Friday, January 14, 2011

Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview & Phil Ball's Quiniela

Brilliant Barcelona have another record in their sights this weekend as they prepare to welcome new-look Malaga to the Nou Camp. Real Madrid are in similarly good form to Barca this season and they go to second-bottom Almeria having rattled off five successive league wins since going down 5-0 at the Nou Camp, including beating third-placed Villarreal 4-2 last weekend.


Phil Ball's Quiniela

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Inter Milan go into Saturday's game against Bologna on the back of three consecutive wins, including Wednesday's 3-2 triumph over Genoa in the cup. Milan, meanwhile, travel to relegation-threatened Lecce 24 hours later looking to return to winning ways after being held to a 4-4 draw by Udinese last time out.

A slip by Milan could see second-placed Napoli reduce their four-point lead at the summit. Napoli host Fiorentina looking to replicate the form they displayed in last weekend's 3-0 triumph over Juventus.


England: Premier League Previews & Predictions

Sunday is derby day in the Premier League as huge contests in the Second City, Merseyside and Wear-Tyneside take the spotlight. Birmingham host Aston Villa in a 12pm kick-off, while Sunderland and Newcastle also meet at high noon, and Liverpool welcome Everton across Stanley Park later in the afternoon. To add to Sunday's drama, top-of-the-table rivals Tottenham and Manchester United clash at White Hart Lane in what promises to be an engrossing encounter in North London. On Saturday, defending champions Chelsea welcome Blackburn, Manchester City seek revenge against Wolves, and Arsenal travel to West Ham in the evening kick-off. Elsewhere, relegation-threatened Wigan see Fulham arrive at the DW Stadium, out-of-form West Brom will hope for a reprieve against a confident Blackpool side, and Bolton visit Stoke.


Team News

West Ham vs. Arsenal: Preview

Tottenham vs. Manchester United: Preview

Paul Merson's Sunday Previews

Alan Hansen's Merseyside Derby Preview

Lawro's Predictions

The Mill + ++ +++

Friday's Rumors




Craig Bellamy arrested over suspicion of assault after incident in Cardiff

Wales striker Craig Bellamy was dogged by new controversy on Wednesday night when he was arrested by police investigating an alleged assault in Cardiff city centre.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The second half of the Bundesliga season kicks off tonight after one of the most entertaining winter breaks in memory.

Völler's verbals, Schalke left shivering and another Munich meltdown.

Cheap and cheerful Blackpool subvert the Premier League class system

Ian Holloway's side – winners against Liverpool this week – have confounded expectation and precedent and need only 12 points from 18 matches to avoid relegation.

Steve Davis: Plenty of surprises in SuperDraft

Never underestimate the randomness of any draft. Sure enough, Vancouver stunned the room right away Thursday with its choice to begin the process, taking project striker Omar Salgado rather than one of the two players everyone had projected to go at Nos. 1 and 2.

From there, a draft chalk full of quality defenders saw just one of them taken among the first five names called. See -- the next surprise is never far away.

Wayne Rooney's brother joins New York Red Bulls in MLS

The younger Rooney worked out for scouts last week in Florida, having signed with MLS, and was taken on by the Red Bulls today.

U.S. to play Argentina, Paraguay in exhibitions

The United States has completed arrangements for its March 26 exhibition against Argentina at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and will play Paraguay three days later at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.

Ex-World Cup ref pleads guilty in N.Y. drug case

Byron Moreno, who is being held without bail, pleaded guilty to one count of heroin smuggling, spokesman Robert Nardoza said. He faces up to 5¼ years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. No sentencing date was set.

Moreno enraged Italian fans in 200edx2 when he ejected Francesco Totti, giving the Italian a second yellow card for an alleged dive in the penalty area 13 minutes into overtime of a 2-1 loss to South Korea in the World Cup's second round.

A 111th-minute goal by Italy's Damiano Tommasi that would have advanced the team was disallowed, apparently for offside, and South Korea was awarded a penalty kick -- that goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saved -- for a foul by Christian Panucci against Seol Ki-Hyeon.

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, Wesley Sneijder attempts to sweet talk Jose Mourinho at FIFA's awards gala, Tuncay hawks his wares on Facebook, Edin Dzeko scores an own goal at Manchester City, FIFA bend over backwards for Qatar and the greatest goal in the world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

David is more a baby Bentley than the new Beckham

David Bentley wasted his time with Arsenal, Norwich, Blackburn, Tottenham and England – Birmingham City may now find that joke isn't funny anymore.

The Mill + ++

Thursday's Rumours



England: Wednesday's Premier League Reports


Andy Hunter at Bloomfield Road

Henry Winter at Bloomfield Road

England: Tuesday's Carling Cup First-Leg Reports & Analysis

Ipswich Town
1 - 0

Kevin McCarra at Portman Road

Jeremy Wilson at Portman Road

Five Things We Learned

Qatar's World Cup Spending Spree

Qatar's winning bid to hold the 2022 World Cup was marked by a spending spree that included investments in the home countries of several executives who were responsible for choosing the host nation, according to internal documents from the emirate's bidding committee.

The spending sheds light on how FIFA regulations—outlined in the two-page rules of conduct for World Cup host-nation bidding—left the door open for hopefuls to open wallets to exert indirect influence on international soccer's small circle of decision-makers.

Qatar also paid soccer-world luminaries—hailing from France, Spain, Argentina and elsewhere— who publicly endorsed its bid, according to Qatar bid committee documents and emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Some were paid more than a million dollars in connection with the endorsements, said a person familiar with the situation.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Things really couldn't have gone more swimmingly for Bayern Munich during its winter training camp in Qatar. Long-term absentee Arjen Robben was back on the pitch, moving freely and feeling good. Franck Ribéry, another worry in recent months, was as sharp as he has been since getting injured in Euro 2008. New addition Luiz Gustavo, who will most likely start as a left back, added quality to the squad, and the central midfield pairing of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mark van Bommel was reunited.

Despite all the harmony, Louis van Gaal seemed intent on causing a giant storm in the desert before the flight home. On Friday, out of the blue, he decided that substitute keeper Thomas Kraft, 22, will take over the No.1 spot from veteran Hans-Jörg Butt, 36, immediately. To say that the Bayern hierarchy was shocked by this decision would be a serious understatement.

Grant Wahl: Can David Beckham's best friend revive the New York Cosmos?

Of all the figures I've encountered in soccer over the years, Terry Byrne is right near the top of my most intriguing people list. A 44-year-old Englishman, Byrne has gone on a remarkable life journey from London taxi driver to massage therapist for Chelsea and England to David Beckham's best friend and personal manager to a sports business career of his own.

Byrne's latest gig, however, may be his most fascinating of all. He has moved his family from London to the Big Apple to help relaunch the New York Cosmos.

Tom Adams: Rewind to 1991

On Sunday, Kenny Dalglish takes charge of his first home league match as Liverpool manager for 20 years when the club host Everton in the Merseyside derby. The Toffees also provided the opposition in the game that spelt the end of his first spell in charge of the club in 1991, and plunged the Reds into a crisis from which it is arguable they have never fully recovered.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

England: Wednesday's Premier League Previews


Preview I
Preview II

England: Wednesday's Carling Cup First-Leg Previews

Ipswich Town

Preview I
Preview II

Martin Rogers: Beckham shows desperation for Spurs loan

David Beckham is prepared to swallow a pay cut of more than $100,000 in a final attempt to push through his much-desired loan move from the Los Angeles Galaxy to Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League. The 35-year-old midfielder already arrived in London and underwent medical examinations at Tottenham on Monday while being photographed in the club’s tracksuit and training gear. Beckham will only practice with Tottenham and return to California in early February without having played an EPL game unless a complicated financial arrangement can be reached between Spurs and the Galaxy.

What Manchester United spends its money on - The Definitive Guide

This is the second in a series looking in detail at Manchester United's finance. In December I wrote about the various sources of revenue the club has. This post looks at operating costs. Revenue minus operating costs equals the famous "EBITDA" (earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation). I will write separately about the costs that come below EBITDA, namely those relating to player transfers and of course interest and related charges.

Compared to the complexity of revenues, the costs involved in running a football club are pretty straightforward.

Police investigate after package of bullets sent to Celtic's Paddy McCourt

Police are investigating after Royal Mail staff in Glasgow discovered a package containing bullets addressed to Celtic's Paddy McCourt – days after similar packages were sent from Northern Ireland to the Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, and player Niall McGinn.

Tottenham: Playing away from home?

Tottenham Hotspur is on a collision course with its local political representatives.

The football club management has spent much of the past decade trying to pull itself into the elite of global sports clubs.

As well as scoring more goals on the pitch they hoped to convince Haringey, the local authority, to give planning permission for a new 56,000 seat stadium in one of the poorest wards in the country, Northumberland Park.

Sid Lowe: Lionel Messi is the world's best player but Xavi deserved Fifa's award

Leo Messi was wearing a dickie bow last night. Proof, some said with a smile, that he knew he was going to be awarded with a second successive Ballon d'Or – after all, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta were only in ties. But he didn't know: amid all the shock, the disgust and the pathetic patriotic paranoia, the man most surprised at Messi's award was Messi. On his way into the gala, he was asked whether it felt a bit strange to be the best player in the world and yet still know that he wasn't going to get the award for the world's best player. Messi mumbled something along the lines of: no, not really – Xavi and Iniesta won the World Cup.

The Mill + ++ +++

Wednesday's Rumours




Steve Davis: MLS SuperDraft mock first round

Not so long ago Major League Soccer's draft could be somewhat forgiving. With just 10 or 12 teams selecting, the deciders were usually only minutes away from their next selection, never far from an opportunity to tidy up a blunder.

Those days are long gone. The league keeps growing and one byproduct is a significantly reduced margin for error in the annual January draft.

The room will be crowded with officials from 18 teams during Thursday's MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore. Teams have four minutes to select in rounds one and two, then three minutes for round three. Each club may call one five-minute timeout as it plucks from the college and amateur ranks.

Here's how things might go on Thursday (assuming no trades):

Uefa outlines threat to ban European clubs who break rules on finance

New financial rules put the Uefa president Michel Platini on a collision course with many of the most powerful clubs in Europe.

England: Tuesday's Carling Cup First-Leg Reports

West Ham 2 - 1 Birmingham City

Mark Lomas at Upton Park
David Hytner at Upton Park

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ronaldinho's eyes firmly on 2014

For all of the problems on and off the pitch in Ronaldinho's career over the past few years, none has had more of an impact on his future than missing out on the 2010 World Cup for Brazil. The pain of being left behind in the summer was tempered by a recall to the squad for the 1-0 friendly defeat against Argentina at the end of last year, but his decision to return to his homeland to play club football with Flamengo is rooted in his desire to reclaim his place at the centre of the national team.

Aloof, intimidating approach doesn't impress players

Roy Keane's dressing room alienation has stifled his managerial career, writes Richard Sadlier.

Sid Lowe in Spain

Cristiano Ronaldo bails out 'bad' Real Madrid with a stunning hat-trick to defeat 'fantastic' Villarreal at the Bernabéu.

Lucky Real Madrid win – and Cani throws water bottle at José Mourinho.

Tim Vickery in South America

The season kicks off on my side of the Atlantic this weekend with one of the great hidden gems of the footballing calendar - the South American under-20 Championship.

Back in 1954, when it was first held, this was an out-and-out youth competition. It is stretching the point to say the same thing today. In contemporary South American football there are teenagers taking on senior roles with their club sides. This year's main attraction is Neymar, who, like Adriano in the 2001 tournament, is going to the under-20 Championship having already represented Brazil at senior level. Carlos Tevez was already a Boca Juniors idol when he played for Argentina in the 2003 tournament.

The Mill + ++

Tuesday's Rumours



Paolo Bandini in Italy

Napoli's top scorer grabbed an impressive hat-trick as a host of remarkable comebacks kept coming in Italy's top division.

Frantic Sunday sees Edinson Cavani fire again to flatten Juventus.

Americans On The Continent: The Wait Is Over

Sacha Kljestan, Anderlecht (Belgium)

Vs. Lierse, 6-0, 79 Minutes; Away to KV Kortrijk, 2-0, Did Not Play

Sacha Kljestan played well in his 79 minutes for Anderlecht crushed Lierse 6-0 at home last week. He was then rested as Anderlecht coasted to a 2-0 win away to KV Kortrijk. With the wins they now sit six points clear atop the Belgian Jupiler League above Club Brugge with a game in hand.

The Rest

Americans In The UK: Spector Strikes Again

The Hammers man seems to have found his scoring touch this season as he netted another strike on Saturday against Barnsley.

The Rest

Fanlands: Football Supporter Map of London

"Football isn't a matter of life and death, it’s much more important than that,” is a quote often attributed to Bill Shankly, the legendary manager of Liverpool FC. As exaggerations go, this one gets pretty close to the truth. Millions of fans identify intensely with the highs and lows of their favourite sports team, perhaps a modern substitute for the tribal loyalties of bygone days.

Fandom is a bit more complicated than mere tribalism, though. Which team you support is the result of an intricate compound of ancestral, regional, social, and sometimes even religious loyalties. And, of course, personal choice. However, this map of London seems to indicate that geography is a major factor in fan loyalty.

A fitting tribute to Neil Young, the man who shone in black and red

Manchester City supporters reminded us last weekend how generous in spirit football fans can be.

Ronaldinho agrees to join Rio de Janeiro side Flamengo until 2014

The 30-year-old had also been linked with Gremio and Palmeiras as well as Blackburn Rovers but he ultimately chose to sign for the Rio de Janeiro-based side.

Onyewu joins Twente on loan

United States defender Oguchi Onyewu has joined FC Twente on loan until the end of the season from Serie A leaders AC Milan.

Phil Ball in Spain

Uuuuf - as the Spanish say. In the Riazor stadium (A Coruña) on Saturday night, a lone banner required Deportivo to put up some manly resistance to the might of the visiting Barcelona, so that La Liga would not be converted into 'The Scottish League' [sic - sort of], but it only took David Villa twenty-five minutes to put paid to that idea (the resistance). Once Messi made it two on fifty-one minutes you did get the impression that Deportivo were thinking about next week and their difficult but less terrifying trip to Valencia. Without exactly throwing in the towel, they seemed to be more interested in keeping the score down. They also failed to do that.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sid Lowe: La Liga's Team of the Decade

And so, after the Barcelona and Real Madrid Teams of the Decade, here's La Liga's finest XI from 2000-2010. First, though, a few things worth noting about all three teams:

Gabriele Marcotti: Ten storylines to follow in Serie A

These are the top 10 storylines to keep an eye on in 2011 as Serie A resumes play:


Kenny Dalglish Profile

Richard Williams:
Dalglish now knows the size of his task

Chris Bevan:
Liverpool united, but for how long?

Andy Hunter:
Dalglish must get Torres to fire again

Michael Owen unsurprised by Liverpool slump

Stevenage chairman promises to find fan who hit Scott Laird

The Stevenage chairman, Phil Wallace, said he would find the supporter who attacked the defender Scott Laird after the greatest result in the club's history. Laird was knocked to the ground by a punch after the final whistle, as hundreds of fans ran on to the pitch to celebrate. The Football Association and the police are investigating.

QPR unite to condemn El Hadji Diouf after bad day at Blackburn

Rangers manager Neil Warnock described Diouf as “a gutter-type of boy”, “the lowest of the low” and said that “to call him a sewer rat would be an insult to sewer rats”.

The Mill + ++

Monday's Rumours



Spain: La Liga Weekend Review

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick and set up another for Kaka as Real Madrid twice fought back to defeat Villarreal 4-2. On Saturday, champions Barcelona maintained their lead at the top of the Primera Division with a 4-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna.


England: FA Cup Weekend Review & Reports

Newcastle crashed out of the FA Cup to League Two strugglers Stevenage, losing 3-1 in Saturday's late kick-off at Broadhall Way. A Mike Williamson own goal sparked the Magpies' downfall five minutes after half-time, completing a miserable weekend for the North East after Sunderland and Middlesbrough also exited the competition.


Manchester United 1 - 0 Liverpool

Kevin McCarra at Old Trafford
Richard Jolly at Old Trafford

Arsenal 1 - 1 Leeds
Tom Adams at Emirates Stadium

Stevenage 3 - 1 Newcastle
Paul Doyle at Broadhall Way

Leicester City 2 - 2 Manchester City
Stuart James at Walkers Stadium