Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday open thread

Guess its a late start today. Wigan are at Villa right now on FSC, while later Everton travel to Man U. Other 10 am games include Arsenal hosting West Ham, Bolton hosting Spurs, Fulham against Pompey at Craven Cottage, West Brom at Hull, and Boro hosting Big Sam's boys. Discuss amongst yourselves...

Read more on "Saturday open thread"...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Quick Throw: My Expensive New Toy Is Broken.

Oh what a last few days of the transfer window we are all in for. The excitement may kill me. Tottenham's new/old plaything Jermain Defoe has crocked himself in training. Spurs reckon he will be back in 3 weeks, contrary to early reports. I smell a conspiracy. A long term injury to Defoe will jack the price up on every striker within 1000 miles of White Hart Lane as Spurs search for a replacement to help save them from the fizzy league. They have already been sniffing around Robbie Keane in an attempt to lure the unhappy old Spur back to the good old days. Defore's injury is surely karma for all of 'Arry's January tap action. First there was Defoe, then Downing, then Palacios, then Fred and now Keane. Arry's tapped more people than Duke's Lacrosse team has tapped kegs. Meanwhile, Rafa's rage is mounting as he sticks a few numbers onto the end of Keane's want-a-way slip. You know he's going back to Spurs for more than they sold him for in the summer right. It'll all go down at 11.59 next Monday evening. Karma's a bitch eh Arry? An expensive one.


Read more on "Quick Throw: My Expensive New Toy Is Broken."...

So the Club World Cup Does Matter Afterall

You might remember that Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic was given a straight red card for swinging at a Quito player at the Club World Cup final back in December. The problem for Man U is that the Club World Cup is a FIFA event, as is the UEFA Champion's League, and the rules say that any suspension at the Club World Cup would carry over to other FIFA competitions.

I was convinced that FIFA would find a way around suspending Vidic from the Champion's League. It's already difficult to convince European clubs to be all that enthused about schlepping to Japan (or Abu Dhabi) mid-season for a relatively pointless competition. Ah, but FIFA are nothing but sticklers for the rules: Vidic has been suspended one game, meaning he'll miss the first leg of Man U's Round of 16 against Inter.

That serves United right for winning the Champion's League last year.

photo: Sky Sports

Read more on "So the Club World Cup Does Matter Afterall"...

Some Liverpool Fans Need A Slap Of Reality.

So Liverpool are starting to choke. Recent draws with Stoke, Evrton and Wigan have seen the club's attempt at the EPL title start to slip away. Many Liverpool fans are calling for Rafa Benitez's head.

Those people are ungrateful gobshites. Do Liverpool have a divine right to top the table?

When I was listening to the superb 606 podcast on Thursday morning from Wednesday night's show with Tim Lovejoy, the overwhelming amount of callers demanding Rafa's immediate dismissal made me spit out my coffee. Could the fans of Liverfourth really be unhappy with the prospect of coming second or third this year? Could they really want Rafa out? The venom and rage turned my ears red... I thought I'd share a few with you.

"I'm absolutely flabbergasted today, Benitez does not have a clue, we are not gonna win the title until this man gets out of the club. Robbie Keane, he spends 20 million on him and he sits him on the bench today. That man hasn't got a clue. I'm so frustrated. Robbie Keane is a striker who'll get you goals. Lucas should not be wearing a Liverpool shirt. We are playing negative."- Tim from Liverpool.

Basically, it's time for Rafa Benitez to go. He's dropped so many points, I agree with Tim, Lucas is a waste of space and the manager hasn't got a clue at all. Basically the sooner he goes the better.- Colin, Liverpool fan.

"Where do you find these callers Tim. Sack Benitez? You gotta be kidding. He has put Liverpool on the map. We are all disappointed, we might have blown it, who knows. But you cant sack the manager for that."- Stuart, Liverpool fan.

"I tell you what Tim, I've been a Liverpool fan my whole life and the feeling I'm getting with Rafa Benitez is the same feeling I had when Gerard Houllier started losing the plot. The decisions he is making, he has destroyed the teams confidence. How must Ryan Babel feel, yeah? When he watches a player called Dirk Kuyt picked in front of him on the pitch." - Tim, Liverpool fan from London.

"When it comes to the Premiership the man hasn't got a clue. It's an absolute disgrace what he's done to Keane" -Patrick, Ireland.
Don't get me wrong, I think Rafa has a few screws loose, and blew this season's title hopes when he spent 24 hours researching Alex Ferguson's history with referees a day before playing Stoke.

I also think he takes tinkering to a new level: Liverpool rotate their players more often than Walmart rotates the milk. But neither of these deficiencies deserve the man the sack.

Many of the complainers say Keane should be playing, but he has only scored 5 goals this season after costing 20 million. So Rafa should start a player who is under-performing? How does that help you win the Premier league?

Answer me this Liverpool fans: where were you in 2005? Fifth.

Benitez has delivered two third places and one fourth place finish in the last four years and currently has Liverpool in joint second place. He has taken you to the Champions League final TWICE, winning Europe's greatest prize AND he has won the FA Cup. All while the club deals with take-overs and an unknown, unstable future at the hands of a pair of twits from Texas.

A second- or third-placed finish this year is progress for a man who has to compete with the riches of Chelsea and United, two teams that can splash 30 million pounds on a single player.

You ungrateful scouse bastards, you! Most fans would herald such progress with hurrahs and praise! But no, you inhaled the fresh air at the top of the mountain and now you have the divine right to win the league.

No manager is perfect, all of them do one thing well and an other badly. Some are just plain crap and others learn and grow in the job, slowly building. Rafa fits in with the latter description. Rafa has taken you from a sleeping side to a European heavyweight and Premiership contender, but still you are not happy Liverpool fans. Winning the title this year is clearly a step too soon for you and this squad, but actually competeing for it is progress for sure. Another step to really challenging United and replacing Chelsea as the country's second-best team.

Sacking Benitez would be a disaster. The progress is clear for all to see, except for Liverpool fans. Shame on you Liverpudlians. What happened to the realistic, loyal red army that treated success with a grateful humility? Appreciation for success? The Rafa banners? You have become Chelsea fans overnight, expecting a title and place in the CL final. Demanding success.

If I'd offered you second place at this stage of the season back in August, you'd have bitten my arm off. Instead you choose to bite the arm of the hand that feeds you. Fickle feckers.

Wonder if you will change your tune with a win over Chelsea this Sunday?


Read more on "Some Liverpool Fans Need A Slap Of Reality."...

YFF Prognostication: El Whino and Fraudnaldo, You Don't Say?

There are a few UF fantasy footie leagues this season. The most populated league is the Yahoo Fantasy Football league with demand so great a second league had to be created. The UF contingent appears split on the best league, either the YFF game or the Official Premier League game. My favorite is YFF because of the many ways to score points. One of my foes in a private league has offered up his YFF opinions and insight to UF. Gman, as he's known, is a worthy fantasy foe and in my experience has top notch insight to the games.

Here's Gman's latest.

Well. The mid-season has passed us, so let’s recap gman’s mid-season ruminations:

Under Winners and Losers, not much to report. Lots o’ bitching and whining about leaving Chris Stephen Ireland out. Fair nuff. But listen up haters. What has he done since my post? Bollocks. But to equal it out. I praised Ashley Young. He was ‘aving a bit of a laugh when he got a red card on my team.

Under Upside/Downside, it was a mixed report card. Upside didn’t work out so well for me, so far. Tottenham Defense? Not much to brag on. Dan Gosling? Yes one week, but after that, a total non-factor. James Milner has been a slag, especially considering Young is gone. But on the downside, we’re well on track. Portsmouth? Hayden Mullins isn’t going to keep you up. Ronaldo. 21 points and 23 points is great for a player like Reo-Coker. But for Ronaldo, it’s just treading water. Fabregas was a bit of a no-brainer, so I can’t take credit.

Onto this week. Let’s reprise Upside/Downside to give you sense of who to play, in the short term (and possibly longer than that).


Tottenham – Last time I wrote, I singled out their defense. Let’s bring the whole squad into the equation. Throw out Bentley and the rest of the lot are responding to ‘Arry. Not sure if this is all Defoe, but they’ve scored 8 goals in the 4 games since he’s arrived. This is a live squad.

Dimitar Berbatov – With Fraudnaldo apparently content to just cash a paycheck this year and Rooney showing his usual fragility, Berbs has quietly put his stamp on this team. It’s about the value, Stupid. And right now, he’s bringing it.

Jermaine Pennant – He keeps busy winning corners and successfully crossing. So busy, I’d almost call him a spazz. Don’t get me wrong. He’s not going to keep Portsmouth from the drop. But in the YFF game, who cares?

Kenwyne Jones – CONCACAF up in this mothafucka! T&T Jones ain’t a fantasy stud. But if you have him at 7.09 like The Fan’s Attic and I do, then you’re just going to stash him away in your lineup for the rest of the season and watch him outearn his price.


Ronaldo – Ding Dong, the Portuguese Bitch is dead. ‘Hey, Gman. Motherscratchin’ Pork Chop just scored 2 goals.! What gives?!’ Well, I ain’t English so I have no bone to pick with Cristiano, but I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em. And with two goals against WBA, Ronaldo collected just 23 points. Meaning, that’s almost the bare minimum for two goals. Translation into English – his work rate is down. I don’t need Emile Heskey at 23 points. I can get him for much cheaper.

Torres – Ok. I will anger the masses on this site. The Chelsea game isn’t exactly a time to buy El Whino. Looking into my crystal ball, I see 3 fouls drawn and maybe a shot on target. Is that worth 12.69 and the bad dye job?

Man City Offense – Bellend, Robinhood, etc. A very bad value this week at Stoke who seem to get their drunk on at Britannia Stadium. Stoke has given up 27 goals away, 11 at home. They ain’t Vyv from The Young Ones, but Stoke might as well be.

Read more on "YFF Prognostication: El Whino and Fraudnaldo, You Don't Say?"...

Salomon Kalou puts the FA in a figure-four leglock

Spartak London "striker" Salomon Kalou scored twice at the weekend, seemingly defying the laws of nature in doing so (he's not that good, you see).

And yet, the most reported-on aspect of his feat was the celebration for Goal #1, an arms-crossed salute (with fellow Ivorian Didier Drogba in close attendance) that looked, to some, an awful lot like something political. The FA doesn't take kindly to those making statements on the pitch, whether with hand gestures or scribble on an undershirt, but fear not: Kalou has a response!

Was it a sign of solidarity to jailed Ivory Coast activist Antoine Assale Tiemoko? Of course not -- it was a tribute to the WWE!

Said Salomon:

"I don't even know this guy [Tiemoko]. That has nothing to do with football. Why should I celebrate for him? It was crossed arms, not wrists, [the celebration was] about my strength."
It appears that John Cena pulls a similar move right before finishing his opponents, and Kalou, the massive wrestling fan that he is, decided to use his goal-scoring to show it off.

Will the FA buy it? Probably, as they'll buy anything. As much as they love doling out punitive punishments for ill words spoken against referees, surely they'll let Salomon off the hook.

So, to summarize: not politics, but pro wrestling. Word has it that other Spartak players are catching on. For example, the next time Drogba scores, he'll DDT Florent Malouda.

Read more on "Salomon Kalou puts the FA in a figure-four leglock"...

UF Quick Throw: Transfers of minor merit!

Blackburn Rovers open the flea-bitten wallet for El-Hadji Diouf, leaving us all wondering why. Citeh get massive bid for Santa Cruz rejected! My guess: they'll sell for 5 million pounds more as Sparky is desperate. And Bolton lose their talismanic/average midfielder Kevin Nolan to the SS Newcastle.

Oh, and Arshavin lowers his wage demands to get a deal done. Sorry, Gooners; looks like you'll pass another transfer window without buying based on need.

[Diouf @ BBC Sport]

[Santa Cruz @ BBC Sport]

[Nolan @ BBC Sport]

[Arshavin @ Guardian Sport]

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Transfers of minor merit!"...

Charlie N'Zog...Something Is Looking For Excuses

Proper pronunciation of Charles N'Zogbia is found in the hair.

Newcastle midfielder Charles N'Zogbia stated his desire to leave Newcastle in December and now the Frenchman is proclaiming he will never play for manager Joe Kinnear again. After the Magpies loss to Citeh this week, Kinnear attempted say Charles' name but could only sputter and stammer his name resorting to Charlie to identify him. Clearly this is a huge affront to Charlie and not a trumped up issue to force a transfer.

Now, I am a man with a hyphenated last name with both last names of Eastern European origin and to say people screw up my last names on occasion would be the understatement of my life. Hell, even I screw it up sometimes. That said, it can get annoying when somebody familiar with you cannot pronounce your name. They should have the common deceny to learn it and to respect you. However, it certainly isn't something to get particularly upset about if your name is difficult or foreign like N'Zogbia. But, to each his own.

N'Zogbia's ire is more than likely due to being on SS Newcastle (that's Sinking Ship). A team ravaged by injuries to Michael Owen, Joey Barton, Mark Viduka, Obafemi Martins and lack of funds. On top of that, the manager seems resigned to glum position of the club.

'The guy has lost £2billion from his businesses,' said Kinnear. 'I do not know what this club is worth but at the moment we have to get on with it as best we can.

'I tried to sell Geremi yesterday because I thought it would raise £4million but that deal fell through so I had to play him tonight.

'We have been negotiating with someone else on the continent. We thought that deal was done but suddenly the goal posts have moved.

'It is a very difficult situation at the moment. It is not a surprise that a lot of other
people did not have the bottle.

Sounds like fun up in the cold North.

Read more on "Charlie N'Zog...Something Is Looking For Excuses"...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: Dirty Tackle better not stop the Friday rage list

Off The Post is down right nowOTP is back as of 1 AM EST. Here's hoping they come back online soon so you can see their links.

EPL Talk's next podcast guest is Vinnie Jones. They need questions. Perhaps he'll answer questions Guzan wouldn't [EPL Talk]
Fans of opposing team throw hundreds of pieces of trash at player taking corner in Greece. He picks up one piece and throws it into the screen near fans. Net result--red card [Off The Post]
USA to announce World Cup bid plans on Monday [SBI]

Is Robert Kraft looking to buy out Gillett at Liverpool. Taylor Twellman hopes so [EPL Talk]
What the hell was Kalou doing? [Guardian]
Gary Megson wants out, I think [Guardian]

Scottish League Cup semifinal between Celtic and Dundee United went to 12 rounds. Decided when guy rumored to be moving to Celtic missed his second attempt. Artur Boruc scored, though. Check out his sweet PK [Off The Post] Then check out what he has to say about it tomorrow [Dirty Tackle]

Read more on "Thursday Backpasses: Dirty Tackle better not stop the Friday rage list"...

NBC Writers: Football Fans or Lazy Hacks?


Here's a little secret. When you work in scripted programming, made up names tend to sound made up. Think about it, parents spend nine months trying to craft the perfect name for their kid, you spend 4 seconds coming up with "Johnny Waltershine."

Actually, that's not bad for off the top of the head.

Anyway, half of the names you hear in sit-coms or TV dramas are actually lifted from guys the writers went to high school with. Or sometime they get cute. So when last night's 'Law and Order' needed some Russian mobsters, they went EPL on their (likely) unsuspecting cast: Abramovich, Pavlyuchenko, and Arshavin. That's as in Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko, and Arsenal transfer target Andrei Arshavin. The only clever part was that they made the latter a loan shark, which, if he's holding up the Arse for more cash, ain't all that far off.

But someone on that staff clearly likes his London footie. Still, seeing how crime shows lift 90% of their story lines from actual real-life crimes, they're still kinda hacky.

[Update:: Flash player is fixed (hopefully... and obviously). If it goes haywire again, the audio can be heard by clicking here until we get it straightened out again.]

Read more on "NBC Writers: Football Fans or Lazy Hacks?"...

Who Is The Top WAG?

My vote is for Sylvie Van der Vaart, wife of Real Madrid's Rafael.

Who's your choice?

Read more on "Who Is The Top WAG?"...

The invisible hand of football

This may be a little old, but we're a little slow out of the gates today, and the video just showed up online yesterday.

Last week, Kilmarnock hosted lower-league derby rival Ayr United in a SFA Cup replay match. You may remember that the first attempt ended in a 2-2 draw when, in extra time, Ayr's Alex Williams knotted the score. He then ran around hugging everyone, including the ref. Good times.

This time, the result went to Kilmarnock 3-1. The Ayr goal, though, was something special. Bryan Prunty runs on to a long ball, gets caught between a defender and the keeper, misses his attempt to head the ball, then slaps the ball into the net. The best part is that no one saw it. The referee and his assistant definitely missed it, but then, apparently, so did Killie. Unlike England in '86, no Kilmarnock player or coach even questioned the goal.

Be honest. You didn't see it until you got the replay, did you? I certainly did not. Now, Killie fans will tell you they saw it in the stands. Don't trust them. They're drunks.

Thanks to 101 Great Goals for doing the legwork to find the video.

Read more on "The invisible hand of football"...

UF Quick Throw: Benitez crazy pills consumed at Emirates

Ain't nothing gonna break Abou Diaby's stride, ain't nothing gonna slooow him dooown, oh no, he's got to keep on moving. At least in his assertion that Arsenal can still win the league.

I guess Rafa's drug dealer travels to London from time to time?

[Guardian Sport]

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Benitez crazy pills consumed at Emirates"...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: Lot o' videos

Mario Gomez gets what all of Germany wanted to give him at Euro 2008 [The Beautiful Game]
Ollie Irish's Top 10 football GIFs [Big Soccer]
Why Kaka was right not to move to Manchester. Yes, it goes beyond the obvious [Daily Soccer Blog]

Davey and Vikki Becksers disagree on moving again [Sports Crackle Pop!]
Fabio Capello gets a lapdance. On TV [The Spoiler]

A video double from Off The Post
Players from Spanish third-tier club go on strike [Link 1]
This is exactly how not to celebrate a goal [Link 2]

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Lot o' videos"...

EPL Liveblog/Open Thread: Wigan Athletic v. Liverpool

Here comes the points-dropper, murderer, here comes the points-dropper, murderer

We're doubling up today thanks to the awful weather that has forced so many of us to stay at home. Bigus has Chelsea/Boro covered, while I will tackle Wigan v. Liverpool, a battle of ideals, of contrasting styles, of grumpy managers. Steve Bruce has much better hair, mind you.

It's also Jamie Carragher's birthday today. Celebrate with me after the jump, and give your thoughts on any of the games going on this evening. Arsenal traveling to Goodison doesn't seem too promising at face value, but then again, predicting this league is really a fool's game this season.

Lineups and fixtures after the jump. Then, 90 minutes of commentary involving my team that barely manages to hide my dissatisfaction and rage.

2.45pm sweetness:
Chelsea v. 'Boro
Man City v. Newcastle
Wigan v. Liverpool

3pm action:
Blackburn v Bolton
Everton v. Arsenal
West Ham v. Hull City

Wigan: Pollitt, Melchiot, Boyce, Scharner, Figueroa, De Ridder, Brown, Cattermole, Taylor, Zaki, Mido.
Subs: Kingson, Edman, Watson, Koumas, Rodallega, Kapo, Camara.

A Team I Once Knew, But Now Barely Recognize: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Benayoun, Leiva Lucas, Mascherano, Babel, Gerrard, Torres.
Subs: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Keane, Riera, Kuyt, Alonso.

REFEREE: Phil Dowd

Already, I'm nervous. Having pulled the balls out of the raffle machine, Rafa has gone with a midfield involving both Yossi AND Lucas. Keane on the bench, which will surely fuel yet more rambling column inches predicting his departure, and this really has all signs of a boring, boring draw. Oh, and I'll probably kill myself when it's done. No league wins in a month, while Man United have won their last 6, scoring 16 goals.

The EPL is a cruel mistress.

And we're off!

2 mins: Bright-ish start (well, as bright as one could get within 120 seconds), with Liverpool winning an early free-kick wide left for the foul on Babel. Stevie G floated a decent ball to the back post, but Skrtel couldn't control it and the chance disappeared.

4 mins: Long balls galore, and Mascherano collides with Zaki in the center-circle as they challenge for possession. Zaki gets the worst of it, but Phil Dowd gives a word to all involved and we're back underway.

6 mins: De Ridder shows why he prefers his right foot, as he gets marooned wide left and floats an awful cross miles over the bar with his left foot. The ball is hoofed down to the other end, where Yossi gets caught offside. I despair the thought of what horrors await over the next 84 minutes.

9 mins: The Liverpool passing machine slowly grinds into gear with some decent, but purposeless, passing around midfield that eventually ends up back with Reina. Wigan seem content to chase like headless chickens with the odd foray forward, but their third of the pitch is crammed tighter than Jenna Jameson's arse in a gangbang. No space between their midfield 4 and their back 4, all playing pushed up from the edge of the 18 yard box. Here's hoping their offside trap isn't working today.

After some 90 seconds of ball-chasing, Wigan get possession and win a free-kick.

12 mins: Gerrard gets the service he wants and tries to play Torres in 'round the back, but Boyce is up for the challenge, muscling Torres off the ball and watching the Spaniard fall to the pitch like a snowflake.

UNBELIEVABLE. Gerrard puts a lovely ball into the thick of the 6-yard box, Torres pops up and succeeds in putting his header onto the post and out. Yossi begins celebrating at the back post instead of ensuring that the ball ended up in the net. Wonderful. At least we're creating chances, right?

15 mins: Wigan do manage to get some possession in Liverpool's half, working through De Ridder on the right, but his clever chip over the top for Zaki ends up with Reina.

17 mins: A nice ball forward by Carragher finds Torres on the edge of the box, and despite some heavy petting from behind by Paul Scharner, he controls, turns, and whips a shot 10 yards wide of the post. Not a great effort, but a nice reminder of just what he's capable of if given a yard of space.

19 mins: Wigan press but get caught on the break. Gerrard surges forward with Babel and Torres in front of him, but Michael Brown goes the cynical foul route and gives up a free-kick 30 yards out and fairly central. Dowd gives him a talking-to, but no card. Stevie to take...

... actually no, Aurelio crosses it with his left foot but Wigan clear.

20 mins: As Wigan try to counter again with Cattermole down the left, they get caught on the break again as the gaps are starting to appear in their backline. Gerrard gets forward with Benayoun in support, and they win a corner for their efforts. Naturally, as with most things LFC since New Year, it's wasted.

Arbeloa tries a crafty ball down the wing looking for Babel, but he is a hair in front of Boyce and thus, offside. Still, the lackadaisical marking by Wigan in the early going is giving me hope. We might actually win a game, folks! It might well happen tonight!

24 mins: Wigan's best chances at the Liverpool end have all been via the long throw thus far, which doesn't bode well. Skrtel gives up a free kick with some pushing and shoving, but the ball into the box is Reina's after some soft header tennis.

27 mins: Liverpool flirt with danger as they give away possession in midfield, but Wigan can't capitalize as Zaki gets frozen by the offside trap, and in the nick of time, too; Arbeloa stepped up at the last second to get the call. Note to Rafa: winning the sideways passing battle doth not a title challenger make.

Neat interplay by Babel and Benayoun gives Yossi a break for the byline, and his pullback across goal is partially blocked by Melchiot. Torres and Gerrard were there, but Mario's ankle saves the day.

Despite the rather unexciting first half-hour, I'll put on my Miss Cleo mask and predict a Liverpool goal before half-time. The space is there, and the half-back duo of Boyce and Scharner look positively leaden-footed compared to the Reds' attack.

30 mins: Just as I type that last prediction, Lucas plays a simple 1-2 with Gerrard and has room to run right down the middle, but his shot from the edge of the box drags wide of the post. Just an observation: if Xabi Alonso were playing, he'd have buried that.

33 mins: End-to-end stuff! Zaki loses possession in the LFC box, they move downfield with ease and Lucas puts Babel through on goal, requiring a gorgeous tackle by Scharner to snuff out the danger. Wigan then sprint back down the other end, and Mido wins a corner off Carra the Birthday Boy.

Taylor puts the corner far too deep, but a half-chance emerges: De Ridder crosses back into the box, and Emmerson Boyce, despite looking a mile offside, heads well wide with the flag staying down. Liverpool were lucky there; instead of bothering to defend, they all appealed for offside. Turns out Boyce timed his run right, it was just the four other Wigan players around him that were offside.

Any goals anywhere else? This game is dying a slow death at the moment.

39 mins: Babel executes one of his trademark runs down the left, bursting at the seams with stepovers and trickery. He cuts inside and uncorks a powerful shot, but right at Pollitt who parries it clear. Yossi pounces on the rebound and gives it back to Babel, hoping for a better shot, but not so; he just gives the ball to Melchiot while trying another stepover.

40 mins: Wigan fans scream for handball in the box, but not so. The trouble was caused by yet another Ryan Taylor free-kick, bending it right into the 6-yard box and forcing a desperate clearance by Carragher.

42 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and as Ibracadabra said, Yossi's not bad against Wigan. Yossi Benayoun scores from a ridiculously narrow angle after being played through clean on goal by Mascherano. He rounds Pollitt and somehow cuts it back from the byline and into the net. A wonderful, lucky, fuck-it-I'll-happily-take-it finish by Yossi. My Miss Cleo prediction was vindicated, and it was thanks to that Maginot Line of a Wigan backline. Wigan Athletic 0, Liverpool 1

44 mins: Come on Fabio, wakey wakey. He lets a long ball bounce over his head and Mido sneaks in to collect, doing well to cut back and win a free-kick via a classic clumsy tackle by Lucas Leiva. Mido takes the kick himself and shoots low, but Zaki blocks it so Reina doesn't have to. Mido then fouls Carragher in the race for the rebound.

45 mins + 1: Figueroa hauls down Lucas 40 yards out for no particular reason, and Gerrard lines up a shot. Crazy, maybe, but it fizzes just over the bar with Pollitt beaten. Oh, what could have been. Dowd promptly blows the whistle.

HALF TIME: Wigan Athletic 0, Liverpool 1
The Reds look uncharacteristically good going forward (at least compared to sluggish recent form), and I fancy more goals after the break. Emmerson Boyce looks like a Macy's mannequin on the pitch thus far, and Ryan Babel's flurry of stepovers appear to have empowered him and given him more confidence than Rafa has since August. Meanwhile, Robbie Keane freezes on the bench in a tracksuit, thinking, wonderful, ruminating.

Now time for a break and some Bagel Bites, the cornerstone of any ambitious 26-year-old's late lunch when he stays home from work.

And we're off again!

47 mins: I heard a stat that Wigan haven't come from behind to win a game in 5 or so years. Why is this stat not in the least bit comforting?

Aurelio misjudges another ball, this time from Melchiot to De Ridder, but he closes him down well enough and concedes just a throw-in. Melchiot's long ball in is flicked on by Mido and cleared with ease. Torres gets some space on the counter-attack down the right, but his cross floats over everyone and ends up with Babel on the opposite flank. It bobbles off his shin for a Wigan throw-in.

49 mins: Torres gets a chance to run at Boyce, but Boyce recovers to tackle and clear. Dangerous times for Brucie's lads. LFC look brighter after the break. I wonder if they kinda regret not having Palacios any more? Still, they got a ton of money for him, but if they go on a losing streak due to having no good defensive midfielders, it's all for nought, innit?

51 mins: Maynor Figueroa finally gets the yellow card he's been looking for, sliding through Yossi as he began his run up the middle. Stevie to take, some 30 yards out and dead in front...

... but no, he defers to Fabio Aurelio again! The effort is good, but takes a flick off Scharner's head in the wall and lands softly in Mike Pollitt's hands. Had a chance if it didn't lose some pace on the way through.

53 mins: Zaki gives away a free-kick as he climbs Mount Mascherano in pursuit of the long ball. Looked clean enough on the replay, but even so, Wigan's attack has a yin/yang to it at the moment; Mido is the tireless, enterprising one, while Zaki just keeps getting caught offside or giving away needless fouls.

Better from Wigan as Figueroa and Michael Brown both take turns running at Liverpool's backline, to mixed fortunes. Still, Zaki is a possession nightmare, and Bruce wonders what odds and ends he has on the bench. Olivier Kapo? New signing Hugo Rodallega? Himself?

56 mins: Ladies and gents, this is beginning to look like an actual game of soccer. I'm not lying; it's wide-open at the moment, something that can only benefit Liverpool on the break. Yossi has another burst up the middle. He finds Torres surrounded by 4 Wigan defenders, but his return pass is heavy and Scharner clears.

57 mins: Lovely passing in midfield for the visitors, but the throughball to Torres is intercepted by Boyce's heel, although I'm not sure he knew much about it. Time for some subs?

60 mins: With 7 Wigan players in the box waiting eagerly for his lofted free-kick, Ryan Taylor sends it miles, acres, light years over the crossbar. The crowd is so subdued, you can almost hear Steve Bruce sighing on the sideline.

61 mins: Whoops. Wigan clear a corner and get a glorious chance to counter with 4 on 2, but Amr Zaki goes it alone and is swallowed up by Mascherano tracking back. De Ridder, Scharner and Mido were all right there with him, but his determination screwed the whole thing up. Cue frustrated noises from the home crowd, and Liverpool try to slow things down again.

Should I mention Robbie Keane again? I feel like I should. Did I mention he's on the bench, shunned, ignored, a pariah? What will the media say about this tomorrow? I can hardly wait.

64 mins: Steve Bruce rolls his 18-sided die for solutions, and it promptly tells him to bring on Jason Koumas to replace Daniel De Ridder. Bit puzzling, that.

65 mins: This is Yossi Benayoun's world, and we're all just living in it. Gerrard begins another counter-attack and finds Benayoun sprinting down the right wing. Yossi then tip-toes around Boyce, turning him inside out two or three times, cuts it back into a crowded penalty area, but Wigan scramble it clear time and time again. Mascherano has a shot blocked, Torres fails on a bicycle kick (please Fernando, watch that hammy!), and the ball pings around a bit more before finally getting hoofed to safety.

67 mins: Ryan Taylor clips Arbeloa for another Liverpool free-kick. Carragher delivers from 45 yards out but Scharner heads it clear.

Hugo Rodallega begins some light warm-ups on the sideline. He's surely replacing Amr "My Name is Egyptian for Turnover" Zaki.

70 mins: Koumas wins a corner, and I nearly shit my sweatpants. Zaki and Gerrard go for it at the near post but it ends up well over the bar for a goal-kick. I relax temporarily.

72 mins: Rafa Benitez displays his tactical nous, or lack thereof, bringing off Torres (presumably to protect the Golden Hamstring) and bringing on Robbie Keane Albert Riera. We presume Babel will play up-front with Riera and Benayoun marshalling the left and right wings.

Lucky for LFC as Mido seems to break the offside trap, but he shoots wide. The birthday boy should have done better there.

74 mins: Gerrard has a golden chance at the other end as Yossi gets fouled, but the ball breaks to Stevie on the right and he shoots agonizingly wide from a difficult angle. Yossi looks dazed and comes off immediately, replaced by Robbie Keane Dirk Kuyt.

76 mins: Reina gives himself something to do, running a mile out of his box to intercept a long ball, dribble past Amr Zaki, and whack it downfield. Zaki is promptly subbed out to avoid further embarrassment, replaced by new man Hugo Rodallega.

80 mins: Another sub for Wigan, their final one, sees Ryan "Free Kick" Taylor come off, replaced by Robbie Keane Henri Camara.

(Is that strikethrough joke still funny?)

Wigan scramble to clear their lines. Dirk Kuyt plays a lovely ball for Gerrard between the center-backs, but Stevie can't control and Boyce bundles it out for a throw-in that Liverpool squander.

Lucas Leiva clips Koumas in the box, making an easy decision for Dowd. Caught on the break, Lucas does what Lucas does best. Now Reina will have something to do. Mido to take...

GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and fuck Lucas Leiva. Mido steps up on his debut and sends Reina the wrong way. Liverpool throw away 2 more points, and Fergie will probably celebrate tonight by masturbating all over a cadre of small boys. Wigan Athletic 1, Liverpool 1

Rafa then brings off Stevie G, replacing him with.... Robbie Keane! Is there no end to the fun?

85 mins: 5 mins to go, no Torres, no Gerrard, but a front-line of Babel, Kuyt, Benayoun and Robbie Keane. I swear, I'm not making this up. Memo to Rafa: please stop subbing off Torres, because every time you do, we give up equalizers.

Keane passes straight to Mido, and Wigan surge forward in search of a winner. And why not? Liverpool are playing with the fear and timidity of a beaten schoolgirl who has run away from home. I will cry onto my remaining Bagel Bite.

87 mins: Dirk Kuyt has room down the right, and he crosses to no-one. Sums things up nicely, really.

Then, Riera gets some space to shoot, and does, but Scharner toes it away with Keane lurking for the loose ball. Wigan clear for a throw-in, from which Robbie Keane fouls Scharner and then Dirk Kuyt handballs at the back post in the rush to control and shoot. Sumptuous play from the turgid dregs of the Liverpool attack.

89 mins: Robbie Keane miraculously stays onside, but then fouls Scharner in the race for the ball. For those keeping score at home: Keane's fouled three times in the four minutes he's been on the pitch.

Wigan break, and Mascherano gives away a free-kick 20 yards from goal. If Wigan score now, I am sending Rafa an envelope filled with my own shit.

90 mins: Why am I not surprised? Rodallega cracks the crossbar in half, but the ball stays out, and Carragher clears. I would pretend to be gobsmacked, but after the brutality of January on Liverpool's title aspirations, nothing surprises me when it comes to the Reds.

Ryan Babel wins a free-kick 25 yards out, and both Aurelio and Riera fancy their chances...

... and Aurelio puts it into the wall. He gathers the rebound and finds Kuyt wide right, but Kuyt overhits the return pass and Pollitt collects comfortably.

90 mins + 2: Pollitt clears right down the other end, and Riera gives away a free-kick wide on the right. Last Chance Saloon, and Koumas puts it right at Mascherano's forehead. It's headed out, and Dowd's had enough. So have I.

FULL TIME: Wigan Athletic 1, Liverpool 1
That's it folks. I wasn't kidding yesterday about Manchester United never looking back. And with abject performances from teams considered to be their closest rivals, why should they? Chelsea won, Villa are right there, and I resign myself to the annual pursuit of fourth place. Still, it could be worse. We could be Arsenal.

Read more on "EPL Liveblog/Open Thread: Wigan Athletic v. Liverpool"...

EPL Liveblog: Chelsea v. Boro'

Ok folks it's a Bigus live blog extravaganza. Those of you interested in Wigan v. Liverpool can click on over to the other post where MORE live-bloggery is in action courtesy of Lingering Bursitis.

I had a choice of this game or Everton v. The Arse, but after Liverpool v. Everton on Sunday I have vowed never to watch the depressing Toffees again. Well not this season anyway, so that leaves Spartak London at home to the smoggies. Come join me for all the exciting action from the bridge.

Chelsea (from): Cech, Hilario, Taylor, A Cole, Ferreira, Bosingwa, Belletti, Terry, Ivanovic, Mancienne, Alex, Lampard, Ballack, Deco, Obi, Kalou, Malouda, Stoch, Anelka, Drogba, Kakuta.

Middlesbrough (from): Turnbull, Jones, Hoyte, McMahon, Pogatetz, Riggott, Wheater, Huth, Bates, Bennett, O'Neil, Arca, Shawky, Johnson, Downing, Porritt, King, Alves.

Excitement is building, will Big Phil start that lazy cheat Drogba? Will Downing look like he gives a shit. Will Chelsea stand statuesque for set pieces? Will Alves miss an open goal? I can't wait! I'll do my best to keep up but be warned I am watching my sick little girl also. Let's hope nap time holds eh?

Carvalho is out with a ropey hammy, but Terry is back and willing to shank any penalty Chelsea may win. Sorry Chelsea fans, that's getting a little tired now isn't it?

Match Fact: Chelsea are hoping to beat Middlesbrough for the fifth consecutive time in the Premier League. They have won the last four with an aggregate score of 11-0.

Chelsea haven't kept a clean sheet in 6 and Boro' have lost last 4 on the road.

Ok people. the team sheets are in.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, Ashley Cole, Mikel, Kalou, Ballack, Lampard, Malouda, Anelka.
Subs: Hilario, Ivanovic, Drogba, Ferreira, Deco, Mancienne, Stoch.

Middlesbrough: Turnbull, McMahon, Wheater, Riggott, Pogatetz, Adam Johnson, O'Neil, Shawky, Bates, Downing, King.
Subs: Jones, Taylor, Emnes, Alves, Huth, Sanli, Arca.

Chelsea stick with the one man up front routine with 14 goal leading scorer and king of the sulky babies Anelka. Terry and Alex form the CB partnership and Malouda gets a run out amid speculation of a bid from Juventus. Is he in the shop window tonight?

12 million pound man Alves is on the bench for Boro and Deco rides the wood too.

This is a must win game for Chelsea. A slip here and they can kiss any hope of the title goodbye for sure. The teams are in the tunnel. Lee Probert is the ref tonight..Gawd help us!

Boro look as if they are lining up to match Chelsea's five man midfield. Marlon King will lead the line for them after just signing on loan from Wigan.

.....and we are off!

3 mins: Chelsea are setting their stall out. Playing pretty deep and looking for access to the Boro box. Big Phil is looking relaxed tonight, legs crossed on the bench, maybe someone should get him an otterman. Boro haven't been in the Chelsea half thus far and are sat behind the ball. I fear they may resort to lining up along the goal.

7 mins: Lampard's free kick hits one of the many Boro bodies in the box but Boro fail to clear immediately as Chelsea bring the ball back for another go before the ball is hoofed clear. Marlon King is looking rather lonely up front on his own. Kalou runs into the box squeezing between Boro players but the ball slips away from him for a goal kick. One way traffic is an understatement.

12 mins: The Chelsea pressure is mounting. Boro's only outlet is King and he has touched the ball once in the first 12 mins. Bosingwa sends a long cross to the far post and Ashley Cole arrives for a free header but 120,000 a week buys you the side netting. Boro breathe a sigh of relief.

15 mins: Ballack's free kick is saved low by Turnbull. Boro have committed 5 fouls so far and in dangerous areas. Not a good idea! U75, I chose this one as watching Everton brings suicidal feelings.

22 mins: More Chelsea dominance. Back to back corners fail to yield a goal although the second one bounced through the box begging to be smacked in. Matter of time before Chelsea score here. Downing must love having to stay at Boro, he has spent the game so far defending. Boro win their first free kick and launch a ball into the box which results in a throw in and the return of the ball to Chelsea.

25 mins: This game is as balanced as Russian election. I expected Chelsea to have a lot of possession but this is ridiculous. Boro have just parked the bus. When they do have the ball they pass sideways before deciding to pass backwards! King just pulled a rubicks cube from his left sock. Oh hold on..action. A corner to Boro! Will Chelsea go all zonal?

No. Ball cleared at the near post, a cross returns but Cech claims it.

27 mins: Come on Exeter! Yawnnnn.

30 mins: John Terry is so bored that he tries a run himself, getting to mid way in the Boro half before being dispossessed. King has finished his puzzle and is trying to coax Alex into a wrestling match on the side line. What is amazing is that for all Chelsea's dominance, Turnbull has only made 3 or for saves. And only one of those was a real chance for Chelsea.

33 mins: Lampard sends a free kick over the bar. Scolari just nodded off.

38 mins: Look, I know I'm not that good at this live blogging malarky and my spelling is dodgy, but quite frankly 17 comments on the other thread is just rude. Come on people. I am here for you! Boro are getting brave and starting to commit the odd body forward. There was actually 3 Boro players in the Chelsea half for a moment there.

King is fouled 30 yards out and he falls like he was shot from behind. Downing sends the resulting free kick into the wall.

40 mins: I am praying for half time at this point. I have some high hopes for the commercial break. I may get a Sham WOW commercial if I'm lucky. That will be exciting.

Half Time: Chelsea 0, Middlesbrough 0
Chelsea have probably shared 300 passes this half and only created one decent chance. Boro have come for a point and Southgate looked pretty happy as he hit the tunnel. Chelsea's fans were getting a little tetchy towards the end of the half and boooooooooed their team off. For all this possession Chelsea were crap. No bite, not finish.

Boro will look to see this one out in their own half I am sure. A point at Chelsea is in sight. Adam Johnson did have a chance for Boro at the end of the half as he tried the Ronaldo step over in the box a couple of times before sending a weak shot in the direction of Cech.

To summarize....This one is a snoozer. I'd actually like to take a nap but 2 people are actually reading this. Don't want to disappoint.

Back for the second half in a few, don't go away, either of you! I need to splash some water on my face and brew some coffee brb.

46 mins: Alright. We are off again. SUBSTITUTION: Moulada is off and Drogba is on.
Get ready for some second half diving action!

To answer Andrew's question....TEN.

47 mins: Chelsea have changed shape to a 4 3 3 and immediately Drogba gets a through ball at his feet into the box but he shanks that across the goal about 5 meters from the keeper. There seems a little urgency to Chelsea's play now. They are looking more direct and trying to come through the middle.

50 mins: This is more like it. Chelsea are looking direct, instead of probing around the box they are looking for one two's and players are actually starting to look for space behind the Boro backline. In return, Boro have decided to make a little bit of an effort on the counter attack.

53 mins: Downing makes a surging run down the left but his cross can only find Mikel and Chelsea pass out of trouble and race down the other end and win a corner via John Terry. That's right Terry is in the Boro box! Desperation is setting in for Chelsea. Lampard lifts a corner from the right into the box and Ballack's header is nodded on by Alex as Turnbull tips over.

57 mins: The crowd are up for it now and we have some end to end football. A Boro attack is broken up and Chelsea counter, winning a free kick 30 yards from goal. Alex strikes the ball against the wall and out for another corner.


Lampards corner inspires header tennis and the ball finally breaks at the edge of the box finding Kalou who smashes a right foot volley into the net.

Chelsea 1, Middlesbrough 0

60 mins: Half an hour to go and Alves is warming up. Boro's 12 million pound man has scored 4 in his last 4 which makes me ask myself...Why the f**k is he on the bench?

Drogba has certainly made a difference to Chelsea's attack. he has made runs in and around the box in an attempt to break up the mass of red bodies in there.

64 mins: SUBSTITUTIONS: Alves is coming on for Shawky and Tuncay is coming on for King. So 2 forwards on and a forward and a midfielder off. Tuncay likes to play in the hole and he should slot in behind Alves.

Anelka breaks into the box but is muscled off the ball as he shoots weakly at Turnbull from the right hand side of the box.

68 mins: Boro are actually enjoying some possession and passing the ball into forward areas in an attempt to pressure the Chelsea deffence. Downing finds Alves on the edge of the box but his shot is weak and wide.

Oh lordy...Lampard misses a sitter. Anelka surges down the right and into the box, he squares the ball across to Lampard for a free shot, just the keeper to beat. Pick a spot Franky boy......But Lampard uses his left peg to shoot embarrassingly wide.

74 mins: It's an open game now. Boro want back into this and Chelsea are trying to exploit the space. I say 'trying' as they are not committing enough bodies into forward areas. Lampard strikes a free kick from 30 yards and Turnbull spills it to Kalou who can only fall over and fail to find Anelka in front of an empty net.

76 mins: Thank you for your concern Andrew. The first half was painful but at least its openning up a bit now.

Chelsea should be 2 up by now but I feel they are hanging back and trying to walk off with the one goal. Thats a dangerous game to play. Drogba has made the difference but he is not finding the support he wants once he gets into a good position with the ball. Lampard shoots from 20 yards with his left and the ball goes narrowly wide.


A Lampard corner finds Kalou all on his own 6 yards from goal and he heads into the empty net.

Everyone was crowding at the near post and Kalou stood alone.

Chelsea 2, Middlesbrough 0

Kalou is rewarded for his double haul by being immediately substituted for Deco.

86 mins: Huge cheers at Stamford Bridge as the scoreboard shows news from Wigan. Oh dear poor Liverpool.

Chelsea have been better in the last 10 mins, playing some nice football. Passing with purpose and not just passing back and fourth. Still, they have not created much today and look a shadow of the Chelsea that made the final of the CL and competed for the Premiership title last year. They look old, and exhausted of genuine ideas.

They have certainly made hard work of this one.

89 mins: Chelsea probing for a third and they may get it. Bosingwa and Cole are finally getting forward down the flanks and sending crosses in. Boro look dodgy at the back.

SUB: Anelka is off and Miroslav Stoch is on. The young forward will get a run out as the punters head for the exits.

93 mins: Mr Probert puckers up and blows his whistle. This one is done. Chelsea didn't really start playing football until 20 mins from the end. With the possession they enjoyed they really should have buried this one much earlier. They seemed content to just keep the ball. Sorry Chelsea fans, based on this performance I'd be worrying about 3rd and 4th place. Forget the title, you just are not good enough. Better teams would have made you pay for your reluctance to create chances tonight.

FULL TIME: Chelsea 2, Middlesbrough 0

Ok...I'm out. until next time.....


Read more on "EPL Liveblog: Chelsea v. Boro'"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

I'll 'fess up. Before finding this shirt, I had no reason to think that Carlisle United might be a goldmine for future posts. Then I went to some of my other bad shirt haunts and, let me tell you, they have some horrors out there. For about 10 years, they could do nothing right. This week's shirt falls smack-dab in the middle of that time.

I think the thing that irks me most about this shirt is not the color scheme, though that is a consideration, but the sponsor. This faux-3D lettering is just too much for a shirt that has a lot going on already. As best as I can tell from the other shirts from the era, the eddie STOBART sponsorship did not use this gimmick, so why use it here?

The reason, if I had to guess, is because the striping begs for it. When there is that much going on with just the colors of the shirt, the sponsor probably felt the need to try to stand out a little more. Hence the use of the trick that I was very fond of in P6 to get my posters to POP in class.

Why so many colors anyway? The Carlisle home shirt is usually mostly blue, with some white and red accents thrown in. Perhaps it's down to being the most lonely club in the league. If my memory of geography and teams serves (and by no means do I guarantee it does), Carlisle is the most isolated club in the top four tiers of British football. I don't know why that would make the club choose such busy shirts, but it's what I have in the time frame allotted to me.

So, anyway, if you are a budding Trustifarian and what to show off your love of both Jah and footy, and can fit into a '90s English Small shirt, go bid on the ebays. Three quid plus shipping is not a bad price to pay for letting people know that even though your mom will not let you grow dreadlocks yet, you will still smoke pot with them and would really like to move to Asheville in the future.

Read more on "The Good, The Bad, The WTF"...

More problems with FIFA tournaments in Africa

It's a full day here at UF. News is pouring in from all angles, I owe you another horrendous jersey, and there are EPL matches still to come. We are doing our best not to be caught slacking, and appreciate you keeping up.

The next Under 17 World Cup is due to be held this fall in Nigeria. A FIFA delegation, led by beloved (not really) CONCACAF head Jack Warner, recently spent a week in country assessing Nigeria's readiness to host the event. The result: not so good.

2009 is not the first time Nigeria has been chosen to host a Youth World Cup. Back in 1995, they were supposed to host the Under 20 version, but that got pulled because of concerns about medical facilities. Nigeria did host the same tournament four years later, without any apparent hiccups.

Still, FIFA has set a precedent of pulling tournaments if the host nation does not appear ready. Besides Nigeria, China also had a tournament pulled--the 2003 Women's World Cup--because of health concerns associated with the SARS virus. As the NYT Goal blog points out, this report does not bode well for Nigeria.

If the youth tournament is indeed moved, South African officials must get worried. FIFA set up its calendar so that three African nations would host international tournaments in succession, culminating with the 2010 World Cup. If one of these gets pulled because of poor planning and follow through, could South Africa be next? We have already highlighted some of the problems South Africa faces in the final 500 days of preparation to the World Cup. Surely they will redouble their efforts to get everything they can in tip-top shape before the dry run of the Confederations Cup. Which, by the way, kicks off in less than five months. You can place your bets however you like, but I'd take something as low as 10 to 1 that both of these tournaments will be moved.

(Image from FIFA)

Read more on "More problems with FIFA tournaments in Africa"...

UF Quick Throw: Mickey Mouse references cost 500 pounds

The FA, Kings of Useless Punishments, have brought down the hammer on Joe Kinnear for his comments towards Martin Atkinson. Now, how much of that goes to Disney for licensing fees?

[The Sun]

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Mickey Mouse references cost 500 pounds"...

Things Might Get Even Worse for Citeh

Karma truly is a bitch. Manchester City has made a mockery of the transfer window by attempting to sign big name players, only to find themselves bidding against themselves and, in the end, having not a lot to show for it.

Now it is karma's turn. First there was the investigation of Robinho. Now things might get a whole lot worse. The Guardian Sport blog has taken notice of news surfacing in Italy that Man City used Kia Joorabchian (pictured) as part of their negotiating team on the Kaka transfer. As you may recall, Joorabchian was the man at the center of l'affair d'Tevez et Mascherano.

The problem is that Joorabchian is still not a licensed agent and, as the FA has made clear, that is a strict no-no. For instance, Luton was docked 10 points as part of their punishment over the summer, and the FA has sent out at least two strongly worded reminders to all clubs.

So far Citeh is being understandably coy about Joorabchian's involvement in the Kaka negotiations. However, given the strong stance that the FA has taken on using unlicensed agents, there appears to be some possibility of an investigation and eventual point deduction coming their way. If nothing else, it's simply more evidence that Man City are groping in the dark as they set about rebuilding their team. And that probably won't help Citeh convince more world-class players to sign.

photo: Daily Mail

Read more on "Things Might Get Even Worse for Citeh"...

Your Nives Celzijus Update

Nives Celzijus, the center-circle sexpot, has more to offer than just salacious stories. She also has a music video. Or is it just an extended ad for a spa? I don't know. Nives writhes around in lingerie with a man. Careful though...NSFW due to man-butt and probably NSFW for the scantily clad woman.

If you had any doubt about Nives' talent, there's another video after the jump of her singing and shaking her moneymakers.

Read more on "Your Nives Celzijus Update"...

1,032 more reasons to hate Manchester United

We're all scornful and loathing of Man U at the moment, but Edwin van der Sar's record between the posts is worth some kudos, regardless of the fact that we wished it ended before it began.

It's been 11 games since the Dutchman let one in (and yes, it obviously requires the help of the 10 bastards playing in front of him), the last being Samir Nasri's strike at the beginning of November. Oh, the good old days. Man U were 4th, but a run of 9 wins in their last 11, including 6 straight wins on the trot, has them at the top where they can piss all over the rest of us.

If they hold Everton scoreless for the first 72 minutes on Saturday, Van der Sar will take the all-time English league record from the awesomely-named Steve Death, a record that's stood for almost 30 years.

So, Everton, I implore you: please don't let this happen. I'll put recent misery aside if it means that Fergie's team don't get their grubby claws into yet another league milestone. I don't think I could handle it.

After the jump, that goal, and the Sky FanZone video showing a very depressed United fan. Hope we see that pain again at Old Trafford some time soon.

Read more on "1,032 more reasons to hate Manchester United"...

Adriano Gets Separation From His Defender

In Brazilian footballer news not involving nightclubs, surprisingly, Inter Milan's Adriano is facing a 3-game ban for punching Sampdoria defender Daniele Gastaldello in the gut.

Read more on "Adriano Gets Separation From His Defender"...

UF Quick Throw: Hopefully, the Becks saga will only last 6 more days

The Galaxy put a clause in Becks' loan to AC Milan so it can't be extended beyond March 9th. So, if AC wants him, it'll need to be sorted out before the January window closes. Here's hoping it does, for all our sakes

[The Sun]

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Hopefully, the Becks saga will only last 6 more days"...

Corinthians Clearly Underestimated Ronaldo

Now more Brazilian footballer news involving nightclubs.

Remember that Ronaldo fella, not the prancing, diving uber-gelled winger, the one with multiple world cup trophies, multiple Player of the Year honors, multiple devastating knee injuries, multiple bad haircuts, leading World Cup goal scorer, tranny hooker scandal. No? The fat one? Yeah, now you remember.

The Original injured his knee last February with AC Milan and has been rehabbing his knee back in Brazil. He recently signed a contract with Corinthians. Now the Brazilian club is somewhat concerned with the Original's late-night habits. Seems the Original was photographed leaving a club at six a.m. the day of his physical with Corinthians.

It is always good to give the doctor an accurate representation of your lifestyle.

Read more on "Corinthians Clearly Underestimated Ronaldo"...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Quick Throw: Robinho Should Have Signed With Manchester United

Late breaking news, but it appears Robinho may have signed with the wrong Manchester football club, you know the club that throws parties where girls are allegedly raped but the players receive no punishment, yeah that one. Mr. I-want-to-visit-home-so-I-am-walking-out has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault stemming resulting from an alleged attack in a Leeds nightclub.

Ah yes, the nightclub, the downfall of many footballers.

Read more on "Quick Throw: Robinho Should Have Signed With Manchester United"...

Tuesday Backpasses: Does this look like a mug shot to you?

L'Equipe gets fooled by spoof website. Is the idea of Robbie Fowler smuggling cocaine so believable? [The Beautiful Game]
Why would Sir Alex be embarrassed by this? You think he'd cheer it. (NSFW, taste) [Off The Post]
San Jose get a new shirt sponsor. What is it with MLS and pyramid-style businesses as sponsors? [Soccer By Ives]
The real reason Gareth Bale can't bag an EPL win? WAGs. That and not getting off the bench against Stoke [Dirty Tackle]

Sacha Kljestan's reported price--£2 million [MLS Rumors]
PROTIP: Don't celebrate a goal until you are entirely sure the other team is not going the other way after the ref disallowed your goal [101 Great Goals via The Offside]
So, if Adu does dazzle while on the pitch, why doesn't he ever get out there for Monaco? Is he the worst practice player ever? Cue the Allen Iverson [Soccernet]
Mark Lawrenson points out the obvious, skips the necessary [The Spoiler]
Mexican fans (well, "journalists") are turning to voodoo to attempt to bring a win in USA match [KLTV]

That guy up there? He's the grand prize for some desperate Richmond-area woman. Richmond Kickers continue to stay classy [Midlothian Exchange]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Does this look like a mug shot to you?"...

Will He Stay or Will He Go

As we noted below, the least suprising piece of news in the history of mankind broke this morning. AC Milan have put in a bid to make the loan deal for David Beckham permanent. They've even put a price on his head—the cost of his salary this upcoming season.

Guess they are thinking they have all the hand.

In our increasing efforts to go All-Becks All-the-Time we polled ourselves (and 10% of us enjoyed it) on whether Becks would stay in MLS or go to Europe. Although technically, he's already in Europe, so that's where he would be staying. Confused?

Don't be, just remember if he goes there will be trouble, but if he stays it will be double.

We were alarmingly consistent in our assessment of the situation. Even the two people who think he is staying are having it both ways and also think he is going.

Following along for the reasoning—if you can call it that—after the jump.

Lingering Bursitis: Go

It puts him closer to Fabio, and closer to short-term success, which at his age is a necessity. He's no time to start building franchises. Wins now, trophies now, out on a high note.

Price: $5.75 million.

Bigus: Go
He has to leave now if he wants to go to the World Cup. Capello has stated he must be at a top club and fit. Capello's number two said yesterday that being at Milan is doing him a big favor with regards to an England place. Beckham has stated he wants to go to the WC and its a priority for him. Afterwards he may as well be retired as he will have reached all of his goals.

He ain't coming back, to do so will put the nail in his South Africa dream. He may, however leave the door open for a return to the mls after the WC. If he'd thought and England come back was possible when McClaren dumped him, he would never have joined the MLS. He wont be back until Aug 2010.

Price: £2 million (and a promise to return to LA for a 3 year deal after the WC).

Sven: Go

For the glory-hunting fashionistas that are the Beckhams, Milan is a straight-up(ish) swap for LA. As for the quality of football, well, puh-lease.... In the chase to catch Bobby Moore (Becks doesn't have 18 caps left in him to overtake Peter Shilton) for 2nd in all-time caps and make the 2010 WC (to be held in a country other than South Africa), Becks chances increase exponentially by playing in a real league.
And who knows, maybe Maldini will give him the keys to the Fountain of Youth, giving him a crack at Shilton after all.

Price: None given

Spectator: Stay (sort of)

Becks tries to have it both ways: extends his loan with Milan through the end of the Serie A season, goes back to the Galaxy in May where he plays a knackered, dreadful half season before returning to Milan permanently in November and can rightfully claim he gave it a try in the U.S. but MLS is simply utter crap.

Price: None given

The Fan's Attic: Go
I think first and foremost in Beckham's mind is soccer and soccer at a high level.  Becks wants to continue on the national team, it's a driving goal for him as evidenced by his statements and actions in going to Milan to get first team action to help with his place on the national team.  Becks wants one more shot at World Cup glory and he can only get this by playing in Milan at the top level.
You only have so much time in your career to play at the top and right now Beckham has a chance to return to the top after playing subpar soccer in the USA.  He has life left in his legs (although it is definitely waning) and his right boot has lots of life.  There is no reason for him to return to LA, except money.
Problem is, he has already made a ton of money and it appears this cash cow may not be producing as much milk as before.  Jersey sales are down, I believe; the little games in Asia and Australia aren't selling as many tickets.  If he goes to Milan I'm sure he gets a cut of his new jersey sales which will undoubtedly increase.  He can make money in Italy.
Moreover, I think the Beckhams dream of USA stardom has been dealt the death blow.  In two years, they really haven't made a dent.  Yes, they are well known, but they just haven't done anything to increase their visibility and nothing they will do will change that now.  There is no upside to it.  And, Beckham can still try to come back and make a lasting impression on US Soccer after he finishes his career through ownership of a franchise or cooperation with MLS.
Plus, this courtship has gone on too long between Milan and Beckham.  I believe the two have gone on too long and will suffer a terminal case of blue balls if the deal doesn't go through.  Plus, Milan has to make up for the lost 100 million pounds from the Kaka deal someway.  This deal has to happen.  You can't just stop pissing midstream.

Price: £9.5 million pounds.

Autoglass: Stay (Sort of)
Beckham is leaving, just not now. He can play out most of the Spring for Milan this year, and then join them on a loan in the fall (toward a permanent next January, remember that he will not be cup tied), while still having plenty of time to get in one more season in LA. By doing this, he will be playing competitive football straight through AND can have a good year in MLS and not risk being viewed as a failure in the US. 
England? He'll play a good run now in Milan and then join in the Fall.  He's given Fabio what he needs.  And playing in LA in the summer, rather than simply training with England, just can't hurt him with Fabio.  Beckham can work all this through with him.  Also, who's to say that he can't get a better opportunity than with Milan?  With time and the Galaxy's help, he would be in a better negotiating position with clubs in Europe.  Now, it's Milan.  And playing time and money on Milan are not necessarily going to be best for him next year.  The situation is volatile. 
Then there is the money.  Leaving now reduces his leverage on his assorted marketing streams and on his very important image.  Staying another season let's him work through an orderly transition.  And the transfer fee to the Galaxy, I think, will be bigger if he pursues what I think he will pursue.
Now, none of us know what he's thinking.  It's all speculation.  But I predict he'll stay for one more season (or most of a season) with the Galaxy before returning to Italy or England.  I think that everyone, Beckham, England, the Galaxy, his future club will come out further ahead in this scenario.

Price: None given

ü75: Go

No looking back. If only we had all watched that Posh reality show, things would be different.

Price: £5 mill. 

NY Kid: Go

Becks is leaving because he has to know that performing at Milan is his ticket to getting to WC 2010. With the LA Galaxy at the bottom of the table, and the decided lack of excitement surrounding he and Posh as "Hollywood royalty" he has no reason to stay.
Price: $6.25 million.

Ian: Go

MLS and Milan will work out some sort of loan scenario without officially announcing a transfer until the Galaxy season is underway (that way they can still use Becks to sell season tickets and such). I think if the team were better in Carson then he would be tempted to stay, but Beck's realizes that the reality of the cap means he will never have good enough teammates with what he makes. I could definitely see him back in MLS as an owner/technical director type in a few years.

Price: $8 million

Precious Roy: Go

Anything to keep Flamini on the bench. That French turncoat is dead to me. As for Becks, he can't defend, he can't tackle, he can't run at people. Why people care so much about him still is beyond me.

Price: $8M.

Read more on "Will He Stay or Will He Go"...

EPL Open Thread: The Day The Drama Died


Ladies and gents, this is the day the EPL gets its back broken. The signs have been there, and now it's finally time to concede defeat. With every team beneath them looking beaten and stricken by internal strife, today is the day that Manchester United seize control of the league lead, never to look back.

Yep, they're at West Brom, staring at the chance to go three points clear at the top. It's clear on recent form that no-one else really fancies the stress and strain of a sustained trophy hunt, and so Fergie's maudlin band of sulkers and mercenaries will duly oblige in taking the proverbial candy from the EPL's babies.

To add history to the pot, if they stop West Brom from scoring tonight (at least for the first 84 minutes or so), they'll break Chelsea's record of playing 1,025 minutes in the EPL without conceding a goal. A truly sickening statistic, one that we'll never hear the end of, I'm sure.

So there it is folks. Bid adieu to the 2008/09 EPL season. You sure were a fun ride for a while.

Four games tonight, six tomorrow. Tonight also sees Villa look to keep pace, and an early-doors relegation six-pointer between 'Arry and Tony Pulis.

Leave your title hopes and eulogies in the comments. Lineups and whatnot after the jump.


Come visit sunny Portsmouth: the place where away wins are made

Portsmouth v. Aston Villa, KO: 3pm
Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson, Pennant, Davis, Mullins, Belhadj, Crouch, Kanu.
Subs: Begovic, Nugent, Kaboul, Pamarot, Utaka, Mvuemba, Armand Traore.

Aston Villa: Friedel, Cuellar, Knight, Davies, Luke Young, Gardner, Petrov, Barry, Milner, Agbonlahor, Heskey.
Subs: Guzan, Sidwell, Harewood, Delfouneso, Salifou, Shorey, Osbourne.

PREDICTION: Now that Villa have Emile "I distract defenders so my teammates can score" Heskey, this'll be a simple trip south for M O'Neill, especially because Fratton Park is becoming the EPL's Convalescence Home. Down on your luck? Visit Portsmouth! They'll gladly oblige 3 points. Portsmouth 0, Aston Villa 3

Sunderland v. Fulham, KO: 2.45pm
Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney, Malbranque, Whitehead, Tainio, Reid, Cisse, Jones.
Subs: Colgan, Edwards, Diouf, Chopra, Leadbitter, Healy, McShane.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Etuhu, Murphy, Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora.
Subs: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Gera, Stoor, Andreasen, Kallio, Baird.

PREDICTION: Um, home win? Rag on the Mackems all you want, but they're decent at home. I reckon Kenwyne's about to score again -- after all, it's been about two weeks since his last. Sunderland 2, Fulham 1

'Arry: forever beautiful

Tottenham v. Stoke, KO: 3pm
Tottenham: Cudicini, Corluka, Dawson, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Zokora, Modric, Bentley, Pavlyuchenko, Defoe.
Subs: Alnwick, Bale, Huddlestone, Gunter, Campbell, Taarabt, Rocha.

Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Delap, Amdy Faye, Whelan, Etherington, Cresswell, Beattie.
Subs: Simonsen, Griffin, Lawrence, Fuller, Kitson, Pugh, Sonko.

PREDICTION: Ugh, I have to say Spurs will take this one, despite all logic processing to the contrary. I mean, they were worse than awful last weekend, and Stoke have been rather tough to break down of late (cue my uncontrollable tears at 4 points lost to these Potter bastards), but 'Arry has a way of fooling everyone with some false hope right when it's needed most. Plus, they just bought some former players back! How could they fail!?!?! Spurs 1, Stoke 0

West Brom v. Manchester United, KO: 2.45pm
West Brom: Carson, Hoefkens, Pele, Donk, Robinson, Zuiverloon, Borja Valero, Koren, Brunt, Simpson, Fortune.
Subs: Kiely, Cech, Bednar, Kim, Dorrans, Filipe Teixeira, Morrison.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, O'Shea, Park, Carrick, Giggs, Ronaldo, Berbatov, Tevez.
Subs: Kuszczak, Brown, Tosic, Scholes, Fletcher, Gibson, Eckersley.

PREDICTION: Squeaky, late, deflected away winner for Fergie and his merry band of bastards. It won't be easy, but like all things drenched in Satanism, they have a way of achieving their nefarious goals. Berbatov will bump one in 5 minutes from time. West Brom 0, Manchester United 1

Read more on "EPL Open Thread: The Day The Drama Died"...

'Arry Redknapp, explained

At UF, some of us are getting a little sick of 'Arry. While his soundbites are a constant source of entertainment, his conduct when it comes to unsettling the dregs of the EPL for his fiendish White Hart Lane rebuilding job is becoming rather tedious. I swear he's penned love letters for just about every ex-Spurs player and sold them all to the Daily Mail.

Barely a day goes by without yet another public remark about a player he's in love with!

Thankfully, when he's not professing fondness for someone at another club, he's busy confusing the press with his circular speak, and a smart man named Jim Duggan at Topspurs decided to put 'Arry and his words into a handy wallchart.

We salute his work, and his keen sense of satire!

Chart after the jump.

Click to see it full-size

Read more on "'Arry Redknapp, explained"...

UF Quick Throw: Beckham Prefers Playing with Kaka to Playing with Shit (Like Eddie Lewis) - With an Update!

Apparently AC Milan are looking to make the Beckham deal permanent. I guess scoring his first goal on Sunday made Becks appear more attractive to Galliani, and MLS could be looking at a serious transfer fee.

UPDATED: $4.5 million for opening bid.

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Beckham Prefers Playing with Kaka to Playing with Shit (Like Eddie Lewis) - With an Update!"...

The Ayatollah Forbids Coed Soccer

Sadly, this was the closest that Farah, Atefeha, and their friends would get to the pitch.

Every once in a while we need to be reminded of how easy we have it here in the United States. For example, on Friday nights I play rec league soccer in an Over-30 Coed league. After the matches (which my team dominates, of course), I very rarely fear being arrested (unless we go out drinking afterwards) or fined several thousand dollars. Life in Iran, however, is somewhat different.

Last week top Iranian club Esteghlal scheduled a friendly match between its female club team and its male youth club team. The match was played at Marqoobkar stadium and officiated by club employees, with the youth club winning 7-0.

Now, despite the fact that President Ahmadinejad has said that it is acceptable for women to attend soccer games (something which the Ayatollah has said is completely unacceptable), virtually no one has ever even hinted that it was permissible for men and women to play against each other. In fact, religious rules in Iran forbid physical contact between unrelated males and females.

So, once they heard about this lascivious match, most people weren't too happy. In the end, 4 people were fined and suspended. Mohammad Khorramgah, who is the club's technical manager, was suspended for a year and fined$5,000. Saeedeh Pournader, the women's team head coach, was suspended for a year (but not fined? perhaps she doesn't earn any money in her position). The youth team's head coach, Mostafa Ardestani, earned himself a six-month suspension and a $2,000 fine. Ali Reza Mansourian, the manager of the club's soccer academy, was only given a written rebuke but still received a fine of $5,000.

Given the alternatives I would think these individuals feel that they got off lightly.

Read more on "The Ayatollah Forbids Coed Soccer"...

UF Quick Throw: Not So Fast, Gooners! (with an update)

It appears that there's still an obstacle or two for Arsenal to overcome in the Arshavin deal, notably Arshavin himself. He wants more money! He kinda needs it, I guess; in order to leave Zenit, he needs to buy himself out, so why not ask the new club for more moolah with which to do it?

All those dreams of yet another sexy footballer at Emirates hang in the balance. Maybe Arsene should use the wait to look for a midfielder that can tackle.

[Guardian Sport]

Oh, and then there's the comments from Arsene mentioning how there's no such deal in place with Zenit or Arshavin. Can someone give us the straight talk on this? Actually, don't bother. We're all sick of the story.

[Sky Sports]

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Not So Fast, Gooners! (with an update)"...

South American Soccer is Crazy, Pt. 2,109,111

Yep, it's their real logo. Honest.

It's Argentina's turn, thanks to some feisty barras bravas who'd had enough of the recent turmoil and leadership shake-ups at Newell's Old Boys, one of the country's most popular clubs.

It appears that their own fans had endured enough, and decided to vent in the best way possible: an old-fashioned riot!

From Reuters via The Guardian:
The gang, numbering around 30 and armed with guns and baseball bats, were believed to belong to a faction of the Rosario-based club's own supporters, officials added. Twenty-one people were arrested.

Newell's treasurer Jorge Ricobelli told local media that the gang burst into administrative officers at the club's Parque Independencia stadium where new members were enrolling.

They then moved on to the barbecue area and a covered gymnasium, forcing members to leave, vandalising property and firing shots at a tree and a water tank, reports said.
Man, imagine if this happened across the EPL. There are plenty of clubs that could benefit from some vandalism and trespassing. Here's looking at you, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, Portsmouth, and West Ham.

The old tactics of marching before kick-off, or staying in the stands after full-time to chant and wave banners just aren't cutting it anymore. No, if fans want their voice heard, you need to invade the barbecue area and fire shots at trees.

A valuable lesson from the die-hard fans of Newell's Old Boys.

Read more on "South American Soccer is Crazy, Pt. 2,109,111"...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Backpasses: Hubcap Thievas

It's not quite as catchy as Flagpole Sitta, but it will have to do.

Millwall facing sanctions because their fans are the worst in England, still. Here's video [Dirty Tackle]
More video. Herr Ballack (not the midget from In Bruges, which I quite enjoyed) pulls a Randy Johnson [The Spoiler]
More boo hoos for today. Man U sad about injuries, fixture congestion [BBC]
Luton Town may be docked more points. Bigus says the fans are right to be pissed, as this ref is bollocks. Cites five examples of horrific calls this year. Ask him for details [BBC]

While all Liverpudlians may not be thieves statistically, Manchester United fans have a pretty swell song for them nonetheless [EPL Talk]

Read more on "Monday Backpasses: Hubcap Thievas"...