Friday, January 06, 2012

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Juventus coach Antonio Conte insists AC Milan are the favourites to win Serie A despite his side boasting the league's only unbeaten record The pair are locked together at the top of the standings with 34 points after 16 games as Serie A action returns after the winter break.


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Friday's Rumours


First XI: Manchester Derbies

The undoubted star attraction of the FA Cup third round brings the Manchester clubs together once more in their battle for supremacy. Here, we take a look at some of the other great clashes between the clubs.

England: FA Cup Third Round Previews & Predictions

IT'S supposed to be the most romantic weekend of the football season, as the minnows of the lower leagues come face to face with the big boys in the third round of the FA Cup. But try telling that to anyone at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday where fate has dictated that Manchesters City and United must battle it out for a place in the fourth round. Make no mistake, this is more than just a cup tie and the result could even go some way to deciding who wins the Premier League.


Derby Day at St. Andrew's; Swans tackle Tykes; Blues face Pompey
Preview B-D

Manchester derby pick of the round, several lower league teams looking to shock
Preview E-M

Magpies face Rovers; Spurs host Robins; Forest tackle Foxes 
Preview N-W

Manchester City vs. Manchester United: Preview

Lawro's Predictions

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

Barcelona defender Dani Alves has warned his team-mates they cannot expect to ease their way back into Primera Division action against derby rivals Espanyol. By the time they play they could be six points behind leaders Real Madrid, who host Granada on Saturday. Malaga, meanwhile, face another Madrid side in Atletico, for whom Diego Simeone will take charge of his first match after replacing sacked coach Gregorio Manzano before Christmas.



Paul Hayward: Liverpool fans' raging at anyone daring to criticise Luis Suarez or the club is typical of angry times we live in

Monitor the thoughts on or around the Kop and you will find many Liverpool fans who were embarrassed by the unwillingness to at least acknowledge that an offence was indeed committed by Suárez in his choice of language. But this more balanced thinking was shouted down by the tribalists who regard all challenging comment as illegitimate and malicious and therefore to be met with abuse. Liverpool, the city, always stood up for free speech and independence of thought. Its political identity is framed by resistance to Thatcherism and free-market ideology. It has always felt like an independent republic with its back turned to England. Within that culture the best of its civic leaders encouraged tolerance, humour and generosity.

Louise Taylor: Alan Pardew's faith in Demba Ba pays rich dividends for Newcastle

Newcastle's manager deserves credit for trusting in Demba Ba's troublesome knee but can it emerge from Africa unscathed?

The Joy of Six: FA Cup holders falling at the first hurdle

From a seaside shock in 1984 to a special case of Cityitis, half a dozen teams whose grip on the trophy didn't last long.

Grant Wahl: Galaxy had always been confident of holding onto David Beckham

Yay!  More of this...

On Oct. 14, a few weeks before the Los Angeles Galaxy marched to the MLS Cup title, I sat down for a chat with Tim Leiweke, the president of AEG, which owns the Galaxy. Leiweke is the man who brought David Beckham to L.A., and the topic soon turned to whether Beckham would extend his expiring Galaxy contract or move on to a team in Europe. Leiweke is known for being a big talker on occasion -- this is a guy who predicted MLS would be a top-four "and hopefully top-two or -three" U.S. league by 2015 -- but even I was surprised by how confident he sounded that day. "I think David is loyal to us," Leiweke said. "Despite all the rumors and bulls--- out there about David going to France or the Premier League, David only leaves the Galaxy if David and we decide that.

Richard Jolly: Henry's Second Coming

There were no second acts in Arsenal life. With his gaze perennially set far into the future, Arsene Wenger was football's most prominent ageist. His interest in plenty of players waned before their 30th birthday celebrations were concluded, while his business brain was evident whenever he sold a footballer before his market value deteriorated. Thierry Henry was a case in point. Sold for €24 million in 2007, he has returned to London without a fee. A two-month loan deal is a cameo of a comeback and part of a trend: first Sol Campbell, then Jens Lehmann and now Henry have staged surprise homecomings. As Robert Pires also trained with Arsenal and Wenger considered re-signing Patrick Vieira, half of the Invincibles could have been back for an encore.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Sid Lowe in Spain

Diego Simeone always knew this day would come and, at the rate that they go through coaches, it was always likely to be soon. He could pretty much choose his moment and, after years of flirting, he has chosen now: on Tuesday afternoon, 2012 opened with the Argentine formally presented as the new coach of Atlético de Madrid. All is well with the world once more. You'd think so, anyway. The talk was of ilusión but deep down, beneath the smiles, the lingering fear is that this could be just another illusion.

Yank Abroad Jermaine Jones Gets Eight-Week Ban

The German football federation's disciplinary panel has recommended an eight-week ban for Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones after charging the American with intentionally stepping on an opponent's injured foot.

Riot police will attend FA Cup third-round clash between Manchester City and Manchester United

Riot police will patrol Sunday’s FA Cup derby between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium after an officer lost partial sight in one eye when supporters clashed at a recent match between the clubs.

Goalscoring Goalkeepers

Andrés Palop makes the list...

Everton shot-stopper Tim Howard scored againt Bolton with a wind-assisted 80-yard free-kick. Telegraph Sports has compiled a list of other keepers who have also found themselves on the scoresheet...

Manchester City's Touré brothers ruled out of FA Cup third-round tie

Not this Sunday...
Manchester City will be without Mario Balotelli and the Touré brothers for their FA Cup tie against Manchester United on Sunday. Balotelli continues to be troubled by the ankle injury that prevented him from playing against both Sunderland and Liverpool, and will not be ready to face United. Yaya and Kolo Touré, meanwhile, will be reporting for duty at the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast after their coach François Zahoui rejected a request from City to delay their departure.

The Mill +

Thursday's Rumours


Jon Carter: Rewind to 1992

The FA Cup has gained itself a reputation for giantkilling as, throughout its history, clubs from the lower echelons of English football would occasionally upset the established order and knock out one of the big-boys. Whether it was Hereford against Newcastle in 1972 or Colchester beating Leeds a year previous, the competition is beloved for its propensity to provide shocks. Twenty years ago, on January 4, 1992, the club at the foot of the Football League, Wrexham, found themselves in the spotlight against First Division champions Arsenal at the Racecourse Ground. The Welsh side would go on to secure their greatest ever result and one of the biggest upsets in FA Cup history.

Michael Cox on Tactics

Sir Alex Ferguson likes to pair a passer with a runner in central midfield but Tom Cleverley's injury has disrupted United's plans.

Manchester United struggling to crack the midfield combination.

England: Wednesday's Premier League Review, Reports & Current Table

Manchester United's Premier League title hopes were dealt another blow on Wednesday as they were beaten 3-0 by Newcastle United, as Bolton came from behind to defeat Everton 2-1 in a game that saw goalkeeper Tim Howard score a wind-assisted goal.


Newcastle 3 - 0 Manchester United
Henry Winter at St. James' Park
Kevin McCarra at St. James' Park
Louise Taylor at St. James' Park

Everton 1 - 2 Bolton Wanderers
Andy Hunter at Goodison Park
Neil Johnston at Goodison Park

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 Manchester United20143345492029
 Newcastle United209653329254
 Stoke City20857292231-9
 Norwich City20677253035-5
 Aston Villa20587232226-4
 West Brom206410221928-9
 Queens Park Rangers204511171935-16
 Wigan Athletic FC203611151841-23

Tim Howard Scores For Everton

Yank abroad (and Everton goalkeeper) Tim Howard scores off a clearance.

Brazil legend Ronaldo has dengue fever

He apparently contracted the mosquito-borne disease while vacationing at a north-eastern Brazil beach town.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

England: Wednesday's Premier League Previews

She didn't actually write the previews...

Newcastle vs. Manchester United

Everton vs. Bolton

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

"Sometimes, less is more," is Philipp Lahm's favourite saying. The Bayern Munich and Germany captain seems to have a point when it comes to the Bundesliga. Unlike other major European leagues (Serie A in Italy, La Liga in Spain, England's Premier League), Germany's top flight makes do with only 18 teams. Add the lack of a league cup, no cup replays, and the most generous winter break of all (five weeks) to the mix, and the national team's remarkably consistent record in big competitions over the decades seems less of a mystery. If England are the most tired nation at tournaments, as their manager Fabio Capello suggests, then the Germans are surely the freshest.

The Mill +

Wednesday's Rumours


Luis Suárez and Patrice Evra: The Row Rolls On

Liverpool will not appeal against Luis Suárez's eight-match ban for calling Patrice Evra "negro", a decision that was followed by a remarkable and inflammatory statement from the Anfield club accusing the Manchester United defender of effectively making up his story and the Football Association of putting together a "highly subjective" case in favour of the Frenchman.

Kenny Dalglish's press conference about Luis Suárez: The Transcript

Henry Winter: Sorry still seems to be the hardest word for Liverpool in Luis Suarez affair

Stuart James: Liverpool looked to have seen the light in not appealing against the verdict but club and player still refuse to accept they are in the wrong

James Lawton: Liverpool do not retreat with honour but self-serving scorn

England: Tuesday's Premier League Review & Reports

Goals from Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and James Milner ensured Manchester City went three points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 win against Liverpool at Eastlands. Jermaine Defoe scored the winner as Tottenham kept up the pressure on the Premier League leaders with a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane. Sunderland's revival under Martin O'Neill continued as they beat Wigan 4-1 at the DW Stadium.


Manchester City 3 - 0 Liverpool
Henry Winter at the Etihad Stadium
Richard Williams at the Etihad Stadium
Richard Jolly at the Etihad Stadium
Kevin McCarra at the Etihad Stadium

Tottenham 1 - 0 West Bromwich Albion
David Hytner at White Hart Lane

Wigan 1 - 4 Sunderland
Paul Wilson at the DW Stadium

American Player Rankings: 2012 brings changes to the list

Welcome to the first set of American Player Rankings for 2012. Last year these rankings looked a little different. There were only five "ranked" players weekly, and in all honesty it just didn't do justice to what this article should be about. With that in mind, there's going to be some changes for 2012. We'll double the number of players ranked weekly, and to open the year the rankings are going to give you an outlook on which 10 players should have the best year. In other words, this first list is simply my thoughts on who the top 10 American players going right now are regardless of club or if they represent the national team. That will all change as the year moves forward, and those of you that follow the list regularly understand already that play for the USA will be heavily factored in down the road.

Jonathan Wilson: Blackburn's form improves but many questions remain off the field

In the midst of Blackburn Rovers' defeat to Bolton Wanderers last week, a tall unkempt man strode along the front of the stand toward the home dugout. Steve Kean, wisely, was standing at the front of his technical area, barking instructions and waving his arms to offer a simulacrum of control, as far from the fans as is possible under Premier League regulations. The man stood, unmolested by stewards, just behind the perimeter advertising hoarding. Slowly, he raised his left arm and, with a dramatic flourish, pointed off to his left."Kean out!" he bellowed, his eyes wild, his straggly beard trembling with vehemence. Then he did it again. And again. And again, each time emphasizing his point with a thrust of his long bony finger. He started to turn away, then checked back. "Kean out!" he shouted again. And again. When he did finally walk away, it was with a sad shake of the head, but the eyes still burned with fury. It was like witnessing the prophet Elijah confronting Ahab.

The Fifth Official

Few of us like getting back to work in the New Year, 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.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Mill +

Tuesday's Rumours


England: Monday's Premier League Review & Reports

Late goals provided a fresh twist to the tussle for fourth place in the Premier League on Monday, as Chelsea surged to victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers and 10-man Arsenal slumped to defeat at Fulham. In beating Manchester United on Saturday, Blackburn emulated Villa for shock value, but they were brought down to earth by home defeats on Monday. Villa was overtaken by Swansea in 11th place after the Welsh club's 2-1 win in the Midlands ended its search for an away success this season. Norwich won a battle of promoted sides, coming from behind to beat 10-man QPR 2-1 at Loftus Road. Captain Joey Barton put QPR in front but later in the first half lost his cool and his place on the pitch with an apparent headbutt on Norwich midfielder Bradley Johnson.


Wolves 1 - 2 Chelsea
Richard Jolly at Molineux
Stuart James at Molineux

Queens Park Rangers 1 - 2 Norwich City
Jamie Jackson at Loftus Road

Fulham 2 - 1 Arsenal
David Hytner at Craven Cottage
Henry Winter at Craven Cottage

The Question: why are Liverpool struggling to score at home?

Liverpool's scoring record at Anfield has been poor but those who blame bad luck and Andy Carroll may be missing the point.

Steve Davis: World Cup qualifying the biggest storyline in U.S. soccer for 2012

Looking ahead to the headlines of our game in 2012, here's where much of the domestic U.S. soccer news will come from, everything from the awesome to the awful and points in between.

Roberto Gotta in Italy

If you take a cursory look through the Italian media, you'll believe scarcely anyone plays Serie A football besides Milan and Juventus, whose every move during their mini-training camp in Dubai is analysed with shocking and needless scrutiny (did Matri really finish a 100-yard dash behind Chiellini?). Make the titanic effort to look beyond those two and there - sitting just behind the joint leaders in points, newspaper inches, TV minutes, hype and unconfirmed transfer rumours - are Udinese and Lazio. The former are a provincial side patronised by the mainstream media and the latter are a huge, metropolitan club whose main negative, even incurable weakness in the eyes of many, is not being Roma.

Monday, January 02, 2012

England: Monday's Premier League Previews

Chelsea will look to start the new year on a winning note when they visit Wolves on Monday while Arsenal can boost their title chances at Fulham. Still basking in their 3-2 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday, Blackburn could well find themselves out of the drop zone with a win against Stoke at Ewood Park. Elsewhere on Monday, new boys Queens Park Rangers and Norwich clash at Loftus Road while Aston Villa will look to build on their 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge when they host Swansea City.


Team News

Tim Vickery in South America

In the last competitive game of the South American season, Eduardo Vargas scored a goal that made sure Universidad de Chile won the domestic title, and also highlighted why Napoli are taking him across the Atlantic. Vargas broke from the halfway line. Cobreloa defender Sebastian Roco, worried about his pace, kept backing off. Vargas' control of the ball at pace was so good that he was able to do two things. First, make a little change of angle to give himself more room. Second, look up and appreciate the situation unfolding around him. He had seen that keeper Nicolas Peric was a few metres off his line. Without breaking stride, Vargas unleashed a beautifully precise chip, over Peric but under the bar. It is this type of talent that has made the 22-year-old the outstanding figure of the last few months of South American football; but not the player of the year. It was a two horse race, but Neymar of Brazil and Santos pulled away to win the annual prize organised by the Uruguayan newspaper, El Pais.

Ben Lyttleton: Ten Ligue 1 players who could move in January transfer window

Ten Ligue 1 players who could move in the January transfer window

Grant Wahl: Chasing the game through 2011

If journalism is the first rough draft of history, then I'm trying to figure out what to call my "3 Thoughts" reaction piece that I file to at the final whistle of every important U.S. national team game. How about tempting fate? I start writing around the 75th minute, and inevitably something happens that turns my lead note into a DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN artifact. Sometimes that's good for U.S. soccer fans: You should see what I wrote about the U.S. men failing to get out of their World Cup 2010 group -- at least until Landon Donovan scored in injury time against Algeria and the Yanks won the group ahead of England. But sometimes getting rewrite isn't a good sign for U.S. fans. On July 17, 2011, in a sold-out soccer stadium in Frankfurt, Germany, I had already written my "3 Thoughts" on the U.S. women's impending victory in the World Cup final. They were three minutes away from a 2-1 victory over Japan, three minutes away from providing the ultimate follow-up to Abby Wambach's miraculous quarterfinal goal against Brazil, one of the greatest sports finishes of this or any year. Three minutes away.

The Mill + ++

Monday's Rumours



The Trawler: Saints Stunned, Simon Seething

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.

Luis Suárez race case: how report laid bare Anfield events

The foul 
In the 58th minute of Liverpool’s home game with Manchester United in October, striker Luis Suárez kicks United defender Patrice Evra on the knee and a foul is given.

The row
In the 62nd minute, Suárez wins a corner and jogs into the United area, where he is being marked by Evra. The two players then become involved in a heated argument, in Spanish: PE: F------ hell, why did you kick me? LS: Because you’re black. PE: Say it to me again, I’m going to kick you.

The rest

Stuart James: Uncomfortable reading for Liverpool

Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney fined a week’s wages and dropped from team after ‘lethargic’ training

Wayne Rooney was fined a week’s wages and dropped from the Manchester United team for Saturday’s defeat against Blackburn after angering Sir Alex Ferguson with a ‘lethargic’ display in training following a Boxing Day night out with team-mates Darron Gibson and Jonny Evans.

England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports & Analyses

This weekend's sensational action in the Barclays Premier League provided proof positive that football's underdogs should never be discounted.

Liverpool 3 - 1 Newcastle
Richard Jolly at Anfield

Chelsea 1 - 3 Aston Villa
Kevin McCarra at Stamford Bridge
Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge

Manchester United 2 - 3 Blackburn
Paul Wilson at Old Trafford

Arsenal 1 - 0 Queens Park Rangers
David Hytner at the Emirates Stadium

Swansea City 1 - 1 Tottenham
Barney Ronay at the Liberty Stadium

Sunderland 1 - 0 Manchester City
Henry Winter at the Stadium of Light
Louise Taylor at the Stadium of Light

Team of the Week I
Team of the Week II

Best and Worst of the Weekend

Five Things We Learned

Dominic Raynor: Off The Ball

With 2011 drawing to a close, it's once again time to dish out the annual awards to those who have had the misfortune to grace Off The Ball this year. As usual, we shun the traditional gongs in favour of purveyors of the bizarre. So prepare to embrace an alternative look at the past 12 months as we crack on with the ceremony...