Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nouveaux Maillots 2011/12 (Part 2)

Three more new French football kits for you now - all with a similar theme...

PSG (away, 2011/12)

There’s really not much to say about Paris Saint-Germain’s away kit, except that what little detail it has looks excellent.

This all-white offering from Nike spares us the fussy patterns and markings of other kits and sets one’s focus squarely on the broad red band running across the upper part of the shirt, flanked as it is by two narrower dark blue bands. Simple, bold and very nicely done.

The shorts are plain white and the socks are the same except for two red horizontal stripes traversing the turnovers. And that’s about it, apart from the occasional Nike ‘Swoosh’ here or there and the obligatory badge. How nice to see a kit manufacturer knowing when to stop when it comes to adding embellishments. An example of a great yet understated design. Well done Nike.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

Lyon (home, 2011/12)

In our previous part, we suggested that diagonal bands and stripes were making a comeback, but that’s nothing compared to the return of the horizontal band, as we're about to see.

Following on from PSG's lead (or possibly the other way around) comes Lyon who have ditched their Crystal Palace-style diagonal sash in favour of a red and blue band not completely dissimilar to the shirt above. And again, it's very well executed with some nice red and blue complementary styling on the cuffs and collar, together with the obligatory three stripes on the shoulders and sleeves.

While the shorts are a relatively simple white affair with a blue stripe along the bottom of the legs (with the Adidas stripes down the side), the white socks are a little more carefree with the red and blue band from the shirt traversing the shin area.

Oh and if you're looking for some added detail, that red and blue band on the shirt also features a shadow pattern of two lions, as shown on the city's coat of arms. A nice touch and another very good contribution from Adidas.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

Lille (home, 2011/12)

Here's yet another design with a horizontal band that dominates the shirt, this time from Umbro, and this one is likely to divide opinion more than most.

Traditionalists will be fond of the failiar all-red shirts worn by LOSC over the years, but this one has a big navy-blue and white stripe across it which is not easy to ignore. Is less red on the shirt a good thing? You be the judge...

The kit, nonetheless, does look very nice and has a bolder look than the fussier efforts produced by Umbro for the northern French club in recent seasons. Together with plain navy-blue shorts and navy-blue socks that feature the red and white bands, this kit has a much bigger impact and that's no bad thing in my opinion.

Score: 8 out of 10

(This article is also available via French Football Weekly.)

French Football Weekly: Episode 16

The Ligue 1 season is over and it's time for Andrew Gibney and Chris Oakley to tidy up all the loose ends from a tense final day of fixtures.

We cover in depth the match between Monaco and Lyon - a vital tie with a strong influence on the battle for the third Champions League spot and the third relegation spot - plus Moussa Sow's extraordinary final surge to claim the top goalscorer's crown in Lille's game against Rennes.

We've also got the details from all the other Ligue 1 games last Sunday, plus a confirmation of who's going up and down to and from Ligue 2.

Finally, to add an element of pathos to the last show of the season, Chris announces his departure from the French Football Weekly podcast. He'll do anything to increase the number of downloads...

Listen to FFW Episode 16 by clicking here or download it to your computer by right-clicking here and choosing 'Save File As...'

Monday, May 30, 2011

Football Americana Week 11: Rampant Philly undresses Toronto

Forget New York. Forget LA. Take a bow Philadelphia Union, the story of Major League Soccer so far this season.

New York Red Bulls had to come from behind twice as they and Colorado Rapids rattled in four goals during a remarkable six-minute burst in the first half in midweek. Jeff Larentowicz put the Rapids ahead, tapping in the rebound from his own saved penalty after a spot kick was given for a foul outside the area. Joel Lindpere and Dwayne DeRosario then combined to lay on a well-finished equaliser for Thierry Henry, but Larentowicz got another almost immediately with a low shot that never should have been allowed through the crowd. The Red Bulls pegged Colorado back again straight away thanks to a lovely dinked finish by Luke Rodgers.

The Rapids also drew their second game of the week, a 1-1 tie with Sporting Kansas City. Conor Casey put the champions in front, rounding and beating Jimmy Nielsen after a Sporting backpass went short. 15 minutes from the end Kansas City equalised, winning their first point since the first weekend in April. Ryan Smith's left-footed finish from the corner of the area was too powerful for Matt Pickens and found the net inside the far post.

The Red Bulls were also back in action on Saturday and headed to Canada without Henry in the line-up to play against Vancouver Whitecaps. Camilo was tripped in the area after fantastic work with Davide Chiumiento, giving Eric Hassli the opportunity to put Vancouver in front from the spot; he duly did so. Rodgers grabbed the equaliser in front of the Southsiders, turning in a wayward shot ten minutes after the Whitecaps had scored.

At Qwest Field, a first half strike by Brek Shea secured three points for FC Dallas against Seattle Sounders. Andrew Jacobson's through-ball after 18 minutes was inch-perfect, Jeff Parke couldn't keep up with it, and Shea swept home the only goal of the game. Seattle had the chances to draw level, but just weren't getting the rub of the green in the FCD box.

Things aren't going so smoothly for Real Salt Lake at present, and the Sounders took advantage in their second game of the week. They had to wait until the last 20 minutes, but the three points were secured with a 2-1 victory over ten men after Jamison Olave's red card for a professional foul. Patrick Ianni's goal for 1-0 was a scrappy affair that had Nick Rimando regretting his poor handling to concede the corner. Lamar Neagle, on for the injured Alvaro Fernandez, made it 2-0 with a delightful whipped effort that cracked in off the crossbar. Nelson Gonzalez's 87th minute goal wasn't enough for Salt Lake.

LA Galaxy's meeting with Houston Dynamo in Carson was less than inspiring, and was won with a single goal from the penalty spot. Lovel Palmer's handball just before half time was as unnecessary as it was crucial, and Landon Donovan stepped up to roll in the penalty and bank three points for the Galaxy.

One goal was also enough in LA's second game of the week, which they won 1-0 against New England Revolution. The lively Miguel Lopez headed in his first MLS goal, glancing home a cross from deep by the league's leader in assists, David Beckham. The Galaxy had to survive an almighty scramble on the goal-line after the Revs struck the crossbar in stoppage time.

Houston's second game of the week, against FC Dallas, lived up to the pre-game derby hype. Andrew Jacobson made it 1-0 to Dallas with a header from outside the area, powering the ball back in after a ricochet off the crossbar. The Dynamo equalised before the break, Cam Weaver turning home Brad Davis' excellent cut-back. Ugo Ihemelu's header restored FCD's lead and matters got worse for the Dynamo a couple of minutes later when rookie Kofi Sarkodie was sent off for a deserved second yellow card. But Dom Kinnear's side had one more punch in them and Colin Clark was the hero inside the last five minutes, firing home from another brilliant pass by Davis.

Philadelphia Union thumped Toronto FC in their own back yard, winning 6-2 in a phenomenal game. Gabriel Farfan half-volleyed Philly ahead after just a couple of minutes, and it was soon 2-0 after Stefan Frei failed to reach Justin Mapp's low effort from outside the box. Just before half time the Union made it 3-0, Kyle Nakazawa stroking the ball home after a delicious touch from Danny Mwanga (pictured) to finish off a move that begin with a disgracefully lazy quick free kick by TFC.

The next two goals came from Toronto. Maicon Santos rounded Faryd Mondragon to tap it in and make it 3-1, and he got another to get TFC back into the game. However, it was the Union who'd go on to score a couple of minutes later and it was a Mapp piledriver that made it 4-2. Mwanga thumped in the fifth from a corner to the back post, and the sixth was made easy by yet more appalling defending by TFC.

Chicago Fire had to come from behind twice in the second half to earn a point against San Jose Earthquakes. Diego Chaves hit both posts with one first half shot for the Fire, but the Earthquakes took the lead shortly after half time. Ramiro Corrales headed in Anthony Ampaipitakwong's corner with nobody on the post for Chicago. Dominic Oduro tapped the equaliser in from the line after another freak effort that again hit both posts. Chris Wondolowski glanced in another Ampai cross to make it 2-1 to the Quakes, but the Fire equalised again through Cory Gibbs, who headed in Baggio Husidic's cross.

Columbus Crew and Chivas USA split six goals down the middle to share the points at Crew Stadium. Nick LaBrocca finished neatly at the far post to put Chivas in front after just three minutes, but the Crew were soon level. Andres Mendoza got his knee over it to equalise after Emmanuel Ekpo's through ball. The visitors regained the lead thanks to Andrew Boyens' header and went in at half time ahead. Mendoza scored a second equaliser after the break, pouncing on a defensive error to make it 2-2. The cycle happened once more: Jorge Flores' shot was almost stopped by Will Hesmer but he couldn't divert the ball outside the post, and Ekpo fired in equaliser number three just after the hour mark. Five minutes later Flores was dismissed, picking up a second yellow card for impeding Robbie Rogers on the wing.

Previously unbeaten at home, Portland Timbers superb start at Jeld-Wen Field came to an end with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of DC United. United got the perfect start when rookie Perry Kitchen fired in after Blake Brettschneider had flicked on a Chris Pontius throw-in. Portland's equaliser was chaotic. Having been awarded a soft penalty, Kenny Cooper (pictured( had his spot kick saved by Bill Hamid only for the goalkeeper to be adjudged to have stepped off his line. A second attempt, and the exact same result. Timbers coach John Spencer instructed skipper Jack Jewsbury to take over penalty duties for the third attempt, and he duly equalised in front of the Timbers Army.

Pontius did what Cooper couldn't and blasted in a penalty at the first time of asking to make it 2-1, and Josh Wolff scored DC's third with a deft finish on the break. The Timbers made United sweat for the last few minutes with a Jorge Perlaza header that snuck in past Hamid, who will be unhappy that it passed him so easily.

Philly's win takes them two points clear of New York at the top of the East, where the second-placed Red Bulls and third-placed Dynamo are enduring winless streaks of five and six games respectively. In the West, LA are now seven points clear of Dallas, who have two games in hand. The Galaxy have won four consecutively, and FCD are unbeaten in eight. You can see all the Week 11 action here and check out the tables at MLSSoccer.com.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #190

Come on you Reds...
15 Teams Represented By Kit No.1 In The 1979 Subbuteo Catalogue

1. AGOVV (Netherlands)
2. Antwerp (Belgium)
3. Cliftonville (Northern Ireland)
4. Groningen (Netherlands)
5. Malta
6. North Korea
7. Nottingham Forest (England)
8. Olympic (?) (Belgium)
9. Perugia (Italy)
10. Portadown (Northern Ireland)
11. Shelbourne (Republic of Ireland)
12. Sligo Rovers (Republic of Ireland)
13. Standard Liege (Belgium)
14. Tunisia
15. Waregem (Belgium)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

TV Preview 27 May - 2 June

Friday 27 May

19.45 Wales v Northern Ireland, Carling Nations Cup, Sky Sports 1 / HD1 / 3D
After the farce of the Northern Ireland fans boycotting the game against Ireland over ticketing and "player poaching", the Aviva Stadium faces the embarrassment of a third-place play-off between two teams who would rather be somewhere else and a group of fans who will be.

Saturday 28 May

15.00 Torquay Utd v Stevenage, League Two Play-Off Final, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Neither team were in sparkling form going into the post-season but you know what they say about play-offs: They keep the riff raff in. Only kidding.
19.45 Barcelona v Man Utd, Champions League Final, ITV1 / ITV1 HD / Sky Sports 1 / HD1 / 3D
Finally. The season ends and we can all get some rest. You're probably up to your necks in previews for this one. Suffice to say that a Final on a Saturday evening at Wembley should be something else and you'll struggle to find two worthier contestants.

Sunday 29 May

11.30 FC Gronigen v ADO Den Haag, Dutch Eredivisie Europa League Play-Off Final 2nd Leg, ESPN / ESPN HD
What's this? More football? Oh Christ there's loads of it. Cancel the holiday, put away the sun cream and see how pointless play-off fixtures are really done.
15.00 Huddersfield Town v Peterborough United, League One Play-Off Final, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
On paper, Huddersfield are favourites but you know what they say about the play-offs: They're not as good as they used to be.
18.30 Republic of Ireland v Scotland, Carling Nations Cup, Sky Sports 1 / HD1 / 3D
Not that I have a particular issue with the Nations Cup. In fact I think it's a shame that England chose to cry off. However, it is fair to say that the tournament is not exactly catching the teams at their best.
18.00 Tigre v Velez Sarsfield, Argentine Primera Division, Premier Sports
OK, so I'm not from the Argentina Clausura but I'm assuming that Velez Sarsfield are surprising table toppers. Tigre are mid-table. Six o'clock's a pretty decent time to be watching footbal from South America and this could be a nice preview before...
19.45 Inter Milan v Palermo, Coppa Italia Final, ESPN / ESPN HD
Palermo wrecked the other Milano club of the chance of a domestic double. Now they bid to wreck Inter's chance of salvaging what has been a fairly anti-claimactic season. That and win a big fancy trophy.
20.00 Cruzeiro v Palmeiras, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
Early days in the Brazilian national championship. The home side have yet to get off the mark while Palmeiras have a win under their belt.

Monday 30 May

15.00 Swansea City v Reading, Championship Play Off Final, Sky Sports 1 / HD1 / 3D
And finally the English domestic season waves goodbye as The Swans bid to return to the top flight for the first time since 1982. Standing in their way is the uber-effective Reading. Romantic neutrals like me will be routing for The Swans. But you know what they say about the play-offs... oh never mind.
19.45 Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians, Airtricity League, Premier Sports
Just 3 points split the top 7 (SEVEN) in a league of just 12 (twelve). Rovers are top by two points while Bohs are sixth.

Wednesday 1 June

19.00 Nigeria v Argentina, International Friendly, ESPN / ESPN HD
The Copa America is not far away and what better way to prepare than with a trip to Abuja. Looking forward to this as it's a rare chance to sample the atmosphere of a Super Eagles home game.

Thursday 2 June

18.30 Italy v Portugal, Toulon Tournament, British Eurosport HD
And so the tournament synonymous with the gloom of a summer free of football gets underway. These days, however, the gloom is not so deep. This is mainly because football never stops these days and that I for one am pleased for a break.

Nouveaux Maillots 2011/12 (Part 1)

With the 2011/12 French football season little more than two months away, we begin a new series looking at the latest kits to hit the online club shops for teams in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2.

Auxerre (home) 2011/12
AJA have hardly set the world on fire with this new strip by Airness. Unless this is supposed to be an ironic doff of the beret towards the pub team kits of the early 90’s, one has to say this new outfit reeks of mediocrity.

A big blue and white winged collar and some thin blue piping down the sides of the shirt are about all you get for your money here, apart from some noticeably baggy shorts. If you’re looking for fireworks of the fashionable kind, you’ll be sadly disappointed. At least with the outgoing kit there were some pinstripes to capture the imagination, and even they, one could argue, lacked any originality.

Though some kit connoisseurs will say that less is more, I would have to disagree in this case. The designers clearly came up with this while sat on the toilet during a particularly brief comfort break, and for that they should be overlooked in favour of a better manufacturer next time around.

Score: 2 out of 10 

Rennes (home) 2011/12
Now this is more like it. A distinctive black diagonal stripe set against the blood red shirt body provides a deserved and unambiguous focus on the design itself, which is exactly as it should be. A simple black v-neck collar is another smart touch while the black shorts have a red cut-away on the left leg – not unlike we’ve seen on other recent Puma strips. The black socks with red trim complete a lovely, simple but stylish kit for Les Rouges et Noir.

Diagonal stripes seem to be making their biggest comeback since the heady days of the 1970’s when all manner of teams donned the slanted sash on their strips. As we can all see, they provide an interesting device that more often than not lights up even the most traditional of kits.

Top marks for effort, Puma. This just goes to show how you can balance a universal, sleek design with modernity without falling foul of the over-fussy complications seen on other kits.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

Marseille (home) 2011/12
Now here’s an interesting design from Adidas who, let’s face it, lurch wildly from the sublime to the ridiculous in their output. This is very much the sort of shirt design that Auxerre could have had if they’d forked out more 15 Euros to their suppliers – pleasing on the eye, simple and sexy.

What L’OM can look forward to next season is a lovely white shirt with an unfussy cyan trim around the collar and cuffs, the usual three stripes along the sleeves in the same colour, but most noticeably a series of feint diagonal bands covering the chest which, when examined at closer quarters, are themselves made up of lots of cyan lines.

So often this kind of thing can be badly executed but Adidas have done a wonderful job of creating a shadow pattern that is just visible enough to warrant further interest but not subtle to the point of being invisible. The shorts and socks are understated in white with a dash of cyan to complete a fine ensemble for the 2009/10 champions.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

Marseille (away) 2011/12
Away from home, Marseille have retained their strong two-tone cyan outfit, albeit using a different pattern on the shirt to last season’s tartan affair. This time we have a deeper, darker shade of cyan which, between the sleeves, is largely blotted out by busy and indistinct markings that actually look quite good. There’s even some gold trim around collar and cuffs which, while bringing back uneasy memories of Portsmouth’s last season in the Premier League, still looks acceptable for the purpose.

While not being a classic in any way shape or form, this is a reasonable look for an away kit. Adidas have clearly kept their best design for the home kit, but this will look jolly nice all the same when Didier Deschamps takes his loyal charges across the continent in the Champions League next season. The shorts and socks, like those of the home kit, reflect the main colour of the shirt and round off a well above-average effort by Adidas.

Score: 8 out of 10

Saint-Etienne (home) 2011/12
It may have been something of a shock to see Les Verts switch from plain green shirts to half-and-half two-tone green shirts this season, but that’s probably nothing compared to a variation on the theme for next season – two-tone green stripes.

Yes, Adidas have hit the Random button once again and come up with this rather decent effort which breathes new life into an ever-changing outfit for the team from the Rhône-Alpes region. Using a plain white fold-down collar and some nifty tweaking of the traditional stripe styling, the German manufacturer has given Saint-Etienne a great-looking shirt for those games at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

As with the Marseille kits, the shorts and socks are fairly standard and non-showy in design. The shorts are white with green trim along the bottom of the legs with green Adidas stripes down the sides, while the socks are green with dark green tops and three white Adidas stripes.

All in all, another nice effort from Adidas. Who’da thought it?

Score: 8 out of 10

(This article is also available via French Football Weekly.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Bundesliga Show - Episode 24 - DFB Pokal Final Special

Join Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley for a very special edition of The Bundesliga Show recorded in Berlin at the DFB Pokal final.

Savour the atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium of Schalke's convincing triumph in the Cup Final. The pair round up the match, Schalke's season and Manuel Neuer's potential legacy at the Royal Blues...also there's a trip to Regionalliga Nord club Türkiyemspor.

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

Monday, May 23, 2011

Football Americana Week 10: Ruiz blockbuster takes Philly top of the East

New York haven't won in three, and Philadelphia took advantage in Week 10 with a win sealed by a fine goal.

It took more than an hour for the deadlock to be broken at PPL Park, where Michael Farfan eventually gave Philadelphia Union a 1-0 lead over Chicago Fire with a long-distance pearoller past a stranded Jon Conway. Chicago equalised after just a couple of minutes but Faryd Mondragon should never have been beaten by Dominic Oduro's near post finish. Carlos Ruiz's (pictured) winner was a stunner, flying in off the crossbar from a left-footed half volley from 30 yards.

New York Red Bulls had to settle for a draw at Houston Dynamo as the teams split four goals between them. The Red Bulls went ahead after just 39 seconds, Dane Richards pouncing on Luke Rodgers' knock-down to blast in the opener. Ten minutes later Will Bruin was tripped in the area by Rafael Marquez and Brad Davis equalised with a cool penalty into the bottom corner. Sergio Koke poked in his first Dynamo goal nine minutes from time but, just as they scored in the first minute, New York would score in almost the last. Mehdi Ballouchy's header won them a point in stoppage time.

The Superclasico went the way of LA Galaxy, who beat Chivas USA 1-0. Chad Barrett's glancing header from a David Beckham free kick in the 26th minute was enough for the Galaxy to hold off their neighbours at the Home Depot Center. He should've had another just after the break but had no idea what to do in miles of space with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Seattle Sounders had to wait until second half stoppage time for their winning goal in a tight game against Sporting Kansas City. Jeff Parke's header wouldn't have made it into the corner if Sporting had put a man on the post, but the fans in rave green couldn't have cared less. Kansas City's poor run on the road continues.

All three goals between San Jose Earthquakes and New England Revolution came in a 15-minute spell towards the end of the game. Khari Stephenson hit the bar for the Revs with a great free kick in the first half but it was the Quakes who would score first and then pick up the win. Ellis McLoughlin stole in at the far post to head in Chris Wondolowski's cross with 19 minutes left, and Bobby Convey put the game beyond New England with a looping free kick that caught out Matt Reis as it floated over him and into the top corner. Chris Tierney popped in a free kick of his own but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation.

It was a great night for Eric Brunner as Portland Timbers hosted Columbus Crew. The Timbers again picked up a 1-0 win at home, the goal coming from former Crew man Brunner, who headed home from a quick free kick in the first minute of the second half to give Portland the lead after Columbus had the best chances of the first.

FC Dallas have gone 339 minutes and counting without conceding a goal thanks to a goalless draw in their rain-delayed match against Real Salt Lake, and the same result failed to separate Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC.

The Galaxy's win extends their lead in the West, taking them to 23 points while Dallas and RSL's draw leaves them on 18 and 17 respectively, with Seattle and Portland level on points with Salt Lake. Vancouver have just eight points from their 11 games. In the East, Philadelphia sneak above New York into first, and Kansas City have four points from their eight away games so far.

You can see all the Week 10 action here, and check out the league tables here.

Midweek TV Preview: 24 - 26 May 2011

Tuesday 24 May

19.45 Republic of Ireland v Northern Ireland, Carling Nations Cup, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
The recent failure of the IFA's case taken to the Court of Arbitration For Sport will feel all the more raw if more of their former youth players turn out for the Republic here.

Wednesday 25 May

11.00 Gamba Osaka v Cerezo Osaka, AFC Champions League Round of 16, British Eurosport 2
In one of the twists of the AFC's version of the Champions League, the Round of 16 is a one-legged affair - the eight winners from the group stage at home against the eight runners up. Although all four of Japan's qualifiers made it out of the group stage, only Gamba have the distinct advantage of playing at home. Gamba were runners-up in the J-League last year while their city rivals - and Champions League debutants - finished third.
19.30 VFL Bochum v Borussia Monchengladbach, Bundesliga Play-off 2nd Leg (0-1), ESPN/ESPN HD
All still to play for in the relegation/promotion Bundesliga play-off with 'Gladbach's Igor De Camargo's last-minute winner from the first leg seperating the two teams. 'Gladbach's excellent run at the end of the season sees them favourites to hold out but Bochum's home record hasn't been too shabby either, winning eight from their last ten. They only missed out to Augsburg on goal difference for automatic promotion.
19.45 Wales v Scotland, Carling Nations Cup, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D/S4C
Mark my words - if Chris Coleman is co-commentating here, McTwitter will go nuts.

Thursday 26 May

19.45 ADO Den Haag v FC Groningen, Eredivisie Europa League Play-off Final 1st Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
Recent history doesn't favour ADO: since they returned to the top level in 2008 they've managed just one point in the six games between the sides. The second leg is on Sunday lunchtime.
19.45 Dundalk v Derry, Irish Premier League, Premier Sports
After a poor start to the season, Dundalk have put together a seven-game unbeaten run to join a congested mid-table three points behind today's visitors. Derry's good form on their return to the top flight continues sitting third in the table and having lost just once since their opening day defeat.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 20 - 22 May 2011

Friday 20 May

17.30 Rubin Kazan v Lokomotiv Moscow, Russian Premier Liga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Rubin play hosts to the league leaders who haven't lost a match since April 9th. One of those fixtures that historically has gone either way, so for a prediction we'll just toss a coin and have done with it.
19.45 Shrewsbury Town v Torquay United and Accrington Stanley v Stevenage, League Two Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
The boys at the Mostly Football podcast have used science to work out who will win this League 2 Play-Off final. Using the head-to-head results from the regular season, they've deduced that Accrington will get safe passage through to League One next season, and I for one believe them.

Saturday 21 May

15.00 Motherwell v Celtic, Scottish FA Cup Final, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
The Bhoys put four (FOOER) past Motherwell at the weekend, but they'll be aware of the weakened side their opponents put out and won't expect the same again. A match which has become of equal importance to Celtic's season as it was always going to be to Motherwell's.
15.15 Neath FC v Prestatyn Town, Welsh Europa League Play Off Final, S4C
Both teams will be hoping to surpass the limited success of Port Talbot Town and Llanelli who reached the First Qualifying Round of this season's Europa League and got no further. Home support could be key, as is so often the case.
15.00 Luton Town v AFC Wimbledon, Blue Square Premier League Play Off Final, Premier Sports
1988 was a tremendous year if you supported either of these clubs. The former won the League Cup Final, the latter the FA Cup Final, both beating teams of far higher standing than themselves. For the sake of their fans, let's hope this is the first rung on the ladder back up to such exalted heights.
19.00 Levante v Zaragoza, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
A win for Zaragoza could not only haul themselves out of the bottom three but also see 12th-placed Levante replace them. The latter's actually unlikely in real terms, but Madam Mathematics can sometimes be a surprising mistress...
19.30 FC Schalke 04 v MSV Duisburg, DFB-Pokal Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
Football Fairground will be sending its ace reporter Terry Duffelen to the German Cup Final and you can expect a full report from the match on his next Bundesliga Show podcast when he returns. Meantime, Schalke's season couldn't end quickly enough as they finished their campaign with one draw and six straight defeats. Second-tier Duisberg weren't much better - they finished 8th in the 2.Bundesliga and were as consistent as Bisto made from cattle effluent.
22.30 Flamengo v Avaí, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
Avai got news for you - a new season of the Brazilian Serie A kicks off again with these two underperformers harbouring dreams of unseating current champions Fluminense. And dreams are probably about as far as their ambitions will probably go, given how they both finished in the bottom seven last season.
03.00 (Sunday) Chivas USA v LA Galaxy, MLS, ESPN/ESPN HD
A Justin Braun hat-trick surprisingly earned Chivas all three points against New York Red Bulls on Monday. Surprising, yet Landon Donovan, David Beckham and co. won't be too concerned given Chivas' inability to beat Western Conference leaders Galaxy in any of their last ten meetings since 2007.

Sunday 22 May

16.00 Man Utd v Blackpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
For those of a nervous disposition, this match will contain scenes of euphoria, vomit-inducing celebratory sequences and a wasteful use of red and white confetti. Quite whether Blackpool can beat Man United's mish-mash of lower lights and second-string starlets remains to be seen, but we genuinely wish them the very best of British luck in their efforts.
16.00 Tottenham Hotspur v Birmingham City, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Both teams have won just one game in the last seven - more of a worry to relegation-threatened Birmingham than Spurs who have lost just once at home in the league all season. Strangely, Tottenham are aiming for the one thing Birmingham City are assured of next season - a berth in the Europa League - while Birmingham would settle for another season in the Premier League.
16.00 Stoke City v Wigan Athletic, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 Red Button
Let's face it - it's been a decent season for Stoke, but right now they'd rather be anywhere than on a football pitch. This could work in Wigan's favour as they go for the three points they need to keep them in the Prem. Expect much split-screen chicanery and regular use of the 'GOAL ALERT' caption during the course of the afternoon as Sky go into complete last-day-of-the-season meltdown.
19.45 Udinese v Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Milan have secured the title once again, so all that's left is for Udinese to get a draw here and all but secure fourth place to get them into the Champions League qualifiers next season. A superb campaign no matter what the outcome for the Zebrette.
20.00 Grêmio v Corinthians, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
More Samba Soccer here, and this time an altogether better clash between the teams that last season finished third and fourth. Both are hoping to qualify for the Copa Libertadores again where Gremio managed to at least reach the knockout stages.
22.00 River Plate v San Lorenzo, Argentine Primera Division, Premier Sports
River Plate's decent start to the season is starting to unravel. San Lorenzo's was never really ravelled in the first place.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #189

Taking care of business...
18 Former Players Who At One Time Or Another Have Been Given The Role Of 'Caretaker Manager'

1. Trevor Brooking (West Ham United, 2003)
2. Jack Charlton (Middlesbrough, 1984)
3. John Hollins (Queens Park Rangers, 1998)
4. Don Howe (Coventry City, 1992)
5. Asa Hartford (Stoke City, 1994)
6. Norman Hunter (Leeds United, 1988)
7. Joe Jordan (Portsmouth, 2005)
8. Terry McDermott (Newcastle United, 1997)
9. Mick Mills (Birmingham City, 2001)
10. Phil Neal (Manchester City, 1996)
11. Steve Perryman (Tottenham Hotspur, 1994)
12. Karl-Heniz Riedle (Fulham, 2000)
13. Pat Rice (Arsenal, 1996)
14. Graham Rix (Chelsea, 2000)
15. Kevin Sheedy (Tranmere Rovers, 2001)
16. John Wark (Ipswich Town, 1994)
17. John Wile (West Bromwich Albion, 1977-78)
18. Ray Wilson (Bradford City, 1971)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Football Americana Week 9: DPs do the business for LA

In the week in which Portland and Seattle finally met in Major League Soccer, it was LA's designated players and a 24-year-old striker from Utah that stole the headlines.

Second-year forward Danny Mwanga turned zero points into one as his late goal earned a 1-1 for Philadelphia Union against LA Galaxy. Good strength from Juan Pablo Angel left Landon Donovan with a free ball in the box, and he poked it past Faryd Mondragon to give LA the lead. LA created the better openings but with seven minutes left Mwanga pounced on a short backpass from Sean Franklin, rounded the goalkeeper and rolled in the equaliser.

FC Dallas edged out Toronto FC with a 1-0 win in Texas. The only game at Pizza Hut Park came from the penalty spot after George John was dragged over in the area for what seemed a very harsh penalty. Daniel Hernandez sent the goalkeeper the wrong way after a lengthy stoppage, during which Bob de Klerk, Aron Winter's assistant, was dismissed by the referee.

Dallas and Philly met over the weekend and it was the home side who won it at Pizza Hut Park thanks to two first half goals from intriguing talents. Brek Shea tapped in Fabian Castillo's pass across goal after half an hour, and the Colombian youngster grabbed a goal of his own before the break. Jackson romped down the right wing and clipped a ball into the box for Castillo to nod in FCD's second.

A late goal also earned a point for Vancouver Whitecaps, who hosted San Jose Earthquakes. Terry Dunfield of the Caps was perhaps lucky not to take a red card for a very poor tackle, and his team were soon behind after Chris Wondolowski's cheeky flick into the net right in front of the Southsiders. The Vancouver defence should get the assist for their failure to clear on several occasions in the rather limp build-up. The Whitecaps equalised in second half stoppage time, Davide Chiumiento's in-swinging cross eluding everyone and finding the far corner.

New England Revolution benefited from a spot kick to edge out the Whitecaps in their second game of the week. Benny Feilhaber was tripped in the box by Wes Knight and the Revs skipper Shalrie Joseph made no mistake from twelve yards.

Toronto FC threw away a two-goal lead at home against Chicago Fire. It all looked to be going TFC's way when the brilliant Joao Plata zipped the opening goal into the bottom corner after less than ten minutes. Maicon Santos made it two just after half time, his dipping shot from a ludicrous distance finding the net through the legs of goalkeeper Jon Conway. His team-mates would save his blushes, scoring twice in the last half hour. Marco Pappa's 63rd minute free kick was a thing of real beauty, and 15 minutes from time Orr Barouch bundled Corben Bone's low ball across the line to equalise.

Champions Colorado Rapids took a point home from RFK Stadium thanks to a 1-1 draw with DC United. Drew Moor opened the scoring for the Rapids halfway through the first half, pouncing on a Jamie Smith set piece that went loose in the box. United were denied a clear penalty ten minutes after the break but had one awarded less than ten later when Chris Pontius was felled on the edge of the box. Party Boy himself stepped up to the plate with Charlie Davies having left the field with a hamstring injury, and drilled it home to earn his side a draw.

Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo had to settle for a goalless draw at Rio Tinto Stadium. There were as many aggressive fouls as goalmouth opportunities in this game, and RSL's Alvaro Saborio and Ned Grabavoy will feel they missed excellent chances.

Three second half goals for San Jose Earthquakes and a clean sheet for their revamped defence blew away Columbus Crew at Buck Shaw Stadium. Ryan Johnson's cross was coolly turned into the net by Chris Wondolowski, and former Crew frontman Steven Lenhart's header made it 2-0 just before the hour mark. Khari Stephenson quickly made it three with another howitzer from outside the box, which is becoming something of a habit. Quakes defender Brandon McDonald picked up a pointless red card with his side 3-0 up for an elbow on Tom Heinemann, who made sure it was seen with a spectacular reaction.

Sporting Kansas City went ahead at LA Galaxy but were summarily thrashed by LA's big-name superstars. Omar Gonzalez's unfortunate own goal was cancelled out by Landon Donovan's penalty after David Beckham was pole-axed by Roger Espinoza. The second half was all Galaxy, and Donovan made it 2-1 in its first minute with a cheeky finish. Juan Pablo Angel doubled the lead with an equally assured finish and Beckham made the result safe with a scintillating free kick.

The Cascadia Cup finally rolled into a rain-sodden MLS on Saturday night, with Seattle Sounders hosting Portland Timbers and having to settle for a 1-1 draw. Alvaro Fernandez found himself in acres of space in the 52nd minute and his control and shot were unwavering as he put the Sounders in front. The Timbers' equaliser came in the 65th minute and was yet another set piece, this one headed home by Mamadou Danso. That's Futty's second goal in as many games.

At Red Bull Arena, a Justin Braun hat-trick gave Chivas USA an unexpected away win against high-flying New York Red Bulls (they've got wings, y'see). Braun's first came in only the sixth minute as he curled in a nice goal to get things started. Thierry Henry equalised with a classic Henry finish to continue his purple patch, but Braun made it 2-1 with a goal far scrappier than his first. Chivas were punished for a foul on Luke Rodgers and despite the Englishman's attempts to claim the spot kick, it was Dwayne DeRosario's first goal for the Red Bulls that took his side in level at the break. Braun restored the Goats' lead with the easiest goal of his career and despite having over 30 minutes left the Red Bulls couldn't find a third equaliser.

New York remain at the top of the East, a point ahead of Philadelphia with Houston, Columbus and New England hot on their heels. Kansas City are adrift at the bottom after their fourth successive defeat. In the West, LA are three points clear of Dallas and four ahead of Salt Lake. Vancouver have found their way to the bottom thanks to San Jose's win. You can see all the Week 9 action here, and those tables here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Bundesliga Show Episode 23 - Beer, Bratwurst and Bundesliga

Join Jon and Terry at the Zeitgeist pub in South London as we enjoy the final day of the Bundesliga season over some beer and bratwurst. A few special guests drop by to say hello as well.

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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Midweek TV Preview: 16 - 19 May 2011

Monday 16 May

19.45 Swansea City v Nottingham Forest, Championship Playoff Semi-Final 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Could the Premier League be soon to feature its first Welsh club? Could the Championship playoff final feature both Swansea and Cardiff? We didn't get much of a clue from Thursday's goalless first leg, but it's now a straight win-and-in shoot-out.

Tuesday 17 May

19.45 Cardiff City v Reading, Championship Playoff Semi-Final 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Like their South Wales rivals, Cardiff play their second leg at home after a 0-0 draw in the first. An all-Wales final remains a distinct possibility.

Wednesday 18 May

19.45 Braga v Porto, Europa League Final, Five/Five HD
This season's Europa League culminates in an all-Portuguese affair in Dublin. Braga will be the underdogs, but edged out compatriots Benfica on away goals in the semi-final. Porto's first leg thrashing of Villarreal set them up nicely to cruise into the final.
19.45 Huddersfield Town v AFC Bournemouth, League One Playoff Semi-Final 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
After near-doom, points deductions, a transfer embargo and the loss of a brilliantly talented manager, it's a miracle that the Cherries are even in League One, let alone trying to get out of it the right way. A 1-1 draw here leaves home advantage with Huddersfield.

Thursday 19 May

19.45 Peterborough United v Milton Keynes Dons, League One Playoff Semi-Final 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The winners of Huddersfield v Bournemouth will face the winner of this clash, and MK Dons are in the driving seat. Grant McCann's late penalty for Posh gives them hope.

French Football Weekly: Episode 14

This week's bumper edition of the French Football Weekly podcast crams in everything you need to keep you up to date with soccer across la Manche.

To kick off, we've got Andrew Gibney's interview with Eurosport football commentator Tim Caple, the man who provided so much detail to ESPN's coverage of the 2011 Coupe de France Final.

Speaking of which, we discuss Lille's first Cup win since 1955 and wonder whether the Double really is now on. There's also a review of all this weekend's Ligue 1 matches, a look at the relegation battle and a quick run down of all this week's midweek results.

But that's not all!

If you're still feeling short-changed, we also take a look at the ever tight promotion and relegation battles in Ligue 2, spend some time wondering who will win this year's UNFP Player of the Year Awards and speculate on some of the transfer rumours doing the rounds at the moment.

And if you're still not happy, we suggest you find another French football podcast.

To download Episode 14 of the French Football Weekly podcast, check us out on iTunes.

For more French football news, previews and videos, visit the French Football Weekly website or follow us on Facebook - @FrenchFtWeekly.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Bundesliga Show Episode 22 - Relegation and the last chance saloon

With one more matchday to go, Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley look at the what is needed for the relegation threatened crowd of Borussia Mönchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg. One team though is already down, The Bundesliga Show say 'Tschüss' to the goodship St. Pauli during their brief stay in the German top flight.

Also, join the boys at the Zeitgeist Pub, Vauxhall in South London for the final day of the season (Saturday May 14th) for a recording of next weeks show.

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

Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 13 - 15 May 2011

Friday 13 May

19.45 Reading v Cardiff City, Championship Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
After Swansea and Forest ground out a 0-0 in the other semi, it wouldn't be a surprise for this to end up with a similar non-scoreline. Both regular season ties ended in draws and neither side are in their best form. It could be said that Reading's dip was down to them taking their foot off the pedal after getting to the play-off positions with a run of eight consecutive wins but as is so often proved in these play-offs, momentum is everything.
19.45 Shamrock Rovers v Derry, Irish Premier League, Premier Sports
Just a point separates the top two with twelve games played. It's been a strong start to the season for Derry who had to be re-elected into the second tier last season after going bust.

Saturday 14 May

12.45 AFC Bournemouth v Huddersfield Town, League One Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
A play-off place alone could be seen as enough achievement for Eddie Howe's Bournemouth side in their first season back in League One. It'll be a tough ask to get to Wembley for The Cherries against a side who in most other seasons would have been promoted automatically with 87 points.
12.45 Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Knowing they only need to draw while Rovers will be all out for the win, United can afford to sit back and play the counter-attacking style they so enjoy against their main rivals. United won't be presented with the trophy after the game because they think it might make the FA Cup Final immediately following a bit "after the Lord Mayor's show". Which is nice.
15.00 Manchester City v Stoke City, FA Cup Final, ITV1/ITV1 HD/ESPN/ESPN HD/SKY 3D
Everything seems to be falling into place nicely for Man City. With Champions League football secured they can now attract the real stars of world football to Eastlands before 2012 when the financial fair play rules start to kick in. This won't be a classic.
17.45 Torquay United v Shrewsbury Town League Two Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Torquay only just held on to their play-off spot without a win in their last five games. Both teams seem to have had an amazing turnaround in form since The Gulls beat The Shrews 5-0 (FOIVE) just two months ago with Shrewsbury now the favourites to secure promotion to League 1.
19.45 Lille v Paris St Germain, French Cup Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
Four points clear in the League table, this is Lille's first Cup Final since 1955 - the end of a stunning post-war period for them when they won the trophy five times. PSG's success in this competition is far more recent: the current holders, this is their sixth Final in nine seasons.

Sunday 15 May

10.00 Netherlands v Germany, UEFA U17 European Championship Final, British Eurosport
Netherlands squeezed past holders England (yes, England) in the semi finals to face Germany who are coached by former Tottenham and Dortmund midfielder Steffen Freund. The Dutch won the group stage pairing of these teams 2-0.
11.30 Fiorentina V Bologna, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Fiorentina are already in their flip-flops. Bologna are in an awful run - taking just two points in their last seven games - but while they aren't mathematically safe, Samp won't get the six points they need to overhaul them.
12.30 Celtic v Motherwell/Kilmarnock v Rangers, SPL, Sky Sports 4/HD4/Sky Red button
The Neil Lennon Show reaches its climax. Watch if you dare.
12.15 Milton Keynes Dons v Peterborough United, League One Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Most people will tell you this game is to see who gets to lose to Huddersfield in the final. Anything could happen with Peterborough though - there's been a staggering 181 goals in their 46 league games this season.
13.30 Chelsea v Newcastle, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Almost certainly a dead-rubber. Can't help feeling there'll be a few goodbyes in the post-match lap of honour.
16.00 Arsenal v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Obviously chosen when Arsenal were still in with a chance of the title. While The Gunners need the win to hold on to third, they've qualified for the Champions League - and while Villa need a point to officially avoid relegation, they are to all intents and purposes safe. Wigan v West Ham or even the Europa League play-off between Liverpool and Spurs would have been better to cover here.
18.30 Stevenage v Accrington Stanley, League Two Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The 2010 Conference champions playing the 2006 Conference champions. When these sides last met in February, Stanley scored twice in the last three minutes to snatch a draw.
19.45 Napoli v Inter, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Napoli have to put aside their poor showing in the last few games and look back on this season, even if they only end it finishing third, as one of great success. Yes, I'm an Arsenal fan.
20.00 Barcelona V Deportivo, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Post-title winning after-party from La Liga. For Depor, though, this is serious business. Just three points ahead of the relegation zone, they have a worse head-to-head record than Getafe and Zaragoza - the two teams below them (La Liga uses this instead of goal difference).

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #188

Tartan ribbons on standby...
8 Scottish Teams That Have Competed In The FA Cup

1. Queens Park (Semi Finals, 1871-72, 1872-73)
2. Third Lanark (Second Round, 1885-86)
3. Partick Thistle (Fifth Round, 1886-87)
4. Heart of Midlothian (First Round, 1885-86, 1886-87)
5. Rangers (Semi Finals, 1886-87)
6. Cowlairs (Third Round, 1886-87)
7. Renton  (Third Round, 1886-87)
8. Gretna (First Round, 1991-92, 1993-94)

(Best performance shown in brackets.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Football Americana Week 8: LA and New York fail to brighten a dull weekend

Major League Soccer hyped up the clash of its two glamour teams, but the weekend as a whole failed to inspire as yet another creative player went down with a serious injury.

Week 8 began in the capital, where DC United surprised Seattle Sounders with a 2-1 victory. Andy Najar and Charlie Davies combined to set up an easy finish for Josh Wolff after half an hour, and Davies himself got his sixth of the season after the break. It was an almost exact replica of the first, with Najar finding Wolff in the channel and Davies given the ball on a plate. Seattle made it interesting with 20 minutes to go from the penalty spot when Dejan Jakovic fouled Fredy Montero in the box. Brad Evans' penalty was comfortable.

United went goalless but achieved a most welcome clean sheet at home against FC Dallas. DC could have taken an early lead during a scramble that resulted from a flaky defensive header by Brek Shea, and neither team would come as close until the last couple of minutes when Kevin Hartman made himself big to brilliantly prevent Fred from winning it for the home side.

The Sounders dropped more points on the road despite taking an early lead at Columbus Crew. Fredy Montero rose well to nod in Erik Friburg's pinpoint cross with less than ten minutes gone, but his side were unable to hold on to the advantage in the Ohio rain. In the 66th minute, Chad Marshall was pulled down from a set piece by Patrick Ianni, and Emilio Renteria swept the penalty past Kasey Keller.

Houston Dynamo faced a midweek battle with the champions, and Colorado Rapids came away from Robertson Stadium with three points thanks to a 2-1 win. All three goals came in the final 20 minutes and the Dynamo must have expected a win after they took the lead through Colin Clark's left-footed strike. The Rapids got a fortuitous equaliser when Jamie Smith's free kick from midfield floated over the head of goalkeeper Tally Hall, who badly misjudged the flight. Scott Palguta drove in the winner five minutes from time after Colorado prevented the Dynamo defence from clearing its lines.

The Dynamo went on to lose 2-1 a second time, Toronto FC matching DC by taking a 2-0 lead over Dom Kinnear's side. Joao Plata made it 1-0 with a composed finish from the spot after Andrew Hainault had tripped Nick Soolsma in the area. Goalkeeper Hall was penalised for a felling Plata in the area, but the referee changed his mind after consulting his assistant. Inside the last ten minutes Maicon Santos doubled the lead with an assured control and finish from a Plata through ball to secure the three points. Lovel Palmer got a consolation for Houston with a low drive three minutes from time.

The Rapids were unable to repeat their result against Houston, drawing 0-0 with New England Revolution in their second fixture of the week. New England's Ryan Cochrane's header clipped the bar after 15 minutes and Andre Akpan's drive from 25 yards forced a solid save from Matt Reis at the other end but no goal was forthcoming - Matt Pickens made sure of that with a fantastic save from Shalrie Joseph, while Benny Feilhaber struck the woodwork as time ran out.

Portland Timbers have now won four out of four at Jeld-Wen Field, the latest win coming against Philadelphia Union. Mamadou Danso headed in the only goal of the game past Faryd Mondragon with 20 minutes left.

Real Salt Lake returned to winning ways thanks to Will Johnson's winner against Chivas USA. Andrew Boyens of Chivas was fortunate to only pick up a yellow card for hauling down Alvario Saborio on the edge of the box, but soon got a second for a cynical body-check on the same opponent. Marcos Mondaini made matters far worse for Chivas by getting sent off for a horrible tackle of Javier Morales (pictured), taking the Goats down to nine men inside 40 minutes. Morales suffered a dislocated ankle and torn ligaments, and joins Seattle's Steve Zakuani and FCD's David Ferreira on the sidelines. RSL skipper Kyle Beckerman had to be restrained on the field. Johnson's goal came just minutes from the end despite RSL's two-man advantage, and was as easy a finish as he'll have ever had.

There was yet another goalless match in MLS this weekend, with Chicago Fire and Vancouver Whitecaps splitting the points. Fire forward Dominic Oduro wasted the best chance of the match, and his team-mate Diego Chaves hit the post later in the first half. Eric Hassli could have won it late on for the Caps but couldn't get his feet right as he strolled in on goal.

At HDC, LA Galaxy faced New York Red Bulls in Week 8's headline match, drawing 1-1. Thierry Henry took just three and a half minutes to silence the Carson crowd, latching on to Dane Richards' overhit pass for Dwayne DeRosario and rolling in the opener. Juan Pablo Angel thought he'd levelled it with a header against his old club but was rightly pulled up for offside. The equaliser came late in the first half through Landon Donovan, who headed home a David Beckham corner from seven yards when completely unmarked. He should've made it two a couple of minutes later but Tim Ream cleared his weak effort on an open goal off the line.

That draw took LA back past Salt Lake to the top of the West, one point ahead of the 2009 champions and two ahead of 2010 victors Colorado. In the East, New York are two points clear of both Columbus and Philly. You can see those tables here, and watch all the Week 8 action here.

French Football Weekly: Episode 13

Chris Oakley returns for a bumper edition of the FFW podcast this week.

As well as the usual review of all the weekend's action, there's a focus on Jean Tigana's resignation as boss of Bordeaux and Lyon's epic win over Marseille last night.

As if that wasn't enough, we also have an interview with James Eastham, contributor to FourFourTwo and Champions magazine as well as Betfair.com. James gives us his take on the close battle to win Ligue 2 this season and ponders on the many and varied qualities of Evian TG, Sedan, Dijon, Ajaccio and Le Mans. Who does he think will win the title? Listen to the FFW podcast to find out...

You can download Episode 13 of the French Football Weekly by clicking here, or alternatively look out for the podcast on iTunes.

For more French football news, previews and videos, visit the French Football Weekly website or follow us on Facebook - @FrenchFtWeekly.

Midweek TV Preview: 9 - 12 May 2011

Monday 9 May

12:00 Germany U17 v Romania U17, UEFA U17 European Championship, British Eurosport / British Eurosport HD
One of the downsides to having so many of their youngsters doing so well is that there can be a bit of a gap behind them as they push into their respective first teams. This generation of German young player are on a downward slide. Their Under 21s have not made it to the European Championships in the Summer and the U17s are bottom of the group in this tournament, level on points as they are with their opponents.
16:15 Denmark U17 v France U17, UEFA U17 European Championship, British Eurosport / British Eurosport HD
The Danes are two for two so fans of the European game would do well to watch this match with pad and pen at the ready. "Of course, when I first saw him playing in 2011 I always thought he had the potential to be World Class."
19:45 St Patricks Athletic v Shamrock Rovers, Airtricity League, Premier Sports
Despite the six point gap between them, both teams are in terrific form. Fourth placed St Pats have won their last three and recently beat first placed Rovers, in a Cup match, albeit on penalties.
19:45 Juventus v Chievo, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Only two games left after this one and Juve have to bridge a four point gap to overhaul Lazio and claim a Europa League spot which they may not want. Chievo are mid table.
20:00 Fulham v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1 / 3D
The season could have been a lot worse for Fulham after their heroics of last season and the departure of Roy Hodgson to their opponents. As it is, they seem to be in a good place with Mark Hughes. Liverpool, after having rejected Hodgson's methods as unsuitable for their club, are looking to embarrass Tottenham and clinch that much uncovered Europa League spot.

Tuesday 10 May

19:45 Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1 / 3D
No doubt the Sky Sports Hype Machine will be building this one up as a Champions League Play Off. However, with a six point gap between City in Fourth and Spurs, in Fifth, even a Tottenham win will only give them little more than a sniff at a return to the Promised Land. Cynicism aside, this is still an intriguing match with both teams anxious to make up for poor performances at the weekend. City, however, have the small matter of an FA Cup Final to look ahead to which may play on the team's mind.
19:45 Palermo v AC Milan, Coppa Italia Semi Final, ESPN / ESPN HD
So with the Scudetto in the bag, Milan can focus on the double. This is the second leg, the first ending in a 2-2 draw.
19:45 Rangers v Dundee Utd, SPL, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
A win for Rangers puts the pressure on Celtic to get at least a point at Hearts on Wednesday in order to go into the final weekend with a chance of winning the League.
19:45 Luton Town v Wrexham, Blue Square Premier League Play Off Semi Final 2nd Leg, Premier Sports
Wrexham, a club on their knees financially, find themselves 3-0 down to a club that have been given more chances than they deserve, in my opinion.

Wednesday 11 May

19:00 Levante v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
The tyranny of the Glory Of Barca continues. Levante are on forty three points with a clutch of other clubs and haven't won a match since they beat lowly Hercules in the middle of April. No contest really.
19:45 Inter Milan v AS Roma, Coppa Italia Semi Final, ESPN / ESPN HD
The Rome club would not have appreciated watching Milan celebrated their title success last Saturday. However, the point they gained from the new Champions may prove valuable as they seek to overhaul Udinese for fourth. Inter meanwhile can only ponder where it all went wrong.
19:45 Hearts v Celtic, SPL, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Assuming Rangers won on Tuesday, Celtic need at least a point to keep the title race alive until the final weekend of the season.
19:45 AFC Wimbledon v Fleetwood Town, Blue Square Premier League Play Off Semi Final 2nd Leg, Premier Sports
Taking a two goal lead into this home fixture should turn this game into a celebration, rather than a football match. Hopefully, Fleetwood will score early and give the neutrals a game. What am I saying? I don't have Premier Sports so I won't be watching it.
21:00 Osasuna v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Sevilla should be ashamed of themselves for lying down and receiving the kicking they got by Real Madrid in front of their home crowd. Osasuna badly need the points to keep themselves in the division. Let's hope they get them.

Thursday 12 May

19:45 Nottingham Forest v Swansea City, Football League Play Off 1st Leg, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Both teams are on a hot streak. Forest who have won their last four games, Swansea the last three. This is better form than their rivals, Cardiff or Reading. So whoever, watches this match could be looking at the eventual Play Off Winner.
19:45 Doncaster Rovers Belles v Everton, WSL, ESPN / ESPN HD
To the Keepmoat then for ESPN's second televised game of the new Summer Season. The competition is only six weeks old so I imagine that things have yet to settle down. Hopefully the fledgling league will generate a new spate of independent bloggers. They need to because the official website is poor.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 6 - 8 May 2011

Friday 6 May

19.45 Fleetwood Town v AFC Wimbledon, Blue Square Bet Premier, Premier Sports
The battle to join Crawley Town in the Football League pits second-placed Wimbledon against fifth-placed Fleetwood. These two finished with a 12-point gap between them, and Terry Brown's side will be desperate to take advantage of that to return to Kingsmeadow with a lead after this playoff semi-final first leg.

Saturday 7 May

07.00 Nagoya Grampus v Shimizu S-Pulse, J-League, British Eurosport 2
Grampus have won one, drawn one and lost one of their first three matches in J1 this season, their win coming in their previous game against Kawasaki Frontale. Keiji Tamada scored once in each half to secure his team's first maximum of the campaign.
12.15 Rangers v Hearts, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Every Rangers game is a must-win, but none more so than this meeting with best-of-the-rest Heart of Midlothian. Celtic are one point behind the Gers with a game in hand, so Walter Smith's side already need an error from them - they certainly can't afford a slip-up of their own.
12.45 QPR v Leeds United, Championship, BBC1/HD1
BBC heads up the Championship finale with Leeds United's visit to Loftus Road to face champions and Premier League-bound Queens Park Rangers. Leeds have a very slim chance of nicking a playoff place, but they need to win by a large margin and hope the sixth-placed team loses by a similar amount.
12.45 Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
That team is Forest, who go to Selhurst Park three points clear of Leeds, who need a six-goal swing as well as both results to go their way. All of which means Forest can secure a playoff spot with a point.
17.30 Tottenham Hotspur v Blackpool, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Spurs are winless in three and are now looking at a Europa League spot at best thanks to last weekend's results. They face Blackpool tomorrow with Ian Holloway's side teetering right on the edge of the relegation zone. If West Ham beat Blackburn, they could be third from bottom by kick off.
19.00 Atletico Madrid v Malaga, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
In-form Atleti can take a huge stride towards securing European football next season with a home win over Malaga. They're unbeaten in five, having won four, and need only hold their nerve between now and the season end to grab a Europa League place.
19.45 Roma v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Milan have won their last five consecutive league games, but just a draw in Rome will effectively confirm the Scudetto for Max Allegri's side, with Inter eight points behind with three to play. Roma remain in the hunt for the Champions League but they'll require a few twists and turns to achieve their goal.
21.00 Sevilla v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 4
The same can be said of Sevilla, who face the daunting task of standing up to a severely wounded Real Madrid. Eight points now separate Barcelona and Real at the top, so this is really about pride. But this is Jose Mourinho we're talking about, and he's got so much of it that it would hardly be a surprise if Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman discovered him in a pool of blood.

Sunday 8 May

12.00 Wolverhampton Wanderers v West Bromwich Albion, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The Black Country derby sees Wolves, who haven't won in five, looking to beat their rivals to clamber up the league. Albion are now safely ensconced in mid-table but the fans would love a win at Molineux to destroy Wolves' hopes of survival.
12.45 Kilmarnock v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Something something Old Firm, something something title race, something something must-win. Just joshing, chief. If Rangers fail to beat Hearts this could be Celtic's moment to go past them, ergo...must win.
14.00 Inter Milan v Fiorentina, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
In the unlikely event that the title race is still alive in Italy come Sunday lunchtime, Fiorentina would kill it by avoiding defeat in the San Siro. Both these sides have won their last two matches.
14.05 Stoke City v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Arsenal can keep their slim title hopes alive on Sunday. If they follow up their win over Manchester United with victory at Stoke...
16.10 Manchester United v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
...and Chelsea beat United, three points will separate the top three with two matches left to play. On the flipside, United could all but finish the job at Old Trafford.
17.45 Zenit St Petersburg v Lokomotiv Moscow, Russian Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Champions and league leaders Zenit host Lokomotiv Moscow in a top of the table match. Lokomotiv are the form team, having won three on the spin, and would go past Zenit with a win.
18.00 Barcelona v Espanyol, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
We'd better hope Kim Jong-Il doesn't fancy watching the first half of this one, because it's only available via the red button. Barca are cruising now, and on Tuesday confirmed their spot in the Champions League final. Local rivals Espanyol will be keen to take advantage of any lack of focus as they hunt a Europa League place.
19.45 Genoa v Sampdoria, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Derby della Lanterna takes place with Genoa looking to worsen Samp's relegation worries. Lecce face a tough match with Napoli earlier in the day, but if they win then the Blucerchiati will be in the relegation zone by the time they play Genoa on Sunday evening.
20.00 Real Zaragoza v Osasuna, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Osasuna will be in the relegation zone at kick off should either Getafe or Deportivo La Coruna win earlier in the weekend. Their opponents, Zaragoza, are far from safe, sitting just one point ahead of Osasuna and two above the drop zone.
22.05 River Plate v All Boys, Argentine Primera Division, Premier Sports
Every point drags River further from the threat of relegation and they're piling them on quite nicely at the moment, thank you. In the current championship, they're second behind Velez Sarsfield, while All Boys are fifth from bottom but unbeaten in five (after four consecutive defeats).

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #187

On the up and up
28 Teams That Have Won Back-To-Back Promotions in English Football

1. Charlton Athletic
1924-25 (Division 3 South champions) and 1925-26 (Division 2 runners-up)

2. Walsall
1959-60 (Division 4 champions) and 1960-61 (Division 3 runners-up)

3. Carlisle United
1963-64 (Division 4 runners-up) and 1964-65 (Division 3 champions)

4. Millwall
1964-65 (Division 4 runners-up) and 1965-66 (Division 3 runners-up)

5. Queens Park Rangers
1966-67 (Division 3 champions) and 1967-68 (Division 2 runners-up)

6. Cambridge United
1976-77 (Division 4 champions) and 1977-78 (Division 3 runners-up)

7. Watford
1977-78 (Division 4 champions) and 1978-79 (Division 3 runners-up)

8. Swansea City
1977-78 (Division 4, 3rd) and 1978-79 (Division 3, 3rd)

9. Grimsby Town
1978-79 (Division 4 runners-up) and 1979-80 (Division 3 champions)

10. Wimbledon
1982-83 (Division 4 champions) and 1983-84 (Division 3 runners-up)

11. Oxford United
1983-84 (Divison 3 champions) and 1984-85 (Division 2 champions)

12. Derby County
1985-86 (Division 3, 3rd) and 1986-87 (Division 2 champions)

13. Swindon Town
1985-86 (Division 4 champions) and 1986-87 (Division 3, 3rd)

14. Wolverhampton Wanderers
1987-88 (Division 4 champions) and 1988-89 (Division 3 champions)

15. Sheffield United
1988-89 (Division 3 runners-up) and 1989-90 (Division 2 runners-up)

16. Grimsby Town
1989-90 (Division 4 runners-up) and 1990-91 (Division 3, 3rd)

17. Southend United
1989-90 (Division 4, 3rd) and 1990-91 (Division 3 runners-up)

18. Cambridge United
1989-90 (Division 4, 6th (via play-off)) and 1990-91 (Division 3 champions)

19. Peterborough United
1990-91 (Division 4, 4th) and 1991-92 (Division 3, 6th (via play-off))

20. Bury
1995-96 (Division 3, 3rd) and 1996-97 (Division 2 champions)

21. Watford
1997-98 (Division 2 champions) and 1998-99 (Division 1, 5th (via play-off))

22. Manchester City
1998-99 (Division 2, 3rd) and 1999-2000 (Division 1 runners-up)

23. Rotherham United
1999-2000 (Division 3 runners-up) and 2000-01 (Division 2 runners-up)

24. Brighton and Hove Albion
2000-01 (Division 3 champions) and 2001-02 (Division 2 champions)

25. Hull City
2003-04 (Division 2 runners-up) and 2004-05 (League One runners-up)

26. Southend United
2004-05 (League Two, 4th (via play-off)) and 2005-06 (League One champions)

27. Peterborough United
2007-08 (League Two runners-up) and 2008-09 (League One runners-up)

28. Norwich City
2009-10 (League One champions) and 2010-11 (Championship runners-up)

(Sources: www.rsssf.com, bbc.co.uk, soccerbase.com)

The Bundesliga Show Episode 21 - Deutscher Meister Dortmund & Uli Hesse

The Bundesliga champion for this season has been crowned... Borussia Dortmund. Jon Hartley and Terry Duffelen look back at how the worthy winners captured the title and also caught up with German football author and journalist, Uli Hesse, for his take on his team BVB and their championship campaign.

There's also a look forward to the penultimate round of fixtures. Can Gladbach can pull off the 'Great Escape'? And there's an announcement of an end-of-season special! Terry and Jon will be at the Zeitgeist pub in Vauxhall, South London on the final day of the season and urge Bundesliga fans to join them to watch the final round of games and join in the podcast.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Carnival Cologne in search of a game face

Borussia Dortmund celebrated their first Bundesliga title since 2002 last Saturday. The reason why they claimed the championship so soon was partly because their nearest rivals Leverkusen lost to their local rivals 1. FC Köln on the same day, thereby losing their footing in the title race. Meanwhile, Köln’s 2-0 victory was the latest twist in a tumultuous season, even by their own chaotic standards.

According to the inestimable Uli Hesse, it wasn’t that long ago when Cologne was a Borussia Dortmund city. Despite the city’s own club winning the inaugural Bundesliga title in 1963. FC Köln’s territory was marked by the big bear that is BVB - one of Germany’s best supported clubs which is a couple of hours' train ride up the road.

However, the club has done a magnificent job in building a new fan base. The RheinEnergieStadion regularly sells out at 50,000 spectators and most Köln fans have developed a reputation for good humour and self-deprecation. At times, the supporters have needed that well-developed funny bone given the team's inconsistency on the pitch.

In recent years, though, they have tried to shake off the tag of being something of a yo-yo club.

Fans of English clubs couldn’t be blamed for marvelling at the idea of a club with such high attendances that couldn't be anything other than a stick-on top flight outfit, but the economics of the Bundesliga are different to the Premier League. Affordable ticket prices and conservative spending has shaped a culture where clubs like Köln are considered quite small, relatively speaking.

Moreover, the City of Cologne is a party city and 1. FC Köln is labelled a carnival club and its supporters have a profile to match. However, in recent times there have been signs that the consensus is breaking. This season there has been some decidedly random behaviour within the club leading to two coaching changes within the space of the season and death threats aimed at the latest coach by people claiming to support the club.

The season began on a note of cautious optimism. Coach Zvonimir Soldo, a former Croatian international and Stuttgart legend was looking forward to his second full season in charge. The team, under his charge, had had a difficult season and they were far from the easiest on the eye but there was no reason to think that Köln would not enjoy a comfortable third season back in the First Bundesliga. Unfortunately, by November, the team had mustered only two league wins and both Zoldo and his boss, Sporting Director Michael Meier, had left the club. Frank Schaefer was bumped up from the Under-23s and club President Wolfgang Overath went in search of a new man to oversee the revival of the club.

That man was 63-year-old Volker Finke, something of a legend with the Black Forest club Freiburg. He was manager there for 1 years and when the call came from Köln he was working as Sporting Director for the Japanese club Urawa Red Diamonds in the J-League. Finke promptly handed his in his notice and by February his feet were under his new desk at the RheinEnergieStadion.

Meanwhile, Schaefer started to work his mojo on the team. The new boss was popular with the players and Schaefer encouraged his team to be more aggressive going forward, giving his players the confidence to score more goals. After the winter break, results picked up pretty quickly and The Billygoats went on a seven-game hot streak in which they only lost one. This run included a rip-roaring 3-2 win against Bayern Munich.

Some players who were key to Köln’s revival were:

New goalkeeper Michael Rensing (left), who was released by Bayern Munich for, in their eyes at least, failing to fill Oliver Kahn’s mighty gloves and being out of contract. Köln signed him last December and he's put in some match-saving displays

Centre Forward, Milivoje Novakovič (right) - slow, clumsy, disinterested and generally rubbish under Soldo but with Schaefer he was fast of mind and body. Most of his 14 goals this season have come under Schaefer’s watch

19-year-old Christian Clemens (left) who has broken into the first team this season and will almost certainly be attracting the interest of some bigger clubs in Europe very shortly.

Then of course there is Prince Poldy himself, Lukas Podolski (right). The Prince returned to Köln at the beginning of last season after an unhappy period at Bayern Munich. He is a player who confounds his many admirers and like Miroslav Klose, the suspicion is that he is a German player first and a club player second. However, during Köln’s run he was superb. His main weakness, in my opinion, is that his play is too reliant on the team system and he seems unwilling or unable to adapt when circumstances change on the pitch. Consequently, when Schaefer organised the team better, Poldy responded.

Köln were winning. They seemed to have a management team that worked and their fans could look forward to closing out another tough campaign and restarting the next one after a full pre-season with a new young coach.

At that point, everything started to go wrong. After a 6-2 thumping at Hamburg, Köln mustered a 1-0 win over Nurnberg before shipping twelve goals in three games. Having risen to a position of relative security, the club were sliding back down the slippery slope. Things got out of hand after a small group of fans issued a crude death threat to Schaefer in the form of a banner at the club’s training ground to that effect. Within days, Schaefer had resigned as coach, citing personal reasons, however it began to emerge that Schaefer was unhappy with what he perceived as interference from his boss, Volke Finke, and that he had quit out of frustration. The relationship between Sporting Director and Coach, despite the prevailing attitude in England, works fine, but once that relationship breaks down there is usually only one outcome.

So Köln are back without a coach until the end of the season. At least that’s the official story. Finke has reluctantly agreed to take control of first team matters for now. However, if it is true that he overstepped his mark with Schaefer, perhaps he intends to epitomise Admiral Kirk in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and take over the centre seat for good. He’s certainly got off to a good start with that win against Leverkusen.