Monday, August 30, 2010

Bundesliga Week 2 Round Up: Kaiserslautern Set The Tone

There are those who believe that the football season doesn't really start until September. That the two or three weeks in August when domestic club campaigns kick off (particularly in norther Europe), is still a shake down period for many clubs, especially in a World Cup year. Perhaps this is why they don't start in Italy or Spain until end of the month once everyone is home from their holidays.

This could account for the extraordinary results that took place over the second weekend of the Bundesliga. If so then it is worth pointing out that the season has actually started and wins means points while defeat means pressure, even at this early stage.

So the weekend of hi-jinks began at the Fritz Walter Stadion, named after one of the legends of Germany's 1954 World Cup winning team and home of FC Kaiserslautern, newly promoted, with a win already under their belt. Their guests were the mighty FC Bayern Munich with whom they have enjoyed a great rivalry down the years. Foolish outsiders didn't give the home side a prayer and boy, is egg on their face now??

The game started as you would (or I would) expect to end, with FC Bayern on the attack. Thomas Müller combined brilliantly with Bastien Schweinsteiger to produce an oppurtunity that couldn't have been better if it had been placed on a plate with a side salad.

He missed and Bayern lost 2-0.

Ivo Ilicevic's first was one for the scrap book. Srdjan Lakic scored 'Lautern's second after an error from Bayern's young centre back Holger Badstuber. The Bavarian club's coach Louis van Gaal's had the whole of the second half to get themselves back in the game. FCB are a good enough team to salvage a point from 2-0 down and the Dutchman will not be happy that his players could not put FCK under more pressure and build on their excellent win against (Steve McClaren's) Wolfsburg last week.

And it is to Wolfsburg that we now move. The Wolves paved the way for the presumed departure of Zvejzdan Misimovic by bringing Diego back to the Bundesliga after a disappointing season at Juventus. The former Werder Bremen playmaker was dropped straight into the team by McClaren for the game against Mainz and made an immediate impact. His easy tap-in was the culmination of a three goal 30 minute rout in the first half at the VW Arena. However, the Mainz club demostrated that their fantasic result against Stuttgart last week was not a fluke.

Inspired by the excellent Lewis Holtby, Mainz bounced back to win 4-3. The final goal was the most significant in my opinion: Adam Szalai turned the highly rated Simon Kjær inside out on the edge of the penalty area before rifling home. Lots for McClaren to think about but European football fans should look out for Mainz next televised fixture and book some serious sofa time.

The shocks (if you can call them that) did not end there. In Gelsenkirchen Mirko Slomka returned to his old club with Hannover 96 and turned over Schalke with a classic sucker punch. Slomka brought in Norwegian attacker Mohammed Abdellaoue from Valarenga and he had a cracker on Saturday, setting up Konstantin Rausch for the first and scoring the second. Jermaine Jones' late response was not enough to placate the home crowd.

But if you think the Schalke faithful were disgruntled imagine what it must feel like to turn up at your home ground and be thrashed 6-3. Not even I've experienced that sensation and I support Crystal Palace. Bayer Leverkusen, on the other hand know exactly what it's like after being mullered by that score by Borussia Monchengladbach. The carnage began on the 20th minute with the first of two from Patrick Herrmann which book ended a strike from Roel Brouwers. Juan Arango's free kick put 'Gladbach 4-1 and the game beyond the home side.

Mohammed Issidrou, a Summer signing from Freiburg, scored the fifth and the excellent Marco Reus rounded things off with a fine individual goal. Eren Derdiyok, Arturo Vidal and Stefan Kießling's goals were token efforts only.

Elsewhere, Papass Cissé's brace got Freiburg's first win of the season at Nürnberg. Werder Bremen's new striker Marko Arnautovic may have a reputation for being a bit of a nob but he seems to know where the back of the net is. His double-strike contributed to the Bremen club's 4-2 destruction of Koln. The buzz surrounding St Pauli's first home game of the season was harshened somewhat by a 1-0 defeat against Hoffenheim. Hamburg made their way serenely passed Eintracht Frankfurt, 3-1. Van Nistelrooy scored again.

Finally, Stuttgart are at it again with yet another poor start to the season. Their first home game of the new campaign was ruined by Borussia Dortmund, anxious to make up for losing at home to Bayer Leverkusen last week. Coach Christian Gross' team were beaten convincingly 3-1. Once again Stuttgart's grounds for optimism is starting to fade and the pressure builds up pretty quickly at the Mercedes Benz Arena. Ask Armin Veh and Markus Babbel. Even though the season hasn't really got underway yet, Gross needs a result and soon.

That's it. Results and tables here.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Weekend TV Preview: 27 - 30 August 2010

Friday 27 August

19.30 Kaiserslautern v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Champions League finalists Bayern Munich needed a last minute winner from Bastian Schweinsteiger to take all three points from their opening Bundesliga clash against Wolfsburg. Game Two comes in the shape of a trip to Kaiserslautern, who defeated Köln last weekend by letting their hosts go up a goal and down a man inside ten minutes and then picking them off in the last 20 thanks to a double from Srdjan Lakic and Ivo Ilicevic's 88th minute cherry-on-top.

19.45 Inter Milan v Atletico Madrid, UEFA Super Cup, Sky Sports 1/HD1 and ITV4
It's European Super Cup time and Rafael Benitez's first competitive European opponents are - wouldn't you just know it - Spanish. The Europa League winners head to Monaco hoping they can do what nobody else could last season and stop the Nerazzurri. Of course, Jose Mourinho has moved on; Atletico will have to deal with him later in the season.

Saturday 28 August

12.45 Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Fresh from a 6-0 thumping of Blackpool, Arsene Wenger's Arsenal look to keep up the early pace with leaders Chelsea by getting a jump on them in the weekend's early Premier League kick-off. Blackburn have started with a home win and an away loss and will need to be at their very best to keep The Gunners at bay.

17.20 Leicester City v Reading, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Leicester will be glad to be at home after a start that's seen them pick up two away defeats in the first three games, though they only drew the other. Reading are just a point ahead and both sides will want to jump-start their seasons with a win at the Walkers Stadium in the Championship's evening kick-off.

17.30 Manchester United v West Ham United, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
The 'United Backlash' is a concept almost as old as the Premier League and their namesakes from East London will be wary of a quick start from Alex Ferguson's side. West Ham have endured a torrid start, losing to both Villa and Bolton Wanderers. After their trip to Old Trafford, they face Chelsea. Anything they can take on Saturday would be a welcome bonus.

19.00 Malaga v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Valencia have finally cashed in on their prized playing assets and life without the Davids goes on with something more English than a sausage sarnie: a trip to Malaga. Their hosts finished 2009/10 one place and one point above relegation, their 37 (insert obligatory Clerks joke here) points representing the lowest surviving haul since the Spanish league moved to three points for a win.

19.45 Roma v Cesena, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Cesena return to Serie A on Saturday after two successive promotions that saw them jump from Serie C1 to Serie A without winning either of the divisions in which they competed. It couldn't be a much more difficult start for the Bianconeri. Claudio Ranieri's Roma finished second in 2009/10 after an eye-watering run of form following the departure of Luciano Spalletti.

21.00 Levante v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1

Levante finished third in the second division last term and were promoted only because goal difference (theirs was inferior) is not as high in the pecking order in Spain as it is elsewhere. Their top flight return begins with the visit of Sevilla, who finished fourth last season, tucking in behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia to enter Champions League qualifying at some stage or other.

Sunday 29 August

12.00 Motherwell v Celtic, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
The predictable 100 percent record to start the season will do little to ease the pressure on Celtic boss Neil Lennon. His side won at Inverness Caledonian Thistle on opening weekend and then demolished St Mirren at home to send a message to...well, Rangers, I suppose. Craig Broon's Motherwell have won one and lost one, responding well to a home defeat by Hibs by beating Kilmarnock on the road.

13.30 Birmingham City v Bolton Wanderers, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Sixth faces fifth in this lunchtime clash of two teams looking to improve on their standing in the top flight. Birmingham have consolidated well since promotion and Alex McLeish has turned them into a team that's very difficult to beat. Matt Derbyshire could be just what they need to kick on. Bolton have started with a win and a draw and will fancy their chances at St Andrews.

14.15 St Mirren v Hibernian, SPL, Sky Sports 4/HD4
St Mirren's 4-0 beating by Celtic was preceded by a draw with Dundee United, and their early afternoon kick-off sees them take on Hibernian. Hibs played Rangers after the previously mentioned win at Motherwell, slumping to a 3-0 home loss at the hands of hat-trick hero Kenny Miller. They should be favourites for this one.

14.30 Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Moenchengladbach, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Tranquillo Barnetta and Renato Augusto grabbed two quick-fire goals to earn Josef Heynckes' Leverkusen a win at Borussia Dortmund last weekend and a ballsy start to the season after finishing fourth last time around. Sunday's opponents, Borussia Moenchengladbach, began with a pools-friendly 1-1 draw at home to Nurnburg.

16.00 Aston Villa v Everton, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
These two have started poorly, Villa shipping six at Newcastle after beating West Ham, and Everton losing to Blackburn on opening day. Home advantage could count for Villa against an Everton side with a tendency to start seasons slowly. If there is a loser here then they might just find it difficult to qualify for Europe. Not one for rash predictions, natch.

16.30 Stuttgart v Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Michael Frontzeck and Dortmund get the chance to respond to their loss against Leverkusen when they face Stuttgart, who began their Bundesliga campaign with a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Mainz. Christian Gross' men finished 6th last season, with Dortmund in 5th, so this could be a match that tells us if either of these sides might trouble the top three positions.

18.00 Racing v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports Red Button/1/HD1
An attraction for both football aficionados and starry-eyed glory-hunters, Barcelona finished first last season, winning the La Liga title ahead of big-spending Real Madrid with a mind-bending 99 points. With additions already including David Villa, Barca should have far too much quality for Racing, who finished three points ahead of a tightly packed relegation zone earlier this year.

19.45 Fiorentina v Napoli, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Viola begin life after Cesare Prandelli with a difficult fixture against new-look Napoli. Siniša Mihajlovic stepped up from Catania to replace the new Azzurri boss and will be expected to deliver both attractive football and a Champions League berth. The latter will be a tough challenge, and one that also faces Vesuviani coach Walter Mazzarri.

20.00 Real Mallorca v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
No pressure, Jose. Real Madrid are desperate to get a return on their huge spending and that means that second simply won't be good enough - probably the right man for the job, then. Mesut Özil is arguably Real's most eye-catching transfer of the summer, and the young German will have little time to settle before results are expected. Opponents Mallorca would have been playing Europa League football this season after finishing fifth, but UEFA declined to give them a licence due to the financial situation at the club.

03.00 (Sunday) Chivas USA v DC United, MLS, ESPN/ESPN HD
Chivas v DCU is hardly a marquee fixture for Major League Soccer so the prohibitive kick-off time might not be such a bad thing. The worst team in the Western Conference meets the worst team in the East on Sunday evening (US time) with a grand total of nine wins from a combined 41 matches (one of DC's four came against Chivas). United look for their second consecutive win, something they haven't achieved in MLS since June 2009.

Monday 30 August

19.45 Bologna v Inter Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Inter machine rolls into Bologna on Monday evening for the Nerazzurri's second TV game of the weekend. Benitez's Serie A career gets underway with a potentially tricky away trip and the huge weight of expectation that always seems to blight treble winners. The last time Italy had a champion that wasn't Inter was Juventus in 2004/05, an honour of which they were subsequently stripped. Is this the season for someone different to take control?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bundesliga Week 2 Preview Podcast plus Champions League reaction

Join Terry on a whistle stop tour of this weekend's Bundesliga fixtures. Also, there is a quick reaction to the Champions League Group Stage draw from a Bundesliga perspective.

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

Bundesliga Week 2 Fixtures (KO 14:30 UK unless stated)


Kaiserslautern v Bayern München (19 : 30)


Schalke 04 v Hannover 96

Werder Bremen v Köln

Wolfsburg v Mainz 05

Eintracht Frankfurt v Hamburger SV

Nürnberg v Freiburg

St. Pauli v Hoffenheim (17 : 30)


Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia M'gladbach

Stuttgart v Borussia Dortmund (16 : 30)

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Midweek TV Preview: 23 - 26 August 2010

Monday 23 August

20.00 Man City v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
It’s nearly five years since City last beat the ‘Pool. Kiki Musampa was the scorer of the winning goal at the City of Manchester Stadium back in April 2005, however Roberto Mancini’s 2010 vintage should feature James Milner making his debut and, if you’re lucky, Mario Balotelli. Actually, make that ‘if City are lucky’ – they’ll need him after their decidedly average opening day performance against Spurs.

Tuesday 24 August

19.30 Sevilla v Sporting Braga, UEFA Champions League, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Sevilla are in something of a tailspin at the moment. They lost the first leg of this tie 1-0 last week and lost 4-0 to Barcelona in the Super Cup 2nd Leg on Saturday having won the first leg 3-1. While they wait for the new season to start in the Primera Division, Braga find themselves unbeaten two games into their own domestic campaign and can already claim Celtic as a scalp in this competition. The Portuguese look favourites to take their place in the Group Stage over the shaky Spaniards and with some justification.

Wednesday 25 August

19.45 Accrington Stanley v Newcastle United, Carling Cup 2nd Round, Sky Sports 3 / HD3
Boardroom unrest for Stanley and a resurgent Magpies side can only mean one outcome here as far as we’re concerned, although the home team are in good form at the moment.

19.45 Ajax v Dynamo Kiev, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 2nd Leg (1-1), Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Martin Jol’s main concern will be preventing the Ukrainians from scoring an away goal after the first leg of this tie ended 1-1. Luckily for him, he’s got Luis Suarez back and on form having scored at the weekend in the Eredivisie. Let’s hope it prompts Andriy Shevchenko into showing us he can do the same too.

19.45 Tottenham Hotspur v Young Boys, Champions League Qualifying Play Off 2nd Leg (2-3), ITV1
Shoot me down in flames if you like. Yes, it was me that stated on last week’s Sound of Football podcast that Tottenham would probably win the first leg of this tie by four or five goals, but what can I tell you – it was a plastic pitch, right?

19.45 Auxerre v Zenit St Petersburg, Champions League Qualifying Play Off 2nd Leg (0-1), Sky Sports 2 Red Button
Still anyone's after Zenit failed to capitalise on the Alexander Kerzhakov's third minute tame header that left the french goalkeeper scrambling. Auxerre had plenty of opportunities to get something from opening leg and should do better here.

19.45 Copenhagen v Rosenborg, Champions League Qualifying Play Off 2nd Leg (1-2), Sky Sports 2 Red Button
A late Jesper Gronkjaer away goal in Trondheim last week has put this tie on a knife-edge after having looked comfortable for the Norwegians. Could be another upset.

19.45 Zilina v Sparta Prague, Champions League Qualifying Play Off 2nd Leg (2-0), Sky Sports 2 Red Button
The battle of the old Czechoslovakian rivals picks up with the Slovak underdogs in the driving seat. Zilina will probably park the bus, while Sparta throw everything forward.

Thursday 26 August

18.30 Trabzonspor v Liverpool, UEFA Europa League Play Off 2nd Leg (0-1), ESPN
Liverpool lead 1-0 from the first leg and should win this one on account of the fact that the one-man disaster zone Joe Cole isn't available to play.

19.45 Birmingham City v Rochdale, Carling Cup 2nd Round, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Rochdale might be distracted by the perpetual nosebleeds gained from reaching the giddy heights of League One at long last, but we fear Alex McLeish’s men might give them an even more bloody nose in this match.

19.45 Aston Villa v Rapid Vienna, UEFA Europa League Play Off 2nd Leg (1-1), ITV4
After beating West Ham 3-0 in the Premier League last weekend, we thought the first leg 1-1 draw against the Austrians was further proof that Villa were on the road to recovery. Shows how much we know.

19.45 Manchester City v Timisoara, UEFA Europa League Play Off 2nd Leg (1-0), British Eurosport
A rare chance to see an English club side on Eurosport, and a wise choice indeed. City look like they’ve got the taste for European action following their 1-0 win in Romania last week. The question is, will British Eurosport send a commentator to the match or will they resolutely stick to the sanctity of their studios in Middlesex? Come on Eurosport – you can’t stay in their forever, you know...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bundesliga Week 1 Round Up: Bremen collapse, Mainz conquer, McClaren curses!

Things had been going pretty well for Werder Bremen this week considering the circumstances. While the loss of Mesut Özil to Real Madrid was a blow, so close to the beginning of the season, the cash will come in pretty handy. Besides, you know how it is with Bremen, if they lose a player, they just grow another one.

Early indications suggest that Aaron Hunt is finally due a decent run in the side as playmaker and after a more than encouraging 3-1 win in the Champions League against Sampdoria it was rapidly becoming a case of Mesut who?

And so it was on the first day of the new Bundesliga season that Thomas Schaaf and his players pitched up at Hoffenheim's Rhein-Necker-Arena brimming with early season optimism. They couldn't have got off to better start after Torsten Frings converted a spot kick after four minutes. The sun was out, Werder have one foot in the Champions League and they're winning away. What could possibly go wrong?

They lost 4-1.

The problems were, unsurprisingly, at the back for Werder. Losing three goals in seven minutes doesn't help either. Denber Ba's thunder-strike equalised before Bremen hit the self destruct button. Penial Kokou Mlapa scored the second on his debut followed by a welcome goal from Vedad Ibisevic, the hero of the 2008 Winter Championship. Finally, Sejad Salihovic polished them off with a wicked free kick.

Of course one swallow, shot dead and fed to the cat, does not make a winter but Bremen would not have wanted to travel to Genoa after such a confidence-knocking defeat. Best thing would be to never speak of the result again.

Bremen weren't the only title contenders suffering agonising defeat. Wolfsburg also lost on the opening day, only under slightly different circumstances. Bayern Munich were their opponents at the Allianz Arena. While FC Bayern were superior in the first half and went ahead with a glorious goal from Thomas Müller, Wolves coach Steve McClaren brought on Zvjezdan Misimovic in the second half and the 2009 champions fought back. Edin Dzeko scored from a corner and an honourable draw was on the cards.

At least it was until, deep into injury time, Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio failed to spot a run by Bastian Schweinsteiger to his far post. He hesitated for a cross by Franck Ribery, let the ball passed him and Schweini was there to force the ball into the net.

McClaren's face of fury at full time was a picture, as was Bayern coach Louis van Gaal. Bayern are off and running, Wolfsburg can consider themselves unfortunate.

It was a cracking weekend for the newbies. Both FC Kaiserslautern and FC St Pauli faced away trips on their first days back in 1.Bundesliga against unspectacular opposition. The results were identical: 3-1 wins against Köln and Freiburg respectively. Both victories were sealed in the latter stages to boot. FCK went 1-0 down to a Milivoje Novakovic goal but stormed back with two goals from Srdjan Lakic on 70 and 84 minutes. Ivo Ilicevic scored the third.

The match at Freiburg stayed 0-0 until the 73rd minute when Papiss Cissé put the home side ahead. From then, St Pauli galvanised themselves and equalised with a meatball strike from outside the area by Fabian Boll. Pauli's second was a close range effort from Richard Sakuta-Pasu after a surging run with the ball from Finn Bartels who scored the third prompting bizarre celebrations echoing non-league teams on FA Cup 1st Round day. Not sure how I feel about that. Either way, a great start for St Pauli who play their home home game at the Millerntor against Hoffenheim on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Hamburg's Ruud van Nistelrooy got one over his old Real Madrid team mate Raul with two strikes against ten-man Schalke. 2-1 was the final score at the... er... (looks up the latest name for Hamburg's ground) Imtech Arena. This was a decent game by the way with the ever dependable Ze Roberto at the heart of the action.

Eintracht Frankfurt were a team bigged up by the Bundesbag before Saturday so, naturally, they lost 2-1 to Hannover. Borussia Monchengladbach opened their season with a 1-1 draw with Nurnbürg. Borussia Dortmund looked lightweight against Bayer Leverkusen who comfortably won 2-0 despite carrying a ring rusty Michael Ballack. The Werkself will definitely improve as the former Chelsea man regains his match sharpness. Bayer fans won't want me to say it but this could be their year!

Finally and phenomenally, Mainz blew a big raspberry up the backsides of those who tipped them for relegation by comprehensively beating the much fancied Stuttgart 2-0. Striker Sami Allagui score their first with a superb strike from a narrowing angle on his debut. The second was from another debutant, Morten Rasmussen who had barely stepped off the plane from Glasgow to put the game beyond Christian Gross' side.

Special mention also must go to Christian Fuchs in the midfield and the brilliant Lewis Holtby, on loan from Schalke. If this game was anything to go by, the 0-Fives will be absolutely fine.

That's it. Results and table here.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Jeu Du Jour 2010/11: Podcast 1

Chris is back with the first in a series of fortnightly podcasts for all the French football virgins amongst you.

In this podcast, there's a look at three unfamiliar names in the bottom five, a summary of the most eye-catching transfers involving French players this summer, plus a look at which sides from Ligue 1 are involved in the early rounds of the Champions League and Europa League.

Download Jeu Du Jour Podcast 1 as an MP3 here

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Weekend TV Preview: 20 - 22 August 2010

(All times UK)


19:30 Bayern Munich v VFL Wolfsburg, Bundesliga, ESPN/HD
The Bundesliga kicks off with the 2010 champions against the 2009 Champions. And of course there will be huge interest in how Steve McClaren will fair as new manager of Wolves. FC Bayern are firm favorites to retain their title in May with Wolfsburg tipped to challenge for a European spot. Both teams are pretty much guaranteed to go for it so a cracking game is in store.


12:00 Hamilton Academicals v Heart Of Midlothian, SPL , ESPN/HD
The Accies were thrashed 4-0 by Aberdeen last season. Either the Dons have seriously moved on from last season or the Hamilton club are in deep trouble. Hearts had to settle for a point against St Johnstone so will be looking to pluck a pigeon at New Douglas Park.

12:15 Coventry City v Derby County, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
The Sky Blues are unbeaten in the League but their players will still have the sound of manager Aidy Boothroyd's bollocking ringing in their ears after getting dumped out of the League Cup by Morcambe. Derby also sampled the sour taste of Carling Cup defeat at the hands of Crewe but were unable to bounce back last weekend at home when they lost to (soon to be know as) Craig Bellamy's Cardiff.

17:15 Wigan Athletic v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
You've got to be a blue blooded Chelsea fan or have a serious gambling problem to want to watch this game. It's true that Wigan have a history of bouncing back from thrashings by finding the nearest Big Four team and beating them but does anyone really think that this is going to happen again? Watch the first ten minutes to see if an upset in on the cards before turning over to...

17:30 Hamburg SV v Schalke 04 Bundesliga, ESPN/HD
... Raul's Bundesliga debut for Schalke. Felix Magath has brought in a couple of experienced players in the Summer while slashing is overall wage bill. They will, once again, be challengers for the title this season. Hamburg will be looking for Champions or Europa League football after disappointing last season.

19:45 Ajax v Roda JC Dutch Eredivisie, ESPN
This is the third game of the League season for these two and neither of them have lost yet. Presumably the fixture is just keeping this time slot warm for when Serie A returns to ESPN next week.


12:15 Hibernian v Rangers SPL, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Nether team were entirely convincing in their respective wins last week. Rangers gave a debut to James Beattie and will be looking to him to break his duck since they've actually spent some cash on him. I'm determined to make more of an effort with Scottish Football this season.

13:15 Middlesbrough v Sheffield United Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Gary Speed's managerial debut for Sheffield United is in front of the cameras against the pre-season favorites. No pressure there then. 'Boro manager Gordon Strachan may feel his collar tightening if he can't produce a result against a team that conceded three at home to QPR last week.

13:30 Newcastle United v Aston Villa, Premier League, ESPN/HD
Attention will be very much fixed on the, post Milner, Villa and on their new signing Stephen Ireland. I'm more interested in seeing young Marc Albrighton who looked impressive against West Ham last week.

16:00 Fulham v Man Utd, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Have to worry for post Hodgson Fulham. Their goalkeeper is sidelined pending a move to Arsenal and the Reds are coming for dinner. They don't even sell those German Sausages at Craven Cottage anymore.

16:30 Borussia Dortmund v Bayer Leverkusen, Bundesliga, ESPN/HD
A cracking local derby between two European challengers to round of the first weekend of the season. Look out for Michael Ballack who is back in Germany from his sojourn in west London. Also keep an eye out for striker Patrick Helmes, the German international looks good after a full pre season following a knee ligament injury.

Download the Sound Of Football Podcast every Tuesday morning for a review of all the Premier League action.

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Bundesliga Week 1 Preview Podcast

The new Bundesliga season is upon and it's time to look ahead to the opening weekend's fixtures in this the first of our preview podcasts that will be available throughout the season.

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

Bundesliga Fixtures:


Bayern München 19 : 30 Wolfsburg

Saturday (KO 14:30 UK unless stated otherwise)

Hoffenheim v Werder Bremen

Borussia Monchengladbach v Nürnberg

Köln v Kaiserslautern

Freiburg v St. Pauli

Hannover 96 v Eintracht Frankfurt

Hamburger SV v Schalke 04 (17 : 30)


Mainz 05 v Stuttgart (14 : 30)

Borussia Dortmund v Bayer Leverkusen (16 : 30)

Previous post: Bundesliga Season Preview Part II

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bundesliga Season Preview Part II - Mid-tablers and relegation worriers

Click here for Part I

Continuing the Bundesbag's 2010/11
Bundesliga Season Preview, let us look at the middle pack, the outsiders, survival specialists and newly promoted teams. The midfield battle promises to be an intriguing one as teams attempt to solidify their positions, try to force their way into the upper echelons or just try to stay alive for another season.


The 0-Fives' start to the last campaign couldn't have got off to a worse start when their coach Jorn Andersen was sacked after losing in the first round of the German Cup and before a ball was kicked in the Bundesliga. Thomas Tuchel was promoted to the top spot and Mainz did not look back. Tuchel's players managed to beat most of their rivals for relegation as well as registering a famous victory over Bayern Munich. The result was a more than creditable ninth placed finish. This year could be somewhat trickier. Key player Andreas Ivanschitz has stayed. However, striker Ariste Bance has moved on. In truth, it is difficult to tell from here if the players they have brought in will improve the squad sufficiently to emulate their achievements. Lewis Holtby had a decent season for Bochum and joins the club on a season long loan from Schalke.

Hannover 96

Last season was one to both forget and remember as the Reds went through three managers in their ultimately successful attempt to stay in the Bundesliga First Division. Ex-Schalke coach Mirko Slomka managed to get his team just over the line in the end. However, last season will always be remembered for the loss of their goalkeeper Robert Enke who chose to end his life after a long battle with depression. In the summer, no less that 13 players have been shipped but as Slomka attempts to his the club out of trouble this season. However, an early exit from the German Cup to Elversberg will not help the confidence and it's hard to see Hannover doing anything but struggle this season.

Eintracht Frankfurt

A club with a famous name but has had very little reason to celebrate in recent seasons. They were losing finalists in the 2006 German Cup and that's about it. However, theirs is a proud history and I'm sure that Frankfurt fans will be encouraged by a much improved team performance last season after welcoming Michael Skibbe as their new coach. Having briefly flirted with relegation in the 08/09 season, Skibbe lifted the Eagles to an unspectacular tenth but with signs of promise for the season ahead. The addition of Halil Altintop from Schalke last January injected added creativity into Skibbe's attack and the Turkish international seemed to relish the extra game time and responsibility. Joining him in the summer is Greek journeyman 'Fanis Geikas who is always worth a goal or five in the Bundesliga and his countryman Giorgos Tzavellas from Panionios to reinforce the defence. It would help Frankfurt's cause no end if striker Ioannis Amanatidis could have an injury free campaign.


Amidst great controversy, the little village club kicked open the Bundesliga's windows and let in a huge waft of nouveau riche air two seasons ago when they were first promoted to the Bundesliga. With software billionaire Dietmar Hopp's money, coach Ralf Rangnick's attack-minded tactics and Vedad Ibisevic's goals, Hoffenhein raced to the top of the table and won the Winter Championship. However, once they'd moved into their new stadium things went a little flat and the Hoff seemed to have settled in as a mid-table top flight club. This in itself is still a mighty achievement given their initial roots. Rangnik's team still play decent football and he is committed to developing a strong youth squad to bring home grown players into the first team. At present though, it seems the club is drawing breath after such a monumental rise through the leagues.

Borussia Monchengladbach

'Gladbach enjoyed an uninspired if improved second season back in the Bundesliga under new coach Michael Frontzeck who brought in Juan Arango and Raul Bobadilla to inject some interest into the squad along with the brilliant young German Marco Reus (of whom much is expected this season). This summer, Frontzeck as recruited the attacking prowess of Igor de Camargo from the Standard club in Liege. Another season of consolidation is in store to use the old cliche.


Lucas Podolski returned last season from his miserable exile in Munich and Zvonimir Soldo's team were expected to kick on with the German international star back in the fold. In fact they were wretched and Zoldo is under pressure from the start. He can hope that Poldi was doing a John Lennon in Abbey Road and sitting on his best material for the World Cup. Now he is back from South Africa Lucas will be critical in making Koln remotely interesting to watch. Sorry.


Three wins from their last four games were enough to drag Freiburg to safety last season. This season they have lost Mohammed Issidrou who fell out with the coach Robin Dutt during the last campaign. Very little has been done to expand the squad in the Summer (£495,000 for Jan Rosenthal is the only cash transfer paid so far) so it looks like Freiburg are in for a difficult second season in the Bundesliga.


Promoted two seasons ago via the Relegation/Promotion Play-Off and survived last season by the same method after beating 2. Bundelsiga club Augsburg. Dieter Hecking's magnificent eyebrow will see a lot of furling this season. Having said that the former Hannover coach has form when it comes to surviving the drop and has used what little transfer money he has (mostly from the sale of Dennis Diemeier) on a squad refresh. Thirteen players in, twelve players out.


Champions as recently as 1998, FCK's return to the Bundesliga is a most welcome one after gaining promotion as Second Division winners. The Red Devils have been out of the top flight for four seasons to think about what they've done after the financial excesses of the last decade. Having said that the K-Town club have been splashing the cash around on new players. Napoli fans will be curious to see how Austrian striker Erwin Hoffer gets on in his season long loan. Coach Marco Kurz is determined to keep his team out of trouble and I think that of the two teams promoted, 'Lautern have the best chance to do something interesting in this league.

FC St Pauli

Everyone’s second team right? The club that exists to promote socialist values as well as play football. FC St Pauli are defined by their progressive agenda which has been the inspiration behind the loyal and vocal support. Many an English fan has gone to the Millerntorn and become converted to their cause. However, the Rieperbahn club are in amongst the uber-capitalists now and already there are signs that the club are entering a new era of pragmatism as they bid to stay in the Bundesliga after gaining promotion last season (leaving Union Berlin alone among the senior clubs to carry the torch of for the Revolution). Let’s hope they don’t sell out completely if they do survive.

Previous post: Bundesliga Season Preview Part I.

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Bundesliga Season Preview Part I: Title Challengers and Euro Hopefuls

Welcome, one and all, to the start of another rip roaring Bundesliga season. To get you going the Bundesbag has prepared this, in no way, comprehensive preview of each club in what pundits are calling THE MOST FINANCIALLY PRUDENT LEAGUE IN THE WORLD!!!

Let's start with the teams who fancy themselves for a place in Europe or perhaps even a crack at the title.

Bayern Munich

Coach Louis van Gaal was in the process of loading up the dreaded card board box of doom only months after taking the job at the Allianz Arena last season. However, an unlikely victory at Juventus instigated a turnaround sharp enough to have Nick Clegg nodding with approval. Consequently, the Dutchman starts this season as a League and Cup double winner and has put the Bundesliga back on the Champions League map with a roller coaster ride to the final in Madrid. Van Gaal remains committed to youth via Holger Badstuber, the returning Toni Kroos from a successful spell at Leverkusen, Diego Contento and World Cup hero Thomas Müller. Additionally the Bavarians have retained the services of Franck Ribery (who really needs a good season) and the currently injured, Arjen Robben. Up front Miroslav Klose is determined to get back in the team and while Mario Gomez is a bum on the international stage, he is a prolific goal scorer in the Bundesliga. All of which means that FC Bayern are the Bundesbag's favourites to regain the title. That's despite the continued presence of Martin DeMechelis. Why??

Schalke 04

From potless mavericks to harbour of legends, coach Felix Magath's transformation of the Gelsenkirchen club continues with the arrival of the great Raul from Real Madrid. Assuming he settles in, it is very likely that the former Spanish international will trouble many a Bundesliga scorer this season. Joining him is Christoph Metzelder who will take his place in a new look defence after the departure of Marcelo Bordon and Heiko Westermann. Other interesting arrivals include midfielder Tim Hoogland from Mainz, Japanese full back Atsuto Uchida, Greek defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Spanish full back Sergio Escudera. To keep the wage bill under control, Magath has let go no less than twenty three squad players including striker Kevin Kuranyi and veteran Gerard Asamoah. Germany's number one, Manuel Neuer, remains in goal. Schalke pushed FC Bayern pretty hard to the title and Magath's refreshed squad are even better equipped to do so again.

Bayer Leverkusen

After a record breaking twenty four game unbeaten run the Werkself were in danger of shedding their nickname, Neverkusen and replacing it with Neverlosen. However, once that record was broken against Nürnberg of all teams, Jupp Heynckes' men collapsed. They won only one from their next five, crucially losing to Championship rivals Schalke and FC Bayern. By the time they'd recovered themselves it was too late. This season, coach Heynckes welcomes Michael Ballack back to the fold to attempt to give the team that extra boost that will see them close out a season. Look out also for Sydney Sam from Hamburg and Patrick Helmes who has managed a full pre-season following a ligament injury the season before last. If he can combine with Erin Derdiyok and Stefan Kießling up front, then Bayer can include themselves among the title challengers.

Werder Bremen

Much depends on how much of Mesut Özil's transfer fee can be spent on new players for coach Thomas Schaaf. The departure of Bremen's playmaker on the eve of a Champions League qualifier and with only days remaining before the League season kicks off may undermine their title challenge. My inner pixie wonders if General Manager Klaus Allofs will make a last minute attempt to sign Özil's predecessor who is hankering for a move back to the Bundesliga (more on that later). Despite their loss, Bremen have a host of exciting an effective talent: Claudio Pizarro continues to bang them in. Per Mertesacker iremains a rock at the back and Marko Marin will continue to bomb down the wing until he's stopped by a passing feather. Who knows, maybe Schaaf will move the tricky winger inside to see how he copes with some extra responsibility. In addition, Werder opened up the mighty Bremen treasure chest to buy the Viennese whirl Marko Arnautovic from FC Twente. So there's plenty of talent to get stuck into.


Surprising yet welcome Champions in 2008/09, the Wolves are looking for a return to European football and an assault on the title after disappointing, last season. As is not uncommon for Bundesliga clubs, they have gone for the best and brightest in Holland to fill their head coaching vacancy which so happens to be an Englishman in Steve McClaren. The former England coach had barely enough time to put his Eredivisie winner's medal in his display cabinet before he was packing it up and heading for Lower Saxony in the fastest VW available. Aside from perfecting his cheesiest German accent, the Yorkshireman has wasted no time in spending any of that VW money. The defense has been significantly bolstered by the addition of the much sought after Dane Simon Kjær and German international Arne Friedrich. Striker Nassim Ben Khalifa and Mario Mandzukic join the attack which is likely to lose 20 goal a season striker Edin Dzeko and midfield playmaker Zvejden Misimovic. The latter is set to be replaced by the Brazilian Diego who is returning to the Bundesliga from a less then successful season at Juve. If McClaren can gel his new squad then Wolfsburg are in good shape for a place in the top three.

Borussia Dortmund

BVB's impressive young manager, Jurgen Klopp, is gradually transforming the Dortmund club into solid Europa League competitors following the club's financial problems and their moribund coach Thomas Doll. The introduction of youngsters Nuri Sahin, Kevin Großkreutz and Sven Bender along with Argentina born Paraguay Striker Lucas Barrios contributed to a fifth placed finish and the promise of more to come this season. Klopp has made another modest foray into the transfer market landing the young Polish striker Robert Lewandowski from Lech Poznan to partner Barrios up front. Matts Hummels and Nevan Subotic have another year's experience at the back. Australian fans will keep a close eye on the progress of young Aussie goalie Mitchell Langerak who has been brought in as cover for Roman Weidenfeller from Melbourne Victory.


The Hollywood signing of Ruud van Nistelrooy was not enough to paper over the cracks in Hamburg's disunited squad under coach Bruno Labbadia. Under immense pressure from the board, not only to win the Bundesliga but also the Europa League, the final of which was hosted in their very own stadium, the squad did neither. Labbadia was sacked and Hamburg's season imploded. They ended up finishing seventh without so much as a Europa League spot to show for their labours. This season, Armin Veh has has brought in to bring some stability (despite his, failings at Wolfsburg last season). Jerome Boateng has been sold for silly money to Manchester City and German international Heiko Westerman has been brought in from Schalke. Joining Westerman is Gojko Kacar from Hertha and promising young full back Dennis Diekmeier from Nürnberg. Most contensciously however is the arrival of Goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny, also from Hertha, as a direct challenge to current custodian Frank Rost. With a renewed defense, Hamburg supporters should expect some balance to their universe and hopefully and place back in Europe.


Following a disasterous start to last season (only two wins in twenty), Christian Gross was drafted in as coach to replace the inexperienced Markus Babbel. The results improved dramatically and Gross was able to steer the Reds to an impressive sixth place. Now with a full pre-season under his belt the former Tottenham Hotspur and FC Basel coach will be desperate to get off to a good start lest he go the way of his predecessors (Armin Veh was sacked after a similarly dismal start to the season before last). Of course, the biggest transfer story of the summer is the departure of Sami Khedira, another World Cup hero, to Real Madrid. A loss which may prove almost as devastating as that of the retiring Jens Lehmann.

Previous post: DFB Pokal Round 1

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Monday, August 16, 2010

DFB Pokal Round 1 - State capitalists and the fall of the Hannover

The First Round of the German Cup (DFB Pokal) presents a fantastic opportunity for clubs to ease their way into the new season. Played a week before the start of the Bundesliga campaign, it gives the teams a chance to prepare themselves for the domestic onslaught. Furthermore, as the 1. Bundesliga teams always play away, it provides the smaller 2. Bundesliga, 3-Liga, Regionalliga and the Oberliga clubs a modest cash bonanza as they welcome the big shots to their humble abodes.

Inevitably, however, there are bound to be upsets and for the second year in a row Hannover 96 were knocked out in the First Round, as was a newly-promoted 1. Bundesliga club.

Hannover just about managed to survive in the top division last season and coach Mirko Slomka knew he had a job on his hands to try and steer the club to a comfortable mid-table position this season. Their campaign couldn't have got off to a worse start as he watched his team fail to score against Regionalliga (fourth tier in in the German football structure) club Elversberg and were eventually knocked out on penalties to the Saarland club.

The other 1.Bundesliga club not to feel the inside of a perspex bowl are the Heroes Of The Socialist Revolution, FC St Pauli. The Rieperbahn club also fell victim to Regionalliga opposition in the shape of the Saxony based Chemnitzer. Did you know that Chemnitz used to be known as Karl-Marx-Stadt before Unification, fact fans?

The only goal in the game was scored by one Andreas Richter, a 32-year-old defender. The goal was screened live as were the scenes of jubilation after the game as the players celebrated with the sizable crowd at Fischerweise.

St Pauli's numerous fans throughout the world will be hoping that they can somehow use this early season setback as a spur for what promises to be a difficult season back in the first division.

The other team, newly promoted to the top flight also found the going tough in the Cup. Kaiserslautern played Osnabruk who, themselves, are newly promoted to 2.Bundesliga. The 2003 Cup winners needed extra time and two goals from their loan signing from Napoli Erwin Hoffer to overcome their stubborn hosts, 3-2.

Elsewhere, it was pretty much 'business as usual' for the top teams with Hamburg and Hoffenheim registering pretty comprehensive wins over Torgelower SV Greif and Hansa Rostock respectively. Rostock were a Bundesliga club for much of the last decade and have fallen down the the Third Division.

Bayern Munch cruised passed Oberliga club Germania Windeck 4-0. Klose, Ribery, Toni Kroos and Gomez were on the scoresheet. VfR Ahlen of the 3-Liga proved a slightly sterner test for Schalke but the Gelsenkirchen club squeezed through in the end, 2-1, with a brace from Jefferson Farfan.

Werder Bremen also won quite comfortably against Rot Weiss Ahlen of the 3-Liga. Transfer target to the stars, Mesut Özil was in the starting line up.

Another transfer target is Edin Dzeko of Wolfsburg. He took his desire to move on a little too far against Preußen Münster by scoring an own goal. Don't worry though, brolly fans. New coach Steve McClaren's blushes were spared by goals from new signing Cicero and Dzeko's, soon to be erstwhile strike partner Grafite. 2-1 was the final score and McClaren's Berlin dream is still alive.

Finally, spare a thought for Oberliga club FK Piramens who were thrashed 11 (eleven) -1 by Bayer Leverkusen. Werkself fans will be heartened to learn that Patrick Helmes looks in good shape after a full pre-season following a ligament injury he suffered in the season before last. The German international scored a hattrick. New signing Sidney Sam bagged a brace on his competitive debut. Sebastian Reich scored the consolation for the home side at 7-1 which unfortunately only seemed to make the situation worse.

The second round draw is on August 21 with the ties to be played under floodlights at the end of October. The Bundesbag will keep you posted.

Previous post: Bundesliga sleeping giants take a punt on superstars
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Midweek TV Preview: 16-19 August

Monday 16 August

20.00 Manchester Utd v Newcastle Utd, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The last time Newcastle started the season at Old Trafford they ended the campaign getting relegated. So how will a year on the naughty step have affected Newcastle? We probably won't get a good idea here; most of their fans will be happy to get away from this simply with a good performance. That said, in that opening fixture two years ago they got a point after taking an early lead against the eventual Champions.

Tuesday 17 August

17.30 FC Zenit St Petersburg v AJ Auxerre, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Zenit's run of league wins came to an end with a draw againt Dinamo at the weekend. Auxerre are just two weeks into their season and are still looking for their first win - they'll do extremely well to get it against Spalletti's side.

19.45 BSC Young Boys v Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
The season is well under way in Switzerland but it's not been a great start for the the Berne side with just one win in five. Spurs looked very bright in their opening 0-0 against City at the weekend - a similar performance here should yield goals for them and make things easy for the home leg.

19.45 Dynamo Kyiv v Ajax, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports Red Button
Ajax will welcome back Luis Suarez from suspension to face a Kyiv side that suffered their first defeat of the season at the weekend. Both sides finished runners up in their respective leagues last season, though Kyiv's passage to this round, a 6-1 aggregate win over Gent was far more convincing than Ajax's away goals win over PAOK.

19.45 Rosenborg BK v FC Copenhagen, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports Red Button
Rosenborg are sweeping their way to another Norwegian title - unbeaten after 20, they only lost one game last campaign and that was after they'd lifted the title. FCK face a tough task against a side that has made the group stages in this competition 12 times out of the last 15 seasons.

19.45 Sparta Prague v MK Zilina, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports Red Button
The Czech Republic champions against the Slovakian champions. Back in the day of course these two were in the same league though the best Zilina ever managed was third behind the two giants from Prague. Maybe old rivalaries will help them overcome the odds here, I wouldn't count on it though.

Wednesday 18 August

11.00 Kawasaki Frontale v Nagoya Grampus, J-League, British Eurosport 2
Grampus two points clear,
Kawasaki sit in fourth,
but are unbeaten at home.

19.45 Werder Bremen v Sampdoria, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
According to the papers, Ozil WILL play in this game despite most of the biggest cups in Europe wanting to sign him before the transfer window closes. Ozil only has one season left on his contract, so any offers haven't been huge - according to Bremen though they haven't even received any. As far they're concerned it's business as usual and with Cassano leading the line for Samp, this should be an extremely watchable game.

19.45 SC Braga v Sevilla, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 1st Leg, ITV4
Braga's lack of a +20 goal a season striker probably cost them the title last time out - but that shouldn't detract from their most successful season that saw them finish runners up in the Portugese League. Sevilla certainly have plenty of quality up front with the likes of Fabiano and Kanoute, quality that should see them through to the next stage.

19.45 Basel v FC Sherriff Tiraspol, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports Red Button
After starting their season with five straight wins, Basel have lost their last two; however, front man Alexander Frei has started in good touch with four goals in five games. Basel cruised passed Drebrecen in the previous round,  Sherriff however have struggled to make it this far, holding on by just one goal against the Albanian champions and defeating Dinamo Zagreb on penalties.

19.45 Partizan v Anderlecht, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports Red Button
Partizan have only made it to the group stage of the Champions League once. While Anderlecht's record is better, they haven't got past qualification for the past three seasons. Partizan have been extremely strong domestically in recent seasons, so this could be a very close encounter.

19.45 Red Bull Salzburg v Hapoel Tel Aviv, UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports Red Button
Just over a week ago, in the third tier of Austrian football, Red Bull's reserve team was beaten 2-1 by the fan created SV Austria Salzburg - who have been rising as champions through the Austrian pyramid for the last few seasons after having their club ripped away by the corporate powerhouse. We only mention this here because it really is a big deal.

Thursday 19 August

17.45 Rapid Vienna v Aston Villa, UEFA Europa League Play Off 1st Leg, ITV4
Villa's display at the weekend will have shown those fans worried about the departure of Martin O'Neill that their side is still pretty good, though even if Milner is still a Villa player, they won't damage his value by cup-tying him in this one. Rapid shouldn't provide any problems for them here.

19.45 Liverpool v Trabzonspor, UEFA Europa League Play Off 1st Leg, ITV1
The city of Trabzon is over 500 miles away from Istanbul. I doubt whether this fact will stop Clive Tyldesley mentioning the city on the Bosphorus.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekend TV Preview: 13-15 August 2010

Friday 13 August

19.45 Leyton Orient v Charlton Athletic, League One, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Two teams that can already be labelled 'inconsistent' after two games of the new season. Charlton's 1-0 win over Bournemouth in the league last weekend faded quickly from memory following their 3-2 defeat at Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup - having been 2-0 up. The O's, on the other hand, lost 2-1 at Yeovil on Saturday only to beat Swindon 2-1 on Tuesday. Essentially a top-v-bottom clash, but on the basis of the aforementioned form, it's anybody's to play for.

Saturday 14 August

12.15 Inverness CT v Celtic, SPL, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Newly-promoted Caley Thistle aim to put an early dent into Celtic's attempt to win their first league title since 2007-08. A repeat of the 3-2 win for ICT in December of that season would suit Terry Butcher just fine, thank you very much.

12.45 Tottenham Hotspur v Man City, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Fifth Place Play-Off (First Leg)?  Given the arrival of Roy Hodgson at Anfield, one could be excused for thinking the original 'Big Four' will be back in situ this season, but one can't ignore the fine talent signed up by Mancini during the close season. As for Tottenham, they're sticking with more or less the same squad as last time which, given the potential rigours of their 2010/11 Champions League campaign, may not have the strength in depth required. Discuss.

15.45 Carmarthen Town v Aberystwyth Town, Welsh Premier League, S4C
The new slimline Welsh Premier League kicks off today with just 12 teams instead of the previous 18. Carmarthen finished 10th last season, but a repeat of that won't spell doom for them this season as only the bottom team go down under the new rules. Anyone getting into the top 7 qualifies for at least a Europa League spot next time around, so all teams have a 50-50 chance of qualifying (more or less). You might as well toss a coin for it, if you want our opinion.

17.30 Chelsea v West Brom, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD

Double-winners and defending champions Chelsea try to put their pre-season woes behind them by giving new boys West Brom an old-fashioned spanking. Baggies manager Roberto Di Matteo makes an emotional, if daunting return to the Bridge but he'll take solace in the fact that his next few away games won't be so difficult. It's Liverpool, Arsenal and Man United next for them.

23.00 New York Red Bulls v LA Galaxy, MLS, ESPN/ESPN HD
Thierry Henry v Landon Donovan, if you like the simplistic approach taken by Fox Sports. Both teams are flying high in their respective Conferences, but New York will be mindful of the fact that Bruce Arena's team did the double over them last season. Time for former Notts County manager and Sven assistant Hans Backe to work his mojo and redress the balance, we think.

Sunday 15 August

12.00 Motherwell v Hibernian, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
Excuse us while we dash down to the bookies to bet on a repeat of last season's 6-6 draw. Apparently a £1 stake could win you the entire chain of William Hill shops if it comes up. A great return, but we could do without all those window displays featuring Tim Lovejoy.

13.15 Nottingham Forest v Leeds United, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Not the best of starts for either team to this season, but at least Leeds grabbed a 4-0 win in the League Cup during the week over Lincoln City. Forest, meanwhile, continue to labour under the cloud created by Billy 'Horrible Little Man' Davies, but it's early days yet, we suppose. As long as he stops whinging about the lack of available funds, a lack of support from the board, etc, etc, they should go far.

16.00 Liverpool v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
A cracker of a match to end your weekend viewing. This time next week, you'll still have a couple of thousand La Liga matches to look forward to on Sky. Anyway, here are two clubs desperate to end their silverware shortage and with new talents such as Marouane Chamakh, Milan Jovanovic, Laurent Koscielny and Joe Cole ready to strut their stuff, both teams look set to show they mean business.