Friday, May 20, 2011

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Udinese and Lazio are fighting until the final minute of the Serie A season to try to grab the fourth and final Champions League qualifying spot against two teams who will be in a jolly mood on Sunday.


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

The final week of the 2010-11 season brings us one, and only one, major question: Who will be the third relegated side? Up to six clubs have struggled for months, only to arrive to the very last date of the calendar with still 90 minutes of guaranteed suffering. Intrigued to know the answer to the puzzle?



England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

The Premier League's relegation battle reaches a climax this weekend as the final day of the season brings Survival Sunday. Five teams at the bottom of the table are fighting to avoid joining West Ham in the Championship next term with Wigan, Blackpool, Birmingham, Blackburn and Wolves all in the mire. Wolves and Blackburn meet at Molineux but their position is not as precarious as the other sides involved in the battle to stay in the top flight. Birmingham face an extremely tough trip to Tottenham, while Blackpool, despite a fine win last time out, are up against it as they go to champions Manchester United. Meanwhile, can Wigan produce another big effort when they travel to FA Cup finalists Stoke? It is all set up for a nervy afternoon.


Martin Lipton's Preview & Predictions

Lawro's Predictions

The Special 1 TV: All In

Sid Lowe: Schalke move has revitalized Raúl

Victory comes in many guises and doesn't always depend on the result. One man's success is another man's failure, always measured against expectation. A Wednesday night in May and Manchester United had just reached the Champions League final. Despite resting a number of its most important players, United had defeated Schalke 04. Hammered it, in fact. But there were no recriminations and no complaints, no anger from the players in blue, no bitterness as to what could have been. There was success in their failure. This was the German club's first semifinal and these players never expected to get this far.

For one man in particular, this was a monumental moment. Raúl González Blanco said that reaching the final would have been the leche

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast ponders the meaning of a pair of high-profile absences in the league before discussing the weekend fixture list.

Premier League relegation: where the season went wrong for the threatened five

Telegraph Sport looks at key moments in the season where the tide turned for the worst...

Paolo Di Canio to replace Paul Hart as Swindon Town manager

Paolo Di Canio is to become the new manager of Swindon Town. The 42-year-old Italian is set to replace Paul Hart, who left three weeks ago, as the Robins prepare for life in the bottom tier of the Football League following relegation this season.


England: The £60 Million Drop

The Premier League relegation battle has always promised to go down to the wire and it could barely be closer with five teams separated by a solitary point. ESPNsoccernet looks at the permutations for those clubs battling to remain among England's elite.

Final table:

15 - Wolves - 43 points
16 - Wigan - 42 points
17 - Blackburn - 40 points
18 - Blackpool - 40 points
19 - Birmingham - 39 points

The Joy of Six: Moments of the 2010-11 Football Season

From El Clásico No1 to FC United, via women's football in England and the Old Firm, here are half a dozen highlights.

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, 'Crazy' Jesus Corona headbutts the opposition manager, Arsenal spy on their players with a GPS tracking system, Diego Maradona is in it for the money at Al Wasl, daring Manchester United fans unveil a '19 times' banner at Anfield and the most ingenious set-piece routine of the season.

Denilson: I'll quit Arsenal this summer

Brazilian midfielder Denilson has revealed in a heartfelt interview that he will leave Arsenal in the summer, after a "shameful" season that has been the "worst" of his career. Denilson has known for eight months that he is leaving, having already cleared his exit with Arsene Wenger. The 23-year-old cites a desire to win trophies and cement his place in Brazil's first XI, admitting nobody at Arsenal knows the answer to their six-year trophy drought.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First XI: Great Escapes

For this week's First XI, we have selected some of the most dramatic escapes from relegation in English football.

Who the top six sides in the Premier League will be chasing this summer

With the league season ending on Sunday English football's big guns are in for a busy close season.

Wayne Rooney tells Twitter abuser: 'I'll put you asleep in 10 seconds'

The England international came in for late-night abuse from a follower who taunted him: "Rooney ya fat whore ill smash ya head in with a pitchin wedge an bury ya with a ballast fork ya fat ugly lil n***e."

UEFA Europa League: Final Reports

Porto 1 - 0 Braga

Dominic Fifield at the Aviva Stadium
John Brewin at the Aviva Stadium

Italy: Serie A Team of the Season

While Milan sealed the Scudetto after all their challengers fell away, the Champions League and relegation battle in Italy's top division seem set to go to the last week of fixtures. Superb seasons from Udinese, Napoli and Lazio have been in stark contrast to poor showings from Juventus, Inter and, most disappointingly, Sampdoria. With just one game left to play, we thought it would be a good time to pick the best starting XI in the league. There's a caveat: We limited ourselves to one player per team, so that we could recognise the outstanding contributions of players no matter where their teams happen to be in the Serie A table. So here is our Serie A Best XI:

Roberto Gotta in Italy

There was a time, back in the summer of 1991, when Massimiliano Allegri was "the other guy" in a deal that took Frederic Massara from Pavia to Serie B Pescara. As then-Pescara sporting director Pierpaolo Marino wrote last March in a column for Italian website Tuttomercatoweb, the Pavia owners had already promised Massara to Venezia (then owned by Maurizio Zamparini, the current Palermo chairman), but adding another player and valuing him at nearly half a million lira would increase the total value of the transfer and thus allow Pavia a good excuse to back away from the verbal agreement with Venezia.

Norman Hubbard: Parker can be short-term fix for Arsenal

As a half-empty Emirates Stadium witnessed Arsenal embarking upon what, technically speaking, has to be termed a lap of honour - although the grim expressions on their faces indicated otherwise - a typical Arsene Wenger signing had just completed a virtuoso performance 200 miles further north.

Young, quick and French, Charles N'Zogbia appears a prototype of Arsenal recruits (although the cynical might argue that, with his end-of-season excellence, he would be an exception in the current crop of Gunners). Yet while N'Zogbia's scintillating performance on Sunday handed Wigan a lifeline and helped relegate West Ham, it should prompt Wenger to act in a very different way.

Experienced, English and vocal, Scott Parker is everything the majority of the Arsenal team are not.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tim Vickery in South America

I was talking to an American recently who got into soccer as a result of watching Ronaldinho at his extraordinary best -- which seems a long time ago. Now he is not sure whether to feel angry with the player for spending so long betraying his own almost unparalleled talent, or grateful that for a few years Ronaldinho hit a peak of performance that few have ever matched.

It is a dilemma which will be familiar to fans of Flamengo, Ronaldinho's current club, and one which may be solved one way or the other during the course of the Brazilian championship, which kicks off this weekend.

Who are the best and worst of the 2010-11 Premier League?

Welcome to's review of the 2010-11 Premier League season. As the campaign draws to a close, we want you to help us find the most spectacular goal, biggest flop and best signing, as well as the winner in seven other categories. Our writers have nominated some contenders, but this is just the starting point for the conversation: we would like your suggestions so that we can compile the best into final polls that you can vote on. As the season obviously doesn't finish until Sunday afternoon, the nomination blogs will be open until later that evening, with the polls then open from Monday 23 May.


Here are links to the blogs for each category:

UEFA Europa League: Final Preview

Dublin will play host to the first all-Portuguese Europa League final when Porto meet Braga at the Aviva Stadium on May 18 but the near neighbours couldn't be more different in terms of style and history.

Porto coach Andre Villas-Boas has constructed a fluid, attacking side, built around a hard-working midfield, that romped to the Portuguese Liga title with a massive 21-point margin over second-placed Benfica and scored three or more goals on eight occasions en route to this European final.

Pires Reveals MLS Interest

"Thierry has phoned me. He called me up and said 'come over and play with me' but there are no real offers yet,'' Pires told the Birmingham Mail.

Blues pair accused of late-night drinking

Becky Doyle wrote on her Twitter feed: "F***d off with my husband getting in at 4am with fossy [Foster] and waking me up. Celebrate next week when your safe. Have some respect."

Although she later deleted her comment, Mrs Doyle was unrepentant. She wrote that she was "so angry, what's the point of Twitter if your not allowed to write what you want on it". She later added: "Golf bag and clubs still for sale. Comes with one hung-over husband."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

England:The Worst Football Kits Ever

A collection of the worst football kits ever inflicted on the long suffering fans. It is no coincidence that most of these are from the 1990s, the decade that style forgot. There have been, of course, many change strips that were worse than the kits shown here but these are beyond the scope of this site.

Arsenal prepared to sell Andrey Arshavin to fund new signings

Wenger has felt that Arshavin's mercurial genius can compensate for the negatives but his patience has worn thin.

England: Monday's Premier League Report

Manchester City
3 - 0
Stoke City

Daniel Taylor at Eastlands

Sid Lowe in Spain

Getafe's win over Osasuna provided relief but not redemption: they're one of six teams who could be relegated on the final day.

From one in nine to one in six: who is going down in La Liga?

Freddy Adu: Returning to MLS wouldn't be easy and I would like to stay at Rizespor

The American, who credits U.S. coach Bob Bradley for his recent success, says he's happy in Turkey but considered a return to Major League Soccer in this exclusive feature.

Diego Maradona to coach Dubai-based club Al Wasl

Over-large suits, heavy petting on the pitch and lewd suggestions to journalists after crucial victories are about to come back into fashion: Diego Maradona has secured a return to management after agreeing a two-year deal with the Dubai-based club, Al Wasl.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Frankfurt were handily placed in seventh at Christmas but after Christoph Daum was appointed in March they picked up three points from seven games.

Eintracht Frankfurt taken down a notch for fourth time in 15 years.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

Udinese are on the verge of making the Champions League qualifiers – but Sampdoria's relegation offers a cautionary tale.

Udinese close to 'paradise', but Sampdoria's despair offers a warning.

Which of Sir Alex Ferguson's titles with Manchester United was the best?

Some were won at a canter and with a swagger, while others were industrial and hard fought.

Kevin McCarra on West Ham's Relegation

It took persistence by West Ham to finish bottom of the Premier League.

The Hammers' relegation was caused by the brittleness and unreliability of players whose standards should be much higher.

Ajax's Maarten Stekelenberg drops Eredivisie trophy from team bus

Ajax's Maarten Stekelenberg has added his name to the growing list of butter-fingered players capable of winning trophies but seemingly unable to hold on to them.

West Ham United party brawl sparked by alleged racist abuse of player

The West Ham United co-owner David Sullivan has claimed that a drunken supporter racially abused a player, sparking the brawl that marred the club's end-of-season dinner on Monday night. The event was spoiled by a disturbance between supporters and players which caused the police to be called to the Grosvenor Hotel in central London.


Plates and glasses were apparently broken in the brief fracas that followed, with a group of supporters running from the function suite out of the hotel, pursued by security staff.

Actors from EastEnders and The Bill tried to put on straight faces when they presented Scott Parker with an award after the fighting has stopped.


"One fan walked past Demba Ba and said, 'Can I have your autograph?' Ba turned round and said, 'I'm too tired'.

"That triggered the mayhem. The fan went berserk, shouting and screaming at Ba, hurling all sorts of racist insults at him - and Ba looked like he was about to lash out when Danny Gabbidon separated them.

Steve Davis: Projecting the U.S. Gold Cup Roster

The CONCACAF Gold Cup is vital for its ultimate reward, a berth in the 2013 Confederations Cup. It's darned serious business, not to be taken as some summery, playful distraction. Even if you don't think so, U.S. Soccer certainly does. Coach Bob Bradley and his staff have made the strategic choice that Gold Cup glory must be claimed.

So, by extension, the looming Gold Cup roster selection is critical, too. The announcement will land on or close to May 23, according to U.S. Soccer. (The same selections will also have a tuneup against Spain on June 4, three days before the U.S. opens the tournament against Canada.) Let the speculation begin ...

Grant Wahl's Column

Less than three weeks before FIFA's presidential election, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati revealed the U.S. will not be told how to vote by CONCACAF president Jack Warner, the most powerful figure in the U.S.' home confederation. Gulati's move is a public show of independence by U.S. Soccer after Warner had announced all 35 CONCACAF members (including the U.S.) would vote as a bloc in the FIFA election, which pits incumbent Sepp Blatter of Switzerland against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.

Rooney a cut above after close shave at Blackburn

Wayne Rooney showed he was a cut above with the shave of the season.

Minutes after scoring a penalty to seal a 1-1 draw at Blackburn, which confirmed United as champions, Rooney posted a picture of himself on Twitter with '19' emblazoned in his chest hair.

Team-mate Michael Owen tweeted back: "None of us thought Wazza would send that picture! He is madder than we thought!"

Uli Hesse in Germany

Looking back on the past nine months of Bundesliga football, it somehow seems as if I found myself on a radio show or a podcast every other week, yet could rarely say anything more substantial than how unbelievable it all was. But that's what it was like, week in and week out, as Europe's most unpredictable league proved once more why some people love it and others are frustrated by it. I mean, I wouldn't want to be a Bundesliga bookie, not when a team that had only ten points after the first half of the season is, as we speak, still in the Bundesliga while a team that had 26 has been relegated.

Phil Ball in Spain

Sometimes La Liga can drive you nuts. It's difficult to imagine any other country on earth putting on its entire league programme at 9pm on a Sunday, but as the old refrain goes, Spain is different. Football's a family game? Pull the other one. Match over by 11pm, kids tucked up in bed around midnight if you've been to the stadium, all well prepared for school on the Monday.