Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year TV Preview: 1 - 3 January 2011

Saturday 1 January

12.30 Hearts v Hibernian, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
What's your New Year's resolution? Watch more football? Watch less football? Well whichever it is our guide to what's on telly will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. First up for 2011 we have an Edinburgh derby. Well - OK if you're into that sort of thing I guess. Personally I'll be watching...

12.45 West Brom v Manchester Utd, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
Not the easiest of places to go to try and get just your second away win of the season, but despite some notable results this season West Brom are in a dodgy position at the moment: three points from the dropzone and having lost their last three games. United on the other hand seem to be getting better and better.

17.20 Watford v Portsmouth, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Two teams on the rise and perfectly capable of getting play off spots. Should be goals here as both teams have been banging them in during December.

17.30 Birmingham City v Arsenal, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
"Blah blah... Eduardo... blah blah... William Gallas... blah blah... season imploded..." Commentators are lazy, and in 2011 they won't be any different.

Sunday 2 January

12.45 Rangers v Celtic, SPL, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Back in October, both teams had a 100% record going into this game, Rangers won it 3-1 and seized the initiative in the title chase. Celtic have since taken the lead back again - but only because they've played two more games. Rangers have won the last three derbies at home, another win here could create an unassailable gap at the top.

13.30 Chelsea v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two teams in terrible form; not exactly the most enticing prospect beyond pure schadenfreude.

16.00 Wigan Athletic v Newcastle United, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two days into the transfer window, what the odds Mike Ashley will have cashed in on Andy Carroll?

17.00 Barcelona v Levante, La Liga, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Decided to learn a foreign language in 2011? Spanish maybe? Sky have half the La Liga card on live this weekend, starting off with the leaders against a side fresh from an 8 (OCHO) -0 defeat to Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey.

19.00 Sevilla v Osasuna, La Liga, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Sevilla are in their worst run for almost a decade having lost their last five. Osasuna aren't as bad as their position would suggest and win will take them above the team that was in the Champions League places just a few weeks ago.

21.00 Valencia v Espanyol, La Liga, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Espanyol are having a great season and sit level on points with Valencia, but they've have had some big defeats against the top sides. Valencia, currently fourth, have been struggling for form after a strong start.

Monday 3 January

12.15 Huddersfield v Sheffield Wednesday, League One, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Double-header of League 1 action on Sky starts off with what they will call a Yorkshire derby.

16.00 Darlington v Barrow, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
Now here's a New Years resolution with potential - get into non-league football. Neither of these sides are having the best season though.

17.05 Charlton Athletic v Swindon Town, League One, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Charlton like every other team at the top of League One seem to be struggling to get a win at the moment. Swindon are doing a bit better than they were but are still just three points from the drop zone.

19.00 Villarreal v Almeria, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Shouldn't be a problem for the home side who sit third and have only dropped points once at home this season. Former Manchester United youth player Giuseppe Rossi is in rich form up front for "the Yellow Submarine" alongside Nilmar.

21.00 Getafe v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Four wins in a row for Getafe means they're just two points off fourth. That run will almost certainly end here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Bundesliga Show Episode 5 - Andy Brassell and the trouble at Wolfsburg

A bumper edition of the Bundesliga Show awaits you as Terry, Jon and special guest Andy Brassell (BBC Radio Five Live's World Football Phone-in) discuss the current SOP at Wolfsburg. With Steve McClaren reprieved, presumably for the rest of the season, we ask what does the former England coach have to do to turn the Wolves around?

In addition we have the usual look back at the last weekend's action as the Bundesliga heads toward the Winter Break, focusing on the extraordinary league and cup double header between Stuttgart and Bayern Munich.

There is also time to give you an update on the latest at FC Koln and make a few predictions for the season ahead.

Click here to listen to the podcast or right click on the link to download it.

Alternatively, subscribe to the podcast feed here or the iTunes feed here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Enzo Bearzot (1927-2010)

Enzo Bearzot, who died today at the age of 83, was the man who in 1982 steered the Italian national football team to its first World Cup triumph in 44 years. In so doing, his name became only the second to go on the role of honour after that of Vittorio Pozzo, coach of the 1934 and 1938 sides who died on this same day exactly 42 years ago.

Bearzot’s place in history wasn’t earned overnight. After a modest playing career featuring two spells at Inter Milan and Torino, he swiftly moved into an assistant coaching role at the latter in 1964. From there, he took outright control of Serie C side Prato before eventually linking up with the Italian Under-23 side in 1969. There he stayed until 1975 when the call came to take on the full national side.

Taking over from Fulvio Bernardini after a poor 1974 World Cup campaign, Bearzot slowly created a side that not only embodied a traditional sense of defensive strength but also a notable degree of flare and élan.

A creditable fourth place in the 1978 World Cup showed Bearzot was starting to make things happen as his players earned many a rave review for their open, positive style of play. Four years later, the hard work he’d put in paid dividends. His 1982 squad, made up mainly of those who’d featured in the previous competition, were (mostly) in their late-20’s and had the positive experience of 1978 to give them confidence too.

One player undoubtedly outside that age bracket was Dino Zoff who, at 40, was the captain of the team and a stalwart of the Juventus side over more than 300 appearances. In defence, there was Claudio Gentile - Zoff’s Juve team-mate and man-marker supreme. Mario Kempes was rendered ineffective by his aggressive, invasive method of defending four years previously, and Diego Maradona would famously receive the same treatment in their Second Round match of 1982.

In midfield was the team's engine, Marco Tardelli – a player who ran endlessly, made tough tackles and scored important goals. His passion and desire to win would be a vital component in the Azzurri side in Spain and, you’ve guessed it – he played his club football for Juventus too.

Up front was yet another Juventus player and Bearzot’s most contentious choice of all. Paolo Rossi had been suspended from the game for two years for his part in the famous Totonero betting scandal and when he was finally eligible to play again, the 1982 World Cup was only two months away. Never mind – Bearzot overlooked Rossi’s abject lack of match fitness and picked him on merit as a one-time top scorer in Serie A and Serie B.

The Italian press were apoplectic with fury over the decision and needed little incentive to increase their already rough treatment of the coach and his players. And things were to get worse when Italy made a slow start to the ’82 finals, drawing all three games against Cameroon, Poland and Peru. Italian journalists went for the jugular and twisted the knife, inventing stories about drug-taking orgies and the supposed homosexuality of certain squad members.

Bearzot’s masterstroke was to shut out the press, imposing a news blackout around the team camp. At a stroke, the silenzio stampa ensured the players were focused on their football while creating a siege mentality sadly lacking in their early games. It was to transform the team’s fortunes.

Pitched against Argentina and Brazil in their Second Round group, Bearzot’s Italy were ready to play to the best of their abilities. Gentile followed his coach’s instructions to the letter and smothered Maradona in the group opener, thereby allowing his blue-shirted team mates to calmly go about beating their opposite number. In the final game of the group, Brazil only needed a draw to qualify for the semi-finals but failed to outscore the masterful Paolo Rossi who notched up a hat-trick in Barcelona.

In the semis, Rossi added two more to beat a Poland side lacking their star striker Boniek, and in the Final, despite Antonio Cabrini’s first half penalty miss, Italy prevailed with a 3-1 win over West Germany. Rossi had his name on the scoresheet again, and this time it was joined by Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli.

Where once there seemed little hope of glory, Enzo Bearzot had conjured up a World Cup win the like of which hadn’t been seen for several generations. His tactical awareness, his faith in the individual qualities of his players and his quiet determination were just the tonic for a tifosi starved of success since before the Second World War. Bearzot had reminded his fellow Italians of the joy it felt to be Italian, and an entire nation was grateful.

It would have been easy to retire at the highest of high points, but Bearzot played on. Sadly, Italy came down to Earth with a bump very quickly. In the qualifying competition for Euro ’84, Bearzot’s side finished fourth in a group of five behind Romania, Sweden and Czechoslovakia. Just one win against Cyprus and three draws was all they had to show from their eight games, and though they qualified for the 1986 World Cup, their resurgence was cut short prematurely by France in the Round of 16.

Bearzot thereafter admitted defeat and relinquished his post as father figure of the Italian football team, never to coach again. He was made President of the FIGC, the main football coaching body in Italy, in 2002, a position he retained until 2005.

His death today robs Italian football of one of its great characters and a man who will forever be synonymous with one of the most glorious chapters in its history. A great coach and a wise man who understood football at its most basic level, he will be sadly missed by people the world over – not least those that saw his all-conquering World Cup side of 1982.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas TV Preview: 22nd - 29th December 2010

Monday 20 December

19:00 Manchester City v Everton, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
For many, this is the beginning of the Winterval and what better way to start than with a snow day and a North West Inter-City derby. Everton are about to say goodbye to Tim Cahill shortly, as he jets off to the Asian Cup. Meanwhile, City continue to fall foul of the Carlos Tevez publicity machine. Last season, The Toffees were top dogs in both games. However, Moyes' team will need to improve significantly if they want to come away with any points at Eastlands.

Tuesday 21 December

18:30 Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao, Copa Del Rey Sky Sports 2 / HD2
The Red & Blue machine rolls over the Bilbao club and ruins their Christmas. Watching Barca is like watching exhibition football, most of the time. This is OK if you enjoy one-sided encounters. However, if you want a more competitive match, you may wish to watch...

19:00 Atletico Madrid v Espanyol, Copa Del Rey, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
... the Alt Classico between Madrid and Barcelona's other clubs. Only two places separate these two in the table at the time of writing. Atleti were knocked out of the Europa League during the week after failing to beat Bayer Leverkusen. Meanwhile, Espanyol tried to press Barca out of the game at the weekend in the Derby game, with hilarious consequences. Plenty to play for here.

19:30 Dundee United v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, ESPN / HD
Anxious to make up for dropped points against Cally Thistle, Rangers go to mid-table Dundee United expecting to win. As do we all.

21:00 Valencia v Villarreal, Copa Del Rey Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Fourth meets third in a domestic cup clash.

Wednesday 22 December

19:30 Stuttgart v Bayern Munich, German Cup Quarter Final, ESPN
Part two of a League and Cup double-header, the first game of which ended 5-3 to the away side. Stuttgart have just replaced their coach for the 56th time since 2007. Now the firebrand Bruno Labaddia is charged with steering the Red Shorts to a safe Bundesliga harbour. He may need to have a look at the defence. Looks a bit creaky.

21:00 Real Madrid v Levante Copa Del Rey Sky Sports 2 / HD2
More European domestic cup action here with Levante's ritual slaughter at the hands of Real Madrid.

Sunday 26 December

12:00 Fulham v West Ham United, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Interesting TV choice, this one. An early kick off promises to suck the life out of the atmosphere. However, there is sufficient peril associated with both clubs that if you like to watch your football while circling from a great height then this is the game for you.

15:00 Motherwell v Rangers Scottish Premier League ESPN / HD
A nice short journey for the Rangers fans and a straightforward three points for the team.

17:30 Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Meanwhile the boys from the Lane have an interesting journey home from the Second City on a bank holiday evening. However, the ones who choose to travel are due an exciting match against Houllier's impressive, if fallible, young team.

Monday 27th December

19:00 Arsenal v Chelsea, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Another big game on a Monday following the Manchester United v Arsenal and El Classico in recent weeks. A coincidence or result of audience research?. Whatever, this game frequently provides value for the neutral and remains one of the Premier League's Blue Ribbon games.

Tuesday 28th December

12:00 Coventry City v QPR, npower Championship, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Another bank holiday in the UK so another fest of football. Although a trip to Coventry may not be described as everyone's idea of fun, Aidy Boothroyd is injecting some life into the Sky Blues and will be a tough test against the League leaders who have lost two in a row, at the time of writing.

17:30 West Ham United v Everton, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
More West Ham for you lucky Sky subscribers. Will Avram Grant still be manager of The Hammers by the time this game comes along or will Matthew Upson be lumping the ball up to Carlton Cole with Big Sam looking on with approval from the touchline?

19:30 Birmingham City v Manchester United, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
This time last year, Birmingham kept United to a 1-1 draw. The Blues aren't quite as effective this campaign but can take heart that, in recent seasons, matches between these two have been pretty tight.

Wednesday 29 December

19:30 Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
More Anfield nervousness ensues against a team that The Reds would have had on toast, back in the day. The transfer window will be days away by the time this game rolls along and you have to wonder if John Henry may have made a change at the top rather than trust Roy in the Transfer Market.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekend TV Preview: 17 - 19 December 2010

Friday 17 December

19.45 Borussia Moenchengladbach v Hamburger SV, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Moenchengladbach are the bottom club in Germany's Bundesliga, having lost four consecutive matches, and get the weekend's action underway with a home tie against Hamburg. Exactly halfway up the league are Hamburg who have themselves lost five of the last seven in the league and have been beaten four time on the spin away from home.

19.45 Crawley Town v Mansfield Town, Blue Square Bet Premier, Premier Sports
Two of non-league football's most controversial clubs meet at Broadfield Stadium. Mansfield are recovering from a messy and seemingly unnecessary wrangle over the ownership of and access to their Field Mill home, while Crawley have raised the ire of all around them by spending heavily in the summer with money from a source about which little is known. Oh, and being managed by Steve Evans doesn't help.

Saturday 18 December

12.45 Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
High-flying Bolton head to the Stadium of Light to face another side that has won plaudits this season. These sides have played some gorgeous football at times, with Sunderland's win against Chelsea being particularly impressive. Bolton have been superb all season and Stuart Holden's goal last weekend secured the three points against Blackburn despite Wanderers being down to ten men.

12.45 Hamilton v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Celtic go into this game three points behind arch-rivals Rangers at the top of the SPL. Of course, every game is a must-win in such a lopsided league and Hamilton should prove useful fodder in that respect - they're second from bottom and have picked up just one point since October.

17.20 Ipswich Town v Leicester City, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Some matches are dominated by the dugouts and this will undoubtedly be one of those. Sky's cameras will surely be disproportionately trained on under-fire Ipswich boss Roy Keane, for whom Carling Cup success has been the saving grace, and Leicester manager Sven-Goran Eriksson. And they'll both love every second of it.

17.30 Liverpool v Fulham, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Cottagers go to Anfield looking to get one over on Roy Hodgson, the popular manager who left for Liverpool in the summer. Unfortunately for them, Hodgson was unable to arrest Fulham's traditionally appalling away form, a trait he also appears to have introduced at his new club.

19.00 Espanyol v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Barcelona visit neighbours Espanyol in imperious form, but the Periquitos are having a decent time of it themselves. In fourth place and three points clear of fifth, Espanyol are yet to drop a point at home this season. They have conceded only twice in the process, and kept Barca out when this fixture was played in April.

19.45 AC Milan v Roma, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
When Max Allegri went shopping at the end of August and added Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho to an attacking roster already boasting Alex Pato, Ronaldinho and, then, Marco Borriello, some questioned his sanity and others saw a potential Scudetto challenge. The Rossoneri are now sitting pretty at the top of Serie A, comfortably clear of rivals Inter.

21.00 Real Sociedad v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
The team chasing Espanyol is Valencia, who famously began the season with five wins from their first six matches but have been struggling to get a foothold since then. Having won just twice in the last nine they face Sociedad having not won away from home since September. Their hosts will do well to recover after being thoroughly routed by Barcelona.

Sunday 19 December

11.30 Ajax v Feyenoord, Eredivisie, ESPN/ESPN HD
It's fair to say this fixture ain't what it used to be. Like Twente and Groningen, Ajax are just about keeping pace with leaders PSV, but their opponents on Sunday are down in 13th and just five points clear of the relegation zone. Fallen giants doesn't come close to covering it.

13.30 Blackpool v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
If it's free-flowing, error-strewn and chaotic football you're after, look no further than Bloomfield Road on Sunday. Ian Holloway's Tangerines have shocked the Premier League by holding their own and doing so in some style, but they will have their work cut out against an ambitious Spurs side determined to put points on the board in the hunt for more Champions League football.

14.00 Chievo v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
High-flying Juventus face the Flying Donkeys with the Scudetto in their sights. Sitting in second, six points behind leaders Milan and level with Napoli, the Bianconeri have lost just twice this season and seem unlikely to do so at Chievo, who haven't won in three, on Sunday.

16.00 Chelsea v Manchester United, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
It's been a while since Manchester United have won a league game at Stamford Bridge, but now's as good a chance as any. Both teams have disappointed enormously this term and, while Chelsea's dire form has been surprising, United's is something Alex Ferguson has experienced before. Monday's win over Arsenal was good preparation for his team's visit to West London.

16.30 Stuttgart v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Stuttgart have racked up ten defeats this season, leaving them in the bottom two and coach Jens Keller out of a job. He was sacked this week after just two months with Die Roten, and has been replaced by Bruno Labbadia in the dugout. A nice easy fixture for the former Hamburg and Leverkusen boss - it's Bayern Munich.

18.00 Malaga v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Atleti are five points off fourth place and could be facing a vulnerable opponent in Malaga. The home side have won just twice in ten matches and sit in the relegation zone - however, their home results have taken a turn for the better lately.

19.45 Sampdoria v Genoa, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
It should be a tasty Genoa derby on Sunday evening, spiced up by the Genoa's ability to leapfrog the Blucerchiati with a win. They'll find it tough, though. Samp are ahead of them by virtue of the fact that they have drawn more matches than any other side in Serie A, losing just three times.

20.00 Real Madrid v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Should Barcelona succeed at Espanyol, all eyes will inevitably be on the Bernabeu and Real Madrid, who could by then be five points adrift in the Spanish title race. It could be a difficult evening for Sevilla - only the leaders have beaten Real in the league this term.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Bundesliga Show Episode 4 - Phil Bonney & the Bruno Bounce

Welcome to another episode of the Bundesliga Show. This week we'll be talking about some of the best young players coming breaking through this season with our special guest, Bundesliga English language TV commentator Phil Bonney.

Terry and Jon also talk about Stuttgart's latest coach Bruno Labbadia and congratualting FC Bayern for extending the contract on Bastian Schweinsteiger.

But first, a brief German lesson.

Click here to listen to the podcast or right click on the link to download it.

Alternatively, subscribe to the podcast feed here or the iTunes feed here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Midweek TV Preview: 13-16 December 2010

This week's Midweek TV Preview has been written vaguely in the style of Stuart Hall for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Monday 13 December

20:00 Manchester United v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1 / 3D
A veritable feast for the eyes. Two footballing gladiators enter the Colloseum: Wenger, the feisty Frenchman, a Premier League Napoleon with the scowl of a man who has known more battles than you've had hot frogs legs, and Ferguson, noble Scot, Knight of the Realm, King of the Red Devils forever walking in the shadow of Sir Matt. Pride and adulation to the victors; much licking of wounds to the losers.

Tuesday 14 December

16:00 Internacional v TP Mazembe, FIFA World Club Cup 2010 Semi-Final, ESPN / ESPN HD
Two footballing worlds collide. TP Mazembe, African champions from the steamy Congo basin, facing their South American antagonists from Porto Alegre. Only one outcome looks likely for betting man or football academic alike - a handsome victory for the boys from Brazil.

19:45 Brentford v Charlton Athletic, Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area Final, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
The Addicks cross the capital to stock up on towels, bedding and poly-cotton sheets.

19:45 Motherwell v Hearts, SPL, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
The Jam Tarts embody the very spirit of Hermes, flying with wings on their heels up the SPL table. Motherwell will surely take on the role of Paris, firing an arrow in the hope of making a large Achillean puncture.

20:00 Parma v Fiorentina, Coppa Italia Last 16, ESPN / ESPN HD
The ultimate dilemma - who to support between Parma, Mecca for cheese and ham enthusiasts the world over, and the fanciful Florence, home of piazzas and palazzi to name but two delights? A moment of contemplation over a glass or two of Pinot Grigio is required.

Wednesday 15 December

18:00 Dinamo Zagreb v PAOK Salonika, UEFA Europa League, ESPN / ESPN HD
The fight to finish second in Group D and grab an elusive tilt at further glory in the knock-out stages. Zagreb will be wary of Greek's bearing gifts, especially the type offered by PAOK who haven't scored more than one goal in any of their group games thus far.

20:05 Sevilla v Borussia Dortmund, UEFA Europa League, ESPN / ESPN HD
An unlikely mismatch, on current form at least. The Spaniards, defeated in their last five games, up against the Germans, victors in each of their last seven and needing to turn that run into eight to leapfrog Sevilla into the second qualifying spot in Group J.

20:05 Liverpool v Utrecht, UEFA Europa League, Five / Five HD
Liverpool have made safe passage from Group K; Utrecht - defeated and eliminated.

Thursday 16 December

18:00 Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid, UEFA Europa League, ITV4 / ITV4 HD
Jupp Heynckes, the man they call 'Osram' for the way his cheeks illuminate under duress, has steered his team through the choppy waters of Group B to the even choppier waters of the knock-out round. Atleti must hope Bayer are sleeping on the job in order to join them there.

18:00 Juventus v Manchester City, UEFA Europa League, ESPN / ESPN HD
Ah, City. A perpetual soap opera par excellence. Roberto Mancini, bescarved, greying at the temples, juggles the egos of his stars like a psychological conjurer. For all that, City are top of Group A, plotting their onward journey while the Old Lady lags behind, hoping to win in Turin while Lech Poznan slip up in Salzburg. Such events are protracted with the odds of success stacked against Luigi Delneri's striped charges.

20:05 Anderlecht v Hajduk Split, UEFA Europa League, ESPN / ESPN HD
Here come the Belgians! And there they'll go if they can't beat their foes for the night. Even then the footballing gods will slam the door in their face if AEK Athens gain a point at least against Zenit...

20:05 AEK Athens v Zenit St Petersburg, UEFA Europa League, ITV4 / ITV4 HD
...and to underline the point, a draw here will see both teams through from Group G. Until next time, it's a fond farewell...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Speculate to accumulate: Bundesliga Week 16

It’s time for another quick run through the upcoming Bundesliga fixtures with my selections at the bottom.

Hannover v Stuttgart
Home - Tempted to go for an away win given what's at stake for Stuttgart but Jens Keller's team are poor on the road

Bayern München v St. Pauli
Home - Pauli to reap a terrible Bayern whirlwind after the Champion's horror show in Gelesenkirchen last week.

Hamburger SV v Bayer Leverkusen
Away - Five wins away from the Bayarena. HSV have good players but lack consistency.

Hoffenheim v Nürnberg
Home – It is not looking good for Nurnberg despite an encouraging start to the season. Hoff are not a good football teams but tough little bees, to boot..

Köln v Eintracht Frankfurt
Home - Bit of a punt this one. Koln are improving but need to catch Frankfurt on a bad day.

Kaiserslautern v Wolfsburg
Home - Pure guesswork. Who knows what’s going to happen here.

Borussia Dortmund v Werder Bremen
Home - Game of the weekend in my book. Bremen are on the way back but will not get past the centre half pairing of Hummels and Subotic.

Freiburg v Borussia M'gladbach
Home - Freiburg do lose at home but it's hard to see 'Gladbach holding Cisse back for 90 odd minutes.

Mainz 05 v Schalke 04
Away – Six weeks ago this would have been a nailed on homer, However, Mainz are on a downer whereas Schalke are on the up and up. This is a genuinely intriguing fixture that the Konigsblauen can definitely win.

Selections: HSV v Lev - Away; FCB v St.P - Home; BVB v BRE - Home; Hoff v FCN - Home; FSV v S04 - Away

Weekend TV Preview: 10 - 12 December

Friday 10 December

19.30 Hannover 96 v Stuttgart, Bundesliga, ESPN/HD
This is a heart warming tale of a lowly Bundesliga club (Hannover) that spends every year struggling to survive, swapping bodies with a big rich club that always seems to finish in the top six. It's the feel good story of the year.

19:45 QPR v Watford, Championship, BBC2
A grisly London derby kicks off the English weekend. Neil Warnock's QPR faces a challenge in the form of a dogged, mid table, Watford team.

Saturday 11 December

12.30 Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Rangers, Scottish Premier League Sky Sports 4/HD4
Cally seek to avoid getting beat by an Old Firm club for the second successive match. That'll be worth a headline or two should they pull it off, depressingly.

16.30 Newcastle United v Liverpool, Premier League, ESPN/HD
Mike Ashley has given Alan Pardew five and a half years to take Newcastle to the top. The Toon Army will probably give him five and a half minutes.

17.20 Crystal Palace v Hull City, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Two teams ligging around the bottom of the Championship. Frankly the only reason why you'd watch this game is to see the reaction of the Palace fans should the traitor Bostock take to the pitch. That move worked out well didn't it?

19.00 Sevilla v Almeria, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Both teams are in pretty wretched form so there's not much for the neutral to be optimistic about. Probably best to catch the first half before switching over to...

19.45 Genoa v Napoli, Serie A, ESPN
Luca Toni is back among the goals with two in the Coppa Italia and another against Lecce, last week. Napoli's revival may warm the cockles of nostalgists but its build on the solid foundation of Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani.

21.00 Atletico Madrid v Deportivo La Coruna, Spanish La Liga Sky Sports 3/HD3
Two consecutive league defeats have forced Atleti out of the Euro spots. Depor are having an OK season by comparison to their somewhat narrow ambitions, I guess.

Sunday 12 December

11.30 Bologna v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN
Lead by the mighty Zlatan, Milan are ruling Serie A with an iron fist and lording it over Inter. They travel to Bologna after a nice rest against Ajax on Wednesday.

13.00 Bolton v Blackburn, Rovers Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two local rivals clash in a desperate bid to out Lancashire the other. Bolton are transformed under Owen Coyle and their supporters have a chance to see how far they've come since Rovers boss Sam Allardyce was running the show.

14.00 Brescia v Sampdoria, Serie A, ESPN
No egg chasing on ESPN so the Mouse is packing his schedule with their European football undercard. Brescia are awful and Samp are OK. Not much of a preview but then it's not much of a match.

16.00 Tottenham v Chelsea, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
A rare oppurtunity for Spurs to get one over their local rivals, assuming Tottenham recover themeselves after their Champions League exertions. We all know Chelsea are not in great shape so a thundering league encounter is on the cards.

16.30 Mainz v Schalke, Bundesliga, ESPN/HD
One for the PVR. Mainz are on the wane after a blistering start to the season and Schalke are on the rise after a dreadfull start to their campaign. Look out for Jurado for Schalke. The attacking midfielder is finally settling in and will offer much to Raul and Huntelaar up front.

18.30 Barcelona v Real Sociedad, Spanish La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Decent game this. Sociedad are sixth and buoyant after two wins. Barca are bloody brilliant. Nuff said.

19.45 Juventus v Lazio, Serie A ESPN
Juve are slowly returning to prominence under Gigi Del Neri and Lazio are having a great season thanks, in large part, to Hernanes. What a find for the Rome club. This is a second meets third clash and a must watch.

20.00 Zaragoza v Real Madrid, Spanish La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Away win. Back to work tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Bundesliga Show - Khan, Koln plus Werder too!

Join Jon and Terry as we look back Schalke's fantastic win against Bayern Munich last weekend. We also run the rule over the Champions League action including Werder Bremen's stunning win against Inter.

We also take a look at the comings and mostly goings, at Koln. Could Oliver Khan be joining the Billygoats. Plus, we look ahead to this weekend's Bundesliga action.

Click here to listen to the podcast or right click on the link to download it.

Alternatively, subscribe to the podcast feed here or the iTunes feed here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Midweek TV Preview: 6 - 9 December

Monday 6 December

19.45 Napoli v Palermo, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Fourth play fifth. If you haven't caught Palermo yet this season you might want to just see their 21-year-old Argentine midfielder Javier Pastore who's already got seven goals including a recent hat-trick against Catania. Napoli have their own South American goal machine in the shape of Uruguayan Edinson Cavani - he's netted 20 times for club and country since returning from the World Cup.

20.00 Liverpool v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
It'll be interesting to see what reaction Gerard Houllier gets on his return to Anfield. Probably too much to hope it will be largely indifferent.

Tuesday 7 December

19.45 Manchester Utd v Valencia, Champions League Group C, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Avoiding defeat will be enough for United to finish top of the group. Both teams are already through to the next stage.

19.45 FC Twente v Tottenham Hotspur, Champions League Group A, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Twente have secured third place so will only be playing for pride if they want to dent Spurs' chances of finishing top.

19.45 Barcelona v Rubin Kazan, Champions League Group D, Sky Sports Interactive
Barca are already guaranteed top spot while Rubin are pushing for second place. Rubin really need to win and hope that Copenhagen slip up against Panathinaikos. It could happen: Barca have failed to beat Rubin in three attempts.

19.45 Benfica v Schalke, Champions League Group B, Sky Sports Interactive
Benfica's woeful away form means they go into this with little chance of qualifying for the next stage. They also need to win here to be sure of securing third place. Schalke are top and through.

19.45 Bursaspor v Rangers, Champions League Group C, Sky Sports Interactive
Rangers can do no better or worse than third. Dead rubber.

19.45 FC Copenhagen v Panathinaikos, Champions League Group D, Sky Sports Interactive
A win will be enough to clinch a knock-out stage place for FCK.

19.45 Lyon v Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Champions League Group B, Sky Sports Interactive
Thanks to a 3-0 win against Benfica, Hapoel can go into this game with something to fight for. If they can get a win here and Portugese side fails to win, they will go through to the Europa League. Lyon are already through.

19.45 Werder Bremen v Inter Milan, Champions League Group A, Sky Sports Interactive
With Bremen assured last place, Inter will be hoping Twente can do them a favour. That's of course if they care about finishing top in the group.

Wednesday 8 December

19.45 FC United of Manchester v Brighton & Hove Albion, FA Cup 2nd Round Replay, ESPN/ESPN HD
Both sides have seen their good early season form dry up since getting involved in the FA Cup. FCUM have lost both Blue Square matches and been knocked out of the FA Trophy since they beat Rochdale in the First Round Proper. Similarly, Brighton's shoot-out victory over Woking has been their only win in over a month. A home tie to Portsmouth awaits the winner.

19.45 Arsenal v Partizan Belgrade, Champions League Group H, ITV1/ITV HD
A must-win for Arsenal against one of the poorest teams in the whole group stage. Final placings are dependent on the result in the other match

19.45 Marseille v Chelsea, Champions League Group F, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Second against top. Nothing will change. Dead rubber.

19.45 Real Madrid v Auxerre, Champions League Group G, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Auxerre have a chance to pinch third spot from Ajax and with Madrid's spot confirmed, who's to say they can't?

19.45 AC Milan v Ajax, Champions League Group G, Sky Sports Interactive
If Ajax lose this, Auxerre only need a point to take third.

19.45 Bayern Munich v Basle, Champions League Matchday 6, Sky Sports Interactive
Basle's only hope is that top-place Bayern don't bother showing up and Cluj do them a favour against Roma.

19.45 Cluj v Roma, Champions League Matchday 6, Sky Sports Interactive
Despite their heroics in their last game (3-2 win over Bayern) Roma still go into this game needing a point.

19.45 MSK Zilina v Spartak Moscow, Champions League Group F, Sky Sports Interactive
Spartak's inferior head to head with Marseille means they can do better than third. Zilina can restore some pride by securing their first Champions League point

19.45 Shakhtar Donetsk v Braga, Champions League Group H, Sky Sports Interactive
Braga need a big win against Shakhtar to make through to the next stage - or hope Partizan pull off a miracle.

Thursday 9 December

19.45 Luton Town v Charlton Athletic, FA Cup 2nd Round Replay, ESPN/ESPN HD
Both teams are in top form and with a money-spinning trip to White Hart Lane for the winners, this should be as cracking a cup-tie as the first game was.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jeu Du Jour 2010/11: Podcast 7

After a longer than usual absence, Chris O returns with an update on the latest football happenings in Ligue 1.

Marseille's arrival at the top of the table is noted, as is the continued top form of our old friends Brest. Montpellier recently spent a 24-hour period at the top - a first for them - and you can find out how the club president marked that historic occasion too.

There's the usual head-shaking at Arles-Avignon's insistence on being relegated as early as possible, plus a review of how the French clubs did in European competition over the last week or two.

Download Jeu Du Jour Podcast 7 as an MP3 here

Speculate to accumulate - Bundesliga Week 15

In the first of what promises to be a series chronicling the Bundesbag's descent into gambling addiction we present five Bundesliga fixtures that yours truly has staked his last £2 coin on today.

FC St Pauli v Kaiserslautern - Away win
Sorry Pauli fans, your team's home record is bobbins and 'Lautern are full of goals.

Borussia Monchengladbach v Hannover 96 - Away win
Don't even consider any side bets on a clean sheet at Borussia Park. Mirko Slomka's team are in superb nick and have the firepower to outscore the home side.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Mainz - Away win
This current iteration of the Frankfurt club is much more interesting than in recent seasons. However, Mainz have caught fire once again.

Schalke 04 v Bayern Munich - Draw
Yes, yes I know I said away win on the podcast. So I changed my mind. Sue me!

Nurnberg v Borussia Dortmund - Away win
Dieter Hecking's men will be looking to rough up the league leaders but they'll have to catch them first.

Disclaimer: If you are foolish enough to bet on these selections, you're on your own. Don't come crying to me.

Weekend TV Preview: 3 - 5 December 2010

Friday 3 December

19:45 Lazio v Inter Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Hello, and may we be among the first to wish you a Happy Christmas. *leaves pause for you to wish us a Happy Christmas back*  That reminds us - we'll soon be putting together our annual festive TV Preview so watch this space if you don't want to miss any of the footy action coming to your TV over Christmas and the New Year. Meantime, here's a chance to see how badly Lazio want to go top of the Serie A table.

Saturday 4 December

05:00 J League, British Eurosport 2
The usual mystery surrounds which J-League match Eurosport 2 will show, although frankly it's largely inconsequential - Nagoya Grampus Eight have already been crowned champions heading into this final week of the season. Gary Lineker will be pleased.

12:45 Ipswich Town v Swansea City, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Congratulations to Ipswich on reaching the semi-finals of the League Cup. Now comes the job of trying to inflict their first league defeat on Swansea since 1982.

15:45 Newtown AFC v Llanelli AFC, Welsh Premier League, S4C
Time for this week's 'Spot The Reference' competition...

17:20 Millwall v Scunthorpe, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Did you know Scunthorpe's last away draw took place over a year ago against Reading? You see, Lineker - anyone can do boring trivia...

17:30 Blackpool v Man Utd, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
It's been 35 long years since these two last played each other back in the old Second Division. This should be an absolute belter of a match and one which should see wholesale changes among the ranks of the visiting side following their shock 4-0 defeat at Upton Park midweek.

19:00 Osasuna v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
If they haven't called off the current La Liga campaign by the time this airs, it must be because someone somewhere thinks Barcelona can be beaten - in spite of their performance against Real last Monday. Expect more fabulous football from Barca here on their trip to the north of the country.

19:45 Milan v Brescia, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
It's been two long months since Brescia last won in the league and relegation already looks a very real prospect for them. This match won't change that.

21:00 Real Madrid v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Real have the look of a boxer that's taken an almighty pummelling at the moment. Reeling from the humiliating 5-0 defeat by Barca on Monday, they now have Jose Mourinho missing for one match after those red card allegations, plus numerous players are injured to varying degrees. Valencia might be expecting a backlash, but have Los Blancos got the stomach for one?

Sunday 5 December

13:30 West Brom v Newcastle United, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Newcastle finished 12 points clear of West Brom at the top of the Championship table last season. Currently, they're level on points but both are in pretty rotten form at the moment. That's not to say they're not playing bad football - quite the contrary, in fact, as we'll see today.

16:00 Sunderland v West Ham, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two wins in a row for West Ham, then. Actually, just make that 'two wins'. The Hammers have already disposed of Sunderland during their rampaging League Cup campaign, and a repeat victory could see them *gasp* leap out of the Premier League relegation zone. How the neutral can't fail to be captivated by this one is beyond us.

16:30 Nurnberg v Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Assuming ESPN don't ditch this for an Inter-Counties Basket Weaving regional semi-final, you'll be able to watch BVB maintain their place at the top of the Bundesliga table. Nurnberg have won only one of their last 23 games against the Dortmund side, and the current form for both doesn't suggest that pattern will change for the time being.

19:00 Villarreal v Sevilla (Second Half), La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Sevilla are suffering a crisis of confidence at the moment and their players are even speaking publicly about their desperation for a win. Villarreal are in much better shape, however, and could be on hand to inflict further pain on their visitors.

19:45 Catania v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Juve are making great strides in Serie A at the moment. Catania can't string two wins together to save their lives. Away win.

20:00 Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
This should be a great Basque derby. Sociedad are going great guns in their first season back in the top flight, and they're one place above Bilbao in ninth. Little to choose between the two, so sit back and enjoy a Spanish classic unfold. Sorry - 'Basque'.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Bundesliga Show Episode 2 - A Vote Of Confidence

Join Jon and Chris for another half hour of Bundesliga chat.

This week, we Sing the praises of Sidney Sam of Bayer Leverkusen, ask if Robert Lewandowski can fill Lucas Barrios' boots at Borussia Dortmund and we look back on this week's Europa League action, so far.

We also say why Schalke coach, Felix Magath is looking forward to the Winter Break and debate whether the Konigsblauen can beat Bayern Munich at the weekend.

Click here to listen to the podcast or right click on the link to download it.

Alternatively, subscribe to the podcast feed here or the iTunes feed here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Midweek TV Preview: 29 November - 2 December 2010

Monday 29 November

19.45 Droylsden v Leyton Orient, FA Cup Second Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
If you thought you'd had your fill of FA Cup action over the weekend (your Fairground team was at Colchester for their visit from Swindon Supermarine), think again. Monday night sees Leyton Orient rewarded for a replay victory over Dagenham with a trip to Droylsden. The Blue Square Bet North side overcame Havant & Waterlooville in the first round. On the line is a trip to Norwich City in the third round.

19.45 Leicester City v Nottingham Forest, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
A big derby win for Norwich on Sunday took them past Nottingham Forest and into the top six, but Monday evening's clash at the Walkers affords Forest the chance to immediately strike back. Their hosts are just two points above the relegation places but haven't been beaten on home turf since the middle of September. These two sides last met in February, when a 3-0 Leicester win was ample revenge for a Robert Earnshaw-inspired 5-1 victory for Forest last December.

20.00 Barcelona v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
This is a match that needs no introduction, but that's not going to stop me. Real Madrid have a one-point lead over Pep Guardiola's side and both are in remarkable form. Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi are scoring for fun but it could be the coaches whose battle is most fascinating on Monday night. Whatever happens, this looks set to be a fantastic game of football.

Tuesday 30 November

19.45 West Ham United v Manchester United, Carling Cup Quarter Final, Sky Sports 2/HD2
The mood at Upton Park was lifted slightly by a weekend win in the Premier League, but a much trickier task lies in wait for them in the League Cup. The Hammers will be even happier if Alex Ferguson sticks to his usual selection for this competition, leaving the weekend's five-goal hero Dimitar Berbatov out of action and West Ham out of his firing line. The visitors haven't been knocked out of the Carling Cup for almost two years.

19.45 Fiorentina v Reggina, Coppa Italia Fourth Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
It's cup week in Italy too, and the fourth round of the Coppa Italia sees Fiorentina host Reggina on the back of a fortuitous draw at Juventus. The Amaranto sit four points off the automatic promotion spots in Serie B, and progressed to this round of the cup by beating Frosinone with two second half goals at the end of October.

Wednesday 1 December

18.00 Sampdoria v PSV Eindhoven, Europa League, ESPN/ESPN HD
It's do or die for the Blucerchiati in Group I. They've two games left to gain three points on Metalist Kharkiv and the first is against a PSV side who need just a point to secure qualification. Samp's only win in the group so far came against Debrecen, who have lost all four games and scored just once in the process. The home side's draw against Serie A leaders Milan on Saturday could be a decent footing ahead of a difficult match.

19.45 Birmingham City v Aston Villa, Carling Cup Quarter Final, Sky Sports 2/HD2
A midweek Birmingham derby, you say? Surely that's not a good idea! Yes, it's West Midlands Police's worst nightmare on Wednesday as a large chunk of their December budget is blown on one football match. Villa had won six derbies on the spin before this season's goalless draw, but Blues will be gagging to get this one underway after beating Chelsea.

20.05 Manchester City v Red Bull Salzburg, Europa League, Five/Five HD
Manchester City can put one foot in the next round with a Group A win over Salzburg. Three points ahead of Juventus and behind Lech Poznan only on goals scored, City have their destiny in their own hands. However, too many draws - three in their last five matches in all competitions, before which they lost three games on the spin - could spell disaster.

20.05 Lech Poznan v Juventus, Europa League, ESPN/ESPN HD
In the other Group A match, the Bianconeri must win to have a realistic chance of qualifying. They have drawn all four Europa League group matches and face Poznan and Manchester City in the final two. Juventus are unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions but eight of those have ended level. They'll need to develop a killer instinct if they want to avoid crashing ignominiously out of Europe.

Thursday 2 December

14.45 FIFA World Cup Host Announcement, BBC2
Not a match, but worth a mention. A shambolic period in FIFA's recent history comes to a close with the announcement of host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. 2018 will come down to England versus Iberia versus Russia, while the USA and Australia are going all out for 2022 with Qatar waiting in the wings. If England and USA are selected, my head might explode. Also covered on British Eurosport.

18.00 PSG v Sevilla, Europa League, ITV4/ITV4 HD
Sevilla's pedigree in this competition in recent years has been excellent, and their start to Group J has matched it. They sit top after winning three games out of four and would guarantee top spot with a win over second-placed PSG. They might be glad to be back on the road - after a run of five straight home wins, the Rojiblancos slumped to two home defeats in their most recent league matches.

18.00 Steaua Bucharest v Liverpool, Europa League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
A point in Romania would secure a place in the next round for Roy Hodgson's Liverpool, with Napoli and Utrecht both five points behind the Group K leaders. The group opened back in September with a 4-1 win for the Reds against the Militarii. Marius Lacatus' side beat Utrecht in the last group game to go second, and have a European Cup winner to look up to in the dugout.

19.45 Tamworth v Newport County, Blue Square Bet Premier, Premier Sports
In a midweek dominated by cup football, it's perhaps fitting (loosely fitting, like a smock or something) that Tamworth are in televised action. Their cup pedigree has been good over the years but on Thursday they're in league action against Dean Holdsworth's high-flying Newport County. Newport head to Staffordshire with Craig Reid in fine goalscoring form.

20.05 Palermo v Sparta Prague, Europa League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Sparta's Wilfried Bony is the top goalscorer in the Europa League this term, and has scored in every game in Group F in which the Czech side has found the net. A point will do for Sparta, while the home side will have to come out all guns blazing in Sicily if they're to keep their hopes alive. The Rosanero's only win in the group was a 1-0 win over whipping boys Lausanne Sports.

20.05 Villarreal v Dinamo Zagreb, Europa League, ITV4/ITV4 HD
Qualification prospects from Group D are as tight as John Burridge's doorframes, but Dinamo can make sense of the mayhem by defeating Villarreal on Thursday. But it won't be easy for the Croatian side - Villarreal's two group wins so far came in their two home games. A draw here and PAOK could take control of the group by beating Brugge.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Weekend TV Preview: 27-28 November 2010

Saturday 27 November

12.45 Aston Villa v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
For the fourth weekend in a row Arsenal have a lunchtime kick-off. My wife pointed this out to me for some reason so I thought it was worth mentioning here.

12.50 AFC Wimbledon v Stevenage, FA Cup 2nd Round, ITV1/ITV HD
Stevenage knocking MK Dons out was probably the most disappointing giant-killing as far as ITV were concerned. I for one am thankful we haven't had to wade through the swamp of maintstream media swill over THAT fixture (not to mention the accompanying bloggosphere hand-wringing). For the 2nd Round, the carnies at the Football Fairground will be pitching up at Colchester to see them take on Swindon Supermarine - weather and rail replacement bus services permitting.

17.20 Burnley v Derby County, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
One win in six has seen Burnley slip out the play-off spots into the very congested chasing pack - but hey it's the Championshp so next time you look it'll be completely different anyway. We'll probably be stuck on a bus somewhere on the A12.

19.00 Sevilla v Getafe, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Getafe have just taken just one point in the last four games, Sevilla will be looking to make up for the home defeat to Mallorca last time out. If I'm not in the pub by kick-off, I won't be happy.

21.00 Atletico Madrid v Espanyol, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Not El Clasico. The other teams from Madrid and Barcelona play each other on Monday night.

Sunday 28 November

12.00 Dundee United v Rangers, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
The man in black will be a black-leg in this tie as the SPL bring refs in from abroad to beat the referees' strike. This might actually be worth watching - what's Norwegian for "scab"?

13.15 Norwich City v Ipswich Town, Championship, BBC1/BBC HD
The old farm derby finds neither side with much to shout about, form-wise. Norwich haven't won in five while Roy Keane's side have lost their last three. Desperate stuff.

13.30 Newcastle United v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Newcastle could win this. If they do, expect some suspicious betting patterns to form as idiots from Ashington to Washington bet their mortgages on the Toon winning the title.

14.15 Motherwell v Hearts, SPL, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Both teams get to pretend they're playing in Europe as they fail to make the referee understand anything they say.

16.00 Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
According to Peter Crouch, this Spurs side are better than the Liverpool side that got to the 2007 Champions League Final. Oo look, they're playing Liverpool today. 6th plays 9th.

18.00 FA Cup 3rd Round Draw, ITV1/ITV HD
Third Round. FA Cup. In come the big boys. 64 balls in a velvet bag. Jumpers for goalposts - "Look out, here comes Parky!" Marvellous.

18.00 Athletic Bilbao v Osasuna, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1 (1st Half Red Button)
10th plays 11th. Sky really have to scrape on weekends when the top two aren't playing.

19.45 Palermo v Roma, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
After a shocking start, Roma are now the form team of Serie A and have climbed up to fifth - above Inter. Their change in fortunes culminated midweek when they came back from two goals down to beat Bayern in the Champions League.

20.00 Valencia v Almeria, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Home win.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Bundesliga Show Episode 1 - The Netzer Machine

Welcome to the first episode of the Bundesliga Show. A new podcast from myself, Terry Duffelen, and Jon Hartley of Bundesliga World.

Each week or so, we'll be taking a look at the various doings in the German Bundesliga.

This week, we look at the Champions League action and the trials and tribulations of Louis van Gaal and Thomas Schaaf. Plus we congratulate Schalke on their excellent win against Lyon which sends them through to the knock-out stage of the competition.

We also look back on last week's Bundesliga results and look ahead to some choice fixtures this weekend.

Click here to listen to the podcast or right click on the link to download it.

Alternatively, subscribe to the podcast feed here or the iTunes feed here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MLS Cup Final 2010: Glory for Colorado

And so November comes to an end, and with it Football Americana's second season of Major League Soccer. The final of MLS Cup 2010 took place on Sunday evening at BMO Field in Toronto between Colorado Rapids, the champions of the Eastern Conference, and FC Dallas, their counterparts in the West. The game itself was one for the purists, as they say, but nobody's complaining in Denver.

MLS in 2011 will be a different beast. Portland and Vancouver will form a Pacific Northwest triumvirate with rivals Seattle in an 18-team league with reformed playoffs and a greater focus on youth academies than ever before. In it, the Rapids will be defending champions after a 2-1 extra time win over Schellas Hyndman's Dallas side.

The Rapids were denied a first half penalty and went in at the break a goal down. Jair Benitez swept a diagonal ball out to Marvin Chavez, who repeated the trick for league MVP David Ferreira. The attacking midfielder was racing towards the six yard line and arrived at the perfect moment to knock Chavez's brilliant cross past Matt Pickens in the Colorado goal.

Eleven minutes after half time Gary Smith's side was level. His Scottish namesake, Jamie, passed low into the area for Conor Casey, who reacted quickest when the ball broke loose between himself, goalkeeper Kevin Hartman and Benitez to prod in the equaliser. Dax McCarty for Dallas and Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz had efforts from distance saved, and the chances were split between the two sides before extra time began to loom large over BMO Field.

That extra period was settled in the cruellest of circumstances for the Texan side. Mac Kandji, traded to Colorado in the deal that took Mehdi Ballouchy to New York this season, was found by a lovely raking pass from Casey and headed towards goal from an acute angle. His run was blocked by Ugo Ihemelu and the ball span off the thigh of a stranded George John past his own goalkeeper.

It's a harrowing way to lose the season finale and it's not a moment John or FC Dallas will forget in a hurry. Enormous congratulations to Colorado Rapids on their success this season. They were handed a chance to win the title by virtue of the nature of the playoff system and, like Real Salt Lake last year, grabbed it with both hands.

Football Americana will undoubtedly be back on a few occasions between now and March, when MLS returns. Until then, adiós!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Midweek TV Preview: 23 - 25 November 2010

Monday 22 November

20:00 Sunderland v Everton, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
The way Sunderland are going, their manager Steve Bruce needs to careful he doesn't end up tagged with the curse of the "next England manager". Everton are good but not that good. Their need for a first win since October should force them on the front foot and make for a lively game.

Tuesday 23 November

17:30 Spartak Moscow v Marseille, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
Spartak haven't won anywhere in November and lost the big derby game against CSKA at the weekend. Both themselves and OM are on six points so this makes for an exciting showdown for second spot in the group.

19:45 Chelsea v Zilina, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports 2 / HD2 / 3D
The Slovakian club were mullered 7-0 by Marseille at their place in the last round. Moreover, Zilina lost their first league game of the season on Saturday to second placed Senica. That's one loss in seventeen! Chelsea are hardly in great shape themselves but if they can't beat this lot...

19:45 Braga v Arsenal, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
The Gunners were supposed to be the Alphas of this groups. However, defeat to the Shakthar club and again in the North London derby would have had Braga scenting blood were it not for the fact that they are not in great shape either.

19:45 Partizan Belgrade v Shakhtar Donetsk, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports Interactive
A hostile welcome is in store for Donetsk. The Ukrainian's fantastic result against Arsenal has blown the top three of this group open. Now all they need is a win against a beatable Partizan team to put them in the box seat for the final round of games.

19:45 Ajax v Real Madrid, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports Interactive
Those dropped points at Milan did for Real's chances of turning the last two games into dead rubbers. A tricky away tie at a feisty Ajax team will be a test of metal for Jose's men.

19:45 Auxerre v AC Milan, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports Interactive
The home side twitched somewhat in the last game against Ajax. Nevertheless, Milan look set to establish some distance in second place, assuming everything goes to plan in Amsterdam.

19:45 Roma v Bayern Munich, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports Interactive
Ranieri's team are back back back after a dismal start to the season and will fancy having a tilt at a Bayern team who are through to the next round and all but group winners. This is just as well as Roma need the points.

19:45 Basle v Cluj, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports Interactive
Especially if Basle win this very winnable game against Cluj.

Wednesday 24 November

17:30 Rubin Kazan v Copenhagen, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
Even if the recently deposed Russian champions were to beat the Danes they would still need to recoup another point in the final round to overhaul their opponents in second place. It's looking good for FCK.

18:00 Udinese V Lecce , Coppa Italia 4th Round, ESPN / ESPN HD
Alternatively, if you hate Russia and are allergic to pigs then why not watch the Coppa Italia on ESPN. I think you'll be the only one.

19:45 Tottenham Hotspur v Werder Bremen, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports 2 / HD2 / 3D
Spurs have been tremendous value in the Champions League this season and will be super-confident after their aforementioned derby win. Bremen, on the other hand have been atrocious lately and were shelled 4-0 by Schalke on Saturday. Despite that, I wouldn't put too much money on a home win.

19:45 Inter Milan v FC Twente, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports Interactive
Inter's eccentric form coupled with Twente's surprising quality have helped make Group A the most entertaining in the competition. Still and all, the home side should be able to negotiate their way passed the Dutch.

19:45 Rangers v Man Utd, Champions League Matchday 5, ITV1 / ITV HD
This match will certainly generate more eyeballs for ITV's advertiser that the Spurs game and possibly as much drama. Rangers are tough hombres and United are not at their best. Definite potential shock.

19:45 Valencia v Bursaspor, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports Interactive
Bursaspor look pretty dead but Valencia may want to add another couple of extra rounds in the chamber, just in case.

19:45 Panathinaikos v Barcelona, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
Pana kicked their legs an giggled a bit while Barca tickled their bellies in the reverse fixture. The Catalans probably need to win their next two games to be certain of progression. Could be a nervous encounter.

19:45 Hapoel Tel-Aviv v Benfica, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports Interactive
An win for third placed Benfica will leave them very handy for the final round against Schalke who are currently in third. No matter what the Gelsenkirchen club do in this round, the Portuguese club will know that a win will see them through.

19:45 Schalke 04 v Lyon, Champions League Matchday 5, Sky Sports Interactive
Not that that will be too easy. Schalke have been decent enough in the Champions League and are finally getting themselves together in the Bundesliga. Raul scored a hat trick against Bremen last Saturday and Lyon may have to wait until the next round against Hapoel to secure a place in the knock out stage.

Thursday 25 November

19:45 Histon v Bath City, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
This is more like it. Two non-league clubs as opposed to two ex-league clubs. Histon are hovering above the relegation zone thanks to two straight defeats. Bath are comfortably mid-table and unbeaten in four.

19:45 Cagliari v Bologna, Coppa Italia 4th Round, ESPN / ESPN HD
No points between these two in the league. Caglieri won in their last league encounter and have the edge in the head-to-head.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bundesliga Week 13 Round Up: Allagui magic

If and when you get round to checking out the goals for this weekend's Bundesliga action, you should start with Borussia Monchengladbach v Mainz. 'Gladbach's first and second were by Marco Reus. His first was the best, running on to a fast travelling ball and shooting first time passed the 'keeper.

Unfortunately for him and typically for 'Gladbach, he and his team mates were unable to keep a clean sheet. Andre Schurrle has already equalised when Reus scored his second. After that it was the Sami Allagui Show with his glamorous assistant Christian Fuchs. His cross on the 76th minute provided Allagui with the equalising goal. Then, in the 90th minute, Fuchs played a long ball through to the Tunisian who lobbed the onrushing keeper, ran onto his own ball and headed it casually into the net. Class.

Mainz win their first match in four games and retain their second place by virtue of Bayer Leverkusen's draw with Bayern Munich. Mario Gomez was on the end of some excellent build up play. Leverkusen played well with Sidney Sam the stand out player. He won a penalty on the stroke of half time which Arturo Vidal converted.

Borussia Dortmund stay on top thanks to a hard fought win at Freiburg. The home side openned the scoring thanks to a defensive mix up which lead to an own goal by Mats Hummels which left the player and coach Jurgen Klopp claiming a foul on 'keeper Roman Weidenfeller. Given Freiburg's penchant for the effective counter attack, a win for BVB seemed unlikely. However, eventually they persevered thanks to the improving Robert Lewandowski. The winner came from an own goal by Mensur Mujdza but Freiburg were unlucky as had the Bosnian left the cross it would have come to an offside player.

The game was also notable for an incomprehensible miss in front of an open goal by Dortmund's Jakub Blaszczykowski which is already turning into a Youtube classic.

In fourth place are Hannover who came back from 2-1 down against Hamburg. Mike Hanke scored in the 90th minute to send Mirko Slomka into rapture and Armin Veh to the dog house.

Elsewhere. Hoffenheim reacted well to my recent post about them with a 4-0 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt. Kaiserslautern eased away from the bottom three with a fantastic 3-1 win at Nurnberg. Koln's Lukas Podolski took advantage of a highly dubious penalty to score the only goal in a 1-0 win at Stuttgart . Neither FC St Pauli or Wolfsburg felt in the entertaining mood and played out a fairly drab 1-1 draw.

Finally, it was a dark day for Werder Bremen, beaten as they were 4-0 by a resurgent Schalke. While the German media has been on the one hand celebrating Raul's hattrick, they are also stroking their collective chins and pondering the fate of Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf. The club are standing by their man who has been in charge at the Weserstadion for eleven years. However, his team have conceded 10 gaols in the last three games and by Schaaf's own admission are not responding to his strategies in training.

Breman go to to White Hart Lane on Wednesday to meet Spurs in the Champions League. Bundesliga watchers will be looking to see if Schaaf's players give him some sort of positive response.

That's it. Results and tables here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weekend TV Preview: 19 - 21 November 2010

Saturday 20 November

12.00 Kilmarnock v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Old Firm are ten and eleven points clear at the top of the SPL, with the main difference between the two still Rangers' win over Celtic back in October. The Gers were beaten by Hibs last week but bounced back to beat Aberdeen at the weekend, and the same pattern leaves Celtic a point behind. Kilmarnock have exactly half the number of points accrued by Rangers with just 13 games played. Plus ça change.

12.45 Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
The North London derby seems to have picked up some extra spice since Tottenham began to creep up on the top four league places under Martin Jol. Arsenal certainly have their rivals' number in this fixture and will be looking to pick up three more points that could help them establish their place in the title battle. But this is a very decent Spurs side and one that will be keen to turn over the Gunners on Saturday.

17.00 Villarreal v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Valencia travel to Villarreal three points behind Cosmin Alioanei's side, but goal difference likely precludes them from moving into third. Valencia have won only one of their last five games and only twice in their last five at home. They'll be up against a side on Saturday with two of the form goalscorers of the league, Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar.

17.20 Sheffield United v Crystal Palace, Football League Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Two of the Championship's traditionally big clubs, this meeting of Sheffield United and Crystal Palace sees them both in worryingly low positions. They're two points apart, with palace second from bottom and United just outside the relegation zone. However, both have picked up results lately with the visitors winning their last two and the Blades winning one and drawing one in the same period. Palace have already lost ten matches this season.

17.30 Liverpool v West Ham United, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Two teams in dire straits go head to head at Anfield in Saturday's late kick-off. The Hammers are bottom of the Premier League and have won just one match this term. But it's 11th-placed Liverpool who seem in the most distress after losing to Stoke last weekend. Manager Roy Hodgson seems unlikely to see out the year, and calls for Kenny Dalglish to replace him seem desperate at best.

19.00 Almeria v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Ahead of a potentially tricky match for Real Madrid, Barcelona will be looking to put the pressure on them by beating lowly Almeria and heading for the top of the table. Pep Guardiola's men haven't lost a game in the league since their infamous defeat to a Nelson Valdez-inspired Hercules on 11th September, and have dropped just two points in that time. Lionel Messi has scored in each of Barcelona's last four league matches, finding the net no fewer than seven times.

21.00 Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Unlike Barcelona, Real remain unbeaten ahead of this weekend's games. They welcome Athletic Bilbao to the Bernabeu on Saturday evening having dropped just four points and conceded only five goals all season. Bilbao's Spanish international Fernando Llorente is the top scorer outside the big two and will be looking to breach the Merengues defence. Neither Sporting nor Atleti managed it in the previous two league games involving Jose Mourinho's side.

Sunday 21 November

11.30 Genoa v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Genoa replaced Gian Piero Gasperini with Davide Ballardini in the coaching hotseat earlier this month after a poor start to the season. Ballardini's reign has started well with wins over Bologna and Cagliari, but the Old Lady stands in the way of a third consecutive victory. Juve haven't lost in the league since September and won four and lost four since then.

13.30 Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Injury-hit Villa caught the eye last weekend thanks to a magnificent performance against Manchester United by a team full of youngsters. Marc Albrighton, Jonathan Hogg and Barry Bannan made names for themselves in midfield and you can be sure that meticulous Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce noted their showing with interest. These two have met regularly in the last year, with Villa having the edge for the most part.

16.00 Fulham v Manchester City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
After being jeered and booed against Birmingham, it's clear that the pressure is on Manchester City gaffer Roberto Mancini to start turning draws into wins. His opposite number on Sunday knows exactly how he feels, having been ousted at Eastlands in similar circumstances. Mark Hughes seems to be settling in well at Craven Cottage but also needs to start putting better results on the board.

18.00 Sevilla v Mallorca, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Sevilla host Mallorca and will be hoping to grab their third league win on the bounce. On 8th November they disptached ten-man Valencia at home, and six days later took home the points from Zaragoza despite having Fernando Navarro dismissed with the score at 1-1. Mallorca have only taken one point from their last two games.

19.45 Napoli v Bologna, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
A rather limp performance last weekend saw Napoli pass up a great chance to go top of the league. Instead they were beaten by Lazion and will settle for third for the time being. Bologna are three points above the relegation zone thanks to a 1-0 win over Brescia courtesy of Marco Di Vaio's second half goal. The fact that they're six points off fourth tells you all you need to know about Serie A so far this season.

20.00 Real Sociedad v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
It's Madrid versus the Basque Country again on Sunday evening as Quique Sánchez Flores' Atleti head to San Sebastián to face Real Sociedad. Sociedad have won their last three at home and Real Madrid are the only visitors to find the net at the Estadio Anoeta so far this season. The visitors' away form is very poor but their only win on the road this term came in Bilbao, which is as daft an omen as I can come up with.

01.30 (Monday) Colorado Rapids v FC Dallas, MLS Cup Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
And as the weekend comes to an end, so too does Major League Soccer 2010. FC Dallas defeated LA Galaxy to reach the final, winning 3-0 in a shock result at the Home Depot Center last Sunday. Meeting them in Toronto late on Sunday will be Colorado, who won the Eastern Conference (don't ask) by beating Columbus and then San Jose. Keep an eye out for Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman's rather fetching lucky jacket on the touchline.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MLS Playoffs: Conference Finals

There's now just one match left in Major League Soccer in 2010, and next Sunday's MLS Cup final in Toronto will be contested by Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas. The Rapids make the final despite finishing fifth in the Western Conference, while Dallas went unbeaten for vast swathes of the season.

The Rapids secured their place in the final by winning the Eastern Conference. Having dispatched Eastern opponents in the semi-finals, two Western sides battled it out for the Eastern title with the Rapids defeating San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Saturday evening. Kosuke Kimura was the hero for the Rapids with a fantastic tackle on Ryan Johnson on 25 minutes and the Japanese defender lifted the roof off DSG Park with a 43rd minute cross from the touchline that evaded Omar Cummings and swung in at the far post to win the game for Colorado.

In Toronto next Sunday they will face Dallas, who rolled into the Home Depot Center, gave LA Galaxy a good hiding - at least on the scoresheet - and are now en route to the final of MLS Cup. LA's playoff beards got a sniff of a sharpened razor on 26 minutes, when David Ferreira turned beautifully after Marvin Chavez's pass and found the bottom corner with a lovely finish. It was against the run of play somewhat, with Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman having been the key man up until that point and throughout the rest of the game.

George John fired the second in the roof of the net after a great pass across goal by Brek Shea, and Chavez got a goal of his own with an easy finish to kill the game and send Dallas to the final. David Beckham was booked for protesting that Chavez had been offside when Ferreira passed the ball but the former England skipper was, in the words of Alan Partridge, bang wrong.

Congratulations to FC Dallas on winning the West and to Colorado Rapids on winning the East. Their success at the end of the season shows the value of form and momentum in playoffs.

You can see the Conference finals highlights here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Midweek TV Preview: 16 - 18 November 2010

Tuesday 16 November

19:45 Woking v Brighton & Hove Albion, FA Cup 1st Round Replay, ESPN/ESPN HD
It's another international break so this week's TV Preview begins with a Tuesday outing for Gus Poyet's team. They'll be trying to avoid becoming another name on the long list of Cup shocks but will have to do so without star player Kazenga Lua Lua. He broke his ankle against Hartlepool at the weekend and won't be back for 10 weeks.

20:00 Scotland v Faroe Islands International Friendly, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Craig Levein's had no less than ten withdrawals from his squad ahead of this game, and one of those was a replacement for one of the first nine. Difficult to know how much value the Scots can attach to a friendly involving such poor opposition. Whether the feeling's mutual for the Faroe Islanders, we'll leave to your imagination.

Wednesday 17 November

17:00 Argentina v Brazil, International Friendly, ESPN/ESPN HD
Kudos to ESPN for snapping up this one. Matches between these two teams are barely ever 'friendly' due to the intense rivalry they've harboured over the years. This match, taking place in Qatar, sees Ronaldinho making his long-awaited return to the Selecao after an 18-month absence from the squad. Token gesture or clever team selection? You decide...

19:30 Sweden v Germany International Friendly, ESPN/ESPN HD
Borussia Dortmund's surge to the top of the Bundesliga is reflected in the selection of several BVB players by Joachim Loew. Among the young guns appearing on the team sheet against the Swedes are Marcel Schmelzer, Mario Goetze, Kevin Grosskreutz and Mats Hummels. An avoidance of the 4-1 pummeling against the Dutch recently will be Erik Hamren's first priority for his side.

19:45 Northern Ireland v Morocco, International Friendly, Sky Sports 2
Like Scotland, Northern Ireland have also seen ten players withdraw from their squad. Things are now looking so bad for Nigel Worthington that he's having to call up Aberdeen players as replacements. Who'd be a manager, eh?

19:45 Republic of Ireland v Norway, International Friendly, Sky Sports 1
After a World Cup qualifying defeat to Russia and a draw against Slovenia, Ireland need some reassuring that they're still a force to reckon with, but guess what?  Yes, there's injuries a plenty in the Irish squad so once again some of the younger, less experienced charges could be given a rare chance to shine. Hooray for the youth, that's what we say.

20:00 England v France, International Friendly, ITV1/ITV HDFabio's rather erratic squad selections of late leave us with no idea who'll be donning the white shirts to face France, but it should be an interesting match (as meaningless friendlies go) between two evenly matched teams. France are in good form under Laurent Blanc and will be keen to get a confidence boost under the famous Wembley arch.

Thursday 18 November

19:45 Ebbsfleet United v AFC Wimbledon, FA Cup 1st Round Replay, ESPN / ESPN HD
The Big One is on. If the New Wombles can grab a win at Stonebridge Road they'll be half-way towards a mammoth coming-together of earth-shattering proportions against M***** K***** D***. Oh, and apparently Ebbsfleet will be pleased with a win too.

19:45 Rushden & Diamonds v York City, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
These two teams faced each other back in September, the result being a 2-0 win for York. Sadly for the Minstermen, their form ever since has been poor while their opponents remain keen contenders for a promotion place to League Two.