Friday, October 14, 2011

First XI: A Burning Hatred

This weekend sees Lazio take on Roma and Liverpool host Manchester United (as discussed in Best of Enemies and A Rivalry in Deepest Red). Here, we look at some of the most hate-filled rivalries in world football.

Fun in Bulgaria...

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast notes the importance of taking a week off for international matches in November and sorts through the Week 31 fixture list.

Italy: Serie A Weekend Previews

AC Milan and Inter Milan go into this weekend's Serie A games having to play catch-up after slow starts to the season. The former host Palermo on Saturday after mustering just five points in the opening five league games and lie six points behind joint leaders Juventus and Udinese. Inter, meanwhile, have won just one of their Serie A games so far and are 17th in the standings - one point behind Milan, their worst start in 28 years. The Nerazzurri have conceded away a league-high 11 goals. They travel to Sicily to face Catania on Saturday without suspended Andrea Ranocchia and Joel Obi, while coach Claudio Ranieri must serve a one-match touchline ban. Lazio are hoping to recover their top scorer Miroslav Klose in time for Sunday's derby against Roma. The Germany international is doubtful for the encounter with a knee injury. Roma, who are level on eight points with Lazio, are without injured captain Francesco Totti but could hand Erik Lamela his debut.


Lazio vs. Roma: Team News, Predicted Lineups, Preview and Prediction

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

Racing Santander midfielder Pape Diop is optimistic his side can defy expectations and pick up points against Barcelona. Barca head into the match sitting top of the La Liga standings and having won their three home fixtures at the Nou Camp this season by a combined 18-0 scoreline, thrashing Osasuna 8-0 and Villarreal and Atletico Madrid 5-0 each. Barca, the reigning European and Spanish champions, lead the table on goal difference ahead of surprise package Levante. Along with Barca and Sevilla, Levante are one of only three teams yet to lose in La Liga, but the Valencia-based club's unbeaten record could come under threat as they play host to big-spending Malaga, who have picked up 13 points from a possible 15 since an opening-day loss to Sevilla. In third spot are Real Madrid, who face stumbling Real Betis at the Bernabeu on Saturday.


Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

The Premier League returns in style as long-standing rivals Liverpool and Manchester United go into battle on Saturday lunchtime. Chelsea trail the leaders by three points and Andre Villas-Boas will not want to lose any further ground when taking on Everton at Stamford Bridge in Saturday's evening kick-off. Meanwhile, Newcastle host Tottenham, Arsenal host Sunderland, and Manchester City host Villa. Elsewhere, Swansea and Norwich clash, Wigan and Bolton fight at the bottom, and Fulham meet Stoke.


Liverpool vs. Manchester United
: Preview
Alan Hansen:
Crunch time for Liverpool

Newcastle vs. Tottenham:

Chelsea vs. Everton:
Kevin Keegan's Preview

Arsenal vs. Sunderland:

Lawro's Predictions

Premier League Spotlight

Liverpool v Manchester United: Basketball star and Anfield stakeholder Lebron James jets in for clash

James, who bought a stake in the Merseyside club last April, will attend Saturday’s fixture with Manchester United alongside owners John W. Henry and Tom Werner.

Sir Alex Ferguson calls on travelling fans to cease Hillsborough chants

Ferguson takes his team to Anfield tomorrow and has requested United fans stop singing taunting songs about the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at in Sheffield at which 96 Liverpool supporters died.

You Are A Scouser
(to the tune of 'You Are My Sunshine')
You are a scouser,
An ugly* scouser,
You're only happy, on giro day.
When your dad's out stealing,
Your mum's drug-dealing,
But please don't take.. my hubcaps... away
[*= the word 'ugly' often replaced with 'thieving' or 'lonely')

Sid Lowe in Spain

It has been clear for some time that the Spanish will be at next season's European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. The question now is which of the Spanish?

Predicted Spain squad for Euro 2012:

Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina, Víctor Valdés, Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Álvaro Arbeloa, Jordi Alba, Raúl Albiol, Javi Martínez, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez, Santi Cazorla, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Juan Mata, David Silva, Thiago, David Villa, Fernando Llorente, Fernando Torres, Pedro

Grant Wahl: World Cup rights bidding to have major implications for U.S. soccer

Next Wednesday is one of the most important days of the next decade for soccer in the United States. That's when bids are due in Zürich, Switzerland, for the U.S. broadcast rights for World Cups '18 and '22. ESPN, NBC and Fox are expected to bid for the English-language rights, while Univisión and NBC-owned Telemundo are expected to be in competition for the Spanish-language rights. After the bids are submitted on Wednesday -- there will be no formal presentations, as there were for the Olympic rights bids earlier this year -- the FIFA executive committee will meet on Thursday and could reach a decision on the winners as soon as that day.

Why do the World Cup rights bids matter so much for soccer here? The winners will be committed to helping build the audience for the sport through 2022, which is no small thing. ESPN, which paid $100 million for the English-language rights for World Cups '10 and '14, made the 2010 World Cup one of the company's top priorities last year. It promoted the event heavily, received positive reviews for its coverage and reaped the rewards: The U.S.-Ghana second round game, for example, drew a total U.S. audience of 19.4 million, more than all but two games of the '09 World Series and all but Game 7 of the '10 NBA Finals. Audiences should be even bigger for World Cup 2014 in Brazil, not least because many of the games will be taking place during prime time on U.S. television.

The Steve Kean Conundrum

Manchester City, Pune, QPR. Blackburn's is an unusual fixture list at the moment. Rovers return to a relegation battle this weekend after their October interlude in India, when manager Steve Kean received the wholehearted support of owners Venky's. As with much at the club, however, it brought rather more questions than answers. Such as...

Jon Carter: Rewind to 1961

Lionel Messi could become the standalone second highest scorer in Barcelona's history on Saturday night as the Spanish champions take on struggling Racing Santander - Messi needs just one goal to pass Ladislao Kubala's 194-goal record in all competitions. César still stands in his way but, while the 24-year-old continues to press his claims as a Barcelona great, he still has some way to go to overhaul the legacy that Kubala left when he played his last game for the club on August 30, 1961.

Three Match Ban: Fabio Capello has to make big decision over Wayne Rooney for Euro 2012

Fabio Capello has been forced to consider leaving Wayne Rooney out of his squad for Euro 2012 after Uefa's control and disciplinary body handed the England striker a three-match ban that will rule him out of the group stage of next summer's tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Paul Hayward:
Rooney banished to the role of England's accidental tourist

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney could be sent over the edge by Anfield cauldron

The scene is Anfield, and the clocks on a seething Merseyside have just ticked over to 12.45pm. Wayne Rooney struggles to quell a surge of defiance, all the more primal for the vitriol cascading from the Kop.

Paul Marshall: The View From France

Lovely Margarita, Marseille's very own meter maid, is not a happy woman. The widow of Robert Louis-Dreyfus - or RLD as he was known by French football journalists - has inherited his billionaire fortune, the dubious honour of also seeing her name acronym-ed in print, and his football club. In the wake of OM's title triumph and her husband's death, she vowed to continue to plough money into the club. The woeful start to the current season, though, has led the Russian-born blonde to not only threaten to clamp down on spending, but even perhaps allow the club to be towed off by another owner.

Female fans strip off to raise money for struggling Polish football club

Several female supporters of Polish football team Hutnik Krakow have stripped off and posed for a calendar in order to raise money for the struggling club.

USA: Klinsmann looking at long-term changes

He is trying new formations, new assistants and a new fitness staff. He’s also working with Gulati, USSF chief executive officer Dan Flynn and youth technical director Claudio Reyna on planning for next year’s Olympics, where players are mostly limited to 23 and under.

Klinsmann estimates about one-third of his 2014 World Cup roster will come from the Olympic team. He projects forwards Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury; midfielder Danny Williams; defender Timmy Chandler; and goalkeeper Bill Hamid as making the London roster.

Luis Figo's Just For Men Advertisement

David Hytner: Luka Modric presents Tottenham challenge that will define future

Daniel Levy faced down the Croat's transfer demands in the summer but his contract talks give rise to new problems.

Paul Merson arrested on suspicion of drink-driving after M40 crash

Paul Merson has been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving after crashing his Mercedes into a lorry on the M40 near Warwick in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Very sad. I guess he's off the wagon...

UEFA Euro 2012 Play-off Draw

Republic of Ireland have landed the ideal Euro 2012 play-off draw as they take on Estonia, while Portugal face Bosnia, Czech Republic play Montenegro and Turkey take on Croatia in a rerun of the Euro 2008 quarter-final.

Games to be played November 11 and 15

Turkey v Croatia
Estonia v Ireland
Czech Republic v Montenegro
Bosnia-Herzegovina v Portugal

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jonathan Wilson: Safet Susic calls on Bosnia to find belief for Euro 2012 play-offs

Bosnia must find emotional strength after letting Euro 2012 qualification slip away in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with France.

Ewan Murray: Craig Levein must be given time to lead Scotland from the wilderness

Despite the failure to reach Euro 2012 there were enough positive signs in the defeat to Spain for Scotland to stick with their manager.

Paul Doyle: Hypocrisy not at hand despite Republic of Ireland's slice of luck

The sending-off of Armenia's goalkeeper after the ball struck Simon Cox's arm has brought unfair comparisons with Thierry Henry's infamous double handball two years ago.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Asian ambitions taking shape

Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young left the pitch during South Korea's 2-1 World Cup qualification win over United Arab Emirates looking a little confused. It could have been the clash of heads that required ten stitches or he could have been wondering why, as he is currently the number one striker in Asia, he is unable to get any playing time for the London club.

Tevez facing further punishment

The Argentina international has already given his version of events to City, with the forward seemingly suggesting he refused to repeat his warm up, rather than refuse to enter the field of play at the Allianz Arena.

ESPNsoccernet has now learned Tevez will be given an opportunity to react to City's findings from their inquiry. Conflicting opinions are believed to have been offered by the various players who sat alongside Tevez on the substitutes' bench.

Californication certainly deserves additional punishment...

Former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner is caught on tape offering 'gifts’ of £25,000 to Caribbean delegates

Telegraph Sport has seen the remarkable footage in which Warner, the controversial former vice-president of Fifa, appears to be recorded telling other members of the Caribbean Football Union members they must decide whether to accept the “gifts” of $40,000 (£25,000) each, and urging them to vote for Bin Hammam rather than Sepp Blatter in the Fifa presidential elections.

International Friendly: USA 0 - 1 Ecuador

Jurgen Klinsmann is finding wins and goals hard to come by in his first few months as coach of the U.S. soccer team. "It's going to take time," goalkeeper Tim Howard said after Tuesday night's 1-0 exhibition loss to Ecuador dropped the Americans to 1-3-1 since the former German star and coach replaced Bob Bradley in late July. "People are going to ask questions, and that's natural. But it's still in the infant stages."

Grant Wahl: Three Thoughts

Martin Rogers:
USA impotent under Klinsmann

Player Ratings

Euro 2012 play-offs: the eight teams still fighting for four places, in pictures

Turkey, Group A
Finished: 2nd, 13 points behind Germany

Turkey's 1-0 win over Azerbaijan saw them pip Belgium into second spot in Group A after the Belgians lost 3-1 away to Germany. The Germans finished with a 100 per cent record with 30 points from their 10 games.

The Other Seven

UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying: Danes deny Portugal, France through

Denmark beat Portugal to an automatic place at Euro 2012 with a 2-1 victory in their winner-takes-all meeting in Copenhagen. Samir Nasri's penalty took France to the finals after a tense Paris evening saw them draw 1-1 against Bosnia & Herzegovina. Sweden booked their place after two goals in a minute early in the second period secured a 3-2 victory over Netherlands to qualify as the best-placed second-placed team in all the qualifiers. Richard Dunne was the Republic of Ireland's hero once again as his goal edged them past Armenia as a 2-1 win took them into the play-offs on a night when both sides had a man sent off. Serbia's hopes were ended by Slovenia who took all three points with a 1-0 win in Maribor.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just who owns Leeds United?

When the House of Commons select committee for culture, media and sport began its inquiry into the running of football in December - its brief to encourage supporter ownership of clubs - the MPs did not envisage the spotlight they would ultimately shine on Leeds United.

On 29 July, when the committee finally reported, its members had, according to one of the committee's key MPs, Damian Collins, been "appalled" by what they had discovered.

For six years, between 2005 and 2011, with Ken Bates the chairman throughout, nobody in football knew who owned Leeds United, one of football's biggest and most famed clubs.

Tim Vickery in South America

It's the same teams, three months apart, coming up with a totally different spectacle.

Back in July the Copa America in Argentina was always enthralling, but its fascination was frequently the grim, attritional kind, with defences holding the upper hand.

Now in October, the first round of South America's marathon World Cup qualification campaign produced four open games - at times absurdly so - and 15 goals.

Much of this can be explained by the differing demands of tournament and league football.

African Nations Cup Qualifying: South Africa's sums don't add up

South Africa has a literacy rate of 88%, well above Niger's 28.7%, Sierra Leone's 38% or Egypt's 66.4% but still, they failed to read the rules and were baffled when they were told they had missed out on the tournament. South Africa started off confused, then irate, then despairing and then just plain spoilt brat loser-ish when they decided to appeal to CAF.

Euro 2012: Who needs what in final round of qualifying

England have joined reigning champions Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and co-hosts Poland and Ukraine in qualification for Euro 2012 but five automatic places are yet to be decided.

The Key Fixtures

We take a group-by-group look at who can still qualify, and how they can get to the finals. Head to head record comes before goal difference in this qualifying campaign.

England: West Ham bid again as Olympic stadium deal collapses

West Ham United and Leyton Orient have confirmed that they will bid to become tenants of the Olympic Stadium after the original deal to house the former in the venue collapsed due to legal challenges.

International Friendly Previews: USA vs. Ecuador

When: 7 p.m. EDT
Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

U.S. TV: ESPN2, Univisión,


Grant Wahl: Ecuador a tougher challenge

U.S. need offensive jolt

Jonathan Wilson: Tensions rise, sparks fly as Greece, Croatia go their separate ways

Friday should have been a night of triumph for Greece. A 2-0 win over Croatia moved it back to the top of its Euro 2012 qualifying group, and a draw away to Georgia on Tuesday will guarantee the top spot in the group, while Slaven Bilic's Croatian side has to go through a playoff. But the events in the stand that caused the match to be stopped for seven minutes cast a long shadow. None of Greece's 11 national sports papers led with the hooliganism, but these were serious outbreaks, not something to be brushed under the carpet of a satisfactory result.

Uli Hesse in Germany

Later this week, I'll have a reading together with a friend of mine in a city called Hamm. I don't mention this to shamelessly advertise the event, since most of you won't have the means, the time or the inclination to leg it to the north-eastern edge of the Ruhr area on such short notice.

Rather, I mention this reading because of my friend. He is not a professional writer but has already published four books with a fifth in the making. (Gosh, he's got too much time on his hands, doesn't he?) In one way or another, the books all deal with the same football club. My friend is a Schalke fan.

Actually, that's why we're having the reading in the first place.

It's billed as a "literary derby". My friend will read stuff from his growing collection of Schalke-related tomes, while I consider selecting mid-90s pieces that appeared in the first Borussia Dortmund fanzine to go with more recent articles I have done about Dortmund's famous terrace, the South Stand, and the winger Reinhard Libuda, one of the men who played for both clubs.

Roberto Gotta in Italy

It says a lot about the lack of drama during Italy's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign that the most memorable picture from the whole set of matches shows someone wearing a tracksuit and carrying an iPad. Mario Balotelli listened to music while walking around the pitch before the away game at the Faroe Islands, then sat on the bench and left his device locked away somewhere else, only to be accused of concentrating more on his apps than the game while his team-mates were unconvincingly making their way past the hosts thanks to an early goal from Antonio Cassano.

The Trawler: Keane's Homecoming, Tweet Justice

Welcome to The Trawler, your weekly submersion through the teeming waters of life in the Championship, League One and League Two. You might be surprised what you find down there.