Friday, December 30, 2011

Adam Digby in Italy: Serie A Team of 2011

As the year draws to a close, it presents us with an opportunity to look back on the players who have made the headlines throughout 2011. Due to the way football seasons are structured, this idea, much like the Ballon d'Or, is slightly flawed in that it often rewards players at what is effectively half-time in their campaign. On the other hand, however, it offers us the chance to reward consistency and to reflect on the players whose influence has not waned at the start of the new term.

Guillem Balague in Spain: The Story So Far

With La Liga in the midst of a mid-season break, Sky's Spanish football expert Guillem Balague took some time out to review what we've seen so far.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

It will be a New Year and a new start for a lot of teams at the wrong end of the Premier League, but both Manchester clubs will hope for more of the same in 2012. They are currently level at the summit with 45 points apiece and United host rock-bottom Blackburn on Saturday while City travel to Sunderland the following day. Tottenham are just seven points behind the Mancunian pace-setters with a game in hand and will look to keep the pressure on against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. Elsewhere, Chelsea and Arsenal both have home games while Bolton and Wolves lock horns in a relegation battle.


Team News

Liverpool vs. Newcastle: Preview

Paul Merson's Predictions
Lawro's Predictions

Premier League Spotlight

The Joy of Six: New Year Football Fixtures

From a wartime jazz riff to George Best's last match for Manchester United, we recall six famous new year games.

The Christmas Football Match 2011: Arsenal vs. Barcelona

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Friday's Rumours



PSG Appoint Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti has been confirmed as the new coach of Paris St Germain, the club announced at a press conference held at the Parc des Princes on Friday.

David Hytner: Thierry Henry is not the egocentric striker who left Arsenal behind

Uhh...things done changed?

When Henry left Arsenal in 2007 he was almost bigger than the club, but Barcelona and New York have changed him.

Arsène Wenger confirms Thierry Henry's return to Arsenal

The former Gunners captain, who left the club for Barcelona in 2007, has been training at London Colney during the Major League Soccer off-season and has impressed Wenger who is looking for short-term cover while Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh are away on Africa Cup of Nations Duty.

Stephen Ireland told not to draw attention to himself after being pictured posing with shisha pipe

Stay classy, Stephen...

Ireland has yet to produce his best form since moving from Manchester City 18 months ago, and courted negative headlines this week when his girlfriend posted a picture of him on the social networking site apparently puffing on a hookah pipe.

Chelsea agree fee with Bolton to sign Gary Cahill

Chelsea have agreed a fee with Bolton Wanderers to sign the England centre-back Gary Cahill for a fee of about £7m, the Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, confirmed on Friday morning.

Arjen Robben: Diver Extraordinaire

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

England: Thursday's Premier League Match Previews

Who: Tottenham vs. Chelsea
When: 3pm EST
Where: White Hart Lane, London, UK
Preview I
Preview II

Amy Lawrence: Why Nicklas Bendtner is just an ordinary guy in the Premier League

It will be interesting to see if the Dane's recent misfortunes at Sunderland are the wake-up call his game needs

Steve Davis: Klinsmann pushes his players to break free of comfort zones abroad

Ox, Shea, Henry, Pong
As word first emerged of Jurgen Klinsmann's desire to direct young MLS talent into training spells abroad, we all assumed this was about players maintaining fitness and gaining a little more technical expertise. Klinsmann directed everyone toward that sentiment through laments of the MLS season's relative brevity, about two months too short in his opinion. But that's a vastly incomplete explanation of what Klinsmann, now in his fifth month at U.S. soccer's highest coaching post, hopes players such as Brek Shea, Tim Ream, Juan Agudelo and others can accomplish through a few weeks abroad.

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Thursday's Rumours 


Paolo Bandini in Italy

Few would have imagined Juventus reaching the winter break top of Serie A – or Udinese being just two points behind them.

Juventus close 2011 sharing top with Milan as Serie A heads into break. 

England: Wednesday's Premier League Review & Reports

Santa at Goodison Park
Manchester City secured top spot for Christmas, Man United eased past Fulham and Arsenal left it late at Aston Villa. Luis Suarez could not help Liverpool to victory at Wigan as the Reds were held to a goalless draw at the DW Stadium, with Charlie Adam's second half penalty miss proving costly. West Brom got the better of Newcastle after a five-goal thriller at St James' Park, while Sunderland's late sucker punch earned them a 3-2 win at Queens Park Rangers. Everton picked up three precious points after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Swansea at Goodison Park.

Phil Jones and Ashley Young injuries spoil United's romp at Fulham


Fulham 0 - 5 Manchester United
Henry Winter at Craven Cottage
David Hytner at Craven Cottage
Mark Lomas at Craven Cottage

Manchester City 3 - 1 Stoke City
Daniel Taylor at the Etihad Stadium
Richard Jolly at the Etihad Stadium

Aston Villa 1 - 2 Arsenal
Stuart James at Villa Park
Jeremy Wilson at Villa Park

Wigan 0 - 0 Liverpool
Andy Hunter at the DW Stadium

Richard Williams: Liverpool should take heed of the past and accept Luis Suárez verdict

Howard Gayle

The Anfield club are not flattered by angry words which appear to contradict so much of the good work they have done in the fight against racism.

Backlash after Liverpool players wear T-shirts supporting Luis Suárez

Liverpool's manager Kenny Dalglish and his players have been criticised for reacting to Luis Suárez's eight-game ban by wearing T-shirts showing their support for the striker.

Ajax v AZ Alkmaar abandoned after fan attack

With 37 minutes gone, and with Ajax leading 1-0 thanks to Gregory Van Der Wiel's goal, a supporter ran on to the field and went to attack the AZ goalkeeper Esteban. The Costa Rican responded by kicking the fan to the ground, with stewards leading the intruder from the field. That was not the end of the controversy, though, with referee Bas Nijhuis sending off the 22-year-old, which prompted a furious reaction on the AZ bench.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cassano apologizes for attack on TV crew

Cassano jostled a cameraman and insulted a female reporter, from local TV station Telenord, who were filming a report that had nothing to do with the striker.

Italy: Serie A Midweek Preview

Antonio Conte's Juve face a stern test on Wednesday with Udinese boasting a perfect record at the Friuli stadium. Inter Milan carry a three-match winning streak into their game against bottom-side Lecce at the San Siro.


England: Premier League Midweek Preview

You can't do better than Coors Light?

There is no time for festive cheer in the Premier League as the busy winter period continues in midweek. It was a bumper Sunday in the top flight but there is no respite as all clubs dust themselves down and go again for the last fixtures before Christmas. Manchester City will be looking to make it two wins from two and stay top of the table when they host Stoke, but Manchester United may have different ideas as they go to Fulham. Elsewhere, Aston Villa host Arsenal while an intriguing game on Thursday night sees London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea meet at White Hart Lane.

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Wednesday's Rumours


Italy: Tuesday's Serie A Reports

Cagliari 0 - 2 AC Milan

Siena 0 - 0 Fiorentina


England: Tuesday's Premier League Reports & Reaction

Blackburn 1 - 2 Bolton
Richard Jolly at Ewood Park
Phil McNulty at Ewood Park
Paul Wilson: Rovers need more than simply a replacement for Steve Kean

Wolverhampton 2 - 2 Norwich City
Stuart James at Molineux

Andy Brassell in France

"Hot in here, isn't it?" Approaching midnight in the press area beneath the Parc des Princes, Joe Cole pads his brow in mock exasperation. Even if the stuffy indoors is in stark contrast to the bitter chill of Parisian winter, it might be cumulative, as the England international has experienced his fair share of warmth since arriving in France at the summer transfer window's last knockings. The French have really taken to the loanee from Liverpool; his uncommonly-English flair, his bustling industry and even his game stabs at the basics of the language in post-match interviews have endeared him to the public. It's not, sadly for him, something that appears entirely mirrored back home, with Cole now appearing to accept he won't be back in the white of England at Euro 2012.

Uli Hesse in Germany

A week ago, we drew attention to the mysterious falling out between Hertha Berlin's coach Markus Babbel and the club's general manager, Michael Preetz, and said the two might soon part ways. However, nobody could've expected that the matter would come to a head only a few days later and that Babbel would be fired less than 24 hours after his team snatched a point away at Hoffenheim.

Auf Wiedersehen...

CPS Authorise Terry Racism Prosecution

The Crown Prosecution Service has authorised for a prosecution to go ahead against Chelsea and England captain John Terry over alleged racial abuse against QPR's Anton Ferdinand.

Liverpool furious as Luis Suárez banned in Patrice Evra racism row

Luis Suárez has been banned for eight matches and fined £40,000 for racially abusing Patrice Evra, prompting an extraordinary response from Liverpool accusing the Manchester United player of being "not credible" and alleging that the Football Association had deliberately set out to punish their player even before hearing the evidence.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

England: Tuesday's Premier League Previews

Blackburn vs. Bolton
Keane bullish before Derby D-Day

Wolverhampton vs. Norwich

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Tuesday's Rumours


England: Festive fixture list fuels Premier League title race

The hectic fixture schedule that characterises the festive period is upon us, and there is no respite for Premier League clubs. Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen believes it is a make-or-break time for the title contenders - or break, at any rate. "You certainly can't win it at Christmas, but you can lose it," he says. "It's such a big period and there are so many points to play for." Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea play four games in the space of 14 days, while Manchester United play the same number of games in 15 days - although none of the leading pack faces the programme of four games in 12 days that has angered Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers. Based on the scheduling, United appear to have a slight advantage.

Tim Vickery on the Suarez/Evra Race Row

When Luis Suarez joined Liverpool at the start of the year I wrote that he had the ability to shine in the Premier League but also that his fiery temperament would be put to the test. He has given us more than I bargained for. An instant Anfield sensation, his exploits for Uruguay make Suarez beyond doubt the outstanding player in the world this year in terms of national team football. In England, as expected, he has become the Liverpool player least likely to be popular with opposing fans but he has exceeded his own reputation for controversy with the flare-up with Patrice Evra and the charge of racism.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The footballer formerly known as Mr Real Madrid has settled in Germany far better than anyone could have expected.

Language barrier cannot stop Raúl singing from Schalke hymn sheet.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

The weekend's standout games took place at the same time – and both produced a frenzied 90 minutes marked by four goals.

Lazio v Udinese and Napoli v Roma have Serie A viewers seeing double.

When Australia sent a team to Saigon during the height of the Vietnam War

In 1967, and with the Vietnam War at its height, Australia sent a team to play in a tournament in Saigon.

Jonathan Wilson: The Football Tactical Trends of 2011

Barcelona's Bielsa influence, stepping back from the high line, the falsehood of the false nine and Markarián's mettle.

Americans Abroad: A more polished Donovan returns to Premier League

In what turned out to be quite a notable week for Americans abroad both on and off the field -- including goals for Carlos Bocanegra and Sacha Kljestan and a debut for West Ham's 17-year-old English-American left back Daniel Potts -- here is a closer look at how everybody fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):

Tim Vickery in South America

Muricy Ramalho: Poor tactics
It was the moment when reality bit contemporary Brazilian football on the backside. Barcelona's 4-0 win over Santos - I dread to think how many they could have scored - did not only win the Club World Cup. It was also the moment when not even the most fervent Brazilian nationalist could doubt that the mantle has changed hands. Once Brazil was the spiritual home of the beautiful game. Beyond all question, that honour has crossed the Atlantic to Catalonia.

Phil Ball in Spain

So the traditional Christmas break is upon us, and La Liga goes quiet until January 7th, when hostilities resume. I say this every year at this time, but one needs to resist the temptation to proclaim any team "Winter Champions" at this point, or half-way winners, much as several Madrid-based newspapers would like to do. La Liga has completed only sixteen games, one fewer than is normal at this time of the year, but that is due to the players' strike at the beginning of the season. We will be well on our way to February before any solid half-time claims can be made.

Monday, December 19, 2011

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Monday's Rumours


England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports, Analyses & Teams of the Week

Dempsey bagged another as Fulham cruised at The Cottage
Sunday saw Manchester's big guns fire again while Tottenham kept their title hopes alive. Arsene Wenger has, however, conceded that Arsenal are now out of the running following their defeat by Manchester City, while Chelsea suffered an untimely hiccup on the road at Wigan. Manchester United briefly went top of the table following their victory over Queens Park Rangers, while Spurs edged out Sunderland to move back into third. Craig Bellamy put in an inspirational performance for Liverpool as they overcame Aston Villa, while Stoke saw off Wolves at Molineux. Bolton and Blackburn remain in trouble after coming unstuck against Fulham and West Brom respectively, with pressure mounting on the shoulders of Owen Coyle and Steve Kean. Everton left it late to snatch a point off Norwich, while the spoils were also shared on Tyneside as Newcastle and Swansea failed to trouble the scorers.


Manchester City 1 - 0 Arsenal
Richard Williams at the Etihad Stadium
Henry Winter at the Etihad Stadium
Kevin McCarra at the Etihad Stadium
Richard Jolly at the Etihad Stadium
Paul Hayward: Arsenal grit proves they still have soul
Five Things We Learned

Joy for Silva and City
Aston Villa 0 - 2 Liverpool
Stuart James at Villa Park

Tottenham 1 - 0 Sunderland
David Hytner at White Hart Lane

Queens Park Rangers 0 - 2 Manchester United
Phil McNulty at Loftus Road
Dominic Fifield at Loftus Road
Amy Lawrence at Loftus Road

Five Things We Learned I
Five Things We Learned II

Garth Crook's Team of the Week
Team of the Week

Spain: La Liga Weekend Review

Manzano under pressure
Atletico Madrid picked up its first home league defeat of the season after going down 2-0 to 10-man Real Betis on Sunday to increase the pressure on coach Gregorio Manzano. Also Sunday, third-place Valencia emerged from a dip in form to beat European hopeful Malaga 2-0, Granada won 2-1 against Levante, Real Sociedad and Racing Santander drew 0-0 and Osasuna rallied to win 2-1 against Villarreal. On Saturday, a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real Madrid to a 6-2 romp at Seville to lead Barcelona by three points atop the standings.


Italy: Serie A Weekend Review

Simone Pepe gets excited
Unbeaten Juventus broke clear at the top of the Italian league with a 2-0 victory over struggling Novara on Sunday as Udinese was held to a 2-2 draw at Lazio. Juventus is two points clear of AC Milan and Udinese. Inter Milan's revival gathered pace as Andrea Ranocchia helped it win 1-0 at struggling Cesena. Inter's fifth win in six games moves it up to fifth spot - 10 points behind Juventus.


Italy: Former Atalanta captain Doni, 16 others arrested

Former Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni and 16 other people have been arrested across Italy in an ongoing investigation into match-fixing and illegal betting on games. The inquiry is focused on several matches in Serie B over the past two seasons - with three of the matches including Atalanta. Three Serie A matches from last season are also under investigation: Brescia vs. Bari, Brescia vs. Lecce and Napoli vs. Sampdoria.

ESPN Soccernet: Someone had fun putting these headlines side-by-side

Dann suffers ruptured testicle | Kean on sack

The Fifth Official

Cech horror show...
Christmas is supposed to be a time of cheer, of good will to all men, but trying telling that to the folk of Blackburn, who are ripping themselves to shreds the further they are led into the footballing wilderness by that prophet of doom Steve Kean. To compound his yuletide misery, the town's local paper, the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, is calling for his head on Monday morning's front page. No wonder, given the manager's own driving license has more points than his team.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

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, super-rich and "arrogant" footballer Nicklas Bendtner begs for a free pizza in Denmark, Inter Milan striker Diego Milito is awarded the Bidone d'Oro, Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy is a 's**t' Premier League referee and a crazy Argentinian goalkeeper takes a bite out of an opponent's face.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sky Sports: Review of the Year

Although football is all about seasons rather than years the festive period is always a great time to take stock and look back at the past 12 months.'s football desk deliver their highlights and lowlights for the calender year.