Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday open thread

For all of your footie related banter. Jokes about Arsenal's finishing always welcome. Buy some fucking players, Arsene! Here's the schedule for today:

15:00 Hull City v Wigan Athletic
15:00 Bolton Wanderers v West Brom
15:00 Everton v Portsmouth
15:00 Middlesbrough v Stoke City
15:00 West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers
17:30 Arsenal v Newcastle United

And here is the rest of it.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

UEFA Super Cup Liveblog/Open Thread

Today is the day. The day the least-fancied European trophy gets decided. FC Zenit, the one in Saint Petersburg, takes on Manchester United for that fine trophy pictured above. Unless my eyes deceive me, the bottom of the trophy reads "Super Competition", which is a bit of a misnomer considering how the game is usually played. Sir Alex has put in a pledge to really try this year, remembering how much fun he had in winning the trophy in 1991 and 1983.

What can you say about a trophy that has been won by Mechelen? Wait, who? What does it say about the Super Cup that twice the competition was not held? In 1981, Liverpool did not even bother to find two dates to play Dinamo Tbilisi, and in 1974 East and West German clubs refused to play each other. Today will likely see both teams mixing up first and second team players in an attempt to not embarrass themselves.

But we soldier on for you. We'll cover it because, dammit, someone might want to know about it. Also, it's a weekday, and you might want to kill some time before leaving work for the weekend. So, here it is. After the jump, lineups and all of the action.

FC Zenit (3-5-2): Malafeev; Križanac, Anyukov, Puygrenier; Shirl, Zurianov, Tymoshchuk (captain), Denisov, Danny; Pogrebnyak, Dominguez

Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Neville (captain), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher, Anderson, Scholes, Nani; Rooney, Tevez.

My prediction (which I get from last night's vivid dream): Manchester United 4-0. Bet the shack.

Also, I may not be able to do the entire match, but use the comments to your own comedic effect anyway.


-20.00 No Hargreaves or Giggs for United.

-15.00 If we have Satellite problems like Germany-Turkey, I may cut my own head off. That sucked.

-11.00 Teams up, FSC up. Countdown on.

-8.00 No Arshavin for Zenit, he's on the bench. Strong squad from United. 4-0 here we come!

-3.00 Will Zenit be able to carve up the competition like they did in their UEFA Cup run, or will their form resemble what they have done in league this season? My bet--league play.

-1.00 Zenit out in a different blue shirt than usual. Much closer to UNC than Duke. Man U in their normal red.

0.00 Here we go.

3.00 Zenit break through on right. Cross cleared easily

4.00 Stade Louis II, in Monaco, holds 18,000 people. Should tell you all you need to know about how this competition is viewed.

6.00 Slow pace from United to start. Content to hold in midfield.

7.00 Progrebniak way over from 10 yards out, while unmarked.

9.00 Danny lucky that his messing around with the ball in the box doesn't get punished. Evra steals from him, then lays off for Rooney, but the ball was intercepted.

13.00 Zenit trying to put some flair in the game. United trying not to.

15.00 Whistles already coming from the crowd for the play on the pitch. United have possession advantage, but are trying nothing with it.

17.00 Zenit get to the byline on the right for the third time, bypassing Nani. United clear for a corner. Van der Sar plucks it out of the air.

19.00 Tevez from 25, short hops the keeper. Malafeev deals with it easily.

21.00 Tymoschuk, who has the best hair in the game, well over from 30. Got the ball after Nani and Evra went for the same ball at the top of the box and canceled each other out.

23.00 I might have to lock the comments if you boys don't quiet down.

24.00 Dominguez just misses the top left corner on a free kick from 25 yards away. Van der Sar wasn't quite there, but the ball inched wide.

25.00 Nani and Evra must really like each other. They are usually no more than five yards apart.

27.00 United are doing better to get wide, but those lofted crosses are not going to do anything with Tevez and Rooney in the middle against Zenit's relative giants.

29.00 When Darren Fletcher and Anderson look to be your two best players on the pitch, you are doing something wrong.

33.00 Anderson, with everyone in front of him after a corner, shoots over from 35.

34.00 Ferdinand manhandles Pogrebniak as he turns at the six-yard box, but no call. Ball out for a corner, cleared.

35.00 Tevez magically pulls the ball out of the right corner, passes to an unmarked Rooney at the six. Rooney can't get it from between his legs before he is covered and smothered (mmm, Waffle House)

37.00 Dominguez free kick from 35, passed to the back post. Hit cleanly by Krizinak, but van der Sar saves.

38.00 Pogrebniak down. Hit by Ferdianand while challenging for a header. Not dirty, just hard. Walks off grimacing.

40.00 To paraphrase the announcers, Nani sucks balls at shooting.

42.00 Danny breaks behind the defense, ball moves to Pogrebniak who dances in the box. He finds Dominguez on the back post, who puts his header over.

43.00 Looked like a handball in the box against Ferdinand, but the ref wasn't buying it. Shortly thereafter, Neville, under no pressure, puts the ball out for a corner.

44.00 GOAL! Pogrebniak puts that corner kick in the net off of a near post Denisov flick. 1-0 Zenit

45.00+1 Yellow Card Paul Scholes gets bitchy, takes out his man from behind.

45.00+1 TWEET TWEET Half time.

Half Time Guess I was wrong about the appeal of this match. Aberdeen-Bayern drew more interest. Oh well, I'll soldier on.

Zenit are playing counterattacking football, while United's attack looks poor and unfocused. They will break through, but it's a question of if they can keep Zenit out while pressing forward. That's where Zenit punished teams in the UEFA Cup last season.

45.01 Second half kicks off. Arshavin in for Dominguez.

46.00 Zenit look to have reformed into a 4-5-1. Arshavin pwns Vidic in the box, but nothing comes of it.

48.00 Scholes puts in another hard foul, but no extra attention paid from the ref.

50.00 Pitch looks to be rough. Ball bobbles up on Tevez as he goes to cross.
Minor- you are welcome. Come back any time.

52.00 Rooney finds a little space to the right. His low shot goes well wide, though.

53.00 Vidic goes in elbow first on a head ball challenge with Pogrebniak. Both players go down. No card.

54.00 Yellow Card Anderson picks up a yellow for getting into the affray after the Vidic foul. Tymoschuk shoots from 30, forces a van der Sar punch.

57.00 Tevez outmuscles Arshavin in the middle of the pitch. Arshavin not happy.

58.00 Tevez over from the corner of the box. Did Chav United hit the slots too hard last night?

59.00 GOAL! Danny, who just cost Zenit 30 million Euros, takes on all comers on a single run, and beats van der Sar near post. Ferdinand undressed at the end. 2-0 Zenit

60.00 Anderson and Fletcher off, Park and O'Shea on. O'Shea? Two goals down? Really?

62.00 Russian Champs >>>>>> England's champs

63.00 Change for Zenit. Defender for defender. Both unspellable.

64.00 Stepping away for a few. Entertain yourselves.

72.00 Another Defensive switch for Zenit. That's all three subs.

73.00 Goal! Vidic puts in off a feed from Tevez. Short corner taken to Rooney who puts it back post for Tevez. Tevez settles to Vidic who powers in from 6 yards out 2-1 Zenit

74.00 Yellow Card Tevez with a two-foot challenge on Tymoschuk after the ball had gone.

76.00 United fans actually heard singing for the first time tonight.

76.00 Substitution. Brown on for Neville. That's all of the subs.

77.00 United looked interested for about two minutes after the goal, but that's gone again.

78.00 That said, Rooney just misses finding Park in the box alone. Malafeev cleans up the mess.

81.00 I still want Advocaat for USA manager.

82.00 Denisov is down. Before he went down he called for a sub. Are there more than three allowed?

84.00 Denisov getting some magic spray on the sideline.
Park challenges Malafeev, gets called for a foul. Rooney giving good service.

85.00 Nani tries to go it alone at the top of the box. After dancing for a few seconds, he shoots wide.

86.00 O'Shea saved well by Malafeev. A little direction on the header, and it's 2-2. Denisov back on, looks hurt and wandering in the middle of the pitch.

87.00 Danny misses a one on one from six yards out.

88.00 United pressing hard now. Ferdinanad (!) called for offside in the box.

89.00 RED CARD Scholes punches a ball into the net. Second yellow. He's gone. He was at full reach for that one. Too obvious.

90.00+3 Nani is horrible at all facets of his game tonight. One (likely) last free kick is wasted.

90.00+4 Last minute of added time.

90.00+4 TWEET TWEET TWEEEEET Full time 2-1 Zenit.

Zenit played well, got a two goal lead and then held on. United looked disinterested for most of the match and the result is indicative of that.

Shots 14-12 United
Fouls 16-12 United
Possession 54-46 Zenit
All cards to United. No idea if the red carries over.

Final update: Goals and red card now have a link to 101 Great Goal's videos.

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Maurice Edu gets hosed by Canadian airline shutting down

Maurice Edu, fresh off of getting his work permit and visas in line for his move to Rangers, got caught with another problem on his way to Glasgow. It seems his chosen airline ceased operations, leaving him unable to get to Scotland when he intended.

Zoom Airlines, based out of Ottawa, shut down yesterday without warning. To say people were caught off guard is an understatement. Now it seems that the delay is likely to cost Edu his start in Scottish football, a debut that would have come against Celtic, Rangers' greatest rival.

So let this be a lesson to all of you. When traveling abroad, don't choose the low-cost Canadian alternative.

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There Goes the Neighborhood: Sir Alex Moves In

Yay, my new house is worth more than Gerrard's!

Anyone who follows the footy even remotely knows Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie. The genius behind (blech) Manchester United. However, it's probably fairly safe to say that most Americans couldn't pick Sir Alex out of line-up if he was placed next to Kim Jong-Il, Barack Obama, and Abby Clancy. While New York may have more than its fair share of footy fans, one wonders how many of them will be living near Sir Alex in the coming months.

Recent reports out of New York City indicate that all plans are full-steam ahead for Manhattan House, an uber-luxe 538-unit high-rise undergoing condo conversion. The latest is that Sir Alex has purchased a 3-bedroom penthouse unit at the toney address. At close to 3000 square-feet and $2,700 per square foot, the digs are worth approximately $8.1 million. That's close to £4.5 million, or 2.25 times Steven Gerrard's house (no word on whether Rafa's house also exceeds that of his midfielder).

So now the other well-to-do residents of 200 E. 66th Street will get to hobknob with a Knight of the Realm and world-famous football manager. I'm sure that at least a few of the 537 other residents will be excited by their new neighbor. But will Sir Alex be able to walk a few blocks West and meander through Central Park without being hassled? Can he jog over to the Plaza or the Waldorf-Astoria for afternoon tea without some chav yelling at him that Rio Ferdinand is complete shite?

So, if any of you Mancs feel the need to give Sir Alex a piece of your mind after they blow the double this season, you know where to find him now.

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Pick Me...Pick Me!

Need a Nobby? He's on a free!

Morning all. On Monday night the transfer window slams shut until Jan 1st. Those left without will only be allowed to sign free agents and loans... is it such a bad thing? Bigus is a fan of loans as they allow Championship teams to grab a young promising player without any risk. How many times has a player been given a 3 year deal only to sit in the reserves as a failure? If you are from Norfolk, you could still be counting after an hour!

An example of a good "loan" was Ched Evans. Ched was excellent for Norwich last year. This year he finds himself in the Man City side. Yesterday he came on as a sub and scored a penalty as Mark Hughes' team scrapped through in the UEFA Cup. So loans aside now, lets have a butchers at a few players who are available on a freebie...

Peter Enkleman
Stephane Henchoz
Bruno Berner
Hernan Crespo
Stefan Wessels
Jay Jay Okocha
Emile Mpenza
Dong Gook Lee
Stephen Carr
Dominic Matteo
Russell Hoult
Marlon Broomes
Adam Garrett
Ian Harte
Stanislav Varga
Stephen Wright
Nolberto Solano
Freddie Ljungberg
Anton Sibierski
Josip Skonko
Salomon Olembe

Sibierski? Yes please says this Norwich fan!

Some oldies but goodies. Stelios and Mendieta are still Premiership quality and I find it hard to believe that one of the bottom-half EPL teams has not thought about signing one of those two.

Solano, Sibierski, Ljungberg and Henchoz can also offer valuable experience to one of the EPL newcomers. Hull's back line is strong but they could certainly do with Nobby Solano or Freddie Ljungberg in their side creating chances. Crespo will surely end up signing a deal in Italy, besides he is poop anyway, isn't he? Over-rated muppet! (I'd take him for Norwich tho', come on Glenn, get him in!)

Enkleman will join a number of that list dropping into the Championship or League 1 this term. His fumbly fingers were on show during the FA Cup final this year for Cardiff and he certainly looked as if his top flight days were definitely done. But a quick scan at that list offers hope to sides living outside of the top flight. If you are a Colaship club then you could be in luck... if, of course, you can convince one of the above to drop their Premier League wages.

Mpenza, Carr, Matteo, Varga, Harte, Skonko, Hoult and Lee would all do very good jobs at Championship level, AND if you have a little money in the budget you may even nab yourself a Solano or Sibierski!

One thing is clear, Premiership teams and Championship teams have been playing funny games all summer. This years transfer activity has been staggered and slow. Monday is going to be a roller coaster of a ride for fans all over the country as late deals are on and then off again and teams lose out as bigger teams turn to their second choice which was YOUR first.

Angry managers and teams holding out for a better deal should make it very interesting indeed, but once the dust settles on Tuesday it's reassuring that there will be a few good players left on the shelf..hanging out for that last (big?) pay day.


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Euro '08 Pick 'Em Winner finally cashes in: Eredivisie Season Preview

Anyone remember this? Well, our winner was obvious a couple of months ago, and UF reader Joep Smeets managed to hang on top and win the whole thing. As our "prize", we offered him a post on anything he wanted, and when offered to him, he told me he wanted to wait until late August to claim his reward.

Why? Because the Dutch Eredivisie kicks off this weekend, and he's just the man to handicap it and break it down for us ignoramuseseses.

This makes me happy, because I had no idea where to begin. I know Ajax, they're good, PSV, and that's about it. Feyenoord? Is that one?

Anyway, Joep has all the answers for us, so educate yourselves after the jump.

One of the leagues kicking off this weekend is the Dutch league. The first though this may conjure in some of you is probably “do the Dutch still have a league?” and the answer to that question is “more or less”. The Eredivisie, as it is called, has spent the last decade slipping gradually but steadily into irrelevancy, to the point where Arsenal can comfortably field their Carling Cup starting eleven and still brush off the second best team our country had to offer with ridiculous ease.

But yes, even mediocre leagues have to start at some point, and Friday night is the Eredivisie’s turn. And because the nice gentlemen at Unprofessional Foul know all of you are dying for an in-depth analysis of Europe’s seventh best league - or because they owe me a guest post because I crushed all of you in the European Cup Pick’em - here is a preview.

The Contenders

The Dutch league has been dominated for years by a traditional top three, consisting of Ajax (remember them?), PSV and Feyenoord, however, in the past decade, Feyenoord has been managed more poorly than Enron and as a result, hardly makes any more pretensions on the Dutch title than you or me.

That leaves us with Ajax and PSV, the latter of which have been champions four years straight. During this period, PSV has been hollowed out each and every year, losing quality players to quality teams and to Spurs. Despite of their knack for bringing in proper replacements, losing Gomes and Farfan means they have now lost the last two players who played for the team that made CL semi’s a few years ago.

PSV’s player to watch: Ibrahim Affelay. This will be the year he finally outgrows the Dutch league. Honorable mention to Dirk Marcellis, who played his heart out at Anfield last year and got a standing ovation for his effort when he was sent off. A young central defender who played very well at the Olympics and is getting considered for the senior national side.

Even with PSV losing a little bit of quality every year, Ajax has not been able to catch up. The past four seasons have seen more turmoil in Amsterdam than in your average war zone, and about as many heads have rolled. Each season starts with the same high expectations (PSV has got to be the only team that has won four championships in a row while not being considered favorites for any of those seasons), merited by an influx of new players that are considered a lock to get the job done. So far, none of them have, but there’s no question Ajax can field more attacking firepower than any other team in the league.

Ajax’s player to watch: Klaas Jan Huntelaar, obviously. He’s the centerpiece of an attack that features three quick and goal-oriented players around him in Luis Suarez, Miralem Suljemani and Civantich. Ajax’s defense might not be very stable but this lot could outscore any team in the league.

The Hopefuls

Behind PSV and Ajax there is a sizeable group of pretenders to the Dutch crown, led by SC Heerenveen and FC Twente, who will both feature in the UEFA Cup this season. The only two teams in Holland with a foreign coach are slowly but steadily attempting to structurally fill the hole in the top three that Feyenoord left behind.

Heerenveen, especially, has a very capable scouting team. You only have to look at the strikers they have fielded over the past year, which include Huntelaar, Afonso Alves, Samaras and van Nistelrooy. Twente has taken a big gamble by hiring Second Choice Steve, who is about as familiar with the Dutch league as any of you are.

Others in this group include Feyenoord and AZ, the latter of which made a very strong attempt at the title two years ago, only to fail miserably in the last season.

Players to watch

Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen) Bradley is no unknown to most of you, probably, and was one of the better midfielders of the league last season. From what I gather, he gets forward more for Heerenveen than he does for the US, which is his strong point. [Ed. Note: there are rumours brewing of him moving to Middlesbrough]

Douglas (FC Twente) a strong Brazilian defender that messed up against Arsenal. Young, though, and he has the top teams in Holland taking looks at him, which means the Premier League will most likely not be far behind. He shut down Huntelaar in the playoffs for the Champions League qualification ticket, which is no small feat.

Jonathan de Guzman (Feyenoord) Canadian by birth, Dutch by footballing passport, he has been one of the few bright spots for Feyenoord. He is a very complete young midfielder that has been attracting interest from England.

Stijn Schaars (AZ) is a very solid young midfielder who captained the European Cup winning u-21 sides. He has been out injured for a long time and AZ hurt without him. If he regains his pre-injury form, he will be considered for the national team and difficult for AZ to keep in Alkmaar for much longer.

European Competitions

After Arsenal’s drubbing of Twente, PSV will be the only Dutch team in the Champions League. They’re grouped with Liverpool, Marseille and Atletico Madrid, which means it will take a small miracle for them to go through.

In the UEFA Cup, there is a sizeable Dutch contingent, spearheaded by an improved Ajax-side, Heerenveen, Twente, Feyenoord and NEC, a small team who played an out of this world second season half and subsequently lost its three best players and hasn’t found any decent replacements so far. Ajax, with Huntelaar up front and Stekelenburg in goal could make a deep run, while the rest would be lucky to survive the group stage except for maybe Heerenveen.

We’ll, there you have it. Another season full of poor defending and bright young talents is upon us. The football might be poor, but the Dutch league guarantees at least a few players each year who will make the step to the big times at the end of the season, so I suggest you all keep an eye on it!

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Rangers still embarrassment of Britain this season

See? I told you South Carolina-NC State wouldn't be worthwhile.

Being a ref is serious business. These videos are not [All Balls]
Ebbsfleet owners, it's your time to shine [BBC]
UEFA does not want to see a GB team at 2012 Olympics [Soccernet]

And, finally:
Citeh go through on nervy PKs. One writer dropped us a line to say, "THERE'S ONLY ONE DANNY CALIFF". You should really shave those sideburns there, Wolverine [Eurosport]

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The glory of the Champions League draw

Cheer up, John, you just won something, AND it's Champions League time again!

Amid the ridiculous farce that was UEFA Player of the Year presentations (in which Petr Cech, John Terry and Frank Lampard won Goalie, Defender and Midfielder of the year respectively), we had a nice little CL draw. For my lot, we are fortunate to even be in it at all, and now that we've secured ourselves a piece of the money pie, it's only fair that we end up with the roughest draw.

So how did everyone do? Let's handicap a bit, shall we?

Group A
Chelsea, AS Roma, Girondins Bordeaux, CFR Cluj

Unbelievable! Group A is as simple as it gets, and Roman's Roubled Army should have little trouble here. AS Roma are game for a fight but they're not what they used to be, La Ligue isn't producing much of quality these days that isn't named "Lyon", and CFR Cluj are the ceremonial lambs being prepared for slaughter. Their home stadium will perhaps make life a little difficult, but aside from that, there's nothing to fear. A cakewalk to the knockout rounds, barring monumental collapse.

PREDICTION: same order as presented above. Bordeaux and Cluj, adieu and la revedere.

Group B
Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, Panathinaikos, Anorthosis

By far the most interesting aspect to this group is the pairing of Cypriot champions Anorthosis Famagusta and the Greek side Panathanaikos. If nothing else, their meetings both home and away will provide the fireworks that the rest of the group will fail to muster. Werder Bremen is a limp candidate, and Jose Mourinho will be able to crawl through this lot without much difficulty. He will have to face former Chelsea assistant and new Panathinaikos manager Hank Ten Cate, but the two were at Stamford Bridge at different times, thus neutering any potential storyline. Ten Cate's managerial pedigree should help them advance along with Inter, although it won't be simple. Bremen surprised many with their 2nd-placed Bundesliga finish last season, so it's anyone's guess.

PREDICTION: Inter, Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen, Anorthosis Famagusta

Group C
FC Barcelona, Sporting Lisbon, FC Basel, Shakhtar Donetsk

Ugh, another ridiculously simple group. Barca dodge all the major bullets, and get the Swiss champs and Ukrainian champs at the bottom of the draw. Yawn-inducing rubbish.

PREDICTION: Same order as above. Crikey, where are the tough groups?

Group D
Liverpool, PSV Eindhoven, Olympique Marseille, Atletico Madrid

Ah that's right, here's one. PSV are tricky (as Spurs found out last season... ouch), but I don't see them being so threatening. It's a paper group, one that looks good when written down, but is it really so bad? Liverpool dealt with Marseille reasonably well last season (1-0 loss away, 2-0 win at Anfield), and Atletico Madrid are a completely different team now that their best striker is practicing his craft for Rafa Benitez. The real intrigue here, as far as I can tell, is the fight for second. PSV should do it, Marseille haven't got a hope of making it, and the first shake-up of the pot system will come in Atletico getting it over the other two. Sergio Aguero and ex-Man U flop/Villareal savior Diego Forlan will prove too much for an Eredivisie defense and a French team that hasn't been much good since the days of Jean-Pierre Papin.

PREDICTION: Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, PSV Eindhoven, Marseille

Group E
Manchester United, Villarreal CF, Celtic, Aalborg BK

Another one rather devoid of drama. Man U and Villareal have tangoed before in CL groups, with two scoreless draws to show for it in 2005/06, and now they'll resume that "rivalry" around encounters with the Scottish Champions and the Danish champs. Those two will do nothing; it's all England and Spain for this one.

PREDICTION: same as above

Group F
Olympique Lyon, Bayern Munich, Steaua Bucharest, Fiorentina

Some intrigue here, as Fiorentina come in woefully under-ranked, although will it be enough to trouble Lyon, a team who's won La Ligue every year since 2002, or the mighty Bayern? Ze Germans are simply too strong for most thanks to their deep squad, although we've seen in recent months just how problematic it can be to have Luca Toni in front of goal. Fiorentina might have a shout, but there's a reason the teams rank out this way, and this one will probably go the same way.

PREDICTION: Bayern Munich, OM Lyon, Fiorentina, Steaua Bucharest

Group G
Arsenal, FC Porto, Fenerbahce, Dinamo Kiev

Plenty of teams for Arsenal to beat 1-0! Actually, a group that's a lot tougher than it looks. Fenerbahce play a stifling, scrappy brand of football that can provide an upset, and Porto (if they're allowed to participate, which is still up in the air apparently) can beat anyone on their day. Still, expect a lot of goalless draws from this, the cagiest group. I reckon the Turkish side has it in 'em for the long haul.

PREDICTION: Arsenal, Fenerbahce, FC Porto, Dinamo Kiev

Group H
Real Madrid, Juventus, Zenit St. Petersburg, Bate

Expect 0-0s from the two matches between Real and Juve as neither will want to give an inch. The rest of the group is sad and lifeless, and I feel bad. Zenit will roll over, despite their UEFA Cup successes last season, mainly because they're going to give up their two flagship players to Spurs soon, if we believe all the rubbish in the press about it. FC BATE Borisov is a fun one, the team where Alexander Hleb's career began. According to some research, BATE in their name stands for Borisov Automobile and Tractor Electrical. Fun stuff!

PREDICTION: as above. Christ, I'm not very bold, am I? Must be because it's not happy hour yet.

Read more on "The glory of the Champions League draw"...

Where in the world is Wayne Rooney?

You can surely file this missive under the "Too Early" label, but it's still a point worth mentioning: what on earth has happened to Wayne Rooney? He's been on a rather troubling trajectory of late, and his growing anonymity in games is close to rivaling the disappearances of England teammate Frank Lampard. Where's the hustle, the influence, the pace, the tenacity? Perhaps he left them all at the beach with Coleen?

As far as his career is going, he's at a difficult age. Considering when he came into the league, he's still incredibly young, but time served dictates that he should be emerging into one of the world's top players at this point. He's had great managers, great teammates, and all the opportunities in the world to take his skills to the highest possible level. Of course I'm not ruling out that he'll still get there, but his rather lackluster form is troubling the masses.

The papers and the blogs are beginning to touch the story, so I figured I'd have a go. My solution is relatively simple: he needs to leave Manchester United.

The Guardian is the first to point out the delicate situation unfolding, noting that Fergie isn't really doing a good job in figuring out what to do with young Wayne, or how to curb his natural tendencies to backtrack when he's needed as a striker. For them, the answer is simple: buy another striker.

Right, it's that simple, isn't it? The process of solving problems via spending has worked, with varying degrees of success, the other big English clubs, and it seems like whenever they have a down year, Barca and Real simply open the purse and let their wheeling-dealing fix any issues they couldn't battle out of before.

However, time is ticking on that window, and the Berbatov mess is now worse than the Gareth Barry quicksand that sapped our energy all summer long.

This guy sums things up a bit, but leaves us on a cliffhanger, although he does point to two other articles that present another side to an already complex problem.

Again, the Guardian looks at Rooney's wandering tendencies as being part of the problem, and miraculously, they get Fergie to open up on the subject! Normally he would let his lacky deal with any unpleasantness, but Queiroz is long gone back to Portugal...

This is something we are talking to Wayne about and he himself has started to identify that it's a weakness. It is not a bad thing for him to have come out [after England's 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic] and said so.

He is realising he needs to be more around the edge of the box in the last third of play. It can be a waste of energy chasing from man to man to man. But that's his natural enthusiasm and you can't fault that."
Well, if we're being brutally honest, you can fault that, especially if it's stopping Manchester United from being the offensive juggernaut they and their fans have come to expect.

Meanwhile, another perspective offers word from young Wayne himself, and how he feels he doesn't need to change his style in order to win:
While Ferguson is content the deficiency is nothing major, he does feel Rooney's energy could be better utilised elsewhere.

Capello is of the same opinion and feels the 22-year-old should concentrate on terrorising opposition defences, but Rooney is content with the way he plays and does not believe any adaptation is required.

"I don't think I will ever lose my determination," he said.

"It is something I have always had. If we are not winning I get frustrated. "I don't like losing. If you are telling me that is wrong I won't believe you."

Rooney clearly feels his all-action style is based upon a natural competitive streak that comes to the surface when situations are starting to turn sour.
Uh oh. Well this is a little mini-storm brewing, isn't it?

Fabio and Fergie feel one way, Rooney does another. So what's the tipping point?

As I see it, albeit in my outsider, bloggy perspective, think this isn't something that's going to disappear any time soon, regardless of whether Man U get themselves scoring three or four goals a game. Rooney's style of play is rather hard to pin down into a system, but it appears that a system and form is exactly what Man United are looking for. They want a coherent style of play with a clear purpose, but it's tough to do that when you have a player who doesn't understand where their responsibilities begin or end.

A lot of people (including on this blog) point to Steven Gerrard as being a guy who gives Liverpool a similar problem; no matter what the formation or tactics, Stevie Mbe has freedom to do whatever he pleases, and while I welcome that, it's not entirely beloved.

For Rooney, it's slightly different considering he's employed as a striker. It's no secret that your strikers are going to be ineffective when they're coming back to their own half to either win possession or collect possession, but what can Ferguson do? Tevez also loves to come back behind the front two and maraud, so that leaves them with just Saha and Frazier Campbell to actually play striker. Not exactly world-beating, is it?

The other big complication is Rooney's age. He's demonstrated in the past just how sensitive he is to criticism, a by-product of his tough upbringing, and while he thrived at a one-dimensional club like Everton, where both his work rate and enthusiasm were championed, things are a bit different at Old Trafford.

The team mentality is there like it was at Goodison, but there are still hierarchies of personality within the team, and it trickles down from there. Everyone has a job to do, and Rooney's constant disappearance from the front line, where he should be, is causing problems in the way they distribute the ball and begin their attacks.

When Ronaldo is back, it should get easier for Fergie to marshal everyone into a coherent attacking unit, but if he speaks out much more on the subject, he risks sending Rooney into a tailspin.

Wayne Rooney is the future of England. He's showing the skill of Beckham, the scoring ability of Lineker, and the guts and emotion of Gascoigne, arguably three of our biggest national heroes in the annals of history. Perhaps Man United's formalism isn't right for him. These problems wouldn't crop up at a club where he could employ his work rate without fear of rebuke. For me, I certainly don't think it's where he is now.

Read more on "Where in the world is Wayne Rooney?"...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Will Liverpool ever score a first half goal?

Liverpool scrape through, Arsenal score at will, and Queen of the South come very close in the UEFA Cup. Did I miss anything?

The world isn't safe. There was a hooligan riot in Sweden on Monday [The Local]
Maybe, though most likely not, because Ronaldinho tried to woo a women's NT player at the Olympics [Daily Mail]
Speaking of the Olympics, the Chinese didn't really care for Becks' and other's contributions to the Closing Ceremonies [The Independent]

Vidic wants out of rainy Manchester. One UFer would take 20 mill and Vidic for Berbs [Daily Mail]
Niko Krancjar out for a few months, to spend time trying to learn to understand Harry Redknapp finally []
Some group comes to the conclusion that the EPL (SI,B) earns the most cold, hard cash []

And, finally:
Wigan, really? I guess when you have empty stands, the minor, racist voices are easily heard [Setanta]

Oh, and don't let anyone tell you that "real" football starts tomorrow. South Carolina-North Carolina State hardly counts. Now, Clemson-Alabama, there's a match up.

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LFC/Arsenal open thread

Are you there Lord? It's me, LB. Release me from this misery.

(Busy today but no-one's in the office next couple of days, so expect a release of stories that have been clogging up since Monday. In the meantime, deal with Arsenal's comfortable 2nd half and the slop being sold as football currently on display at Anfield.)

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

I really don't have the words for this week's offering. No matter what I try to type, I know it will not do justice to the wonders of the shirt. So, sit back, take it in, and try to keep a straight face.

I can hear it already, a hundred or so voices saying, "So what? It's a pink shirt". To that I say--wait. First I'm going to tell you a bit about the club.

Sport Boys, whose information I'm wantonly stealing from Wikipedia, is a top flight club from Peru. They have been around since 1927, and have always featured pink as their main color. They have not won a championship since 1984. They are famous in Peru for being the first club to feature cheerleaders, some of whom have become national celebrities. In recent times, the club has struggled, and wages have not been paid for months.

So, why then, have I chosen to feature this shirt, which you can purchase on eBay through Friday? Because I haven't shown you the whole shirt yet.


That floating face on the bottom of the shirt is Hector Lavoe, deceased Salsa star from Puerto Rico. How did he get on the shirt? I have no idea. The closest I can find is that Callao, the home town of Sport Boys, has a strong Salsa presence. Lavoe played to 100,000 people in Bogota, Colombia in 1986. There is no evidence that Lavoe sported a jersey, nor is there any evidence, based on my quick search, that Lavoe ever did any more than visit Callao. In short, he had nothing to do with the club.

So this shirt is likely a one-off. A fan, moved by both Sport Boys and that timeless music of Lavoe, decided to merge his two loves. Over time, one of those loves softened, and the shirt has made its way to eBay for sale. I wholly recommend that anyone who loves Salsa, and doesn't mind wearing the pink shirt of a soon-to-be-liquidated club, pick it up and send us pictures.

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Well, that's one competition out of the way

This is Adebayo Akinfenwa of Northampton, demonstrating that even men with severe head injuries can score against the Wanderers

Stupid F*cking Bolton (a UF original moniker) continue to draw our ire with their snooze-inducing style of play, and the sheer injustice that they manage to linger in the EPL rather comfortably despite having absolutely no players of merit whatsoever.

The final straw for me was the rather cynical decision to give up in last season's UEFA Cup, a tournament that they could have battled through a bit longer, in order to concentrate on securing their survival in the top flight for one more season. I can understand why they did it, but it still bothers me greatly.

Well, you can argue that they just threw another one as they bomb out of the Carling Cup in the 2nd round, falling to Northampton, a team currently in their own league struggles... a full two divisions below in League One.

Gary Megson feigned disappointment and disgust, but are we really surprised?

After the jump, highlights from Newcastle's 3-2 extra time win over Coventry, and perhaps a demonstration of how you escape embarrassment at the hands of a lower-league opponent. Megson should take notes.

Stupid F*cking Bolton: polluting a pitch near you since 1874.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: I like Lawro's table better

Rivaldo, he of the hurt face when the ball strikes his knee, wants out of his contract [SI]
Or, maybe he quit [Soccernet]
Either way, its for the same Uzbek club that offered for Eto'o in the offseason [Wikipedia]
You can thank The Fan's Attic for getting those links together

Pavlyuchenko says he is a Spur. Can ESPN not tell their Russians apart? [Soccernet]
Newish site keeps tabs of Mark Lawrenson's predictions for BBC every week, compiles them into a table [ITETGW]

Arsenal becoming the new Everton, can't entice new targets to sign [Sky Sports]
Harry Kewell, doing in Turkey what he couldn't at Liverpool [The Age]
Bad reffing kicks off a riot, in Bangladesh [Gulf Times]

And, finally:
WAG fight! No photos of said fight, but I do recommend slideshow pic #4 for a laugh [The Sun]

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The UF crew whinges about GoldenBalls....

If it's Tuesday, then Lingering Bursitis gets on his high horse. What is it about Tuesdays - the quality of food in the company cafeteria? Steven Gerrard failing to text him sweet missives good night? His declining liquor supply? nope, nope, and nope. He's worked himself up into a froth over...David Beckham, England's soccer captain, and the latest scorn of his ire. We had an impromptu UF round table during the day, with most of us chipping in, to make him feel, well, alone in the corner. Only thing I recall editing out was the piling on of the poor editor. Find out why Becks is not the problem...

"Now watch my free kick hit the broad side of this stadium...."First of all, the link that started Bursitis lingering in an unhealthy way. Beckham approves of Usian Bolt's decision to gloat about winning the gold.

Lingering Bursitis:

He's a limelight-hogging child who doesn't know when his 15 minutes is up.
Bigus Dickus:
And why does that bother you? Do you read people and watch TMZ? I see none of that it does not sway my opinion.

Lingering Bursitis:
It bothers me because the longer he lingers in the English football system, the longer it'll be before we can finally rebuild our joke of a national team around someone else, someone younger, hungrier, and far more deserving. He wanted to play in Los Angeles and do the Posh Spice reality show life, so he should get on with it. England needs a new talisman... if he plays much in the run-up to the World Cup, or even has a sniff of making WC 2010's squad, I'll be livid.
Moonshine Mike:
We've chastised athletes for being limelight-hogging children at
times, but they are playing a game and having fun. If they want to do the hogging, and he likes it, then go for it. I'm not into the person who doesn't want the limelight and gets chased by it. The Beckhams want it, and I want him.

Do you know how many women have gotten more interested into soccer because of Becks? the more, the merrier, and if it takes a bit of sexing up the players who want to be sexed up, rock on.
Lingering Bursitis:
Disagree. He's stunting the development of English sport by continuing to hang around and have unfair influence over team selection and the manager, with whom there's a massive conflict of interest, and thus we can't seem to put a good XI together.

I'm tired of him clogging up the game, and being everywhere. It's someone else's turn. He last had relevance to me in 2004 (at least relevance in terms of his playing ability matching up to his brand awareness).

Whoo hoo! A fellow incoherent maniac who agrees with me!
I think it's clear that Bustitis secretly hearts Becks.

Lingering Bursitis:
Spectator, he was recalled because the new manager was also his manager at Real Madrid.

Their BFF tendencies go a long way. He lobbied continuously for an England spot even though MLS was in its off-season and even though he was playing in Los Angeles, a place not exactly known for its soccer (oh, and they used him as a winger too, basically there to cross the ball every 5 mins and make a long pass here and there).

The longer he's there, the longer someone else is denied the opportunity. We're building around him because he's our senior-most player, the one everyone's supposed to be looking up to. With him in the lineup, we continue to stagnate. Capello promised us an overhaul, but we're seeing players and XI selections that Boring Sven would have made. Same old bullshit if you ask me.
Moonshine Mike:
That's Capello's fault then. Blame him and not Beckham.
Lingering Bursitis:
Beckham lobbied for it and got his way. With him in the lineup time and time again at age 33 or whatever (aka not going to really play in WC '10 or Euro '12), we'll never have a hope of overhauling the rest of the midfield, the defense, etc etc.

David James is 36! Is that really who should be giving valuable playing time to on the eve of World Cup qualification?
Capello wasn't exactly BFF with Becks at Real Madrid. Or was it just the board that forced him to drop Beckham after the LA move was
Likely Lad:
based on the quotes from back then, he really seemed to despise old goldenballs. but then they recalled him, he scored on a free kick in his first game back and they went on to win the title. capello was about to get fired. becks saved his job.
Bigus Dickus:
If he got in because of that then we are fucked with Capello.
Bursitis, you are absolutely incoherent about Beckham. You can't see straight. He makes you absolutely mental. You have to see that.

I agree with Bigus. He works hard, made himself a good player without great talent to build on, and he's a good teammate. He plays for England because he can still serve balls in better than anyone...which happens to be the chief way that England score these days.

I don't love the guy, I respect him and his game and his attitude. You, on the other hand, blame him for the Georgia-Russia conflict and the price of gas. You view him as evil incarnate. It's very amusing.
Lingering Bursitis:
Wonderful effort, guys, simply wonderful. Yep, I blame World War 2 on him too.

I had no idea my position was so unpopular. The longer he plays for England, the worse England gets. Is that so off-base?
Moonshine Mike:
It's not off base, but your reasons sound less like that. Also, it's Capello's fault. Becks could of lobbied until Posh took off all of her clothes, and a strong coach can ignore it. Therefore, Capello either has a weakness for skinny models with balloons, or he is not the answer for England.
Lingering Bursitis:
Zidane knew when he couldn't do international football any more, and he was still romping in Serie A, etc. Plenty of talismanic national figures for other countries knew when to move on, or their management came to a tacit acknowledgement of that. Beckham chose money and a lower-quality league in the MLS, so he could be the big fish, the guy winning ESPYs, and he's simply not good enough for England anymore. His quality of play has dropped off significantly, and yet he still hangs around.

Capello is at fault for picking his buddy, sure, but Beckham could stand up and do the right thing and let his country find the next him, if there ever will be such a thing. Instead, he wants more personal accolades, and he's ruining his country's chances of rebuilding.

Lineker was a god. So was Peter Shilton. They both knew when it was time to go. Beckham doesn't have the same capacity for self-analysis. It's all about him, the Brand, the mediagenic god. Meanwhile, he wonders what England's doing wrong.
Fan's Attic:
Didn't Zizou retire from football altogether right after the 2006 World Cup...playing his last game with Les Bleus?

And, frankly Bursitis, you're wrong. Beckham is still a quality player for England. He may not be what he once was, but even you can see that he brings it to the table. He plays quality balls and set pieces, works hard and gets a number of assists. In the last game he was the assist man for the first England goal, which you said you accepted albeit begrudgingly.

Your despise for him is wound up in a number of things. Yes, he is a fame-whore, but who wouldn't be if given the opportunity? You hate him because he played for Man U. You hate him because you feel he is bringing down your country's national team. I don't know if that's true, but I can see your point.

However, you level all blame at a single player who has played well since returning from exile. You should look further. If he really is holding back the Three Lions, maybe you should start ranting about Capello. He selects the team. Maybe you should look to the rest of the under performing squad. How about no forwards that are worth two shits these days? An inconsistent defense. No creative midfielders.

There is more than one man responsible for the ineptitude and likely the majority of any blame cannot be laid at Becks' feet. He just wants to play. I admire that.

However, the mere fact that we are having this discussion with Libgering Bursitis is pure insanity. We keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results from him. We should just leave him be in his personal bubble of Beckham hatred.
Alright, I'll wade in on this one too.... I understand where JT is coming from. The England squad has woefully underwhelmed the past few years and Beckham (whilst said underperform predates him) is certainly emblematic of the sorry state of the national side.

Seeing him back in the squad only seems serves as notice that England refuses to embrace any sort of change and continues to stumble forward myopically, favoring the old guard (which has failed) instead of attempting to move forward with younger, less established talents because of the untested/unknown qualities.

And, let's be frank. Becks, despite his good attitude and commitment, has several gaping holes in his game that, now as he gets even older, as even less-defendable when you hand him a slot in the starting XI. Sure, he passes the ball great, but would England not benefit from a right-sided midfielder who also has pace and can get stuck in?

I don't hate the man, but I wouldn't dare defend his inclusion in the starting XI... and probably wouldn't even include him in the squad. It's time to move on.
Lingering Bursitis:
Zidane knew when his time was up. So did Gullit. Van Basten. Voller. Klinsmann. Pick any legend from any other country. Beckham doesn't know when to let go. I admit that Capello is at fault for always selecting him, but Beckham represents a much larger problem. Perhaps I'm being a fool in laying all the blame on him, but it makes for better television, doesn't it? A lot of the England team are far too comfortable. They underwhelm on a club level (Gerrard included... he's lost a step or two), and yet they keep getting picked. Capello is responsible here, but Beckham can play his part, especially considering that he's the talisman of the side. Can he not step down, or step aside? His future for England is purely limited to material, trivial reward. He's not going to lead us to a World Cup in 2010. He's too old.

We need to rebuild now, and Beckham needs to step down. Lineker managed it, so did Shilton, or Butcher. They were our heroes, but they all knew when their national contributions had reached a logical impasse. Us not making Euro '08 should have been it for David. Instead, he still trots out, giving mediocre performances (and pointing to him being "an assist man" for his cross... yeah, he crossed that ball, but couldn't someone else have? It's like selecting an outfielder in baseball because he can throw a man out from Right Field who's trying to score. It's a special skill, sure, but if he's not hitting well and fielding well otherwise, you can't keep justifying his selection on the merits of one isolated talent, can you?

Beckham needs to step down. The longer he waits to do so (as Fabio's obviously not saying no anytime soon), the longer I shall continue to hate him. We need to throw away the England blueprint and start over. Beckham isn't the future of the team, so why is he still there?

The modeling and product placement bullshit, that's not the crux of the issue. Sure, it doesn't help when he's on TV all the fucking time, but still... it's about England for me.

He's not the player he used to be, he's a long way below that. He patrols the wing, takes free kicks (hasn't scored one of those in a while, has he?), takes corners and largely does nothing else. Oh, he works hard. So does Dirk Kuyt.
Precious Roy:
It's going to have to come from Capello. Becks is only about 6-7 caps short of Moore for second all time and about 20 short of Shilton. He wants the record. I think after he gets to second he might reassess how likely it is, but he's not stepping aside.

England would do much better to start putting out Walcott, Agbonlahor, Bentley, Young, etc. Currently, how hard is it to game plan to beat England... Wait a minute, you guys are suckering me in to talking about England again.

Read more on "The UF crew whinges about GoldenBalls...."...

Big thoughts based on a tournament no one takes seriously

I don't mean to add to an overflowing fountain of hyperbole, but when a world soccer power actually performs at or above expectations in a big tournament, praise is usually warranted. If we can mercilessly make fun of the disappointments (England, England, England), we should be able to front run with the winners, right? Argentina won its second straight gold medal in the Olympic soccer tournament over the weekend, beating Nigeria 1-0 on a goal by Angel Di Maria (the man who more or less made Freddy Adu expendable at Benfica). The game was played in stifling midday heat, and was not terribly captivating to the drunken bar patrons I was sitting next to at 2am. The Albiceleste arguably made a much bigger statement earlier last week, reducing Brazil to joga feo and shocking the Dutch in extra time thanks to a great through ball from Lionel Messi. At this point, they ought to be favorites to win the World Cup in 22 months (!) time.

You could pretty much swap the Olympic squad for the current senior team and not miss much. Of the overage players Argentina brought to the tournament, the temperamental genius Juan Roman Riquelme and Javier Mascherano would certainly keep their places, but most of the U-23s already start for the senior nationals. Messi, of course, is the chief attacking threat, but Di Maria, Kun Aguero, Gago, and Banega all offer substantial presence going forward. Of the offensive-minded senior team players not at the Olympics, only Carlos Tevez is assured of not losing his place to the new generation (and of course he is only 24).

Its different at the back, where the current first choice backline, anchored by Burdisso, Zanetti, and Heinze, probably doesn't include any of the U-23s. Zanetti is 35 though, and he will most likely not be starting come South Africa. Abbadonziari doesn't exactly inspire confidence in goal, either, but at 36 perhaps he can mentor his Getafe teammate Ustari.

In any case, Sergio Batista has to be a hot commodity in Argentine managerial circles right now. Should senior team manager Alfio Basile be looking over his shoulder? There are rumblings that Diego Simeone is unsettled at River Plate, Batista's former club (River lost at the weekend). Perhaps Los Millionarios will make a move for the newly hot commodity.

At this point, Argentina certainly look like the better bet for glory in 2010 than their arch rivals, who are currently in shambles. While Brazil beat the Albiceleste 3-0 in the Copa America final last year, it was due to Dunga's use of two defensive midfielders who were able to shut down Riquelme. Needless to say, the Brazilian press is not happy with the dour, Sven-esque tactics that have been used of late. According to the LA Times, even the President is pissed off:

Witnesses told O Globo that Lula, in a closed-door meeting, labeled the Olympic defeat a "humiliation,'' and was fuming.

"I've never been so angry in all my life,'' Lula, a devoted soccer fan, reportedly said. "I saw a team that didn't show any will to win. … It's shameful to lose this way to Argentina.''

The front page of O Globo's sports section was designed as a funeral notice, announcing the "passing'' of the national soccer squad, (five-time World Cup champion), saying, "Please do not send flowers.''

First step for Brazil is to get Ronaldinho off the burgers. Then stop playing defensively when they can throw out Pato, Robinho, and Kaka in attack. Also fire Dunga. In any case, Argentina have put themselves up there with Spain as co favorites for South Africa. Olympic success doesn't usually translate at World Cups (Gold medals in the last twenty years: USSR, Spain, Nigeria, Cameroon, ArgieX2). Here's hoping that this summer's tournaments are a portend of things to come and teams like Argentina and Spain are in the final in two years time, instead of boring, defensive shitboxes like Germany and Italy.

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Completely Irrational, Rambling Spurs Screed

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

-Famous Jew

Where to begin? It's hard to see straight with these tears in my eyes. Or speak, what with the snot oozing down my philtrum and choking my tongue. Whining, crying losers we are. And for what?

New players, same shitty results. New players, same breakdowns. Unable to cope with a ball in the air-- in either box. New players, same game. (Every Spurs fan on earth and the seven suns knew Cisse was going to score--with his noxious noggin-- at some point in those last ten minutes.)

Stick with a team long enough and you develop a bit of telepathy. It goes like: "I'll be shocked if he doesn't give up a double here"... "Pick to the house. I know it"... or "Power play? Why even bother?" With Tottenham it's easy. No magic powers required. Unless it's against Chelsea at Wembley ( let me cling, please…), the defense will suffer a collective brain fart at some crucial point late in the second half. It's nothing to do with the personnel on the field, it's about, like Seinfeld said, "the laundry." And no one is more prone to spoiling their whites than Tottenham.

It was supposed to be different with Juande Ramos. And not just because the pundits said so. We saw it-- for a moment I swear I saw it (Yetti!!)

Juande, your job is safe. For the whole year. So no talk about that. Let's talk about team selection. What did 150 years of football not tell us about playing right-footed players on the left, and left-footed players on the right? Do we have so little confidence in the striker from Charlton that Bentley's crosses, from the right, have been mooted and he is only useful on the left as a two-touch-and-blast-man?

Line Bentley up on the right, sit Lennon on the bench, and start Giovani up on the left. Bale is a winger, not a full back. The defense is not strong enough to carry his weight. Zokora is a central defender or midfield player. Please stop playing him at right back.

Now here's where I may surprise you. I say The Mister gets a pass on the Berbatov debacle. That was and is (and remains!) Levy's mess. It existed well before Ramos got here and judging by the pace of business these days, may well exist after he leaves. Sell that filthy beggar for 25 or 28 or 30 million, whatever. Just be done with it. Buy the crazy Colombian kid from River. Or overpay for Forlan or Huntelaar or any striker who will agree to move to London. It doesn't matter. It is the essence of addition by subtraction.

Ok. Deflating...

Lucy! I'm ready to kick again.

Just one win. Three points at Chelsea. Two awful streaks end at once. The world alight again. Wonders are many.

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Fantasy League or Bizarro World?

If you're like me (6'3" and answer to the name Sven), you probably check your fantasy points a few times over the weekend. Come half-time of any Liverpool match (can we talk about them absolutely STEALING three points? It made me giddy!), I immediately scour the internet to see who's scored and who's holding onto a clean sheet, tallying Clash City's possible points in my head. If I'm lucky, I might even be able to discern, through text commentary, who got an assist. Come the end of that match, I'm back at it again. And again. And again.

Some days are greeted with a cornucopia of unexpected goals; other days a disappointing dearth of them. Yet, this weekend I was treated to a surprise of a different flavor when I discovered that Fabregas had been left in my starting XI while Stephen Ireland (who chipped in for two assists) was on the bench. After taking somebody's name in vein, I realized that the now-bald hair-transplant recipient was at the front of my substitute's list.

So, after the Gameweek came to an end, the subs kicked in and I was treated to an extra 12 (including three bonus points... love the randomness of those) points, shooting me up the table.

Moral of the story? Substitutions are good. That, and I like talking about my team. Not that this will be a regular thing. (Yet, I make no promises)

Speaking of substitutes, how about Djibril Cisse scoring on his debut with Sunderland? At 7.0, he may just be worth a look if you're looking for a well-priced striker. Should Theo Walcott continue to underwhelm (and not even play a full 90), I may just take my own advice.

But Walcott really isn't Arsenal's biggest problem, is he? How about that gaping hole in the midfield? As Cesc Fabregas and his 10.0 value continue to weigh around some managers' necks like a Flava Flav clock, some of you might be tempted to shop elsewhere. How about Deco? Get him why he's still cheap, because with 25 points in two matches, he's shot up from 9.0 to 9.1 to 9.2.

Keeping with the under-achiever theme (we'll ignore the obvious Tottenham reference), have you noticed that Aston Villa have shipped five goals in just two games? Brad Friedel only has four points, where Newcastle's Shay Given has 2o? What kind of bizarro universe it this? Apparently the same in which Darren Fletcher has two goals in two games. Yes, for Manchester United.

Granted, as we've only got two matches under our belt, maybe you should just hang tight with your team and let the players settle. Not me, though. I like to tinker like Ranieri (and I don't want to hear any Rafa/rotation jokes).

Taking a look at the UFFL table, it appears we're just like MLS -- we can't stop expanding. We've added a 22nd team. Unfortunately, we're not receiving any franchise fees.

My viking hat is off to Thor as his XXXXXXX's Raiders (107 points) sit top after moving up from 2nd. Justified FC have claimed second as Maroon Devils (having jumped from 11th) are third with the same amount of points (104).

On the wrong side of the tracks... Change Name and Bigus' Boys sit in the mythical relegation zone while our Blogfather's own Nunca Caminaras Solo is butt-naked last (with a miserable 56 points).

I am also proud to point out that TheoFabregas now has a new captain, with Fernando Torres picking up the captain's armband after Ian pushed Steve Simonsen out of his squad.

What will happen next week?

Maybe Daniel Agger will get a game. Maybe Shaun Wright-Phillips will make the move back to City (for only £10M? Really?). Or maybe, just maybe, Cesc Fabregas get his shit/hamstring together and get his sorry ass back in action.

Read more on "Fantasy League or Bizarro World?"...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Backpasses: It is what it is

We told a fib a little earlier. We were not observing any sort of bank holiday. Instead we decided to have a meetup, in Denver. Talk about bad timing. Unfortunately, one of us brought his hunting rifle, and things went downhill quickly

Away from the jokes, on to the links

Lukas Podolski, whose last name I constantly mishear, got the _____: treatment from Belgium [Bild]
Newsweek reporter correctly identifies US' problem at the Olympics [Newsweek]
The biggest blunderer from Beijing may be joining Adu at Monaco [American Soccer Reader]

TFC's stadium was/is hamstrung by stupid politicking [London Free Press]
NPR story on 100k crowd in Baghdad, to watch a soccer final [NPR] (link for audio)

And, finally:
Maurice Edu got his work permit. His likely first match--the Old Firm derby. How can I make it so both teams lose? [Soccer 365]

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Man U v. Portsmouth

It appears we don't have much in the hopper (see right, it's empty, everything has spilled out) at the moment. My excuse is that I am getting married next weekend, so my future-wife has commandeered all of my available free time to help with the wedding.

But, there is a match to follow today as Manchester United plays at Fratton Park. Pompey is coming off an embarrassing loss to Chelski last week and Man U had an embarassing draw with Newcastle. The two squads hope to right the ship today, while only one can possibly do so and it is possible neither of them do which would be fun.

After the jump, the lineups...feel free to play in the comment sandbox during the match. But, please, don't piss or shit in the sand.

Manchester United

1 Edwin Van der Sar (G)
5 Rio Ferdinand (D)
22 John O'Shea (D)
6 Wes Brown (D)
3 Patrice Evra (D)
15 Nemanja Vidic (D)
8 Anderson (M)
18 Paul Scholes (M)
24 Darren Fletcher (M)
32 Carlos Tevez (F)
10 Wayne Rooney (F)


1 David James (G)
23 Sol Campbell (D)
15 Sylvain Distin (D)
30 Armand Traore (D)
5 Glen Johnson (D)
3 Younes Kaboul (D)
28 Sean Davis (M)
6 Lassana Diarra (M)
8 Papa Bouba Diop (M)
9 Peter Crouch (F)
14 Jermain Defoe (F)

Man U gets Anderson back from Olympic duty and Tevez from bereavement leave. While Crouchaldinho hopes to break his duck for this tour of duty for Pompey.

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So we've been asleep for most of the day, which is befitting of the most majestic of English homeland constructs: the bank holiday. Right now, the rest of my family is capitulating and stagnating in front of the TV, probably getting ready to watch the Man U/Pompey snoozer slated for the evening.

Meanwhile, we toil in our offices still. Where's the justice in that?

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