Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Bootroom: FA Cup Semifinal Weekend

It's FA Cup semi weekend! And there are a couple good ones at Wemberley....

Arsenal v. Chelsea (Saturday 12:15 p.m. EST)
Man U v. Everton (Sunday 11:00 a.m. EST)

More on the FA Cup and the rest of the weekend action after the hop, along with your hundreds of comments!

Arsenal and Chelsea are in fine form, but the Gunners' backline is held together with scotch tape and pixie dust, much like Petr Cech's fragile psyche. So, open game with lots of goals perhaps? I should mention that myself and Ian will be at Kinsale in NYC, so please come say hi. I'll be wearing the Arsenal kit.

Then on Sunday it's Everton's Maginot Line against the somewhat sputtering Manchester United. Mike Riley is the ref, making David Moyes none too happy, so it's 1-0 on a controversial penalty? Quite likely indeed.

Here are the EPL matches this weekend (no Liverpool until Tuesday, you Reds)....

Saturday (all games 10:00 a.m. EST):

Aston Villa v West Ham
Middlesbrough v Fulham
Portsmouth v Bolton Wanderers
Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers
Sunderland v Hull City


8:30 a.m. Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United
10:00 a.m. Manchester City v West Bromwich

There's a huge Sunday match in the Championship, as Norwich visits the scum of Ipswich.

Not a lot of good games on the continent, but here are the best I could find:

Celtic v. Aberdeen (Saturday)
Genoa v. Lazio (Saturday)
Juve v. Inter (Saturday)
Bordeaux v. Lyon (Sunday)

And, Exeter City visit Lincoln City as they try to secure promotion to League One. C'mon Exeter!

Read more on "The Bootroom: FA Cup Semifinal Weekend"...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Backpasses: Stick to the crosswords

Not a whole lot today. Football news has taken the week off (much like I have, sorry).

Update from Spectator: Some late news actually... Stevie G out at least a week and will miss matches against Arsenal and likely Hull [Guardian]

He may be 35, but he's good enough for "(I prefer) Maradona. Diego Maradona. From Argentina." [USA Today]
What UCL on Fox might look like [NYT Goal]
Thiago Neves is a jackass (best view about 1:35) [Off The Post]

New Chelsea shirts are ugly [ONTD]
Want a gift pack of the new England shirt? (no thanks) [Football Fashion]

Green Street Hooligans 2 is coming! Get ready [Run of Play]

Read more on "Friday Backpasses: Stick to the crosswords"...

The Continuing Saga of Ebbsfleet United: An Update

You've all been clamoring for politely asking about the fortunes of Conference Blue Square Premier club Ebbsfleet United, so here is your latest update. After losing 4-2 on aggregate over 2 legs to Stevenage Borough in the FA Trophy Semi-Finals and falling out of the Setanta Shield on a 1-0 loss to Forest Green Rovers (also in the Semi-Final), Ebbsfleet have only league matches on which to focus.

After going 3-1-3 in the month of April (including another loss to Stevenage Borough), Ebbsfleet find themselves in 16th place on 51 points. This total has them all but assured of survival in the Conference, and keeps alive the dream of progressing up the tiers next year.

More importantly than their results on the pitch, however, are the efforts of the owner/supporters to keep the club afloat. Of the initial 32,000 investors approximately 10,000 have renewed their membership at £35. However, of those there appear to only be approximately 1,500 who are active within the day-to-day activities of the club. These members vote on various petitions presented on the website and have made several decisions which directly affect the finances of the club.

Recent votes from the club members have included changing ticket prices for specific matches (i.e. charging a little more for high-profile matches, while reducing prices for others so that the local supporters can attend as many matches as possible), offering live streams of matches for international members (with many of these sponsored by club members in order to avoid charging for streaming), and changing kit suppliers for next year.

However, amidst all of these cost-cutting measures, the club leadership is looking to build a new stadium, despite opposition from the local and county councils. This is a controversial decision, particularly given that many of the local supporters seem to enjoy the current grounds, Stonebridge Road, very much.

Given that Ebbsfleet are out of all cup competitions and almost assured of staying up in the league, it would appear that there will be no significant changes (good or bad) to the current financial situation. Perhaps the Kent County Council and Gravesham Council have the right idea, as this really doesn't seem to be an ideal time for large-scale construction projects for a new pitch. The club should focus on the small-scale construction project of building a team that will advance out of Conference footy next season.

Read more on "The Continuing Saga of Ebbsfleet United: An Update"...

One More Year! One More Year! One More Year!

I'd say that rich, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, but, as Arabs, the owners of Manchester City probably don't drink. Plus, being able to bathe in oil money seems to be working out okay.

As for stupid? Well, Sparky is keeping his job for another year.

Speculation was rife that the City manager would be removed at the end of the current campaign after a disappointing season, but chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has told Hughes he will be given another season to prove his worth at Eastlands.
This doesn't seem like the dreaded ironic 'vote of confidence' but an actual statement that Mark Hughes will indeed be on the bench for Man City next season.

Citeh crashed out of the UEFA Cup yesterday, their only shot at silverware, and currently sit 11th in the EPL (suck it, Barclay's). They are undefeated in the league at the Eastlands, but have merely one road win with only Stoke and WBA being worse away from home.

Hughes has marginalized Elano, allowed himself to be bent over by Robinho, marshalled over the regression of Micah Richards, and shipped Jo on loan to Everton right as the Brazilian found some goal scoring form (that probably correlates highly with him actually playing). Man City could have used his services as they started Felipe Caicedo as a makeshift striker yesterday.

But Hughes has brought in Shaun Wright Phillips and Craig Bellamy (both playing well) as well as seen Steven Ireland have the season of his life (so far).

So, eh, it's kind of a push.

Still, with all that money comes expectations. One of those expectations is that Citeh would be able to sign anyone and start winning. That hasn't happened. The first half of that isn't necessarily Sparky's fault as nobody wants to go to Citeh but, well, you are what your record is and Citeh sit one point ahead of SF Bolton.

So colour us mildly surprised. But happy. Sparky is at least good blog fodder.

Read more on "One More Year! One More Year! One More Year!"...

The Itandje Method of Getting Fired.

For those of you who don't know him, Charles Itandje is the Liverpool reserve goalkeeper. He's also rather rubbish; his last start for the first team was that FA Cup defeat by Barnsley, you know the one, where he was left sprawled out like a drunk at Christmas, unable to stop Brian Howard's injury-time rocket.

Not only is he no good in goal, but he's not much good as a person; spotted laughing and joking on camera during the Hillsborough memorial service, the club has had enough. Itandje's getting a fine and a hasty transfer in the summer.

From the Guardian:

Members of the congregation afterwards complained about Itandje's behaviour, which was in stark contrast to the solemn occasion and that of the rest of the Liverpool squad. Rafael Benítez, the team manager, is understood to be livid with the 26-year-old having studied the complaints and the footage.

Anfield officials have described Itandje's behaviour as "wholly unacceptable" and are exploring the maximum punishment they can impose on the player with their legal advisers. He is unlikely to play for the club again.
While I support the club fully on this one (as you'd expect), what do you think: right move, or a harsh move? Does it even matter considering he's crap anyway?

In the meantime, let us bid adieu to Monsieur Itandje. I wonder if he'll find it as funny when he's playing in Cyprus or Norway next season.

Read more on "The Itandje Method of Getting Fired."...

QT: Jozy and Cherundolo go under the knife

One seems more serious than the other, though. I guess we should get used to Frankie Hejduk's hair for the Confederations Cup this summer.

Read more on "QT: Jozy and Cherundolo go under the knife"...

The SAFallus!

From our BFF c0rrine (that was us IMing her), this was seen during the Hamburg v. Man City match....

Behold, the SAFallus!

Read more on "The SAFallus!"...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: Merseyside respect

This is how you celebrate a goal, if you want to go to jail [ONTD]
Could Portland lose their MLS bid? [The 24th Minute]
If not, then why is Montreal money-man still working on bid? [Match Fit USA]
Little Roo to be birthed early, as not to be inconvenient [Off The Post]

Klinsi did not appreciate this photoshop [The Sun]
Whoa, Mark Viduka is still in the league? [BBC]
Pires enjoyed coming back to North London. Except for the game part [Arsenal]
For some reason, Italian officials did not want the Beckhams to buy and update a castle [Luxist]

Who knew Cruz was a fan of Gram Parsons? [Kickette]

Read more on "Thursday Backpasses: Merseyside respect"...

UEFA Cup Open Thread

Or, phrased more honestly: "Does anyone care about the UEFA Cup? Here's an open thread to say yes or no."

Frivolity and Citeh lineup after the jump.

History buffs will be unsurprised to learn that one of the two remaining French teams has already capitulated, as PSG were stomped 3-0 by Dynamo Kyiv. Le ouch.

Citeh just kicked-off, with a 2-goal deficit to dig themselves out of. LFC showed it can be done, although let's just end comparisons between Liverpool and Citeh there, shall we?

Citeh v. Hamburg (1-3 agg)
Citeh: Given Richards, Onuoha, and Dunne in the lineup, it's safe to say they have no possible Bridge to the semi-finals. Zabaleta and Kompany might have something to say about it, but they're as smooth in attack as the Republic of Ireland are in World Cup qualifiers. Elano, Robinho, Caicedo = I came, I dribbled, I fired wide.

Subs: Hart, Garrido, Petrov, Fernandes, Evans, Sturridge, Logan.

Hamburg: Rost, Boateng, Gravgaard, Mathijsen, Jansen, Pitroipa, Jarolim, Aogo, Trochowski, Guerrero, Olic.

Subs: Hesl, Da Silva, Petric, Ndjeng, Rincon, Schulz, Torun.

No such mirth possible there.

Other games:
Marseille 0-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Udinese 0-0 Werder Bremen

Hamburg just scored -- think one German lad passed it to another before the ball was nudged into goal past the shadow-that-once-was-Shay-Given. Let's just ignore this competition and pretend it never happened, shall we?

(5 minutes later)

But wait! Citeh have a penalty! And they score it, via Elano! 1-1 on the night, and only 2 more goals to go. As you were, gentlemen. If Hamburg score again, you can forget it.

Read more on "UEFA Cup Open Thread"...

Europe? Meh. England Is Back On Top.

So we are down to the final four in Europe's biggest competition. United will play Arsenal and Barcelona will take on Spartak Laaaandon in the semis of the Champions League. So that's 3 of the 4 teams from England, and at least one English team is guaranteed a place in the final.

Spanish and Italian teams used to be so strong, but not any more. This will drive UEFA nuts!

This year's final will be the fifth occasion IN A ROW that an English side has been to the big dance. Surely there is absolutely no doubt that the rest of Europe now ranks waaaaaaay behind the standards of English football.

Arsenal's beat-down of Villareal, Liverpool's arse-kicking of Real Madrid, they point to not just better, but much better. The Premier League has been regarded as the World's Best League for quite a while, but now there is absolutely no doubt. It's head and shoulders above the rest.

But Bigus... ain't that down to plenty of foreigners in the EPL?

Hmmm. Good point me. Lets see shall we.

Arsenal are a foreign invasion but in Walcott, Wilshere and Gibbs, you have 3 English players ready to step up. Gibbs has already established himself as a back-up at left back this term.

Man U have Scholes, Hargreaves, Ferdinand, Rooney, Brown, Carrick, Neville, Foster, Martin and Eckersley.

West Ham have 8, Villa have 10, Everton 8, Spurs 13, Citeh 8, Boro 12, Wigan 9..You get the point.

While Chelsea and Arsenal have just 4-5 Englishmen in their squads and Liverpool just 2, it matters little. See, the rest of the league benefits from the experience playing these sides has to offer.

Just look at Bolton at Stamford Bridge last weekend. Or Hull at Anfield? While the quality of the Top 4 is clearly there for all to see and largely financed by big pockets, everyone is a winner and this is clearly evident when looking at the national team.

The England team is benefiting greatly from housing the best league in the World. The team is improved; unbeaten in WC qualifying and up to 7th in the World rankings. Players like Heskey, Lennon, Agbonlahor, Young, Barry, Crouch, Johnson, Upson, Lescott, Jagielka, Downing, Carlton Cole and a host of fringe players are flourishing in the EPL and reaping the benefits of such a high standard of football.

Upson: Benefits from playing the best Europe has to offer.

Spain, Italy, Germany?

Their domestic leagues are losing ground and need to do something before they fall too far behind. Spain may be European Champions but consider this: 5 of their best players ply their trade in the EPL (Reina, Torres, Arbeloa, Riera and Alonso).

As for the rest? They are on the way. Villa, Senna, Ramos, Capdevila and Silva are all sort after and available for the right price. Villa is set to break transfer records this summer. Valencia and Villareal are skint and its no secret they need the cash, so moves for Silva, Villa and Senna to Man City, Liverpool, United or Chelsea looks likely this summer.

The current dominance of English football will be driving UEFA and Michel Platini nuts. He hates England with a passion and wants to implement many rules to stifle the English game and level the playing field; no foreign owners and smaller squads are just a couple of his ideas.

He, along with FIFA duffer Sepp Blatter want to impose a 6 + 5 rule to English teams, guaranteeing 6 English players on every starting 11. While some in England see this move as a leveler to combat the influx of foreign talent as a great way to bring through English talent, I honestly believe differently.

To improve and flourish, you must play the best and prove yourself. The previous lack of young English kids coming through Premier League clubs says more about the youth structure, coaching and national initiatives than it does for the heavy competition.

Competition is the only way to go. And there is no better competition for places than in the Premier League. Capello sees it and England fans should be laughing right now. I know I haven't been this excited about the national team's prospects since... well, I can't remember.


Read more on "Europe? Meh. England Is Back On Top."...

This should make for an awkward conversation

Frank Lampard's having a fine season on the pitch. Instrumental for his team in their drunk punch-out with Liverpool on Tuesday, playing well in the EPL, and keeping his club competitive on three two fronts.

Off the field, it's not so good. His recent split from his fiancee Elen Rives has been difficult, although by the looks of this picture above, he's found some rather attractive, though disheveled, counsel to aid the healing process.

She joined Lamps for dinner on Wednesday with his dad and teammates Petr Cech (he dropped his silverware within minutes of sitting down!) and Henrique Hilario (who?) to celebrate their passage to the semi-finals of the Champions League, and had a good night, going on to a nightclub with the brunette for a few night-caps.

However, John Terry may have rocked things a little bit. Who was his dinner accompaniment the other night? Lamps' ex.

Hit it, Daily Mail! To the Gossipcopter!

As the Man of the Match dined at the Italian restaurant, his former love was less than a mile down the road at Japanese eaterie Zuma in Knightsbridge with Terry and his wife Toni. Zuma is Rives's favourite restaurant and the scene was many a romantic dinner date with Lampard.

Despite calling off their engagement two months ago, it appears Spanish beauty Rives, 30, is still very much a part of the Chelsea social circle.The mother-of-two has been friends with Terry's wife Toni for several years and attended the couple's 2007 wedding with Lampard.
I'm sure it's all fine. I mean, my best mate and his wife have dinner with my exes all the time. Totally natural.

The fact that they went to a regular date spot for Lamps and Rives is an especially nice flourish to the tale, and I'm sure they'll have plenty to talk about as they prep for the FA Cup semi-final this weekend.


Slow news days bring out the gossipmonger in me. For shame.

Read more on "This should make for an awkward conversation"...

Liverpool and the Transfer Market

Rafa: bought more downers than Amy Winehouse

As we get over the CL quarters, I thought I'd pinch an idea from The Likely Lad (well, I am a Scouser, after all) and look at Rafa's work in the transfer market since his arrival in 2004.

With all the momentum lately, as well as the slowly swelling hubbub of speculated Anfield departures, it's worth taking a look at some of the more memorable ups and downs of the fat Spanish waiter's signings and pink slips.

And yes, it's a slow news day as well.

Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid, 20.2 million, July 2007)

Considering some of the colossal flops up front in Rafa's reign (see further down), Torres was the answer to the striking woes that have haunted the club since the retirement of Ian Rush. A predator, a battler, a trickster and a goalscorer, he's in it for the long haul. We hope.

Xabi Alonso (Real Sociedad, 10.75 million, August 2004)
Dirk Kuyt (Feyenoord, 9 million, August 2006)

If you looked at the Liverpool squad of today, you'd have to credit these two for being far more important to the cause than they're currently acknowledged.

Alonso is that rarest of breeds: a quiet Spaniard, he of the burgeoning face-scruff and alarmingly accurate passing. Known to control games like his country's bullfighters tame angry bovines, Xabi is a perfect, serene counterpoint to the badge-kissing mania of Gerrard and the sweaty, defensive hysteria of Mascherano (another massively important buy, one I excluded from this list).

He is the conductor, the maestro, the straw that stirs the drink, allowing his more fiery teammates to play their natural games without worrying about that patch of grass around the center circle.

While Alonso gains plaudits and praise whenever Mascherano or Lucas get themselves sent off or whenever Stevie G's groin or hamstring crumbles like the Temple of Doom, the facially-challenged Dutchman has been just as vital.

Unlike the large portion of footballers who are arm-flailing, ref-complaining divas, Dirk has played wherever and whenever without complaint, never giving anything less than his best effort (despite sometimes looking agonizingly uncoordinated at times), scoring important/ugly goals and keeping a low profile.

Without 'em, we're looking at the UEFA Cup. Sorry, Europa League.

Martin Skrtel (Zenit St. Petersburg, 6.5 million, January 2008)

Credit to Zenit for becoming the de facto talent machine that was Dario Gradi's Crewe Alexandra in the 80s and 90s. With the big names like Pavlyuchenko (crap) and Arshavin (not crap) taking the spotlight, it's easy to forget that this sure-footed center-back (PLEASE don't use him on the right again) honed his skills there, and was bought for a good price considering how tight the Russkies keep their fists when it comes to transfer fees.

Sure-footed, decisive, and downright scary (I swear I've seen him holding an AK-47 somewhere...), he is an able candidate to hold down one of those CB spots for many years to come. Now we just need Agger to heat his cold feet...

Andrea Dossena (Udinese, 8 million, July 2008)
Philipp Degen (Borussia Dortmund, Free, July 2008)
Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rey (Josemi) (CD Malaga, 2 million, July 2004. Sold to Villareal, Free, January 2006)
Sebastian Leto (Lanus, 2.5 million, July 2007)
Gabriel Paletta (Banfield, 2 million, July 2006. Released August 2007)
Antonio Barragan (Sevilla, 240k, July 2005. Sold to Deportivo La Coruna, 680k, August 2006)

(Yes, that's what Philipp Degen looks like, above)

There are some positions you just don't skimp on. World-class full-backs aren't cheap, and yet this collection of scrap metal have cost about as much combined as perhaps one Bosingwa or Sergio Ramos might on the open market. 15+ million pounds wasted on Argentine rubbish and lesser-known European twaddle.

Dossena's temporarily reprieved because of his knack of scoring late, meaningless goals in heavy wins, but take those two strikes away (and how gorgeous that finish at Old Trafford was, mind you), and you're looking at someone with a worse left foot than Daniel Day Lewis in that movie, and about as mobile/charismatic, too.

This collective of flank-dwelling drivel is perfectly suited to the defensively-carefree frolic of La Liga, where attackers hold sway and fans enjoy seeing 7 goals a game.

Ryan Babel (Ajax, 11.5 million, July 2007)

You know the type; the player with tons of talent and tons more ego who secures a big move to a marquee club only to falter, languish, before flourishing and living up to full potential elsewhere.

I fear this might be the case for young Ryan. When he begins his mazy gallop upfield, you just know it's a matter of time before he either trips over the ball or surrenders it meekly to whatever opposition traffic cone stands before him. It's frustrating to watch, and it's a big reason why he's found himself warming the pine behind Riera and the Super Jew.

That said, these things take time; could he eventually blossom, or is his confidence shot for as long as he's at Anfield? All these prodigious young talents need to marinate. Walcott was thrown in at the deep end but eventually proved his worth, and once he did, a spot in the starting lineup was assured.

Babel's glaring open-goal miss against Pompey might have been the final nail in his coffin, but let's be honest; the lad does try, albeit a little too much. When introduced late in games, he will dribble until his feet detach at the ankles, and that's part of the problem. Strapping the team to your back in search of a late winner or equalizer is noble, but he forgets that there's 9 other numpties in Red stood around him, trying to accomplish the same goal. In short: FUCKING PASS IT SOMETIMES!!!

With his raw pace, lazy dribbling and erratic finishing, he'd be perfect at Arsenal, although knowing our luck, he'd become the new Thierry Henry (settle down, NY Kid).

Jermaine Pennant (Birmingham City, 6.7 million, July 2006)
Mark Gonzalez (Albacete, 1.5 million, July 2005. Sold to Real Betis, 3.5 million, July 2007)

When I was a teenager, Steve McManaman had the right flank on lockdown, and rightly so; he was a gangly, awkward looking fella, but he was deadly moving forward. Scored a boatload of goals from the wing, gave defenders nightmares, and always had fun in the process. Fast forward to the present day, and we can't find a right-winger to save our lives, so much so that our workhorse striker has been converted into a solution out wide.

Robbie Keane (Spurs, 19 million, July 2008. Sold to Spurs, 15 million, January 2009)
Peter Crouch (Southampton, 7 million, July 2005. Sold to Portsmouth, 11 million, July 2008)
Fernando Morientes (5.5 million, January 2005, Real Madrid. Sold to Valencia, 3.1 million, May 2006)
Andrei Voronin (Bayer Leverkusen, Free, July 2007. Loaned to Hertha Berlin, July 2008)
Craig Bellamy (Blackburn Rovers, 6 million, July 2006. Sold to West Ham United, 7.5 million, July 2007)

All of these guys have a pedigree of sorts, and yet they were all shite at Anfield. Proof positive that not all great players can be great everywhere they go. Maybe we had these one/two season wonders during their crisis of confidence phase, and we were just unlucky. Maybe there's no such thing as a sure thing up front.

Maybe Rafa's just not that good at evaluating talent, although to be fair, you can go back a lot further than Benitez to find agony up front: Stan Collymore, Djibril Cisse, El Hadji Diouf, Emile Heskey, Anthony Le Tallec, Milan Baros, Florent Sinama-Pongolle, Titi Camara, Karl Heinze Riedle.

If you add up the money spent on these 5, plus the other 9 I mentioned, and you have nearly 70 million pounds.

Fuck. The mind boggles.

How many David Villas does that buy?

Read more on "Liverpool and the Transfer Market"...

WWOS: Who Would Obama Support?

Say it ain't so, B.O.!!"

Bigus again with the magical photo work

There's been some speculation-- that's to say, full-throated debate, hair-pulling, and name-calling-- in these quarters over what footy club the President of the United States would/should/does support.

In his column for the NYT Monday, George Vescey referenced Mr. Obama's [loose] ties to West Ham. But that's hard for a lot of us here to swallow. This president isn't blowing anything... least among them, Bubbles. Forever. And we can say, though I'll have to confirm with GBWTF, that his style sense is about 3,745 notches above your classiest Hammer chav.

Join me for some baseless speculation... after the jump!

So what is it really for El Presidente?

We know Mexico and South America are weighing heavily on his mind these days, and given his concern about access to higher education, might he be on the blackberry right now finding the best price for the new Estudiantes strip?

Or, given his success with the latino electorate in SoCal, perhaps there's a Chivas scarf in his closet?

He seems pretty popular in Germany-- could Mr. Obama be a closet Hertha freak?

The President has been derided in some trog righty circles as being too quick to please Europe. So, as far as pleasing in Europe goes, would it be so far-fetched to suspect he has a soft spot for the Nou Camp Catalans? They're clever, successful... beautiful to watch...

Uncle Leo Wants You!

And then there's always the possibility that Barack's African, Southeast Asian, and Muslim roots have pointed him toward the likes of Hearts of Oak or Haras El Hodoud.

Just some test balloons here. So what is it UF, who does the president support? Who should he support? Please back up your opinion with some implausible-yet-empirical evidence!

p.s. He's not, nor would he ever be a Gooner. It's a weak argument, so don't bother.

Read more on "WWOS: Who Would Obama Support?"...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: Don't tread

Whose goal was better? [ONTD]
Other looks at Hillsborough, 20 years on [The Big Lead] and [Avoiding the Drop]
The Onion has a laugh, as usual [Run of Play]
Is Uncle Avram going to take over for Guus? [The Beautiful Game]

This is, at best, tangentially related to our mission here, but hey, female streaker [The Spoiler]
Even across the pond they are gleeful at the impending end of Tommy Smyth on ESPN [Guardian]
Xabi=Eeyore [Guardian]
New Power Rankings from [The Offside]

7 footie related rap videos. What could be better? [The Best Eleven]

Read more on "Wednesday Backpasses: Don't tread"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Everyone loves a bad shirt. Not to wear, mind you, but to laugh at. Every once in a while, we get tips at the email address pointing us toward some other horror. I appreciate the links, but it's rare to see a shirt I had no idea existed and am repulsed by. Yesterday brought one of those emails.

CA Spora Luxembourg existed from 1923 until 2005, when it merged with two other clubs to form Racing FC Union Luxembourg. Now that's a mouthful. Anyway, the club was moderately successful, winning the league 11 times and the cup eight times. Spora made 11 European appearances as well, even winning two matches in the process, though never advancing out of the first round.

Now that you know the background, let's look at the shirt.

Since the phantom emailer (whom I will gladly name or link to should he or she get back to me and approve) was compiling his or her own list on bad shirts, he or she will get first words on what you are looking at. (seriously, please get back to me, the "male or female" bits are the scourge of the English language)

Came across your enjoyable blog whilst compiling my own top ten of egregious football shirts. Needless to say, there was a lot of overlap, but I was surprised to find the aberration which topped my own list thus far absent from yours. I give you (with the original commentary):

1: Spora Luxembourg, early 90s. How about this for an overdose of what-the-shuddering-fuck? The broad interrupted stripes make my head spin. The lurid primary colours set my eyelid twitching. The less said about the white wedge thing, the better. But what really drives me over the edge is the beehive/cobweb/old lady's pashmina pattern on the sleeves. Christ on stilts, we have a winner!
And that's how you ingratiate yourself with us--call our blog enjoyable before you point out our failings. Easy enough?

Anyway, yes, this shirt is horrific. It comes from the 1990-91 season. Interestingly enough, this shirt appeared right after Spora won its last domestic title in 1989. Is that a coincidence? I leave you to decide for yourself.

What strikes me when looking at this shirt, beyond the obviously ugly nature of it all, it the shirt's manufacturer. We have met before. Now I have proof that they worked as poorly in color as they did in black and white. When the calenders turned to 1990, did these teams say "let's find the worst short maker imaginable and give them business"? Because Blacky was definitely that bad.

To expand on the emailer's points above, I have to note both the sleeve cuffs, which appear rather restrictive, and that horrible V-necked collar. The collar is especially bad because, right where the ladies would be able to see a tuft of manly chest hair (remember the year here), Blacky put a swatch of blue cloth. As if the morals of the day dictated that any such display of upper chest would be lawless. WASP-y behavior, to be sure.

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

CL Liveblog: Manchester United v. Porto

If we have to explain, it's already too late

Credit to Bigus

United's war on five fronts can come to a merciful end this evening with anything less than total victory at FC Porto's Estádio do Dragão. But as ever, even when it's not about Liverpool, it's about Liverpool. The Reds supporter is in an awkward position this hour-- does he root for a bloody end to his sworn enemy's European campaign... or does he get out his wiles, and Manc crest, and pull for United to ride into Porto and slay the Hulk, thus ensuring more fixture congestion and "nightmarish rotation hell??" We already know Bad Karma Bursitis's feelings on the issue. Those are his quotes a few words back, and he was not-at-all quietly rooting for the Reds to lose, gracefully, but lose on aggregate to Chelsea yesterday.

ED'S ADDENDUM: To clarify, I absolutely did not root for my team to lose yesterday. I merely said if we did lose, I wouldn't take it as painfully as any other loss. Plus, some stuff about being healthy, focused, etc. I will root for United to win today though, simply because I wish for their tired, flagging squad to be buried under an avalanche of more fixtures. Anything to keep their focus away from the EPL.

LAD'S ADDENDUM TO ED'S ADDENDUM: Pithy, elegant, but ultimately, untrue.

Sadly, the level-headed among us know that Liverpool in 2009 is no Russia in Winter 1942. I'd say they're more like Holland in Spring 1940-- talk a big game, puff their chests a bit, but ultimately destined for quiet capitulation.

So there's the intrigue. As for the game at hand: the ball is round, the tie is square (or, more honestly, it's rhombus, tilting in Porto's direction under the weight of their two massive away goals), and we are set to watch Manc blood flow like the Mondego!!

Oh, and for the rest of our Iberian-interest crowd, I'll be sure to check in on Villareal's afternoon playdate with Uncle Arsene and his Super Adventure Club.

The madness begins... after the hop.

FC Porto XI: Helton, Sapunaru, Rolando, Alves, Cissokho, Gonzalez, Fernando, Meireles, Lopez, Hulk, Rodriguez.

Subs: Nuno, Stepanov, Guarin, Mariano Gonzalez, Costa, Madrid, Farias.

Note: Porto's lineup is unchanged from Old Trafford. However, manager Jesualdo Ferreira is banned through an old, since appealed and reduced UEFA suspension. BBC is reporting a rumor that he's not even sticking around the stadium to watch the game. Don't blame him if it's true-- better to go home, have a drink, and check the score online every 15 mins. Less stressful.

Man Utd XI: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Anderson, Carrick, Giggs, Ronaldo, Berbatov, Rooney.

Subs: Foster, Neville, Evans, Nani, Scholes, Tevez, Macheda.

Note: Big changes for SAF. After fielding a 75% strength side in the first leg, it's Luftwaffe, Panzer divisions, etc.. all barreling toward the front.

(In London, it's a makeshift Gooner backline, with Gibbs, Silvestre, and Eboue being trusted to protect Fabianski from what are sure to be braver-than-usual-advances from the Yellow Submarine, who themselves are without Marcos Senna.)

4 mins to kickoff: Yesssss. The Anthem! Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahmpionsssss!!!

2 mins to kickoff: Porto fans doing some scary call and response business with the PA. No English team has ever won here, as we've been told 8,764 times in the past fortnight. But still, it's a precedent, no?

0:00 : AAAAnd we are underway. Our friends at ESPN2 confirm the bit about Ferreira not being in the stadium.

1 min: No HD tonight?

2 min: A clever build up from United ends with a Rooney cross cleared by a Porto noggin. Berbatov recovers the ball, but is ultimately dispossessed.

3 min: Free kick for Porto from 30 yards and an angle.

Hulk is the man who has a go-- skips low and into van der Saar's gut.

4 min: Lopez runs at the United defense... Ferdinand prevails, but Porto look to be their old attacking selves from the first leg.

6 min: Nothing was happening.. then Ronaldo scores from 40(???) yards out!!

Tommy Smyth says 35 yards. So 40 it is.

United 1, Porto 0 (United 3, Porto 2 on agg)

9 min: Anderson and Lucho Gonzalez, Porto captain and form United player, collide on the Porto side of the halfway line. Lucho prevails in the writhing contest.

10 mins: Tommy Smyth Wisdom: United have been hurt by the absence of Rio Ferdinand.

11 min: Porto looking about us stunned as I feel. Most of the play is in the middle third.

12 min: Lasagne Boy Carrick tries his luck from just outside the 18-yard box. Alas, he is not Ronaldo and it's a goal kick.

But United are right back in. Rooney's swinging cross falls on vacant green.

15 min: United are playing games with Porto in the midfield. Congested, as Rooney and Berbatov are both dropping back. Still, United tap dance around.

17 min: Carrick's run is halted by... Ronaldo, who'd drifted in... Porto take possession, but Cissokho throws in a weak cross for van der Saar to collect.

18 min: Carrick is down with a nick. Why? Cos Ronaldo stomped on his foot on the way up the field before.

18 min: Scholes getting warm.. just in case.

20 min: Lopez brought down by Carrick 25 yards out. Free kick for Porto.

Alves takes it...

...and licks one about a yard or so wide of van der Saar. Daaamn. Boy kick ball hard.

22 min: Getting chippy in the midfield. Anderson in none to pleased with a Lucho tackle.

24 min: Porto with some possession, but only on the perimeter. Attacking throw.

25 min: Lopez tries to bicycle boot one past van der Saar.. this is made more difficult by Ferdinand, who shoves him to the ground as he turns. No whistle-- a theme for the night?

26 min: Porto midfield starting assert themselves. Still, no REAL chances. Speculative through balls all cut off by the Vidic-Ferdinand Axis.

28 min: a weak clearance/pass from Giggs gives up possession. Porto counter with an awkward cross to Hulk, who's waiting in the box. The ball skips through his legs, and United take a clearance.

29 min: Lucho is down for the count. And as per usual, with (seemingly) real injuries, there was no contact. Just and awkward kick and slip. He's gripping his knee... we'll see. Either a torn ACL or he's back in 10 seconds. Ten months or ten seconds. That's the rule for footy injuries.

30 min: Berbatov lays one off for Ryan Giggs, who doesn't miss by much. United now pressing for a second.

Rooney playing behind Ronaldo at this point...

31 min: Gonzalez on for Lucho, who is, apparently, actually injured. United's luck.

33 min: and our esteemed announcing tandem do their best apologies for Giggs outrageous PFA nomination. He's a sub, shit.

35 min: Old Onion Man points out that, with all the players gone to ground, it must be slippery. That, and it's definitely Portugal.

35 min: I'm not just lazy/stupid... there's not much going on in the way of chances. Spoiled by yesterday? Perhaps.

38 min: Rooney is limping and Lingering is whining. All is right with the world.

38 min: OOOOoooh see that? Metataaaaarsal, eh??

39 min: Helton comes out to challenge Ronaldo near the touch line... ends up kicking it out for a corner...

Carrick receives the corner, then shoots into a crowd of United players. Happily, Macheda is not there to re-direct.

Seriously, as great the first Macheda winner was, the second could've been the work of a heavy traffic cone.

41 min: The cards are finally out... as Vidic sees YELLOW for scything down Rodriguez. Free kick...

43 min: Hulk flies a weakass balloon into vdS's arms. United counter... Ronaldo is pulled down just outside the box. He earned one there... but it's a corner.

44 min: Giggs corner is flicked on by O'Shea to Vidic who slides and puts a golden opportunity into the stands.

45 min: 2 mins until my halftime burrito.

45 + 1 min: Ronaldo free kick is floated across the box, where Porto take over...

45 + 2 min: A Lopez long-range effort is smothered by van der Saar. Bruno Alves header from 10 mins back stands as Porto's best chance.

45 + 3 min: Giggs cross kicked, oddly, away by Porto keeper Helton.


First commercial is...

Heineken. Pure class. Chaaaaaaaahmmpiooooooons!

Now for 20 mins of and... wait, no Proactiv? That's next season I guess.

So advertisers think we are:

Beer-drinking, boot-buying, lawn-week murderers. Got it one-third right, I suppose.



Meanwhile, halftime as well in London, where Le Arse lead 1-0, 2-1 on aggregate. Walcott is the goal scorer, so commence the buggery circles.

By the way-- anyone else get the email about the Macheda jerseys from WorldSoccerShop?

"Represent United's Newest Star Federico Macheda" their pitch. Mehh.

Not the best microwaved Chicken Chimichanga I've had, Jose Ole, not the best.

Chhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahmpions! (Never. gets. old.)

I will never get AT&T. That commercial was officious. Seduce a woman with two-word text messages? I'd need at least 3.

Back underway!!!

46 min: a downpour now in Portugal. Only going to get murkier on that pitch.

46 min: Berbatov played through by Rooney, but strikes one right into Helton's chest. Porto clear the lines.

47 min: Football in RAIN??? Certainly not, Tommy. Not suitable at all.

48 min: Miereles slices a wide-open chance from the top of the United box. Tails away and away and ends up with the fans.

50 min: Gonzalez-Meireles-Gonzalez-Hulk-Section 334 behind the United goal.

52 min: Meireles attempts to give Ryan Giggs the Heimlich near the center line. Giggs picks the ball up before he could have possible heard a whistle.. which comes, eventually. Of course.

53 min: Cissokho hip checks Ronaldo... free kick from 30...

Giggs with a taut, but ultimately lacking in pace ball into the box... Helton collects.

55 min: Meireles heads wide on a clever Gonzalez cross. He was marked, but still got a piece. End result: NIL.

57 min: Patrice Evra's face, meet Mariano Gonzalez. There Will Be (is) Blood.

Free kick for Porto. Dangerous spot, to van der Saar's left.


Bruno flying in?

Hulk rips one right into the Dutch keeper's chest. Cleared.

60 min: Rodriguez wheels around, but outside, the United defense. Shoots wide.

Evra ends up with a Yellow for the challenge that led to earlier free kick.. and the bleeding of his own blood.

UPDATE: Super Adventure Club 2, Villareal 0. That's that.

61 min: United looking for that second goal now. Berbatov follows a blind cross by whacking Sapunaru to the ground. Ref sees. Does No-thing.

64 min: Farias for Rodriguez, for Porto. Second substitute for the Portuguese. Rodriguez ran 7.15 km. So you know.

66 min: Ronaldo feeds Rooney into the right side of the box, his cross pushed out for a corner.

Giggs's kick is headed off into the stratosphere.

AAAnd back in. For another corner.

Giggs again...

Steered away. Anderson intercepts, but his pass back to Giggs is snuffed out. We're back into the midfield.

68 min: SO... QUESTION? Do United not have any TALISMANIC players? They are on pace to win FIVE trophies. Yet, still, no talisman. Strange, that.

69 min: Berbatov off for Nani

69 min: Rooney nearly bulls through the Porto box... ultimately cleared. But wow, great effort for England's best young temperamental Everton fan.

71 min: Vidic gets a foot on a long, low cross. United do not look impossible to crack. But not likely either.

Carrick has run more than 8 km. He must be tired. Or not?

73 min: United are letting Porto hangaround. Hangeeng around, hangeeng around.

74 min: Hulk dribbles down to the byline, then plants one into the side netting. Goal kick. Hanging around, but not doing much else.

75 min: Porto win a corner!!!!!!!

It's their first.. and it's headed a mile wide by the misfiring Bruno Alves.

76 min: Giggs and Rooney JUST miss running tap and go on the edge of the Porto box. That goes through to Giggs and it's Goodnight, Porto.

78 min: corner, another!, to Porto.

Anderson off for Paul Scholes. Both sides have now used 2 subs.

79 min: Kick floats past van der Saar, right onto Rolando's head... but... ahhhhhh, he put's it wide from just right of the post.

80 min: Sapunaru off for Tomas Costa. Last change for Porto.

81 min: Hulk long-range blast tipped for a corner.

Farias hooks on to it, but cycles over to put yet another Porto chance into the stands.

@umlaut yea, they're just playing for the long cross and header. Not the intense, driving to the net from the first leg...

83 min: Rooney tries his best impression of his teammate from 77 minutes earlier. Ball ends up in the ether.

85 min: United back the whole squad into the box and still Porto fly test balloons over the defense.

Nachhh!!! Porto's best chance of the night is a laser from yards out, right into van der Saar's chest.

Man United hanging on now...

87 min: United making in-roads now on the left. Giggs wins a corner. Tick tick tick

88 min: Giggs is your man of the match, if not for Ronaldo's singular moment. He's everywhere. PFA, hell yea!

89 min: Costa cross is muffed by Farias. Porto just cannot got a header on goal.

Twitchy bum time, regardless. Thanks, Mr. Rae, for introducing "twitchy" to the discourse.

90 min: Mr. Hulk slices another wide from just outside the corner of the 18-yard box.

Three minutes added.

90 + 1 min: Ronaldo with a clever low ball that Helton just nips wide. Another corner. United are looking like they're though. THEY ARE DEFINITELY GOING TO WIN.

90 + 2 min: Porto cannot get out of their own end.

90 + 3 min: Porto have one last rush...

...but nothing comes of it. Again. A failed header.

It's over in Porto.

Instand Postgame Analysis: Porto never had a chance. That United goal could've come in the 6th... or the 86th minute. United were always going to win. And "rotation hell" or not, they're probably going to win every trophy this year. When it matters, they buckle down.

Finally this evening, a big congrats to Lingering Bursitis. His midweek dream has been fulfilled.

Signing off. It's been a pleasure.


Read more on "CL Liveblog: Manchester United v. Porto"...

Arsenal v. Villareal Match Preview

Not the injury keeping Marcos Senna out of the match.

There really isn't any chance today's tilt at Emirates can muster the magnificence of yesterday's all English tilt since there is no potential comeback for the ages at stake, but we could certainly see plenty of goals. Although, writing this will likely guarantee a dull 0-0 draw that sees Arsenal through to the semis on the back of their 1-1 away draw seven nights ago.

The storyline for this match is not about the players on the pitch, rather the players not on the pitch. Arsenal's lockerroom looks more like a MASH unit than the dressing room of an elite football club. Arsenal's already suspect defense will be missing its first-choice keeper Manuel Almunia, first-choice centerback William Gallas, first-choice fullback Gael Clichy, and defender Johan Djourou. Robin Van Porcelain is still struggling with a groin injury that may force him to a substitute role. Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor are just back from injury and are still likely not 100% fit.

Villareal's Yellow Submarine is not suffering from the same plague of injuries but will be missing midfielders Marcos Senna and Santi Cazorla. The former being a huge loss as the Brazilian cum Spanish defensive midfield dynamo was the goal scorer on the first leg. Senna is the rock in the middle with appreciable offensive skills and his loss will certainly be felt.

So, it's a leaky back line for Arsenal and soft middle for Villareal. It's like a battle between a chick with diarrhea and chick with a chubby belly. Which one would you rather have sex with?

Prediction. 2-2. Villareal through on away goal rule. If accurate, this would be the first time an English team has been eliminated from CL play by a non-English team in two years.

Read more on "Arsenal v. Villareal Match Preview"...

Remembering Hillsborough.

Many American friends have asked me about Hillsborough over the years. What happened, why it happened. How could such a tragedy be allowed to happen? Well today is the 20th anniversary of a day that changed football in England forever. 96 people died in pens like cattle with one common, shared tie. They supported Liverpool FC and were there to watch the semi-final of the FA Cup.

Hillsborough is the name of Sheffield Wednesday's historic football ground but after April 15th 1989, it became associated with a terrible event that ruined lives and brought the football world to a standstill.

Liverpool played Forest for a place in the final. Back then many football grounds had fences up, stopping supporters from reaching the pitch. A huge over-reaction to combat a few pitch invasions that had taken place. Hillsborough was no different. The result of such fencing basically creates a contained pen were supporters watched as if they were livestock, herded in and out.

Basically the Leppings Lane away section at Hillsborough held 2,000 people and 3,000 wanted to come in. Many of those extra people had fake tickets. The Police failed in their operation to control the fans and opened a gate allowing a surge of people to come in, head down a small tunnel to pens behind the goal. They just kept coming. By the time kick-off came, people were fighting for breath and crushed against each other with no escape.

Five minutes after kick-off a policeman ran onto the pitch and the game was stopped. What happened next will never leave the memories of anyone who watched TV for the rest of the day, let alone those at the game. A barrier between pens collapsed and the area behind the goal became a pile of people. Climbing over each other in attempts to escape. The people who had arrived early were crushed at the front. People lay dead on the pitch. Others were pulled to safety by supporters in the upper tier. The fear on the faces of those against the fences was haunting.

96 people, many of whom were children, lost their lives. The advertising hoardings became stretchers and the pitch the emergency room. The rescue effort was hampered by bad co-ordination and fire fighters/ambulance crews being unable to get access to the inside of the ground.

We'd been looking forward to a great game of football and now we were gasping for breath and grasping for survival. As we know, dozens of us were unsuccessful. One of those people may have been a man who, I'm guessing, was in his 60s. I spent half an hour pushed up against him with he in turn wedged against a crush bar. I never saw his face. I had my back to him throughout. But I'm haunted by his voice. He was pleading with me to give him space to allow him to breathe. He was screaming in agony telling me he was suffering a heart attack. - Survivor Mark Edwardson
A detailed summary of events can be found here and the stories of those there that day here.

An inquiry failed to really blame anyone for the disaster but it was clear that a lack of policing intelligence caused the crush when gate c was opened to relieve the congestion building outside of the ground. The inquiry found that the area behind the goal was only safe for 1600 people and not the 2200 who had tickets nor the 3000 trying to get in. Afterward, many stories of previous semi-finals there emerged along with complaints about crushing and over crowding to the FA.

Back in those days the semi-finals were both played at the same time. While the events of Hillsborough were unfolding, Norwich were at Villa Park playing Everton. But for one draw of the ball from the hat, I could so easily be talking about members of my family today.

Soon after the tragedy, all fences were removed and stadiums required to be all-seater. Little consolation for the surviving who had to deal with the loss of friends and the stress that came afterward. Many needed counseling and could not sleep or work with the sounds and images of the day that would be with them for ever.

For many, twenty years ago today at 10am Eastern time marks the day that football died. A day out to see their team became a living nightmare that ruined the lives of so many. The game we love so much and the focus of this website became painful memories and heartache to hundreds of family members who lost sons and daughters to a tragic event that should have been prevented.

As you go about your business today, and prepare to watch this afternoons Champions League matches, just spare a thought for the survivors and family members, who for many no longer have football to enjoy. Today they will all be remembered.


LB remembers it too, like it was yesterday. His thoughts to follow later today.

Read more on "Remembering Hillsborough."...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday Backpasses: Anyone Seen ü75?

Well, you get me tonight because it seems that ü75's computer isn't working! And when you're done looking for ü75, did anyone see any goals today? Phew!

Man U might be facing steep problems down the road [Daily Mail]
Player loses shorts on pitch, and other guy checks him out (NSFW) [Off the Post]
Hull's decline [Avoiding the Drop]

Scorpion kick, used for good [The Beautiful Game]
Deleted scene from last week's The Office [The Offside Rules]
The wankers in black are alright sometimes: Bulgarian linesman saves player's life as he swallowed his tongue during game [Guardian]
Fredy Montero will not be charged by the Seattle Police [Sounders Insider]

And finally, some Scottish news for ü75, wherever he may be!!...

Eoin Jess, 38-year-old former Aberdeen player (cohort of Dean Windass), had a stroke [Scotsman]
George Burley is backing away from being the bad guy in banning Rangers pair [Guardian]
Football banning orders routinely are evaded [Scotsman]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Anyone Seen ü75?"...

CL Open Thread

No Gerrard.

That's the biggest news of the day, if there is such a thing as most of the drama remaining is in tomorrow's two tilts. But we're theorizing this means Rafa is kind of tossing in the towel on the CL and saving Stevie for a run at the Prem. Makes Essien's day easier.

The line-ups:

Liverpool: XI: Reina, Aurelio, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carra, Kuyt, Lucas, Alonso, Mascherano, Benayoun, Torres
Subs: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Agger, Riera, Babel, Ngog.

Chelsea: XI: Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Carvalho, Ashley Cole, Essien, Ballack, Lampard, Kalou, Malouda, Drogba.
Subs: To be announced.

Really, the site I pulled the Chelsea line-ups from does indeed have it TBA.

As for the other match, does it really matter? If Bayern Munich comes back to win that tie, I will eat a shoe.

Chime in as history (Istanbul) probably doesn't repeat itself.

Read more on "CL Open Thread"...

I Wanna Be Like... Mike Jankel.

Getting old sucks. Getting old brings aches and pains, unpleasant ailments... Your kids sod off to other countries to marry American chicks, have kids and write soccer blogs...Daaaaad. Get off the computer..NOW!

Who wants to get old? Not me. Unless I can be like Jankel Schor. A Russian immigrant living in Brazil. And when in Rome, er Brazil, do as the natives. Jankel is a keepy uppy king, oh yeah, he is also EIGHTY TWO!

After the jump a cool Sky News video of Jankel doing his thing.

Jankel entertains crowds at the Maracana stadium in Rio. Well, I'll shut up now. Watch the video.

Now that's pretty cool eh? I hope I'm still enjoying a kick about at his age. By the way Bigus has a keepy uppy total of 43. UF collectively has no more than 200. The Fans Attic has game and Spectator, nowt but shame.

Jankel>>UF. Maybe he should write a blog.


Source World Cup Blog Top stuff!

Read more on "I Wanna Be Like... Mike Jankel."...

Champions League Preview: Revenge Mission.

Cue the music and the cheesy PlayStation graphics, and those ugly birds singing about Champions to promote crap beer. It's second-leg time in the quarters and boy oh boy, do Liverpool have a mountain to climb this afternoon.

Last week's 3-1 defeat at home to Guus Hiddink's rejuvenated Chelsea side was a bit of a surprise. A smash and grab. Liverpool have had a week to think about what exactly happened to them and they will have to go all out from the start this afternoon if they are to stand any chance of overturning the first-leg Saaaath Laaaaannnndan beat-down.

Team news after the jump.

Steven Gerrard was absent at the weekend with a groin strain but honorary Scouser and Merseyside overlord Rafa Benitez will risk his captain's fitness for such a big game. Liverpool will also have Javier Mascherano back from suspension.


1838: Steven Gerrard has been spotted sitting in the directors' box at Stamford Bridge, wearing his civvies. The Liverpool skipper has been struggling with a groin injury but Rafa Benitez had been expected to risk him in this game.


The Merseysiders certainly have goals in them at the moment: they walloped Blackburn at a canter last weekend and have scored an impressive 21 goals in their last 7 games.

The task in hand is HUUUUUUUGE but if any team knows how to mount a comeback, its Liverpool. Throwing caution to the wind will heap pressure on the Liverpool backline and they will need to defend like never before to stand a chance.

Chelsea will be without EBJT (England's Blubbering John Terry) due to suspension and will be missing injured, over-rated wing back Jose Bosingwa. Ricardo Carvalho should fill in for Terry. Chelsea (like Liverpool) have been free-scoring themselves recently. However, they did get a little scare at the weekend when they took their foot off the gas at 4-0 up at home to Bolton. The trotters scored 3 in short succession and nearly nicked a point. Bolton may have shown Liverpool the way to rattle Chelsea but I expect they will be careful and more respectful of today's visitors.

With the title out of reach I expect Chelsea to be focused on making the Champions League final for a second consecutive season. Not doing so will surely piss off Roman Abramovich and bring Russia's fantasy football guru to the brink of meltdown, and that's why I will be hoping Liverpool can do what seems to be the un-doable. That, and of course any Liverpool comeback will likely mean one hell of a decent game of football for all of us neutrals to enjoy.

The open thread will be up at 2.30 so stay with us for this one. It could be a cracker!


Read more on "Champions League Preview: Revenge Mission."...

Man United get FIVE PFA Nominations. Rest of EPL is dumbfounded.

If you like your players fresh, occasionally used, and oft-substituted, then Giggsy's your man"

If you're a United fan, you should feel good about winning yet another bit of silverware this year: the incomparably useless PFA Player of the Year award. Their odds, stacked much like the NBA Lottery, are good, as five of the six players nominated are from Old Trafford, the sixth being that wonderful Scouse lad, Steven Gerrard (sorry, Lamps).

(Oh, and two of the four nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year are United lads too: the injured Rafael Da Silva who's played six full games this year, and the injured Jonny Evans. Rounding out the noms are Gagbonlahor, Aaron Lennon, and Stephen Ireland.)

I get that they've had a good year (though not since the nomination deadline in early March, heh), but really? How many of the five actually deserve a shout?

Let's look at those United players nominated:

Ryan Giggs: The aging Welsh wizard has started and finished just FIFTEEN games this season. While his goal away at Upton Park was valuable to the cause, can we really justify giving him a shout for PFA Player of the Year? I thought actually playing counted for something.

Nemanja Vidic: Fair nod. He's had a bruising season at the back, regularly tucking strikers away in his back pocket, except for those two league games against Liverpool.

Edwin Van Der Sar: Much has been written of this dour Dutchman. I get that he's responsible for the clean sheet run of January and February, but he made an average of 3 saves per game during that run, and has shown himself to be positively inept over the last 6 weeks or so. If I were picking a goalie to start an important game and I could pick from any in the league, I wouldn't be picking him.

Rio Ferdinand: Now we're getting silly. While he's had a great season, I am baffled at the nominations for both center-backs and goalkeeper.

Cristiano Ronaldo: A massive drop-off from last season, especially by his lofty standards. The moaning and complaining have increased, and his influence has been questionable for long stretches of the year. For any other player, his season has been excellent, but for a guy coming off the unstoppable run of 2007/08, surely there's someone else more deserving?

If anything, it just goes to show you can't get too riled up about this stuff because like all voting/nominations processes (*cough* UF Power Polls *cough*), they're open to subjectivity and just about every inexact science in existence, as well they should be.

And so, you wonder which of 'em will win it. The bias in me would pick Gerrard over any of them: he's having the best season of his career, has spearheaded some memorable victories (including 4 wins and a draw against the Big 4, when LFC hadn't beaten any of them in the league since Rafa Benitez showed up) and scored some wonderful goals.

You have to fancy that Rio/Vidic cancel each other out, because selecting the more deserving center-back in that pairing (arguably, a pairing that succeeds due to their unity and communication, making it nigh-on impossible to pick the better of the two) would be like trying to pick between Led Zeppelin III and Led Zeppelin IV, or trying to choose your favourite child. They have their merits, and yet they're so inextricably connected that it's impossible to tear them apart.

Van der Sar? On merit, probably the 3rd or 4th best keeper in the league, behind Schwarzer or Cech. Ronaldo? Meh. Been there, done that. As for Giggs? If he'd played more, maybe. As Paul Doyle notes in his blog, by far the best United player this season has been completely ignored, lending further weight to the fact that the big-name, big-play guys get all the recognition. No-one thought to throw in a vote for Michael Carrick? Seriously?

And so, I return to my state of feigned outrage at the nominations, because at least one Liverpool lad broke up the monotony. If I were Mark Schwarzer, Brede Hangeland, or Frank Lampard, I'd probably be a lot more pissed off.

Read more on "Man United get FIVE PFA Nominations. Rest of EPL is dumbfounded."...

Wayne Rooney loves United (just not for his son)

Rooney's childhood room, decked out in Everton gear. No word on whether his mum grounded him for not tidying it up before he went to training

England's young, fiery troglodyte has been doing some interior design at his swanky Cheshire pad, in anticipation of his first child (the one that's currently punching corner flags deep in Coleen's placenta). Apparently, if the baby is a boy, he'll whip out the blue paint and prep a neat shrine to Everton.

But he still loves United, just to be sure.

Says the ubiquitous "club insider":
"Wayne has been walking on cloud nine ever since the news — he and Coleen can’t wait. The lads are all made up for him but Wazza insists the baby will follow Everton, no matter what. Wayne had to make do with posters of his hero Duncan Ferguson on the walls of his old home. He wants the little one to have the ultimate boy’s bedroom. Coleen will definitely be having the last say though. If it’s a girl she will insist on a fairytale castle for her Little Princess."
An Everton shrine, or a fairytale castle? If I were that boy, I think I'd choose the castle.

Still, it's one of those fluttering, space-filling stories in a week surprisingly damp for intrigue, despite all the CL 2nd legs taking place today and tomorrow.

One thing is for sure: they'll spend more money on the room than they do on dinner out.

Read more on "Wayne Rooney loves United (just not for his son)"...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Backpasses: How poor are they?

We're awaiting a C&D any day now. Net Result goes after Twitterers [EPL Talk]
Robbie Keane rushed into buying a new house on his return to Tottenham. Oops [ONTD]
Red Star Belgrade players are so poor. . . [The Beautiful Game]
A look at UEFA's Elite Stadia [BSM] and [The Offside]

WAG-to-be bans WAGs from her wedding [Wales Online]
Watch out for flying beers [Off The Post]
Amr Zaki has returned and he is ready to party [Mirror]
Post-match interview with Deuce. Sadly claims to be retired from rapping [Sky Sports]
Hollywod United come to NYC, given star treatment in NYT [Goal blog]

DC-area United fans, you should probably get in on this. A march to keep DCU in DC [Big Soccer]

Read more on "Monday Backpasses: How poor are they?"...

Coach Fucks Peace Efforts

Now come on Bigus. Is there any need for that kind of language in the header?

Actually there is. This story is about Brazilian coach Argel Fucks and his Caxias side's derby game against Juventude. A game preceded by a campaign to promote peace between rival supporters but ended up with three players and both coaches sent off.

Ok. So before this game, rival supporters groups, police and club officials all took part in a 'fraternity breakfast' to promote and endorse a peaceful event. Pity that the coaches and their players had other ideas.

Let's take a look at the video shall we?

It all started when Juventude gaffer Gimar Iser ran onto the pitch in his white shirt and jeans combo to protest that his side didn't receive a penalty? Or was it another decision, he seems to be pointing the other way. Who knows.

Anyway, Isers dismissal was followed immediately by Fucks as he seems to appeal Isers on pitch appeal! Not sure what's going on but Fucks was restrained by riot police and removed from the stadium. No, really!

Argel Fucks himself with a tantrum.


Let's move on. Next some fella gets a red (4:19 in) for sliding in on another fella. Looked like he got the ball to me. Nowt wrong with that at all. Oh wait, a replay at 4:28 shows the offender slide through as if he was being blocked from a free taco giveaway. Off you go son.

At 4:47 a Caxias player gets a second yellow for leaving his foot in. Early bath fella. Off you go.

Then a gem (5:18), a long ball is launched over the Juventude defence and Caxia's forward Julio Madureira latches on, allows it to bounce and lobs the keeper with his left peg. What a beauty. Madureira is so shocked at his own effort that his disbelief interrupts his samba dancing routine and drags him to his knees for a head holding session. It was so good they show it 5 more times. Enjoy.

Done? Ok, let's move on.

The last eventful moment of this game appears at 6 mins and 11 seconds in, the Juventude right back decides to use his arm to stop the ball dropping in behind him. Off you go son. That'll be the third red.

Well, I don't speak Portuguese or know any of the players so I suppose the above will just have to do won't it? If anyone can understand WTF is going on and explain the fracas involving our mate Argel Fucks, leave a comment below or email me using the addy up to the right over there at the top.

Argel Fucks. That's just a great football name. Nearly as good as Chiqui Arce , Dusty Fouser, Pedro Power, Wayne Wanklyn and Danger Fourpence.


Read more on "Coach Fucks Peace Efforts"...

College coach arrested

Clemson University's soccer coach, Trevor Adair, was arrested over the weekend. While the arrest was not for what UF usually covers a coach's arrest, it was for a crime paradoxically better and worse than groping a trusting underaged team member. While Assault and Battery may not initially seem as bad as molesting kids, the story twists a bit when it allegedly involves Adair beating up on his own daughters.

Yeah, that's not so good.

Adair has been head coach at Clemson since 1994. He replaced the founder of the program, Dr. I. M. Ibrahim, who first coached the team in 1967. Ibrahim resigned his position, and at the time there were rumors flying that it as not his idea but the university's insistence. Now, the second coach in the program's 41-year history may be forced to do the same.

As first reported by the Anderson Independent-Mail on Saturday, Adair was arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning on two counts of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. The article says as well that the charges stem from an argument with his two daughters that occurred on the front lawn of Adair's home around 2.30 AM.

As best as I can surmise, these two daughters are Adair's only children. One of them is a senior in high school, while the other has a much lesser online profile. My assumption is that the second girl is younger, but I have no proof. Therefore, my initial reaction was that Adair, who was born and raised in Belfast, was simply letting his curfew-busting kids have it verbally for coming home at such a late hour. Unfortunately, now that the battery charges have been revealed (initially, the articles listed only an assault charge), I can't help but think that what has transpired since is in the university's best interest.

As of Saturday night, Adair has been placed on a leave of absence by the university. The AD has stated that Adair has been given the time in order to get his affairs straightened out. If the charges do in fact move forward, Adair will surely be fired, ahem, resign his position.

This is kind of tough for me to process. Adair is well-known in the local sports community. He has a weekly slot on the Clemson sports radio station. You can often see him out and about in Clemson, and even where I live, which is about an hour's drive away. He has never, to me at least, been seen as an overly aggressive guy, but instead as a jovial (Northern) Irish man. Although I guess that his daughters have a different tale to tell.

I'm reticent to put his picture up on the site, but will link to Adair's mugshot here. Doesn't look so jovial there, I guess. If you really want to see what schadenfreude looks like, then you can go to a massage board of Clemson's main rival. Unlike me, they assume the worst from the start. Of course, they forget that Adair's first post-collegiate job was as a Gamecock assistant, but what can you expect from mouthbreathers?

Read more on "College coach arrested"...

UF Quick Throw: Luton Lose Battle for League Status.

Luton Town were relegated from the Football League today after they failed to beat Chesterfield. Grimsby were surprise winners at Notts County and that vital away win lifted the fishy people 13 points from Luton who have just 4 games left and a possible 12 point haul. Luton faced a struggle all season after being docked 30 points by the Football League for financial irregularities including entering administration. Without the 30 point deficit Luton would currently sit 15th in League 2. They drop out of the league and face some very important challenges to keep the squad together in a league largely filled with semi-pro sides and just 2 promotion places up for grabs.


Read more on "UF Quick Throw: Luton Lose Battle for League Status."...

Jon Oster enjoys a good weekend roast

Jon Oster: roaster

Sunday lunch is a traditional thing in the UK, whereupon everyone takes a trip to their mum's house for a leg of lamb or side of roast beef with all the trimmings. It can't be beat, both for the quality family time, and the superb English food. However, ex-Everton/Sunderland midfielder Jon Oster is a fan of the contemporary roast, which involves group sex, and he's been caught and charged.

It lends weight to the adage that you can take the midfielder out of the Mackem, but you can't take the Mackem out of the midfielder.

Oster, a married 30-year-old now ambling up and down the wing for Crystal Palace, is alleged to have taken a 19-year-old girl back to her home (yeah, she still lives with her parents) with one of his friends, where they groped her a while before his friend had sex with her. I'm not sure what Oster was doing during the second bit, but I'm sure that's what the court transcripts are for.

Police are investigating the allegations, and both Oster and his friend are out on bail until May.

Jon Oster used to be a hot prospect in the footballing world, until he got in brawls here and there, shot his teammate in the eye with an air rifle (prematurely ending his teammate's career), and began on the roasting trail.

Here's hoping his wifey is taking notes. There's some divorce money to be had!

Read more on "Jon Oster enjoys a good weekend roast"...