Friday, August 17, 2012

England: Premier League Weekend Preview & Predictions

Roberto Mancini's Manchester City begin the defence of their title by hosting Southampton at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Nigel Adkins' Southampton, last season's Championship runners-up, will be looking to take advantage of any potential slow start. Sunday's lunchtime kick-off sees European champions Chelsea start against Roberto Martinez's Wigan Athletic. With 2011/12 runners-up Manchester United not in action until Monday night's trip to Everton, the main focus of Saturday's 3pm kick-offs will likely be upon a Van Persie-less Arsenal against Sunderland at Emirates Stadium. Saturday's evening game between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur at St James' Park is arguably the pick of the opening day's fixtures in what is a meeting between two clubs who both have aspirations towards finishing in at least the top four and qualifying for the Champions League.

Phil McNulty: My Premier League 2012-13 Predictions

The after-glow of London's 2012 Olympics still burns fiercely - but Premier League football takes its place back on centre stage as the new season begins on Saturday.

Will Manchester City retain the title they claimed so dramatically in the final moments of last season or will Manchester United restore what Sir Alex Ferguson will regard as normal service?

Will big-spending Chelsea challenge under Roberto Di Matteo, who was confirmed as permanent manager after winning the Champions League? And what about the fortunes of Tottenham and Liverpool, under new management in the shape of Andre Villa-Boas and Brendan Rodgers?

There will be plenty of interest in all parts of the Premier League as West Ham United, Reading and Southampton return to the top tier.

With the usual armour-plated protection required in these circumstances, here are my Premier League predictions for 2012-13.

Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview

Madrid finished the season nine points clear of a Barca side that still managed to lift 4 titles in what was to be Pep Guardiola's last season of a hugely successful time for the Catalans.

The two giants kick-off the new campaign on Sunday with home games against Valencia and Real Sociedad, with one eye on their two-legged Spanish Super Cup encounter over the next two weeks.

Valencia, however, ended last season third for the third successive year and will provide a severe test in Madrid's opening defence of the title.

New coach Mauricio Pellegrino will be able to choose from four new signings, including Mexican Andres Guardado and former Madrid midfielder Fernando Gago.

Forward Roberto Soldado, the highest-scoring Spaniard with 17 goals last season, should shake off a niggling injury in time.

Also on Sunday, Europa League winners Atletico Madrid start their campaign at last season's surprise package Levante, with a growing injury list ahead of next week's UEFA Super Cup tie with Chelsea.

The Joy of Six: Football Flukes

From a Champions League final to a 1968 Division Three game, via Tomas Brolin and an infamous inflatable.

Ten things we're looking forward to this season in the Premier League

From the Rodgers revolution at Liverpool to the return of Southampton and a resurgent Fernando Torres, here are some potential highlights for the new campaign.

ESPN FC Premier League Preview

Three hundred and eighty games played over nine months lie between us and the inevitable sting in the tail; 34,200 minutes in which eye-popping goals will be thumped, legends forged, villains revealed, ill-advised tattoos unfurled, scandals exposed, false hopes dashed and the answers to the following questions slowly revealed:

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Friday's Rumours


Statues of David Beckham in his underwear go on display

When he isn't driving speedboats or skipping out on Galaxy games, David Beckham is apparently working hard on his second career as an underwear model.

And you know you've made it in the underwear modeling business when 10-foot statues of you in your skivvies go on display in some of the biggest commercial areas of the country.

Metallic statues of the British soccer star in his designer underwear have been put on display in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City this week as part of a promotional stunt for Beckham's new line of underwear.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast discusses D.C. United's decision to acquire another forward and ponders the packed weekend slate.

David Conn: Manchester United deal for Robin van Persie can't mask Glazers' intentions

Despite Sir Alex Ferguson's positivity, the Old Trafford owners are draining the club's finances while selling off shares in their 'brand' around the world.

Dominic Fifield: Arsenal ready for Van Persie-less future without needing to panic buy

Arsène Wenger learned lessons from last summer's late spree and this time he bought in reinforcements before the captain's exit.

Podolski's arrival was announced before the end of last season, a left-sided attacker like Van Persie but, moreover, a £10.75m statement of intent. Giroud, secured on the eve of Euro 2012 having played a significant role in propelling Montpellier to an unlikely Ligue 1 title, appeared a focal point for the team's attacking intentions: strong, mobile, prolific. Santi Cazorla's arrival from Malaga is mouthwatering. If the fee for Van Persie, a 29-year-old with a Bosman free on the horizon, ends up amounting to £24m, then that trio – bought for a little under £40m combined – might leave the collective stronger.

Jol: Dempsey wants to leave

At one stage, the website for the Massachusetts-based news channel New England Sports Network (NESN), owned by Fenway Sports Group, published a story suggesting the deal was done, but it was removed soon afterwards. "That was very disappointing," Jol said. "There was never an offer. Clint himself told everyone he was going to Liverpool before he came back, so we really thought there was quite a firm interest in him. "Even [Rodgers] told everyone he was interested in Clint Dempsey, but our people never had an offer on the table, so it's almost embarrassing. If you have shown interest in a player, especially in England, you have to follow it up with an offer. They didn't."

Richard Jolly: Ream's Honeymoon in Lancashire

It was not, it is safe to say, the normal way to begin a marriage. Rather than heading for a dream destination on honeymoon, Tim Ream and his new bride had a rapid change of plans. So long, Tahiti; hello, Bolton. Farewell, romance; hello, relegation battle. "Neither one of us were thrilled about it," Ream tells ESPN. "It was just a great opportunity but rough timing with the wedding and having the honeymoon cancelled. I like to think she is past it now and we have moved on."

U.S. TV limited for La Liga, Serie A

Lionel Messi's and Cristiano Ronaldo's league matches will disappear from the television sets of many American soccer fans, starting this weekend. That's because the U.S. television rights to Spain's La Liga have switched from GolTV to the new beIN Sport USA network, launched this week by the Al-Jazeera Sport Media Network and available in only about 8 million homes to viewers of DirecTV and DISH Network. And it's not just Spain's soccer that is affected.

TSB's Mini EPL Preview

No time for those long-winded, overblown team previews? Don't worry, TSB's Mini EPL Preview is short and to the point. It's also short on quality, but hey, you can't have everything…

Man City
Having improved his short game, Tevez could finally be ready to form a fine partnership with Agüero. But last season showed City's reliance on Touré and Kompany, so, regardless of FFP, not buying Javi Martinez seems dumb.

Man U
With Vivic back, Fatman and Robin could lead a free-scoring rampage back to the top. Or RVP could return to type, pick up an injury, leaving ManU's lack of strength in the middle to cost them. Again, should have bought Martinez.

While Cazorla looks a great buy, Gooners will have their fingers crossed about Poldolski or Giroud. But I suppose there's always that watertight defence to fall back on. Really should have bought Martinez.

Vertonghen should do well, but they'll need a replacement for Modric and a striker. That'll make two more players for AVB to piss off then.

They've kept Ba while continuing their policy of snapping up excellent players for next to nothing. Another exciting season beckons.

Cunningly, loads of cash has been spent on players who may need some time to show their quality. Time enough for Di Matteo to fail and Guardiola to be hired?

Hard to get excited about the coming season when your major summer signing is a guy you loaned out last year. But when was the last time Toffees fans were excited be the coming season?

Can Allen get Saurez the ball, or will Henderson, Downing and Carroll get in the way?

Everyone loves Fulham: attractive soccer, classic ground and Martin Jol, the man for whom the word jovial was created. But if Dempsey and Dembele go, especially at such a late date, things could get sticky.

The sensible acquisitions of Clark, Foster, Yacob and Rosenberg should make for another sensible season.

Without Rodgers and Allen it's hard to see a repeat of last season's success. But new boys Laudrup and Michu should keep the Swan's vision of entertaining football alive.

Kept Grant Holt but not Paul Lambert. Fans will be hoping Chris Hughton can stop a case of second season syndrome. Doubtful.

Up to now they've brought in Louis Saha and Carlos Cuéllar. Mackem excitement will be in overdrive. If they bring in Fletcher for 15m it will hold no bounds.

Pulis will be thankful there's no Europa League this year hindering his efforts to brutally secure mid table safety while boring everyone in the process.

Can Roberto Martinez pull of another miracle and keep the Latics up? Hopefully.

Aston Villa
After last season's doom, Lermer could have brought in The Grim Reaper and fans would still be upbeat. That said, its difficult to believe it wont be another tough year.

Good value for money signings like Green, Park and Hoilett, combined with a decent manager, should see an improved season. But if Barton goes, who'll provide the charm?

West Ham
Lacking a quality striker, the Hammers look a touch lightweight up front. Could Modibo Maïga surprise, or is it time for Kevin Nolan to give Andy Carroll another call?

Fans will be praying the Saints can be this year's Norwich, but it'll need a lot of prayer. The club have faith that the best from the Championship, Rodriguez and Sharp, can work their miracles in the EPL.

Hard to be optimistic. Mariappa is meant to be half decent. Pogrebnyak scored the odd goal for Fulham. Ian Harte was good for Leeds about half a century ago. So they'll probably fine.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

EPL Season Previews: Sunderland, Swansea, Tottenham, West Brom

West Brom

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Thursday's Rumours


Luka Modric edges closer to Real Madrid move from Tottenham Hotspur

Real Madrid made a significant breakthrough in their protracted attempt to sign Luka Modric from Tottenham on Wednesday after offering to increase their up-front fee beyond £30 million on a potential £38 million deal.

Graham Hunter: Back to business in La Liga

What a summer! Spain made history, Barca and Real Madrid rivalries were well and truly set aside in the best interests of La Roja, and now La Liga is back in all its glory. We face threats, opportunities, fun, confusion, skill and -- above all -- dramatic entertainment. It's good to be back.

So, as is traditional before the season kicks off, let's look at five things to pay attention to in the short, mid and long term of Spain's La Liga season.

Paul Merson's Premier League Season Predictions

The new Premier League season kicks-off this weekend and the Soccer Saturday boys have been sharing their predictions for the 2012-13 campaign with Paul Merson has his say...

Andy Hunter: Manchester City to open the archive on player data and statistics

The champions plan to make available the data on every player in every team from every game in the league last season.

USA Wins in Mexico

After 75 years of frustration in Mexico, the U.S. national team finally won a soccer game at its southern neighbor and regional rival. Dominated for most of the night at one of soccer's most intimidating venues, the Americans beat the Mexicans 1-0 in an exhibition Wednesday night behind Michael Orozco Fiscal's goal in the 80th minute and Tim Howard's late sprawling saves.

Grant Wahl: Historic win in Mexico provides mental value for U.S. going forward

Player Ratings

Robin van Persie Leaves Arsenal for Manchester United

Manchester United have agreed terms with Premier League rivals Arsenal for the transfer of star striker Robin van Persie. The Holland international is now due to travel to Manchester on Thursday to finalise personal terms and undergo a medical with the Red Devils before putting pen to paper on an anticipated four-year deal. Van Persie announced shortly after Euro 2012 that he would not be extending his contract with the Gunners, which has just 12 months left to run. That sparked a scramble for his services, with United, Manchester City and Juventus all tabling offers for the 29-year-old former Feyenoord player. Sir Alex Ferguson's side moved to the head of the queue and have now reached an agreement with Arsene Wenger's men, with the fee believed to be around £24million.

Paul Wilson: The Dutch striker could be the final piece in United's jigsaw – if Sir Alex Ferguson can find the right way to fit him in

Phil McNulty: Van Persie signing is a landmark moment for Man Utd

Amy Lawrence: Arsenal's sale of Robin van Persie to Manchester United is good business


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Premier League 2012-13 Season: Club-by-club Guide

Get ready for another nine months of excitement, drama, controversy, highs and lows: the Premier League is back. Can champions Manchester City hold off the challenge of rivals United? Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool have all named permanent managers this summer and will be looking to improve on last season's league finishes. Will Arsene Wenger be plotting a renewed title challenge from Arsenal? The aim for newly promoted teams Southampton, Reading and West Ham is likely to be to stay up, while potential strugglers Norwich, Swansea and West Brom have all named new managers.
But, before the action gets under way, BBC Sport assesses each side's preparations this summer with a comprehensive club-by-club guide to the new season.

International Friendly Previews: Mexico vs. United States

Who: Mexico vs. United States
When: 8pm, EDT
Where: Azteca Stadium, Mexico City
U.S. TV: ESPN2/Univision

Alecko Eskandarian: Sizing up the U.S. squad

Grant Wahl: The rise of Mexican soccer is a positive for the United States

I'm going to say something that may bother you: The rise of Mexican soccer is only a good thing for the United States. That's not to say it's easy right now if you're a fan of the U.S. men's soccer team. In fact, it's probably painful, a sharp and enduring ache that feels like a punch to the gut. The U.S. meets its greatest rival, Mexico, in an exhibition here on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2/3, Univision) -- I'm sure as hell not calling it a "friendly" -- and the gap between the two countries is bigger than it has been in more than 20 years. Just last Saturday, Mexico won the Olympic gold medal, outplaying a star-studded Brazil team that will provide much of that nation's 2014 World Cup squad. The U.S., by contrast, failed to even qualify for the Games.

Scunthorpe through to Capital One Cup second round after thriller against Derby County

Scunthorpe United manager Alan Knill described his side's victory over Derby County in the Capital One Cup first round as the most remarkable match he has ever seen after the ball found the net a total of 23 times.

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Wednesday's Rumours


MLS Week 23 Power Rankings: Galaxy deal a blow to Chivas USA

Analyzing the fallout from a one-sided SuperClasico to digging deeper on Jurgen Klinsmann's MLS selections, here are some thoughts from the league's Week 23, as the playoff chase continues to heat up:

Sid Lowe in Spain: La Liga Season Preview

Real's and Barça's ability to make the impossible look easy has crushed the ambitions of La Liga's other clubs.

Barcelona-Real Madrid hegemony tarnishes Spanish football's golden age.

Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba to retire

Bolton Wanderers have announced that Fabrice Muamba will retire five months after suffering a heart attack during a match.

Premier Promise

Career progression in the Premier League can be difficult for young players, with the high stakes of the modern game often preventing clubs from throwing their teenage talents in at the top-flight deep end. However, there were plenty of examples in 2011-12 of precocious youngsters rewarding their managers' faith, including Danny Welbeck at Manchester United, James McClean at Sunderland and Premier League Young Player of the Year Kyle Walker, who had only ever started two league games for Tottenham prior to last season.

Here, ESPN selects five players who could make waves in 2012-13.

Paris Saint-Germain Focus: Croissants and raw minced beef

Paris Saint-Germain have begun this season as they finished the last: inexplicably muddled given the talent and time afforded to get their house in order. They have now adopted the necessary pose for the modern moneyed club with flags and goal music, the epitome of football's public enemy. PSG: nouveau nouveau riche. It was more evident where the fans were concerned than it was in the football as they offered up a confusing performance to draw 2-2 with Lorient at the Parc des Princes on Saturday night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

MLS near deal for $300 million deal Queens stadium

Major League Soccer is closing in on a final deal with state and city officials for a $300 million, 25,000-seat, state-of-the-art soccer-stadium complex in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, The Post has learned. The proposed facility, construction of which could begin early next year, would be home to a yet-to-be-named new franchise. The stadium would be located next to the Mets’ Citi Field and the Arthur Ashe tennis stadium, and would include nine high-quality soccer fields available for community and minor-league use, sources said.

EPL Previews: Southampton & Stoke City

Stoke City

MLS Week in Review: Goals, Goals, Goals

There were some marquee matchups on the slate this week as the conferences top dogs squared off, the US Open Cup Final featured a shot at history, and the decisive game of the 2012 SuperClásico unfolded.

The action lived up to the billing, too, delivering comeback thrillers, more heart-stopping heroics in San Jose and (cue the Mötley Crüe) goals, goals, goals — 25 in eight league matches, to be exact, for a healthy 3.125 per game.

Off the field, Montreal striker Marco Di Vaio was acquitted in a match-fixing scandal in Italy, Jurgen Klinsmann called 10 MLS players, including first-timers Matt Besler, Alan Gordon and Steven Beitashour, for the US national team’s upcoming friendly in Mexico City, and the league unveiled its new set of standings tiebreakers.

Let’s track it back.

Jozy Altidore does Mr. T impression in post-match interview

AZ Alkmaar and U.S. striker Jozy Altidore is an African American gentleman who now has facial hair, so it follows that a Dutch reporter tried to get him to do an impression of the A Team's B.A. Baracus following AZ's 2-2 draw with Ajax on Sunday. The scorer of both Alkmaar goals duly obliged, and even nailed Mr. T's trademark scowl.

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Tuesday's Rumours


Jonathan Wilson: Olympics exposed flaw at the heart of Brazilian football

The problem for the Seleção ahead of the 2014 World Cup is to reconcile their nucleus of players to one unifying philosophy.

Henry Winter: Football can take lessons from Olympic humility but not everything in the game is bad

The Olympic experience briefly took a few footballers out of their bubble, out of what Sol Campbell always used to call the “gilded cage” of England or elite club life.

Richard Jolly: Premier League Preview 2012-13: Top Ten: Summer Transfers

Ahead of the 2012-13 Premier League season, Richard Jolly picks his top ten transfers of the summer so far, looking at which of those buys could have the biggest impact in the season ahead.

John Brewin: Premier League Preview 2012-13

Its predecessor was only decided in its final 13 seconds. The Olympics made Great Britain the centre of the sporting world. Is the Premier League's 21st season beginning as an afterthought? We have spent 16 days hailing new heroes in running, jumping, cycling, swimming, horse-riding, rowing and sailing. As a result, the return of England's domestic football season is likely to be one where familiarity breeds something of contempt. There is also the shadow of an excellent Euro 2012 to step from out of.

It may take some time to get back in the old routine but football will always return to the fore. A national game that often brings disappointment on the international stage, and duly did so during the Olympics when Team GB faltered, can actually boast of rude health.

The Premier League has yet again flushed its coffers with a highly lucrative future TV deal, contains Europe's champions in Chelsea, and returns after a season widely hailed as the best yet.

Americans Abroad: 2012-13 UK Season Preview

After a busy summer which featured World Cup qualifying, Euro 2012, several transfers, and a few loose ends, it’s time for the start of the season. The Barclays Premier League kicks off next weekend and with several Americans in the saddle for various clubs, we look at the top players heading into the 2012-13 campaign. 

MLS and Liga MX populate U.S. roster for Mexico friendly

With the European season just starting, several big names will miss out on the U.S. roster to travel to Mexico City for a high-profile friendly.

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steven Beithasour (San Jose Earthquakes), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim)

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards: Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes)

Amy Lawrence: Didier Deschamps lays down law as France youth underpin fresh start

Deschamps instils discipline and passion as Les Bleus look to bury debacle of Euro 2012.

Tim Vickery in South America

In the culture of Brazilian football, there are few crimes more serious than losing in a final.

The celebrations have been planned and the champagne is on ice. Then, when things go wrong, everyone sees it and the humiliation is complete as you fall from a great height.

What kind of landing awaits coach Mano Menezes after Brazil lost 2-1 to Mexico in the Olympic final? When Brazil win the players get the credit. When they lose the coach gets the blame. It was ever thus.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Secret Footballer: Undercover in the Premier League

Growing up on a council estate, all he wanted to do was play football. But a long career in the Premier League has made him question everything. The Guardian's Secret Footballer reveals what life is really like at the top of the game

EPL Season Previews: QPR & Reading

Queens Park Rangers