Friday, March 30, 2007

Weekend Matches: March 31-April 1

Back to the leagues this weekend, and not a moment too soon. There are some pretty good games on, including a Liverpool-Arsenal match that looks fun (although it doesn’t mean much) on Saturday morning and a fun game with Sevilla on Sunday afternoon. The match of the weekend, however, is probably the Roma v. Milan game, which will be shown on Goltv on Saturday afternoon. It looks like a barnburner, especially compared to some of the awful internationals we’ve had this week.


7:30am Liverpool vs Arsenal Setanta USA

10:00am Manchester Utd vs Blackburn Setanta

12:00pm Watford vs Chelsea FSC

4:00pm Roma vs Milan GolTv


9:00am Inter Milan vs Parma GolTv

11:00am Atl. Madrid vs Mallorca GolTv

11:00am Tottenham vs Reading FSC

1:00pm Celta vs Real Madrid GolTv

3:00pm Osasuna vs Sevilla GolTv

5:00pm Barcelona vs Dep. La Coruna GolTv

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Now the Fun (Hopefully) Begins

This weekend will witness the re-start up of league play in Europe. There are still a lot of interesting storylines left that need to resolve themselves, but one of the most interesting to watch is Manchester United’s quest for the Treble.

Manchester won the treble in 1999, with the Giggs/Beckham/Keane team that went down as one of the best in the club’s history. This year that have a chance to repeat that feat with a club that many predicted would finish second, third, or even fourth in the premiership. Instead, the club has a comfortable cushion at the top of the English league, and are well placed to go to the finals in both the FA cup and the Champions League. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, especially because the Red Devils still have to play Chelsea once more in league play and could very well face them in both cup tournaments as well. Things are further complicated by the recent injury to Christiano Ronaldo, who has been far-and-away United’s best player this season. Alex Ferguson himself has recently gone on record as saying he believes the team will NOT achieve the treble (his comments can be found here: because there are simply too many games for the club to play at the end of the season. United fans and also many neutrals hope, however, that Manchester hangs in there and gives us something to watch as the season winds to a close. United haters, on the other hand, (and they are legion) would love to see them drop all three, even if it meant they fell to the equally-hated Chelsea. The fun will begin for all of us this weekend.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Quick Hits

Just some quick thoughts on a dreary Tuesday morning as we await the start of league play once again…

  • These internationals are, frankly, killing me. The European and World Cups are great, don’t get me wrong, and some of the qualifying matches can be very interesting. But once again this past weekend we had another break from league play so these tedious international friendlies and qualifiers could be played. Barnburners tomorrow include England v. Andorra, among others. I honestly can’t wait for the leagues in England, Spain, and Italy to get started again.

  • Speaking of England, I guess tomorrow’s match truly is a do-or-die game. Especially for Steve McClaren, who will surely be dismissed if the lions draw or lose the match. Obviously everyone expects England to at least beat the Andorrans, but to be honest most people also expected England to score a goal in the last three games. So we shall see. It also doesn’t bode well for “Big Steve” that he’s getting in post-match fights with Wayne Rooney. McClaren should count himself lucky that the Roonster didn’t break out his patented nut-stamp to end the argument, or that he wasn’t fired immediately by an FA intimidated by Rooney’s marketing sway.

  • The United States actually played a fairly exciting friendly this weekend, against Ecuador. I saw about half the game with some good friends in a restaurant, and we were impressed by Landon Donavon, especially his two later goals, which included a sweet breakaway and a scorcher from outside the box into the top corner. If Landon has found his stride again it may mean a return to the top of the table for the LA Galaxy. Regardless, the team already knows it will top the table in another important category: shirt sales!

  • Speaking of which, the MLS begins in a few short weeks. If you are reading this column from the states, support your local league and go out and buy some tickets. At the very least it will give us something to talk about other than transfers during the summer.

  • Finally, there is a nasty rumor surfacing in Italy that striker Luca Toni is set to leave my favorite club, Fiorentina, for those nasty, cheating thugs called Juventus. C’mon, Luca! Think about Fierenze! The art! The food! The history! The Dome! And Fiorentina; pay the man the money he deserves; he is the player that has brought you out of relegation to challenge for Europe even with the points deduction. Don’t break my heart like this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


This weekend continues the long road of international teams in Europe trying to qualify for Euro 2008. (The European Cup can be thought of as like the World Cup, only it involves nations solely from Europe.) While there are actually a number of interesting matches this weekend and early next week, many eyes in America will be firmly on England.

First, the England U21s (the national team of players under the age of 21) will be playing Italy. This in and of itself means it will be a fairly interesting match, but more importantly, the game will be the first competitive match played at the new Wembly stadium in London, which has finally opened after many delays. Many people like to refer to Wemby as the “home of football,” and no one can doubt that many great and historic matches have been played there. It’ll be good to have a Wembly open again; incidentally, the February 2007 issue of Fourfourtwo has a nice spread on the stadium. It does seem like a great place to watch a game.

The full English Internationals, meanwhile, will be playing a qualifier against Israel (who are not a bad team at all). Many observers feel that if England lose (or even draw) in this match they may very well not qualify for Euro 2008. If England does lose (and especially if they also lose their match next week against Croatia) it looks as if head coach Steve McClaren will be cut loose. This match could hardly have more controversy and interest, then, although it actually could have if David Beckham wasn’t injured. Beckham’s recent stellar play for Real Madrid (before the injury) had led some to call for Beckham to be placed again on the England squad. Beckham’s bad wheels are probably a relief to an under-fire Steve McClaren, but he still needs some wins if he is to save his job and reputation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One to Watch: Robinho

One of my favorite clubs, Real Madrid, played and won a game this weekend, 2-0 against bottom-feeders Gimnastic. Aside from the sheer rarity of Real actually winning a game, (their first in the last four matches) the game was otherwise a rather standard Real Madrid affair: lackluster defense, disinterested stars, and blown scoring chances. Raul, Cassano, Cannavaro and the rest all seemed completely indifferent to what happened on the field.

Real Madrid won the game because at the start of the second half coach Fabio Capello replaced the overweight and deadweight Antonio Cassano with the Brazilian spark-plug Robinho. Robinho immediately scored a sweet goal off a rebound, hit a laser off the post, was the direct cause of his opponents conceding an own goal, and hit two other fine shots that needed to be saved by the keeper. In other words, he turned the game around, effectively being the only decent player on the field for Madrid.

Robinho has long been an intriguing player. He was born in São Vicente in 1984 and was playing with Brazilian superclub Santos by the time he was seventeen. The kidnapping of his mother (an all-to-common experience in Brazil) hastened his exit from South America, and thus before the 2005 season he signed with Real.

Robinho has not been without his critics at Real. Some say he is to long on the ball, and too prone to trickery, while others say he dives. His defense is questionable at times and he does seem to drift in and out of games.

Still, Robinho must be considered one of the best young players in the world. There is, perhaps, no one better on the ball in the world save Christiano Ronaldo. He constantly attacks the goal, is a good passer, and isn’t afraid of a long-range shot. He is also improving: his passing is better than last year and commentators have noted that he seems to have cut out the diving.

Robinho is a young man to build a team around, but Fabio Capello disagrees. (Note that Robinho didn’t start this weekend.) The young player has made noise that he wishes to be transferred if he does not start getting more playing time, but we will have to see what occurs since Capello himself will likely be gone at the end of the season. In the meantime, Arsenal, Spurs, and a host of other big clubs have been liked to the young man. It will be interesting to see how he, and the situation, develops.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Weekend Matches March 17-18

Even as the United States is distracted by their obsession with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (including me), football goes on. This weekend has a nice set of games, including the Aston Villa v. Liverpool match on Sunday, which should be a good one. The best game of the weekend, however, will surely be Roma at Fiorentina, which may go a long way towards deciding who will get that coveted fourth Champions spot in Italy. Of course, we can’t watch that game here in the States unless we have the Italian station RAI. Thanks to all the dolts at GolTV. Our love/hate relationship just grew a little worse….


8:30am Manchester United vs Bolton Setanta

10:45am Chelsea vs Sheffield United Setanta

3:00pm Recreativo vs Barcelona GolTv


9:30am Aston Villa vs Liverpool Setanta

12:00pm Zaragoza vs Atl. Madrid GolTv

2:00pm Milan vs Atalanta GolTv

3:00pm Boca Juniors vs Gimnasia FSE

4:00pm Sevilla vs Celta GolTv

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Here are a few football-related columns to get you through a dreary hump-day. All of the columns are courtesy of, which is not the best place to go for breaking soccer news, but does employ very fine columnists.

Start with Phil Ball’s excellent article on this past weekend’s ‘superclassico’ between Real Madrid and Barca, which was a fantastic game.

Then try Jon Carter’s look at the respective chances of Chelsea and man United to win the Treble. Sensible and even-handed.

Finally, check out Phil Holland on the less-than-estimable Frank Lampard. I’m not real crazy about Frank, but Holland is right: he should get paid while he can.

Back with more tomorrow. Also, thanks to the reader who wrote in suggesting other good soccer shops in the U.S.. Later this year I will post a follow-up column on the best brick-and-mortar soccer stores in America.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Where to Get your Gear

One of the fun things about being a football fan is wearing your favorite clubs’ gear around, especially the teams’ shirts and scarves. In Europe, as you can imagine, it is very easy to get football gear; virtually every corner store in Italy or England (for instance) sells some sort of soccer memorabilia. In the U.S. it is a little trickier, so I thought I would provide a quick guide of the best places for American’s to shop for all of the footie needs.


Most people in the states (and especially in rural areas) don’t live near a brick-and-mortar store that sells soccer goods. So, for most Americans, buying on-line is the best option. Here is a brief list of some of the best places to get your stuff:

For me, World Soccer Shop is probably the best place to get all you current soccer gear. Their big, easy-to-navigate website breaks up their products by country, club, or price, so finding your favorite teams are easy. They have the current shirts of most of the big clubs around the world, and are particularly strong with gear from premiership, MLS, and national clubs. Whenever I want a shirt of a current player or team, I get it from World Soccer Shop. In addition, it is a big, professional company of generally very nice people, and everything is shipped very quickly. Two bonus points: they do jersey personalizations on-site, and they are located in the U.S., so you don’t get killed on shipping from Europe. The first place you should look for your gear.

Like World Soccer Shop, Subside is sort of a football ‘superstore’ located in England. Has all of the new stuff like WSS, but a much, much larger selection. Has many more club teams in Europe, including some pretty obscure teams. Subside also sells some absolutely sweet throwback jerseys that I think are very cool. The downside? Subside is very expensive (especially the throwbacks, for which they charge an arm and a leg), partially because of the weakness of the dollar against the British pound. Americans also get killed on the shipping prices, as all the stuff comes from England, and some of my experiences with Subside suggest they don’t exactly knock themselves out getting your orders shipped quickly. In short, great stuff you can’t find anywhere else, but you have to pay (a lot) for it.

Both UK Soccer Shop and Kitbag are two more soccer shops located in England. Both offer the same selection of new gear as the other websites, but less selection. Again, American’s end up paying more to order from these shops because of excessive shipping costs, etc. It is worth it to check these sites occasionally as they do have pretty big sales; otherwise, I would stick with WSS and Subside.

Toffs is a very interesting company that makes reproductions of vintage jerseys. Most of the reproductions are made in cotton (as jerseys were made at the time) and most are repros of pre-1990s shirts, so there are no advertising on the shirts. Most of these shirts look quite different from what they players wear today, and many of the items the company sells are very, very interesting. I strongly recommend Toffs.

Club Sites

Virtually every club these days has a website (even little Series B clubs in Italy) and virtually all of these websites have an online store. If you want an obscure shirt from an obscure club in, say, France, you can always Google the club and buy the shirt directly from them. A word of caution: it is not cheap to buy shirts and memorabilia directly from the clubs.

Used, Rare and “Classic” Shirts

There are also a number of dealers on the internet selling old football shirts, which range from “never-been-worn classics that were bought and stored for twenty years” to “stained and ripped.” Regardless, old-school football shirts are fun. By far my favorite dealer in classic football shirts is Footballnotmuggybonehead. Hundreds of great shirts at competitive prices. I bought a 1990 Pisa FC and love it: the shirt was in brand-new condition and the price and shipping were fine. Also, if you ask nicely, proprietor Paul might even explain what “footballnotmuggybonehead” means.

Another fun site that has lots of pictures of classic shirts. Good products that are a bit on the expensive side.

Yet another used football website from England, run by very nice people, with prices that are a bit more competitive.

At this point, pretty much everybody knows (and seems to use) eBay. There are still bargains to be found here, but there are also outrageous prices sometimes spent on very ordinary shirts. (Just this week I was astounded by the prices fetched by Eric Cantona shirts from the mid-1990s.) Anyway, when doing a search for football gear, be sure to include in that search sellers from other countries. While there are not many people in the U.S. selling football shirts, there are obviously many in Europe and the U. K.

Brick-and-Mortar Shops

I am lucky to live in Southeastern Massachusetts, as the place is virtually a hotbed of soccer-themed stores here in America. The unfortunately named We Got Soccer is only a few miles from my home and bills itself as the largest soccer store in America. (It can be found, unsurprisingly, at There are also multiple stores of the Soccerworld chain in Massachusetts, including Dartmouth, Seekonk, Hingham, and also in Warwick, Rhode Island. Nationally, there are many well-known soccer shops that have been in business a long time, including Chicago Soccer in the Windy City (located at and Soccer Shop USA in Los Angeles (at I encourage everyone to visit a local shop if you have one; pawing through the merchandise is much more fun than looking at it online, and we can, at the very least, support someone who love the same sport we do.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Weekend Matches: March 10-11

I’m only highlighting a few games this weekend, but they should be good ones. There are two HUGE derbies taking place in Spain and Italy, respectively, and a couple of good cup games in England. Also a chance to see a good game in France featuring everyone’s favorite Gallic na’er-do-well, Franck Ribery. Enjoy.


12:30pm Middlesbrough vs Manchester United Setanta

4:00pm Barcelona vs Real Madrid GolTv


8:30am Chelsea vs Tottenham Setanta

10:00am Inter vs Milan GolTv

3:00pm Lyon vs Marseille Setanta

Champions League Draw

The draw was announced this morning for the next round of Champions League play; looks like the organizers managed to keep the English teams apart and generally set up some good match-ups. The Roma-Manchester tie and the Chelsea-Valencia tie seem to have the potential to be great matches.

I‘ll have this weekend’s matches up in a bit.

Tuesday, April 3

AC Milan v Bayern Munich

PSV Eindhoven v Liverpool

Wednesday, April 4

AS Roma v Manchester United

Chelsea v Valencia

Tuesday, April 10

Manchester United v AS Roma

Valencia v Chelsea

Wednesday, April 11

Bayern Munich v AC Milan

Liverpool v PSV Eindhoven


Tuesday, April 24

AS Roma/Manchester United v AC Milan/Bayern Munich

Wednesday, April 25

Chelsea/Valencia v PSV Eindhoven/Liverpool

Tuesday, May 1

PSV Eindhoven/Liverpool v Chelsea/Valencia

Wednesday, May 2

AC Milan/Bayern Munich v AS Roma/Manchester United


Will be played at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, on May 23 2007.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Great Goal

Just a quick link: Jonah Freedman (in his Sports illustrated 'Power Rankings" column) provided this clip from YouTube of this fantastic goal from the Roma game this week. I pass it on to you because of its sheer awesomeness.

The Majesty of Ray Hudson

Now that we have completed this round of the Champions League, we can settle once again into league football. There are two big matches this weekend, including the very, very big Real Madrid v. Barcelona game. (Care to guess who I’m picking in that one? No need to guess if you’ve been reading the column regularly.)

Anyway, I encourage all of you to watch the game as it will be a chance to watch two skilled teams compete in one of the most passionate and competitive derbies in the world. It will also provide the opportunity, just as we are provided two or three times every weekend, for us to listen to the surreal commentary of GOLTV’s lead color commentator, Ray Hudson.

Ray Hudson has been a figure in professional football for quite some time. He has played professional football in England and in the U.S. (for the old U.S. Soccer league) and has managed teams in the MLS, including D.C. United. Lately has been a color commentator, and as of now he can be found on GOL as part of the primary commentary team, usually paired with Lindsey Dean (who is actually pretty good).

I don’t even know where to start with Ray; he is an experience unto himself. At first his manner of commentating on a game is so strange, so startling, that you want to watch the match with the sound off. Soon, however, just like that crazy uncle you have, you start to like the old guy and soon after that can’t imagine life without him. As with many truly terrible sports announcers, eventually you get used to Ray and want him around. Although it can take a while.

Some of Ray Hudson’s, er, shall we say weaker traits as a commentator are most obvious when you first hear him call a game. Most obviously, he seems to me to be most interested only when a “big” team (like Barcelona or Real Madrid) or a “big” player (like Ronaldinho or Torres) is participating in the game he’s calling. Sometimes it seems, in fact, as if Ray has only a passing knowledge of the less famous teams and players in the games he’s calling. And frankly, he doesn’t seem to care.

Fair enough, perhaps. Ray seems to know his audience and seems to understand that most Americans tune into a Real Madrid game to see David Beckham, not Sergio Ramos. Still, the viewer needs to constantly remind himself that there are two teams playing in most of the games GOLTV televises, even if the announcers prefer to discuss only one.

Beyond the big names, Ray has his favorites, and readers should be prepared to listen to the constant praises of certain players, including Robinho and Lionel Messi. This is fine as well (The NFL broadcaster in the US have been pandering to the stars for decades) but there is little balance on GOLTV when one of the favorites plays poorly.

Although Ray Hudson isn’t afraid to provide negative commentary; it is, in fact, his ability to swing from the greatest compliments to the sharpest criticism (often times of the same player, and sometimes within a few seconds) that is among Ray’s most delightful personality quirks. Above all it is the ridiculously overstated compliments that make me smile. When someone on the field does something moderately impressive, like a nice stepover or a sharp pass, Ray starts screaming “magic!” at the top of his lungs, as if the player just repeated Diego Maradona’s famous slalom through the English defense at the ’86 World Cup.

But at the end of the day, what makes Ray Hudson so good (MAGIC! in fact) are the throwaway quotes he gives you during the game, the quotes that make up for all of the other nonsense. The internet site Wikipedia has a great entry on Ray Hudson, which can be found here: The site does a great job of collection the best of Ray Hudson’s game commentary, but I just wanted to share a few of the highlights here. Among the best:

"We had just strung like 17 passes together, beautiful silky soccer, and I turn around and see a guy yawning in the crowd. I wanted to jump over the fence and head-butt him."

"Congratulations, Seamus Malin -- you ugly man. Oh, come on, you didn't think he got (in the Soccer Hall of Fame) on his looks, did you?"

"Bruce Arena has to pick these boys up by their jockstraps and put lobsters in their jockstraps because they went down like flies against the Czech Republic, how humiliating to have that happen to a team that was coming out to the world scene seeking respect. What a joke!"

"Look at the angle. Look at the distance. That is absolutely exquisite. Dynamite finish. It's extraordinario! It's magnifico! When you see it again from this angle, it will take your breath away. It's postage-stamp delivery by a player that is as good going the other way defensively than he is going forward. You cannot give a higher compliment to an absolutely wonderful player who is at the absolute apex of his game! Look at that for confidence! That's world class! That's Zidane, beyond belief! That's an absolute exquisite footballer -- MVP, no question. Magnifico! Extraordinario! That should be in high definition! That wasn't just literature, that was Shakespearean beauty. Ah,God, I'm sorry, I love that guy. If I could love a man, I'd love Dwayne DeRosario!"

"Genius, genius, genius. Absolutely superb strike. And look, not a smile! What makes this guy smile? I mean, come on, Román, give us a look, give us a smile, baby. I mean, is there anything more exquisite in life than watching this man play football? Look at this! Perfection. [...] That is an orgasmic goal, Phil. We said he treats them like penalties -- that's what he does. Enjoy him while you can, enjoy him at the World Cup next year when he's wearing that beautiful blue and white shirt for Argentina. The man is magic."

"He needs to be on his tippy-toes, like a midget at a urinal."

"He's funner than a barrel of monkeys!"

"As electrifying as a hair dryer thrown into a hot tub, my friend. Absolutely breathtaking! It puts the Haitian Voodoo rattle on this one. When he finishes -- oh! Like Betamax, they do not make them like him anymore! What more can you say? An extraordinary goal by an extraordinary player! That will send these people into their dreams tonight thinking of heavenly things. Absolutely bamboozles his defender with this virtuoso goal ... Look at this, gets all of his angles right, sets it up for himself. Cygan is just a spectator, looks down at him and says, 'That's not human.' And it is not. It is superhuman." - November 2006, Barcelona versus Villareal, after Ronaldinho scored a spectacular overhead kick.

“Without penetration, it’s just masturbation, and right now, we’re playing with ourselves.”

"I'll give you two words, Sven...Goran...Eriksson." (Realizes his mistake and counts 1-2-3 with his fingers while rehearsing the name silently to himself while Lindsey Dean says, "Three words.")

I hope you enjoy the game this weekend, and also enjoy the sublime announcing of Ray Hudson.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Prediction Business

In Monday’s column, I threw out an educated guess suggesting Inter and Chelsea would be playing in the Champions League final. I also suggested that Lyon would continue to do well in the tournament. Of course, Inter and Lyon were booted last night and Chelsea had to squeak by Porto (in a dreadful game, by the way.) The basic lesson is that you should ignore any predictions I make in the future.

I did enjoy yesterdays’ Barca-Liverpool game, however. Liverpool deserved to win, and played very well particularly in the first half. I was surprised Messi and Eto’o really had no effect at all on the game; credit Liverpool’s defense, I guess, but I do wonder if the Barca team will be broken up at the end of the season; there are rumors surrounding all three of their star players, and in truth they are not playing well together.

Today I am excited for three out of the four games: Real-Bayern, Celtic-Milan, and Manchester-Lille. I expect Manchester to pull it out with the goal advantage, and I am hoping Milan wins at home. The Real game is, perhaps, the toughest to predict: Real is a goal up but allowed two away goals to the Germans: It’s a tall task for any team, and Real really has been awful all season. It’s absolutely amazing that Beckham was “permanently” benched a few weeks ago, but he has now become so instrumental to Real’s success that his knee injury seems to have spelled doom for his club. Real is truly dysfunctional, and I predict they will loose tonight. However, you can see above what my predictions are worth. Enjoy today’s games.

Today’s games are:

2:30pm Arsenal vs PSV Eindhoven Setanta, UEFA

2:30pm Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid UEFA

2:30pm Manchester Unites vs Lille ESPN2, UEFA

2:45pm AC Milan vs Celtic Setanta, UEFA

5:00pm Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid ESPNCC, Setanta

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Champions Games Today

Today features a big slate of games as the Champions League continues. I expect Chelsea to win today, as well as Lyon and Inter. The best match of the day should be, of course, Liverpool v. Barca. Liverpool is a goal up and scored two away goals. I keep waiting for Barca to turn it on, but they continue to struggle (by their standards, at least) both in Europe and in La Liga. I am hoping it is an entertaining, attacking match. I can’t see why it wouldn’t be. Today is the sort of day we are interested in football in the first place.

(Note: All games are broadcast on a pay-per-view basis on, if you do not receive the channels the games are televised on. I have never done the pay-per-view thing on UEFA, so I can’t say how it works. ESPN2 will show the Liverpool game live, followed by the Chelsea game on tape at 5:00 on ESPN classic. All times are EST.)

2:30pm Chelsea vs Porto Setanta USA, UEFA

2:30pm Liverpool vs Barcelona ESPN2, UEFA

2:30pm Lyon vs Roma UEFA

2:30pm Valencia vs Inter Milan ESPND, UEFA

5:00pm Chelsea vs FC Porto ESPNCC

Monday, March 5, 2007

A Little Non-Football News

One of my best friends, Tim Wilson, had a big day with his wife Becky today. At around 3:30 this morning they had a beautiful baby girl. Tim's website, which is sure to soon feature pictures of the little darlin', can be found here:

Although I like to keep this blog about football, I think I can stay within bounds here: Tim's daughter will no doubt grow up not only to be a fan of the Boston Red Sox (poor thing) but may also grow up wearing the white and black stripes of Newcastle United. I guess that makes her twice cursed...

Congratulations to Tim, Becky, their extended families, and especially to their little girl!

Predictions, Predictions

This weekend, one of my readers asked me for my picks of who would win in Europe. (Thanks, “Soccerfan.”) Since “Soccerfan” is presumably one of the eight or nine people who actually read this column, I thought I would answer. Soccerfanwasn’t really clear in what he was asking: I presume he was asking about my picks as to who would win the Champions League, but I am also going to provide some quick thoughts on who will come away with the three major European leagues that I follow: England, Spain, and Italy.


The easiest work is done in Italy, where Inter is running away with the league. As of March 5 they have 70 points and are 16 points up on their nearest competitor. Only a fool wouldn’t pick them.

Much more intriguing is the race for the top four spots in the league, which grants the teams places in next year’s champion’s league. Inter obviously has their spot and Roma seems to have theirs as well. The final two could be Palermo, Lazio, or Empoli, but two of the most intriguing stories in football right now are AC Milan and Fiorentina as they fight for a Champions spot. Milan and Fiorentina, remember, started with major points penalties (8 and 15 points, respectively) and yet are threatening a top-four spot. My favorite club, Fiorentina, has been particularly impressive; without their penalty they would have 50 points and would be sitting pretty. Their utter destruction of Torino yesterday suggests they will not end the season without a serious fight.


This weekend Manchester United managed to squeak by Liverpool and remain 9 points up on Chelsea. While I agree with Jose Mourinho that the race is by no means over (Manchester still has to go to Chelsea) I am picking Manchester to win the league by a relatively close margin; perhaps three or four points. While both of the top two teams in England are relatively thin, Manchester has managed to create more depth due to the Henrik Larrson signing and the remarkable health of their team. Also, in spite of Didier Drogba’s fantastic year, I think Christiano Ronaldo is having the best season of any player in the world, and Manchester, I think, should be able to use him to keep their competitors at bay. Just think how good this team could be if Wayne Rooney played as well as his reputation.

I predict that the top four in England will be United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. I also predict the sun shall rise tomorrow.


La Liga is, by far, the closest and most competitive league that I am following this year. Sevilla played a great match against Barca this weekend, beating them and taking over first place. In spite of this, I do believe that Barca will ultimately win the league; once they get Ronaldinho, Eto’o, and Messi back in form they seem to me they will be quite unstoppable, in spite of the team’s defensive deficiencies. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see Barca drop the ball, both as Real Madrid fan and as an admirer of beautiful football. Sevilla is a fun team to watch. I just think Barca is a better team than we have seen so far.

My top four in Spain is Barca, Sevilla, Valencia and Atletico Madrid. Real Madrid finishes fifth, misses the Champions League, fires Capello, signs two more big-name players (Franck Ribery for one, maybe) and starts over yet again. God, that’s depressing.

Champions League

This is probably the toughest league to predict, as there are literally six or seven teams good enough to win it. Thus, I am going to go out on a limb here: I predict the final will be…(drumroll please) Inter v. Chelsea. And I believe Inter will win it.

Strange prediction, I know. I don’t think Chelsea will win their domestic league, but because of this I do think Mourinho will pour everything he has into winning the Champions again before he leaves Chelsea. Inter, of course, has to get by a very tough Valencia team who scored two away goals in their first meeting two weeks ago. I do believe Inter will pull Tuesday’s match out, however, and I do believe they will go on to win the Champion’s league simply because the seem like the strongest and most complete team this year. If Inter has ever had a year of destiny, this is it.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Weekend Matches: March 3-4

This is shaping up to be one of those weeks where the old saying applies: “if you can’t find something to watch, you just don’t like football.” This weekend we have a very strong slate of games; some very important, and some very interesting, featuring fantastic players. Then we have a breather, and on Tuesday and Wednesday we have the second half of this round of the Champions League. More on Champions early next week.

The weekend starts off with a bang with Liverpool v. Manchester United, in a match that should be both important AND interesting. Most commentators feel if Manchester wins they essentially have the Premiership locked up. Liverpool, however, is hitting on all cylinders, and should make a game out of it. The other big, big Saturday match is Barca v. Sevilla; both teams play very attractive, attacking football, and now that Barca has all (or most) of their key guys back they should really start playing like the powerhouse that they are. Look for this to be a good one.

On Sunday, look for the pick of the litter to be Fiorentina v. Torino, a match featuring one of my favorite teams which also might be a good indicator of who might get that final Champions League spot in Italy.

It’s a big weekend for me personally, as some of my favorite teams are playing. I’ll watch Milan on tape Saturday night, followed by Fiorentina and Siena on Sunday and Real Madrid on Monday, again on delay. By then we will all be getting geared up for the Champions League and another great week of football. Enjoy.


7:30am Liverpool vs Manchester United Setanta

9:30am Hertha Berlin vs Bayern Munich GolTv

10:00am Arsenal vs Reading Setanta

10:00am Newcastle vs Middlesbrough FSC

12:00pm Portsmouth vs Chelsea FSC

4:00pm Sevilla vs Barcelona GolTv

8:30pm Livorno vs Inter GolTv

10:30pm Milan vs Chievo Verona GolTv


9:00am Fiorentina vs Torino GolTv

9:00am Lazio vs Sampdoria FSC

11:00am West Ham vs Tottenham FSC

11:00am Zaragoza vs Real Sociedad GolTv

1:00pm Catania vs Siena FSC

3:00pm Recreativo vs Atl. Madrid GolTv

5:00pm Boca Juniors vs San Lorenzo FSC


9:00pm Real Madrid vs Getafe GolTv