Friday, December 17, 2010

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

AC Milan's Scudetto credentials will be tested when they come up against a strong Roma team on Saturday night.

Juventus, Lazio and Napoli each have 30 points in joint second and are trying to keep the pressure on Milan.

Juve are unbeaten in 12 league games and visit Chievo on Sunday.

Lazio, meanwhile, will be keen to bounce back from last weekend's 2-1 defeat at Juve when they take on Udinese in Rome.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview

Barcelona's 21-match unbeaten run in all competitions could come under serious threat this weekend as they face in-form Espanyol.

Barca hold a two-point advantage over second-placed Real Madrid heading into the final round of league fixtures in 2010.

Madrid could be without at least eight players for Sunday's visit of Sevilla but still remain firm favourites to beat the out-of-sorts Andalusians.


England: Premier League Previews & Predictions

A busy weekend of Premier League action sees title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United lock horns on Sunday, among a number of other intriguing fixtures. Sunderland and Bolton contest the first top-flight game of the weekend at the Stadium of Light, there is a Midlands derby as West Brom host Wolves, while managerless Blackburn take on struggling West Ham and Roy Hodgson faces his former side when Fulham travel to Liverpool. Arsenal, meanwhile, will still be reeling from that narrow defeat at Old Trafford and they take on Stoke City at the Emirates. Blackpool host Tottenham, Newcastle go to Birmingham City, Villa host Wigan and Manchester City host Everton on Monday.


Chelsea vs. Manchester United

Robin Hackett previews Liverpool vs. Fulham

Jon Carter previews Sunderland vs. Bolton

Paul Merson previews Sunday's matches

Martin Lipton's Previews & Predictions

Lawro's Predictions

UEFA Champions League: Final 16 Thoughts

Simon Burnton:
Draw unkind to Arsenal and Spurs

Tom Adams:

Arsenal destined for early exit

Phil McNulty:
Can Arsenal turn Barca tide?

U.S. striker Buddle training with Birmingham

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish is searching for a new forward with the central England club two points above the three-team relegation zone after scoring just 17 goals in 17 matches.

Sid Lowe: Valencia's Joaquín on the way back

And in October 2006, soon after joining Valencia, he lost his place in the Spain squad. After the selección lost to Northern Ireland, he was asked if the national team had become a despelote, a shambles. He said that it had, that Luis Aragonés was not sure how to turn things round. He had played 51 times for Spain. He would not play again. "[Speaking up] cost me," he said, sadly.

Spain, meanwhile, turned it around.

The Mill +

Friday's Rumours


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, Adriano wins a his third Bidone d'Oro, Cristiano Ronaldo has no mates, an Ecuadorian player is suspend after faking his identity for seven years, the Peruvian cup final descends into a brawl and Carlos Tevez says goodbye to Manchester.

UEFA Champions League: Final 16

Draw for Champions League last 16

AS Roma (ITA) v Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)

AC Milan (ITA) v Tottenham (ENG)

Valencia (ESP) v FC Schalke (GER)

Inter Milan (ITA) v Bayern Munich (GER)

Lyon (FRA) v Real Madrid (ESP)

Arsenal (ENG) v Barcelona (ESP)

Marseille (FRA) v Manchester United (ENG)

Copenhagen (DEN) v Chelsea (ENG)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Martin Rogers: Value aside, Iniesta is Barca’s debt solution

Andres Iniesta likely is just weeks away from being crowned the world’s greatest soccer player, but his days at Barcelona may be numbered, a club source told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday.

Iniesta’s spectacular year included the winning goal for Spain in the World Cup final, and the 26-year-old is a strong favorite to win the FIFA Ballon D’Or award for player of the year on Jan. 10.

However, Barca’s hierarchy has not ruled out offloading him for a huge transfer fee, either during the January window or next summer, in a bid to cut into the club’s enormous debt of around $575 million.

England's faulty powers leave Premier League needing European bailout

As they mangled Real Sociedad 5-0, Pep Guardiola’s team held on to the ball as if it were attached by invisible thread to their boots.

Twenty-one passes preceded a goal from Lionel Messi, while Andrès Iniesta alone completed more than 100 passes in the game. And he was substituted with 20 minutes to go.

At Old Trafford on Monday night, it wasn’t like that.

Mario Balotelli speaks out about Italian culture of racism in new book

Juventus supporters once held up a banner about Balotelli with the words: "A Negro cannot be Italian." Another bearing the message "No to a multi-ethnic national team" was confiscated at the international match against Romania.

The Mill +

Wednesday's Rumours


Human rights? Women? Heat? FIFA didn't look at issues with Qatar

The heat is sure to be a nightmare, but it's a different kind of oppression I'm concerned about.

As a female sportswriter who may be at the 2022 World Cup as a working journalist traveling solo, how will I be treated? Will thousands of female visitors be accepted? Will gay football fans be harassed?

Martin Tyler's Column

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.

Premier League success has strong correlation to one's transfer spending

In the Premier League, clubs operate on very different budgets. And the more time that passes, the more predictable the league becomes. Although this season is providing unusually unpredictable, richer teams continue to gravitate to the top, and poorer ones sink to the bottom.

Until now, as noted in Simon Kuper's Soccernomics, there was believed to be no evidence of a relationship between transfer spending and success; wage bills were seen to be the only key factor. Pay As You Play -- the book I cowrote with Graeme Riley and Gary Fulcher -- suggests otherwise.

Focus on Greece

This is undoubtedly a great era for Spain. After the Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 triumphs, it's hard to think of another side at the moment who can boast such a wonderful chapter in their history given the context of perennial underachievement. Greece, though, is one team that can rival the Spaniards in that regard.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Mill +

Tuesday's Rumours


Sid Lowe in Spain

Gregorio Manzano was supposed to be the coach that rescued Sevilla; instead, their record is worse than before.

Sevilla: a crisis runs through it.

Football's most expensive shirt sponsorship deals

No 1: Barcelona, £25m-a-year, five year deal with Qatar Foundation

Barcelona agree a five-year deal worth £125m with the Qatar Foundation in Dec 2010, becoming the most expensive deal of its kind in football. After five years paying for the priviledge of having 'Unicef' on their shirts, the economic realities of the game have forced the Spanish giants' hand. Qatar Foundation is a non-profit organisation dedicated to education projects in the Middle East.

The Rest

Sepp Blatter in hot water for making 'gay joke' when discussing Qatar World Cup 2022

Fifa president Sepp Blatter is at the centre of more controversy after suggesting that homosexual supporters should "refrain from any sexual activities" during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Carlos Tevez trains with Manchester City despite dispute with the club

City officials have rejected a transfer request from the Argentina international and are keen to keep hold of the striker despite his claim that his relationship "with certain executives and individuals at the club has broken down and is now beyond repair".

Adriano wins Italy’s Golden Bin award for third time

AS Roma striker Adriano won Italy’s infamous Golden Bin award for a third time on Monday after again being voted Serie A’s worst player by fans.

The burly Brazilian, given the Rai Radio 2 prize by listeners in 2006 and 2007 while playing for Inter Milan, returned to Italy with Roma at the start of the season after a stint at Brazil’s Flamengo but has made only three appearances.

Bus carrying PAOK fans set alight by Zagreb gang

Zagreb police say several people have been injured after a bus carrying football fans from Greek club PAOK was set on fire by rival supporters.

Americans In The UK: Holden’s Heroics

The American scored a sensational late winner for Bolton as they defeated Blackburn in a heated derby affair.

The Rest

Americans On The Continent: Quiet on the Home Front

Carlos Bocanegra and St. Etienne picking up their first win in nine matches and Steve Cherundolo going down with a knee injury were the main headlines in a largely uneventful week for the Americans on the Continent.

The Rest

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

It's already the best-ever first half of the season in the history of the club after their win against struggling Stuttgart.

Hannover counterattack their way into the Bundesliga's rarefied spheres.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

The player with the nickname Michael Jackson helped Juve overcome Lazio and keep them in the hunt behind leaders Milan.

Juventus win a thriller as Milos Krasic moonwalks into the limelight.

Phil Ball in Spain

The news that January's Ballon d'Or will be handed to one of the three musketeers, Andres Iniesta, Leo Messi or Xavi Hernandez, is significant in various ways.

Blackburn Sack Allardyce

A statement on the Blackburn website read: ''The Venky's Group, owners of Blackburn Rovers Football Club, has today [Monday] confirmed the departure of manager Sam Allardyce and assistant manager Neil McDonald with immediate effect. ''We have taken this decision as part of our wider plans and ambitions for the club. We would like to put on record our thanks to Mr. Allardyce for his contribution to Blackburn Rovers Football Club.''

Phil McNulty: Allardyce deserves better

Dale Johnson: Sham Decision

Louise Taylor: Owners want entertainment too

England: Monday's Premier League Reports, Analyses + Table

Manchester United
1 - 0

Richard Jolly at Old Trafford
Kevin McCarra at Old Trafford
Richard Williams at Old Trafford
Henry Winter at Old Trafford

Five Things We Learned
Player Ratings

Man Utd169702034
Man City179531132
West Brom17647-522
Aston Villa17557-920
West Ham17269-1512