Thursday, April 26, 2007

Arsenal rumor

Another rumor I have read is that William Gallas, the much discussed defender who left one Londonian team for another, will be moving once again. This time to Real Madrid. If this move does happen it really makes me scratch my head. In getting Gallas for Cole, I thought Wenger pulled off a great coup. He unloaded a disgruntled defender for another one, however Gallas filled a gaping hole for Arsenal - central defender, as well as Wenger had Clichy in waiting to replace Cole. On paper the Arsenal back four looked very strong - Eboue, Gallas, Toure, Clichy. Injury deprived Arsenal of this back four for part of the season, but why would Wenger allow a key part of this back four leave without having a full, injury free, season from the French international?

Does Wenger feel Senderos can move back in to the starting role along side with Toure??? If so, Wenger's sanity needs to be checked....Senderos is TERRIBLE. The Swiss international is passable for a few matches, but against the top strikers looks hopelessly lost on the pitch. Or does Wenger envision Djourou slotting in on a full time basis with Toure in the middle of the park? Djourou is a nice player, but still young and inexperienced, not sure he deserves to be given the responsibilities of central defense for the bulk of the season.

Gallas is not only is a world class central defender but can slot to the right or left side. Unless Real Madrid gives Arsenal a king's ransom, why move this player? I am sure this is just another British tabloid rumor, but still makes me scratch my head.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Champions League Semis - First Round

So the football gods would appear to once again want to have another Chelsea v Manchester United show down for a major title.

Manchester United defeated AC Milan 3-2 at Old Trafford while Chelsea scrapped together a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge against Premier rival Liverpool. Both clubs head into the away fixture with a lead, however ManU has to beware of having given up 2 road goals to AC Milan.

I was able to watch the AC Milan v Manchester United match, and it is clear that unless Vidic and Ferdinand come back to form, the defense will again be tested by the speed and surgical passing of the AC Milan midfield. Manchester United are fortunate not to be heading back to Italy even or down to the Italians. The english defense was terrible yesterday, allowing devasting through balls all afternoon long.

I did not watch the Chelsea v Liverpool match, but from the accounts I was able to read, it appears to be a typical match of Premiership teams, cautious, defensive and at time brutish. I think that Liverpool will feel confident heading home, even thought they need to defeat Chelsea by 2 goals.

Predictions:

Manchester United 1-0 over ACMilan
Chelsea 0-0 draw with Liverpool....the football gods want another Chelsea v Manchester United match up...why I have not idea

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chivas USA in the Zidane sweepstakes?

Yet another rumor that Chivas USA will look to attract the bald headed Frenchman to the MLS. Again, I am not sure why Zizou would want to ply his trade in the MLS.....if he wants to play again, I am sure some European club would be more than happy to offer him a contract...and I am absolutely sure that his home town club would be willing to splash some money retaining their favorite son to come out of retirement and play for the sky blue OM.

I just don't see Zizou wanting to play in the MLS where he will be running around with a large bulls eye on his back (every defender and hack will try to stop the great Zizou) and unlike Becks (who will also have that bulls eye) Zidane plays in the middle of the park. Becks will find some refuge out on the wings. Zizou also does not have the self importance that Beckham has when it comes to "carrying the soccer flag" globally. Zidane is extremely competitive, not sure the MLS will satisfy that addiction.

If Zidane were still playing for Real Madrid or Juventus or Caen in Ligue 2 would all these rumors swirl around....doubtful.

But if he does come over, guess who will be first in line to watch him play.....well maybe second cause Brett said he would be first.

Euro 2012 goes East....good for football

The decision came down today with the, somewhat surprising announcement, that Poland and Ukraine will be hosting the 2012 Euro. I think this is very positive for football.

As I had posted yesterday, I thought getting the tournament to Eastern Europe would be a positive, but that there were some political issues. With that in mind, I thought that UEFA would take the easy road and select Italy to host the tournament. However I am glad to see that the governing body decided to send this event to Eastern Europe.

Having said that, Ukraine and Poland will have a lot of work ahead of them to ensure the venues and infrastructure is ready for the deluge of football fans in 5 years. Assuming that Ukraine and Poland can also resolve its internal political issues, and this is no small task, then I think they two former Soviet satellites will showcase a good event.

This might also give both national teams the shot in the arm to get them over the hump. Ukraine has demonstrated its metal in the past World Cup and Poland has a decent international heritage to build on.

Just like the World Cup in South Africa, maybe this is a good excuse for me to visit these nations!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Euro 2012 hosting the lesser of 3 evils

This week the host for the European Nations Cup 2012 will be decided, and from the three candidates it looks like it will be a choice of the lesser of 3 poor choices.

The three sites bidding are:

  • Italy
  • Poland/Ukraine
  • Hungary/Croatia
When these nations came together to bid for the tournament it appeared to be some solid choices. However all three bids have some serious flaws.

  • Italy - They have added a fourth star to their kits after winning the World Cup last year. However that might be the only positive the soccer crazed nation enjoys. Some might argue they should not even have been in the World Cup after a terrible match fixing scandal that impacted some of their most storied clubs. The subsequent punishment for these clubs was ridiculous. AC Milan which lobbied to be allowed back into the Champions League now finds themselves one step away from the finals. What kind of punishment is that? Juventus, the most punished of the clubs, is easily going to be back in Serie A next season, with minimal attrition in its ranks. Finally, add the tragedies suffered in Italian games this season, the rampant racism and the heavy handed tactics used in Champions League games and this calls into question how much control the Italian FA has on its own domestic product. Unless they show some real improvements (hard to imagine any improvements between today and Weds!), their hosting might be on very shaky ground.
  • Poland/Ukraine - On the surface this would be a good joint hosting. Both nations made the last World Cup with Ukraine making the 1/4 finals. It would be good for football to have one of its showcase events in Eastern Europe, in the middle of former communist block nations. The main issue is political, Ukraine is in the midst of serious political turmoil, and the current political situation in Poland is not sitting in the best of lights. While much might and will change between now and 2012, does UEFA want to take a chance that it changes for the worse?
  • Hungary/Croatia - This is an interesting pairing. Hungary has fallen off the face of international football for a long time, having trouble living up to the standards set by the Flying Magyars. They have not come close to qualifying for a major tournament since they made it to the World Cup in 1986! Croatia has fared much better in international play, but racism is an issue that continues to rear its ugly head in former Yugoslavia.
So who will it be? I think that the Hungary/Croatia bid will fail due to the weakness of Hungarian football. UEFA cannot afford to have one the host nations fare poorly in such a showcase tournament....then again not sure Austria will do much better when they host next summer! Ukraine/Poland would be intriguing but not sure the political issues will ensure they get the infrastructure in place for the tournament. So by default, I think Italy will get the hosting rights.

UEFA will put a lot of pressure of the Italians to shape up their domestic issues and point to 2012 as an opportunity to unveil the new and improved Italian FA....lets hope the Italians are up to the challenge.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chelsea v Manchester United

And so it is done, Manchester United and Chelsea will meet for the FA Cup finals. Could we potentially see a Manchester United vs Chelsea Champions League finals, as well as the second to last game in the premiership is, you guessed it....Man U vs Chelsea, maybe for the League title. I am not sure sure who I can root for if any of these other situations arise.

I must admit I was a pseudo supporter of Chelsea, prior to their become the expensive fantasy sports hobby for one rich oligarch. The reason why Chelsea had a place in my heart was that they seemed to be the place international players went to end their careers:

  • Deschamps
  • Zola
  • Desailly
  • Guillet
  • Vialli
  • Leboeuf
  • Petit
They were a nice team, that never really challenged domestically, other than in cups, had some nice runs in Europe, but in UEFA cup and Cup Winners Cup, but otherwise were the little brothers to the large English clubs such as Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United.

However with the arrival of the Russian billionaire and the "Special Whiner" from Portugal has brought an attitude and arrogance not seem in England since perhaps the treble winning side of Manchester United....but even then, that team was made of home grown talent. That team had to rise from a dark ages on the backs of players such as Giggs, Beckham, The Neville Brothers, etc that worked their way up from the youth ranks. This Chelsea team is similar to the Yankees in baseball, lots of mercenaries. Who, once the Russian oil billions are no longer around to pay the bills, will scurry off to other clubs like rats escaping a sinking ship....

So I guess I might have to root for ManU...as much as that pains me. But I cannot stomach listening to the likes of Terry, Mourinho, Cole and the rest of the bounty hunters talk about their potential success....the only ones I will root for are Cech (to me he remains a classy player and a top notch keeper), Makelele and Diarra (the last two for obvious reasons based on my Froggy bias).

Ahh it will be a difficult set of matches to watch!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Champions League Semis - an English affair

England is guaranteed to have a domestic team in the finals for the third straight year (Arsenal last season and Liverpool the year before).

A recap of the 1/4 finals:

  • Liverpool made quick work of PSV, defeating the Dutch giant 3-0 on the first leg, playing the game on the continent meant that Liverpool had a 3 away goal lead...hard to overcome. The return leg at Anfield was just a formality, with Liverpool winning 1-0.
  • Chelsea, once again, got lucky. A last minute softish goal by Essien on the short side when Casnizares over played the wide side of his net, and had a clear view of the shot. When 5 minutes earlier he made a fantastic save off a Ballack header. After finding a way to come back against Porto, Chelsea did it again against another Iberian club...
  • Manchester United, demolished the lads from Roma. Watching the game I was wondering how a club that is second in a top level domestic league can possibly give up 7 goals! Have some pride!
  • AC Milan, after conceding a late goal on the first leg, it appeared that Bayern had the advantage but the Milanaise club had too much talent for the Bavarian giants.
The match ups for the semi finals:

  • Chelsea v Liverpool: An old fashion Premiership match up. Liverpool is one of England's most successful Champions League clubs, Chelsea is seeking to validate their recent success by winning the ultimate prize. While Liverpool is looking to win 2 titles in 3 years and rescue what is otherwise a disappointing domestic season. Chelsea is still banged up, especially on defense, and they have been playing many games so need to wonder what their fitness level will be. They are also under the microscope of pursuing 3 more titles, Mourinho's constant soap opera and the pursuit of Manchester United. Both teams know each other very well, so there should be no surprises. Liverpool is one of the hotest teams currently, and have been playing especially well in the Champions League. As for Chelsea, I think they have been lucky the past two rounds, and being too focused on their FA Cup and Domestic runs they will find their luck running out.....Prediction - much like two seasons ago, Liverpool 1 - Chelsea 0 on aggregate.
  • AC Milan v Manchester United: After the 7-1 drubbing everyone might expect that ManU will feast again on another Italian club. But not so fast...I think that AC Milan, while underachieving in their domestic league run have been playing very well in the Champions League. Their midfield should be able to match the Manchester United midfield, I think the difficultly will be the aged backs AC plays - Maldini and Cafu. Can they handle the speed that Ronaldo and Rooney will throw at them? The winner will be the team who's talismatic midfielder does better - Kaka or Ronaldo. I think the edge goes slightly to Ronaldo....but it will be closer than expected.....Prediction - Manchester United 3 - AC Milan 2 on aggregate.
After Chelsea falls short again from Champions League glory, Mourinho takes his verbal diarrhea and arrogance to Real Madrid. Hiddink is hired as the new manager for Chelsea and then Abromovich sells the club which sees all their mercinaries....I mean players, scatter to other clubs.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Premier League heats up

Portsmouth 2 - Manchester United 1
Chelsea 1 - Tottenham 0

Manchester United now have a 3 point edge over the London side with 6 more games to go. And the race tightens. Of course today the Special Whiner from Stamford Bridge was at it again, stating that Manchester United were fortunate not to have to play his side next week. Blah Blah Blah.....

The last matches for each squad are as follows (BBC Sports):

Man Utd's remaining Premiership fixtures:

Tuesday, 17 April
(H) Sheff Utd
Saturday, 21 April
(H) Middlesbrough
Saturday, 28 April
(A) Everton
Saturday, 5 May
(A) Man City
Wednesday, 9 May
(A) Chelsea
Sunday, 13 May
(H) West Ham

Chelsea's remaining Premiership fixtures:

Wednesday, 18 April
(A) West Ham
Sunday, 22 April
(A) Newcastle
Saturday, 28 April
(H) Bolton
Sunday, 6 May
(A) Arsenal
Wednesday, 9 May
(H) Man Utd
Sunday, 13 May
(H) Everton



At first glance advantage for Manchester United, albeit slight. A couple of points:

  • ManU still have a 3 point lead on Chelsea. ManU will have to drop 4 points to Chelsea in the next 6 fixtures, meaning Chelsea will most likely have to run the table and hope that ManU has an extra slip up (Chelsea running the table means ManU losses on the second to last day at Chelsea)
  • ManU has a 15 goal difference, so Chelsea cannot retain the title if they end up equal on points on the last day with ManU.
  • Chelsea have the more difficult road ahead. ManU plays team with a combined 261 points, while Chelsea play teams with a combined 305 points. ManU, not including Chelsea, has two teams in the drop zone to face - West Ham and Sheffield United, and 1 team headed for Europe - Everton. They do have a Derby match with Manchester City, but if form holds true that game should not be a traditional derby match, City should not put up much of a fight. As for Chelsea, they face 3 teams in Europe - Arsenal (huge London Derby, and a game Arsenal will be highly motivated for and being played at the Emirates), Bolton, Everton. They also face a team in the drop zone - West Ham (but that is also a London derby so not so simple). Finally Chelsea have to travel to underachievers Newcastle, but the game is on the road for Chelsea.
Both clubs have FA fixtures and European matches, so nothing will come easy. This premiership title will be a dog fight for both clubs, but advantage to Manchester United. I think that Mourinho should, for once, shut his yapper. He already is on thin ice with his own ownership if he emerges from all these matches without a Champions League title, or an FA cup and second to Manchester United, he should polish up on his Spanish and prepare to head to Real Madrid, cause I am sure the Czar of London will be getting his private gulf stream ready to pick up Gus Hiddink from the Russian national team to manage the Blues.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Sagnol out!

Aie Aie Aie....Wily Sagnol hurt his knee in the Champions League game against AC Milan and will now miss the rest of the season and should lace on the boots again starting next season for Bayern and France. I think this is a blow to both the Munich club as well as Les Bleus.

As for Bayern, I think they will find a way to make it without their star right back. However with Les Bleus, I am very curious as to what Domenech will do without one of the stalwarts of the squad. If the past few games gives any indication, he will turn to Lyon's young defender Clerc to hold up the right side of the pitch. While all the reports from the Austria friendly indicate is that Clerc was very active, had a good rapport with Nasri and the forwards, and was the producer of a number of quality crosses. However that was Austria, in a friendly. The next two matches are both at home, against Georgia and Ukraine. The former, should not be too much of a problem without Sagnol, but the later has a certain Shevchenko to deal with. With the apparent offensive difficulties if France does not have Ribery, Henry, Saha, Vieira for the August matches (all but Henry should be fit....but may not be at 100% game fitness) the left and right fullbacks will be asked to push higher and to give the strikers greater support, a lot to ask a talented, albeit young, fullback.

Maybe Domenech will listen to this voice and call back Chimbonda....not as if he is playing in some half rated league on some amateur team.

Monday, April 02, 2007

PSG treds water

Huge win for the capital club 2-1 at Lens a place they had not won in decades! PSG now finds itself 1 point above the relegation zone. The reaction is tongue and cheek. Watching the highlights of the game it was evident that PSG's victory was in large part thanks to Landreau making some amazing reflex saves to preserve the victory. The rest of the season will continue to be a nail biter watching PSG try and keep its nose above the water line.

Ugly 4-1 lose by Arsenal to non other than Crouch....ahhh he is terrible, yet he scores goals....how I am no idea.
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