Thursday, April 12, 2012

Been Bloody Busy!

Apologies for the lack of posts of late.  The "real" job is kicking off a bit (which is good) and the situation at SSN Headquarters has been a bit chaotic.  In a few minutes I have to run out to witness a couple getting married at City Hall.  And, we've got to leave town again tomorrow morning.

Basically, Wigan managed to beat Manchester United and City won so the lead at the top of the EPL is back to five points.  Arsenal sit in third, five points above Tottenham and Newcastle.  Chelsea are in sixth, a further two points behind. At the other end of the table, Wolves look doomed, and Bolton and Blackburn occupy the other relegation spots.

In Spain, Real Madrid won the Madrid Derby handily, and Barcelona won at home vs. Getafe, so the gap remains four points between the two giants.

Over in Italy, Juventus maintain a one-point advantage over Milan, and then you've got Lazio, Udinese, Roma, Napoli, and Inter scrambling for European qualification.

With a late victory over Bayern Munich yesterday, Dortmund opened a six-point gap at the top of the Bundesliga.  Robben missed a penalty.

That's a brief summary of today's news.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Premier League, La Liga, Serie A: Tuesday's Previews

English Premier League

Blackburn vs. Liverpool: Preview

Spanish Primera Liga: Midweek Preview

Italian Serie A: Midweek Preview

Sid Lowe in Spain

Remarkable scenes as impoverished Rayo Vallecano hit six to ensure top-flight safety while their coach, José Ramón Sandoval, goes into dispute with the club's owners.

Sandoval's Rayo Vallecano strike against Osasuna in more ways than one.

Americans Abroad: Dempsey stays hot with a brace, Bradley opens his Serie A account

Deuce got his goal tally up to 21 for the season, while General Bradley notched his first with Chievo Verona.

The Rest

The Swiss Ramble on Newcastle United - Life In A Northern Town

What a difference a few months can make, especially at a football club. Newcastle United fans endured a turbulent pre-season, as they saw the heart and soul of their team leaving for pastures new with Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton making their way to London and José Enrique joining his former colleague Andy Carroll at Liverpool. The departing players wasted little time in putting the boot into their former club, which might be expected, but this exodus did seem to undermine the authority of manager Alan Pardew, who had firmly stated that they would all stay. Pardew himself still had a lot to prove to the Geordie faithful, as his track record at former clubs had provided little support for his abundant self-confidence. Above all, the rotund figure of Mike Ashley loomed large in the background with his almost unparalleled ability to alienate supporters with a series of embarrassing gaffes and his seeming unwillingness to hand Pardew much of the £35 million received for Carroll. That was then, this is now. The Toon army has had much to celebrate in a season that has seen their team restore the pride in the shirt. Playing some thoughtful, attractive football, Newcastle currently lie sixth in the Premier League with a genuine chance of qualifying for Europe.

Major League Soccer: What We Learned in Week Five

Are Kansas City the new LA Galaxy; Henry and Cooper do the business for the Red Bulls; and Montreal get off the mark.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The two teams at the top of the Bundesliga meet in Dortmund on Wednesday evening, while Stuttgart are on the rise.

Borussia Dortmund confident ahead of title showdown with Bayern Munich.

Jonathan Wilson with The Question: Is Steven Gerrard Good for Liverpool?

It seems almost heretical to say it, but could it be that Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard is not the solution but the problem?

When Steven Gerrard came off the bench against Newcastle United on 30 December and transformed a 1-1 draw into a 3-1 win, the assumption was that, with their talisman back after an ankle injury, Liverpool would kick on. That win took them to fifth and with Chelsea and Arsenal faltering, Newcastle seemingly beginning to feel the effects of their comparatively slender squad and Tottenham being Tottenham, a challenge for Champions League qualification, perhaps even third place, seemed probable. Liverpool have won only two of their 13 league games since then. Going into Tuesday's game against Blackburn Rovers they lie eighth, level on points with Fulham and Norwich City, the two sides below them, and risk finishing outside the top eight for the first time since they returned to the top flight in 1962.

The Trawler: Hammering it Home, Leeds Day Trip

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.

Roberto Gotta in Italy

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, we have to come to the conclusion Roberto Mancini's trip to the holy site of Medjiugorie, located in Bosnia-Herzegovina, did not do him much good on a short-term basis. Mancini flew there two weeks ago and understandably, as a devout Christian, would not even want to hear silly jokes about his visit having material ramifications, such as Manchester City's quest to win the Premier League. Or Mario Balotelli's behaviour.

Brek Shea Blog: Arsenal has the best fan base in sports

In his latest blog entry for, the U.S. international and FC Dallas star talks about sports fans in Dallas and around the world and his passion for painting.

MLS Week 5 Power Rankings: RSL, Sporting KC Set for Showdown

Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake take care of business ahead of their showdown, and Chivas USA pulls another stunner.

That and more from Week 5 in MLS

England: Monday's Premier League Round-Up & Reports

American Airlines, indeed...
Newcastle were the day's big winners in the Premier League as their home victory over Bolton moved them above Chelsea and level on points with Tottenham in fourth after Norwich City left White Hart Lane with a surprise three-point haul.


Newcastle 2 - 0 Bolton
Louise Taylor at St. James' Park

Tottenham 1 - 2 Norwich City
Jeremy Wilson at White Hart Lane

Aston Villa 1 - 1 Stoke City
David McVay at Villa Park

Everton 4 - 0 Sunderland
Paul Wilson at Goodison Park

Fulham 1 - 1 Chelsea
Henry Winter at Craven Cottage
Dominic Fifield at Craven Cottage

Monday, April 09, 2012

Tim Vickery in South America

If the Titanic was too big to sink, then Santos FC would be too small to shake the world - flawed logic on both counts. On 14 April, 1912 - the very day the Titanic hit an iceberg which caused it to sink - Santos were founded, beginning their rise to become one of the most remarkable clubs in football history. Santos represent a relatively small city, with a population of a little more than 400,000, which grew to prominence as the port through which much of Brazil's coffee was exported. An hour's climb away is the metropolis of Sao Paulo, South America's biggest city, with more than 11 million inhabitants. Santos are the reigning champions of South America - a title that Corinthians, Sao Paulo's biggest club, are still waiting to win. Corinthians are the current domestic champions and are a major force. Sao Paulo FC have been Brazil's most consistent club over recent times and another local giant, Palmeiras, have a glorious history of their own. But, internationally, Santos are probably more famous and glamorous than them all, which is an extraordinary achievement.

Tim Rich: When it comes to paranoia, Kenny's the undisputed king

Instead of railing against perceived vendettas and conspiracy theories, Dalglish should concentrate on Liverpool's home form.

England: Balotelli could be hit with nine-game ban

Mario Balotelli will find out today if he faces a potential nine-game ban – a decision dependent on whether or not the referee Martin Atkinson tells the Football Association he saw the Manchester City striker stamp on Alex Song in Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Arsenal.

Paolo Bandini in Italy


Despite making no secret of his contempt for his former club Juventus, Fiorentina's Brazilian striker did them a huge favour.

Scapegoat Amauri finally delivers for Juventus.

Phil Ball in Spain

Sorry about my absence last week, but everything got kind of complicated. I crossed the Danube from Bulgaria into Romania last Sunday week, and headed for Bucharest, only to find that the 'derby' between Rapid and Dinamo was on a little too early for me to attend, and besides, the hotel receptionist told me that it was normally 'war'. So I went to bed instead. I regret that now, and may never get another chance to see the Bucharest battle, but I was whacked. Determined to write a piece last Monday nevertheless, I arrived in Paris on Monday afternoon to find my flight to Bilbao cancelled due to a pilots' strike on Air France. Fine - but the hotel they took me to had no wi-fi, and so I gave up. Instead of writing on La Liga I spent an interesting evening in the bar chatting to a Nicaraguan guy about the revolution, as you do. So apologies for the no-show.

Milan vs. Fiorentina - A Special Report from Tracksuit Bottoms

Milan 1 Fiorentina 2

The missus and I found ourselves in Milan over Easter and I was delighted to see AC were at home to Fiorentina. Having grown up on the great team of the 80's I'd always wanted to see Milan in the San Siro. My better half has a secret crush on the blog's sub editor and Fiorentina fan, Bobbie BS, so was happy to support La Viola [or at least she was until she saw a Milan scarf she 'had to have' in the club shop].

Getting tickets was a touch complicated. We took the safe but expensive option of using an internet site, ending up with the seats of two season ticket holders. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but in Italy your ID is checked as you enter the ground. I might have had an outside chance of getting away with being Roberto Krassi, but my 5 '9 Teutonic wife was never going convince as Stefano Orlando Lecchini. And as our tickets were being assessed things didn't look good. Luckily though, a 20 Euro bribe, while doing nothing for national stereotypes, got us in to the ground.

Getting to the San Siro had been very easy: the really pleasant tram ride through the city was quite different to the typical trek to a match. The ground itself is full of contrasts. Outside it makes for an awesome sight, with its iconic turning pillars and square red girders. It's old and important but has design elements that still feel modern. Inside the impression was disappointing and impressive at once. 50,000 fans in a 80,000 capacity stadium meant there was plenty of empty spaces, but those 50,000 made for one heck of a lot of colour and noise. The stadium designers wanted to stay true to the club's English roots. So, no running track means fans are close to the pitch, while a beautiful cantilevered fibreglass roof keeps the sound in. It wasn't exactly the Emirates.

The game itself was pretty piss poor. Milan were obviously the more talented team, but, unbelievably considering their position in Serie A, they seemed disinterested. Fiorentina tried hard but lacked real class, Jovetic apart. They huffed and puffed in the opening minutes, while Milan just seemed content to wait for something to happen. And it did. They were given a soft penalty, won by Lopez, slotted home by Ibrahimovic. This seemed to shake the Swede into action. He started holding the ball up, using his close control, then bringing a teammate into play. If this teammate was Lopez things opened up - one delightful Ibra cross was unluckily smashed into the post by the Argentine. If the teammate was Muntari however, Fiorentina immediately regained possession.

Throughout the first half Fiorentina never gave up, so their goal right after the restart came as no great surprize. Milan's laziness drifted into arrogance as their ludicrously high line allowed De Silvestri to play in Jovetic, who scored with aplomb. The equaliser did stir the home team, but while their energy levels rose the quality of their football didn't. Everything became a touch desperate, from Robinho's dribbling to Allegri's substitutions. As the clock ticked down and the Rossoneri became louder everything pointed to a nasty last 5 minutes for the away team. But it didn't really happen. Milan started the game halfheartedly and seemed to decided they'd finish it that way. And they paid for it. Amauri exchanged passes with the excellent Jovetic and scored. At the end of the day both sides got what they deserved.

England: Monday's Premier League Preview

Easter Monday sees five Premier League fixtures with big games at the top and bottom. Three of the top six, and two of the bottom six, feature on what looks another great day of Premier League action. The highlight of the day is the King's Road derby as Fulham host Chelsea in Monday Night Football.


England: Premier League Weekend Reports, Analyses, Fallout, What We Learned, Team of the Week, Etc., Etc.

Sunderland 0 - 0 Tottenham
Louise Taylor at the Stadium of Light

Chelsea 2 - 1 Wigan
Jonathan Liew at Stamford Bridge

David Hytner at Stamford Bridge

Bolton 0 - 3 Fulham

Joe Lovejoy at the Reebok Stadium

Liverpool 1 - 1 Aston Villa

Paul Wilson at Anfield
Chris Bascombe at Anfield

Manchester United 2 - 0 Queens Park Rangers
Richard Jolly at Old Trafford
Jamie Jackson at Old Trafford
QPR accuse Young of Diving

Arsenal 1 - 0 Manchester City
Henry Winter at the Emirates Stadium
Daniel Taylor at the Emirates Stadium
Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium
Dominic Fifield at the Emirates Stadium

Kevin Palmer at the Emirates Stadium
Richard Williams at the Emirates Stadium
Wenger teases City over former stars

Best of the Weekend
Five Things We Learned
Team of the Week

European Weekend Round-Up and Review

AC Milan 1-2 Fiorentina

Manchester United look all set to win the championship in England for a 20th time after a 2-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers left them eight points clear of nearest rivals Manchester City who lost 1-0 at Arsenal. In Spain, Real Madrid were held 0-0 at home to third-placed Valencia and now lead by only four points from Barcelona, 4-1 winners at Real Zaragoza. Juventus bounded to the top of Serie A by securing a battling 2-0 victory at Palermo after Amauri condemned AC Milan to a 2-1 defeat at home to Fiorentina. Two goals from Robert Lewandowski helped Borussia Dortmund to a 3-1 win at VfL Wolfsburg and to stay top of the Bundesliga. But Bayern Munich remain just three points behind following a 2-1 win against Augsburg.


FIFA's Five Point Review

Monday MLS Breakdown: Chris Wondolowski changes yet another game for San Jose

San Jose's in-form striker has now scored six goals in five matches after tallying twice in a 3-1 win over Vancouver, plus the rest of the Week 5 action.

The Fifth Official

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.