Monday, December 23, 2013

Are Arsenal and Chelsea already playing for 2nd?



There's no doubt that Arsenal v Chelsea is the big game this weekend in the English Premier League - that's why it's on a Monday night so that people living in the US (me) can watch it at work. I'd rather be in the pub, but it will be full of Arsenal and Chelsea fans. Back to the flask in the drawer I suppose.

But are these two already playing for second place? Manchester City look fantastic. They score so many goals that they can afford to give away comedy own goals like Vincent Kompany did against Fulham.

Here it is in case you haven't seen it enough...


Don't forget City are without Aguero right now, haven't even played Jovetic, are just getting Kompany back and are playing DeMicheles. They are fun to watch, unless your team is playing them and are going to take some stopping.

Arsenal have been fantastic, but may not be able to score enough goals once Giroud has a dry spell. Chelsea concede too many and have had a dry spell from their strikers all season.

Liverpool are buzzing after another great performance from Luis Suarez. They are not a one man team, and have Gerrard and Strurridge to return, but they won't be able to stop City from scoring. In fact, no team in the league will. And this kamikaze season of goals seems to be playing right into City's hands. If Joe Hart can't be relied on as much, just allow him one mistake a game, and then score 2 or more yourself (or about 6 based on current form!).




Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Ronaldinho's show today


The Brazilian leads his Atletico Mineiro side vs Raja Casablanca





Europeans may not care for the World Club Cup. South Americans don't salivate over it either but it's a rare occasion when they're in the spotlight when they make a final in this cash-cow tourney, currently being played in Morocco. Therefore, it's a chance to expand its brand and make some noise in the global football world.

Ronaldinho will look to add to his medals if his side can best the Moroccan hosts for a berth in Saturday's final against Bayern Munich. At 33, the buck-toothed one is still hoping his slim chances to join the national team for the World Cup next year increases with a top display and eventual move to another side in the new year.

Meanwhile, the Germans, sleptwalked their way past Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande and didn't even know Ronaldinho was involved in the tourney, according to Dante!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

George Best knows how to do it right


It's holiday party time - and who knows how to do it better than George Best? Yes, he was a chronic alcoholic and probably wasted his talent, but he had fun doing it!

As Mr. Best once said...

"I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

Monday, December 16, 2013

So why did Spurs let him spend all the money?


There are a lot of average footballers in the picture above. But they cost well over $100 million, and are probably not as good combined as Gareth Bale was individually. Paulinho can play, Eriksen is very good, but Soldado has looked poor, Chadli is average, and Lamela must have a great agent - as he cost $40 million, yet isn't good enough for the bench? There's also two or three others that really haven't improved teh squad, let alone the team, so you have to question why they were bought.

AVB is not a bad manager, but he's been out of his depth at Chelsea and Spurs. He can't dominate a dressing room like his mentor Jose Mourinho, hasn't got enough experience to pull him through a tough period, but ultimately, didn't seem to have a plan B. Spurs got beaten at home by a poor West Ham team with no striker, were embarrassed away at Man City, and humiliated at home to Liverpool. He needed more time, but there weren't even signs he was getting his message/tactics across.

Players have to be accountable, and none of Spurs' players have been. If Andros Townsend is the bright spark this season, it's going to be a long time until May. But AVB didn't get the best out of them, and maybe Gareth Bale's magic lst year was simply papering over the cracks.

Who wants that job? I'm sure plenty of people do, but AVB may have to wait a while to get a position in England again - should he even want one.

***

But let's not take anything away from Liverpool. They were outstanding - probably as good as they have been under Brendan Rodgers. He's had a bit of time, and is forming a team that competes - having Luis Suarez helps, he's a joy to watch, but it still brings a smile when he's kicked. It's nice to have a villain - and a good one at that.

Man City v Arsenal was a fantastic game of football unless you're a defender. There were so many chances that it could have been 11-8. It's not schoolboy football though, so both teams may have to tighten up if they are going to win the title. But I'm fine if they don't - watching a goal every 10 minutes is a great way to start the weekend.

It's better than watching West Ham v Sunderland or Hull v Stoke. Two awful games that show the gulf in quality between the top teams and the hangers-on. These 4 can't compete at the top, but they would all be lucky to be allowed into the Championship after this weekend's results.

***

After Inter lost to Napoli on Sunday, I lost interest in the European review - there's only so many Rafa Benitez plaudits I can take. Real Madrid drew ("Nothing without Ronaldo"), Neymar scored a couple ("The Next Messi"), Juve won ("Tevez Wants Messi Role in Brazil"), Bayern Won ("Steak Extends to 76"), PSG won ("Made Up Headlines Continue")...

Arsenal and Man City need a first leg lead

To be played Feb. 18, 19, 25, 26 and March 11, 12, 18, 19

Manchester CityvBarcelona
OlympiakosvManchester United
AC MilanvAtletico Madrid
Bayer LeverkusenvParis St Germain
GalatasarayvChelsea
SchalkevReal Madrid
ZenitvDortmund
ArsenalvBayern

Who got a good draw? Who is regretting not winning their Group? And is Gonzalo Higuain still crying?!

Manchester City have a good chance against Barcelona in my opinion. Although Messi will be fit by February, so will Aguero. I think City will score home and away against Barcelona, and it will come down to who has a better defence. Kompany is the best defender on either team, although Pique runs him close. It's the others that offer opportunity, and Mascherano probably can't keep with the City players, although Martin Demichelis is a liability for City too - much depends on how few errors those two commit.

Manchester United will be happy, although David Moyes might now be. He's expected to guide his team past Olympiakos, but we all know he hasn't lived up to expectations yet.

Atletico Madrid will beat AC Milan. Why, Diego Costa is top notch. So is Super Mario, but Milan aren't playing well - although could be by February I suppose.

PSG v Leverkeusen. Have to take Zlatan, Cavani and the other superstars - especially as Manchester United put 5 past the Germans in Leverkeusen.

The Drogba tie. Galatasaray are a decent team, but Chelsea should win. But then there is the Didier Drogba factor. He'll probably score against his old team, and cry, and run to Jose Mourinho. But Chelsea are building a strong team, but they need a defender and a goalkeeper - Petr Cech isn't an accident waiting to happen, he's happened - and we're all still watching a laughing/crying.

Real will beat Schalke. Dortmund will beat Zenit. 2 easy ones!

Then there's Arsenal v Bayern Munich. A very tough draw for the English League leaders, but whoever got Bayern was going to struggle. They move the ball so quickly and a clinical. Arsenal need to bring in another striker (not a cup-tied one) and take their chances. They got schlapped by Manchester City at the weekend, but Olivier Giroud still should have had a hat-trick. He's not bad, but he doesn't finish enough key chances. If Arsenal just get one in Germany, they need to take it. Arsene Wenger will happily take any trophy this year, but Bayern are probably too strong for it to be the Champions League. The same as Manchester City, they need to be leading after the first leg.



Friday, December 13, 2013

Was Ashley Young a ball boy?

Has someone found a part-time job when not bench warming at Manchester United?

Maybe next year it won't matter as United won't be in the Champions League (!), but the ball boy gets a little carried away here - the ball wasn't even in front of the boards for him to grab and save David de Gea the 'effort' of walking 3 yards.

That said, give him a microphone wig and he'd be as good as Marouane Fellaini !


Red Bulls get Convey, fans shrug


Skeptical supporters hope MLS vet gets his act together 





With an impressive resume, Bobby Convey, a Philadelphia product, is now entering one of the toughest markets in the league, if not, the world.

Convey, 30, is a former national-team starter with the U.S., a veteran within MLS after being drafted at 17-years-old by D.C. United before moving on to England to play for Reading, then a Championship side prior to promotion to the Premier League. After that, he returned Stateside to bounce from San Jose Earthquakes to Sporting Kansas City to Toronto FC.

New York Red Bulls fans will certainly remember him, however, for his stint with San Jose for it was Convey that netted two goals in the Red Bulls' 3-1 loss in the second leg of their playoff series at Red Bull Arena in 2010.

Plus, there have been unconfirmed grumblings about his attitude within the locker room. Whether or not that's true, it's been kept in-house but appears to have lead to Convey's exit from his previous clubs since returning from Europe.

Convey is a versatile player and has played left back with San Jose but has mostly done his work in the middle of the park and along the wing but some of his crossings with Toronto will have to be worked on if he doesn't want to frustrate Thierry Henry & Co.

His work rate appears to be healthy. He'll get yet another chance within MLS to prove his approach and posture. The Red Bulls camp and manager Mike Petke's regime will be a test for him as the team looks to build depth for MLS and Champions League play. 

Will Convey be ready for the spotlight?

Huge tests for Arsenal, Napoli and Leverkeusen


Is tomorrow's early Premier League game the clash of this season's top two? Or should Chelsea still be among the favorites despite their ability to ship at least 2 a game? Liverpool are still there, but may not even be the best team in their city.

Arsenal away at Manchester City this weekend is huge. City have won 7 of 7 at the Etihad and scored 29 goals in that span - that's an average of more than 4 a game, and they have just conceded 2. Arsenal's defense has been pretty solid to start the season, but they were cut apart by Napoli in the week, and you have to think that Aguero, Silva, Yaya Toure and company (not Vincent, although he's a threat at set plays) are going to give the Gunners a run for their money. Mertesacker and Koscielny have been very good this season, but City move the ball so quickly and playing on the half-turn is really not their strength. If Jenkinson plays too, I think Navas will exploit him and really test that offside trap.

But Arsenal are not 5 points clear after 15 games for no reason. Ramsey has been a beast, and Ozil creates at least one great chance per game - the key may be whether Giroud or Walcott can take that chance - Ramsey has been scoring loads, but the forwards are the players that will decide if Arsenal can maintain their push. Bendtner off the bench isn't that inspiring when you're losing.

There's a big game for Liverpool away at Spurs too. Lose and you're have to think they will slip behind Chelsea and Everton, both who have home games that they should win easily. Liverpool have failed a couple of tests so far this season, but are more than just hanging around  - Suarez is scoring so many goals that you hardly notice the injuries to Gerrard and Sturridge. However, if the Uruguayan is not firing, can anyone else take the responsibility?

Some big games for West Ham at home to Sunderland and Hull home to Stoke. All 4 of those teams need to start getting some points. More losses and some of the managers may be getting nervous - Steve Bruce is doing well at Hull right now, but they are due a bad run at some point, so need to accumulate while the going is good.

***

Roma remain unbeaten, but trail Juventus by 3 points - hard to imagine, but Juve have won 13 of 15 in Serie A, yet couldn't reach the knockout stages of the Champions League. Maybe Serie A isn't as strong as predicted it may be this year. Napoli also didn't advance in Europe, but have a huge game with Inter this weekend. Both teams need a win to stay in touch with the leaders, but the pressure will be on Napoli at home. Inter are unbeaten away, and will be looking to Rodrigo Palacio to nick one - after going out of the Champions League, Rafa Benitez can't afford to lose.

***

Fair play to Bayer Leverkeusen - they are desperately holding on to the coattails of Bayern Munich and reached the knockout stages of the Champions League in midweek. It's going to be tough for them to compete on both fronts, but it's tough for anyone against Bayern (apart from James Milner!).


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Geezer of the Day: Nolberto Solano


From Peru to Argentina to England to Greece and back





The diminutive Peruvian was dubbed 'the little maestro' by one Diego Maradona for his deadly free kicks while the two were teammates at Boca Juniors in Argentina.

Nobby, a trumpet-playing, salsa-loving Peruvian going back and forth between Peru and England, turned 39 today but will always be remembered for his stint with Newcastle United, his beloved club.

Is it ok for Higuain to cry?



Arsenal may have lost 2-0 to Napoli last night, but they still qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League - where they will have a tough task due to finishing second in the Group (but that's another topic).

But while Arsenal were celebrating, Gonzalo Higuain was having a little cry about the 'injustice' of his team being eliminated from the competition despite winning 4 of their 6 games. It's hard not to have sympathy for the striker, but should he be crying about not reaching the last 16 of a tournament?

Maybe he was dreaming of a game against his old club Real Madrid, maybe he lost some money after betting on himself to get the first goal, or maybe he was just upset not to qualify. But crying because your team went out seems a little too much. Of course he can be upset, show some emotion and be in touch with his feelings, but it's not like they were seconds away from winning it all.

I'm being too harsh, I know. But would he cry if Rafa Benitez subbed him against Inter this weekend? Does Rafa cry everytime one of his old players scores against him or calls him the fat Spanish waiter?

People should be able to express emotions in sport, but crying over not qualifying from a Group in which one of the teams had Nicholas Bentdner in it isn't going to get you far. You should be embarrassed, not upset.

Now go and win the Europa League, get another trophy for Rafa, and then cry about it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Who the English teams could get in the last 16


The draw for the last 16 is on Monday. This is who the English teams may play:
Manchester United will play either:
Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Schalke, Zenit St Petersburg or Milan
Chelsea will play either:
Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Zenit St Petersburg or Milan
Manchester City will play either:
Real Madrid, PSG, Dortmund, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona
Arsenal will play either:
Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona

Shows how much easier it looks when you finish top of the Group.

I'm working on the other possibilities, but the Geezer has been busy!

Friday, December 6, 2013

MLS Cup: League doing fine, thank you


Press coverage grows but still needs sophistication





Not surprised to see a blank look on Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes (above) if he has to field some wild inquiries from a still-young football journalism pool in the U.S. However, the problem is not the small, yet growing world of journalists covering the game here. It's when league supporters have to sift through stories written by clueless correspondents sent by editors solely because it's a championship game, ignoring the, you know, season overall.




Coverage of the game was practically non-existent about 20 years ago and continued to be so even after MLS was formed and launched in the mid-1990s. And although there has been and still is an array of talented, knowledegable writers covering not only the American domestic league but football on a global level, we'll still see some forms of narrow-minded coverage that has fans of the game shaking their heads.

Progressively, the media has adjusted and has slowly accepted the game's stamp on the U.S. sports scene over the years. That part is true. But that's generally speaking. Luckily, we have established writers that are recognized by fans all over the country.

There have been lots of interesting angles provided by reporters and bloggers alike for Saturday's final in Kansas City against Real Salt Lake. But, sadly, they're mostly confined to publications known only to league supporter unless casual fans end up googling MLS Cup itself. Basically, many of the top news organizations may not have a specific beat reporter on the scene for the title match. Truth be told, it's more likely that there may be as many foreign correspondents at the match than U.S. ones. That's not an exaggeration.

But there are lots of stories questioning the validity of the teams, shrugged off as too small-market for a final, or why they're named Sporting and Real. Some even ridicule the league's minuscule ratings, fans and overall ambience. Another even pointed out the ridiculous timeslot MLS decided to go with as college football would surely destroy its ratings.

So is bad press better than no press?





MLS Cup: Two deserving sides in the final


Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake consistency rewarded



They aren't the most glamorous or most expensive teams in the U.S. top-flight division but its respective front offices and experienced managers have built deep, fluid and intelligent squads that have, for the most part, had stable campaigns for several years.

Real Salt Lake has developed a touch-pass possession style led by U.S. national-team Kyle Beckerman and Argentine Javier Morales, both of whom already boast an MLS Cup from 2009 when they topped the Los Angeles Galaxy in penalty kicks.

Sporting Kansas City, ever since being rebranded from the Wizards, have turned into a force with its physical play, especially at home, where Saturday's final will be held. Its netminder, Jimmy Nielsen, a Danish vet, and Frenchman Aurelien Collin have combined to help form a brutal backline that has prevented successful attacks in their box that's only surrendered 30 goals in 34 matches in the regular season.

You can't forget Costa Rican Alvaro Saborio for Salt Lake's attack or their goalie Nick Rimando, whose experience also has led him to serve as backup in the national team pool or Kansas City's Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, two more U.S. national team players.

But, more importantly, both sides have focused on young talent and have done well in the draft system to snap up some important signings. It's complemented their structure successfully. It also doesn't hurt that Kansas City and Salt Lake are managed by two league veterans in Peter Vermes and Jason Kreis.

Adding in the passionate atmosphere in the small, yet loud Sporting Park will only help matters as the on-the-pitch scenarios will surely not disappoint both the hardcore and curious casual fans of the league.





Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Is it Mido, Robbie Keane, or just Spurs?

Not sure why this made me laugh, probably because it's Mido creeping out.

Sure there's a funny Spurs toilet humour joke here, but need some help with it...


Monday, December 2, 2013

Try it, you might like it (or keep trying until you do!)


The Guardian's World Cup draw simulator is fantastic.

It's worth finding out who your country can play, and how they can avoid Spain and Brazil !

Here's the link.

I'm not bored. Really, I have midweek previews to write.

Some people shouldn't comment after a shock result

Barcelona lost. They are now joint top with Atletico Madrid, with Real Madrid just 3 points behind. The Catalans have won 13 of 15. They lost a game, and it coincided with Lionel Messi not playing. Queue stupid Messi/Ronaldo comparisons, memes, drama, overreaction.



It's the end of the world for Barcelona if you read too much online. Barca are nothing without Messi, Real are still lions even when Cristiano is injured because they now have Gareth Bale.

One loss. All those World Cup winners, European Champions, league winners and some of the best players of their generation are nothing without Messi. Comparing Neymar to Bale? You deserve to be shot.

Twitter, Facebook etc, are great socila media tools, but there is a reason some people don't deserve to be heard. If you don't know anything about football, please don't comment. It just makes you look stupid.

Congrats to the Welshman on his hat-trick. Let's not forget it came against a team in the bottom 3 of La Liga. A great achievement, and hopefully he'll encourage more talent to experience football abroad.

***

Liverpool and Manchester United are done, Arsenal are battling Chelsea and Manchester City for the title. This may prove to be true in January of February, but let's just enjoy a team and a player (Mr. Aaron Ramsey) playing some great stuff. City also look good and are scoring loads of goals. Both City and Arsenal are making the others look bad, but no-one in the top 8 is out of it yet - Newcastle and Southampton may not last with the big boys, but there's real competition this year, and that's something to be enjoyed.

Fulham sacked Martin Jol after their shocking display at West Ham. Some managers get a rough deal when they are fired so early in a season, but the Cottagers were awful against the Hammers. Carlton Cole scored. While the criticism around him is harsh, you know you're in trouble when he scores. West Ham could have had 6, and that's saying something for a team that has struggled to score goals all season. Fulham were lucky to get 0 - they didn't have a shot in the game that troubled the keeper.

***

Bayern and PSG are both still unbeaten. I'll take the Germans lasting longer in that competition, but I'll probably enjoy watching PSG more. Zlatan makes me smile. He loves the game, and does things that you should pay money to go and see. Bayern dominate teams and make their superiority show, and they are fun to watch, but Zlatan is worth the entrance fee on his own.




Friday, November 29, 2013

Sunday morning ball to the face

I'm not sure who will have more of a red face.

Should it be the guy 'shooting'? That's lucky if it goes out for a throw-in.

Or the fat man in the middle who is going to have cauliflower ear in the morning?

And that's ball in the face, not balls in the face for all of you who googled something different!


Allardyce and Jol don't want the draw



We're only 12 games into the Premier League season, but West Ham v Fulham is huge for both teams already. West Ham have only won twice this season in the league, and their defense - which was keeping them in games - is now suffering key injuries and a loss of confidence. They also can't score goals. Kevin Nolan needs to play off a front man. He has never had pace, but feeds of scraps from a center forward or crosses into the box. West Ham are just not creating chances like that with Andy Carroll, but Sam Allardyce needs to change the formation and personal to deal with it. He claimed a lot of credit for playing 6 in midfield away at Spurs when the Hammers won 3-0, but hasn't adapted again since then. Lose again at home and you can bet the boos will be ringing around Upton Park.

Martin Jol won't just get booed if he loses, he'll probably get fired. Rene Meulensteen has already been brought in as a coach, and he'll get the job if they lose to West Ham on Saturday, or maybe after the Spurs game on Wednesday. Fulham just haven't really progressed as a team this season. Scott Parker was a good addition, but he's getting on, as is Darren Bent. Unfortunately for Fulham, they seem to be aging as a team, and not in a good way. Instead of using the experience of Berbatov, Hangeland and Parker, they are just showing that they are older, slower and less able to produce what they did a couple of years ago. Fulham are very dependent on the Bulgarian and he's a match-winner at his best - but maybe he doesn't have much of his best left.

It's a huge game for both teams, but you have to feel Fulham would be much happier with a point away from home. West Ham need to win - and win again at Palace on Tuesday. Otherwise they'll be facing a very difficult Christmas period with nowhere near enough points on the board.

Spurs also need something against Manchester United this weekend. After getting beaten by 6 by Manchester City last weekend, they need not only a result, but a performance. It would be stupid to sack Villas-Boas after allowing him to spend a boat load of money, but they need something. Goals would be a good start.

The league is starting to take shape, and the top 4 look like they could be the top 4 (with one other wildcard or Manchester United) at the end of the season.

***

Too many good American traditions have meant the Geezer has taken his eye off the ball in Europe this weekend. I'll be watching, but the turkey and red wine mean that any attempt at analysis or observation has gone out of the window. 

Beer, wine and food take precedence sometimes. Deal with it.

Ballack forgets that it's holiday season

It's the holidays Michael - calm down.

There's plenty of football to look forward to this weekend, no need to complain.

You'd think he missed out on the last bit of Thanksgiving turkey!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Where are we with the Champions League?


Qualification for the Champions League knockout stages is almost done. There are a few loose ends to tie up, but that's about it - and the rich are about to get richer as almost all the big teams are through to set up some fantastic ties in the last 16.

But it's all about winning the Group. Qualifying for the knockout stage is a success for some, but should be the minimal requirement for those who spend unthinkable money every year. Not just the English teams, but all the big boys have splashed out, and if you can't beat teams like Viktoria Plzen, Austria Vienna and Anderlecht, then you have bought the wrong players.

So here's the breakdown....

PSG and Atletico Madrid bossed their Groups - and that's the price teams will pay for not topping the Group. Nobody wants to play them, Barca, Real or Bayern.

Bayern have won 5 from 5, and it's hard to imagine them not beating Manchester City at home in two weeks. City are through too, which counts as a success, but they may need an easier tie to progress past the last 16 - and there are no easy ties in the knockout stages of the Champions League. City can, and will, score against any team - but they look shaky at the back. I don't agree with Kolo Toure that they will rue selling him, but they do need a quality defender - someone like Vincent Kompany, not Kolo Toure.

Manchester United are through again. Their Group wasn't easy, but they made hard work of some pretty average teams. David Moyes will be happy to advance, but I can't help thinking that United are going to get spanked by someone. Rooney is playing well, but there is nobody in the midfield that other top teams would want. In fact there's nobody in the United midfield that any other team wants on their bench.

Juventus are going to have to get something in Turkey against Galatasaray - a draw will probably do it, but Drogba and Sneider may have something to say about that. Juve look so good in Serie A, but very inconsistent in Europe. Anything but qualification will be a huge failure for them.

Chelsea are in. Basel or Shalke will join them. Who wins that Group is still to play for - but it won't be Steaua Bucharest who are now 22 games without a win in the Champions League. Basel have got 6 of their 8 points against Chelsea - what seemed an easy Group has turned vaguely interesting. Chelsea need to win it, or they will face a tough task in the knockout stages against other Group winners.

Arsenal have won 4 of their 5, yet sit just 3 points ahead of Dortmund and Napoli. Should they lose to the Italians in Naples by 3 or more, they could go out - with 12 points! Marseille have lost to everyone, so that Group of Death thing didn't quite work out. All 3 teams will still be in Europe, and I'd say the team who finishes 3rd would be favorites to win the Europa League.

Ajax stayed alive by beating Barcelona, but they will have to beat AC Milan in Italy to advance. I can't see either topping the Group as the Catalans play the already eliminated Celtic on the last Group match day.


Stay out of the Championship - it's all a bit weird!

Reading v QPR - should have been a decent game between two teams relegated from the Premier League last year.

I don't know how I wrote that sentence. Was trying to justify this clip. 

The quality of writing on this site is just getting worse!




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What's the rush? Let me get a cuppa first

Jack Wilshire didn't even give me a chance to get a tea (beer) or settle in for the afternoon.

Here's that goal after 33 seconds for those of you who missed it.

Not a bad finish - especially as he's the saviour of English football, or did his week with that label pass already?


Monday, November 25, 2013

The divide in European soccer is growing


I'd like to write about other European leagues and how great they were to watch this weekend, and there sre great teams in Serie A, La Liga, the Bundesliga and Ligue Un, but they are only getting competition in the Champions League.

Barcelona are unbeaten in the first 14 games of the season and have scored 42 goals in that time, conceding just 9 goals. Bayern beat Dortmund this weekend to extend their run to 13 unbeaten to start this season, and they have won 11 of those, letting in just 7 goals. Juve are top again in Serie A, starting 11-1-1, with Roma close, but only because they started at an unbelievable rate and have an amazing defense. PSG are also unbeaten, topping Ligue Un on 34 points from 14. Lille are second, rivaling Roma for tightest defense, conceding just 4 in 14.

So there is somewhat of a story there, but it's no surprise really. The top teams just get stronger and the competition gets weaker. Every major league in Europe, apart from England, still has at least one unbeaten team with about a third of the season gone. That may be great for stats and records, but there is a real gulf in class among the teams now, and it's not great to watch - teams are seeing a 2-0 loss as an acceptable result, because Barca, Real, Bayern and PSG are putting 4,5, 6 or 7 past teams. And that leads me into the Premier League - Man City have put 7 past Norwich and now 6 past Spurs, and Tottenham spent about $150 million this off-season. What hope do other teams have of competing if City can smash 6 past a team who were tipped for the top 4?

The gulf is growing, and not in a good way people. That European Super League we all dread may actually make the domestic season better - but that's another discussion.

***



So City, Chelsea and Arsenal all had pretty easy wins this weekend. Games that had the potential to trip them up. They look like the strongest three teams in the division. Liverpool are close, but they're pretty evenly matched up with Manchester United this season. Spurs don't look like they are going to make the top 4 again, but they still have a chance to crack it - they just need to learn to defend, and to get some supply to a striker that cost a huge chunk of that Gareth Bale money.

The Merseyside derby was fantastic. Lead changes, great goals, a yellow that should have been a red, and that man again....Romelu Lukaku. Yes, I could have said Luis Suarez, and he deserve s a mention, but the young Belgian is an absolute beast. He is the ultimate lone striker. Big, strong, good in the air, quick, can finish and is just 20! But lest we forget, Chelsea own him. So Everton's shot a the top 4 is realistic, but they won't find another Lukaku next year, and Chelsea won't loan him out again.

West Ham and Fulham are in trouble. Both teams look weak, and their game next week is a real 6-pointer. Neither team is playing well, and the excuses given by Martin Jol and Sam Allardyce are not enough anymore. West Ham need Carroll back, but to expect him to come in and score 15+ in the second half of the season is unrealistic. Fulham can't defend right now, and as good as he is when they win, Berbatov becomes a liability when they're behind.

Some rich league football to keep us entertained this week - so we don't need to worry about the little teams too much. 

Come in Number 9, your time is up

Radamel Falcao is top scorer in Ligue Un.

Monaco won again this weekend and sit third in the league, just behind leaders PSG.

But not everything is rosy for the Colombian striker. As every good Sunday league player does, Falcao gave the coach the stare when his number was raised this weekend. No-one wants to be subbed, and while it's a chance to get a beer (energy drink) and snack (hot dog) for some, Falcao doesn't see himself as one of those.

Good to see though, because no-one should be smiling when they get taken off.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Defoe gets a start, although seems lucky to make the squad

No surprise to see Damien Duff on the bench, and think this may be the only way Jermain Defoe ever gets to start!

Huge clash in Germany; Chance to forget Milner has 44 caps




So watching Ronaldo was fantastic (by far the best player in the world right now), seeing France come back was inspiring (although many people wanted them to miss out), and some of the African qualifiers were great - but now we have the 32, it's all set. International friendlies are awful, as anyone who watched England v Germany will testify. So let's get back to some club football, see some quality, and not wonder how James Milner has 44 caps for England.


***

So Everton v Liverpool eh? Martinez v Rodgers. Personally I think Roberto is a better manager and seems to be able to get teams to actually play. He sticks to his principals and has inherited a very good Everton team - the face they have Romelu Lukaku too seems a little unfair, but so be it. Liverpool are very strong going forward, but as we saw against Arsenal, Rodgers doesn't seem to have a Plan B. If Sturridge and Suarez are not firing, Coutinho and Gerrard need to boss the game - because Jordan Henderson, Victor Moses and Joe Allen have all been poor. To say Liverpool need another striking option seems excessive at this point, but they do if they want to really contend.

Arsenal need someone other than Giroud too. A huge game at home against Southampton. It may not sound right, but they need Walcott and others to take the burden off the Frenchman (because he's not that good).

Some early relegation games loom too. Hull v Palace, Stoke v Sunderland and Cardiff v Manchester United! We're coming into a key period where teams need to win games rather than draw, and not let themselves get detached from the pack. West Ham need a win, as do Fulham, but so does everyone I suppose!

***

A repeat of last year's Champions League final in Germany this weekend. Dortmund against Bayern. First against second, with the reigning champs unbeaten, conceding just 7 goals in 12 games.  Bayern haven't lost away in the Bundesliga for 24 games, which is just unreal, but they will be without Frank Ribery who was injured for France. Everyone is injured for Dortmund, with their defense really suffering - and as no one can stop Bayern scoring, don't be surprised if Mario Gotze notches against his old team. He's bound to get a lot of abuse from the fans, and should probably avoid Jurgen Klopp screaming at him too!

***

I'm bored of La Liga. It's so early to say that, but there isn't a game that really interests me this weekend. Barca without Messi, Real without Khedira and Alonso - yeah, big losses, but those two giants have so many other players. Just means we get to see more of Neymar and Isco.

The top 5 in Serie A are breaking away too, but perhaps it's more interesting to see how bad AC Milan are. 10th after 12 games, no away wins, 19 points behind Roma already and nothing too bright on the horizon. They still have Mario tho, and he's worth admittance on his own.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Then there were 32 - but not many surprises


All 32 places for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil are now taken after the play-off games were completed this week, and the field has a familiar look to it. Twenty-four of the 32 teams are same as in 2010, with the qualification process seemingly paving the way for the bigger teams to make the tournament. 

Mexico won just two of their 10 games in the final round of qualifying, yet still got another chance to make it by playing a home and home series with New Zealand, a team ranked 79 in the world (Mexico are 24). Bosnia-Herzegovina are the only debutants, with 14 of the 32 teams having reached double digits in appearances (Brazil 2014 is the 20th World Cup). 

Although 76 different national teams have made the finals, there have only been 17 new teams since the format expanded to 32 teams in 1998, and only seven of those have made a repeat appearance. 


Only South American teams have won the tournament when it's been held in the Americas, and no team from outside of Europe or South America have ever made the final in any World Cup - so although it's great to see representation from Algeria to Australia, it's unlikely they will reach the later stages - with South Korea and the US (in 1930) the only teams from outside the traditional powerbases to even make a semi-final.

The African teams tend to vary a little, but teams from Asia, South America, North and Central America and Europe are largely the same every four years. Some bigger European nations always miss out as the region gets 13 spots for 53 nations, but it’s the World Cup and the beauty of it is seeing teams from all over the world – because there’s no other stage to potentially watch Iran against Costa Rica.



Also worth viewing on the WSJ sports section:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304607104579210260819460176

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What are goalkeepers thinking?

It must be a pretty lonely job, especially on a good team.

But you have to concentrate, and the best goalkeepers are ready to make that big save when they are called upon.

Then there are the other times. Are 'keepers thinking about food? women? why they weren't good enough to play on the field?

Maybe they should think about how to deal with what's going on, and how to save the ball...and not look like an idiot.

This one is tough, but what is he doing? It looks like it hits him in the face on the way down!



Admit it, you love Cristiano, even while hating him

What more can be said about the Portugeezer?

He's the best player in the world at the moment - he took his country to the World Cup next summer, has broken all types of records, scores great goals, has a model as a girlfriend, an eight-pack, 42 nice cars, 16 homes and more money and talent than most of us will ever have.

He's so good, but he's also someone it can be hard to like. You can love his talent, looks and girlfriend, but Cristiano is someone that is hard to like. He comes across as arrogant, aloof and miserable - which is hard to understand with everything he has. The media intrusion must be hard to deal with every day, but smile a bit more - like you did when you scored the hat-trick last night.

People love him and hate him, but not many seem to like him.

And because of that, I'm posting this...


Benzema and Ronaldo celebrate qualification

This made me laugh this morning - because big cartoon heads have a way of doing that!

Even Mr. Mourinho got in on the act!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Can France do it? Will Zlatan miss out?



A World Cup with no Zlatan? Or one without Ronaldo? Add that to no Ribery, Benzema, or the crazy French.

It wouldn't be worth watching would it?

People (I'm not calling them fans) want to see the best players, but part of the drama is who is not there, and how they failed. England won their group, but still got a hard time from the media; Switzerland may be the weakest top seed, but they won their group and qualified easily; Mexico are set to be there even though they have had more chances than any other team.

But those teams will be there next summer, and no one will care how they did it. If France or Portugal are not there, you can bet people will remind them every day until the tournament ends.

I think the home teams in European qualifying will all win tonight, and while that will mean the end for Iceland, the margin of victory in the other games will determine who goes through.

France need to score early, or there will be a new generation of Ginolas and Cantonas, who are still blamed for them not making it to USA '94.

Romania got the away goal, so have a good chance to score 2 and qualify at home to Greece.

Sweden have to score 3 in my opinion as Cristiano always has a goal in him. If Portugal score, they should qualify on away goals, but Zlatan has something up his sleeve, I just know it.

I've been wrong on everything else though, so stay tuned for another 4 teams to be going to Brazil by the close of business - which 4 is anyone's guess!

Will Ireland fans care if France fail to make it to Brazil?

Remember this?

I'm sure Ireland fans will be learning the national anthem of Ukraine ahead of today's game - or just drinking a few of those famous Ukrainian beers...


Friday, November 15, 2013

Pelotas' Ponderings: Is Argie gaffer a 'testardo?'


Tevez in form back in Italy, Argentina move on in N.J.



Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella refuses to discuss Carlos Tevez and his absence from the national team. Although he does his best to be mild-mannered about it, you can sense his tiresome sighs as he fields inquiries from his country's reporters at the Westin Hotel in Jersey City, N.J. where the team is stationed at ahead of tonight's friendly against Ecuador at MetLife Stadium.

Sabella feels it's disrespectful to speak of a player that's currently not with the team and also belittles the ones that are.

Fair enough.

But why--with Lionel Messi out nursing the most famous hamstring in the world--would Sabella not call El Apache up? The man has netted six times in 11 matches so far with Juventus following his transfer from Manchester City and has looked in fine form. He's happy in Turin, is more comfortable with the language and has an array of talent surrounding him that fits his on-the-pitch personality, giving him the fuel to perform.

His last appearance in the famous sky blue and white colors was at Copa America 2011 in Argentina where the home side was eliminated in penalty kicks to Uruguay in the quarterfinals. Tevez missed his from the spot.

From there speculation arose about his commitment to the national team. There were murmurs of attitude, unhappiness and burnout. His rift with then-manager Roberto Mancini at City that led to him taking leave from the team didn't help his cause. Tevez also had made remarks about quitting his international career at 28 years old on several occasions. You have to wonder what his mindset is at now.

However, the joy that is displayed on his face this season is priceless. He comes from a rough Buenos Aires neighborhood called Fuerte Apache and may not be the most articulate or engaging individual to the press and upper management but he is a true warrior of the game, representing what we all strive to do whether on the pitch or off of it. Tevez isn't Cristiano Ronaldo-glamorous but his hard-working personality sparks a demeanor that makes us fans root for him. And he will surely be missed tonight in New Jersey.






Friday fail - looked like a penalty to me


Pretty sure he'll make it as a professional - he has the diving part down already!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Geezer of the Day

There will never be another Prince like Francescoli




Enzo Francescoli bleeds the red and white of River Plate, long after his retirement from the game.

When River manager Ramon Diaz was sent off during a derby match against rivals Boca Juniors, Boca supporters taunted him, chanting that he belonged in 'the B,' the division that River descended into about two years ago. Diaz reacted by gesturing it wasn't under his tenure.

That angered Francescoli, who in the subsequent days lashed out at Diaz, saying all River supporters were in the B division during that dark time in River history. "After more than 10 years with the club, I'd rather get relegated with River than be with another first-division club," he said.

The former Uruguayan international was an artist on the pitch and a gentleman off it. He turned 52 on Tuesday.














Zlatan or Ronaldo - and you can't have both



So the big game tomorrow in the European playoffs for the Brazil 2014 World Cup has to be Greece v Romania. Can't wait for that one!

Then there's Portugal v Sweden. Cristiano against Zlatan. The two superstars have 48 goals between them this year, and 7 hat-tricks. With Lionel Messi injured, these two are the best two players in the game right now.

Zlatan has it all - the goals he scores are unbelievable, but his technique is phenomenal. He's such a character and has a personality that Brazil needs next summer.

Ronaldo is moody, elusive and more model than footballer. But what a footballer. He has everything, and has to be considered one of the greats of the game already - and he's only 28.

But we can't have both. Never team could win their group, although Sweden had a much tougher task after being paired with Germany. And the luck (or should we say bad luck) drew the two teams together. I wouldn't be bothered if Sweden or Portugal weren't there, but if Ronaldo and Zlatan aren't there, they will be missed.

France should beat Ukraine over two legs. They have quality at the back and in midfield, with Ukraine posing little threat in my opinion. Iceland are huge underdogs against Croatia, but they are the feel good story of European qualification. Greece and Romania is a game that doesn't excite me at all, which probably means it will be the best one. Neither team will do much in Brazil, but then I said that when Greece won the Euros in 2004!

I'm taking Sweden to win over the two legs, with Greece, Iceland and France joining them. Cristiano has it all already, and he'll sulk for a while, but then console himself with his model girlfriend, millions of dollars and addiction to sunbeds.

Got to go for Iceland, unless you're Croatian

Iceland are bidding to become the smallest nation to reach the World Cup finals when they hosts the first leg of their play-off against Croatia in Reykjavik tomorrow.
And now that there's another Icelander among the Geezer family (welcome Max, Iceland is fine, Arsenal won't be tolerated), it's hard not to back them.
Swedish coach Lars Lagerback has taken the island nation, with a population just over 300,000, to the the brink of Brazil 2014, and the chance to reach a major tournament for the first time in their history.
Iceland had won 5 of their group games, including successes over Norway and Slovenia, and are unbeaten in their past four, including a 4-4 draw at group winners Switzerland.
Despite Iceland's vast improvement, Croatia remain favorites to progress, but have a few coaching issues after Igor Stimac stood down following a 2-0 defeat in their final World Cup qualifier against Scotland last month.
Plus, Iceland have Eidur 'Goody' Gudjohnson. How could you nowt like this guy? He played for Chelsea (so that's one reason), but always seemed to enjoy the game and got to play for the national team with his Dad - that's good enough for me!


Sepp was right......for once

FIFA's overlord wants to do away with World Cup playoffs





Sepp Blatter, not one to provide the most glamorous of quotes, may have gotten it right this time around. What's the point of the playoff system to enter the World Cup?

Yesterday, Mexico trampled a New Zealand side that hoped to minimize the goalfest by hanging back but the desperate Aztecs--with a hounding press and angry supporter base--penetrated the Kiwis' wall for five in the net that surely will secure its ticket to Brazil next year, barring a collapse in the second leg next week. And don't forget this Mexico side was a domestic side with the majority of them from Club America.

Meanwhile, in Jordan, Uruguay may as well have whipped out a chalkboard and pull up some chairs to teach football to the Asian side. The gap in class was evident almost immediately and the South Americans showed no mercy in the midst of a timid atmosphere compared to the hostilities shown on their home continent when visiting places like Bogota, Quito and Lima.



It's understandable that FIFA and its money-making machine looks to expand and include non-traditional powers into the mix (see Qatar 2022) but the reality is yesterday's results show how much the continuing changes in its system to attract some sort of competitive balance on a global scale is....well, Blatteresque.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An opportunity to get in to the 23, or to rule yourself out?



Steven Gerrard is going to Brazil next summer, unless he gets injured. Kyle Walker might be, but knows he can do himself no harm in the friendly against Chile on Friday - mainly because he has made himself unavailable due to injury.

Both pulled out of the squad, along with Michael Carrick, Ross Barkley and Danny Welbeck.

Of the injury withdrawals, you'd have to say that only the captain Gerrard is 100% assured of his spot in Roy Hodgson's squad that go to the World Cup. And at this stage, players can definitely play themselves out of the reckoning, but can't cement a place.

Friendlies at this stage are important, but you can understand the clubs not wanting their players to get injured or tired playing for their countries. Hence it's unlikely that anyone is going to perform at a level where the national manager decides that they have to be in the World Cup 23.

So what's the solution? Dean Ashton will tell you that training with the national team is just as dangerous as a game, but wouldn't a closed doors friendly between the squad help more? The minutes could be limited, the teams could interchange and work on certain formations and tactics.

These players shouldn't need the fitness work or match practice. They need confidence and a chance to bond on the field with their teammates. Playing for England against Chile and Germany will make great fodder for the press and fans, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where these games benefit England.

Hodgson and his counterparts across the world shouldn't be learning anything new from these games. If you don't know who is good enough for the national team and who isn't, you shouldn't be the manager. Play one game, coach them the rest of the time.

Walker won't have to face Alexis Sanchez, and probably won't play against the top-class German team either. If England do replace Walker with Micah Richards, Glen Johnson or just let Chris Smalling play both games, then those players are more likely to damage their reputations than enhance them.

And so Kyle Walker (who is probably lucky to even be in the squad) could end up being the first choice next week without kicking a ball. Aren't friendlies great?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Another angle would be nice, but technique is great

So I can't really see how his body shapes that way, but goals are goals, and who doesn't love seeing them?

Beats working.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Of course van Persie would score; Don't rush Messi


Robin van Persie was bound to score the winner against Arsenal. It was a reminder that Manchester United are far from out of the title race, and Arsenal aren't the clear favorites for the league. Both teams will be there or thereabouts in the run up to Christmas, but much will depend on the strength of their squads when the league, cup and European games are coming thick and fast.

One player United won't be bragging about in their squad is Marouane Fellaini - if Tom Cleverly is coming on before you in a big game, you cant be that good. He doesn't fit in at Old Trafford, and I can only think that Moyes wanted him as a familiar face around the place - but he really wanted Leighton Baines, and seems to have ended up with Fellaini when he couldn't get anyone else.

Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs are 3 teams I just can't work out. Great one week, awful the next. Spurs probably haven't been great all season, but they should be so much better. They don't create anything, and Soldado looks completely lost. Andros Townsend was the savior of England a few weeks ago, but cutting in and shooting every time you get the ball is probably the reason he wasn't offered a second month's loan spell at Leyton Orient. In the words of John Barnes, 'there's only one way to beat 'em, get round the back.' Soldado needs crosses to score, surely that's why they have all these wingers.

City are a strange team. They have no excuses (Joe Hart wasn't playing) for not beating Sunderland. Smashing Norwich by 7 doesn't mean much if you are going to allow Phil Bardsley to bully his way into the box and finish (and yes, he did finish well, I'll give him that).

Chelsea were saved by a dive to maintain Mourinho's run at home. Get Lukaku back as soon as you can/play Mata/sell Obi Mikel/get Courtouis back to replace Cech. Because no one else can understand why you haven't done these things already.

***

PSG are going to win Ligue Un. Zlatan is just too good. End of.... Juventus are going to win Serie A. Not as certain on this one, but Roma are coming back down to earth after their amazing start, Napoli couldn't live with Juve yesterday, and Tevez, Pirlo, Llorente and Pogba have all the quality they need to compete in multiple competitions... Bayern Munich are too good.

***

Will Barcelona miss Lionel Messi? What do you think? But they need to be patient. His hamstring injury could keep him out a few months, but they still have more than enough quality to beat the majority of teams in La Liga. Xavi, Iniesta and Neymar don't become bad players because Messi isn't there. Real Madrid will be hot on their heels now that Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema seem to be clicking, but the overall quality of the opposition in La Liga means that Barca should be able to at least keep pace until Messi's return in late-January.

Michael Owen and Lionel Messi in the same sentence?



News is breaking that Lionel Messi is out for 6-8 weeks with a hamstring tear.

Hopefully he takes time to let it heal and Barcelona don't rush him back.

Michael Owen's game was all based on pace, and once his hamstrings went, he really didn't have much left. Messi has so many more talents than just his speed, but hopefully this is not the start of a decline for Messi - he's a young man, but has played a lot of football and probably needs a rest.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Moyes probably won't have the answers for Arsenal


Arsenal against Manchester United on Sunday - any interest? No, didn't think so!

People keep expecting Arsene Wenger's team to fail, but we're now over a quarter of the way through the season and they are top of the league and have the most in-form player in the Premier League, if not Europe right now.

David Moyes on the other hand spent 27.5 million pounds on Marouane Fellaini. He wasn't that good at Everton, and looks completely out of his depth at Manchester United. He deserves time to find his feet, but maybe he can't see them through all that hair - i know, the tumbleweed is rolling right now, and I'm ok with it.

United have to hope they can outscore Arsenal, as it's unlikely they will dominate the ball, even at Old Trafford.

A defeat for Arsenal isn't the end of the world, and while it's another reason to question what is going on with Moyes's team, it's not the end for them either. They are more than capable of going on a streak, but a defeat here would create a lot of questions that the Scotsman doesn't appear to have the answer for.

I can't see Palace or Sunderland picking up points against Everton or Manchester City, and you have to fear for both of them already. West Ham against Norwich isn't quite a 6-pointer yet, but if the Hammers fail to score again, the decision to put all the eggs in the Andy Carroll basket will look even worse.

***

It seems we just wait for El Clasico in Spain now, or for one of them to face Atletico. Really not much to say about La Liga except that we hope for a shock result rather than another record to be broken by Messi or Ronaldo.... German and French football don't have any huge games this weekend, but I do appreciate that they start the weekend fixtures on a Friday night - really helps me through the day!
***

And then there's Juventus v Napoli. Roma have made a great start in Serie A, but these two are teh pre-season favorites and have both started really well. Hopefully the midweek European ties won't have turned this into a defensive game, but then it's Serie A, so expect some of that anyway! Tevez has been running riot in Italy, with Higuain, Hamsik and co. likely to play their own brand of counter-attacking football.

Rafa Benitez deserves a lot of credit, but Antonio Conte has built a formidable team, with Paul Pogba developing into a top-class player. Juventus have the home advantage and that puts them in poll position, but who cares who wins?* It's just another great game in another fantastic weekend of football.

*I care who wins, and I hope it's Juve - but not sure why. Oh that's right, I have money on it! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Worth a second look - it's against Spurs too!

The Europa League is chugging along nicely, and it made me think of this goal from last season's competition.

Samuel Umtiti with the screamer for Lyon, and it was against Tottenham too, so I had to post it.


The Champions League format needs to change

We're not going back to the old European Cup, but let's mix it up a bit

Play knockout games, Group stages are just a way to make money


Atletico, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City are into the last 16. Real Madrid, Chelsea and PSG are one point away, so I'll gamble and say that's 7 in with 9 still to be decided.

My bet would be Manchester United, Bayer Leverkeusen, Juventus, Benfica, Shalke, AC Milan, Zenit St Petersburg, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal.

I'm bound to be wrong on one or two, but let's play the hypothetical game for a minute.

Those 16 would make up some fantastic knockout ties, but most football fans would probably have picked at least 12 of those 16 to qualify. So it makes me think again about the validity of the group stages, and whether they are just a way for UEFA to really coin in the TV money. We all know it's true, but it's such a long, drawn-out competition that maybe it needs to be reduced so that we can get the interest back in every game. Group stages are just a way of ensuring every team gets on TV, earns some money and showcases their best players for the bigger teams to buy the next season.

Barcelona v AC Milan was exciting to watch, as was Real Madrid v Juventus, but these massive ties don't have the same significance or importance when they could happen 4 times a season. Let them slug it out once (well twice as the home and away legs are still a factor), and the winner advances.

Oh, but then we won't see Messi v Balotelli or Ronaldo v Pirlo in the latter stages - sure we will, just seed the teams from 1 to 32, It may not be the Champions 'League' anymore, but it gives the smaller teams a chance to progress, places some importance on every game and doesn't just keep lining the pockets of the bigger teams.

Oh, I'm suggesting going back to the old European Cup when the Champions of each league played each other? Yes, and no. Sepp Blatter can keep the money from having 4 English teams, 4 Spanish, Bayern, PSG etc, but we won't have to endure months of games that lead us to the same end - and it creates a fairer system where smaller teams can advance, because ask a Milan fan now about that epic tie with Barcelona in the Champions League, and he/she will say, "When? In 2013, 12, 11, 06, 04?" Or something like that in Italian!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Red Bulls, Dynamo don't need stats



Winner advances to Eastern conference final





This is America so let's look at the stats for tonight's second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo at Red Bull Arena (8pm ET).

The Texas side have been to the last two MLS Cup finals but lost both to the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Dynamo, founded in 2006, have two MLS Cup trophies to their name, missed the playoffs once and is a different animal altogether postseason, given their experience and managerial team led by Dominic Kinnear.

The Red Bulls, meanwhile, have lost all three of their home playoff matches dating back to 2010 (San Jose Earthquakes, Galaxy and D.C. United) when their stadium opened. They also have not won a playoff match at home since 2005 when they played at the old Giants Stadium. 

But the Red Bulls are 11-2-4 at home this season, 3-0 against the Dynamo at home in the past two years and have outscored them 9-3 in three matches since September all in Houston, including last weekend's first-leg draw.




                                     Photo by Danissa Alvarado


Stats aside, tonight's match should be a cracker as Houston will draw on its experience postseason as the Dynamo still boast most of its players from the last two finals with Brad Davis leading the way and Will Bruin and Boniek Garcia bombarding the Red Bulls defense.


For New York, the consistency in the 2013 campaign that resulted in its first trophy last week will be counted upon. Although their backline boulder--Colombian Jamison Olave--is suspended for tonight's return leg, manager Mike Petke is confident in his side's depth as he moves some pieces to avoid its defense missing a beat to contain Houston's dangerous attackers. But the thought of deciding whether Roy Miller comes back from injury or leaving David Carney in is one that Red Bulls supporters are biting their nails over.

One curse down for New York but will they best the home playoff demons?