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.

Amy Lawrence: Neymar has chance to justify hype against Lionel Messi's Barcelona

Or believe it.  I don't care.

The 19-year-old tagged the new Pelé faces a career-defining match when Santos play in Sunday's Club World Cup final.

The Mill +

Friday's Rumours


The Joy of Six: Portsmouth vs. Southampton Derbies

From the Match of the Century to simultaneous wartime games, some of the best south-coast derbies.

Spain: Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

Are you, dear reader, wondering how the aftermath of the last super mega derby felt in a Madridista's skin? I'll be succinct. Lack of appetite. Alcohol in excess. Endless remorse about poorly kept pre-match superstitions. Constant rhetorical questions about the ability of specific Real Madrid players to rise to the occasion - 'rhetorical' as in 'I already know the effing answer'. Troubled sleep. Recurring fights with girlfriend, who dared to suggest me to switch teams, a comment that can hardly been forgiven, neither forgotten. But the worst? The painful realisation that, for as long as Josep Guardiola occupies that Azulgrana bench, Real Madrid's sporting achievements will be rare and few.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

Super Sunday throws up some mouthwatering games this weekend as the Premier League enters the busy festive period.

 Manchester City are still top of the table but, after defeat to Chelsea last time out, they face another difficult challenge when they host Arsenal. That game signs off the weekend, but before that on Sunday QPR welcome Manchester United to Loftus Road and Liverpool go to Aston Villa. 

Elsewhere, Andre Villas-Boas and his Blues play Wigan, while rock-bottom Bolton Wanderers travel to the capital where Fulham lie in wait.


Manchester City vs. Arsenal: Preview

Premier League Spotlight

Lawro's Predictions

Paul Merson's Previews

Spain and Italy: La Liga and Serie A Weekend Previews

La Liga 
Sevilla striker Manu del Moral is hoping to continue where Barcelona left off this weekend and deny Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid top spot in the Primera Division over Christmas.

Serie A
Roma will be bolstered by the return of defender Juan, midfielder Gago and striker Bojan for Sunday's trip to Napoli. All three players missed Monday's 1-1 draw against Juve through suspension.

Grant Wahl: MLS Team Ambition Rankings

The 2012 MLS season won't start for another three months, but there's plenty to talk about in the big picture as the league takes the next steps toward being a truly major sport in North America. That's why I decided to come up with my annual MLS Ambition Rankings: a measure of the aspirations of all 19 MLS teams.

Sid Lowe: David Villa's injury may be more of a blow for Spain than Barcelona

Pep Guardiola has been coping well without David Villa already, now Vicente del Bosque will have to follow suit.

Luis Suárez-Patrice Evra racism case may hinge on cultural differences

Luis Suárez's disciplinary case for allegedly racially abusing Patrice Evra appears to rest on whether the Liverpool striker and his legal team can successfully argue that using the word "negro" does not necessarily have racist connotations for someone with his background in Uruguay. After hearing evidence from both players over the past two days, the Football Association hopes to announce its verdict on Friday. Suárez has reportedly accepted that he used the word negro and the case centres on the nuances of the Spanish language and the context in which the word was used.

Jon Carter: Rewind to 1995

On December 15, 1995, the football world was forced to embrace a concept that would forever change the way that business in the game was conducted. Little-known Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman had won a landmark case at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg that would allow him to move clubs without any transfer fee being paid following the expiration of his contract. The ruling, which found its roots in EU legislation designed not to restrict the 'free movement' of workers, paved the way for others to be signed 'on a Bosman' and ensured that some of the power that was wielded by the clubs was given back to the players.

Sunderland footballers arrested over damaged cars

Sunderland midfielder Lee Cattermole and striker Nicklas Bendtner were held in relation to an incident in Stowell Street on 6 December. The pair, both aged 23, were later bailed pending further inquiries, Northumbria Police confirmed.

UEFA Europa League: The Draw

Manchester City and Manchester United both face difficult ties in the Europa League following their elimination from the Champions League. City will face Portuguese Liga joint leaders FC Porto in the Round of 32 while United meet Dutch side Ajax. Stoke City's reward for progressing from the group stage of the Europa League is a tie against Spanish outfit Valencia, who are third in La Liga. In the Round of 16, Manchester City would not meet neighbours United.

1 FC Porto* (POR) v Manchester City FC* (ENG)
2 AFC Ajax* (NED) v Manchester United FC* (ENG)
3 FC Lokomotiv Moskva (RUS) v Athletic Club (ESP)
4 FC Salzburg (AUT) v FC Metalist Kharkiv (UKR)
5 Stoke City FC (ENG) v Valencia CF* (ESP)
6 FC Rubin Kazan (RUS) v Olympiacos FC* (GRE)
7 AZ Alkmaar (NED) v RSC Anderlecht (BEL)
8 S.S. Lazio (ITA) v Club Atlético de Madrid (ESP)
9 FC Steaua Bucureşti (ROU) v FC Twente (NED)
10 FC Viktoria Plzeň* (CZE) v FC Schalke 04 (GER)
11 Wisła Kraków (POL) v R. Standard de Liège (BEL)
12 SC Braga (POR) v Beşiktaş JK (TUR)
13 Udinese Calcio (ITA) v PAOK FC (GRE)
14 Trabzonspor AŞ* (TUR) v PSV Eindhoven (NED)
15 Hannover 96 (GER) v Club Brugge KV (BEL)
16 Legia Warszawa (POL) v Sporting Clube de Portugal (POR)

 In principle the first legs will be played on 16 February, with the returns taking place the following Thursday, 23 February. Final schedule to be confirmed.
*Transferred from the UEFA Champions League

Round of 16 draw:
Salzburg/Metalist v Rubin/Olympiacos
Legia/Sporting v Porto/Manchester City
Steaua/Twente v Plzeň/Schalke
Wisła/Standard v Hannover/Club Brugge
Stoke/Valencia v Trabzonspor/PSV
AZ/Anderlecht v Udinese/PAOK
Lazio/Atlético v Braga/Beşiktaş
 Ajax/Manchester United v Lokomotiv/Athletic

In principle the first legs will be played on 8 March, with the returns taking place the following Thursday, 15 March. Final schedule to be confirmed.

UEFA Champions League: The Draw

England's two surviving representatives in the Champions League, Chelsea and Arsenal, were handed tough ties against Italian opposition in Friday's draw for the last 16, while holders Barcelona will come up against Germany's Bayer Leverkusen. Chelsea will take on Napoli, while Arsenal will meet reigning Serie A champions AC Milan, with both Premier League clubs travelling to Italy first.

Olympique Lyonnais (FRA) v APOEL FC (CYP)
SSC Napoli (ITA) v Chelsea FC (ENG)
AC Milan (ITA) v Arsenal FC (ENG)
FC Basel 1893 (SUI) v FC Bayern München (GER)
Bayer 04 Leverkusen (GER) v FC Barcelona (ESP, holders)
PFC CSKA Moskva (RUS) v Real Madrid CF (ESP)
FC Zenit St Petersburg (RUS) v SL Benfica (POR)
Olympique de Marseille (FRA) v FC Internazionale Milano (ITA)

First leg matches will be played on 14/15 and 21/22 February. Second leg matches will be played on 6/7 and 13/14 March.

Everton Get Donovan On Loan

Never gets old...

Everton have agreed a deal to sign USA forward Landon Donovan on a short-term loan from MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy.

Martin Rogers: Pivotal Eight-Game Stint 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

MLS' Dynamo unveils name for new stadium

The Houston Dynamo's new soccer-specific venue will be called BBVA Compass Stadium.

Manchester United's Sick Bay: In Pictures

The Mill +

Phil McNulty: Fletcher right to put health ahead of football

Darren Fletcher's health has finally taken priority over football - but his attempt to conquer illness while at the same time playing his part for Manchester United and Scotland is a measure of the ethics that make him such an admired professional.

Fletcher made only one start for United because of illness after 1 March last season and remained an unused substitute in the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona at Wembley, a game he would surely have started had he been in peak condition.

He last played, and scored, in United's 2-2 draw with Benfica in the Champions League at Old Trafford last month and will now take an extended break from the game in an attempt to recover from ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel condition.

Barcelona striker David Villa suffers fractured leg injury

The 30-year-old fractured his left tibia shortly before half-time in Thursday's Fifa Club World Cup semi-final against Al Sadd in Yokohama. His injury may also put in doubt his participation at the Euro 2012, when Spain will attempt to defend their title. Villa is Spain's all-time leading scorer with 50 goals in 81 games and played a key role in their World Cup triumph in South Africa last summer.

Edmundo: Party Animal

Though hugely talented, Brazilian forward Edmundo's capacity to cause trouble surfaced with such alarming regularity that he changed clubs 17 times in an 18-year career. Even so, he would become a legendary figure at Vasco da Gama during five separate spells there, and won 39 caps for Brazil despite numerous fall-outs with coaches and team-mates.

UEFA Europa League: Wednesday's Review

Fulham threw away a 2-0 lead against Odense as a last-minute goal from Baye Djiby Fall and a win for Wisla Krakow saw them crash out of the Europa League after a 2-2 draw. Ten-man Stoke lost their unbeaten Europa League record and had to settle for second place in Group E as Besiktas came from behind to triumph 3-1 in Istanbul. Lazio beat under-strength Sporting Lisbon 2-0 to progress. The result at the Stadio Olimpico coupled with FC Zurich's 2-0 triumph over Vaslui in the group's other game - Xavier Margairaz opened the scoring with a 69th-minute goal and Oliver Buff made the points safe at the death - allowed the Italians to qualify alongside Sporting.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Mill +

Gareth Barry and Sergio Aguero lead Manchester City in the Christmas party fancy dress theme as they put their Blues behind them

After suffering their first Premier League defeat of the season Manchester City partied away their sorrows. The world's most expensive football team arrived in an array of costumes last night for the clubs Christmas party at Anaya in central London. Maybe the lads had been focusing too much on their fancy dress outfits when they were defeated by Chelsea earlier in the day.

Justin Bieber drops in at Stamford Bridge

Americans Abroad

Three Americans take part in Bundesliga showdown, while Oguchi Onyewu scores in Sporting victory.

Fabian Johnson, Daniel Williams and Hoffenheim defeated Timothy Chandler's Nurnberg in an eventful matchup in Germany.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The 26-year-old Germany striker was the star against Freiburg and his form suggests that he may now fulfil his huge potential after a few seasons in the wilderness.

Steve Davis on Major League Soccer

We're still early in the MLS offseason. The re-entry draft process for players out of contract or with options declined is only now at the halfway point; Stage 2 takes place Monday, but negotiations for any players selected from a less-than-inspiring list will be ongoing. Meanwhile, the college draft and transfer market await.

But it's a short break -- some teams return to the training ground in late January -- and every week counts as 19 MLS clubs shake the bushes for top talent while trying to shed salary judiciously.

England: Monday Night Football Reports, Analyses & Premier League Table

2 - 1

Manchester City15122138491534
Manchester United15113136351421
Newcastle United157532621192
Stoke City15636211624-8
Aston Villa15474191819-1
Norwich City15546192428-4
Queens Park Rangers15447161526-11
West Brom15438151423-9
Wigan Athletic FC15339121429-15

Paolo Bandini in Italy

The first Serie A match to be broadcast in 3D was a curious 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico, but both Juventus and Roma will take encouragement despite a raft of missed chances.

Phil Ball in Spain

There are several ways of saying 'bewitched', or 'under the spell' in Spanish. I particularly like the words hechizado and embrujado. These words form part of the reason Real Madrid seem unable to function when they come to play Barcelona. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered. Since you'll have already read plenty of reports on the event by now, I won't seek to add anything radically different to most of the media's conclusions, but maybe proffer a two-pronged theory as to the eternal sand in Madrid's vaseline. Jose Mourinho thought that Barcelona were 'lucky', but that isn't really good enough. You know what he meant though - in the sense that if you simply consider the game as a series of events, Madrid could easily have won. The astonishing start - the fastest goal in the history of the clásicos, on 22 seconds, was itself a rather lucky event - although Mourinho seemed reluctant to include it in his thesis. Before we go any further, I'm sure you'll want to know which was the fastest goal before Benzema's, and we can deliver. It was after 40 seconds in the clásico in 1940, and it was scored by Chus Alonso in the Bernabeu. He was no relation to Xabi Alonso, in case you were wondering.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Propers to SSN's man in Lisbon, Pedro "Sulky" Santos for the fine image.

More about Onyewu's exploits in tomorrow's "Americans Abroad".

Monday Night Football Previews

Who: Chelsea vs. Manchester City
When: 3pm EST
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, UK

André Villas-Boas banishes Chelsea reserve squad from training centre

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

Man Utd bounced back from their European heartache in style, whilst Arsenal moved into the top four for the first time this season. And Super Sunday very much lived up to its billing this weekend, with Martin O'Neill grabbing victory in his first game in charge of Sunderland, whilst Tottenham saw their fantastic run of form ended at Stoke.


Sunderland 2 - 1 Blackburn

Manchester United 4 - 1 Wolves

Liverpool 1 - 0 Queens Park Rangers

Arsenal 1 - 0 Everton

Norwich City 4 - 2 Newcastle

Stoke City 2 - 1 Tottenham

Italy: Serie A Weekend Review

Inter Milan secured a much-needed boost with victory over Fiorentina as Lazio moved to within a point of Serie A leaders Juventus.

Spain: El Clásico Reports

Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona

Barcelona recovered from the quickest El Clasico goal in history to end Real Madrid's 15-match winning run and strike a blow in the La Liga title race.

Mario Balotelli faces more censure after breaking Manchester City curfew

Balotelli was seen in Zouk, a city-centre restaurant in Manchester, in the early hours of Sunday, despite clear instructions from the club not to go out within 48 hours of a key fixture for City's title chances. City have confirmed a curfew was in place and Balotelli can expect to be summoned to give the manager, Roberto Mancini, an explanation. The 21-year-old was not drinking but was out beyond 1am and Mancini does not want to promote the idea that there is one rule for Balotelli and one for the other players.

That's why, dumbass...

The Fifth Official

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Shanghai land Chelsea striker Anelka

Anelka, 32, is in the final year of his Stamford Bridge contract and it became clear earlier this season that his three-year stay with the Blues would not be extended.

Since joining Chelsea from Bolton Wanderers in January 2008, Anelka has scored 59 goals in 185 games.