Friday, November 30, 2007

A Note to My Readers (All Seven of You)

If you regularly check this blog, you will have noticed that there hasn’t been much posting going on since November came around. Part of this is due, as I have explained, to the fact that I went to Italy for a good chunk of the month. But since I’ve been back, I’ve hardly blogged, except to detail the Rome riots. That’s because I’ve decided to close down the blog, at least temporarily, and maybe permanently.

I started the footballfan-atic blog on January 1 because I wanted to write about football, and I wanted to write stuff that was published instantly. (I write lots of stuff for magazines that are published four months after I complete them.) On both counts, I had fun writing about the beautiful game.

The point of the blog, or its point of view, perhaps, was that of an American who was a fan of the worldwide game. That was why I tried to talk about the big stories from all over Europe and South America, and also why I published the “games of the weekend” column every Friday: to help an average American like me get more out of the sport and the joy of watching it.

This was fun, but as the summer turned into fall I began to realize more fully the obvious: that the world game was simply too much for one blogger. Hell, some of the great football blogs (like have dozens of staffers doing the same thing. And as a result, they are doing it much, much better.

This has combined with some changes in my personal life (all good ones, thank goodness) which has made it more difficult to blog regularly. When I started footballfan-atic, I vowed that I would only do it if it was fun. I would not maintain a blog simply for the purpose of “trudging on” or seeing how long I could keep the posts up. Well, because I am questioning the purpose of this, and because of time constraints making it less fun, I am going to stop maintaining the site. For now.

I am going to be effectively taking the rest of the year off from football bloging, and reassess where I am in the New Year. I am strongly considering retooling the site and making it much more specialized, such as being centered on a particular team like Fiorentina or my local team, the New England Revolution. I could also focus more tightly on particular players or even competitions. (I admit I am getting more and more into Series A and Italian football in general.) Or, I may just hang it up. We’ll see what happens in the New Year.

I want to thank all of the readers who checked out what I had to say over the last year, and also thank my buddy Matt for his generous posts on the EPL.

Finally, I do want to let everyone know that just because I am giving up this blog (at least temporarily) does NOT mean I am giving up on football. On the contrary, I am actually more into football than ever. I lead a fairly busy life with work, family, friends, and various writing projects on the side. When I have a moment of free time, I am almost always watching or reading about football, and that is one of the main factors that prevents me from writing about it more often. Right now I don’t feel like I will ever be able to let go of this game.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Italy Thoughts

I had a few other bits and pieces left over from Italy before I turn my attention back to other matters, including the Europe qualifiers, Champions League, and some goings-on in England.

  • Italian skipper Fabio Cannavaro had one of the saddest and most poignant quotes relating to the whole mess in Italy when he said: 'I play at Real Madrid, a club that has a perfect stadium, full of children, without violence. From the outside I realize the awful images Italian football gives itself. We cannot go on like this.' And he’s right: you go to a match in Italy and there are no kids around, because of the potential danger. That is madness. What else do we even have sports for?

Read the full article at

  • Robert Gotta has a great article on the state of Italian football here, from

  • CNNSI’s Jonah Freedman reported that Manchester United (Roma’s next opponent in the Champion’s League; who are visiting Rome) has offered a FULL REFUND to any of their fans who bought tickets to the game but are now too frightened to attend. Think about that: is there a sadder referendum on the state of Italian football? Manchester United fans being AFRAID to attend a football match?

  • Finally, and most furiously, even the exchange rate in Italy is now killing football fans. I always wear football shirts, and look forward to picking up new ones in Italy. I loaded up on a ton of Fiorentina stuff and got a cool SSC Venice shirt, but I paid through the nose. If this keeps up much longer I will have to start wearing MLS stuff – Damn!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Rome Soccer Riots

I want to thank everyone who has stayed with this blog even through my extended absences. I know it can be tough to stick with these things sometimes, and especially when there are not posts on a regular basis. I do appreciate all the people who read this.

As a few of my friends know, I haven’t been posting to this blog for the last week or so because my wife and I took a brief trip to Italy. We vacation there, of course, because we enjoy it; we enjoy the cities and the art and the museums and the people and the food. It should be said, moreover, that we also enjoy the football. I have said on this blog that I believe Italian football is the best in the world, and in spite of all that has happened this last month, I still believe it.

Anyway, I went to Italy. Readers know that I am a fan of Fiorentina, but my travels were taking me to Rome on the weekend, so I purchased two tickets to the Roma-Cagliari game that was scheduled to take place on November 12. The game was originally scheduled for 2:30 in the afternoon, but it was changed to 8:30 at night. This made me a little nervous, as I am aware of the violence that can happen at an Italian football match, but I still wanted to go. Plus, I had been to Fiorentina games at night and everything had been fine.

We spent the day as many tourists do in the Eternal City: we went and saw the forum and the Coliseum. At night we went back to our hotel room near the Spanish Steps to relax before the game. We watched some TV, and although we do not speak Italian, it was obvious to my wife and I that things had gone very wrong in the Italian football world that day. There was a protest and violence in Milan, and a game had to be stopped at Atalanta because ultras were destroying the stadium. I suspected the Roma game might be canceled, but we were not sure. The hotel concierge did no know anything, so we decided to take a train ride up to Olympic Stadium to check things out. It was a foolish decision to bring my wife, but she knew I really wanted to go to the game and she didn’t want me to go alone. Plus, we hoped everything would be fine. It was, as I said, a foolish mistake.

Of course, I now know things I did not know at the time. On the morning of the game, the Italian police accidentally killed a young man who was traveling on the way to a different football game. The Italian ultras decided that all football matches should be cancelled that day to mark the young man’s death. When a policeman was killed last January in football riots the games were postponed for weeks; now the Ultras saw it as disrespect that the games were still to be played. So they marched in Milan and tore up the stadium in Atalanta. And the Lazio and Roma Ultras decided to team up to wreck havoc in Rome.

We got on a tram around 6:45 to get to the stadium. We turned a corner when we were about a mile from the stadium and witnessed chaos. We saw about 100 young men, almost all disguised (many wrapped their soccer scarves around their face) fight toe-to-toe with around 50-75 uniformed police officers. And all of them were really going at it: clubs flying, punches and kicks being thrown, flares being thrown, all of that kind of stuff. We saw the police batter the ultras and force them into an alley; we saw fans smashing windows and turning over dumpsters. We saw a bus that later, on TV, we would recognize as it burned to the ground.

Remarkably, the tram we were riding on then dropped us off in the middle of this warzone. We had to get in a train that was in the front of the line to get out of there. I was terrified that my wife would be hurt, so we sprinted across the park and boarded a train that, sadly, contained a number of not-so-scared people. They had simply become used to the ridiculous levels of violence and knew that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the way of the police and the Ultras, they should be okay. They shared none of our fear and outrage.

Twenty minutes later, we were back at the Spanish steps, sitting among children eating ice cream and wondering if we had just imagined the riot scene we had walked through. In our room we watched hours of television coverage of the riots. Eventually the ultras attacked and attempted to destroy a police station, broke into and damaged the headquarters of Italian football, and generally destroyed a bunch of property of innocent people.

My wife and I were unhurt, and spent the rest of our vacation at museums and restaurants and other places where there was no violence.

After last season’s riots, I wrote an impassion plea to clean up Italian football. (See my column from February 4). Now, I don’t know what to say. The chaos, violence and hate I saw at the riot were a symbol of the very deep-seeded and real problems of Italian society. I may love the country, and its people, and its football, but Italy is also a country full of profoundly angry young people. Many have chosen to use football as a means to express that anger, a shame doubly both because of the violence and also because the great sport of football has nothing to do with it.

Last winter I wrote that if Italian football did not clean up its act, it would become a joke. It is now another step closer to becoming that punchline, and it becomes harder and harder for me to defend the game. As a reasonable man, I most certainly can never take my wife to a Series A game ever again. As I reasonably sane man, I wonder how long it is before I cannot even allow myself to go again.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Weekend Matches: Nov 2-3

Solid weekend of football coming up, with two very obvious highlights. One, of course, is the Manchester United v. Arsenal game being featured bright and early on Saturday morning. Jonah Freedman of SI, in his bi-weekly football power rankings, has them listed as the two best teams in the world. We’ll see. Arsenal is clearly firing on all cylinders.

The other big matchup is Juve v. Inter in Milan on Sunday. I’m rooting for Inter if only because if my Fiorentina wins (who are playing on Saturday night) then they can slide into second place. Regardless, fun stuff coming from England, Spain, and Italy this weekend. Enjoy it.


8:30am Arsenal vs Manchester United Setanta Sports

11:00am Newcastle vs Portsmouth FSC

12:30pm Bayern Munich vs Eintracht Frankfurt GolTv

1:00pm Blackburn vs Liverpool FSC

3:30pm Milan vs Torino FSC

5:00pm Sevilla vs Real Madrid GolTv

7:30pm New England Revolution vs New York Red Bulls FSC

10:00pm Lazio vs Fiorentina FSC


9:00am Empoli vs Roma FSC

1:00pm Barcelona vs Betis GolTv

2:30pm Juventus vs Inter FSC

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Orange Deviousness

Check out this amusing video from Holland, where a prankster brought a bunch of remote controls into various bars and turned the TV off during critical moments of football matches. The worst nightmare for football fans, but funny, at least.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Matt's Premiership Review

Here is the latest update on all the premiership action from my buddy Matt. Matt looks forward to next weekend's hopefully monumental clash between Manchester United and Arsenal after this past weekend's fun action.

If you've noticed that Matt has been posting almost as much as me recently, well, you've been right. As I've said earlier, I am trying to truck through a busy period at work, and I confess I have also been a bit sidetracked by the Boston Red Sox (the local baseball team, who just won the World Series for the second time in four years). Between the Red Sox and the Patriots (the local American football team, for all of my outside-the-U.S. readers) I've had little time for soccer, but I still managed to cram in this weekend's Fiorentina game as well as most of Roma v. Milan. That actually reminds me of that great line from the "Simpsons" when Homer was reminiscing about his early years of marriage: "In spite of working a full-time job, being a newlywed, and raising a young son, I still managed to pack in six hours of television a day..."(I'm paraphrasing here)

Anyway, I am glad that Matt is reviewing the English league. My beloved Series A was actually quite boring, with low-scoring draws and 1-0 matches as far as the eyes could see. I'll be back more this week as I get back into the football world.


Wow. What another great weekend in the EPL with games filled with goals galore, and a big game that actually lived up to the hype. Arsenal and Liverpool played an entertaining game where both sided were attacking each other from start to finish, and the 1-1 scoreline doesn’t give justice to what a great game it was. Liverpool took the lead on an early free kick by Steven Gerrard, but eventually Arsenal’s class allowed them to tie it up through Cesc Fabregas, and keep both teams undefeated for the season. The question becomes which team should be happier with the result, and I would have to say, it’s got to be Arsenal. Liverpool dropped another 2 points at home, and they simply can’t afford to do that if they want to challenge for the title. Although both fans and players of Arsenal might feel that they should have won the game, they still can be happy that they remain undefeated and atop of the Premier League. However, they are now tied atop the League with the defending champs, and sets up this week’s clash between them and Man U at the Emirates. I was knocking on Man U at the beginning of the season, but they are on form now. They are scoring goals in buckets full like they did last year, and the Tevez/Rooney partnership is really starting to jell. Rooney did a beautiful back pass to Tevez to set up the third goal of the game in their 4-1 romp over Middlesbrough, and he is starting to show once again why he is seen as England’s savior. I can’t wait for this week’s game between these two powerhouses, but I think Arsenal will hold out for a 3-2 win.

In other games, Avram Grant has done something that the Special One couldn’t seem to do with Chelsea; have them play entertaining football. Chelsea demolished Man City 6-0, and has pundits pondering whether Man City’s early season form was just a flash in the pan. While I don’t think it was anything more than just a bump in the road for Sven’s men, you do have to wonder if Sven is a one trick pony, who can easily be figured out. He didn’t seem to have a plan B for Chelsea after his 4-4-2 formation fell apart, and it was like we were seeing signs of the England team again. One thing for sure is that Chelsea are back, and they aren’t going to give up on the title so easily yet.

Speaking of a one trick pony, those were the words I was using to describe Michael Owen as I yelled at the TV while watching Newcastle’s dismal display against Reading this weekend. They are without a doubt the most Jekyll and Hyde team in the Premier League. You never know which team is going to show up; the one that should be guaranteed a spot in Europe, or the one battling a relegation dog fight. As for Owen, he is good at doing one thing only. Scoring goals when the ball is delivered directly to his foot or head while he is in the box and there is no one around him. If that doesn’t happen, don’t expect him to do much else except get called for being offside. Why Sam insists on placing him above Martins on his striker depth chart is beyond me. I certainly have my fair share of problems with Obafemi, but at least he is out there trying, has pace, and can actually do something with the ball when outside the box. When he has the ball, I at least have some hope that Newcastle might score. I don’t feel the same way about Owen. I pray to God he proves me wrong.

Finally, as many of you know, Martin Jol was finally given the sack this past week. Despite this, Tottemham still found a way to lose and remain in the relegation zone. Somewhere Tony Soprano, I mean Martin Jol is laughing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Premiership Thoughts

Apologies to any readers who have noticed I haven't posted all week. To be honest, I've just been crazy-busy at my real-life job as I try to finish some stuff before I take a quick visit over to Europe. And, yes, I will be catching some top-flight football while over on the continent. I will report back in full.

The irony of my week-long layoff is that some great football has been played. On Saturday in Italy Roma and Napoli played to a 4-4 draw that was one of the best matches I've seen in ages. And in Madrid on Wednesday Real Madrid cam back from a 2-1 deficit to win 4-2 in the Champions league. That match might finally be the club-level coming-out party for Robinho, who dominated the game.

In the meantime, my buddy Matt has a little belated but very interesting look at last week's action in the Premiership and in English football. It was a busy week in England (Martin Jol finally left Spurs) but Matt helps us unravel everything, including what could be a very good title race.


Although not much has changed among the placement of teams in the standings, things are starting to come cleared as a quarter of the season has come to the end. Manchester United have seemed to found last season’s form with another spectacular victory at Aston Villa by the score of 4-1. Meanwhile, Arsenal continued their winning ways at the top of the league with a 2-0 victory over Bolton. It wasn’t the usual flair of an Arsenal game, but one in which they showed they could get stuck in, and respond to tough tackling by fighting back with similar tactics. But there is no need to worry that they will change their ways and start to play like Chelsea as Tuesday’s Champions League 7-0 victory showed. And what about Theo Walcott? With Van Persie out for 4-6 weeks, he will get his chance to continue to shine and display his blinding pace, that was shown in Arsenal’s last 2 games. Arsenal’s opponents this weekend, Liverpool, got an extremely lucky win this past weekend over Everton to keep them in 4th place and on pace for a run at the title. I have to laugh at that last statement because I don’t think Liverpool will challenge for the title event though I picked them as my pre-season favorites to do so. The only reason they won last week was because they had the ref in their back pocket, and while they did deserve the 2 penalties they were rewarded, they should have had 2 red cards against themselves for a flying tackle by Kuyt on Phil Neville, and for Jamie Carragher’s take down of Lescott in the box. The later should have given Everton a penalty kick, and a chance to get a point from a draw in this derby. However, it seems that Liverpool’s luck may have run out based on their defeat to Besiktas this past Wednesday in the Champions League. Maybe this loss combined with the subbing of Gerrard in the Everton derby will cause the eventual sacking of Benitez and his stupid rotational policy. Arsenal can help him on his way if they thrash Liverpool at Anfield this weekend like they did last year.

Speaking of sackings, Sammy Lee and now Martin Jol have joined the unemployment line. I’m happy to say that it was Newcastle’s fine display at St. James in their 3-1 victory over Tottenham on Monday that hammered the final nails in the coffin of Mr. Jol. Although it didn’t help that Berbatov started on the bench with a sour look on his face, and couldn’t be bothered to warm up or really participate when he eventually got on the pitch. Maybe it was the Bulgarian’s reaction to his benching that really caused the board at Spurs to get rid of Jol. In any event, it seems the next manager to go in the sacking race is between Billy Davies at Derby, Lawrie Sanchez at Fulham, and Gareth Southgate at Middlesbrough. But I’m sure there are Liverpool supporters out there, that feel as I do, and are hoping that Mr. Benitez soon takes pole position.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Weekend Matches: October 20-21

Now this is what I’m talking about. A good, solid weekend of football coming up, especially Saturday, which is the kind of day DVR was invented for. Although I am becoming increasingly tired of English football, the Premiership seems to have the best matches of the weekend, including the Liverpool derby and an intriguing Arsenal v. Bolton match. (Villa vs. Man United could be okay as well.) In Spain, Espanyol vs. Real Madrid should be okay, as should Roma vs. Napoli in Italy. Juventus vs. Genoa and Boca Juniors vs. Juan Sebastian Veron’s Estudiantes looks to be the cream of the crop on Sunday. Thank goodness for the return of league football!


7:30am Everton vs Liverpool Setanta Sports

9:30am Bochum vs Bayern Munich GolTv

10:00am Arsenal vs Bolton Setanta Sports

10:00am Middlesbrough vs Chelsea FSC

12:00pm Aston Villa vs Manchester United FSC

2:00pm Villarreal vs Barcelona GolTv

2:30pm Reggina vs Inter FSC

4:00pm Espanyol vs Real Madrid GolTv

8:00pm Roma vs Napoli FSC


9:00am AC Milan vs Empoli FSC

2:30pm Juventus vs Genoa FSC

3:00pm Atl. Madrid vs Zaragoza GolTv

3:00pm Boca Juniors vs Estudiantes FSC

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Now That’s a Free Kick

Below find a link brought to my attention by the FourFourTwo website, which refered to this as “possibly the greatest free kick of all time.” I don’t know about that...but Jesus. It’s pretty impressive.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mid-Week Reading

I’ve decided to continue my semi-break from the Fan-atic page for a few days longer. One reason is that these Euro qualifiers just don’t interest me at all; I CAN”T WAIT to get back to league football this weekend. Also, frankly, I am little busy in my “real life” job (I am a writer and editor in that life as well, but in that life I get paid to do stuff, so that comes first) so I’ve put football writing on the back-burner until I watch some meaningful games this weekend.

I did, however, want to draw your attention to two very fine articles on The first is Roberto Gotta’s analysis of the Italian National Team head coaching job, and more specifically, an examination of the culture of Italian football and how difficult it is to make a success of oneself there. If you are like me (Series A is probably my favorite league at this point) this is a solid read.

The second article is a piece by the much-linked-to Phil Ball, who writes about his son’s U-12 league and uses this to explain the Spanish National Team. I stand by my often-made claim that Ball is one of the best writers in the business.

One final point: one of my good friends have suggested that I link to ESPN too much, and probably at the expense of other really good stuff out there. Perhaps he is right; it is true that I don’t often link to sites that I actually like very much, including sites based in England and Italy. I don’t link to ESPN as much as I do because I have the typical American worship of all things ESPN (in fact, I hardly watch the channel excepting Champions League matches) but because they are able to recruit and keep an extraordinary group of international writers. Their coverage of Spain and Italy, most obviously, is quite good, especially as we are an English speaking readership. Their English League coverage is weaker (I tend to go to the English newspapers for that) and, strangely enough, I thing’s coverage of U.S. soccer knocks ESPN’s out of the park.

Anyway, I link to ESPN’s stuff often because I think it is good. You be the judge:

Phil Ball:

Roberto Gotta:

Friday, October 12, 2007

Weekend Matches, October 13-14

Since the beginning of the year, I have produced, every Friday, a list of matches that are to be televised that weekend in the United States that I recommend to my readers. I did it even in the dregs of July when there was little, if anything, going on. In the interest of keeping the streak alive I offer you a meager selection of one game, in the MLS, between two very poor teams. David Beckham will not play.

This, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch. All else that’s televised this weekend are ridiculous Euro qualifying matches between mismatched teams. If there has ever been a weekend to spend time with your family, go for a long walk, clean out the garage, or yes, even play a little impromptu football, this is it. See you next week.


10:30pm LA Galaxy vs Toronto FSC

That makes two of us...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Quick News Updates

Just a few quick things today, as I continue to be a bit busy with that pesky “real life” that gets in the way of my football watchin’:

  • Check out this story by the always-good Grant Whal on Michael Bradley, son of the U.S. National Team head coach. Interesting stuff not just about Michael but about how an American makes it overseas in the football world:

  • See any of the major soccer websites for updates on Euro 2008 qualification, and especially for news on England. Stories this week include John Terry’s various injuries, the English striker situation, and whether the perennially-hurt Michael Owen should play. Wake me in June when the Euros start, please.
  • Finally, it looks like my man Neil Warnock has taken the QPR job. Good luck, Neil. They’re in 19th place right now. Of course, if your team collapses down the stretch like it did last season, you can always blame Carlos Tevez again…

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Early Week Thoughts

This is my first post of the week largely because we have celebrated a holiday here in the United States this weekend called ‘Columbus Day,’ in honor of the man who discovered a continent already occupied by millions of people. Next week I might fly to Tokyo and discover Asia. But I digress. My apologies on the lateness of this post.

Also accept my apologies on the thinness of today’s content and the presumed short posts that are likely to come this week. It just looks like one of those weeks where the real-life work is going to get in the way of the fun footballfan-atic work.

Drab weekend coming up, too, with the European qualifiers. Prepare yourself for endless stories on who will start for England and whether they will make Euro 2008. God, I hope they win both games just so we can be subject to less of this in the future. If I read one more “referendum” article on Steve McLaren, I am going to fly over there and fire him myself.

Since the posts will be thin this week, I encourage all of you to check out the ESPN soccernet podcast that is done each and every week on Mondays and Thursdays. It is available for free on itunes, at least to people in the U.S. (I don’t know about the rest of the world.) I’ve listened to a bunch of podcasts and I find this one to be pretty consistently the best. The Monday show is always a good wrap-up of the week, and the Thursday episode is a good preview of upcoming action. The show is a little heavy on the premiership, but it is still a fairly balanced roundup of what is going on in the football world. The guys on the show are also pretty unbiased, aside from their universal, unrelenting disgust for all things Andrei Shevchenko. Fair play to them, then.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Weekend Matches: October 6-7

As I said in an earlier post, it is a fairly weird weekend for football. There are almost no English games on Saturday, and a bunch are either not being televised at all or being shown scandalously late. Sad. I am excited to see my favorite English club, Sheffield United, play in a rarely-televised Championship match, but most of the good stuff seems (again) to be coming out of Italy. AC Milan vs. Lazio could be interesting, and the pick of the litter is probably Juventus vs. my Fiorentina. I do believe Fiorentina can nick at least a point here; they advanced in the UEFA cup yesterday and are looking good.


7:30am Manchester United vs Wigan Setanta Sports

12:00pm Bristol City vs Sheffield Utd Setanta Sports

2:30pm Inter vs Napoli FSC


6:00am Arsenal vs Sunderland Setanta Sports

10:00am Bolton vs Chelsea Setanta Sports

10:00am Liverpool vs Tottenham FSC

12:00pm Fiorentina vs Juventus FSC

3:00pm Lazio vs AC Milan FSC

10:00pm Barcelona vs Atl. Madrid GolTv

Thursday, October 4, 2007

When Saturday Comes...No Football?

The web page of FourFourTwo has a brief but interesting article on why they are only playing one game in the English Premier League at the traditional kick-off time of 3PM on Saturday. It seems to be the result of a combination of TV, UEFA Cup Matches, and travel difficulties. Whatever. This weekend the Premier League is all screwed up, and its going to be tough for viewers (especially in the US) to catch many of the games. Football purists have been going on for a while now about how football has become more and more of a business; this has both good and bad aspects to it, but it is hard to argue with the fact that tradition (the Saturday game) was probably best in this particular case.,,11442~1127092,00.html

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Manchester United News

Today the red half of Manchester is on the mind, seeing how the Devils played an excruciating Champion’s League match last night. I watched it on ESPN, but my wife (an indifferent fan of football at best) summed up the match better than I ever could by falling asleep at halftime. A fairly lucky Rooney blast was the difference (coming only moments after a gorgeous Christiano Ronaldo backheel goal that was ruled offside) and of course they will gladly take the three points. But is Manchester turning into Chelsea? Ugh.

More bad news for Manchester yesterday included the report that Owen Hargreaves will be out for at least another month as his knee continues to trouble him. (Obviously making him unavailable for England as well.) Hargreaves Owen-like ability to stay healthy might make United rue the day they purchased him; especially with Nani, Anderson, and even Carlos Tevez providing indifferent results after a very expensive off-season.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

LA Galaxy Playoff Bound?

Here is an interesting, but weird, column by SI soccer writer Greg Lalas, brother of LA Galaxy President (and former US national team standout) Alexi Lalas. Greg essentially argues that the Galaxy need to step it up next year when Beckham is back, and not just when he is hurt and out of the country, or LA and the MLS in general will never be taken seriously on the world stage. The article then gets a little weird, and at one point he suggests his brother “choked” along with the rest of the team, but does not elaborate. The piece does make a couple of interesting points, but ultimately Greg seems to be trying a little too hard to be critical of his brother.

Premiership Week in Review

Below find my buddy Matt's review of the weekend in the Premiership. In this week's edition, Matt looks at the English keeper situation, why Spurs shouldn't get too excited about yesterday's win, and why Stevie G is a good guy. Good analysis here...


This week’s update is a day late due to the additional game between Spurs and Aston Villa being played on Monday night, and it is with that game where we begin. This game was to celebrate the 125 year anniversary of Tottenham Hotspur, and they had all their legends on the field before the match began. Berbatov gave Spurs the lead, before the horror show began with lead actor, Paul Robinson, and his supporting cast of the shambolic defense. It all started with Robinson dropping a ball that was in his hands which lead to the first Villa goal. By the 60th minute of the game, he had let in 3 more and the Spurs were down 4-1 as crowds of fans exited from White Hart Lane. There has to be someone in England who could actually be a good goalie for the national team. Since the “big four” have foreign keepers, and Tottenham are usually just outside looking in, Robinson seems to get his caps by default. Why doesn’t McClaren look to the Championship or the lower leagues for a keeper if he can’t find a reliable one in the Premiership?? Peter Shilton was one of England’s greatest keepers, and he wasn’t playing for any big clubs. Of course some would say that Scott Carson should be given the chance, but then he let in 3 goals in the last 30 minutes for Tottenham to salvage a draw. Now not all the blame could be placed on him, as one of the goals came off of a penalty thanks to the sheer stupidity of Marlon Harewood, and Villa fans must be in shock at how they blew 2 points in a game they were winning comfortably. Tottenham’s late equalizing strike as time was expiring led to all the players surrounding and hugging Martin Jol as if they just won the Premiership. And while it was impressive to come back from 3 goals down in under 30 minutes, all they got was a point, at home, on their special anniversary to keep them in 18th place!! Somehow I don’t think staying in the relegation zone is going to keep Jol’s job no matter what show of solidarity the players show him on the pitch.

Moving on from the bottom of the table to the top, all 4 top teams remained in the same position as last weekend as each won their respective games. 1-0 to the Arsenal was a common saying of the Gunners of the 80s and early 90s, and so that sentiment was echoed this weekend with their 1-0 victory over West Ham, a team they couldn’t beat last season. It must be said that while the score line echoes the past, the style of play is completely different with the current team showing why they call it the beautiful game.

The same can’t be said of Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Birmingham. The Blues dominated the game putting more shots on goal than the Red Devils, but it was a lapse in Birmingham’s defense in the second half that allowed Ronaldo to knick a goal. Man U still haven’t displayed the goal scoring form of last season, and hopefully tonight’s game with Roma in the Champions League will bring back the goals from last year’s 7-1 demolishing of the Italian club, but Man U continue to do what Champions are required to do which is finding a way to win no matter your form. They went to a hostile environment in Birmingham and got 3 points, while the week previous Liverpool hosted Birmingham, couldn’t score a goal, and dropped 2 points in a 0-0 draw. Once again, I hope Liverpool are paying attention because this is what they have to do if they ever want to capture their first Premiership crown.

Speaking of Liverpool, they held onto their 4th spot in the table with a blah 1-0 victory over Wigan, but that’s what they need to do. See above. Which leaves the 3rd place team, Man City, staying put thanks to a 3-1 win over my unfortunate Newcastle United. It was a bad week for the Magpies, with Owen getting hurt (again), getting knocked out of the Carling Cup by Arsenal (are we ever going to win a trophy?), and then leading by a goal at Manchester before letting it slip away. I have recently been reading the season preview from When Saturday Comes, and each team is compared to a type of food. Newcastle is like a 2 day old glazed donuts at Dunkin Donuts; they have the glaze of the all their star players, but the’re always on the (injury) shelf and there is a big whole in the middle. I sure hope Joey Barton comes back soon, as they need some creativity in the midfield, but if he doesn’t get injured as soon as he comes back, he will probably instead get arrested for attacking one of his teammates.

Then there was the goal fest between Portsmouth and Reading, with Pompey winning 7-4, and in the process setting a Premiership record for most goals scored in a game. It could have been more, as David James saved a penalty shot from Nicky Shorey, and if it wasn’t for the fact that he still gave up 4 goals, I would be pushing for him to reclaim his England slot. It should be noted that Pompey, Reading, Spurs, and Villa each scored more goals then the combined goals scored by the “big 4” (4-3 thanks to Chelsea failing to score again). What does this mean? Absolutely nothing, except that the Premiership is certainly been entertaining so far this season. Let’s hope it keeps up.

One last note: Apparently Steven Gerrard was involved in a car accident in which he hit a 10 year old boy causing him to break his leg. Cue the stories of millionaire player carelessly and recklessly driving his Bentley and hitting small children, but nothing can be further from the truth. While he was driving his Bentley, he wasn’t speeding when the boy ran out between 2 cars causing the accident. He immediately exited his car, knelt down and held the boy’s hand comforting him until the paramedics arrived, and was extremely distraught according to witnesses at the scene. He also has been in constant contact with the boy’s family to check up on his condition and how he is doing. It is nice to see for once a star athlete doing the right thing, and just goes to show that not all footballers (soccer players) are like those portrayed on Dream Team and Footballers’ Wives.

Champions League: Tuesday and Wednesday

Here is the US Television line-up for the next two days in the Champions League. Lots of good games here (especially Man United v. Roma and Real v. Lazio), but I do wish the big American channels (especially ESPN) would show more than just the English teams and Real Madrid and Barca. I’m a big Madrid fan, but we see those teams all the time, and the Champions league is a good chance to see good, but different, teams. At least Setanta is showing the Portuguese teams.

Anyway, also keep an eye on the Liverpool v. Marseille game, if for no other reason than to ensure that Steven Gerrard doesn’t hit any kids with his car on the drive to the stadium.

(As Triumph the Insult Comic Dog says: “I Keed, I keed.”)


2:30pm Manchester vs AS Roma ESPN2

2:30pm Steau Bukarest vs Arsenal Setanta Sports

5:00pm Stuttgart vs Barcelona Setanta Sports, ESPNCC

6:45pm Dynamo Kyiv vs Sporting Setanta Sports


2:30pm Liverpool vs Olympique Marseille ESPN2

2:30pm Valencia vs Chelsea Setanta Sports

5:00pm Lazio vs Real Madrid Setanta Sports, ESPNCC

6:45pm Besiktas vs Porto Setanta Sports

Monday, October 1, 2007

Who’s the Best?

Below find a link to (big surprise) Phil Ball’s latest Spanish roundup. Good stuff in there, but also interesting because Phil looks at the ever-changing question of whom is the best in the world. Ball suggests that it might be Barca’s Leo Messi, who has certainly played like it lately.

What we all know for sure, however, is that the title of anointed one changes all the time. Kaka will probably win this year’s player-of-the-year awards, and he is, without question, a deserving candidate. He was also named the best player in the world by FourFourTwo magazine. Christiano Ronaldo, however, was “the best player in the world” last spring, and Ronaldiho was “the guy” just a little over a year ago. Last year also, don’t forget, Fabio Cannavero was world player of the year. This year’s European season is only a few weeks old but it already looks like Leo Messi and Cesc Fabregas must now be considered in any argument about the best players in the world.

In other words, the game right now lacks a truly clear-cut number one. Which is probably good for the game, and good for debate.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Did Someone Just Play a World Cup?

Below find a game report of the 2-0 victory today by the German Woman’s National Team over Brazil in the final of the Women’s World Cup. This was a strangely underreported tournament that really went underground in this country after the US Women were eliminated. Tonight, for instance, the game was only reported on the ‘Fox Soccer Report’ (a soccer news show broadcast every night at ten on FSC) at the twenty minute mark, after the scores of the Everton-Middlesboro were reported, along with a bunch of other meaningless games. Keep in mind that this was World Cup Final. If women’s football can’t make the top story on a soccer newscast on this day, than the sport is in trouble. As I said in an earlier post, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put a lot of money down on the Women’s Football League opening next year to be open for very long.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Weekend Matches: September 29-30

It's football dawn-to-dusk this weekend with good matches being played out all over Europe and even in the MLS. I have been particularly drawn to Series A all season, as some of the best games this year have come from Italy. This week we have a Turin derby as well as Milan and Fiorentina playing in separate, interesting matches. The match of the weekend, however, will hopefully be Roma-Inter, as Inter is getting back on form and Roma sees if they can recover from the draw put on them by my boys from Florence on Wednesday. Hope you enjoy it!


7:30am Manchester City vs Newcastle Utd Setanta Sports

10:00am, Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich GolTv

10:00am Chelsea vs Fulham FSC

12:00pm Birmingham vs Manchester United FSC

1:00pm Roma vs Inter FSC

4:30pm Livorno vs Fiorentina FSC

7:30pm New York vs Salt Lake FSC


9:00am AC Milan vs Catania FSC

1:00pm Getafe vs Real Madrid GolTv

2:30pm Torino vs Juventus FSC

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More US Women Fallout

Yikes. Check out this video of US Women's National Team starting goalkeeper Hope Solo (no relation to Han) ripping her coach and her teammate for being benched in favor of backup Briana Scurry. Not that she's wrong (Scurry was apparently terrible) but its rare to hear an athlete go off like this on a coach and teammate. Good times are apparently NOT being had by all.

US Women Lose in World Cup

Today the United States Women lost in their semi-final World Cup match to Brazil. Apparently they were destroyed to the tune of 4-0. You can read about it here:

It will be interesting to watch how this plays out for women’s football here in the States. Organizers were hoping to build on a US victory in the World Cup, as well as a possible victory in next year’s Olympics, to start another professional women’s football league here in the US. As many readers remember, there was a women’s league in the States in the 1990s and 2000s, but it eventually closed down shop due to very poor attendance. Bearing in mind that that league was built on the American team that won two World Cups and the celebrity of all-time great Mia Hamm, it is hard to see how this league will compare. They have no momentum coming from a World Cup that few paid attention to, and did not even make the finals. Perhaps they will do better at the Olympics. But the league will have no stars the caliber of Hamm or Julie Foudy, and no base of potential fans as they did after the 1999 World Cup held here in the states. I hope women’s football succeeds in the US, but this performance at the World Cup did not help matters.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Programming Note

Today there is a great game being broadcast on FSC at 2:30 EST. It is a Series A matchup between Roma and Fiorentina (probably my favorite team). It should be great.

Roma, of course, has pretty much been the best team in Italy this year. Even without striker Francisco Totti (who is out with a thigh strain today) they are still a formidable team. But keep your eye on Fiorentina. With young guns Sebastian Frey, Dario Dainelli, Fabio Liverani, Riccardo Montolivo, Martin Jorgensen, Adrian Mutu, and especially Giampaolo Pazzini, and along with grizzled vet Christian Vieri, they are one to watch for the future. They should be right in the thick of title races for the ext few seasons. But frankly, with a few breaks, they could be right in the middle of it THIS season. Look for them to put up a game fight at home in Florence today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rumors: Spain and England

As readers know, I provide a link to Phil Ball’s column nearly every week, because he is both very good and also because he provides a very useful window into la Liga, a great football league that tends to get overlooked here in the States because of the focus on the Premier League.

Two or three times a year, however, Ball’s columns are transcendent, and move from being “really good” to “almost beautiful.” This week’s column is an example of the later. Not only is it a summary of the weekend that was in Spain, but it is also a charming meditation of how football is integrated into everyone’s life in that nation; how they live and breath football just as they do their food, friends, and family. It’s a must-read.

On a more pedestrian note, Ball thinks that Ronaldinho is gone after the telling events of this week. (Reports are that the smiling Brazilian was clubbing and boozing 48 hours before his latest game.) Ball thinks Barca was the source that ratted Ronnie out to the press, a sign that he will be sold either during the winter or next summer. Interesting. Ball certainly knows what he’s talking about, but we will see what become of Ronnie’s performance over the next few weeks.

In England, rumors are circulating as well; this one has it that Martin Jol has already been fired from Spurs. Spurs and Jol are denying, but separation can’t be far off if the draws and losses mount.

One hope by Spurs fans does need to be quashed: they won’t get Mourinho. Apparently there is a clause in Jose’s contract that states he can’t be hired by an English club for a specified period of time. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes sense. Would Ramos from Sevilla come over to coach Spurs? Probably not mid-season. The question remains, then, of who would guide Tottenham to their traditional 5-th place finish. Although the way this season is going, it might be a more un-traditional 18th place finish…

Monday, September 24, 2007

Premiership Review

After a very exciting weekend of games, we have my friend Matt's typically excellent summary of weekend action in the Premiership. See below for his thoughts on who already has the league wrapped up in a bow and also what Sammy Lee can do for work after he gets the sack.

Readers of the blog will know I am not as careful a follower of the EPL as Matt; I try to distribute my game watchin' between England, Italy and Spain. I did watch a bunch of Premiership games this weekend, however, and I must say I was entertained by a number of them. Three games in particular were wildly different in style, but I found all three to be great:

1). Fulham v. Man City: Any 3-3 draw with that much back-and-forth action is going to be fun to watch. Lots of entertaining players on display as well, including Dempsey, Richards and David Healy. Conventionally, the "best " game of the weekend.

2). Arsenal v. Derby: By any conventional measurement, conversely, a 5-0 drubbing would be a bore, but I have found Arsenal riveting in recent weeks. They play gorgeous football with gorgeous passing. The beautiful game, anyone?

3). Man United v. Chelsea: Essentially a 1-0 game with a lousy penalty scored at the end, the supposed highlight game of the weekend seems to have been a dud. But in fact I enjoyed the game immensely; not for the goal chances created but for the skill on display at virtually every position for both teams on the field. The television announcers correctly noted that it took players some time to sub-in to the games; that is essentially because the ball never went out of bounds. Also, Avarm Grant kind of scares me.

Don't think I'm going soft on the Premiership, however. The best game in Europe this weekend was still probably the Juve-Roma thriller which ended in a 2-2 draw. But that is digression; I do hope you enjoy Matt's excellent Premiership review.


Before I begin this week's review, I wanted to inform the readers why I talk about certain teams. For starters, I'm a Newcastle fan, so despite who they play I will watch the game, and despite how bad of a result, I will usually have something to say on the matter. I then follow other teams that either have a player I like to watch and follow, like Clint Dempsey at Fulham and David Bentley at Blackburn, or who not only have a player I like, but also have a history I'm fascinated with (Steven Gerrard and Liverpool) or love their style of play (Fabregas and Van Persie and the lovely football of Arsenal). Besides that I tend to watch and comment on the big games of the weekend, which usually feature the big 4 or teams that believe they should be in the big 4. So you most likely won't see me writing about the likes of Wigan, Derby, Reading, Bolton, Portsmouth, or Birmingham unless they involve the teams above. With that in mind, here is my weekend review.

I start with the best team right now in the Premier League, who also have the current best player in the League: Arsenal and Cesc Fabregas. I know it is still early in the year, but both are my current choice for champions of the league and player of the year. While the chances of Arsenal winning the Premier League will be discussed further in a little bit, I wanted to begin discussing the amazing talent of one Mr.

Fabregas. In a word WOW!!! This 20 year old is simple amazing, and is quickly making Arsenal fans forget about the departure of Thierry Henry. Now some may say I'm a bit biased based on my previously mentioned feelings on the player, but it can't be debated how well his form has been lately. This is a player that his manager, Arsene Wenger, this week compared to the great Michel Platini, which is quiet a complement, and hopefully that rings true for both fans of Arsenal and Spain. The past couple of years, Fabregas has reminded me of Cristiano Ronaldo, prior to Ronaldo's season last year and minus the latter’s penchant for diving. Fabregas has always had pin point passing, but the thing that was missing was his finishing, much like Ronaldo prior to last season.

However this has clearly been cured with Cesc seeming to score in every game he plays, and usually with some amazing shots. He was at it again this weekend, when Arsenal demolished Derby 5-0 (that's what you get Derby when you beat my beloved Newcastle). While Adebayor led the way with a hat trick, and Diaby had a beautiful goal to get the route started, it was once again Fabregas tearing apart the Derby defense with his pin point killer passing from midfield. Arsenal looked like champions, and did so while playing entertaining football. Also the continued success of Gael Clichy at left back has made Arsenal fans forget about Cashley Cole. The only thing I see stopping Arsenal to the title is some shady defense by Phillipe Senderos and not so strong goal keeping by Manuel Almunia, but that should be taken care of when William Gallas returns from injury and Jens Lehmann get his game back on if not from the January transfer window (maybe they will get out of favor goal keeper Shay Given from Newcastle).

Now I know that before the season began I predicted Liverpool to win the league, but at that time I thought Rafa Benitez had decided to given up on his rotational system and focus on winning the league title. I couldn't have been more wrong. Picking up a topic from last week, Liverpool dropped two points again, this time at home to lowly Birmingham.

BIRMINGHAM!!! AT ANFIELD!!! Not only did they drop two points, they couldn't even score a goal in a very poor and boring 0-0 score line. How could this be?? Well look no further than the gaffer, who decided to start Kuyt with Voronin, while leaving the 27 million pound summer transfer hit-man Fernando Torres on the bench. Didn't Benitez learn anything from last week's nil nil result at Pompey, when the star striker started the game on the bench there as well. Why spend all that money on a striker if you aren't going to start him? You can't tell me that his was resting him for the "big" league cup draw this week with Reading. As I mentioned last week, it doesn't appear that Rafa is focusing on winning the title, and I don't think it will be long before the Kop end start chanting that he be sacked. Furthermore, if his plan was to get the ball into the box by playing wide, why did he wait till the 80 minute before putting Peter Crouch in who would be his best target man?? What is this gaffer thinking?

One further note from the game is that Steven Gerrard was given man of the match. For what??? I love Gerrard, he is one of my favorite players, and god knows he tries hard and wanted to win the match badly, but he played poorly. There simply didn't deserve to be a man of the match in this lackluster display by Liverpool.

Then after these 2 games, I checked on the best American playing soccer right now. Mr. Clint Dempsey.

Unfortunately the team he plays for isn't that good, but they never give up and keep on fighting. The Fulham v. Man City match was probably the best of the weekend as Fulham came back from a goal down to earn a point in an exciting 3-3 draw keeping them just above the relegation zone. Although Clint couldn't score a goal in his 4th straight game, it was interesting to see him and Micah Richards go head to head (literally) in a heated dispute. I wonder what they said to each other, but I'm sure they weren't congratulating each other on their recent form.

In other notable games, Middlesbrough and Sunderland drew 2-2 in their northeastern derby, but we all know that the real team from far up north is the Toon Army.After a disastrous display this past Monday when they lost to the worst team in the league, Newcastle bounced back with a 3-1 win at home over West Ham. Mark Viduka decided he wanted to play, and scored 2 goals, Martins , who started on the bench in favor of Michael Owen missed an open net, and speaking of Mr.Owen, he got hurt. AGAIN! Big surprise. The Jekyll and Hyde team of the premier League currently sit in 5th place. Also it the battle of which gaffer will get the sack next, Sammy Lee's Bolton came back to draw 1-1 with Martin Jol's Tottenham to keep both teams in the relegation zone. How about both teams sack them both tomorrow, the Spurs can hire Mourinho (although I doubt he would go there), Jol can go to Bolton, and Sammy Lee can be Gary Busey's stunt double in his next straight to video film.

Speaking of the Special One, I am sad to see him go. Believe me, I won't be missing his boring style of play while in charge of Chelsea, but I will miss his quotes and his attacks on Ferguson, Wenger, and Benitez. It seems that the Big 4 have just dropped to the big 3 with his departure. Which leads me to the so called "game of the weekend". I must say last week I wasn't looking forward to this match as I figured that with Chelsea's style of play and the poor start from Man U we would be looking at a dull 0-0 game. However with Mourinho leaving Chelsea, I was curios to see how they would react at Old Trafford and the game wasn't all that bad. Ok it wasn't great, but at least there was some attacking from Chelsea until Mikel Jon Obi (whose first and last names have switched over the past couple of weeks) was unjustifiably dismissed with a Red card. Carlos Tevez scored his first goal as a Red Devil, and someone in the stands shot Louis Saha while he was in the penalty box, allowing him to make 2-0 from the spot and secure Man United 3 points. Although the win puts Man U in second place, they still don't look all that good to me. As for Chelsea, it looks like they might not get a Champions league spot this year, but both teams have a plethora of good players that I can count either one out at this time. You never know what will happen when Saturday comes.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Weekend Matches: September 22-23

We have a loaded weekend of very good football coming up, with some great head-to-head matches to enjoy. First, I am very lad to see that GolTV apparently has settled their issues with Spanish television, so they are now once again allowed to show Barcelona and Real Madrid games. I’ll believe it when I see the games this weekend, but I’m very excited. The Barca-Sevilla game should be very exciting, in spite of Sevilla getting spanked by Arsenal this week. In Italy Roma v. Juve is surely the pick of the litter, but football fan-atics everywhere will have their eyes on Old Trafford on Sunday. The Manchester United — Chelsea clash has always been a big game, but most fans will want to see how the blues do without Mourinho at the helm. I know I’ll be watching. Finally, you will note that I even have a game listed from the Women’s World Cup, the Saturday morning match between USA and England. How progressive!


7:55am USA vs England ESPN2

10:00am Arsenal vs Derby County FSC

12:00pm Fulham vs Manchester City FSC

2:30pm AC Milan vs Parma FSC

4:00pm Barcelona vs Sevilla GolTv


8:30am Newcastle Utd vs West Ham Setanta Sports

9:00am Roma vs Juventus FSC

11:00am Karlsruhe vs Bayern Munich GolTv

11:00am Manchester United vs Chelsea FSC

3:00pm Valladolid vs Real Madrid GolTv

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Champions League Overshadowed

Today’s post was supposed to be a brief recap of the action in Matchday One of the Champions League. And it certainly wasn’t a bad two days. We saw Arsenal absolutely dominate a very good Seville team, (the gooners might now very well be favorites for the cup, as well as other trophies) Thierry Henry score his first for Barca, Manchester United squeak by Sporting in a snoozer, and we watched Real Madrid do what it has done for the past eight months: turn on the jets in the second half and outlast the competition.

All of this has been overshadowed, however, by the most shocking result so far: Chelsea drawing with lowly Rosenborg at home in front of a half-empty stadium that had seemingly become bored by their home team. Or, to be more specific, the Champions League was overshadowed by what seems to be the direct result of that match. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has resigned.

Although there have been rumors circulating about Mourinho leaving Chelsea for quite some time now, the particular timing of the resignation could not be more shocking. Yes, it’s true that Chelsea have not been getting the results they wanted in the Premiership, and the draw in Europe was a bad omen, as was the sparse attendance. But with key players injured and Manchester United hosting on Sunday, this was the worst time for Mourinho to walk away (or be pushed away; details of what exactly happened will surely become clearer in a few days). Avram Grant has taken over the club for now; he has a “good guy, good coach” reputation but we don’t know much about him.

So this could be, at the very least, a short-term problem for Chelsea. They are already a little behind in the standings and missing key players Drogba and Fat Frank. Dropping three points at Old Trafford on Sunday could drive them out of the top four for the first time in recent memory.

That situation will bear watching, as will considerations about Mourinho’s time in London as a whole. I, for one, have mixed feelings abut the man the press insists on referring to either as “The Special One” or, perhaps even more stupidly, as “The Portuguese,” as if the newsmen from The Sun had never met someone from Portugal before. On one hand, I sort of liked Mourinho personally (not that I knew him, but from afar); he was smart, funny, and spoke his mind. He also obviously won, which is kind of the point of football in the first place.

But Mourinho was also increasingly making me despair. His version of football was getting grimmer and grimmer, as his team ground out one 1-0 win after another. It got to the point for me personally that I couldn’t stand watching Chelsea; I really can’t tell you the last time I watched an entire Chelsea match. Reportedly, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich first wanted to buy a football team after watching the now-legendary Real Madrid-Manchester United Champions League match in 2003 in which David Beckham came off the bench to score two goals, a game so good that Beckham ran into the locker to get an extra jersey so he could swap shirts with more than one player. Obviously, Abramovich loves attacking football, and he wasn’t getting it with Chelsea. Mourinho, for his part, was clearly getting players he didn’t want (like Andy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack) and felt he was getting undercut by front-office men brought in by Abramovich.

So the Mourinho era is over at Stamford Bridge. For all the boring games, I will miss Jose. As he once said, however, he will simply take some time off, watch professional wrestling with his son (Jose is a huge fan of the WWE, bizarrely) and then get another million-dollar contract to coach another team. Chelsea, on the other hand, must now see if they can continue the winning tradition they only so recently started.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


As all the readers of this page presumably know, the Champions league begins today and continues tomorrow. Below please find a guide to all of the Champions League games that will be televised in English in the United States. I eliminated Spanish-speaking television because, obviously, this website is in English and thus, presumably, all of my readers speak English. ESPN Deportes, however, (the Spanish-language ESPN channel) has some great games.

So, ESPN2 shows one game each day at 2:30, live. Setanta Sports also shows a live game at 2:30 and other games on tape later in the day. ESPN Classic usually shows a game on tape at 5:00, but is doing so only on Wednesday this week. (I will get to that in a moment.) The website shows pay-per-view games on its website as they are being played. I have never done that, so I can’t vouch for quality.

I am very much looking forward to seeing Real Madrid (since it is the first chance I’ve had to see them) against a good opponent in Weder Breman. Barca-Lyon should be good, and most people see Arsenal v. Sevilla as the pick of the litter. It should be, on the whole, a very good slate of games.

Finally, you will note that ESPN is only showing one game and not two today. Why? Because they are showing a Woman’s World Cup game instead. This leads to a question sent to me by a reader who asked about my thoughts on the Cup. My answer, unfortunately, is that I don’t have any. I’m not watching. I have too much football on my plate, and I just don’t care enough about woman’s football. I wish my country well, and will (maybe) watch the Cup Final, but to be honest I would rather watch the Champions League. Unfortunately I have to watch one less game of it than I wanted.

More coming later!


2:30pm Chelsea vs Rosenborg Setanta Sports

2:30pm FC Porto vs Liverpool ESPN2

10:00pm Real Madrid vs Werder Bremen Setanta Sports


2:30pm Arsenal vs Sevilla Setanta Sports

2:30pm Sporting CP vs Manchester United ESPN2

5:00pm Barcelona vs Lyon ESPN Classic

8:00pm Barcelona vs Lyon Setanta Sports

10:00pm Fenerbahce vs Inter Setanta Sports

Monday, September 17, 2007

News from the Front: Spain

Last season I almost always linked to the columns of Phil Ball, a writer for as well as a gifted chronicler of the history of Spanish Football. His weekly review of the action in Spain was always essential reading because he is the most literary football writer I have found on the Internet.

This season, however, Ball's work is more necessary than ever to American readers, as Real Madrid and Barcelona games are STILL not being shown on GolTV. Even though I am huge Real Madrid fan (and I desperately want to see how Henry is fitting in at Barca) my first chance to see them will be this week when the Champions League starts.

I don't know what the specifics of the problem are, GolTV, but you better get your act together soon. People here in the states are finding less and less reasons to watch your channel. In the meantime, readers, below please find a link to the latest Phil Ball round-up of action in Spain to keep your interest whetted.

Premeirship Weekend Review

We are going to start this week with another excellent and comprehensive look at the weekend that was in the Premiership with my good friend Matt. In this column he explores the idea of the “good” draw and the “bad” draw, and also asks if Rafa really has the Premiership title in mind, or if his eyes are again turned towards Europe.

Also, this week marks the start of the group stages of the Champion’s league, and we will spend much of the rest of the week previewing and then reviewing the start of the most entertaining club competition in the world. Now, onto Matt…


A few weeks back, Liverpool played Chelsea at Anfield, and what should have been a win for the Scousers ended as a draw when Chelsea were awarded a dubious penalty on a non-existent foul in the box, and which Frank "I ate all the pies" Lampard slotted home for the 1-1 draw. At the time, Liverpool were furious, and Mourinho couldn't comment because he didn't have the opportunity to see a video replay. Despite most pundits calling for replay to be introduced to fix these poor referee decisions, most also agreed that these calls and decisions even themselves out over the course of the season. That statement bore fruition this weekend, when a perfectly good goal by Salomon Kalou was disallowed because of a mistaken offside decision by the ref. As a result, Chelsea were left feeling blue as their game with Blackburn ended nil-nil. Not that I'm complaining.

Chelsea's style of play usually puts me to sleep, although I must say they did attack the goal quite a lot, and were stopped from scoring by a combination of good goalkeeping from Brad Friedel, poor marksmanship from Shevchenko, and the above erroneous call. It was funny to see that Jose Mourinho had a video replay device at hand this time to show the 4th official that they got it wrong on the disallowed goal. It must have been the fact that he was at home that he had the capability to have this device available.

Speaking of Stamford Bridge, I couldn't help to think of the difference between a good draw and a bad one. Here the draw was certainly not bad for Blackburn considering they were on the road, but it was certainly a disaster for Chelsea as they blew 2 points in a game in which they dominated, and to a team that they should beat at home. It was a result that might come to haunt them at the end of the season.

Carrying on the topics of both bad draws and blowing points that may lead to losing the title race, I move to the equally bland 0-0 result between Liverpool and Portsmouth. I guess Liverpool should be thankful that they got the draw after Kanu choked on his penalty shot on what was once again a poor decision by the referee (is anyone noticing a pattern here?). And while it is true that Liverpool got a point on the road at Fratton Park and did so without Kuyt playing or Gerrard and Torres starting, I can't feel that Rafa's boys threw away an additional 2 points against Pompey, and the blame should go to Mr. Benitez. It was his rotation policy that kept their above mentioned best players on the bench to start the game so that they can be fresh for the Champions League game this week against Porto. But Liverpool fans aren't craving Champions League as much as they want to win their first Premiership title, and his decisions should be made with that in mind by putting forth his best team in League matches. If Liverpool fails to win the league, this game will certainly be looked back upon on contributing to the failure.

Which leads me to Man United, and their match at Goodison Park against Everton. For anyone who watched the game, Man U still does not look all that good.

Tevez can't seem to do anything, and they aren't jelling like they did last season. I know they have had their injuries and suspensions, but I just don't think they are going to do it this season, and see it as a transition year of out with the old of Neville, Scholes, and Giggs and allowing players such as Anderson and Nani to grow into their replacements. Be that as it may, Man U did something this weekend that championship teams do; they found a way to win on the road even when they didn't play so well. Everton deserved a draw, but the Red Devils found a way to knick a goal from a Vidic header to get a crucial 3 points in 1-0 victory over the Toffees, and put themselves back in the title race. Liverpool, I hope your paying attention and taking note of this.

Now on to what I thought was the game of the week: the North London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal. Wow. What a fun game to watch, with both all the goals, and the saves. Seriously this game could have ended up 6-5 to Arsenal, but for the great goalkeeping in the first half by Paul Robinson, and the equally poor finishing of Keane, Berbatov, and the 16 MILLION pound man, Darren Bent, in the second half. Instead the result was a 3-1 victory to Arsenal as Robinson came back to earth in the second half. The Spurs took the lead on a beautiful free kick from Gareth Bale, but a strong header from Adebayor, a cracker of a shot from early player of the year candidate Cesc Fabregas, and then a goal of the year candidate once again from Adebayor, gave Arsenal both the win, and sole possession atop the Premiership table. Keep it up Arsenal. Your by far the most entertaining team to watch, and this is coming from a Newcastle fan. As for Martin Jol, I'd get my things packed because me thinks you might be gone before the end of the week. Maybe you should have spent that 16 million on some more defenders. But don't worry, they will be a position waiting for you at Bolton in a few days.

Lastly a quick shout out to Deuce. Once again Clint Dempsey scored a goal, and is quickly becoming both a fan favorite at Craven Cottage and the best current American outfield player in the world (Sorry Landy-Cakes). Unfortunately, Fulham gave up a late equalizer and had to settle for a draw again. I just hope they find a way to win a few games so that this great talent isn't playing in the Football League Championship next season. Then again, if they are, maybe he will be sold to Newcastle and experiencing European football with them in the Champions League.

Don't laugh!! With a win against Derby on Monday, the Magpies will be sitting in the fourth spot and the last Champions League birth. As they say, Fourth is the new First!!!