Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Bootroom: Let's Go Sunderland (Open Thread)

Let's not beat around the bush here, there is no love lost for ManU here at UF. We would all like to see them go down in a flaming wreck. Too soon? Sadly, it does not appear they will be obliging us this season, but that does not mean we can't root for Sunderland to reverse its form this year that has provided only 1 win since I opened my new girls on cars calendar.

So, pretty please Blackcats, get that Trinidadian & Tobagon sensation Kenwyne Jones back in goal scoring form and baptize the Red Devil backline.

After the jump, select matches.


Saturday, April 11, 2009
7:45 ET Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers
10:00 ET Middlesbrough v Hull City
10:00 ET Portsmouth v West Bromwich Albion
10:00 ET Sunderland v Manchester United
10:00 ET Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United
10:00 ET Wigan Athletic v Arsenal
10:00 ET Chelsea v Bolton Wanderers
12:30 ET Stoke City v Newcastle United

Sunday, April 12, 2009
9:00 ET Aston Villa v Everton
11:10 ET Manchester City v Fulham


10:00 ET Swansea City v Norwich City

League Two

10:00 ET Lincoln City v Luton Town


10:00 ET Aberdeen v Inverness Caledonian Thistle

La Liga

Saturday, April 11, 2009
14:00 ET Barcelona v Recreativo Huelva
16:00 ET Villarreal v Málaga

Sunday, April 12, 2009
11:00 ET Osasuna v Athletic Bilbao
11:00 ET Sporting Gijon v Valencia
11:00 ET Racing Santander v Real Betis
11:00 ET Mallorca v Almeria
11:00 ET Real Madrid v Valladolid
11:00 ET Numancia v Espanyol
13:00 ET Sevilla FC v Getafe
15:00 ET Deportivo La Coruña v Atlético Madrid


Saturday, April 11, 2009
9:30 ET TSG Hoffenheim v VfL Bochum
9:30 ET Borussia Dortmund v FC Cologne
9:30 ET Energie Cottbus v Arminia Bielefeld
9:30 ET Borussia Monchengladbach v VfL Wolfsburg
9:30 ET Hannover 96 v Hertha Berlin
9:30 ET Bayern Munich v Eintracht Frankfurt
9:30 ET Schalke 04 v Karlsruhe

Sunday, April 12, 2009
11:00 ET Bayer Leverkusen v Werder Bremen
11:00 ET VfB Stuttgart v Hamburg SV

Serie A

Saturday, April 11, 2009
9:00 ET Napoli v Atalanta
9:00 ET Fiorentina v Cagliari
9:00 ET Torino v Catania
9:00 ET Chievo Verona v AC Milan
9:00 ET Internazionale v Palermo
9:00 ET Lazio v AS Roma
9:00 ET Lecce v Sampdoria
9:00 ET Bologna v Siena
14:30 ET Genoa v Juventus

Sunday, April 12, 2009
10:00 ET Reggina v Udinese

Read more on "The Bootroom: Let's Go Sunderland (Open Thread)"...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pau-lo Can You Go.

Q.P.R. and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone must have been really desperate to get rid of manager Paulo Sousa. The excuse they used to sack the former Portuguese international was so daft and so pathetic that I thought it was a joke.

Sousa was fired for divulging secret and sensitive information. Woaahhhhhhhh. Paulo, WTF man? You leaked the clubs finances to the press? No? You told the fans that the club was being moved to Scotland? No? You found out about the underground missile base hiding below the 'school end' at Loftus Rd? No? Then why did they give you the boot? Oh...You complained that you didn't know anything about Dexter Blackstock's loan move to Nottingham Forest! Oh, that will do it alrigh...wait!

It is a decision for the board and only they can answer it. I'm not frustrated, I said from the first day I have to adapt and try to do my best with the players I have. - Paulo Sousa after Q.P.R.'s draw with Palace last Saturday.

What a sack-less bunch the Q.P.R. board must be. They are technically the richest team in the country and they look for lame arse excuses to fire the coach. Ecclestone should have just manned up, admitted he was after instant success and fired the guy because the team were not doing the business on the pitch. But that would have meant paying Sousa money. The remainder of his contract. This lowdown move is nothing short of disgusting and disrespectful. If talking about the players and the board to the press is a sackable offence then managers would be fired daily. Rafa would have been fired long ago. Sousa was basically just telling the truth. Maybe he shouldn't have but football managers often speak out of turn and say what they mean. They are not geniuses.

Napoleon in Rags tunes in for instant results.

Q.P.R.'s results haven't been great recently. They are currently 10th in the Colaship, 9 points from the playoffs. When Sousa was handed the reigns just 4 months ago he was told that he was expected to build a team. How he was supposed to do that and achieve success in just 26 games is just beyond me. Not as if they were struggling near the bottom is it?

Sousa is the 4th guy to get the chop at Loftus Rd since F1 a-hole, I mean Warhol-lookalike Ecclestone and his mate Flavio Briatore took over in September 2007.

One thing is for sure, managers are out the Q.P.R. door faster than Ecclestone's Renault Formula 1 cars. His racing team are currently 4th in the standings, a whopping 21 points off the top of the constructors table and rivals Brawn-Mercedes.


Read more on "Pau-lo Can You Go."...

Quick Throw: David Villa to Chelsea, or not?

Anatomy of a Transfer Rumor: because a lot can happen in 3 hours.

Friday morning, EARLY: Chelsea prep a 45 million pound bid for David Villa. [Guardian Sport]

Friday, 5.37am: No, sorry... Chelsea prepare 40 million pound bid for David Villa. [Daily Mail]

Friday, 6.42am: David Villa is adamant that he doesn't want to leave Valencia for Chelsea, but he'll be ready to discuss his future should a suitable bid come in for his services. [Guardian Sport]

Friday, 8.10am: David Villa says he wants to see out his crazy contract at Valencia. [Daily Mail]

In less than 150 minutes (or roughly the time it takes for Alex Ferguson to complete a regeneration in his wicked biochamber that's fueled by the souls of children), you damn journos have messed with the hearts of middle-class Chelsea fans everywhere.

For shame, Daily Mail and Guardian. Foooooorrrr shaaaaame.

Read more on "Quick Throw: David Villa to Chelsea, or not?"...

Zombedine Zidane

Before waking up fully to the horror that Chelsea have an outside shot at a treble this season (what a difference a fortnight makes), enjoy this little slice of nightmare from a French website, Portraits of the Living Deads, devoted to the painstaking drawing and coloring of what famous people would look like if they were zombies.

I must admit, it's a thought that has crossed my mind several times. What if Diego Maradona snorted brains instead of cocaine? Would Bill Gates still be such a great philanthropist if he joined the legions of the walking dead?

Looking at Zidane above, I feel confident that if he tried another headbutt, his head would come clean from his atrophied neck. Still, look out Marco!

The tubby Argie after the jump, along with another, far more troubling sketch.

Zombie Maradona couldn't be a much worse manager than the current one, could he?

At the back of archives are zombie estimations for several famous dead people, including John Bonham, Buddy Holly, people like that.

The most troubling one, as pointed out by tipster Brian (that we now echo), was Marc-Vivien Foé. You may remember the tragedy with Foe back in 2003. The then-Man City loanee and Cameroon midfielder suffered a fatal heart attack on the pitch during a Confederations Cup game against Colombia, caused by an undetected heart condition. The French artist drew him in his Cameroon kit.

Bit much, perhaps?

Read more on "Zombedine Zidane"...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: Death!

Tonight's theme is brought to you by '70s Detroit proto-punk band Death, which is what happened to Man City's season today in Hamburg.

Girl fight! [Dirty Tackle]
A pro-soccer column... in an American newspaper! [Chicago Tribune]
Forbes' 25 most valuable soccer franchises [The Offside]

Maurice Edu scored his first goal for Rangers [SI]
Adebayor is actually kind of boring [Off the Post]
Red Star - Partizan riot.... It's like Escape from New York meets Mad Max [The Offside]
An interview with FSC VP David Sternberg [Soccer Lens]
How to make the UEFA/Europa Cup interesting... A single game elimination tournament! [The Times Online]

And finally, Ford Field, Michigan Stadium and Michigan State Stadium considered for possible World Cup sites. [Free Press]

(Please save your tired Detroit sucks comments for someone who cares.)

Read more on "Thursday Backpasses: Death!"...

What is Yooour Brazilian Futebol Name??

My destiny

If there was ever any doubt that the internet is a serious place utilized, optimized, and inhabited by serious people offering important tools for success in modern life, then allow us to present to you BrazilName. Don't be put off by the minimalist design-- function clearly takes precedence over form-- just enjoy the output... you won't be the first (by press time, the page has roped in some 5.9 million visitors. Can UF get them over the Six Million mark? SIM!)

So check out some of our names (after the jump), then go get yours and we'll see who's destined for Seleção Brasileira glory.

Let's see how clever y'all are... can you match the BrazilName to UF'er?

(Good looks to Bigus on the images)

His favorite Brazilian is really a Croatian...

No Lucas, but awkward and scrappy when necessary...

Really, he's just an uglier Garrincha...

Wants to vacation with Corinne on a Brazilian beach...

Not much of a stretch here. The yellow suits him (relatively speaking)...

Perhaps he'll be trading in his drink of choice for some Cachaça...

Read more on "What is Yooour Brazilian Futebol Name??"...

Ancelotti to Chelsea? The Papers Seem to Think It's a Done Deal

Ancelotti and Hiddink.... Which one is which???

The Sun has reported that Ancelotti is definitely going to Chelsea this summer. As these things are want to do, this news has quickly been picked up around the world as fact. Done deal. Signed and Delivered.

But you'll have to forgive us if we are still a little suspect.

First off, Milan has denied that Ancelotti is leaving.

Second, despite Hiddink's prostrations that he is definitely heading back to Russia, if Chelsea continue on their current run than I'm sure Abromovich will make Guus an offer he can't refuse. He just seems like the right man for the job. (Want proof? Just compare the post-game interview Hiddink gave after Chelsea beat Liverpool to any that Scolari gave during his tenure.... Scolari always looked like he was having a Maalox moment, while Hiddink looked like everything went according to his plans.)

Third, it's the Sun for criminy's sake.

And fourth, this move would violate Spectator's First Rule of European Football: No sane person would ever leave Italy for England except under extraordinary circumstances.

But there you have it. Summer rumors will be summer rumors: Either they happen or they fizzle out and are replaced by the next surefire, it-definitely-will-happen move. Like C-Ron to Real Madrid.

Read more on "Ancelotti to Chelsea? The Papers Seem to Think It's a Done Deal"...

Quick Throw: Injuries abound

Shed a tear if you can for these ailing fellows...

Gallas to miss the rest of the season with MCL-knack; Clichy out 2 weeks.
[Guardian Sport]

Steven Gerrard to have a scan on his groin. Scouse nation holds their breath.
[Guardian Sport]

DaMarcus Beasley took one in the ribs, presumably out for a while.
[BBC Sport]

Wayne Rooney might miss the weekend with a nasty rib complaint of his own.
[The Sun]

Adriano? Not dead.
[The Sun]

Read more on "Quick Throw: Injuries abound"...

Steve Zakuani Is Loving Seattle

The UF interview series returns with its second interview with a number one MLS draft pick. Steve Zakuani of the surprisingly good Seattle Sounders was kind enough to take the time to answer our questions. Steve just scored his first professional goal last week against Toronto FC to help Seattle to an undefeated start to the season.

After the jump, Steve's answers. I implore you to read on, it's well worth your time.

First off, congratulations on the 3-0 start and your first professional goal last weekend against Toronto FC. What did it mean to you to score that first goal?

It meant a lot to me obviously because it's a goal I'll always remember. It's my first one, the first of many I hope, and it also came at an important time for the team. The first one is always the hardest one to put away, so I'm just glad I was able to be in the right place and finish off the play.

Your path to Seattle has been perhaps a bit unorthodox. How does a man born in Congo, raised in London and a member of the Arsenal youth team end up at the University of Akron and then Seattle?

It's been an incredible journey for me to get to where I am today. I left the Congo at the age of four and began playing club soccer in England when I was around seven or eight years old. In 1997, I signed for Arsenal's U10 team and played there for 5 years. I didn't make the cut there in the end, and sort of lost interest in football, and also suffered a serious knee injury that left me unable to play for 18 months. It wasn’t until late in 2004 that I began playing again. A friend whom I had played with at Arsenal invited me to play for the Independent Football Academy in London and from there I began to enjoy the game again, and I also began regaining my fitness and sharpness. Then in April of 2006, an assistant coach from Akron came to scout one of my teammates at IFA. I guess I had a good training session that day because he practically offered me a scholarship right afterwards. Despite not knowing much about college soccer, let alone Akron, I made the move to the States and it's obviously paid off.

You received a contract offer from Preston North End, but you ultimately decided to play in MLS instead. Why? What was it that made you stay stateside?

The nature of the MLS contract was very unique. I trained with Preston in the summer of 2008 and had a good time there, they kept tabs on me during the college season and when I decided to turn pro, they came with a very good offer, and so did MLS. The difference between the two offers was that the one from MLS included some money being put aside for me to continue my education either in the offseason or after my career. Seeing as I was two years into my degree, it definitely made sense for me to have that option. I also enjoy living in America and wanted to be a part of MLS because it's definitely a league on the rise.

Having just started your professional career, what has been the biggest difference between playing in college and playing in MLS? How different is the training in Europe as opposed to college and MLS?

The main difference between college and MLS is the speed and level of play. It's just a better standard. The league is filled with top level players, and good coaches, and I've noticed that most of the teams try and play football the right way with quick passing and moving. I feel I have adapted well to the level, I'm learning all the time, and I always remind myself that I'm only a couple of months in and so there is a long way to go. I think MLS is very similar to England in terms of the way the game is played. Both leagues are physical, fast, and end to end for the most part. The training I receive at Seattle is similar to what I've seen most English teams do, and obviously there are always little variations from coach to coach, but for the most part, it's very similar.

How do you find Seattle so far? What is your favorite/least favorite aspect of the city?

I like Seattle a lot. People told me it was similar to London in many ways, and they were right. It's a nice clean place with quite a few attractions, and there is always something to do. I love the fact that the entire city is behind us. Everybody knows about the Sounders and that means a lot to the players. When we see 30,000 people in the stadium, it drives us forward every minute of the game. The least favorite aspect so far has been the rain. Even though I am from London, I still don't like it when it rains, and so that's the one thing I wish there was less of.

How do the Seattle fans compare to other fans you have played in front of?

The fans have been first class. We've sold around 20,000 season tickets and every home game has been a sellout so far. We know they're behind us and it's great to play in front of them and feel their support. However, I've never come across supporters who can rival the English. Going to a game in England is an incredible experience, especially in the lower divisions because it's amazing how passionate some of those fans are. So I would say that for me, the English fans are the best, but Seattle has been great also, and the noise level in our stadium has really surprised me as well. It's incredibly loud at pitch level.

You are listed as a striker and were known as a goal scorer in college, but it seems because Seattle has Fredy Montero in great form, MLS veteran Nate Jaqua and Frederick Ljungberg returning from injury you will have to push out wide to get consistent playing time. Do you agree and is the wing a position you are comfortable or familiar with?

I'm very happy on the left. I played there at Arsenal, and it was always my preferred position. In college, because of the nature of the game, it made sense for me to be a forward, but I always knew that at the pro level I would probably play from the wing because it suits my playing style more. I like running with the ball and getting faced up, and obviously from the wing I get the opportunity to do that quite a lot.

Tell us about Coach Sigi Schmid. How much has he helped you grow as a player in the short time you have played under him?

He's obviously a very good coach with an impressive resume. Already in these early days I feel that he has taken my game to a different level than it was when I first arrived. Everyday in training he says something that makes me adjust my game, he definitely knows his stuff and so I feel that I am learning from a very good source. I am already a more responsible player, and I also understand that I can affect the game when I don't have the ball as much as I can when I do have it. For example, Sigi encourages me to make runs in behind defenders at the right times and in the right way, and it's those little things that help me adapt to the league.

Obviously there are off-field issues with which Fredy Montero is currently dealing. How do these types of issues affect the team and yourself personally? Is it really a distraction to the team or you?

We're aware of the situation but we are professionals and so we focus on playing football, We did that at Toronto, and we will keep doing it all year. There are always distractions but we channel them out and only think about playing. In regards to this situation, we obviously support Fredy, the whole team is behind him.

And now a few quick questions to end the interview.

What did you buy with your first professional paycheck?

Nothing fancy or flashy, a few clothes, and the rest is still sitting in my bank. I also got a few necessary things for my apartment, but apart from that, I haven't done much spending.

Who is your favorite footballer? Past and present?

There are a lot of players I have grown up admiring. I love the way Zidane played, I'm a big fan of Thierry Henry, and right now I try to watch as much Cristiano Ronaldo as I can. But there is one player who will always be my favorite player and that's Ronaldinho. What I saw him do at Barcelona between 2003-2006 was simply incredible. He could do everything. He was a great dribbler and passer, he was incredibly strong, he brought his teammates into the play and also took over games when the team needed it. He passed the ball with his back, he passed the ball facing the wrong direction, he put his free kicks under the wall, and also scored in the big games. I've never seen anyone play at such a high level so consistently.

Besides Seattle, which club is your favorite in the world?

It has to be Arsenal. I played there, I used to go and watch them, and lived near the stadium. I'm not the biggest fan anymore, but I do look out for their results and am always hoping they win.

If you weren’t playing soccer, what would you be doing?

I'd be in school somewhere. Probably in London because I wouldn't have gone to Akron, but I think I would be studying still. I would probably have a part time job on the side also to help pay for tuition and things like that.

Who do you model your play after, if anyone?

There's no one in particular but it's only natural to try and imitate the guys I most admire. If I see a player do something, I might try the same thing as well because I saw it work for them. But I don't pattern my game after any one player, I take a little bit from a few players.

You have a tradition of cutting a design into your hair prior to the start of the season, do you have any other traditions or superstitions before or during games?

Before a game I just try to get as relaxed as possible. I have my music playing on my iPod right up until it's time to go out for the warm up, and I usually try to visualize the game and try to picture what I want to see myself do. I also always pray before every game, usually right before we go out, that's the last thing I always do.

Steve, thank you so much for time. We wish you continued success and enjoy the Northwest Summer, which, in my opinion are the best you can find in the US.

Read more on "Steve Zakuani Is Loving Seattle"...

Autoglass speaks...

The busy Blues fan, Autoglass, took time out from his hectic gloating schedule to pen this missive from the road...

I’ve been traveling far too much lately. This week I found myself in Tampa when my beloved Chelsea came upon a critical Champions League tie at Anfield. Liverpool in the Champions League has become an April ritual. Those Blue and Red shirts are the crocuses of Spring. After the break, you get Autoglass’ Tampa travelogue.

I lived in New York for ten years. There, a Champions League session was two blocks away. Out and back in a scoot. There are twenty good football pubs in New York. Always one a short hop away. It spoils a guy.

I then moved to California. Still, options. More driving, but I watched John Terry cry not three miles from my office.

But I’m in Tampa this week and Chelsea visit Liverpool for a Champions League Quarter-Final. First, I needed to find a decent pub. That was easy. There is apparently exactly one. MacDinton’s is the clear choice. No disrespect to Tampa, but there is no second or third choice. If you’re in Tampa and any important match is at stake, just go to MacDinton’s.

By some miracle, my Wednesday afternoon was free work-wise. I cleared the time of any incursion, and made tracks for MacDinton’s. But late. I couldn’t get on the road until match time. I called Lingering Bursitis.

". Mate, you need to talk me in! I’m 15 mins from the pub!"

", I’ve got you covered."

We hang up. Not two minutes later, I’m on I-4 in Tampa and the phone rings…

"Fernando Torres, Liverpool’s number 9!" The bastard sings. Fuck. We’re behind and I’m not even there! Fuck! I know this movie. Liverpool rampant. Our season in tatters. Me at a strange footie pub pissing in my Guinness.

I make my way to MacDinton’s. Nice place in Tampa’s SoHo neighborhood (South Howard Avenue. Lame. But then, all such NoMaSoFoMoFu things are lame, even in New York.) They have free valet parking! And two outside bars with plenty of screens, pretty raven-haired Irish barmaids, and Florida sunshine. I settle in.

Outside sports bars. If you’ve been, you know. If you haven’t…it’s better than you are thinking. You really need to move somewhere warm…but you know that already, right?

Anyhoo, I settle into a lovely crowd. Red, Blue and hangers-on for Arsenal, United and, yes, Nottingham Forest... all in Tampa. (Bigus, the Forest dude convinced me that you are going down. I argued gamely for our Canaries. Up the City!)

At first, the lack of bile was unsettling. What is this Chelsea shirt doing chatting up this group of faux Scouse losers? Laughing? Enjoying the sunshine? Without trash talk and the ever-present electric risk of Glasgow kisses? Toto, we’re not in New York anymore.

Then, the match. Chelsea won going away. Rafa’s zonal marking left our Serb reserve fullback utterly unmarked for our equalizer AND our winner. Drogba then put in our third...the THIRD! (A third goal away in a Champions League tie is a heady thing, indeed) At Anfield. Hiddink ran out a 4-3-3 and ran at the Red back line. Liverpool were not up for it.

I wouldn’t have predicted it. Chelsea have been solid, but Liverpool have been the in-form side in Europe. My only hope was that Liverpool would return to Earth in this fixture. Oh, did they. They missed Mascherano massively. Essien utterly took Gerrard out of the match. Chelsea came forward in numbers. Ballack was majestic. Lampard, Kalou and, yes, Malouda were free in space and connecting.

Spring football can be a fickle mistress. Your club fights through the winter and find themselves, still, in 2 or 4 competitions. You’ve had your run and survived, sometimes even romped. But now, everything is running down to the quick. You come upon a bad run or injuries and - boom! - 7 or 10 days can take you out of everything. We’ve all been there. Hell, Arsenal has LIVED there these last five years.

Well, Liverpool woke up before this match right in the thick of the Champions League and in with a shout for the League. In 90 minutes, at home, they about crashed out of the CL and are left looking somehow farther up at United in the League. Devastating.

The best teams in Europe play 60 some-odd fixtures a year, and that’s beside their players’ international duty. Work, work, work, and then bad luck or bad form runs you out of everything in a sneeze. Brutal. Imagine the 2007 Patriots ruining three trophies with losses to three Giants. Ouch. Yet it happens every year in soccer.

MacDinton’s is a fantastic football pub. If you are in Tampa, look it up. Great crowd, velvety Guinness, and sunshine. Oh, and Chelsea won 3-1 at Anfield! Stevie G wandered by at the end looking for his pants! Carefree!!!!

Postscript: My favorite moment was meeting an Arsenal supporter wearing one of those “Kings of London” shirts. I got to say “That’s a really old shirt, isn’t it?” Get in.

Read more on "Autoglass speaks..."...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft

I'm filling in for ü75 on Backpasses for the rest of the week, so please save your complaints until he gets back, mmkay? And, for those of you keeping track, tonight's theme is early-'80s German electro in commemoration of Bayern Munich's capitulation to the mighty Barca.

The Joy of Six looks at great CL quarterfinals from the past [Guardian]
Ipswich may hand out to barely-16-year-old a debut this weekend [BBC]
Toronto's BMO stadium may go dry.... silly Canadians! [The Beautiful Game]
Martin O'Neill faces FA inquiry [Guardian]

Buy a team (debt included) for only a pound [BBC]
Or buy Becks' childhood home for 215,000 pounds [The Mirror]
No other Scots are in trouble for drinking at hotel, but here is the juicy bit -- Ferguson and McGregor had to be told by a coach to knock it off and go to bed past noon the next day [BBC]
Former LFC goalie Bruce Grobbelaar to star in latest season of Hell's Kitchen in the UK [Heckler Spray]
Marlon King granted bail [Guardian]
Something to cheer up the geordies... Alan Shearer scores in training session kickabout, in front of 7500 fans at St. James' Park [The Sun]
Someone needs to tell Frank Dell'Appa that the Champions League is switching to Fox next year [Boston Globe]
For those of you who remember Quincy Carter, he's back in professional football...the Indoor Football League. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Former Seattle Sonics broadcaster switches to the Sounders []
Ribery's Nike signing actually violates a clause in his Bayern contract, but Bayern don't care [Soccer Equipment Reviews]
An Eddie Johnson sighting! Scores a goal as a sub for Cardiff, and then nets an own goal going the other way.... *sigh* [The Sun]

Here are some good reads in the Guardian on Man U and Arsenal

And finally, hey look The Unprofessional Foul got a link in the NY Post! Thanks Rupert.
[NY Post]

Phew, how does ü75 do this every night??

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft"...

New FIFA World Rankings Released.

Today FIFA have released the latest world rankings after the last round of World Cup qualifying games. England are up to 7th after winning all 5 of their qualifiers (including the stuffing of Croatia) and scoring 16 goals in the process. During this period England also beat Germany in Berlin (get in!) and shoved 4 past Slovakia.

Follow me after the jump for a look at the FIFA rankings in a little more depth.

So here's the top ten.

FIFA World Rankings:
1. Spain
2. Germany
3. Holland
4. Brazil
5. Italy
6. Argentina
7. England
8. Croatia
9. Russia

European Champions Spain stay in top spot after winning all 6 of their WC games thus far. They still look impressive although they are in a pretty weak group with the likes of Armenia, Belgium and Estonia.

Germany have won 5 five of their qualifiers and drawn one, against Finland. You can only beat who you play, right? Germany are not a great team in my eyes, but as long as they win, they will stay were they are.

Holland have won all of their qualifiers so far and conceded just one goal in doing so. To Macedonia. This is quite surprising as the Dutch have never really been known for keeping clean sheets with their style of attacking footy.

Brazil are done. There. I said it! Lucky to be 4th. Washed up, found out. D.O.N.E.
6 draws and a 2-0 defeat to Paraguay in their qualifiers. No one should fear Goofy and his mates anymore, the standard of many world teams has improved and Brazil may as well stay home next summer. They are second in their CONMEBOL group, the lord knows how! Their recent run deserves a drop out of the top ten but somehow they are sticking around at number 4.

Italy have won 4 and drawn 2 in qualifying. They are still top of their group with 14 points, but the Republic of Ireland are right behind them.

Argentina have hired a disgusting fat cheat as a manager and as a result God is punishing them. They sit 4th in the CONMEBOL group, 4 draws and 3 defeats. Last week they were thumped 6-1 by BOLIVIA. Yeah that's right BOLIVIA. BOLIVIA beat them 6-1. They were O-BOLIVIA-TED. Sorry. I really do enjoy seeing Maradouche struggle. It could be a little perverse, I know. 6th? FIFA are having a laugh. Maybe they missed a 1 off the front.

Bolivia. 58th in the rankings.

England are 7th and they look great at the moment. The WCQ wins and the victory over Germany in Berlin have English folk genuinely excited for next summer. I know I am. 7th is still a bit crap, when you consider England's improvement over the last year and the fact that our group is tougher than most, we really should be higher.

Croatia are next. They have won 4, lost 1 and drawn 1, against the Ukraine. What else can you say? They will likely pip the Ukraine to second place.

Russia are 9th and this is largely due to the 'Guus' factor. Current Chelsea and Russia manager Hiddink is not a bad manager to say the least. Russia are improved of late and have won 4 of their 5 qualifiers. They are second in their group to Germany but could catch the Germans when all is said and done.

France are 10th, why oh why oh why. WHY? They lost 3-1 to Austria, drew with Romania and only managed to beat the mighty Lithuania 1-0 away and at HOME. They also recently lost to Argentina in a friendly and drew 0-0 with Uruguay. In a nutshell, France are not the France they were. Their day has been and it ain't coming back for a while. They should be grateful to be 10th.

Other teams worth a mention are Portugal who rank 11th, Scotland at 24th and how about this... Northern Ireland are 27th, EIGHT places above the Republic of Ireland.

No, no, no I didn't forget, of course, how could I forget the U.S. America is now 15th. A position earned after beating soccer giants Trinidad and Tobago (75th), Guatemala (111th) and Cuba (98th). I know, I know. You can only beat who you play! This is why I am starting a 'USA for CONMEBOL' campaign. It's the nearest group right?

So who is last? That honor goes to Papua New Guinea who rank 202nd. Papua don't preach AT all. To no one. A Google search even failed to find an image!

Full rankings can be found here.


Read more on "New FIFA World Rankings Released."...

CL Open Thread

The previews are below and the football is up ahead. Just a quarter-hour until Champions League (Chaaaaaahhhhhmpions!!!) glory is unleashed on the planet. And then there's the Liverpool-Chelsea game, which also begins in 15 mins.

Details after the leap...

Chelsea v. Liverpool on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD

Barcelona v. Bayern Munich on Setanta and Setanta Broadband (NO re-broadcast on ESPN Classic. Stupid F%^7ckin' Masters.)


at Anfield:

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Aurelio, Carragher, Skrtel (in the Riise role?), Xabi Alonso, Lucas, Kuyt (aka the Dutch Wayne Rooney), Riera, The Talismanic Steven Gerrard, Torres.
Subs: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Agger, Benayoun, Babel, Ngog.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cole, Terry, Alex, Essien, Lampard, Ballack, Kalou, Malouda (hahahaha), Drogba.
Subs: Hilario, Carvalho, Belletti, Mancienne, Mikel, Deco, Anelka.

at the Nou Camp:

Barcelona: Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, Puyol, Marquez, Pique, Toure, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Henry, Eto'o.
Subs: Pinto, Caceres, Gudjohnsen, Bojan, Keita, Sylvinho, Busquets.

Bayern Munich: Butt, Breno, Ze Roberto, Demichelis, Altintop, Van Bommel, Oddo, Lell, Schweinsteiger, Ribery, Toni.
Subs: Rensing, Podolski, Ottl, Sosa, Lahm, Borowski, Badstuber.

Fearless predictions: Altintop will score a goal. Barca will win, but not by enough to moot the second leg... There will be two goals scored in the Pool-Chelsea game, either one for each or both for Los Rojos.


***Halftime Update***

for you Johnny and Jenny-come-latelies...

Barcelona 4, Bayern 0

Goals: Messi 9, 38; Eto'o 12, Henry 43
Yellow cards: Messi 17
Red cards: None

Liverpool 1, Chelsea 1

Goals: Torres 6; Ivanovic 39
Yellow cards: Kalou 31
Red cards: None

Read more on "CL Open Thread"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

You don't need to press me, I will readily admit it. I know next to nothing about Sierra Leone, especially when it comes to their soccer heritage. The one thing I do know--that Houston Dynamo striker Kei Kamara comes from the country--I know because of Beta testing Football Manager Live. He was on my team, you see.

I have no idea if Kamara is even on the Sierra Leone national team. I have no idea who his teammates would be if he did represent his home country. What I do know is that if Kamara does get a call up, he would wear one of the worst shirts of all time.

ROAR! What can you say otherwise? That is very definitely a lion, or cougar, or other big cat at the bottom of this shirt. There is also a Rorschach test included at the top. I don't know what you may see, but I've got a lemur peeking out at me from right above the badge.

I'm serious. I do not know what the top half of the shirt is supposed to show. If someone can just tell me it's a sailboat, or schooner, I'd appreciate the time saved in staring at it.

There is actually a pretty cool story behind this shirt. A charity in Denmark was doing work in Sierra Leone, which is one of the poorest countries in the world. Hummel, the Danish manufacturer, became the country's shirt sponsor and declared that 8% of the sales of these shirts would be earmarked to said charity. Doesn't make up for the shirt being so ugly, but it helps a little.

Anyway, yeah. I just need someone to tell me what I'm looking at up top. Are those mountains, or are they a Danish man's interpretation of a vagina? I really have no idea. Please help.

UPDATE: An anonymous tipster has let me know that the top image may be an elevation map of Sierra Leone.

Thanks to Football Fashion for the pics and story.

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

CL Quarterfinals Preview: Barcelona v. Bayern Munich

We are all made of stars!

Oh, to be anywhere in the world of sport today... to be at the Nou Camp for this footy feast!

Let's start here: it's a shame ESPN decided (as if there were ever really a choice) to air the annual Chelsea/Liverpool sweater-puller ahead of Messi, Klinsi, Henry, Eto'o, Klose, Toni, and, perhaps most importantly, Munich's beleaguered center backs. The potential for Barca to run riot up the middle is real, as is the prospect that Klinsmann will instruct his lads to defend with the ball at their feet. To push for goals, goals, goals.

Compare this to the parallel fixture back in ol' Blighty and you have, well, no comparison at all. People have been complaining about Liverpool/Chelsea for years and while they've been mostly turgid affairs from a technical standpoint, the games have been memorable. They've had juice. They've had injustice! (Or not) They've had heat and errant heads.

But gone are the days of Mourinho & Makelele -- when Chelsea were a riddle to unlock-- and with Liverpool focused on trying to pussyfoot into the EPL Title back door, the doings on ESPN2 carry even less allure. (The fact is that Liverpool only began to stomp ass when they were left for dead in England, and even then, with one sniff of United's tail Los Rojos were back to their old ways, bailed out by another 90th minute miracle from the the Seder-skipping Vunderjuden.)

The REAL Theatre of Dreams!

But I digress, what we have here (catch it on Setanta or Setanta Broadband) in balmy Catalunya is the hope for a Sunday-style shootout. For no talk about away goals. At least not in the context of "get one, then park der volkswagens back in Munich." With Munich's central defense so hobbled, it'll be interesting to see how the home side shuffle their numbers. Breno, a teenager, and Martin Demichelis will be charged with blunting Barca's terrifying triumvirate, and should one of them fall, it'll be a lad named Holger Badstuder on in his place. All the more reason we have to think Bayern will look for possession. And goals.

It's goals, after all, that have kept Klinsi in his job at Munich for this long. Sitting fourth in the Bundesliga, maybe the only team in the top flight to not hold the top spot for at least an hour this season, it has been Champions League dreamball that's kept the manager in Chairman Rummenigge's modest graces. At their best, Bayern remind you of Germany in summer 2006. This team has a lot of the same key players (though Klose is out through injury) and a lot of similar tensions, mostly surrounding the manager and his decidedly not stereotypically German managerial peccadilloes.

Bayern will need vintage (is that the word? Probably not) Podolski, Toni to nick something, Schweinsteiger to crack something, Ribery to grind and create, Lahm to bomb one... they'll need a lot.

Barcelona will need only to be what Barcelona have always been. They're not more than a club, but they're still something special. It's in the Catalan beach breeze. Sing it, now!

Useful information

*Kickoff at 2.45 edt
*Yaya Toure and Al Hleb are fit for Barca... as are Messi and Alves, both restricted to sub roles last week in La Liga
*for Bayern, if you're a center back above the age of 20 and not named Demichelis, you're not fit (or home in Belgium on "personal leave," like Daniel van Buyten.)

Read more on "CL Quarterfinals Preview: Barcelona v. Bayern Munich"...

CL Quarterfinals Preview: Liverpool v. Chelsea

Yossi and the Crying Baby, by Bigus Dickus. Mixed Media, 2009.

For the fifth year running, Liverpool and Chelshea clash in the Champions League. Their meetings are becoming so commonplace that the fixture computer should just keep it going every year so as not to confuse anyone.

LFC had the run of the Blues for a while, but last year, the tide turned thanks to a first-leg gaffe at Anfield by that ginger nut John Arne Riise. This season, the first leg is at Anfield again, which prompts the question: who's winning this f*cking thing anyway?

With both teams in scintillating form, it's a tough one to call. Liverpool are blazing at the moment, playing with an attacking force and confidence that I haven't seen from 'em since the late 90s when the Fowler/Owen/McManaman show cast a spell over the Kop. Goals from all positions, sparked by the telepathy of Gerrard and Torres, and a thankful end to the miserable, cagey 1-0 squeakers that have defined the Rafa Benitez era.

Meanwhile, the Blues are finding their legs again too after seeing home form slump over Christmas. The prolonged absense of Joe Cole continues to be a problem, but there's enough dynamism in the midfield to give Drogba and Anelka all the chances they need.

I'm not looking forward to it, personally, but I am just too dazzled by my Reds to imagine any result other than a home win. Whatever the lads are siphoning into their Lucozade, it's clearly working. Maybe we'll get some of that Yiddish power from a still-not-100% Yossi Benayoun, but with him or not, I still fancy a 2-1 at home to keep things ticking along nicely.

The EPL is another story entirely. I pray for attacking football from both sides, and none of this shaky, tactical rubbish that normally plagues these fixtures.

We're about due for some more Terry tears.

Early Team News:
Mascherano misses the 1st leg through suspension, but everyone else besides Benayoun seems to be fighting fit.

Chelsea are without Bosingwa with hamstring-knack.

Read more on "CL Quarterfinals Preview: Liverpool v. Chelsea"...

QT: Christian Vieri to LA Galaxy?

I really hope this isn't true: reports abound that 37-year-old Italian striker Christian Vieri is set for a trial with the Galaxy, having run out of options for playing time at his current club, Atalanta. Something about him being old as fuck and useless, I think.

If the Galaxy keep signing crocks like this, they'll soon become known as the Tottenham of MLS. Sergei Rebrov, anyone?


Read more on "QT: Christian Vieri to LA Galaxy?"...

Tomas Ujfalusi has a hooker problem + UPDATE

You can clearly see he's blocked up. Give him a break, CFA!

Atletico Madrid defender and Czech Republic captain Tomas Ujfalusi has endured a difficult season at the international level. With just 3 games left to qualify for WC 2010, they're sitting 4th in their group behind Northern Ireland (!), Poland and Slovakia, and their chances of turning it around are slim.

Coach Petr Rada and his entire management staff have already felt the burn, being fired en masse by the Czech Football Association, and now Ujfalusi is under the cosh too, along with 6 other senior players.

It's not for poor form, mind you; it's for being caught with prostitutes.

(be forewarned: mildly NSFW pic after the jump)

Two Czech tabloids published the pictures of the lads cavorting with ladies of the night, and as part of the radical overhaul, the CFA decided to gut the entire team as well as management for their transgressions. Guess this will help them qualify now, right? No manager and a team full of new faces?

From the article:
The sacked players are Atletico Madrid defender Tomas Ujfalusi, Galatasaray striker Milan Baros, West Ham defender Radoslav Kovac, Frankfurt striker Martin Fenin, Reading midfielder Marek Matejovsky and Sochaux striker Vaclav Sverkos.

The decision does not necessarily mean a lifetime ban for the players - it will be up to the new coach to decide on their nomination in the future, the association said.
You can imagine that few of 'em would not want to come back after such a scandal and public humiliation. Ujfalusi is already announcing retirement from international football after his disgrace, though choosing to denounce the team's current form as the main reason for his decision.

Tomas Ujfalusi: no stranger to the naked arts

Personally, I think the CFA is off their rocker. Maybe they're taking their cue from the Scots and their lifetime bans for their former captain, but the whole thing reeks of desperation. Failure to impress in qualifying already led them to toss out their entire management structure, so why not use it as a good time to cast off the deadwood too?

Anyway, those of you thinking of betting on the Czechs for WC2010 should apply their money elsewhere. I think they're content to wait another four years for their turn.

In the meantime, he and his teammates should take the Arctic Monkeys' advice when it comes to hookers:

Oh, and the best part? Ujfalusi's been in trouble for this before! I guess it's just how the Czechs roll.

Read more on "Tomas Ujfalusi has a hooker problem + UPDATE"...

Timbers Ticket Sales Underwhelming

Ticket sales for the inaugural Portland Timbers season in MLS do not seem to be going well. It was with much fanfare just three weeks ago that MLS announced Portland as its eighteenth expansion club. Portland’s strong fan support was one of the main reasons cited for granting Oregon’s largest city with a club. However, the famed Timbers fans don’t seem to be supporting the expansion bid with their pocketbooks as ticket sales are lagging.

Almost immediately after the March 20 expansion announcement, the Timbers began taking $50 deposits for the 2011 season tickets. The Vancouver Whitecaps expansion club announced March 18, slated to begin play in 2011 as well, accepted $50 deposits as well. Vancouver sold out its initial 5000 ticket allotment within 48 hours.

Portland’s sales have not gone as swimmingly. The Timbers front office is reluctant to release up-to-date figures, but does say that as of March 24 only 1,500 deposits had been taken by Portland—a far cry from Vancouver’s brisk sales. The team has also sold 1,000 Timbers 2009 season tickets, which also secure a 2011 season ticket deposit. The Timbers will not release more recent figures, but all told the club was 2,500 deposits short of Vancouver’s benchmark.

The organization is also aggressively marketing the 2011 season ticket deposits. Ads are appearing frequently on radio and internet noting that the first round of deposits will end April 30. Vancouver’s initial round is already closed.

Granted many fans may not be willing to fork out $50 now in a bad economy when there will likely be future opportunities to secure season tickets, this is certainly an inauspicious beginning for Merritt Paulson and the Timbers. They are already confronted with a $15 million hole in funding for the entire expansion. A recent Bloomberg News report also details the many difficulties Paulson will have in finding the additional funds. Local blogger Jack Bogdanski is also hammering the financial proposals by Paulson and the City and seems to be gaining some traction as the local daily has also cast a questioning eye towards the deal recently.

There is a long road ahead for Paulson and from the looks of it, the road could be more washboard than paved.

Read more on "Timbers Ticket Sales Underwhelming"...

Telford Terry Prefers Drugs to Football.

Terry Fearns (White shirt), on his way down?

Non-league striker Terry Fearns has been sacked by AFC Telford of the Blue Square North, after being arrested on the suspicion of selling drugs. The Former Wigan trainee and Southport player had been a consistent goalscorer in the amateur leagues before his fall from grace.

It appears that it was not just the drug arrest that saw Fearns fired. He was suspended recently after failing to show up for training AND a home game.

The Police raided Fearns home back on March 9th. He was bailed to appear in front of police again sometime in May. The player has not been charged yet.

Fearns was a success at Vauxhall motors (111 goals) and at Southport, scoring 41 goals in 2005 to see the team promoted. The following year the net bulged less and Southport flogged him to Droylsden. He has scored 17 goals for AFC Telford this season.

It appears that Terry may now have to settle for scoring goals in jail. Who says non-league football is boring!


Read more on "Telford Terry Prefers Drugs to Football."...

A modest proposal from UF

Yes, I know the title may be interpreted otherwise, but this is not Jonathan Swift-style satire.

Instead, this is what happens when I misread Arsene Wenger, mash it up with a Rugby Union rule, spend an hour recalculating the EPL table, then realize what I thought I read was not in fact what I read. I flirted with abandoning the whole idea, but then decided to inflict my madness upon you. So now you're stuck.

The idea germinated from this Spoiler post where Arsene Wenger talks about handing out bonus points for scoring goals. As any of you with reading comprehension skills above mine can plainly make out, Wenger wants to reward teams who demolish other teams with extra points in the table instead of just goal difference. Simply put, a win would still be worth three points, but every goal that a team wins by would also be worth a point. Winning by one goal gets you four points, winning by two gets you five and so on.

Of course, as I have already admitted, this is not how I read it. What I saw was Wenger calling for a bonus point system much like the one in Rugby Union. If I recall correctly, in Rugby Union when a team scores five tries in a match (win, lose or draw), they get a bonus point in the standings. When I skimmed what Arsene had said, I though he was calling for a similar system wherein an EPL club scoring three goals in a match gets gets a bonus point. Of course, I was wrong, but that doesn't mean I stopped working on it.

I was possessed. I went to the BBC website to scour through this season's matches to find out who would benefit the most from such a rule change this year. The somewhat surprising answer--Arsenal.

Yes, Wenger's kids--the ones with all of those nil draws around the New Year--would benefit the most if such a rule were put into play today (with the caveat that I may have missed some results). Arsenal have scored three or more goals nine times this season. Liverpool have netted three or more in eight games and Manchester United have managed the feat in seven matches. At the other end of the spectrum, Stoke City have only scored more that two goals in one match, while Middlesbrough have failed to do so at all this season.

And yes, it does change the table, though in some strange ways. Here is the current table (only useful before this weekend). And here is an ugly look (since Blogger doesn't do tables easily) at how the table would look with the UF BONUS POINT.

Pos. Team (Rank change) points; GD
1. Liverpool (+1) 75; +34
2. Man U (-1) 75; +32
3. Chelsea (0) 70
4. Arsenal (0) 67
5. Everton (+1) 57; +13
6. Aston Villa (-1) 57; +6
7. West Ham (0) 47
8. Man City (+2) 44
9. Fulham (0) 43; +3
10. Wigan (-2) 43; -2
11. Bolton (+1) 43; -9
12. Tottenham (-1) 41
13. Blackburn (+1) 37
14. Stoke (-1) 36; -16
15. Hull (0) 36; -17
16. Portsmouth (0) 35
17. Sunderland (0) 34
18. Newcastle (0) 31
19. Middlesbrough (0) 27; -24
20. West Brom (0) 27; -31

As you can see, the immediate beneficiaries are the so-called Big 4. Arsenal have now opened up a ten point gap on Everton. No need to worry about just trying to hold on to those Champions League spots now as they are pretty secure. Liverpool have also overtaken Man U, but that's just temporary, right?Also, Everton and Aston Villa have solidified their Europa League spots under the new setup. Manchester City have had the biggest jump of two places, but are still well out of any European slots (unless 7th place sneaks in).

At the other end of the table, there is not much change. Of course, these teams don't hit three goals very often, so that is to be expected. The team that is immediately helped is, oddly, bottom dwellers West Brom. WBA have notched three goals on three different occasions this season. Since 19th placed Middlesbrough are the one team that have not done so, the three point gap between the two is erased. Both teams still need some four-pointers to get out of the relegation spots, though.

I see this as an evolutionary addition to football changing from two points for a win to three. Whereas that rule change got rid of teams almost exclusively playing for a draw, this rule change might see an end to overly defensive play where the idea is to get one goal and hold on. Of course, there is still no cure for such play in knockout phases, but we'll work on that.

Read more on "A modest proposal from UF"...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesday Backpasses: Come on, Islanders. Hold on

In light of today's betting post, I think that this was Lee Carsley's revenge on Iwelumo missing that sitter against Norway [Off The Post]
Like a bad penny, Bora Milutinovic keeps turning up [NYT Goal]
Barcelona wish they were Liverpool, apparently [The Spoiler]

Is this the ignominious end of DC United--the inability to find anywhere to put a stadium? [Match Fit USA]
Someone else writes that Man U have played too many matches this season to remain competitive [Guardian]
Kickette hates Cesc's new tat [Kickette]
Someone complained to the police about Podolski slapping Ballack [Football Cup League]

Scottish football team decides to abandon fair play because a team they beat did not pass the ball back to them one time [BBC]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Come on, Islanders. Hold on"...

Nives Celzijus: Rules To Live By

Nives Celzijus, WAG extraordinaire, has her name back in the papers again, only this time it's as a columnist for the respected German daily Bild and not for having sex with her husband, Dino Drpic, in the center circle or dreaming about having sex on the roof of the Bernabeu.

Nives is now paid to opine about subjects that interest her but she may have no expertise in, which is a bloggers dream job. However, this time she surely has plenty of expertise because she is giving all the ladies out there the rules to live by if you want to bag yourself a pro soccer player (I imagine these rules work for most pro athletes and men for that matter).

Ladies, listen up as Nives has some great advice for you.

I don't want to plagiarize the entire article but below are some of her choice rules and explanations. The rest can be found in her column.

1. You have to be young with no baggage – so have not been with one of his colleagues.

It means you are new and undiscovered. It would be best, if I am allowed to write this, if you were still a virgin!

But women who have had two or three serious relationships are still in with a chance.

4. Never, never hassle him! Questions like ‘where are you?’ or ‘who are you out with?’ are strictly forbidden.

Sure, footballers are in much demand, but you have to ignore that.


Important tip: Sexual comfort after a defeat is always welcome!

6. Be a ‘whore’ in bed. Sex is extremely important to footballers so always look to spice things up.

If you are boring and act inexperienced he will lose interest quickly and go looking for passion elsewhere.

So there you have it, don't hassle the guy, do all the naughty things in bed, and try to be a virgin, and you will have yourself a professional footballer.

Read more on "Nives Celzijus: Rules To Live By"...

CL Open Thread

Ye ole' previews are below.

Man U v. Porto is on ESPN2, Villarreal v. Arsenal is on Setanta (and rebroadcast on ESPN Classic). Kickoffs are set for 2:45 EST (no more lag due to daylight savings time -- I even double checked!).

Starting lineups are after the jump....

Manchester United: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Scholes, Ronaldo, Rooney, Park
Subs: Foster, Neville, Eckersley, Giggs, Nani, Tevez, Macheda

Porto: Helton, Sapunaru, Rolando, Bruno Alves, Cissokho, Lucho Gonzalez, Fernando, Raul Meireles, Lopez, Hulk, Rodriguez
Subs: Nuno, Stepanov, Mariano Gonzalez, Costa, Madrid, Farias, Sektioui

Villarreal: Diego Lopez, Angel, Godin, Rodriguez, Capdevila, Cani, Senna, Eguren, Ibagaza, Rossi, Llorente.
Subs: Viera, Pires, Franco, Fernandez, Nihat, Javi Venta, Fuentes.

Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Denilson, Song, Fabregas, Walcott, Nasri, Adebayor.
Subs: Fabianski, Vela, Silvestre, Djourou, Bendtner, Eboue, Gibbs.

What did you think about today's games? Who do you think will win? Share your thoughts below. < /Ives>

Read more on "CL Open Thread"...

Pete Rose haunts League Two

A collection of idiots

Betting can be fun, when done in the right conditions. However, if you play for Accrington Stanley, you might want to put your money on boxing or horse racing, as betting on your own team is decidedly dumb.

Four of 'em found out the hard way, and one Bury player too, as the five were caught betting on an away win in the final match of their League Two season, which visitors Bury won 2-0.

Serious punishments await the guilty -- then-Accrington lads Jay Harris, David Mannix, Robert Williams and Peter Cavanagh, along with Bury's Andrew Mangan -- including long-term suspensions. Plenty of time to figure out who's winning the 2.17pm at Kempton, then.

As we all now know, Pete Rose made a lengthy habit of betting on his Cincinnati Reds while there as player and manager, and this quintet of idiots thought they'd try their hand at the same thing, said an FA statement:
"All five are alleged to have placed bets on Bury to win this match. Mannix is alleged to have placed stakes to the value of approximately £4,000; Mangan £3,500; Harris £2,000; Williams £1,000; and Cavanagh on a £5 accumulator.
Really, Peter... you're facing a long-term ban from the game for a 5 pound bet? I'd suggest you not bother next time.

Unsurprisingly to some, three of the players involved are from the Liverpool area -- Mannix and Cavanagh were former LFC trainees, while Harris was a trainee at Everton -- showing once again just why us Scouse aren't exactly known for our brains (myself excepted, of course).

The five have until April 23 to prepare and perfect their finest groveling and contrition impressions.

Read more on "Pete Rose haunts League Two"...

Saints Get Reprieve

Southampton have escaped an immediate 10 point deduction from the Football League this afternoon as the board decided that a full investigation into the south coast clubs finances was needed before any ruling could be made.

If I was a betting man I would say that the league is stalling on a decision and any deduction would be carried over until next season, allowing Southampton the chance to retain their Championship status this season. Not deducting points would cause outrage and several appeals on the behalf of penilized clubs such as Luton and Bournemouth. Deducting points now could push potential investors away and force the club to shut down. The implications of closure would affect the curent Colaship promotion race as well as the relegation battle. Closure would lead to all points gained against Southampton being void this season. Southampton's holding company went into administration last week and administrators have clearly stated that a buyer needs to be found before the end of this current season if the Saints are to stay in existence.

The full Football League statement can be read here.

Southampton play Watford this afternoon in a crucial relegation 6 pointer.


Read more on "Saints Get Reprieve"...

CL Quarterfinals Preview: Manchester United v. Porto

We’re still not exactly sure what happened at Old Trafford on Sunday: Villa had played well enough for at least a draw, but then some 12-year-old Italian player making his debut smashed home the winner for United. (Hard for me to complain about Macheda getting poached from Lazio when Arsenal did exactly the same thing with Fabregas.) So what had initially looked to be a dreadful 48-hour turnaround for Man U turns into an opportunity to quickly continue their lucky streak today against Porto. And so the Manchester United Steamroller continues, while the rest of the world grumbles.

United are still without Berbatov and Ferdinand, but Rooney, Vidic and Scholes all return from league suspensions. It’s also expected that Park Ji-Sung will be in the lineup today. Porto have a few injury problems of their own, including captain Pedro Emanuel, and will rely upon Lisandro Lopez and Hulk (smash!) to create scoring chances.

Man U are saying all the right things about how they won’t take Porto lightly and how this is a difficult game, but if United don’t advance it would be a huge, huge shock. The only thing Porto have going for them is the return leg is at the Estádio do Dragão. But that hardly makes up for the fact that Porto has lost 10 out of their last 11 matches on English soil – and yes the one exception was when Porto won the Champions League, but Mourinho and 2004-era Deco aren’t expected to walk through that door. United, on the other hand, are working on their own record of 21 straight Champions League matches without a defeat. They’ll look to make it 22 today.

About the only chance that Porto have today is if they can impose their will on the game, if Man U’s defense is wobbly, and if Porto can capitalize on their few chances. It’s a very tall task for a young and relatively inexperienced team. So, I’m predicting a lopsided win today, let’s say 2-0 for United.

(And can someone please explain to me why this game is on live on ESPN2 rather than the more compelling Arsenal v. Villareal match? Oh right, it's because ESPN lurves Man U.)

Read more on "CL Quarterfinals Preview: Manchester United v. Porto"...

CL Quarterfinals Preview: Villareal v. Arsenal

There’s not much sense in hiding my bias on this one. The Arsenal come into today’s match unbeaten in 2009 (except for that loss in Roma) and, while there’s no chance of winning the Premiership, the season will be considered a success with a decent showing in the Champiiiiiions League and the FA Cup. The good news for Arsenal is that they are starting to get their squad to full strength. Although Eduardo, Abou “Always Injured” Diaby and Robin Van Persie are out today (and Arshavin is cup-tied), I would expect Nasri, Fabregas, Adebayor and Walcott to all start.

As for Villareal, they have lost Santi Cazorla for the season due to a fractured ankle. It’s a big blow for Villareal, who will miss Cazorla’s playmaking on the wings. On the plus side, Marcos Senna and Cani are fit. Up front, you can expect Villareal to rely heavily on defintely-not-American (turncoat!) Giuseppe Rossi.

The interesting storylines in this match are the return of Robert Pires to face his old club, and a rematch of that 2006 Champions League semi-final that famously saw Riquelme buckle under the pressure and flub his penalty kick. Riquelme has made buckling under pressure a bit of a hallmark and has since disappeared back home to Argentina. Meanwhile, Pires still pines for the Arsenal. I always liked Pires, and even though he was way too sensitive about that substitution in the 2006 Champions League final, it’s only because he truly loved the club. Can’t fault him for that, and I’m sure he will get a warm response from the Arsenal supporters (especially during the return leg in England).

Even though Arsenal come into this match as slight favorites and with the momentum, I don’t think it’ll be a proverbial walk in the park. Villareal are talented and determined, and have the ability to notch goals against Arsenal’s sometimes-flaky defense. So, I’m hoping for a 1-0 or 1-1 result for Arsenal today, which would set them up nicely for the return leg at the Emirates.

Just realized I spelled Villarreal wrong throughout this post.... But at least no one noticed!!

Read more on "CL Quarterfinals Preview: Villareal v. Arsenal"...

UF Quick Throw: Laser Beams!

Fresh off the wires: FIFA says it has opened disciplinary proceedings against Greece over alleged use of lasers by fans in World Cup Qualifier. Bad enough that the Greeks have to subject the world to their negative tactics, but now this??

Update: Here is the full story.

Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Laser Beams!"...

Have Paint. Will Paint?

This post is an attempt to reverse the Luton league curse that strikes the beleaguered club every time my keyboard types anything remotely related to their survival. But they seem to be helping themselves. Last Sunday Luton won the Johnstone Paint trophy! Get in Luton. A trophy is nice but if 'Town' get relegated to non-league football, some of their players may be using Johnstone's paint in their REAL day jobs!

Non-league football these days, is filled with semi-pro teams and amateur ones. Some clubs can afford to have a few players who are solely footballers on the books and many can't. Non-league football is where you will find grafters, those who are not good enough for professional football, supplementing their dream careers with day jobs such as being builders and painters and decorators. Then there are those at the end of their careers, trying to keep the dream alive a little longer. Younger players who have a future are usually affiliated to a league club and part of a youth system by 17/18 if they are going to make it.

Phillips: Late bloomer.

Not to say that certain players don't make it back from the depths of the non-league system. Both Kevin Phillips and Barry Hayles were both non-league players before playing in the Premier League and Championship. Hayles was a builder when he played for Stevenage Borough and Phillips was rejected by Southampton and playing at Baldock Town when Watford came calling. Dreams do come true for sure. Norwich City's 22 year old forward Cody McDonald was working as a scafolder in the London underground when Bryan Gunn plucked him from non-league Dartford. One month later and he would step onto the pitch at Carrow Road as a substitute and mark his arrival and BIG chance at the BIG time, with a well taken goal against Cardiff City.

So If Luton go down, what happens next?

Well, there are two real options. They keep the team together and find enough money to try for an immediate rebound, or they keep who they can afford to and scour the non-leagues for new players. The Blue Square Premier is an extremely tough league to escape from with only 2 promotion spots up for grabs. The former method, keeping the wage structure and going for it, will only be an option for one year and likely the route Luton will take should they lose their league status. Fail at the first attempt and it is likely that there will not be enough cash around to hire the current players or pay league loanees.

Survival is even tougher for Luton now, since my last update on the Hatters, they lost in the league and made the mountain taller. Luton are 12 points from safety with just 6 games to go. Just 3 of those at home. Grimsby are catchable but Town would likely need 5 wins and a draw. A huge ask for a team that lost at home 4-2 to Rotherham last week.

Wembley winners.

Sunday's Trophy win over Scunthorpe may, however, have a part to play in the run-in. Luton will feel invincible right now and will certainly have confidence going into Saturday's must win match at Lincoln.

Lose it and they may be needing their new friends at Johnstone's to send them some paint brushes.


Read more on "Have Paint. Will Paint?"...

Mondayish Backpasses: The heck is this?

Yay! Cable modem not fried. Links ahoy!

At some point, we may have to get paid for this--FSC wants you to take a survey. Do ol' ü75 a favor and say you want some SPL action [Fox Soccer]
One damn fine goal from Germany. Take that, Bayern babies! [NYT Goal]
Team specific search engines + a NSFW warning [NCNB]

Two Singaporean footballers tackle a purse thief--on the pitch [Straits Times]
SAF & Roonaldo really BFFs. Only playa hataz say otherwise [Guardian]
TFC fans, one week after garnering sympathy for alleged police problems at Columbus, give all the goodwill back by throwing beers at Ljungberg and Drew Carey [Fan Nation]
Is there another Football War in the offing, and was lasagna involved? [Guardian]

Guy who gets his kicks from underage internet porn snared because of his kickass Celtic tat [Deadline Scotland]
So, which of these players could you ID by their tats? [The Offside]

Read more on "Mondayish Backpasses: The heck is this?"...

Monday, April 6, 2009

New Design/Format on Tonight's Fox Soccer Report

We here at UF sure do enjoy covering the goings on over on Fox Soccer Channel. First it was our world exclusive interview with Terri Leigh. Then, our coverage of the Champions League rights. And now, our sources tell us that tonight Fox Soccer Report is set to unveil a brand new graphic design package and format. Okay, might not be quite as newsworthy, but the folks at the Report appear quite happy with the change.

The new design has been described as less video game and more sky box. Somehow I imagine this means that Bobby McMahon will be giving the ol’ Barry Ferguson salute to the punters in the cheap seats.

And for the record, we are starting to come around to FSC’s coverage. For instance, just yesterday we were watching Sportscenter on the ESPN when one of the announcers, in referencing the match at Old Trafford, pronounced Villa as “Vi-ya,” i.e. the same way as David Villa. Say what you want about Fox Soccer, but they can at least get the absolute basics correctly. So, I'll probably be tuning in to the Report tonight, and I look forward to less eye-searing yellow-and-red graphics.

Elsewhere, the NY Times Goal blog weighs in on the Champions League TV rights, complete with Jeremy St. Louis quotes and an unclosed hyperlink (at least when I checked).

Read more on "New Design/Format on Tonight's Fox Soccer Report"...

Google Earth Captures the Joy and Misery at Stamford Bridge

Our friends at ONTD with another good one. Now that Google Earth has gone live in England, it seems that the engineers are having a bit of fun. Here is the image that ONTD found for Stamford Bridge:

But it gets even better. After the jump is what we found instead....

Now that's more like it! Instead of the joy of a Chelsea score, there is the agony of John Terry's PK miss during the 2008 Champions League Final loss to Manchester United.

Read more on "Google Earth Captures the Joy and Misery at Stamford Bridge"...