Friday, March 23, 2012

The Joy of Six: The Old Firm

Six classic Glasgow derbies, including a title decider, two cup finals, 31 goals, a riot – and four players being charged by the police.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

Bolton take in their first game since Fabrice Muamba's collapse, Manchester City get the chance to return to top spot and there is a London derby at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool will want to respond positively to their midweek woes, Arsenal aim to cement their standing in third, Queens Park Rangers will endeavour to edge away from trouble and the Sky Sports cameras travel to The Hawthorns on Sunday afternoon.


Premier League Spotlight

Chelsea vs. Tottenham: Preview
Amy Lawrence: Time for Tottenham to discover a cure for their Stamford Bridge-itis

Stoke City vs. Manchester City: Preview

Paul Merson's Predictions

Lawro's Predictions

Spain: Eduardo Alvarez's La Liga Quiniela

And you thought it was over, didn't you? Some nervousness from the usually authoritative Madridistas as they can't kill off a couple of matches, the almost complete recovery of that long list of injured Barcelonistas, and suddenly we have a real title fight. Cancelling out a six-point advantage in ten matches sounds quite feasible, especially with one mega-derby left in the Camp Nou (wouldn't like to ref that match, believe me) and a tougher calendar on Real Madrid's side. Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for an exciting end of the season, dear. Shall we? Remember, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.


Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic has warned Serie A leaders AC Milan his team will not settle just for the Coppa Italia trophy this season. The Turin giants ousted Milan from the Coppa with a 2-2 draw in Turin on Tuesday to win 4-3 on aggregate and set up a meeting with Napoli in the final on May 20. The result kept Juve unbeaten this season. Antonio Conte's side host Inter Milan on Sunday. Genoa host Fiorentina on Sunday looking for their first win since February 5. The Grifoni have taken three points since then - all from draws - and are 14th, just one point clear of Fiorentina. Victory on Sunday in Verona would see Siena leapfrog Chievo in the standings. The Tuscan outfit are three points behind 11th-place Chievo.


England: Will Manchester United or Manchester City win the Premier League?

Wrong Manchester, I think...

Who will win the title race? Telegraph Sport writers give their verdict.

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis avoids driving ban after mounting successful 'relegation' defence

Tony Pulis has escaped a driving ban after his lawyer argued it would have caused the Stoke City manager, the club and the people of Stoke-on-Trent exceptional hardship.

Real Madrid reveal plans to build holiday resort in UAE

Real Madrid Resort Island
will be supported by the government of the Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah. A presentation at the Bernabéu, Real's stadium, showed plans for sports facilities, a marina, luxury hotels, villas, an amusement park, a club museum and a futuristic 10,000-seat stadium with one side open to the sea.


Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast
contemplates the real start to Houston's season, explains Aron Winter's teamsheet headaches and offers its Week 3 predictions.

USA U23s 6-0 Cuba U23s: Joe Corona hits hat trick, Brek Shea instrumental in opening win

A U.S. side inspired by Joe Corona and Brek Shea cruised past Cuba in its first Olympic qualifying match. The Caribbean side played most of the game with 10 men.

The United States looks more than capable of finding the net in coach Caleb Porter's aggressive offense.

Player Grades

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sid Lowe: Madrid lose their heads and more points as La Liga title race tightens

We saw a bit of everything in Real v Villarreal. What we did not see was anything that explained a fallout quite so nuclear.

Tottenham to play Galaxy, Red Bulls on tour to US

The English Premier League club says it will play the Galaxy and former Spurs striker Robbie Keane at the Home Depot Center on July 24. It faces the Red Bulls in the inaugural New York Invitational Cup a week later.

U.S. Under-23s ready to determine their Olympic qualifying fate

Months of buildup, hype and speculation surrounding perhaps the strongest and most professionally advanced group of U.S. youth talent come to a head Thursday night. The CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament gets under way at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., when the progress made in monthly camps since November will be put to the test. After conducting an arduous process to narrow a deep pool of contenders, United States U-23 national team coach Caleb Porter called on 20 players charged with punching one of the region's two tickets to London. 

Tournament Preview

Sid Lowe: Lionel Messi's achievements beyond exaggeration as another record goes

Barcelona's all-time top goalscorer at the age of 24, the Argentinian has exceeded even the wildest expectations.

Marina Hyde: Why all this self-congratulation over duty of care to Fabrice Muamba?

Instead of patting itself on the back, the game might consider what on earth was the alternative when Muamba collapsed.

Fabrice Muamba: Doctors re-live race to save Bolton midfielder

When Fabrice Muamba collapsed in front of thousands of spectators at White Hart Lane, medics ran on to the pitch to begin life-saving treatment. The Bolton midfielder was "in effect dead" for 78 minutes after suffering a cardiac arrest during his club's FA Cup tie with Tottenham. Here, three doctors re-live the critical moments as they fought to restart the 23-year-old's heart.

Rewind to 1978

In January 1975, three months after his ill-fated stint with Leeds United, Brian Clough took charge of Division Two side Nottingham Forest. On March 22, 1978, he claimed the first of several major trophies with the club when defying the odds to beat Liverpool in a League Cup final replay.

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

A sublime finish from Samir Nasri five minutes from time saw Manchester City complete a second-half comeback to defeat Chelsea 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium. Liverpool suffered a shock 3-2 defeat to relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers despite having held a two-goal lead at Loftus Road. Tottenham Hotspur stumbled once again in the battle for Champions League qualification despite salvaging a 1-1 draw against Stoke City at White Hart Lane. That result allowed Arsenal to move up to third after they defeated Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park.


Manchester City 2 - 1 Chelsea
Richard Williams at the Etihad Stadium
Richard Jolly at the Etihad Stadium
Henry Winter at the Etihad Stadium
Daniel Taylor at the Etihad Stadium
Five Talking Points

Tottenham 1 - 1 Stoke City
Jeremy Wilson at White Hart Lane
David Hytner at White Hart Lane

Queens Park Rangers 3 - 2 Liverpool
Jason Burt at Loftus Road
Paul Doyle at Loftus Road

Everton 0 - 1 Arsenal
Andy Hunter at Goodison Park
Chris Bascombe at Goodison Park

1Manchester United294670
2Manchester City295069
4Tottenham Hotspur291854
6Newcastle United29047
8Swansea City29039
11Stoke City29-1237
13West Bromwich Albion29-336
14Norwich City29-736
15Aston Villa28-433
16Blackburn Rovers29-1828
17Queens Park Rangers29-1825
18Bolton Wanderers28-2623
19Wigan Athletic29-2922

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fabrice Muamba asked his father 'did we lose the game?' after regaining consciousness following heart attack

Muamba also asked about his three-year-old son Joshua in his first words after coming round from a coma, it has been claimed. The player is still in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital but has amazed his manager, Owen Coyle, with the speed of his recovery.

Patrick Vieira Interview

Patrick Vieira will walk into the Manchester City dressing-room on Wednesday night, wish Roberto Mancini’s players good luck in their clash with Chelsea and then turn right for the chairman’s lounge while his former team-mates turn left for the pitch.

Manchester City's Patrick Vieira insists bringing back Paul Scholes showed Manchester United's weakness.

England: The fight for the top four

With 10 games to go, Chelsea and Arsenal trail Spurs, who are having a wobble. Three into two won't go so Jack Pitt-Brooke picks up his calculator to predict who will finish where.

Phil McNulty: Could Tevez be the catalyst for a City revival?

I think I just threw up in my mouth...
American rock band "The Eagles" once embarked on a "Hell Freezes Over" tour - so named after one of the members claimed they would never deal with each other again until this came to pass. Manchester City and Carlos Tevez may just be about to embark on their own version, opening at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday and taking in crucial dates between now and mid-May. The notion of Tevez emerging to play any part in Manchester City's pursuit of the Premier League title was one of the most far-fetched in the game after allegations he refused to come on as substitute in the Champions League game away to Bayern Munich in September. Since that night in the Allianz Arena, Tevez and his representatives explored virtually every avenue in attempt to find a way out of Manchester, a route that took them from Corinthians in Brazil to both Milan clubs as well as Paris Saint-Germain.

England: Wednesday's Premier League Previews & Predictions

Manchester City vs. Chelsea
Preview II

Everton vs. Arsenal


Queens Park Rangers vs. Liverpool


Tottenham vs. Stoke City

Redknapp could rest "mentally unfit" players

Paul Merson's Predictions

Hope Solo Interview

"I think the concept of seeking fame and fortune in women's football in the States is a bit idyllic," Solo tells ESPNsoccernet. "Look at all the teams in America that have folded, and the leagues. The WUSA folded, we waited six years to bring back a new league in the WPS and that league has now suspended operations as well - who knows if it will ever come back. I think the German and the Swedish leagues are the best in the world at the moment in terms of organisation and prestige and I think those are the ones that will continue to grow and become the most successful. I think we have a long way to go in America."

U.S. U-23 roster for Olympic qualifying finalized

The brunt of the 20-man roster has been training together in Tennessee for the past week preparing for Olympic qualifiers.

Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid (D.C.), Sean Johnson (Chicago)

Defenders: Perry Kitchen (D.C.), Ike Opara (San Jose), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston), Zarek Valentin (Montreal), Jorge Villafana (Chivas USA), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia)

Midfielders: Freddy Adu (Philadelphia), Joe Corona (Tijuana, Mexico), Mix Diskerud (Ghent, Belgium), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz, Germany), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia), Michael Stephens (Los Angeles)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Teal Bunbury (Kansas City), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim, Germany), Brek Shea (Dallas), Tony Taylor (Estoril Praia, Portugal)

The U.S. starts Olympic qualifying in the North and Central American and Caribbean region against Cuba on Thursday, then plays Canada (Saturday) and El Salvador (Monday), with all three games at Nashville, Tenn. The other group includes Mexico, Honduras, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago, and is based in Carson, Calif. The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals on March 31 at Kansas City, Kan., and the semifinal winners qualify for the London Olympics.

Italy: Vucinic blasts Juventus into Italian Cup final

Mirko Vucinic scored a stunning extra-time goal to help Juventus into the Italian Cup final with a 4-3 aggregate win over Serie A title rivals AC Milan in the semi-final second leg on Tuesday. The Montenegro striker hit an unstoppable right-foot drive past Milan keeper Marco Amelia in the first half of extra-time to ensure the game finished 2-2. Juventus led the Serie A leaders 2-1 after the first leg in February and increased their advantage when the 37-year-old Alessandro Del Piero scored from close range in the first half. Juventus will play the winners of Wednesday’s second semi-final between Napoli and Siena.

Should Blackburn's Steve Kean be manager of the year?

Blackburn Rovers are starting to look safe after the season from hell and the worst fears of almost all their supporters, so how about Steve Kean for manager of the year? No? Has not David Moyes achieved more on a similarly straitened budget, Fergie pushed his nose back in front again despite all the resources at Manchester City's disposal or Brendan Rodgers made the whole country (two countries actually) sit up and take notice by not only winning the breath of fresh air award for great football but also marching Swansea into the top eight?

England: Tuesday's Premier League Report

Blackburn 2 - 0 Sunderland
Paul Wilson at Ewood Park

Spain: Lionel Messi breaks Barcelona scoring record with hat-trick

Barcelona wore T-shirts in support of Bolton's Fabrice Muamba on Tuesday night before Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick in the 5-3 victory over Granada to top Barcelona's all-time goals chart. Messi has now found the back of the net 234 times for the European champions, his second goal at the Camp Nou eclipsing César Rodríguez's previous record of 232, which had been in place since the 1950s.

Spanish Press Reaction

Key Moments in Messi's Barcelona Career
As Dominant as Michael Jordan

Uli Hesse in Germany

There was a lot of talk about runs and records in the Bundesliga over the past week. Before we concern ourselves with the most obvious ones, it is well worth having a look at a pretty decent run that is not making many headlines. Unfashionable Augsburg - a club so low-key that many fans still can't name more than three regulars, even though the team's been in the top flight for eight months now - have not lost a game at home since early November. That's even more impressive when you consider that their opponents over this span have included top sides like Dortmund and Monchengladbach or up-and-coming teams like Mainz, who were beaten 2-1 on Saturday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Muamba 'speaking again' and showing signs of improvement after cardiac arrest

Fabrice Muamba was said to be speaking again last night after two days in intensive care, raising hopes that the footballer could make a miracle recovery from his cardiac arrest.

Sol Campbell: Fabrice Muamba stood out at Arsenal as a gentleman

Paul Scholes, Xavi and Andrea Pirlo revive the deep-lying playmaker

The past weekend offered another chance to see three fabulous midfield technicians in their element.

Sid Lowe in Spain

Villarreal have sacked another coach after the Yellow Submarine sank closer still to La Liga's relegation zone.

Villarreal's plight: an emergency board meeting in a dugout says it all.

Tim Vickery in South America

Before Ian Fleming made his name writing the James Bond books, he was eclipsed by older brother Peter, a derring-do adventurer of the type Michael Palin might have been born to satirise. Peter Fleming was part of an eccentric expedition into the Brazilian jungle in the early 1930s, which he wrote about in a book best remembered for its stand out line. "Sao Paulo," he mused, "is like Reading, only much further away" - an observation which does, of course, depend on one's starting point, but which contains an excellent piece of insight. Fleming was kicking against the perception some had in England at the time of Sao Paulo being some Wild West outpost, "the sort of town where tanned and wary men, riding in from great distances, scatter the poultry in the rutted streets and leave their ponies outside the saloon".

Berbatov to move on because he's too slow, admits agent

Dimitar Berbatov's agent has said that the Manchester United striker is embarrassed to be receiving a high salary while barely playing for the club and will accept his departure this summer with good grace, rather than enter into a battle with his employers like Carlos Tevez has done at City.

Americans Abroad

It was tough going for the Americans in Europe, with nary a win among them this weekend. Highlights include Fabian Johnson winning a PK and Hannover and Schalke's heavy wins.

Major League Soccer Week Two Power Rankings: The West rules; Galaxy bounces back in style

The Galaxy steady the ship, and two Eastern Conference contenders are on shaky standing. That and more from Week 2 in Major League Soccer.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

The owner's dismay at his club's decline from treble winners in 2010 is made worse by the return of Silvio Berlusconi at Milan.

Serie A may be no country for Inter's Massimo Moratti any more. 

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

After 20 goals in only eight days, there is renewed hope this will not be a trophyless season for the Bavarians after all.

A very un-Bayern-like Bayern roll on after Hertha horror show. 

Jonathan Wilson in Russia

A return home has inspired Russia's captain; perhaps his problem in London was a lack of action and homesickness?

Arshavin looking 'better and better' as Zenit close in on Russian title.

Are Man City about to relive the Newcastle collapse of 1996?

Just under a year ago, 1,000 football fans voted Kevin Keegan's famous "I will love it if we beat them" rant as the most popular public managerial loss of temper in Premier League history. No such colourful behaviour yet from Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, but the Italian will be feeling the same stresses Keegan endured during his Newcastle side's loss of form towards the end of the 1995-96 season. City are second in the Premier League behind leaders Manchester United, despite at one time leading by seven points. United's ability to put together title-sealing runs of form seems to have been replicated again this season. Sir Alex Ferguson's men have collected 25 league points out of a possible 27 since mid-January, the only draw being the thrilling 3-3 comeback when 3-0 down against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. In contrast, recent form makes somewhat grim reading for City. Since a 0-0 draw away to West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day, they have suffered defeats to Sunderland, Manchester United, Everton and Swansea. On Wednesday, City host a somewhat resurgent Chelsea side since knocking Napoli out of the Champions League. Mancini's men start the evening a full four points behind United, although they do have a game in hand. So what can City learn from history?

Fabrice Muamba has 'comfortable' night in intensive care, say Bolton

Fabrice Muamba remains in intensive care at The London Chest Hospital. He is continuing to show signs of improvement this evening. He is currently able to breathe independently without the aid of a ventilator. He has also been able to recognise family members and respond to questions appropriately. These are all positive signs of progress. However, his condition remains serious and the medical staff in intensive care will continue to monitor and treat him. His family and club would like to thank the media for continuing to respect their privacy at this time.

Paul Marshall in France

It is merely a sign of the times, the little man rising up against those who have oppressed him for years. The minnows of Ligue 1 have been in keeping with the zeitgeist in recent weeks, and though they have not quite set up camp in the upper reaches of the table like some sort of footballing 'Occupy' movement, they have certainly made it clear they will have a say in deciding the finishing positions of the established order come the season's end.

Phil Ball in Spain

Uuuuf ... as the Spanish say. Where do we start this week? Well perhaps with a rather unusual theme, at least as far as La Liga goes. It seems to have been a recurring topic throughout the week, set off by Jose Mourinho complaining once again that the Bernabeu is too 'cold' and that the stadium needs to get behind its players to a greater extent. 'Never mind about me' he said, adding that he wanted the supporters to mostrar mas carino (show more affection) to the players, and support them through thick and thin.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Roma reach agreement with ESPN

Coming to Florida...
Serie A club Roma have reached a unique agreement with ESPN to train at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. Roma will use the facilities at the Walt Disney World Resort during the Serie A winter break after striking a six-year agreement with ESPN.

England: Premier League and FA Cup Weekend Reviews, Reports, etc.

FA Cup
: Liverpool will tackle either Everton or Sunderland in the FA Cup semi-finals while Chelsea will face Bolton or Tottenham at Wembley.

Everton 1 - 1 Sunderland
Paul Wilson at Goodison Park

Chelsea 5 - 2 Leicester City

Kevin Palmer at Stamford Bridge
David Hytner at Stamford Bridge

Liverpool 2 - 1 Stoke

Richard Jolly at Anfield
Kevin McCarra at Anfield

Premier League:

Fulham 0 - 3 Swansea City
Jamie Jackson at Craven Cottage

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 - 5 Manchester United

Daniel Taylor at Molineux

Newcastle 1 - 0 Norwich City

Louise Taylor at St. James' Park

Five Things We Learned
Team of the Week

European Weekend Review

Barcelona closed the gap on Real Madrid to eight points in La Liga, while an Arjen Robben hat-trick helped Bayern Munich to an emphatic Bundesliga victory. Juventus ran riot at Fiorentina to keep the pressure on Serie A leaders AC Milan, while in France Eden Hazard starred as Lille demolished Valenciennes. The top of the Eredivisie table remains tight after the weekend's action, with just five points now separating leaders AZ Alkmaar from sixth-placed Heerenveen.


MLS: Five Things We Learned in Week Two

Football in Montreal...
Houston Dynamo make light of an extended road trip; Montreal's 58,000 add to Canada's feelgood factor; John Spencer's impeccable timing for Portland.

Five Things

Monday MLS Breakdown: Sporting Kansas City continues to cultivate its championship mentality

Painful lessons from last season should help a youthful Sporting side in its MLS Cup pursuit this year, plus a look at the action from the second weekend of the MLS season.


Bolton midfielder collapses: Muamba still in "critical condition"

Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba remains in a "critical condition" in intensive care after suffering a cardiac arrest during Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

Fabrice Muamba's heart stopped beating for two hours after collapse

Amy Lawrence at White Hart Lane

Daniel Taylor: Fabrice Muamba the refugee who has made football his home

Speedy Medics Lauded

The Fifth Official

He scores when he wants...
Few of us like a Monday morning, 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.

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, Premier League chairman Dave Richards falls into Doha hotel fountain pool after claiming "FIFA stole football", crackpot Steaua Bucharest owner Gigi Becali vows to oust all foreigners, Joey Barton threatens to unleash a horde of deadly animals on a bunch of squatters, Didier Drogba shames himself with a Sergio Busquets impression and all of Lionel Messi's 50 goals this season in a three-minute clip.