his Manchester United colleague Paddy Crerand, who was up on an assault charge after stepping in to a nightclub fracas to protect Best's diminishing honour.

Crerand had hired the prominent QC George Carman to defend him, and the silk, fearful of Best's growing reputation for unreliability, insisted his star witness spend the night at his place, to ensure his prompt attendance in court the next morning. A sound plan, you might think. Except Carman had an approach to alcohol even more unhealthy than his houseguest and the two spent the evening ahead of their date in court in a vigorous attempt to drain Manchester club land of booze. On their return to the late lawyer's house, Carman passed out on the sofa.

Germany and Bayern star Mario Gomez urges gay footballers to go public

The Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez has broken ranks with the football establishment, including members of his own team and the German football federation, who have warned that coming out could destroy a player's career.

But Gomez, who has not said whether he is gay, told a German magazine that being honest about their sexuality would improve gay players' performance.

"They would play as if they had been liberated," Gomez said. "Being gay should no longer be a taboo topic."

Ruthless Chelsea sack Ray Wilkins as Carlo Ancelotti seeks fresh ideas

Ray Wilkins has been left devastated by his surprise dismissal with immediate effect from the post of assistant coach at Chelsea.

The 54-year-old knew nothing about his sacking before being called to meet with Ron Gourlay, the chief executive, while watching Chelsea's reserves play a training-ground friendly against Bayern Munich at lunchtime today.

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, Gazza targets a role in the remake of Escape to Victory, Napoli striker Edinson Cavani has a pizza named after him, an invasive examination reveals players' potential, Carlos Tevez gives Rio Ferdinand a helping hand and the quickest own goal from a sub was scored.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Prankster Pique still likes throwing stuff at people

As Pep Guardiola once spastically gestured about, Gerard Pique is a little crazy in the head. And when he's not bleeding profusely, he loves to play pranks on people. Whether it's spitting on old men during Spain victory parade or chasing Bojan around while only wearing a towel in the background of a news report, Pique is well known for being a big goofball.

Tom Adams: Rewind to 2002

Sunday's FA Cup draw induced a collective gasp from English football fans as it threw up the possibility that AFC Wimbledon could face their nemeses, MK Dons, in the second round. If both clubs win their replays then wounds will be reopened - wounds that are still savagely raw following a decision eight years ago that ripped a club from its community, spawned the derogatory nickname 'Franchise FC' and resulted in the birth of a supporter-owned club that would prove a model for such ventures in future.

Arsenal's Gael Clichy was once the Premier League's best left-back. What happened?

When Ashley Cole disappeared in a cloud of acrimony to Chelsea, there was a smug feeling among many Arsenal supporters that they had still got the best of the deal.

Not only did the club receive £5 million and an excellent defender in William Gallas but there was also the consolation of believing they already had a ready-made replacement in Gael Clichy.

Joey Barton: Said and Done

Dec 2004 - stubbed a lit cigar into the eye of young team-mate Jamie Tandy during Manchester City's Christmas party. Fined six weeks' wages by City. Forced to pay four weeks' salary - approximately £60,000 - immediately, with a further two weeks suspended for a year.
Barton says: "If I was to do something similar, I'd be the biggest fool ever."

Feb 2007
- wins his first international call-up despite public criticism of the England team's performance at the World Cup and subsequent releases of autobiographies.
Says: "England did nothing in the World Cup, so why are they bringing books out? 'We got beat in the quarter-finals, I played like s**t, here's my book'. Who wants to read that? I don't."

Nov 2010 - caught on camera punching Morten Gamst Pedersen in the stomach during Newcastle's 2-1 defeat against Blackburn, for which he only received a yellow card.


England: Premier League Midweek Review & Reports

Chelsea are four points clear at the top of the table after a 1-0 win to Fulham while the Manchester derby ended goalless. Arsenal moved to within a point of second-placed United thanks to Marouane Chamakh's double in a 2-0 win at Wolves. West Ham remain bottom of the table after West Brom came back to earn a 2-2 draw at Upton Park. Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw at Wigan after Fernando Torres had given the visitors an early lead. James Collins scored a late winner as Aston Villa won 3-2 at home to a Blackpool side which showed 10 changes. Substitute Jason Roberts earned Blackburn all three points in a 2- win at Newcastle to move Rovers away from the drop zone. Ten-man Everton drew 1-1 at home to Bolton after having midfielder Marouane Fellaini dismissed in the second half.


Manchester City 0 - 0 Manchester United
Richard Jolly at Eastlands
Phil McNulty at Eastlands
Five Things We Learned

Chelsea 1 - 0 Fulham
Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 - 2 Arsenal
David Instone at Molineaux

Wigan 1 - 1 Liverpool
Paul Wilson at the DW Stadium

Best of the Midweek

Paolo Bandini in Italy

Ahead of this weekend's Milan derby, Milan are top for the first time in two years but Inter's form has taken a downward turn.

Milan return to the Serie A summit but Inter are struggling in their slipstream.

Italy: Serie A Midweek Review

AC Milan went top of the Serie A table on Wednesday as Lazio lost while Inter Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by Lecce.


Marina Hyde: Why does England expect so much from footballers?

Unless we really have given up as a culture, we might consider investing the lives of players with less symbolism, not more.

Barca and Real agree Monday night Clasico date

The two heavyweights will meet at the Nou Camp on November 29 to avoid a clash with the Catalan elections which take place in Barcelona a day earlier.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

England: Wednesday's Premier League Preview & Predictions

The Manchester derby takes centre stage on Wednesday as City aim to go level on points with bitter rivals United at Eastlands. Table-toppers Chelsea are looking to respond from their loss at Anfield when they host West London London neighbours Fulham at Stamford Bridge. Another team looking to bounce back are Arsenal after their title hopes took a hit following a 1-0 loss at home to Newcastle. The Gunners travel to Molineux to meet Wolverhampton Wanderers. Liverpool are seeking a fourth successive three-point haul as they make the short trip to the DW Stadium to face Wigan Athletic. Bottom-of-the-table West Ham United face a crunch game against West Bromwich Albion at Upton Park. Fifth-placed Newcastle United must be pinching themselves after they followed up their hammering of bitter rivals Sunderland with a victory at Arsenal. And they face Blackburn Rovers. Everton are out to extend their six-game unbeaten run as they welcome Bolton Wanderers to Goodison Park. Lastly, Blackpool go in search of their fourth top-flight victory on the road this campaign as they travel to Aston Villa.


Lawro's Predictions

England: Manchester Derby Previews

Who: Manchester City v Manchester United
When: 3pm Eastern Standard Time
Where: City of Manchester Stadium
Preview I
Preview II
Alan Hansen's Preview

Daniel Taylor:
Mancini working on cure for City-itis

Jonathan Wilson:
Derby biggest test yet for United

David Ornstein:
Tevez is City's crown jewel

Basel & Luzern Fans Throw Thousands Tennis Balls Onto Field

England: Tuesday's Premier League Reports

Tottenham 1 - 1 Sunderland
David Hytner at White Hart Lane
Jonathan Stevenson at White Hart Lane

Stoke City 3 - 2 Birmingham City
Phil Shaw at the Britannia Stadium

Giuseppe Rossi is in good company

At first glance, Giuseppe Rossi's statistics appear to tell you all you need to know. This month, the 23-year-old reached 100 La Liga appearances for Villarreal. In his time with the club, he has scored 40 league goals -- and added another 13 goals in other competitions for the Yellow Submarine, putting him seven strikes from overtaking Diego Forlan as the club's all-time leading scorer. In La Liga this season, Rossi has found the net seven times -- just off Lionel Messi's tally of eight and Cristiano Ronaldo's 11.

But there's much more to Rossi's story than stats, as impressive as they may be. Indeed, the last eight months have been cataclysmic for the player whose Twitter page proclaims "Player for Villarreal F.C.....Been around the world...Hometown is always NJ...."

Pippo provides a good January option

AC Milan veteran Pippo Inzaghi has recently hinted at a January exit, after falling down the pecking order at the club. The summer arrivals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho have played a big part in the Rossoneri's rise to second in Serie A, and it has forced the legendary striker out of coach Massimiliano Allegri's plans this season. However, he may be 37, but he still has plenty to offer at the highest level.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Ten rounds in, still no favorite in Serie A

Ten rounds into the Serie A season, there is still no clear-cut favorite.

Five-time defending champion Inter Milan is struggling with a series of injuries and a thin bench, surprise leader Lazio is coming off a 2-0 derby loss to AS Roma, while AC Milan and Juventus are just starting to find form under new managers with a bevy of new players.

Lazio has 22 points, two more than Milan. Inter has 19 and Juventus and Napoli are tied for fourth with 18 each.

Even Roma, with 15 points after being winless in its opening four matches, is being considered as a possible challenger again.

Looks like these guys have a favorite...

England: Tuesday's Premier League Previews

Stoke City vs. Birmingham

Tottenham vs. Sunderland

Sid Lowe in Spain

It's a sorry state of affairs when Atlético are satisfied with simply not being beaten badly in what used to be Real's biggest game.

Real Madrid withdraw another three points from the bank of Atlético.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Theo Gekas hardly runs, rarely tries to stay onside and doesn't mind switching off, but he's as hot as any striker in Europe.

Eintracht Frankfurt's cold-blooded killer makes light work of latest prey.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

Defeat in the derby could have pre-empted the end of his tenure, yet instead Claudio Ranieri's team moved up to seventh spot.

Roma triumph where eagles dare not fly.

Didier Drogba has malaria, reveals Carlo Ancelotti... but Chelsea striker is set to face Fulham

Didier Drogba has been diagnosed as suffering from malaria, Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti has revealed.

Virus hits Manchester United squad ahead of derby against City

Manchester United have been hit with a virus ahead of tomorrow's derby against City with Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Scholes all believed to be among the victims.

Tim Vickery in South America

A successful and promising relationship has come to a premature end with the news that Marcelo Bielsa will not continue as coach of Chile. There is little point in appointing a foreign coach unless he brings something fresh - which the eccentric, but highly respected Argentine certainly has in the course of his three years in charge.

Georgina Turner: Thoughts on the weekend's action in the Barclays Premier League

This wasn't a bad weekend to watch Premier League soccer, from Sunderland's controversy-laden 2-0 victory against Stoke, to the lively 2-2 draw between Blackpool and Everton, to Arsenal's 1-0 loss to Newcastle at the Emirates.

Steve Davis on MLS

Cheeky Ronaldo Chastised

Americans In The UK: Holding Their Own

Stuart Holden has been a key figure for Bolton this year and continued his solid play on Saturday as his squad defeated Spurs 4-2.

The Rest

Americans On The Continent: Baby Steps

Jermaine Jones and Schalke 04 secured an important win over St. Pauli as they aim to pull themselves out of the Bundesliga relegation zone.

The Rest

Andy Brassell in Portugal

And how it was. Benfica's five-goal mauling has left them deep in shock, and few in Portugal doubting that the title will be heading back to its habitual home in the north after a one-season 'loan' to the capital club, even if November is only just beginning. Porto's win stretched their lead to ten points over the defending champions - their nearest challengers - with just ten games gone, and their unerring form to date (nine wins and a draw) is as ominous for Benfica as their own struggles.

Phil Ball in Spain

Just in case you wanted to know, Atletico Madrid's veterans stuffed Real Madrid's 7-0 on Friday afternoon, and Ricky Carvalho beat Diego Forlan 1-0 in the FIFA 11 (virtual) game in a Madrid hotel the same day. The scorer was Ronaldo, of course. Interestingly, in the real thing on Sunday night, Carvalho opened the scoring and Forlan failed to find the net, but the Uruguayan was at least remaining faithful to tradition. Atletico have now failed to beat their neighbours in the Madrid 'derbi' since the 1999-00 season, and often stand accused of not really going for it, particularly in the Bernabeu.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Liverpool fan with strangest sign of the weekend

As Daniel Sturridge came on for Yuri Zhirkov in the 76th minute of Liverpool's 2-0 win over Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday, the cameraman caught an utterly bizarre sign being held by a Liverpool fan.

Newcastle striker Andy Carroll's stormy start to the season

Six goals, two court appearances, one burnt-out Range Rover - Andy Carroll has had a memorable start to his Premier League career.

Five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend

Andy Carroll could be a Christian Vieri in the making, Mario Balotelli needs to stop fighting it and Fernando Torres is a delicate flower who needs help.

Edgar Davids leaves Crystal Palace

The former Netherlands international made only seven starts for the Eagles.

Davids, who won a Champions League winners medal with Ajax, added: "I want to thank all the people who supported me and gave me one of the greatest experiences of my life."

But he looked so excited when he arrived...

England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports & Analyses

Liverpool defeated champions Chelsea to maintain the Reds' revival, Arsenal slumped at home against Newcastle United while Manchester United left it typically late to claim the spoils versus Wolverhampton Wanderers. Manchester City returned to winning ways courtesy of Mario Balotelli, who had a mixed outing at West Bromwich Albion. Tottenham Hotspur endured a European hangover after they were beaten 4-2 by Bolton Wanderers. There was controversy at the Stadium of Light as Stoke City were beaten 2-0 by Sunderland courtesy of an Asamoah Gyan double. West Ham United looked set to claim just their second win of the season only for the club to relinquish a two-goal advantage at Birmingham City. Blackpool played out a cracking game with Everton that ended in a 2-2 draw. Fulham left it mighty late to ensure they avoided a third loss of the campaign as Brede Hangeland headed in deep into second-half injury-time. Lastly, Blackburn Rovers secured a much-needed win to lift the club out of the bottom three. Sam Allardyce's men overcame Wigan Athletic at Ewood Park for their first victory in five matches.


Liverpool 2 - 0 Chelsea
Phil McNulty at Anfield
Kevin McCarra at Anfield
Richard Jolly at Anfield

Arsenal 0 - 1 Newcastle
Paul Doyle at Emirates Stadium
Adrian Del Monte at Emirates Stadium

West Brom 0 - 2 Manchester City
Daniel Taylor at The Hawthorns

Manchester United 2 - 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Tim Rich at Old Trafford

Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Review

Borussia Dortmund continued their fine start to the season while champions Bayern Munich's erratic form cost them more points.


Italy: Serie A Weekend Review

Marco Borriello and Mirko Vucinic converted second-half penalties as Roma beat Lazio 2-0. Alessandro del Piero was on target again as Juventus came from behind to beat Cesena 3-1 and register back-to-back league wins. Fiorentina leapt into the top half of the table thanks to a win over Chievo at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Review

Real Madrid maintained their one-point advantage at the top of La Liga with a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid.


Monday MLS Breakdown

For all of the shortcomings persistently cultivated by its quirky structure, the MLS postseason consistently brings one positive quality to the table.

It is, by and large, never short on drama.

The Fifth Official: This week on Kev and Andy

Few of us like Mondays 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 the past week in football.