Friday, February 25, 2011

UEFA Champions League: Bundesliga Takes Serie A Spot

There will be four Bundesliga entrants in the Champions League for the 2012-13 season. Serie A will only have three places as a result. After recent disappointment for Serie A teams in Europe - all three Italian sides in the Champions League lost their home ties while Napoli were eliminated from the Europa League - German sides have moved ahead in the UEFA co-efficient rankings.

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Mark Lomas: Shades of '05 as United fail to inspire

In November 2005, Manchester United played away in Europe on a chilly night at the Stade de France. It was an embarrassing evening for Sir Alex Ferguson's side, as they crashed to a 1-0 defeat to Lille, a result that paved the way for United's first failure to reach the Champions League knockout stages in a decade.

Five-and-a-half years on and a trip to Marseille's Stade Velodrome left some with a remarkable sense of déjà vu after a Red Devils side bereft of creativity failed to score in France again.

England: Carling Cup Final Previews

Arsenal fans who feel they are overdue silverware are likely to get short shrift from Birmingham supporters. The Gunners may have gone six years without a trophy, but their opponents have claimed only one major title in their 136-year history, winning the 1963 League Cup over two legs. This will be Arsenal's first Wembley final since 1998. While Birmingham won the Football League Trophy at the old stadium in 1991 & 1995, Bluenoses will need slightly longer memories to recall the last time their side contested a major final there; it was 55 years ago, when Manchester City beat them in the 1956 FA Cup final despite goalkeeper Bert Trautmann breaking a bone in his neck.

Preview I
Preview II
Preview III

David Lacey: Why the League Cup is no longer the poor relation to the FA Cup

England: Premier League Previews & Predictions

Manchester United can reassert their authority at the Premier League summit while the congested relegation picture may also become clearer this weekend. The Red Devils saw their advantage at the summit trimmed to a solitary point by Arsenal in midweek, but can surge four clear again with victory over struggling Wigan at the DW Stadium. Rock-bottom Wolves play host to a Blackpool side buoyed by their midweek victory over Spurs, while West Ham welcome improving Liverpool to Upton Park. Mark Hughes returns to Eastlands as Fulham face Manchester City, Aston Villa play host to Blackburn, Bolton make the trip to Newcastle and Everton tackle Sunderland.


Team News

West Ham vs. Liverpool: Paul Merson's Preview

Lawro's Predictions

Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Preview

Bayern München came away with a valuable away goal and a victory against Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday. Their next task is to take on Borussia Dortmund on Saturday in the late match. This showdown between the first and third placed sides is undoubtedly the biggest match of the weekend.

Leverkusen will get in trouble if Dortmund or Bayern wins. Bayern is right behind them and has a chance of catching them. Thus they can’t slip up. While if Dortmund wins, Leverkusen will be unable to cut the margin between themselves and Dortmund. They take on defensively inept Bremen on Sunday.


Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri is thrilled with the way his team is playing going into Monday's showdown at Serie A leaders AC Milan. The Azzurri head into the match at a sold-out Giuseppe Meazza stadium in second place and three points behind, with last weekend's 1-0 triumph over Catania their sixth win in seven games.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview & Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

Two of La Liga's struggling big guns clash at the Vicente Calderon this weekend. Atletico Madrid and Sevilla each won trophies last season and would have been hoping to push for further honours this time around, especially after keeping hold of most of their key players last summer.



David Beckham defends decision to train with Tottenham as he reports late for LA Galaxy duty

David Beckham defended his decision to train in England and return late to pre-season preparation with the Los Angeles Galaxy, saying it was more useful than sitting on the beach.

Louise Taylor: Aston Villa's all-English team a distant Premier League memory

Twelve years ago John Gregory selected an Aston Villa side made up only of Englishmen. It has not happened since.

UEFA Europa League: Thursday Review

Goals by American midfielder Maurice Edu and New Jersey-born Giuseppe Rossi helped their teams advance to the third round of the Europa League on Thursday night.


Grant Wahl: Olsen, youngest head coach in MLS, ready to revitalize D.C. United

For a club that finished dead last in the 2010 MLS points race, D.C. United sure has an intriguing team heading into the 2011 campaign.

The four-time MLS Cup champion features the league's most talked-about signing, Charlie Davies, the U.S. forward who joined on loan in his attempt to come back from a horrific 2009 auto accident. United also has 17-year-old midfielder Andy Najar, the reigning Rookie of the Year, who has put some adult muscle on his wiry frame. What's more, the revamped roster includes a host of other new faces, from gritty midfielder Dax McCarty to touted rookie center back Perry Kitchen to seasoned veterans in goalkeeper Pat Onstad, midfielder Fred and forwards Josh Wolff and Joseph Ngwenya.

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, Dion Dublin rocks the Dube with Ocean Colour Scene, Orlando Pirates walk plank over a porridge attack, St Pauli call up their press officer for a Bundesliga match, Ronaldo wore nappies during the 1999 Copa America and the best/worst cheat you have ever seen.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chile U-20 player hits himself in face with opponent's hand

When people get desperate, they tend to do weird things. This is one of those weird things.

St Pauli name press officer in defence

Hauke Brueckner, 30, who works as a press officer for the alternative Hamburg club and played for the Under-23 team, received a call from coach Holger Stanislawski who told him to turn up at training "in one hour".

Paul Hayward: Arsène Wenger is tantalisingly close to the glorious formula he craves

For nearly six years, Arsenal's manager has worked his way to the point where his team are strong on four fronts.

UEFA Europa League: Thursday Review

Liverpool will welcome Sparta Praha to Anfield after their 0-0 draw in the first leg of their round of 32 clash, with manager Kenny Dalglish looking to grab his first European win in his second stint managing the club. Fellow Barclays Premier League side Manchester City will also have to overcome a goalless first leg against Aris Thessaloniki FC in their clash at Eastlands. Elsewhere, Villarreal face a tricky tie against Napoli, who managed to hold their La Liga opponents to a 0-0 draw during the first leg at Naples.


Tim Vickery in South America

The recent South American Under-20 Championships in Peru was something of a triumph for Sao Paulo. Brazil captain Bruno Uvini, injured during the campaign, is a Sao Paulo player. So too is talented striker Henrique. Even more impressive was big, all-round midfielder Casemiro. And best of all was right-sided attacking midfielder Lucas, the hero as Brazil was crowned South American champion. With perfect timing, Lucas chose exactly the right moment to leave a good impression in the tournament -- the last game, with the title at stake. Uruguay only needed a draw, and for 40 minutes on a pitch suffering from the effects of heavy rain, they looked well on the way. Then came the Lucas show, with two goals in quick succession.

Jonathan Wilson: Italian teams remain wedded to tactically narrow formations

In terms of tactics, the most important factor in Tottenham Hotspur's victory over AC Milan last week was that its wide players were able to exploit the width left by Milan's narrowness. As a corollary to that, Spurs had the pace and energy to ensure that its numerical disadvantage in central areas didn't mean it had to cede control over possession. Milan's only three league defeats this season have come against sides who play with attacking width -- Cesena and Juventus -- and Roma, a team that usually deploys a 4-3-1-2, but deployed its trequartista, Jeremy Menes, in wide areas in that game.

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Reports & Analyses

0 - 0
Manchester United

Kevin McCarra at Stade Vélodrome

Mark Ogden:
Heinze vilified by United fans

Daniel Taylor: Gibson no Scholes

Five Things We Learned

Inter Milan 0 - 1 Bayern Munich

Michael Da Silva at San Siro

Soccer-Europe's reports for all the Champions League action

England: Wednesday's Premier League Reports + Table

Arsenal 1 - 0 Stoke City

Jamie Jackson
at Emirates Stadium

Tom Adams
at Emirates Stadium

Man Utd2616913257
Man City2714761949
Aston Villa277911-1530
West Brom277713-1728
West Ham2751012-1825

MLS Sets Expanded Playoffs Format

The top three teams in each of Major League Soccer's two conference will be joined in the playoffs this fall by the next four teams with the highest point totals.

Norman Hubbard: Failing to Bridge the Gap

Reports of their demise are not so much exaggerated as invented. That is the party line from Chelsea, proclaimed with a defiance that some of their displays can lack. While it is greeted with scepticism, the ultimate test lies in time. There are reasons to believe Chelsea are in decline, whether the age of their squad or their faltering form of late, but perhaps the greatest factor for believing that the greatest spell is nearing an end is simpler: History.

Lessons from the Champions League

Even the coolest coaches are prone to cracking under the tension

Pep Guardiola had erred in replacing David Villa with Seydou Keita and ceding the advantage at the Emirates last week, and his domestic rival Jose Mourinho showed he was not immune to feeling the pressure himself in the second wave of first leg matches.

The Rest

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good Day!

Anelka was the man for Chelsea yesterday as they cruised to victory in Denmark. To be honest, it looked like the Copenhagen squad was still hibernating during their winter break. Torres had a heavy touch but had some encouraging moments, and I think he'll find his form before long. There was no room for Drogba in the starting 11, but Carlo chalked that up to his long day against Everton last week in the FA Cup. Make of that what you will. Drogba is 33 and I can't see him hanging around Stamford Bridge much longer.

The Special One cried foul but didn't get it as his side drew in Lyon. Not a terrible result as they got an away goal (from former Lyon man Benzema) but Jose was perplexed as to how the refs didn't see an obvious hand ball in the area. Shit happens, Jose. Deal with it.

Over in Blackpool Tottenham crashed back to earth after their magnificent Milanese evening and lost 3-1 to Ian Holloway's troops. Spurs created plenty of chances but couldn't finish. It's got to be tough to go to San Siro and defeat AC Milan and then return to face Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. But they really should have done better.

Today Tottenham's North London neighbors entertain Stoke with the opportunity to come within a point of Manchester United in the Premier League, albeit with a game in hand. It will be the first time Arsenal have hosted Stoke since Shawcross broke Aaron Ramsey in half. The reception he receives from the Gunner faithful should be interesting. You'll need to bust out the computer to watch that one -- it's not on TV in the States. 3pm EST kick-off at the Emirates.

My favorite Argentine expert Marcela Mora y Araujo moves to Uruguay today for a look at Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan striker has been rocking Serie A, and is a big reason Napoli are currently in second.

Diving master Carlos Ruiz will return to MLS with Philadelphia Union. Last seen in Turkey, the 31-year-old will hope his lying and cheating can bring some goals to Peter Nowak's team. Ruiz is currently the 10th all-time leading scorer in MLS history.

In Europe this afternoon Manchester United will continue their march for a treble in Marseille. That match kicks off at Stade Velodrome at 2:45pm EST and can be viewed on Fox Soccer Channel. The Independent has a nice piece on Marseille's tainted 1993 European Cup title. Yeah, I said "taint."

The other Champions League clash is a repeat of last year's final. Internazionale Milan host Bayern Munich. Things get started at 2:45pm EST and can be enjoyed thanks to Fox Soccer Plus.

Plus, Eric Cantona talks to the New York Times about the Cosmos and how Sir Alex Ferguson is like Gandhi and much more!!


UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Previews

Manchester United

Preview I
Preview II
Phil Minshull:
Marseille improving

Inter Milan
Bayern Munich

Preview I
Preview II
Preview III

England: Wednesday's Premier League Previews

Arsenal vs. Stoke City

Preview I
Preview II

Cantona Looks to Revive the Storied Cosmos Name

“It’s about creating something,” Cantona said. “I have my own vision of the game and will try and bring it here and win. Ajax in the ’70s created something. Johan Cryuff at Barcelona created something, a new revolution. The Cosmos can create something, too, that’s never been seen. Every 20, 30 years there is a new movement. You have to look to history and take inspiration from things and use them to create your own future. I came here with this kind of idea.”

The story of Marseilles' tainted 1993 European Cup triumph

Walter Smith is the phlegmatic type. Over a managerial career now into its third decade with Rangers, Everton and Scotland he has accepted his varied triumphs and disasters in a manner that would earn Kipling's approval.

But there is one impostor that bothers him still, some 18 years after the events of one roller-coaster season.

In 1993 Rangers came within one goal of a place in the first final of the Champions League, losing out to Marseilles after a controversial series of events.

Marcela Mora y Araujo in Uruguay

Before they used to say "You were the champions? Sure, when football didn't even exist, but today they're looking at us in a different light," Edinson Cavani said in an interview in El Pais this month about the impact of Uruguay's World Cup campaign, which saw the country reach fourth place after decades of absence from center stage.

Hand in hand with the resurging of Uruguay as a world force, Edinson's own flight has taken off. The young forward from Salto -- Uruguay's second biggest city with a population just short of 100,000 -- is currently setting Serie A on fire.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Reports & Analyses

FC Copenhagen
0 - 2

Dominic Fifield at Parken
Michael Huguenin at Parken

Richard Williams:
Torres upstaged by Anelka

Five Things We Learned

Lyon 1 - 1 Real Madrid

Sid Lowe at Stade de Gerland

From Milan to Blackpool: The Two Different Sides of Tottenham Hotspur

The euphoria of Tottenham’s midweek win against AC Milan last week was shared across the United Kingdom as Tottenham became only the third English team to beat AC at the San Siro. The Tottenham performance was the archetypal European away-leg performance. Neat and compact and with every player doing their job, they kept it simple and played on the counter, nullifying the Milan attack and finally getting the goal to take them back to White Hart Lane with a 1-0 win. It was a classic counter-attacking move.

Fast-forward to Bloomfield Road Tuesday night for Blackpool versus Tottenham.

England: Tuesday's Premier League Report

Blackpool 3 - 1 Tottenham

Richard Jolly at Bloomfield Road

Union Confirm Signing of Guatemalan Forward Carlos "El Pescadito" Ruiz

The Philadelphia Union confirmed the signing of Guatemalan striker Carlos "El Pescadito" Ruiz on Tuesday. He joins the team after negotiating an early termination of his contract with Greek Superleague team Aris Salonika.

Appearing soon at an MLS venue near you...

Can Arsenal win a title?

Even for an Arsenal fan supposedly immune to wildly oscillating emotions (see: the second-half meltdown at St. James' Park), the Mood Swing-O-Meter has been off the charts this past week. From storming back to beat "the best team in history" to tying a squad more than 50 places below them in the English league hierarchy. From outplaying Xavi, Iniesta and Messi to struggling against Whing, Chorley and McGleish. From visions (and delusions) of Quadruples to the cold reality check of an FA Cup replay against Leyton Orient. I hate to be a killjoy, but on behalf of insufferable Arsenal supporters everywhere, can we now please have a moratorium on all of the talk of Arsenal winning four trophies until the Gunners have lifted at least one, even if it's just a Cup named after a weak lager?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Good Day!

All eyes will be on the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen to see how floundering Chelsea will fare in the Champions League. Liverpool legend and nose prince (Mick McCarthy is the King) Phil Thompson predicts a draw and I can't argue with him. I've not been there but the stadium looks fantastic; seats rising dramatically up from the pitch to create what should be a fine atmosphere. You can catch the match at 2:45pm EST on Fox Soccer Channel. According to Dominic Fifield it's freezing cold and snowing in Copenhagen. Let's hope they open the roof.

Elsewhere in the Champions League Real Madrid travel to Lyon. It's shocking but Madrid have not gotten past the last-16 since 2004. Sid Lowe has a nice column outlining the issues facing the Spanish giants. The match is also this afternoon and will be on your local Fox Sports Network.

Manchester United play Marseille tomorrow and Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Anderson, Johnny Evans and Michael Owen didn't make the trip to France due to injury. Is there really any point in listing Michael Owen when it comes to injuries? Does he not have emeritus status at this point?

Sad scenes in Greece where Djibril Cisse and some teammates were attacked on the pitch after their derby in Athens this weekend. Why does this happen? Perhaps because FIFA and UEFA are too weak to impose any real punishment when it comes to stadium violence and racism.

Elsewhere, Spurs face a tricky trip to the coast to face Blackpool in the day's Premier League match. A win for the London side would see them climb above Manchester City into third while a victory for the home side would enable them to leapfrog four clubs and ease some relegation worries. It should be an entertaining contest. You can view it at 3pm EST on Fox Soccer Plus.

Plus, Avi Creditor brings us up to date on Americans plying their trade around the world and much more!!


Sid Lowe in Spain

For the first time in La Liga's history a goalkeeper scored from open play – and possibly saved Deportivo's coach from the sack.

Goooooooool de Dani Aranzubia! Depor's keeper heads into history books.

Americans Abroad

Tim Howard shines again, an Adu sighting, and much more!

England: Tuesday's Premier League Preview



UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Previews

FC Copenhagen


Kevin McCarra:
Chelsea need fresh approach

Henry Winter:
Terry needs to motivate

Marcus Christenson:
FC Copenhagen's quick rise

Alan Smith:
Four key issues for Chelsea

Phil Thompson: Expect a draw

Lyon vs. Real Madrid
Preview I
Preview II
Sid Lowe: Can The Special One smash the barrier?

David Beckham says farewell to Tottenham Hotspur with pie, mash and liquor

“He had pie and mash delivered from a lovely little shop in Waltham Abbey,” Redknapp said. “The foreign lads weren’t too sure. It’s only us cockneys who know what pie and mash is. I was brought up on it so when they came I had three.”

'Arry ad free pies, innit?

Heinze's Ferguson Regret

Gabriel Heinze had admitted his fall out with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is one of the biggest regrets of his career as he prepares to renew acquaintances with his former boss in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Tim Vickery in South America

Of the field of 32 teams in South America's Copa Libertadores, only two have not yet been in action in the group phase - and the pair are among the most famous names in the competition's history.

Independiente of Argentina have a record seven titles to their name. Uruguay's Penarol are five times champions and were winners of the first version back in 1960. Neither club have lifted the trophy since 1987 but they have won nearly a quarter of all the Libertadores titles between them.

And they meet on Thursday.

England: Monday's FA Cup Report + Quarterfinal Draw

West Ham 5 - 1 Burnley
Jamie Jackson at Upton Park

Quarterfinals of England's FA Cup to be played on March. 12-13
(home teams listed first):

Birmingham vs. Bolton
Manchester City/Aston Villa vs. Everton/Reading
Manchester United vs. Leyton Orient/Arsenal
Stoke vs. West Ham

Not Paolo Bandini in Italy

The former Chelsea manager jumped before he was pushed after Roma's second cataclysmic capitulation in a week.

Where next for nomadic nearly man Claudio Ranieri?

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The 49-year-old Yorkshireman's stock in Wolfsburg has never been higher than a fortnight after his dismissal.

Steve McClaren proves his management credentials in absentia.

Phil Ball in Spain

There's a saying in Spanish football lore that goes, Entrenador nuevo, victoria segura (new coach, win guaranteed). Last week with Marcelino back at Santander, things changed for the better (and continued thus, with a 1-0 win away at Getafe), and this weekend saw Jose Luis Mendilibar take over the reins at Osasuna and then preside over a 4-0 home victory against Espanyol.

Racism drives Cisse out of Greece

The situation reached a nadir during the derby game between Pana and Olympiakos on Saturday, as Cisse and three team-mates were attacked by Olympiakos supporters who entered the field of play following the 2-1 defeat for his side.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gabriel Obertan and Bebe facing the same fate as Manchester United's class of 2005

If history is a reliable guide to the mindset of Sir Alex Ferguson, do not be surprised if the abject performances of Manchester United’s fringe players against non-league Crawley Town leads to a swift and ruthless purge at Old Trafford.

The likes of Gabriel Obertan, Bebe and Darron Gibson probably woke this morning with the temptation to pull themselves back under the duvet in a desperate attempt to banish the memory of Saturday’s embarrassingly narrow 1-0 FA Cup fifth round victory against the Sussex minnows.

Q & A with Jonathan Bornstein

Jonathan Bornstein has embarked on a new chapter in his career, becoming one of the few U.S. National Team players to play professionally in Mexico following time in Major League Soccer. After five seasons at Chivas USA and two starts in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the defender chose a change of football, culture and lifestyle when he joined Tigres in January. spoke with Bornstein about his experiences in the land of the MNT’s biggest rival.

England: FA Cup Review & Reports + Premier League Report

Leyton Orient earned a replay with Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, Everton beat Chelsea on penalties and Manchester United edged Crawley Town.


Chelsea 1 - 1 Everton (3-4)
Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge
Kevin Palmer at Stamford Bridge

Manchester United 1 - 0 Crawley Town
Phil McNulty at Old Trafford

Manchester City 5 - 0 Notts County
Daniel Taylor at Eastlands
Richard jolly at Eastlands

Leyton Orient 1 - 1 Arsenal
Paul Doyle at Brisbane Road
Chris Bevan at Brisbane Road
Orient players win Vegas trip

EPL: West Brom 1 - 1 Wolves
Kevin McCarra at the Hawthorns

Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Review

Two goals in the last 10 minutes settled an entertaining Bundesliga encounter between Bayer Leverkusen and Stuttgart. Borussia Dortmund got back to winning ways thanks to a 2-0 win in a one-sided game against St Pauli. Lucas Barrios put Dortmund ahead five minutes before the break and an own goal from Ralph Gunesch early in the second half wrapped up the points for Jurgen Klopp's men. Bayern Munich moved up to second thanks to a 3-1 win over Mainz at the Bruchweg Stadion.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Review

Lionel Messi was the hero for Barcelona on his 250th competitive game for the club as he scored the winner to beat Athletic Bilbao.

Goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia was Deportivo La Coruna's hero as he scored a dramatic last-gasp equaliser to earn his side a point at second-bottom Almeria.

With his side trailing to Pablo Piatti's brilliant 48th-minute opener, Aranzubia ventured forward for a corner deep into injury-time and headed in a goal that helped Depor avoid what looked set to be a fourth defeat at the hands of Almeria this season.


Italy: Serie A Weekend Review

Roma coach Claudio Ranieri has offered his resignation in the wake of Sunday's stunning loss to Genoa. The Giallorossi led 3-0 after 51 minutes, but contrived to lose 4-3 - their third straight Serie A defeat. Alexandre Pato came off the bench to score AC Milan's winner against Chievo as the Serie A leaders brushed aside their Champions League defeat in midweek with a 2-1 victory at the Marc' Antonio Bentegodi. Fiorentina and Sampdoria battled out a goalless draw at the Stadio Artemio Franchi which did little to boost either side's cause.


Birmingham give trial to US midfielder Alejandro Bedoya

The 23-year-old has spent the last two years with Swedish club Orebro SK.