Monday, September 27, 2010

Bundesliga Week 6 Round Up: Mainz win in Munich and hats off to Hannover

When the Mainz players came out for the second half at the Allianz Arena they faced a daunting task. Having gone 1-0 up against Bayern Munich in the first half through a Sami Allagui backheel and just as the referee was about to blow for Half Time, a freakish own goal by Bo Svensson handed an equaliser to the Bundesliga Champions.

Then Thomas Tuchel's team suffered another set back at half time when it emerged that playmaker Lewis Holtby would not be re-entering the fray because of injury. The on loan Schalke player set up Allagui for his goal and would be a loss to the team who would have to face a Bayern team confident that they could overturn the result, get their title defence back on track and be the first team to take points from Mainz this season.

Well, maybe in years gone by, Mainz would have caved in under the pressure but not this Mainz team and to be frank, not this Bayern team. Without Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, Louis van Gaal attempted to create a potent attacking force with Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Ivica Olic and Miroslav Klose. However, this impressive array of talent was unable to find their way through a resolute Mainz midfield and defence. The 0-Fives, for their part did not attempt to soak up any more pressure than they needed to and had the courage to try and win the game.

Their courage was rewarded when Andre Schurrle played a terrific one-two with Miroslav Karhan. His right sided cross found the Hungarian Adam Szlazi with more than enough time to turn and shoot passed Hans Jorge Butt in the Bayern goal. A fine goal which proved a worthy match winner. Bayern had no answer and Mainz have extended their winning run to six games. Unglaublich!

While that was the result of the weekend it was not the game of the weekend. That honour has to go to the Northern Derby between Werder Bremen and Hamburg at the Weserstadion. The first of the five goals in this game was, uncharitably in my view, given as an own goal to Hamburg's Guy Demel who deflected an acutley angled shot from Marko Marin into the net. Bremen doubled their lead with a header by Hugo Almeida from a free kick.

At the break, Werder were 2-0 up and cruising against their bitter rivals. So, in true Werder tradition, they handed their opponents a lifeline. Hamburg substitute Jonathan Pitroipa proved to be the catalyst for the comeback. His run and cross was backheeled into the net by a hitherto anonymous Ruud van Nistelrooy. Pitroipa score Hamburg's second himself with a sensational strike from range.

Sensing a famous comeback and the promise of the freedom of the city the Hamburg players went in search of a winner only to have their hopes dashed by Wesley (who had been magnificent all afternoon) who crossed for Almeida to score his second from close range. It was a brilliant game which was capped by a dissallowed goal for offside. Almeida took advantage of Hamburg keeper, Frank Rost, being up the pitch for a corner but the goal was chalked off because there was only one defender playing him onside. Curious.

Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund's great run is being overshadowed by the achievements of Mainz but they still keep winning. This time at St Pauli by three goals to one. Shinji Kagawa scored again. What a player he's turning out to be. Stuttgart's woes continued with a 4-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. Schalke fans were in despair as they watched their team go 2-0 two Borussia Monchengladbach (look out for Michael Bradley's goal) but Klaas Jan Huntelaar's third goal for his new club and Raul's first in the Bundesliga completed a comeback. That's two games unbeaten for Schalke. Hoffenheim started to lose a bit of momentum after a 1-1 draw with Koln. Eintracht Frankfurt beat Nurnberg 2-2 despite my prediction that the result would be scoreless.

On Sunday, (Steve McClaren's) Wolfsburg made hard work of Freiburg. Die Wolfe won the game thanks to two goals by Grafite, each from free kick from Diego. However, Freiburg had gained an equaliser after some comical defending. I'm sure that once Arne Friedrich returns to the back four things will settle down but for now McClaren must be grateful that Freiburg did not offer more in attack.

And finally it's hut ab to Hannover! Third in the Bundesliga after a dogged 1-0 win at Kaiserslautern. Mohammed Abdellaoue scored the solitary goal after 33 minutes. FCK dominated but it was just one of those days. No matter how hard they tried, they could'nt find the back of that net. We've all had them and we'll have them again. 'Lautern should be fine though.

That's it. Results and tables here.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Midweek TV Preview: 27 - 30 September 2010

Monday 27 September

19:45 York City v Darlington, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
Another example of a former League fixture that would rarely have troubled the TV schedulers when they were at the higher level, getting top billing now that they are non-league. I wish Premier well in bringing the old Conference back to our screens but to be frank, I'm not convinced they're doing it right.

19:45 Glentoran v Linfield, Irish League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Only one win in ten for Glentoran against their old rivals. Presently however, the east Belfast club sit atop the league with Linfield five points behind them in third place.

Tuesday 28 September

17:30 Spartak Moscow v Zilina, Champions League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
East European clubs to tend to offer variety in the Champions League for those of us a little bored of the same old names. There's no reason to assume that Spartak will trip up against the Slovakians who were none too impressive at home to a rampant Chelsea.

19:45 Chelsea v Marseille, Champions League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Without wishing to take anything away from Man City's impressive win over The Blues last weekend, there was a suggestion that Carlo Ancelloti had his mind elsewhere when he substituted Drogba ahead of this big game. A win against the Ligue 1 champions will not seal qualification but will send Chelsea well on their way.

19:45 Partizan Belgrade v Arsenal, Champions League, Sky Sports 4/HD4
While Partizan coach Aleksandar Stanojević hastily orders a DVD of the Arsenal v West Brom game, his opposite number will be looking for a response after their dismal defeat. Inevitably, questions will be asked in the build up to the game about which goalkeeper will be picked. I don't suppose that it will matter much...

19:45 Ajax v AC Milan, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 (Red Button)
One of the pivotal games in this group. Ajax, while not favoured to finished in the top two, are not to be trifled with. At the very least they are capable of ruing a more favoured team's campaign. Especially at home. Milan beware.

19:45 Auxerre v Real Madrid, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 (Red Button)
This presents a superb opportunity for Real to top Group G on points against an Auxerre side who haven't won a game in any competition since their success against Zenit in the Play-off Round of this competition.

19:45 FC Basel v Bayern Munich, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 (Red Button)
Bayern are struggling to find a shape that they are happy with now that Franck Ribery is out of the team. They were also heavily stung by a 2-1 home reverse to high flying Mainz in the Bundesliga. Basel are doing OK in the league but would have been disappointed to lose to Cluj in the last round of the Champions League.

19:45 Roma v Cluj, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 (Red Button)
The visit of the Romanian champions to the eternal city may have put the willies up Roma before their excellent win over Inter. Will the inevitable over-confidence generated by their victory lead to an embarrassing result?

19:45 Braga v Shakhtar Donetsk, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 (Red Button)
Another tough challenge for Braga who welcome the Ukrainian league leaders. A second defeat seems unworthy of the team that knocked Sevilla out of the competition. It won't be easy, though, as Shakhtar are full of goals right now.

Wednesday 29 September

10:30 Jubilo Iwata v Kawasaki Frontale, J League National Cup Semi Final 1st Leg, British Eurosport 2
Of niche interest only but almost certainly more entertaining than Jeremy Kyle.

19:45 Valencia v Man Utd, Champions League, ITV1/ITV HD
Sir Alex risked incurring the wrath of the people of Scunthorpe so he could travel to Spain on a scouting mission ahead of this game. Faced with the same choice, who among us would have done any different?

17:30 Rubin Kazan v Barcelona, Champions League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
"Remember us?" say the Russians. Rubin are one of the few clubs that Barca have a negative record against in European competition.

19:45 Tottenham v FC Twente, Champions League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
There are absolutely no guarantees for Spurs in this group are there? If domestic and European form is anything to go by then Twente will be tough to beat. Saying that, Tottenham should be anxious to please their home crowd on another one of these special Champions League nights that they have craved for so many years. Not to mention wipe away the memory of losing to West Ham.

19:45 Rangers v Bursaspor, Champions League, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Walter Smith won the tactical battle at Old Trafford in the last round, if not the match. Now he must adjust his team to a more aggressive approach and beat the Turkish debutantes.

19:45 Inter Milan v Werder Bremen, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 (Red Button)
Rafa Benitez scouting reports on Werder Bremen will range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Beaten 4-1 last midweek by Hannover, yet 3-2 victors over hated rivals Hamburg at the weekend. Will Rafa be conservative and try to contain Marko Marin and his chums or will he elect to go on the offensive given Werder's porous defence? If I had the red button, I'd be using it on this game.

19:45 Hapoel Tel Aviv v Lyon, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 (Red Button)
Only one win in six for the Israeli club but that may change in front of their home crowd and against a Lyon side who haven't won away all season.

19:45 Schalke v Benfica, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 (Red Button)
The signs are that Schalke are slowly getting their act together. They seem to have found a way of getting the ball to their new forward line of Huntelaar and Raul (a fearsome partnership on paper). Their defence is awful, though, and Benfica will surely be eyeing an away win.

19:45 Panathinaikos v FC Copenhagen, Champions League, Sky Sports 4 (Red Button)
FCK were surprise winners against Rubin Kazan in the last round whereas Pana' were given a right shoeing by Barca. But the Greeks will fancy themselves at home and will be confident that if they can score at the Camp Nou, they can score anywhere.

04:00 San Jose Earthquakes v Chicago Fire, MLS, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Earthquakes are having their best season since returning to MLS in 2008. By contrast, the Fire don't look so hot this season and need this win to reignite their push for a place in the post-season (sorry).

Thursday 30 September

18:00 Borussia Dortmund v Sevilla, UEFA Europa League ESPN/ESPN HD
On of the games of the week, this. Dortmund are playing some superb football so far this season with Nuri Sahin and Shinji Kagawa among their leading lights. Sevilla lost to PSG in the last round but are far too experienced to be fazed by the imposing Westfalen Stadium (which may not be entirely full).

18:00 FC Utrecht v Liverpool, UEFA Europa League, ITV4
Blimey! Liverpool are really up against it aren't they, what with Cup exits to Northampton and Steven Gerrard acting like someone stole his Phil Collins collection? Perhaps a midweek Euro jaunt is just what the doctor ordered.

20:05 Villarreal v Club Bruges, UEFA Europa League, ITV4
The Yellow Submarines lost to Dinamo Zagreb last time out but are in decent shape in the league. Mind you, the Brugge club are no slouches, so for those of you who like your Euro football slightly off the beaten path, this is the game for you.

20:05 Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen, UEFA Europa League, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Cup holders (or are they League champions?) host a patchy Leverkusen side who can be dangerous. Atleti are yet another Spanish team yet to get of the mark in this competition. Come on chaps - think of the UEFA co-efficient!

20:05 Man City v Juventus, UEFA Europa League, Five/Five HD
City fans could be forgiven for thinking that this could be a Champions League fixture one day. It does, however, illustrate the tremendous value that the Europa League offers, despite the competition's critics.

Football Americana Week 26: Wondolowski steals the show

Even English readers will have been reached my the star-studded hype machine behind the match that put four of Major League Soccer's most lauded players on the same pitch this weekend. It didn't live up to its billing, of course, but these things rarely do. It was an entertaining MLS week nonetheless.

Kansas City Wizards and Houston Dynamo got the action off to a flying start with a 4-3 Wizards win. Dynamo went 2-0 up, Cam Weaver and Dominic Oduro finding the net. Kei Kamara quickly pulled one back with an emphatic drilled finish one minute later, but Adrian Serioux prodded in Houston's third two minutes after that.

Teal Bunbury made it 3-2 on the hour after a terrible kick by Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad and the comeback was on. Ryan Smith's shot went in off Serioux to equalise for the wizards and they got their winner with Josh Wolff's 96th - 96th! - minute winner. Michael Harrington's performance on the right flank was crucial.

The fortunes of these two sides were reversed later in the week.

The Dynamo travelled to the capital to face DC United and performed a comeback of their own. United again lost after Andy Najar scored the first goal, this time a superb solo effort after half an hour. Their lead lasted until the last 25 minutes again, but Devon McTavish's own goal drew the Dynamo level. Geoff Cameron headed in Brad Davis' long free kick to give Houston the lead and Oduro's second of the week made absolutely sure in the 100th - 100th! - minute. Another horrible turnaround for DC.

The Wizards lost 3-1 in their second game, a home clash against high-flying FC Dallas. Peter Vermes' side were again 2-0 down early, this time inside the first 15 minutes. Marvin Chavez fired home in the fourth minute after getting on the end of David Ferreira's delicious chipped pass. Milton Rodriguez quickly made it two and unfortunately for the Wizards there was no comeback.

English winger Ryan Smith pulled one back just before the hour mark with a low shot that Dario Sala should have stopped but Jeff Cunningham killed the Wizards challenge with eight minutes to go after springing the offside trap.

It was also FCD's second game of the week, having earlier drawn at home against New England Revolution in a match in which they didn't have it all their own way. Shalrie Joseph got his first 2010 goal in the fifth minute and the lead was protected when David Ferreira missed a penalty which looked slightly harsh in any event.

Ilija Stolica made it 2-0 with a tap-in from Marko Perovic's pass across goal and then it was FCD's turn to come back from the dead. Darrius Barnes fouled Ferreira to earn Dallas another penalty, which Ferreira fired into the roof of the net with ten minutes left. In stoppage time, Ferreira was instrumental again, playing a one-two with Eric Avila before crossing deftly to Jeff Cunningham for a simple finish.

Unfortunately for the Revs, history repeated on Saturday when they threw away a 2-0 home lead to draw 2-2 with Colorado Rapids. Pat Phelan took just over a minute to give the home side the lead at Gillette Stadium, and Joseph bagged his second of the week with the Revolution's first penalty kick of the season. Six minutes later Cory Gibbs' own goal put the Crew back in the game and with ten minutes left on the clock it was the ever-reliable Guillermo Barros Schelotto who equalised from the penalty spot.

The headline-grabbing game before kick-off was LA Galaxy versus New York Red Bulls. Each side started with two designated players, with Landon Donovan and David Beckham in the Galaxy midfield and Rafa Marquez and Juan Pablo Angel featuring for RBNY, who played without the injured Thierry Henry.

The Red Bulls took home three valuable points with a 2-0 victory. Joel Lindpere's 36th minute effort came back off the frame of the goal and was tapped in by Dane Richards to give New York the lead. The visitors got their second with half an hour to go. Richards burst into the box at speed and was unceremoniously felled, leaving Angel to make sure of the points with a calm penalty.

First year club Philadelphia Union have spent the season finding their feet in MLS, but gave the Sons of Ben something to cheer about at the weekend, beating Chivas USA 3-0. Goals from Alejandro Moreno and Fred gave Philly a 2-0 half time lead, and goalscoring phenomenon Sebastien Le Toux made it 3-0 with a low free kick that squirmed into the middle of the goal right along the deck.

Toronto FC and San Jose Earthquakes fought out an excellent match at BMO Field, the Earthquakes shading it with a 3-2 win. Chris Wondolowski (pictured) was the Quakes' hat-trick hero, scoring his 10th, 11th and 12th of the season, interrupted by Dwayne De Rosario's wonderful goal which made it 2-1 for all of a minute before the Quakes forward's third. Maicon Santos' tap-in for TFC set up a nervy last ten minutes but the Earthquakes held on.

Seattle Sounders had to wait until the last couple of minutes for the goal that saw them to a win over Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Blaise N'Kufo's heavily deflected 88th minute goal, his fourth in two games, won it for the Sounders at the end of a game dominated by the goalkeepers.

Colorado Rapids looked to have ended Real Salt Lake's amazing unbeaten home run on Saturday night. Conor Casey's cracking header put them ahead on 36 minutes in Sandy and the lead lasted until stoppage time. In the 93rd minute, Nat Borchers got up early to head in the equaliser that takes RSL to 24 home games unbeaten and keep them two points ahead of Dallas.

The playoff picture is beginning to take shape. LA Galaxy are in, with Real Salt Lake, Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls occupying the remaining automatic spots. The four wildcard spots are currently all in the hands of the Western Conference. FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders, San Jose Earthquakes and Colorado Rapids leading the way, with Kansas City Wizards leading the fight on behalf of the Eastern Conference and five points behind the Rapids. You can see the all-important playoff standings here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekend TV Preview: 24 - 26 September 2010

Friday 24 September

19.30 FC Köln v Hoffenheim, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
High-flying Hoffenheim suffered last-minute heartbreak at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Tuesday night when Daniel van Buyten's late winner completed Bayern Munich's comeback from 1-0 down. Their first chance to make amends comes on Friday with a visit to Köln, who sit in 11th after losing at table-topping Mainz in midweek. The home side's only win so far this season was a 1-0 home victory over St Pauli.

19.45 Portsmouth v Leicester City, Championship, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Where to start with Portsmouth? The ailing south coast club is in freefall and rooted to the bottom of the Championship with just two points in the bag after seven games. Home draws against Reading and Ipswich have done little to suggest Pompey can stay up. These two met in the League Cup on Tuesday evening and it was Leicester who emerged triumphant at Fratton Park, defeating Portsmouth 2-1 to progress to the fourth round. Which means Portsmouth will win on Friday, right?

Saturday 25 September

11.00 Zenit St Petersburg v FC Saturn, Russian Premier League, ESPN
Zenit are seemingly cruising to the Russian Premier League title and have a golden opportunity to extend their lead over Rubin Kazan and CSKA Moscow still further when they host the wonderfully-monikered FC Saturn on(and you thought away ties in Russia were long trips from England!) Saturday. Saturn jumped into 11th place by beating Dinamo Moscow in the last round of games and will be hoping to run rings around the leaders at Petrovsky Stadium. Wait...HA!

12.45 Manchester City v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
Considered by one or two people at Chelsea to be the team's first genuine challenge of the season, a visit to Manchester City is unlikely to give them as smooth a ride as they've had so far. The champions have started in thunderous form, scoring 21 goals in five games to start as they finished last term. City have had the measure of Chelsea lately but have made an unspectacular start to the campaign.

17.30 Werder Bremen v Hamburg, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Werder Breman have suffered something of a European hangover since their heroics against Spurs in the Champions League. They were beaten at home by league leaders Mainz on Saturday and hammered by Hannover in midweek. Life doesn't get any easier for them on Saturday, with Hamburg coming to town. HSV haven't had the best of weeks themselves, needing a last minute equaliser to take a point from their derby with St Pauli and losing at home to Wolfsburg, for whom the old strike duo of Edin Dzeko and Grafite did the business on Wednesday.

19.00 Levante v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
It could be a bit of a mis-match in La Liga as Jose Mourinho's Merengues head to the east of Spain to face Levante, who failed to put a point on the board in their first three games since returning to the top flight. They began with two 4-1 defeats, at home to Sevilla and away at Getafe, and lost their second consecutive home game to Villarreal last Sunday. A win against Almeria on Wednesday may have lifted the mood but both are near the foot of the table. Easy pickings for Real, you might think...and you'd be right.

19.45 Roma v Inter Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
When the fixture computer threw up an early season encounter between Roma and champions Inter this became one of the most anticipated games around Europe in the first couple of months of the season. But Roma's dire form has taken the sting out of the event somewhat, as has the AIC's threat of a players's strike. The forced abandonment was averted when Serie A and AIC came to an agreement on most of their disputed points and confirmed that week five matches would go ahead.

21.00 Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Bilbao are just two points behind Barcelona as Pep Guardiola's side head into the Basque Country. Both sides won in midweek, Bilbao thumping Mallorca and Barcelona riding a solitary David Villa strike all the way to three points against Sporting. Barca are currently without Leo Messi, who will be missing through injury for about another ten days. Still, they should have plenty of talent to get the job done in the meantime.

Sunday 26 September

12.00 Bolton Wanderers v Manchester United, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Bolton managed to keep eleven men on the pitch against Villa last weekend and got their reward with a creditable 1-1 draw at Villa Park. They'll have to be at the very top of their game to get anything from the early kick-off on Sunday. Manchester United's winner against Liverpool transformed a ropey 2-2 into a mood-lifting win. Dimitar Berbatov, of course, is in scorching form.

12.15 Aberdeen v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 3/HD3
We're five matches into the SPL season and Celtic and Rangers both have - you guessed it - 15 points. Striker Kenny Miller has been absolutely on fire during the Gers' five wins, scoring eight league goals including all three away at Hibs and two against Dundee United. If Miller is a hat-trick hero then Aberdeen's Paul Hartley has gone one better already this season; his opening day hat-trick of penalties against Hamilton was the first of its kind in the Scottish Premier League.

14.05 Wolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The season's second West Midlands derby takes Aston Villa to Molineux, where the hot food will run out before half time in the away section. The visitors will be under Gerard Houllier's guidance for the first time in a Premier League game and will have their work cut out to avoid Wolves, who will be looking to bounce back after throwing away a lead against Tottenham last Saturday.

16.10 Newcastle United v Stoke City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Four points in two matches pulled Stoke away from the bottom of the table but there's a lot of work to be done yet. First up, a tricky trip to Newcastle to face a side that's hit the ground running upon its Premier League return without necessarily troubling the 'Wins' column too often. The Magpies won't be taking anything for granted though; despite a big home win against Villa it will be defeat to Blackpool that's freshest in the memory at home.

17.15 Kaiserslautern v Hannover 96, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Hannover's win over Bremen got them back to winning ways after a draw and a defeat, and they should be confident of an away win in Kaiserslautern on Sunday. Marco Kurz's side were humiliated at Westfalenstadion on Wednesday, when two goals by Lucas Barrios book-ended Borussia Dortmund's 5-0 victory. Kaiserslautern will be hoping to pick up a win to take them back into the top half of the Bundesliga.

18.00 Hercules v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1 (first half on red button)
Newly-promoted Hercules have been huge news already this season. The high-profile signings of Royston Drenthe and David Trezeguet powered them into the headlines before opening day but it was a shock win over Barcelona at the Nou Camp that really got their season underway. Unfortunately it was sandwiched by two defeats but you can be sure it was worth it. They bolstered their position with a goalless draw at Zaragoza in the week so they'll be confident of causing an upset against Sevilla.

19.45 Juventus v Cagliari, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Oh dear, oh dear. The Old Lady was very active in the summer's calciomercato but she got off to a poor start in Serie A, finally winning against Udinese last weekend. Thursday night's match gave Juve a golden opportunity to bag a home win against Palermo but from the moment Javier Pastore put the Rosoneri in front there was no way back. Josep Ilicic and Cesare Bovo's second half strikes fired the visitors into a 3-0 lead and Juve's consolation goal was just that. Cagliari go into this one off a goalless week, drawing 0-0 in the scorching sun on Sunday lunchtime with Bari, and also at home to Cagliari in midweek.

20.00 Atletico Madrid v Real Zaragoza, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Zaragoza are rock bottom in La Liga ahead of Sunday's clash with fourth-placed Atletico. Draws with Hercules and Deportivo la Coruna have been offset by losses against Malaga and Racing Santander to pile the early pressure onto Jose Gay. Atleti's good start stumbled with defeat to Barcelona and a midweek draw at Valencia, where Simão's goal looked to have given them the points before Valencia's 83rd minute equaliser.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bundesliga Week 5 Round Up: Holtby makes a Mainz double

No one should be under any illusion now that Mainz are worthy of their place at the top of the table. Coach Thomas Tuchel has all his plates spinning at the same time and there is simply no arguement against five consecutive wins.

The most recent was against a Koln side who are setting themselves up to be a tough team to beat. It took a while but the breakthrough came after 72 minutes when Lewis Holtby met a free kick from Christian Fuchs with his head to put the Carnival Club 1-0 up. He doubled his tally at the death to seal the points and keep his team at the top of the Bundesliga table.

It's worth stressing that Mainz are not a typical small club punching above it's weight by using rough housing or long balls. Tuchel's players are comfortable with the ball and zip it around nicely on the deck. (Although Holtby's second had a distinct whiff of route one about it)

Of course, something has to give and that may happen at Bayern Munich on Saturday. For now though, Mainz are shaping up to be the feel good story of the season.

Speaking of FC Bayern, the champions registered their second win of the season thanks to a late winner from Daniel van Buyten against Hoffenheim. Vedad Ibisevic put the home side ahead in the first minute after finding himself in the Bayern penalty area with the ball at his feet and not a soul around him. Thomas Muller equalised after capitalising on a great run and shot by Franck Ribery (who sustained an injury during that move and is out for a while).

Finally off the mark are Schalke. According to reports on Twitter they weren't that much cop at Freiburg on Wednesday but hey. A win is a win and they is what they have. Ivan Rakitic and Klaas Jan Huntelaar eased the pressure somewhat.

Elsewhere, (Steve McClaren's) Wolfsburg are definitely off and running after their second straight win. This was an impressive victory against a very good Hamburg team. Grafite is back up front with Edin Dzeko and die Wolfe are making out like its 2008 again. Only Diego is in for Misimovic. 3-1 was the final score. Bayer Leverkusen came out on top against Eintracht Frankfurt, 2-1. Stuttgart found Nurnberg too tough to handle and lost again, 2-1. St Pauli seem to have more joy away from the Millerntor. They beat Borussia Monchengladbach (another 2-1). And what the hell is going of at Werder Bremen? 4-1 losers to Hannover!

Finally, if it weren't for Mainz, surely the story of the season so for would be the rise of Borussia Dortmund. 5-0 winners over Kaiserslautern with goals from Lucas Barrios (2), Matts Hummels, Kevin Großkreutz and Robert Lewandowski who has officially found his shooting boots. They're always in the last place you look.

That's it. Results and tables here.

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Bundesbag Week 6 Preview Podcast

Apologies for the lack of Week 5 update. Here instead is the preview podcast for the upcoming weekend's 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.

Kick offs 14:30 UK Unless stated


Köln v Hoffenheim (19 : 30)


Bayern München v Mainz 05
Schalke 04 v Borussia Monchengladbach
Stuttgart v Bayer Leverkusen
Eintracht Franfurt v Nürnberg
St. Pauli v Borussia Dortmund
Werder Bremen v Hamburger SV (17:30


Wolfsburg v Freiburg
Kaiserslautern v Hannover 96

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Football Americana Week 25: Crew burned in shock Blaise

So, welcome back at long last to Football Americana, your one-stop shop for all the weekly action from Major League Soccer every single week (apart from about eight of them) of the season. Yes it's good to be back, so without further ado here are all the doings from week 25.

Week 25's first match took place at Buck Shaw Stadium where a reliable face bagged the goal that took San Jose Earthquakes to three points over the Philadelphia Union. Chris Wondolowski rose higher than anyone else to head in Arturo Alvarez's 68th minute cross to give the Quakes a 1-0 win with his ninth goal of the season. Jon Busch had a great night in the San Jose goal.

FC Dallas and New York Red Bulls split four goals evenly on a dramatic night in Frisco, Texas. Milton Rodriguez gave FCD the lead with a header from Eric Alexander's knock-down but Dallas blew their lead through an awful and unnecessary challenge by promising youngster Brek Shea (pictured) on Chris Albright. Shea was dismissed and Mehdi Ballouchy, a new RBNY signing, tapped in an equaliser on his debut in first half stoppage time.

Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman was injured in the aftermath when Thierry Henry, as we've seen him do many times, went to thump the ball back into the net. Unfortunately, Hartman's leg was in the way.

Rookie Eric Alexander put in a dazzling performance, hitting the post early in the second half, and capped his night with a lovely run and finish for 2-1. It wasn't such a good evening for Jair Benitez, the FCD defender who headed into his own net under pressure from New York sub Juan Pablo Angel.

High-flying Real Salt Lake continued to strengthen their position with a 1-0 win over Chicago Fire, but it wasn't easy. Wilman Conde brought down Ned Grabavoy in the box in the 44th minute and got the worst punishment possible: he was given his second yellow card, Alvaro Saborio buried the spot kick and RSL secured the points.

There was a surprise result at Crew Stadium, where Seattle Sounders thumped Columbus Crew by an impressive 4-0 scoreline. Blaise N'Kufo (pictured) took just over three minutes to scramble in his first Sounders goal and that was just the beginning. His second came before half time and was superbly taken. Nathan Sturgis gave the Sounders a 3-0 advantage at half time with their first ever successful MLS penalty.

N'Kufo's third was simply brilliant. He started the move himself on the halfway line, set Steve Zakuani to bomb past Frankie Hejduk down the left wing and then placed the winger's drag-back into the top corner.

Toronto FC's owners MLSE dismissed coach Preki and director of soccer Mo Johnston at the beginning of last week, and TFC stand-in coach Nick Dasovic guided the Reds to their first win in seven MLS games. It was hard work, though; they had to come back from a goal down at Houston Dynamo.

Brian Ching headed the Dynamo into a 19th-minute lead but former Houston star Dwayne De Rosario equalised on the hour with a thumping drive from a well-worked free kick. The winner came deep into stoppage time and was absolutely identical to De Ro's first. Are TFC back in business?

Colorado Rapids enjoyed a walk in Dick's Sporting Goods Park against New England Revolution, easing to a 3-0 win. Omar Cummings' tenth goal of the season made it 1-0 in the fifth miute and Conor Casey doubled the lead half an hour later. Wells Thompson squeezed in the third late on against his old club.

There was more heartbreak on the menu for DC United, who thought they were in with a shout of beating LA Galaxy in Carson when the supremely talented teenager Andy Najar put them in front after an hour. The young Honduran created the chance himself and finished neatly when the ball ricocheted back in his direction to make it 1-0.

Landon Donovan killed DC's hopes of a win with two late goals. The first was all of DC's making but his second was a lovely back post header. LA are gearing up nicely for the playoffs after a brief dip in form at the end of the summer.

The final game of the weekend took place on Sunday night, when two second half goals saw Kansas City Wizards to a 2-0 win at Chivas USA. Chivas had a goal disallowed before Kei Kamara broke the deadlock to kill the hosts' season. A thumping finish by Teal Bunbury sealed the points for the Wizards.

LA are beginning to edge away from Columbus once again and conference-buddies Salt Lake now have more points than the Crew as well. Wins for the Rapids, the Earthquakes and the Sounders mean that the current playoff picture has the West taking up all four wildcard spots along with LA and RSL, leaving just Columbus and New York representing the East.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bundesbag Week 5 Preview Podcast

Short and sweet due to time constraints but the Bundesliga Week 5 Preview Podcast is available for your listening pleasure.

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.

Kick offs 19:00 (UK)


Mainz 05 v Köln
Hoffenheim v Bayern München
Hannover 96 v Werder Bremen


Bayer Leverkusen v Eintracht Frankfurt
Borussia Dortmund v Kaiserslautern
Hamburg v Wolfsburg
Borussia Monchengladbach v St. Pauli
Freiburg v Schalke 04
Nürnberg v Stuttgart

Midweek TV Preview: 20 - 23 September 2010

Monday 20 September

16:45 Spartak Nalchik v Spartak Moscow, Russian Premier League, ESPN
A tale of two Spartaks, and in this case the away side were rather fortunate to eek out a 1-0 win away at Marseille during the week. The Moscovites' main problem, like their hosts, is a leaky defence so expect to see a few goals in this one.

Tuesday 21 September

19:30 Hoffenheim v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga,  ESPN / ESPN HD
The Hoff's solid start to the season continues following their 2-2 at Kaiserslautern. Bayern, meanwhile, have failed to score in their last three Bundesliga matches and could do with a bit of extra shooting practice if they're to get anything from this match.

19:45 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal, Carling Cup 3rd Round, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
This is becoming something of a regular fixture in the League Cup following the north London derbies of 2007 and 2008. The last time these two met at White Hart Lane in this competition, Spurs ran out 5-1 winners but we'd doubt such a thing could happen this time around. Arsenal are in especially good form and should have the edge unless Wenger rests his leading stars.

21:00 Real Madrid v Espanyol, La Liga, Sky Sports 3 / HD3
Espanyol's form going back to the end of last season goes 'win-loss-win-loss...' etc. The pattern dictates they'll lose to Real this time, unless Sam Allardyce has taken over by then, of course.

Wednesday 22 September

19:00 Barcelona v Sporting Gijon, La Liga, Sky Sports 3 / HD3
A convincing 5-1 over Panathinaikos during the week silenced the doubters who thought Barca were doomed to failure after just two games. Given that Sporting haven't won this fixture since 1994, they'll no doubt be utterly mute by the time this one finishes.

19:30 Ross County v Dundee United, CIS Insurance Cup 3rd Round, BBC2 Scotland
Two teams suffering from indifferent form at the moment. Dundee United were walloped 4-0 at Ibrox at the weekend while Ross won 3-1 at home to Sterling. Both teams met in the same round of the same competition last season, the result being a 2-0 away win for United... not that we wish to influence the outcome of your pre-match bet or anything.

19:45 Scunthorpe v Man Utd, Carling Cup 3rd Round, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
So it turns out Man United don't roll over and die at the end of every match after all. What a consolation that'll be for Scunthorpe, especially now that coach Nigel Adkins has hot-footed it to Southampton.

19:45 Lazio v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Milan's 1-1 draw with Catania last week won't have exactly set the Rossoneri's pulses racing despite the wealth of talent at their disposal. A win for Lazio here could see them go top, but it'll be asking a lot, frankly.

21:00 Valencia v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 3 / HD3
A cracking start for Los Che - three wins out of three in the league plus a 4-0 win over the hapless Bursaspor midweek. Manager Unai Emery must be a happy man these days... I wonder why he doesn't do that 'ooh you are awful' stuff anymore?

Thursday 23 September

19:45 AFC Wimbledon v Crawley, Blue Square Premier, Premier Sport (Sky Channel 433)
Even those of you with a cold, hard rock for a heart that thought Non-League Day was a load of hooeey can't fail to agree that it's great to see Blue Square Football on Sky Digital. Here we see a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash between The Dons and current league leaders, The Red Devils - two teams separated by a single point in the Conference National. Good work, Premier Sport - this is the sort of thing we need to see more of on our TVs.

19:45 Juventus v Palermo, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Palermo are in very poor form at the moment, so a repeat of their excellent 2-0 win at Stadio Olimpico in February looks highly unlikely.

Bundesliga Week 4 Round Up: Schalke on the edge, Mainz reach the summit

Three of the most keenly anticipated Bundesliga derbies took place at the weekend. Two of which featured smaller clubs that enjoy a certain chic and cult following internationally against their bigger rivals. The third was the great Ruhr derby between suffering Schalke side and buoyant Borussia Dortmund.

Any pressure on Schalke coach Felix Magath for losing the first three matches of the season would almost certainly have been lifted had his players produced a result against their fierce rivals. Unfortunately, for them, the team put in a deeply disappointing performance and suffered a 3-1 defeat in front of their home crowd.

To be frank (and with apologies to any Schalke fans reading this) the scoreline flattered the Gelsenkirchen club and once the euphoria of the victory has subsided, BVB coach Jurgen Klopp may have a few words with his players about the virtues of more clinical finishing. Dortmund had 11 shots on target and two that hit the woodwork.

The breakthrough happened on 20 minutes thanks to a deflected shot from Shinji Kagawa who was a goalscorer last week against (Steve McClaren's) Wolfsburg. Schalke fought back in the early stages of the Second Half as their supporters made a concerted effort to get behind the team. As is often the way though, Dortmund hit the home side on the break. Kagawa met a brilliant cross from the inconsistent Jakub (Kuba) Blaszczykowski to double the lead.

The Japanese forward was replaced by Robert Lewandowski after 74 minutes who has been struggling to settle in to the team since his moved from Lech Poznan. So what better way to win the favour of your coach and fans than with a goal against the old enemy? His header from a corner was simplicity itself.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar offered a glimmer of what is to come for Schalke with his first goal for the club. However, there can be little doubt that the considerable squad changes instigated by Magath to bring the club's expenditure into line has had negative consequences on the pitch.

There were also two city derbies last weekend. On Friday, Union Berlin earned a creditable 1-1 draw against Hertha in the 2.Bundesliga clash at their very own Stadion An Der Alten Förestei. However, the bigger of the city derbies was in Hamburg as HSV travelled to the Millerntor for the first time in 48 years to play FC St Pauli. Previous fixtures had always been played in HSV's considerably larger stadium due to security concerns. However, recent upgrades to the Millerntor's capacity meant that Pauli could welcome their neighbours with a raucous atmosphere inside, what is still a compact ground.

Like many derbies, the match was as stop-start as the Internet feed of the game (provided legally and for free in the UK by Bwin who have clearly chosen to cut back on the server costs). From what I could make out of the grainy, sub-standard picture quality, Hamburg were the more polished team without being able to generate too many decent chances.

However, the match livened up after two key substitutions by both managers. St Pauli coach, Holger Stanislawski, brought on Gerald Asamoah who was making his belated debut after an injury lay off. The former Schalke striker played a pivotal role in setting up Fabian Boll's turn and shot to put the home side ahead and sent the crowd into rapture on 77 minutes. Pauli are very much the junior partner in this rivalry when it comes to results so the prospect of a win was almost too good to be true.

It was not to be though as another substitute, Malden Petric for Hamburg, grabbed a magnificent equaliser at the death. After a poor clearance the Croatian met the ball on the half volley to lob Pauli 'keeper Thomas Kessler from outside the box. The game ended with a sense of anticlimax and relief depending on your point of view but I guess honour was satisfied.

In a week where German youngsters Marko Marin and Thomas Müller shone for their respective clubs in the Champions League
it is worth pointing out that promising young players are queuing up to hog the limelight in the Bundesliga the following weekend.

Case in point Messrs André Schürrle and Marcel Risse of 1. FSV Mainz 05.

Schürrle is a mere slip of a boy at 19 while Risse won't be 21 until just before Christmas yet both players were Bundesliga goal scorers at the weekend. Goals which vanquished Werder Bremen and took Thomas Tuchel's team clear at the top of the Bundesliga.

Risse's goal was a thunderbolt from an angle just inside the penalty area. He then provided an assist for
Schürrle, in hectares of space thanks to a, frankly negligent, Bremen defence.

When Aristide Bance left the 0-Fives in the Summer, there were those who worried that this relatively small club located in the capital city of Rheinland-Pfalz
would struggle this season rather than build on their impressive ninth placed finish, last season. However, with the emergence of players like Schürrle, Risse and the excellent Lewis Holtby on loan from Schalke Thomas Tuchel has been able to draw upon some bright talent. How long his team can keep this up does not matter for now. What does matter is that Mainz are playing some wonderful attacking football and being rewarded for their labours.

For Bremen's part, they were by their own admission, awful with coach Thomas Schaaf stating that he'd never seen them play worse than they did on Saturday. Schaaf has been at Bremen all his adult life.

So the table still has that early season topsy-turvey look about it. Below Mainz, in second, are Hoffenheim who lost their 100 percent record but remain unbeaten after a 2-2 draw with sixth placed Kaiserslautern. Erwin Hoffer, the Austrian on loan at FCK from Napoli scored a brace in that game.

Placed second are Freiburg who's last minute goal from Jan Rosenthal at Eintracht Frankfurt makes it three wins on the bounce for a team who, like Mainz, were pre-season relegation candidates.

Wither Bayern Munich you may ask. Well, they're in eighth after being held to a goalless draw by a resilient Köln side. So far, that's only one win in four for the Champions.

Elsewhere, Bayer Leverkusen suffered an setback as Patrick Helmes was injured during the Werkself's 0-0 draw with Nürnberg. Steve McClaren can breath a little easier now that Wolfsburg have won their first game of the season. Edin Dzeko and Diego were on the mark in a 2-0 win over Hannover 96.

Finally, let's hear it for Stuttgart who spectacularly shook off their early season blues with a sound thrashing of Young Boys in the Europa League last Thursday followed by a 7 (sieben) - 0 spanking of Borussia Monchengladbach. Pavel Pogrebnyak was the master of ceremonies at the Mercedes Benz Arena with a hat trick. He was ably supported by Georg Niedemeier, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Matthieu Delpierre and Ciprian Marica.

In the space of a few days, the pressure is off coach Christian Gross who can now afford to look further up the table rather than worringly at the exit door. Unlike 'Gladbach coach Michael Frontzeck who has watched his players concede 15 goals since the start of the season.

That's it. Results and tables here.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jeu Du Jour 2010/11: Podcast 3

Sarah Cracknell alert!

We've hot news about Saint Etienne in the third Jeu Du Jour podcast, plus a look at the newly-promoted (but clearly nuts) Arles-Avignon and a review of all the latest action involving French clubs in the Champions League and Europa League.

All the details are available by downloading the podcast using the link below, or for more European football chat, download the first in a new series of monthly podcasts called the European Football Special. It features all your Football Fairground chums, plus James Appell and Jonathan Fadugba.

Download Jeu Du Jour Podcast 3 as an MP3 here

The Return of Football Americana

Yes, yes, I know. And I'm sorry. Genuinely.

Unfortunately (well, fortunately actually but not so for Football Americana readers) I recently had to move house at very short notice and due to the lethargic nature of (a) me and (b) my internet service provider of choice, I've only just had broadband installed.

While this inconvenience had little effect on my consumption of live football at Tooting & Mitcham it did mean that I missed a few weeks of Major League Soccer action and indeed Italian football, about which I pretended to be an expert in the first European Football Special podcast.

I'm delighted to say that FA will be back in the next few days with its usual sarcastic but loving take on the last week's worth of MLS happenings.

While I've been away, the major story has been a tightening at the top of the tables. Rampant LA Galaxy have allowed Real Salt Lake to get back in touch with them in the Western Conference, while Columbus Crew are right in the hunt for Supporters Shield too.

David Beckham's back, Brian McBride is retiring, Freddie Ljungberg's moved, Preki's been sacked, the Red Bulls have signed Thierry Henry and Rafa get the picture. And I apologise for missing it all.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Want to be Green-fingered? Tune into BBC Radio Tree...

Such are the inadequacies of life that on many a weekend you'll find me out and about in my car while there's live football on TV. Hardly ideal, but when there's shopping to buy and relatives to visit, it's not something you can easily avoid.

And so it was that I was driving back from Norwich to London earlier this afternoon while my favourite team, West Ham, were taking to the field to play Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium. Obviously I'd liked to have watched the game on Sky Sports as advertised, but no matter – I had BBC Radio 5 Live to keep me company in the car, and that was surely no bad thing.

How wrong I was. Oh it started alright, for sure. Nigel Adderley began the match in his usual capable manner as main commentator, and sat alongside him was former Blackburn and England goalkeeper Tim Flowers – himself a useful ex-pro to share commentating duties with.

The game started and all was well. West Ham were surprisingly on the front foot at first, giving the home team a few things to think about. A lively opening exchange from both clubs was reflected in Adderley's commentary and it seemed my 107 mile journey home looked set to fly by in the twinkling of an eye.

How wrong I was. After around 15 minutes, Nigel Adderley (like so many of his predecessors before him), handed over the mike to his co-commentator for the game, Alan Green. It was here that my focus on driving in accordance with the rules shown in the Highway Code started to wane somewhat.

Green's first words were "Well it isn't pretty." Strange that he should say that, true though it might have been, for Adderley had admirably described the game in a more positive light up to that point. Green went on to say that the only people who'd be watching a game like this were committed West Ham or Stoke fans, or perhaps people who should be committed 'full stop'.

A good start, then, by the Ulsterman. Within the space of a minute, he'd managed to negate every last word of positivity and enthusiasm for the match that his employers had pumped out during the previous hour or two.

Sensing the next half an hour might be just as boring, however, Green played what he must have thought was a tremendous trump card. It all began when the 58-year-old caught sight of a young man on his TV monitor who had climbed a tree to get a better view of the match at Stoke City's ground. Green pointed the man out to all the listeners, questioning, as he did so, the mentality of anyone who'd go to such lengths to see a game as apparently poor as this. Naturally he didn't stop to realise that a man outside the stadium wouldn't have the foggiest idea what the match was like until he had a clearer view of the pitch, but never mind.

Green continued to describe the tree-climbing action: "Now he's been joined by his mate" he said, reinforcing the notion that the pair of them must be utterly crazy. Not half as crazy as us listeners for putting up with such banality, I politely said out loud in the sanctity of my Toyota Avensis.

After a little more banter with Tim Flowers (who quite rightly kept out of the tree-related chatter for the greater part), Green came back to tell us that the tree-climber's mate had now left him to fend for himself. Wow, interesting news Alan… any chance you could tell us what was going on in the match? The crowd seemed to be getting very vocal by the sound of things…

Indeed they were. Mid-lecture, Green was forced to cut off to tell us that a cross had been lofted into the Stoke penalty area and that Scott Parker had tapped it in. 1-0 to West Ham, and with that Tim Flowers came in right on cue to give us his take on the goal. With that done, Alan Green once again took control of the commentating reins to tell us… that the man up in the tree now had his mate with him once again. You can say what you like about Alan Green – he knows how to maintain the excitement in a match.

Then came the big news we'd all been waiting for: no, not a second goal for The Hammers, but the kind of update Jeff Stelling would trade in his whole career for - there were now FOUR young men in or around the vicinity of the tree. Stunning.

If you think this is getting tedious, imagine how I felt, barrelling along the A11 while wishing I could send an angry text to the BBC. Surely Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross were relieved of their duties for less?

But wait, there was more… two of the tree-climbers had departed again and… what's this? Apparently a police car had pulled up at the scene, an officer had got out but then drove off having seemingly only given the climbers a verbal ticking-off. "What on earth was that all about?" asked Green. The answer was simple, and if you're reading this Alan, I'll tell you: in the UK, you can't be arrested for climbing a tree. If you were expecting the offenders to be hauled off for a lengthy spell in jail, then obviously a career in the judiciary is even less suitable for you than being a football commentator.

The final straw came shortly before the end of the first half as some buffoon succeeded in humouring the deranged broadcaster by texting in a message to the programme. They told Green that the police had been called in to remove the tree climbers – in fact they'd 'called in the Special Branch'. Alan Green thought this was without question the most hilarious joke he'd ever heard – in fact he went to the trouble of reminding Tim Flowers of the same gag a full three minutes after he originally read it out on air. Ho bloody ho.

"You see – we have intelligent listeners" said Green proudly. No Alan – just angry and frustrated listeners, many of whom have no option but to hear about the match via BBC 5 Live rather than see it elsewhere.

And that really is the point as far as I'm concerned. Alan Green all too often forgets that he's paid to tell the British public (and indeed some poor souls who tune in from around the globe on the BBC World Service) what's happening during a football match. What I heard for a solid half an hour were the inappropriate ramblings of a man who chose to describe how several football fans climbed a tree, stayed for a while and descended again at varying intervals.

I'm not joking – this really was a disgraceful show of unprofessionalism from a man who urgently needs to consider retirement in the light of this and many other previous misdemeanours. I've never heard such a poor commentary before and doubt I'll ever do so again.

If this is what our license fee is helping to provide, I'd sooner keep my money in my pocket.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekend TV Preview: 17-19 September 2010

Friday 17th September

19:45 Doncaster Rovers v Leeds United, Championship, Sky Sports 3/HD3
No Bundesliga action tonight thanks to ESPN's recent acquisition of the egg chasers league. A scheduling decision that will have Deutschephiles everywhere spitting blood in fury (geddit?).

19:45 Luton Town v AFC Wimbledon, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
'Twas a time when this match would have been an old old First Division fixture. Of course, it would never have made it on the telly with a "Big Five" obsessed ITV calling the shots back then. Twenty odd years, numerous relegations plus a relocation later and these two once loathed clubs are deemed camera worthy. Sunrise, sunset.

Saturday 18th September

12:00 Inverness CT v Hearts, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
Only two wins between these two. Cally managed a point against Hearts' city rivals Hibs last week. Can they go two better? Watch and find out. Go on, don't be shy.

12:45 Stoke City v West Ham Utd, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
While Avram incurs the wrath of some of the more secular Hammers, his charges travel to a Stoke side who tasted the blood of a team in claret and blue only as recently as last week, and they liked it.

17:20 Hull City v Nottingham Forest, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Neither team can be entirely pleased with their start to the season. This is good news for the ever growing rump of Forest fans who are sharpening their blades ready to plunge the knife into their uber-objectionable manager Billy Davies.

17:30 Sunderland v Arsenal, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Decent game if you like this sort of thing. Sunderland fans can look forward to the prospect of new signing Asamoah Gyan starting up front with Darren Bent. Arsenal fans can look forward to an away win.

19:00 Sporting Gijon v Athletic Bilbao, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
The LagerLiga is still wiping the sleepy dust from its eyes so it's difficult to gauge the prospects of either if these teams. Both are off the mark, however, with a win a-piece.

19:45 AC Milan v Catania, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Here's hoping that Milan's new 4-1-5 formation is deployed. If so this game should give Strictly Come Dancing a run for its cash.

21:00 Real Sociedad v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Sociedad are back in La Liga with a bang after a win against Villareal and a point at Almeria. Madrid are yet to hit their stride if Wednesday's Champions League win against Ajax is anything to go by. Could an early season upset be on the cards, I wonder?

03:30 LA Galaxy v DC United, MLS, ESPN/ESPN HD (Sunday morning)
DC are buoyed by a rare win but must travel to an almost all conquering Galaxy who recently welcomed back himself after a long injury.

Sunday 19th September

11:30 Feyenoord v Ajax, Dutch Eredivisie, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Amsterdam club are quick out of the blocks this season. With Luis Suarez still at Ajax and off the mark again, Martin Jol's team will be confident ahead of their clash with a misfiring Feyenoord. Should be tremendous value.

12:15 Kilmarnock v Celtic, SPL, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Killie have been impressive for the last two games with victories over Aberdeen and St Mirren. Celtic have a 100% record in the SPL so that, along with their status as Alphas in Scotland, must make them favourites. I don't know, though. The Bhoys have a soft underbelly that I think could be tickled by a clever underdog with a passionate crowd spurring them on.

13:30 Man Utd v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
The Big One. Although perhaps lacking that glossy sheen these days. Liverpool have yet to get themselves together this season while United had trouble breaking down Rangers in the week. Could be a dour defensive match unless United score early.

16:00 Chelsea v Blackpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Not the turkey shoot you might have expected when looking at this fixture before the start of the season. However, it's a bit of a stretch to think that anyone can beat Chelsea at the Bridge, let alone Blackpool.

17:15 FC Schalke v Borussia Dortmund Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Second half only I'm afraid as ESPN bump the first half of biggest derby game in Europe this weekend for more egg chasing. Schalke have lost their first three games of the season and coach Felix Magath is feeling the heat. Dortmund are in great nick after a 4-3 Europa League win in Lviv and a 2-0 win against (Steve McClaren's) Wolfsburg last weekend. Schalke to win, then.

18:00 Atletico Madrid v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1/ Red Button
Atleti look to emulate the mighty Hercules and beat the also mighty Barca. Alas I fear a mighty whirlwind will be reaped.

19:45 Sampdoria v Napoli, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Hooyah! Two of Serie A's more dashing teams help to take our minds off the impending Monday horror. Napoli are taking their time to get going this season unlike a Samp team who seem unfazed by their heartbreaking exit from the Champions League.

20:00 Malaga v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Sevilla are another team who have shrugged off their Champions League failure and are unbeaten going up against a Malaga team who thrashed Zaragoza 5-3 last weekend.

If you're a European football fan, go ahead and download the European Football Special superpod featuring the guys from Sound Of Football, Twofootedtackle, Just Football and Cynical Challenge.

Bundesliga fans - don't forget to check out the Bundesbag's Bundesliga Week 4 preview.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bundesliga Week 4 Preview and Podcast

Join Terry as he looks ahead to the weekend's action in the Bundesliga.

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.


Eintracht Frankfurt v Freiburg (19:30)

Theofanis Geikas was at the double last week as Frankfurt got off the mark with a 4-0 win at 'Gladbach. Freiburg bounced back from their opening day defeat to St Pauli with two wins in a row.

Saturday (14:30 unless stated)

Bayern München v Köln

FC Köln are finally off the mark while FC Bayern have yet to get properly started.

Werder Bremen v Mainz 05
100 percenters Mainz face their toughest challenge yet against a Bremen team who were easily the match for Bayern last week.

Stuttgart v Borussia Monchengladbach
Even if Stuttgart do win they run the risk of enduring yet another 'Gladbach fan protest.

Wolfsburg v Hannover 96
Before the start of the season this was a nailed on home win. But things have changed. Hannover are in great nick and (Steve McClaren's) Wolfsburg have problems.

Kaiserslautern v Hoffenheim
A cracking fixture this. Both teams are playing with verve and enthusiasm. Look out for FCK's Srdjan Lakic, a scorer of wonder goals.


St. Pauli v Hamburger SV (14:30)

The first of two big derbys. This city derby is one of the most highly anticipated thanks, in large part, to the the colour and passion of the home side.

Schalke 04 v Borussia Dortmund (16:30)
Magath's under pressure, away fans boycotting the game. It's gonna kick off big style in Gelsenkirchen and these two massive rivals square up.

Bayer Leverkusen v Nürnberg (16:30)
This could set the alarm bells ringing if Leverkusen slip up against Hecking's battlers.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bundesliga Week 3: Sahin takes the glory, Mainz make hay

The Magic Gnome Man of Köln Hauptbahnhof only appears before travellers in distress. Travellers like myself and Graham who were standing over one of the railway station's many ticket machines trying to figure out why we were being offered two fares to Dortmund with vastly differing prices. Miraculously, a little man in a bright red Deutscher Bahn T-Shirt sporting a pair of square rimmed glasses and a lavish moustache appeared.

Within seconds his super-fast magic gnome hands had danced across the machine's control pad and produced a tariff that took all four of our parties to Dortmund and back for €35. As we stood in amazement at the ludicrously cheap amount required for what we imagined to be a journey distance proportionately equivalent to a trip to Leicester and back we turned to the Magic Gnome Man for clarification, only for him to have disappeared, his work done.

That was the only remotely serious incident in a journey that took us to the Westfalenstadion, home of Borussia Dortmund where our party, along with approximately 73,000 others watched the Schwatzgelb beat (Steve McClaren's) Wolfsburg 2-0.

The first goal came in the 5oth minute while some of us (specifically me) were still waiting to be served at the bar. Nuri Sahin is a player that we'll come to know very well in the years to come. The attacking midfielder played a one-two with his team mate Sebastian Kehl before executing a perfect curling shot from 29 metres which dipped inside the post at the last millisecond, preventing Wolfsburg's keeper, Diego Benaglio, from getting anywhere near it. It was an absolute hammer of a strike which was rightly declared Bild's Goal Of The Day. Shinji Kagawa made the game safe for BVB on 67 minutes.

Wolfsburg were decent enough in the first half. Edin Dzeko hit the bar and Diego missed a clear opportunity. However, once Dortmund had gone ahead they had no answer. Diego himself became frustrated and petulant, earning a yellow card for a stupid foul right in front of the Südtribüne. McClaren elected to stick to his counter attacking tactics but his players lacked confidence and offered little threat in the end. That's three defeats in a row for Die Wölfe and a lot for the Englishman to ponder. Nevertheless, I believe that once they've notched their first victory of the season, they'll do fine.

At least McClaren can console himself in the knowledge that he is not the Bundesliga coach under the most pressure. That dubious distinction belongs to Felix Magath of Schalke. He watched his new signing Klaas Jan Huntelaar miss a hat full of chances against Hoffenheim on Friday only to lose the game 2-0. The first was from Hoff's Ghanaian defender Issac Vorsah. The second from a free kick by Sejad Salihovic which hit the post and bounced off the Schalke 'keeper, Manuel Neuer, before crossing the line. It was a bizarre situation and you had to feel sympathy for the German Number 1 has he did end up looking like a bit of a plank. That victory places Hoffenheim atop the fledgling table.

The Gelsenkirchen club are second from bottom level on (no) points with Wolfsburg and Stuttgart who are also having their now customary dreadful start to a season. Things seemed to on the turn for Christian Gross' side when Pavel Pogrebnyak put his team ahead at Freiburg. However, Papis Cissé's fourth goal of the season and another from Julian Schuster sealed an impressive comeback for the home side who must be feeling better about themselves after their second straight win.

If there's one team in the Bundesliga guaranteed to give goals at either end it's Werder Bremen. So it was with no small amount of anticipation when we settled down in a pub down the road from the Westfalen to watch the Bremenites late kick off at Bayern Munich. Surprisingly however, the game finished 0-0. It was an absorbing encounter for all that with Thomas Schaaf's players doing an excellent job in cutting off the supply to Ivica Olic, playing on his own up front for FCB. This was an even game between equals which either team could have won. As it happens, honour was satisfied I think.

Elsewhere, there was a little bit of argy bargy involving Nürnberg coach Dieter Hecking who got himself into an altercation with Hamburg's Guy Demel and Eljero Elia. Referee Markus Wingenbach was unimpressed and sent him to the naughty step. Hecking played the incident down after the game but is perhaps showing the way for his players. If Der Club are to stay in the 1. Bundesliga this season, they will have to fight and scrap for every point. The game finished 1-1.

The Bundesbag has been banging on for a few weeks now about how Eintracht Frankfurt were going to have a decent season. Well a 4-0 victory against Borussia Monchengladbach has finally kicked their season off . Europe beckons for Die Adler. Hannover's unbeaten start to the season continued with a 2-2 draw against Bayer Leverkusen. Köln boss Zvonimir Soldo rang the changes ahead of his teams clash with St Pauli. And it worked too.Twenty year old Taner Yalchin scored the only goal of the game to send Pauli fans back to the Rieperbahn with nothing.

But the real story of the weekend, in my opnion, is the third straight victory for FSV Mainz. Thomas Tuchel's fine blend of young hot shots and grizzled journeymen started poorly against Kaiserslautern, going 1-0 down to a lovely goal from the prolific Srdjan Lakic. However they fought back in the second half to win 2-1. In fairness to their opponents, both goals carried an element of good fortune. The first by Niko Bungert's goal was an exploitation of the offside rule that confused the FCK defenders. The second, from Andre Schurrle, took a wicked deflection. However, when the sun is shining on you, make hey as fast as you can. Mainz are second and building the foundations for yet another good season.

Of course, we didn't catch the game live on the telly as we chose to spend the final remaining hours at the Franz-Kramer-Stadion watching Koln II v Bochum II, a match in the Regionalliga West (fourth tier). We left early to catch our flight and missed three goals. Needless to say our departure was delayed. The Maastricht Air Traffic Control centre was held responsible by easyJet. Yeah right!

That's it. You can listen to the story of our trip to Dortmund on this very special Sound Of Football podcast that was recorded throughout the day.

Twofootedtackle's very own Gary Andrews came along with us. His match report is here

Results and tables can be found here.

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