Friday, November 08, 2013

Europa League, Joy of Six, Manchester United vs. Arsenal, MLS, Ibra Moustache Jibe

And that's another week in the bin, as they say. If you've not already, start your Friday by checking out SSN Serie A Expert Alessandro Buonjourno née Alessandro Cazzojourno's report from a variety of matches in England.

We'll get back to that part of the world shortly, but for now let's return Stateside. LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders will not win The MLS Cup this year. That is because Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo knocked the West Coasters out, respectively. Avi Creditor has Three Thoughts on LA's ouster, and Alexander Abnos has Three Thoughts about the Timbers toppling the Sounders.
Back to Europe (that didn't take long) where the secondary club competition lit up the stadia last night. No real surprises. Spurs shot down the Sheriff, Swansea have to wait to advance and Lazio do as well. Hit this if you're interested.

Alessandro Cazzojourno apparently enjoyed hanging out with Scott Murray of The Guardian last week. The best we can do is check in with Murray for today's Joy of Six. Scott's talking FA Cup first round memories. Why? Because the FA Cup first round gets underway today.

We might as well stick with the UK since we're there. In the Premier League, the biggie comes Sunday (11:10am, EST, NBCSN) when Manchester United host Arsenal. Elsewhere, Newcastle welcome Spurs, West Brom go to Chelsea, Liverpool host Fulham, and Manchester City are at Sunderland. Here's your lot:

Poor Freddy Adu. What a bust. A Bahian Bust, if you will. Yes, the latest failure is ongoing in Brazil. Grant Wahl takes a look. Sticking with Yanks Abroad, Sacha Kljestan says The Zlatan made fun of his mustache during the PSG/Anderlecht Champions League match on Tuesday. It is pretty bad, Sacha...
Bad stache, Sacha...
In Italy, all eyes will be on Turin as Juventus host Napoli on Sunday night. Here's your Serie A weekend preview.

In Spain, Barcelona go to Sevilla to face Betis, Real Madrid host Real Sociedad, and Atletico Madrid go to Villarreal. Here's your La Liga weekend preview.

Robbie Savage and Robin van Persie? If you really want it...



SSN Special Report: Alessandro Cazzojourno in England

After leaving Milan following Inter's 4-2 win over Hellas Verona, SSN's Serie A Expert Alessandro Buonjourno changed his name to Alessandro Cazzojourno and headed to England. Alessandro took in Arsenal vs. Liverpool, Everton vs. Tottenham, and Manchester City vs. CSKA Moscow. In London he was blindsided by the news that his old pal and host for the evening was dating one Scott Murray of The Guardian, and that the three would dine together. Quite the trip, indeed, and those of us forced to remain at SSN Headquarters will no doubt make Alessandro suffer for his good fortune for years to come. He'll be making the coffee and paying for lunch for a while, let's just say. He filed this report.  -The Editor


A tedious arrival into a typically overcast London via Standstill Stansted ended with an impossibly excellent surprise courtesy of my host, friend, and college editor Wendy Mitchell, following an exchange something the lines of:

Me: So is your boyfriend joining us for dinner?

Wendy: I’m not sure, he’s not feeling great and he has to cover the matches tomorrow.

Me: (curiosity piqued) Which matches?

Wendy: Newcastle / Chelsea. And yours.

Me: (really curious now) Ummm….who exactly is your boyfriend?

Wendy: His name’s Scott Murray.

Me: (full-on yelling) YOU’RE DATING SCOTT MURRAY?!?

Scott Murray, Guardian sports editor/genius, frequently found at the helm of The Rumour Mill, The Fiver, minute-by-minute reports, and occasionally amongst the Football Weekly podcasters...familiarize yourself with his work if you haven't already. I could scarcely believe my luck and the small-world-ness of it. Not surprisingly, he's even funnier in person, and was a great sport about answering my many questions about football, journalism, and his role at the intersection of the two. He also talked about the Liverpool and World Cup books he's working on (keep an eye out in April), and I even managed to conjure a few laughs out of him while not coming off as too much of a weirdo by quoting things he'd written (and sometimes forgotten he'd written). Talk about a result...crikey! Not that he needed to bolster his credentials, but he did correctly predict an Arsenal victory. Which brings us to...

Two goals to the good. Alessandro with Laura Webb.
Emirates was a grand time. Chelsea blowing it at Newcastle set the stage nicely, and after a few pints at The Twelve Pins with ticket connection and peach of a Gooner Gal Laura Webb and her mates Christoph and Paul, we set out to grab our seats, which were lower level, about nine rows behind goal. Mental. This made for the expected two-dimensionality at the far end of the pitch, but watching Cazorla's strike bulge the back of the net in the slow-motion that seems to take effect in those moments was just outstanding, the pinging off the post right beforehand only adding to the adrenaline surge. A German fellow behind me seemed to think the crowd was chanting "Oh, Sexy Cazor-la!", which he certainly was after that strike. Hard to fully appreciate the craft of Ramsey's goal from our vantage point, but seeing the replay certainly helped explain the absolute shockwave of a roar that made its way across pitch from the opposite end. What it's all about, really.

As for Liverpool, Flanagan didn't look ready for prime time, while the fabled Suarez/Sturridge partnership never looked like igniting, and seemed positively frayed towards the end, with Sturridge casting outstretched, pleading arms and a long, frustrated glare at Luis after some selfish shot selection -- that was intense to see. Though Suarez...even on an off word, you really understand what a handful he is up close like that. Apart from some singing early on the away support was a pretty massive disappointment: Nary a single verse of You'll Never Walk Alone! Kam ON, lads!!! Maybe they just knew it wasn't their night. We were only a few rows away from their section, and it was sobering to see one Scouser in a nice retro track top wiping away tears at the final whistle. On the walk home I was able to grab a decent shot of the stadium from a distant bridge (see below), a fitting punctuation to an unforgettable night.

Emirates Bridge View
One grueling Megabus ride north later I was savoring 'real ales' at Doctor Duncan's with my former-penpal-turned-actual-friend/Manchester host Joe Pollitt, and his Everton mate Kev - two bona fide class acts - on what turned out to be a gorgeous day in Liverpool, which along with the atmosphere and experience of being tucked under the awning at Goodison were the highlights of what was otherwise an absolutely diabolical day of football. Really, REALLY hard to believe either of those sides are in the mix for Champion's League on evidence of that abject display. Crazy seeing Lloris getting knocked out though, and the 'thudthudthud' of seats flapping up as people stood up for approaching action (or lack thereof) being concentrated by the roof right above our head was pretty awesome. Every bit the portal into what football used to be like that I'd hoped.

Goodi-sun Park
Champion's League! A-HA! It was Guy Fawkes and fireworks were in the air as me and Joe and his gang of City regulars trekked over to the Etihad for City/ CSKA Moscow. It was precisely the kind of pounding the shirtless mass of xenophobic cretins in the away end deserved, though hats off to them for the sustained din they created during the match. Impressive. And what a performance by Negredo. Hat trick! "Beast of the Match," as the announcer said, channeling his inner Partridge... Not sure where this side were for the FA Cup Final but on their night they possess formidable graft, craft, power, and pace.

City vs. CSKA
The time in Manchester shattered all expectations. Fantastic people, food, architecture, history, beer, loads of music history... Plus the occasional overheard gem like "James Milner's dog had a wee on my gatepost this morning. He looked a bit embarrassed." Three points on Sunday, and it will be one hell of a trip.


-Alessandro Cazzojourno

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Champions League Updates, Secret Footballer, Jozy, Microsoft Estadio Santiago Bernabeu?

See below for Giles Tremlett's review

Apologies for yesterday's radio silence, friends. SSN Headquarters had to be evacuated due to a mold issue. All is sorted now, though, so let's get to it, shall we? The obvious place to begin is in the Champions League. Barcelona beat a waning Milan side (Messi's "crisis" is over -- he scored twice) and are already through to the knock-out stage. The other big result came from Germany where Arsenal managed to nick three points from Dortmund thanks to yet another Aaron Ramsey goal. Chelsea had little trouble with Schalke (Eto'o embarrassed Timo Hildebrand - see below) while Napoli beat Marseille 3-2. Let the fun begin:

Champions League Review
10 Talking Points
Five Aside

Barcelona 3 - 1 AC Milan: Sid Lowe at Camp Nou
Borussia Dortmund 0 - 1 Arsenal: David Hytner at Westfalenstadion
Chelsea 3 - 0 Schalke 04: John Brewin at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 3 - 0 Schalke 04: Barney Ronay at Stamford Bridge
Napoli 3 - 2 Marseille: Higuain Brace

The Secret Footballer has a new book out and he's talking San Siro, his father, and Fabio Capello. The Guardian has an exclusive extract here and it makes for an enjoyable little read.

There was a What's in Your Wallet? Cup match yesterday between Sunderland and Southampton. Thanks to Yank Abroad Jozy Altidore, Sunderland got the win and will face Chelsea in the next round. Jozy didn't score, but he was instrumental in his side's two goals. Well done, son.

Way to recognize, Seb.

Apparently, Microsoft are talking with Real Madrid about getting naming rights for the Bernabeu. Say it ain't so, Bill.

It's November and Ian Darke wants to weigh in on the state of each squad in the Premier League. Do it, Darke.

One of our favorite scribes is Sid Lowe. He's got a new book out entitled, "Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona vs Real Madrid." Here's a review.

Raul 71 
Lionel Messi 65
Cristiano Ronaldo 59 
Ruud van Nistelrooy 56
Thierry Henry 50
Alfredo Di Stefano 49
Andriy Shevchenko 48
Eusebio 46 
Filippo Inzaghi    46
Didier Drogba 42

Finally, as we read above, Arsenal won their match yesterday. Paul Doyle asks, was Arsenal's away win at Dortmund their best ever in Europe?



Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Ireland, Champions League, Top Scribes, Americans Abroad

Mega Tuesday!

Most Tuesdays are big days at SSN Headquarters. Today is no exception. Let's hit the ground running with the Podcast: We're live and unleashed for this edition of Football Weekly, recorded in front of literally squillions (well, 75) of fans in Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre. It's a wonder that Jimbo, Barry Glendenning, Rafa Honigstein and James Horncastle made it out alive. On our agenda: all the action from the weekend in the Premier League - not least Arsenal's victory over Liverpool and Cardiff's victory in the South Wales derby - and the return of the Champions League. With Manchester City hosting CSKA Moscow, Arsenal hoping to exact some revenge on Dortmund and Barcelona taking on Milan, it's quite a few days of European jiggery-pokery in store.

The Republic of Ireland has a new manager. Actually, a team of managers. Actually, Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane. Yes, Trap has gone and the men upstairs in Dublin reckon these two freaks are the best man (men) for the job. If nothing else, it'll be fun to watch. 
"You don't like something I do? Tough shit. I'll break your leg."
As mentioned, it is Tuesday, so that can only mean one thing. It's time for Gab Marcotti's Monday Musings. Today, Gab's musing on Lloris' health, Milan's misery and a close call for Real Madrid.

You know what? We haven't checked in with a bunch of Americans Abroad of late. Sure, we know what Bradley, Altidore, and Guzan are up to, but what about all the other guys? Guys like Mike Grella, Freddy Adu, and DaMarcus Beasley? Let's check in.

The Champions League returns today for Matchday Four. It's pivotal for a few teams in particular. Today's matches include Real Sociedad vs. Manchester United, Juventus vs. Real Madrid, and Manchester City vs. CSKA Racists. Here are some predictions of how things might go this afternoon (everything begins at 2:45pm EST), and here's a preview of the matchday's first eight games. CSKA fans are already in the mood, apparently...

Scribe Time!

Location: Italy
Headline: Torino and Italy given reason to smile by second coming of Alessio Cerci
Scribe: Paolo Bandini

Location: Spain
Headline: Derby days take centre stage in Spain
Scribe: Phil Ball

Location: Germany
Headline: Loan sharks - the future of football
Scribe: Uli Hesse

Location: Spain
Headline: Real Betis cap week from hell with 'mad' defeat to Málaga
Scribe: Sid Lowe

Location: Germany
Headline: Borussia Mönchengladbach in Kruse control as Hamburg fans get shirty
Scribe: Raphael Honigstein

Location: Brazil
Headline: Why a South American experiment could be a boost to Europe
Scribe: Tim Vickery

That's a fair amount of reading for you, eh? Well, spare a thought for Sligo Rovers who recently won the Irish Cup.



Monday, November 04, 2013

Roma Don't Win, Arsenal Defeat Liverpool, Newcastle Defeat Chelsea, Fiorentina Defeat Milan, City Hit Seven, Portland Defeat Seattle

And a Very Happy Monday to You!

We'll begin in Rome where Torino managed a 1-1 draw with Roma, ending the home side's run of consecutive wins at 10. Had they won, they would have tied a European record set by Tottenham. Elsewhere in Italy, Fiorentina piled on the misery for Milan by emerging from the San Siro with a 2-0 win. Milan now sit in 11th place in the table -- their worst start to a season since 1981

Back in England, Arsenal overcame a rather flaccid Liverpool side thanks to goals from Cazorla and Ramsey (Dominic Fifield was in the house), Chelsea lost to Newcastle at St. James' Park (Louise Taylor was in the house), Everton and Spurs failed to score (Richard Jolly was in the house), and Manchester City tallied seven against Norwich City (Ian Whittell was in the house).

Don't fret friends, we've got your Talking Points. All ten of them. Relax. Jeez. Not enough? Here's the rest of the good stuff:

The South Wales Derby: Cardiff City 1 - 0 Swansea City

In Spain, Bale had another strong outing as Real Madrid won at neighbors Rayo Vallecano. Elsewhere, the other Madrid team in the top flight, Atletico, got goals once again from David Villa and Diego Costa to win and keep the pressure on Barcelona.

Stateside, LA Galaxy knocked off Real Salt Lake thanks to a rocket from Sean Franklin, and New York and Houston (that's Red Bull & Dynamo) drew 2-2. In the Pacific Northwest, Portland got a huge win at Seattle 2-1 to take the series lead back to Oregon. It was Portland's first-ever MLS Playoff match. 

That's solid for a Monday Breakdown. We'll be back tomorrow with loads of analysis from the scribes and likely a Podcast as well.