Sunday, October 30, 2011

Midweek TV Preview: 31 October - 3 November 2011

Monday 31 October

20:00 Stoke City v Newcastle United, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Part one of a Stoke double bill this week, you lucky people. Despite being a game behind most of the league, Newcastle are going great guns under Alan Pardew. It must be Mike Ashley's fault.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

17:00 Bate Borisov v AC Milan, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Milan's trip to Belarus will hold no terrors for them. Even if they slip up in Minsk, they are still likely to qualify in what is a two horse race of a group.
19:45 Arsenal v Marseille ,UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Three points for Robin van Persie's Arsenal should settle the nerve's at the Emirates. After an uncertain start to Ligue 1, OM have won their last three games, scoring nine goals.
19:45 Genk v Chelsea, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
The Belgian club were involved in a nine goal thriller against Club Brugge last Saturday, eventually winning 5-4.Given Chelsea's recent slump,there could be an opportunity to cause an upset. Rumour has it that the Belgians plan to slip a copy of Herge's racially suspect Tintin In The Congo into John Terry’s suitcase.
19:45 Viktoria Plzen v Barcelona, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Plzen have only lost one game in their last six. The trouble is that it was against Barcelona.
19:45 Apoel v FC Porto, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Don't ask me how but Cypriot football continues to improve. Witness APOEL who sit proudly atop and albeit very poor Group G. Porto are suffering from a hangover after winning the Portuguese League at a canter and the Europa League last season.
19:45 Borussia Dortmund v Olympiakos, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
BVB have pretty much got themselves back on track, domestically but despite their array of talented attackers, they have struggled in the Champions League. A home game against a beatable Olympiakos team may be their last hope.
19:45 Valencia v Bayer Leverkusen, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Of the three German Bundesliga teams in the Champions League, Leverkusen were expected to achieve the least. Yet they are second in the group after having established a four point cushion over Valencia following their impressive victory over the Spaniards in the last round. Now they must travel to the lions den and finish the job. Match of the night, in my book.

Wednesday 2 November

19:45 Villarreal v Man City, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, ITV1 / ITV1
With Villarreal all but out and ravaged by injury, City need to to capitalise. The Manchester club, despite their squad have found European club football tougher than expected and have failed to recreate their Premier League zeal. Now that tricky first win is out of the way, things should be easier... shouldn't they?
19:45 Man Utd v Otelul Galati, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Given their erratic performances, Manchester United will be guarded against complacency when welcoming the group's whipping boys. In truth, there is little here to be excited about.
19:45 Lyon v Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 / HD4
The Madrid club are dominating this group but have only picked up a single point in their last four visits to the Stade de Gerland. Lyon aren't quite the team they were last decade, however so that proud record must be in jeopardy.
19:45 Bayern Munich v Napoli, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Group A offers the two most attractive matches on the Wednesday evening. FC Bayern barely broke a sweat in their 4-0 trouncing of Nurnberg at the weekend. Napoli, meanwhile are going through a rocky patch. Still, plenty for the neutral to get stuck into.
19:45 Inter Milan v Lille, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Fresh from a defeat to their hated rivals, Juve in the Derbi D'Italia on Saturday, Inter will be in no mood for any lip from Lille (or should that be Joe Cole's Lille?) The French Champions haven't lost a domestic fixture since August. Getting three points at the San Siro is a tough ask though, especially against a wounded home side.
19:45 Benfica v Basel, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
The Swiss club have recently lost their coach to Hamburg and lost to the same opposition at home. I've not seen Benfica yet but understand that they are something.
19:45 Ajax v Dinamo Zagreb, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
The Dutch team will be looking for a rare win for Real at Lyon to give them the chance to move into second spot.
19:45 Trabzonspor v CSKA Moscow, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Both teams have a win, a loss and a draw to their names so far. CSKA have scored twelve goals in the last three games. Seydou Doumbia is the man to watch after having score eight of those twelve. He's a regular Robin van Persie. What would they do without him?
02:00 Seattle Sounders v Real Salt Lake, MLS, ESPN / ESPN HD
The Sounders have been strutting around the MLS like they own the place since their admission in the league in 2009. But football has a habit of biting Billy Big Bollocks and the Pacific North West club go into the second leg of this play of tie with a 3-0 deficit against an unfashionable Real Salt Lake side that won the MLS Cup in the Sounders' own stadium in 2010.

Thursday 3 November

17:00 Rubin Kazan v Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ITV4 / ITV4 HD
Roman Pavlyuchenko scored the solitary goal when these two last met a, couple of weeks ago. The former Spartak Moscow striker will almost certainly be utilised again against Rubin.
18:00 Maccabi Tel Aviv v Stoke City, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ESPN / ESPN HD
Still seems strange to say it but this should be another three points for Stoke. It's been a real treat seeing an English club participating in the Europa League with anything other than extreme reluctance.
19:45 Mansfield Town v Cambridge United, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
With a wide choice of English and Scottish clubs on the telly, Premier Sports have got some nerve putting this fixture on. Those Cambridge fans hardy enough to make the trip can be relatively optimistic as their team has only lost two in the last nine away games.
20:05 Birmingham City v Club Brugge, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ITV4 / ITV4 HD
If ever there was justification for the Championship getting awarded a Europa League spot, it's been Birmingham City's impressive displays despite relegation from the Premier League. They had a terrific result in Bruge in the last round and can put half a toe in the knock out stages with a win at St Andrews.
20:05 Celtic v Rennes, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, ESPN / ESPN HD
Despite only losing one match, Celtic are bottom of what is a bastard group. Unfortunately for UK viewers, Atletic Madrid v Udinese is the game of this round and it's not on the telly.
20:05 Fulham v Wisla Krakow, UEFA Europa League Group Stage, Channel 5 / Channel 5 HD
The Cottagers lost a man in the reverse fixture and were unlucky to lose in Poland. Their form has been patchy of late but should still be favorites. Krakow lost their first match, after a four match winning streak, on Saturday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Football Americana: Playoffs begin with wild card clashes

It's the post-season in Major League Soccer and it began in Texas with the first of two wild card games, contested between the best four sides to finish outside the top three in their respective conferences.

FC Dallas were dealt something of a harsh hand. Despite finishing as the fourth best team overall their season is now over thanks to a wild card game defeat by New York Red Bulls, who occupied the final playoff spot.

The Red Bulls took the lead through Joel Lindpere's prod home on the hour from Mehdi Ballouchy's pass across the six yard line. New York's Jan Gunnar Solli was sent off for a bad tackle on Daniel Hernandez but it was Red Bull who got the second goal to set up a two-legged Western Conference semi-final with LA Galaxy. Thierry Henry scored it from all of three inches in the 98th minute with Dallas desperately hunting an equaliser.

It took just one goal to settle the other wild card match, with Colorado Rapids defeating Columbus Crew with a goal from Omar Cummings, who drilled home a cut-back from just inside the box on the stroke of half time. The Rapids had chances to double their lead after the break but the former Villa trialist's goal was enough to take them through to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, where they will face Sporting Kansas City.

All the latest details and highlights can be found here.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #212

Six appeal
The 15 Teams That Have Gone The Longest Time Since Their Last Defeat By Six Goals Or More In A League Match

1. Liverpool (since 15 April 1963 - lost 7-2 v Tottenham)
2. Watford (since 7 April 1984 - lost 6-1 v Norwich)
3. Bury (since 1 April 1989 - lost 6-0 v Huddersfield)
4. Preston North End (since 17 February 1990 - lost 6-0 v Reading)
5. Chelsea (since 20 April 1991 - lost 7-0 v Nottingham Forest)
6. Birmingham City (since 12 April 1993 - lost 6-4 v Swindon)
7. Fulham (since 2 November 1993 - lost 6-3 v Exeter City)
8. Northampton Town (since 1 January 1994 - lost 6-2 v Rochdale)
9. Plymouth Argyle (since 17 December 1994 - lost 7-0 v Brentford)
10. Southend United (since 28 September 1996 - lost 6-1 v Crystal Palace)
11. Tottenham Hotspur (since 6 December 1997 - lost 6-1 v Chelsea)
12. Yeovil Town (since 14 February 1998 - lost 6-4 v Hayes)
13. Huddersfield Town (since 27 November 1998 - lost 7-1 v Barnsley)
14. Sheffield United (since 21 August 1999 - lost 6-0 v Man City)
15. Crystal Palace (since 28 August 1999 - lost 7-1 v Huddersfield)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 28 - 30 October 2011

Friday 28 October

19.45 League of Ireland Season End, Premier Sports
The Airtricity League finsihes with a whimper rather than a bang. Shamrock were crowned Champions on Tuesday while Sligo and Derry are secure in their Europa League positions. At the foot of the table, Galway were secured in the relegation play-off spot a long time ago with just one win all season - Rogue Trader, Nick Leeson stepped down as Chief Executive of the club in February, but is still on the board.

Saturday 29 October

12.00 Aberdeen v Rangers, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
Back to back games against the Old Firm look like halting Aberdeen's turnaround in form. With Rangers still unbeaten and nine points clear already, the mid-table Dons will be more than happy with a point.
12.00 League Cup Quarter Final Draw, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The final eight of the Premier League's top reserve team competition.
12.45 Chelsea v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
There probably isn't a better time for Arsenal to go to Stamford Bridge. Both teams are suffering from a soured relationship between fans and those running the club. An Arsenal victory is still the most unlikely outcome here but a hard fought point against a side without Drogba or Bosingwa and a with a distracted John Terry should keep the fans happy and the good run continuing.
15.45 Aberystwyth Town v Bangor City, Welsh Premier League, S4C
Well you won't see this because you'll be at your nearest FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round fixture - won't you. Won't you.
17.20 Burnley v Blackpool, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
A very tempting offer from the Championship with two teams that really need a good run. Blackpool have only won once away from home in 2011 (a win at Hull on the opening day of this season) but Eddie Howe's side prerformances have lacked the consistency so far.
17.30 West Brom v Liverpool, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
And talking of inconsistency, here comes Liverpool! Their results are coming in pairs of late: two wins, followed by two defeats, followed by two wins, followed by two draws. Two Chris Brunt penalties sealed the points for the home team, when they met here in March - to Roy Hodgson's delight. Here's hoping for some more Karma to come down.
19.00 Barcelona v Mallorca, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Third plays 13th. The Balearic side snatched a rare point here last season but it's been two and half years since Barcelona dropped points in consecutive home games. Watch the first half then switch over to...
19.45 Inter Milan v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Derby D'Italia and a chance for Claudio Ranieri to put one over one of his former employers. Juve are top but haven't looked convincing in their three away fixtures this season. Despite Inter's woeful start, I fancy them in this one.
21.00 Real Sociedad v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Madrid get the chance to go top, until of course unbeaten Lavente look to stretch their run of seven straight wins away to Osasuna tomorrow - a match Sky have decided not to cover.
21.00 Santos v Atletico PR, Serie A, Premier Sports
Just seven games to go in Brazil Santos are mid-table holding their Copa Sudamerica qualifying spot by just one point. Atletico meanwhile are in the relegation zone and it will need more than their recent improvement in home form for the 2001 Champions to continue their 15 season run in the top flight.

Sunday 30 October

11.30 Siena v Chievo, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Siena's return to the top flight is getting into its stride while Chievo's promising start has began to falter. Perfect opportunity for the Tuscan side to register three Serie A home win in a row for just the second time ever.
13.15 Leeds United v Cardiff City, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two teams separated by four places but just one point, such is life in the Championship. Cardiff have been a real bogey team for Leeds and have won the last six encounters. In fact, the last time Leeds beat Cardiff was 1957.
13.30 FA Cup 1st Round Draw, FA Cup, ITV1/ITV1 HD
32 non-league teams join the 48 sides from League One and League Two. Bring it on!
14.30 FC Koln v FC Augsburg, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Who can say which Koln side will turn up for this one. The home side have one of the worst defensive records in the Bundesliga while new boys Augsburg have only managed 8 goals so far; a case of the resistable force meeting the moveable object. To be fair, Augsburg are just about finding their feet - a great achievement considering this young side (they were only formed in 1969) almost went bust in the Regional Leagues in 2000.
16.00 Tottenham Hotspur v QPR, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
QPR may have used up all their luck last week; even with a two man advantage they made heavy work of beating their local rivals Chelsea at home. Should be straightforward home win for Spurs, you feel.
16.30 SV Hamburg v FC Kaiserslautern, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
You can't help but feel one of these sides will have to go back to square one after this game - both have just started get results after a torrid start to the season.
19.00 Atletico Madrid v Zaragoza, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
And so the weekend finishes up, as usual, with a couple of Spanish games. Maybe this is all part of some grand plan - associate Spanish football with the dread and loathing of Sunday night TV. That gut emptying feeling you used to get watching That's Life or the Antiques Roadshow, knowing that you'd have to go to work/school the next day. Nothing amazing on offer here.
21.00 Malaga v Espanyol, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
7th plays 6th. Espanyol are on a roll, while Malaga have run out of toilet roll.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Football Americana: Playoffs update

The Major League Soccer playoffs are set, and are already upon us. With apologies, I'll just give you a quick update on where things stand because, unfortunately, the real world has taken over my life over the past seven days and I've got other things I've had to deal with. So no highlights this week, but suffice to say that DC United sh*t the bed and the results of the final week of the regular season came together to send New York Red Bulls into the playoffs.

This season the playoffs are structured differently to accommodate ten teams and ensure better representation of the Eastern Conference in the latter stages.

The bracket begins, therefore, with two wild card games between the four teams that had the highest points totals and didn't finish in the top three of their respective conferences. On Wednesday, FC Dallas play New York Red Bulls and on Thursday it's Colorado Rapids versus Columbus Crew.

From there on in, it gets a little complicated.

In the Eastern Conference semi-finals:

FC Dallas will play Sporting Kansas City over two legs if they defeat New York. If they lose to New York, Sporting will instead play either Colorado Rapids or Columbus Crew.

Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union will meet in the other semi-final.

In the Western Conference semi-finals:

Real Salt Lake will play Seattle Sounders over two legs.

If New York beat Dallas, they will play LA Galaxy in the other semi-final. If Dallas win their play-in game and therefore face Kansas City, LA will play the winner of the Colorado v Columbus match.

The Conference finals will be hosted by the highest seed in each case, and will take place as standalone matches.

Still with me? All will be clearer next week, and I'll have a proper update for then.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Midweek TV Preview: 24 - 27 October 2011

Monday 24 October

17.00 Dinamo Moscow v Rubin Kazan, Russian Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Funny how the slogan of ESPN’s current UK marketing campaign is ‘Miss nothing’ given that they’ve failed to show any Russian Premier League coverage since June 22nd. Cynical, but worth pointing out, we feel.
19.45 UCD v Shamrock Rovers, Airtricity League, Premier Sports
Premier Sports continuing coverage of the Atrocity League brings this clash between two sides located just south of Dublin but situated at either end of the table at present. We reckon it'll take you no more than three minutes to work out which one is 37 points better off than the other.
20.00 Brighton v West Ham, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
West Ham’s grip on a top-three place has proven stronger than Brighton’s but though they may be eight places below The Hammers at time of writing, they could overtake them with a home win tonight.

Tuesday 25 October

19.00 Granada v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Granada face the mighty Barca for the first time in the league since 1976. Granada have found the top flight a bit of a struggle so far with only one win over Villareal to shout about. Shame to say it, but El Graná are almost certain to find themselves the subject of a feeding frenzy here.
19.45 Aldershot v Man Utd, Carling Cup 4th Round, Sky Sports 2/HD2
The Shots’ brilliant run in the League Cup this season stands every chance of being extended following United’s utter capitulation against rivals City last weekend and the likelihood of Ferguson putting out a second string of Berbatov, Giggs, Ji-Sung and... oh, who are we kidding...?
19.45 Juventus v Fiorentina, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Both teams have seen their league form impeded by a proliferation of draws just lately, in fact each team played out 2-2 draws at the weekend. Juventus need all three points here if they’re to get back on top of the league having been knocked off by Udinese and Lazio in the Sunday fixtures.

Wednesday 26 October

19.15 Hibernian v Celtic, Scottish Communities League Cup 4th Round, BBC1 Scotland
Celtic remain the odds-on favourites to win the League Cup out of the eight teams remaining, and winning it might just give a lift to a somewhat uninspiring season thus far.
19.45 Napoli v Udinese, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Fifth-versus-Second. The bookies have Napoli down to win this one, but Udinese are unbeaten in eleven (UNDICI) matches stretching back to the end of August. Worth a punt on an away win, given Napoli’s recent unpredictable form.
19.45 Wolves v Man City, Carling Cup 4th Round, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
It seems some Wolves fans are unhappy at their club’s circumstances at present. At least they haven’t conceded six goals for four-and-a-half years, they’re not in the bottom three of the Premier League and they’re not as unpopular as Mario Balotelli on an oil rig.
21.00 Real Madrid v Villarreal, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
An ample opportunity for Real to keep the pressure on league leaders Levante. And once again, in case you didn’t quite catch that: An ample opportunity for Real to keep the pressure on LEAGUE LEADERS LEVANTE.

Thursday 27 October

12.50 Universidad de Chile v Flamengo, Copa Sudamericana Round of 16 2nd Leg, Premier Sports
Something of a dead rubber, this. La U won the first leg 4-0 at the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange last Wednesday so expect to hear the phrase ‘park the bus’ (or its Spanish equivalent) plenty during this match.
16.00 Zenit St Petersburg v Volga, Russian Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Why ESPN, you’re spoiling us... This second offering of Russian Premier League action in the space of one week (after months of pretending it didn’t exist) sees the newly-promoted and soon-to-be-relegated-on-current-form Volga visiting the league leaders. Home win all the way.
19.45 Palermo v Lecce, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Palermo are the St Paul’s Cathedral protesters of Serie A. Sitting in sixth spot, you know they’ve done well to be where they are for so long and what they’re doing is very noble, but long term they’ll lose interest and eventually drift away before Christmas.

Friday 28 October

19.45 League of Ireland Season End, Premier Sports
The Aircritity League finsihes with a whimper rather than a bang> Shamrock were crowned Champions on Tuesday while Sligo and Derry are secure in their Europa League positions. At the foot of the table, Galway were secured in the relegation play-off spot a long time ago with just one win all season - Rogue Trader, Nick Leeson stepped down as Chief Executive of the club in February, but is still on the board.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

FA Trophy - Whyteleafe 0 Grays Athletic 3

The FA Trophy (or FA Carling Trophy to use its proper name) is the cup competition that only a non-league club can win. The tournament is open to all clubs from step 5 to 8 in the Non-League Pyramid. There are ten rounds in total, the final being at Wembley Stadium.

My first experience of this competition was this season at Ryman League Division 1 South club Whytleleafe FC when a gaggle of football bloggers descended on Church Road to see the home team battle back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 with a dubious last-minute penalty against North Greenford United of the Evostick (Southern) League in the Preliminary Round.

To the victor was a home draw against the once mighty Grays Athletic in the First Quailfying Round on 22nd October. Grays are a big name in English non-league circles, their heady days in the Conference, last decade, as they made a bid for Football League status. These days, The Gravelmen play in the Ryman Division 1 North so it was an even match between the two sides. The winner enters the pot for the Second Qualifying Round where teams from the step above join the fray and trousers the not inconsiderable prize fund of £2,200.

The away side are two times winners of the FA Trophy and while they are no longer the force they were, they sit in second place in the Ryman Division 1 North. Whyteleafe, meanwhile, are languishing in 19th place in Division 1 South, just two points from the relegation zone. Progression would be a tough challenge for the leafy club from the north-east corner of Surrey.

From the kick off it was clear that Grays were a team that will be playing a division higher, next season. The away side were winning every ball in the air. They were quicker in both mind and body and as strong as their hosts. You could have cordoned off one half of the pitch in the first period of play, such was Grays' domination. Attacking midfielder Joa Carlos hit the post early on and it was only a matter of time before the first goal. Specifically, it was nine minutes.

Louis Dennis is a strong and purposeful forward who verily rifled home a shot for the opener. Grays kept up the pressure. Captain Lee Flynn headed the second home from a the rebound after the ‘Leafe ‘keeper saved yet another rasping shot. The home side paid the occasional visit to the opposition half and when they did, their forwards were isolated and could barely scare up a shot on goal. At Half Time a three or four to nil score would not have been an injustice and Whyteleafe can thank their ‘keeper Paul Smith for maintaining a respectable scoreline.

It was more of the same after the break until Dennis' second goal signalled the end of the contest. The strike was from a tight angle and was too quick for the ‘keeper. After that, Grays were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure.

As the late October sun set on Whyteleafe’s dreams of the Wembley Arch, Grays’ lively away support that made up the bulk of the 145 attendance headed back to their cars and onto the next round. For those of us left behind, a long season of concentrating on the league awaits. The only other significant statistic from the match is that it is finally time to retire my Converse trainers after a prolonged summer.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 21 - 23 October 2011

Friday 21 October

19.30 Augsburg v Werder Bremen, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
The weekend's Bundesliga action gets underway with 16th-placed Augsburg looking to upset the odds against a Werder Bremen side that has started well. They have, however, lost their last two. Is the green halo slipping?

19.45 Grimsby Town v Luton Town, Blue Square Bet Premier, Premier Sports
Two formerly steady Football League clubs meet in the Conference National and face the ignominy of national television cameras being there to witness it - not that anyone will be watching. Luton have more recent non-league experience and have started the better of the two sides.

Saturday 22 October

12.45 Motherwell v Kilmarnock, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 4/HD4
After a bright start Motherwell are still going great guns in second, despite falling back from the top by seven points. Saturday's visitors are Kilmarnock, winless in five league matches.

12.45 Wolverhampton Wanderers v Swansea City, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Mid-table Swansea head to Molineux keen to continue the misery for Mick McCarthy's Wolves. The boys in Old Gold have lost five consecutive Premier League matches after a blistering start to the campaign.

17.20 Reading v Southampton, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
The Meridian TV Derby (he says, hoping Reading is in Meridian TV land) pits Reading against runaway leaders Southampton. Saints are five points clear after defeating West Ham United in midweek, and look set fair for a solid season near the top.

17.30 Liverpool v Norwich City, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
If watching one of the best teams outside the Premier League doesn't take your fancy, perhaps you'd prefer the procession that is the top flight. Liverpool will take only an equal share of the TV revenue raised from this one, which seems ludicrous because they're so much more popular in Malaysia than Norwich - and that's how it works, right?

19.00 Malaga v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
With Real a point behind Barcelona and Levante, Jose Mourinho faces a potentially slippery visit to England-del-Sol and minted Malaga. Their hosts' last game was against aforementioned Levante, and was a defeat for Manuel Pellegrini's charges.

19.45 Juventus v Genoa, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Table-topping Juventus look to continue their Serie A resurgence with a home win over mid-table Genoa, who haven't won in three despite Rodrigo Palacio's fine goalscoring start to the campaign.

21.00 Barcelona v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
You see what happens in foreign TV markets when clubs negotiate their own deals? Real Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Barcelona. Still, at least this one has Barcelona in it, which Manchester United and Manchester United's domestic matches do not.

21.00 Fluminense v Atletico Mineiro, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
Fluminense have won their last two as they hunt down Corinthians and Vasco da Gama at the top, and their next obstacle comes in the shape of lowly Atletico Mineiro, who are six points off the bottom with one win in seven.

Sunday 23 October

12.30 Hearts v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Rangers remain unbeaten in the league this season and it's difficult to see where that run will end at the moment. Maybe it'll be at Hearts on Sunday. Maybe it won't. Stay tuned to find out. (It won't.)

13.30 Manchester United v Manchester City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
Oh, speak of the devils. City get their chance to play in a worthwhile contest for once, challenged at last by something more testing than using a bottomless pit of money to trip over a small child and then gloat about it. Still, should be a good one.

16.00 Queens Park Rangers v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Gland Slam Super Duper Moneybags Sunday continues at Loftus Road, where promoted Rangers finally get their hands on Chelsea once again. Colin Warnock v Andre Villas-Boas should make for an interesting clash of styles, though it's hard to predict which one will p*ss and moan the most after the game. A meeting of the masters.

16.30 Hannover v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
This is one for the tacticians among us. FC Bayern's defences finally gave way against Napoli, and Hannover will be looking to Moa Abdellaoue to be similarly opportunistic. But the real questions are how well Hannover can absorb Bayern and whether they can hit them on their favoured counter.

19.00 Valencia v Athletic Bilbao, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Athletic Club have clambered their way into some kind of form with consecutive wins over Sociedad and Osasuna, but come up against trickier opponents in the form of fifth-placed Valencia, who

19.45 Bologna v Lazio, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Bologna have won just once in their opening six matches and sit below the dreaded dashed line at this pointlessly early stage of the season. By contrast, Lazio have won their last two and will be heading north confident of victory.

21.00 Villarreal v Levante, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Levante are in sparkling form and will probably need three points to go back level on points with Barcelona at the top. Don't be surprised if they get just that; they've won their last five on the spin, beginning with a defeat of Real Madrid.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #211

No place like home
19 Football Clubs in England That Have Been Playing At Their Current Ground Since The 19th Century

1. Preston North End, Deepdale (since 1878)
2. Burnley, Turf Moor (since 1883)
3. Ipswich Town, Portman Road (since 1884)
4. Bury, Gigg Lane (since 1885)
5. Barnsley, Oakwell (since 1888)
6. Sheffield United, Bramall Lane (since 1889)
7. Wolverhampton Wanderers, Molineux (since 1899)
8. Blackburn Rovers, Ewood Park (since 1890)
9. Macclesfield Town, Moss Rose Stadium (since 1891)
10. Everton, Goodison Park (since 1892)
11. Liverpool, Anfield (since 1892)
12. Newcastle United, St James' Park (since 1892)
13. Gillingham, Priestfield Stadium (since 1893)
14. Fulham, Craven Cottage (since 1896)
15. Swindon Town, County Ground (since 1896)
16. Aston Villa, Villa Park (since 1897)
17. Portsmouth, Fratton Park (since 1898)
18. Tottenham Hotspur, White Hart Lane (since 1899)
19. Sheffield Wednesday, Hillsborough (since 1899)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Football Americana Week 31: DC's playoff attempt collapses

An electric and brim-full Major League Soccer week shook the playoff picture into shape as the season winds to a dramatic end.

Chicago Fire kicked off the week's fixtures looking to better their chances of a playoff spot, but suffered a setback at home, losing 2-1 to FC Dallas. Jackson opened the scoring for Dallas just before half time, racing on to a loose ball and sliding it past a weak hand from Sean Johnson. Daniel Cruz's bicycle kick, later copied with some aplomb by one Mario Balotelli, made it 2-0 on the other side of the break. The Fire went down to ten men with ten minutes to go, Pavel Pardo seeing red for a scissor tackle. Chicago's late goal, scored brilliantly by Sebastian Grazzini, was scant consolation.

DC United missed the chance to gain points over Chicago, losing 2-1 at Vancouver Whitecaps. Vancouver's first goal came after just 42 seconds, Camilo ghosting in at the far post to crash home a poorly defending cross from Jordan Harvey. The ball was crossed from an identical position just a minute into the second half and Long Tan rose high to thump in a superb header to further damage United's hopes. Brandon McDonald did pull one back, redirecting Santino Quaranta's free kick past Joe Cannon.

When Chicago and DC met at RFK Stadium, a stunning finale saw United grasp and then discard their playoff hopes, which now require a miracle after a 2-1 loss to the Fire. Dwayne De Rosario looked to have won it in the 90th minute, coolly firing in his 15th goal of the season. But Chicago got their gun off in stoppage time, with Grazzini's brilliant snapshot levelling matters in the 92nd minute and Diego Chaves winning it with a 94th minute goal after Marc Burch's mistake.

Dallas celebrated reaching the playoffs with a 2-0 home win against Vancouver. Marvin Chavez got them off the mark with a stunning finish after Brek Shea's finish, and Shea got the second himself with a controlled half volley in the 54th minute.

There were no goals on offer in the Rocky Mountain Cup game between Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake, one of the USA's bitterest rivalries. The most controversial moment came less than half an hour in, Sanna Nyassi going over dramatically under a challenge from RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and escaping a booking. Fabian Espindola was arguably lucky to escape a red card for an entirely unnecessary challenge on Drew Moor.

Houston Dynamo emerged victorious from a huge game against Portland Timbers, winning 2-0 at Jeld-wen Field. Andre Hainault scored the first, glancing in Brad Davis' typically well placed free kick. Danny Cruz created a flashpoint in the 49th minute, earning just a booking for a horrible assault on former Dynamo star Mike Chabala, and then rubbed salt into the wound. His 59th minute strike was curled into the top corner from almost 35 yards and left Troy Perkins with no hope of saving it.

Sebastian Le Toux and Ryan Johnson scored the goals as Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC shared the points with a 1-1 draw. Le Toux scored his tenth goal in eleven games, curling in the pink Jabulani at the end of the first half to give the Union the advantage. Johnson's equaliser came in the 57th minute after Joao Plata's crossfield ball had found Nick Soolsma and he put it on a plate for the former San Jose man.

New York Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry was in the headlines as usual, only this time it was negative headlines against Sporting Kansas City.He was sent off after 28 minutes, picking up a straight red for a collision with Roger Espinoza - it was a controversial decision, but I've seen Henry do worse and I think it was deliberate. Teal Bunbury and CJ Sapong made the Red Bulls pay, the US international volleying in the first and his rookie team-mate CJ Sapong striking to make it 2-0 just after coming off the bench.

Columbus Crew tore New England Revolution a new one with a 3-0 win at Gillette Stadium. Andres Mendoza (pictured) scored the first after 31 minutes, punishing awful defending. Half an hour later it was Dilly Duka who broke free of Kevin Alston to score his first MLS goal. Mendoza quickly followed that with his second of the game, a powerful finish at the back post from Emilio Renteria's cross.

Seattle Sounders went one down at home to San Jose Earthquakes but came back late to win 2-1. Inevitably it was Chris Wondolowski who scored for the Quakes, racing onto a through ball and finishing without hesitation. There was a minor incident in the 56th minute when a number of players came together in an ugly but ultimately toothless confrontation after Alvaro Fernandez escaped censure for kicking Bobby Burling. Sammy Ochoa scored Seattle's equaliser, firing in off the post with less than ten minutes to go, and Fredy Montero's goal four minutes later secured the three points.

The week ended with Sunday's derby match between LA Galaxy and Chivas USA. With nothing but pride at stake, Chad Barrett scored the only goal in LA's win. He jumped to head home Adam Cristman's cross to bank yet another three points for Bruce Arena's side.

So then, the tables.

Nine of the ten playoff spots are now filled. Supporters Shield winners LA are joined from the West by Seattle, Salt Lake, Dallas and Colorado, while the East will put forward Kansas City, Philadelphia, Columbus and Houston.

The remaining spot comes down to a shoot-out between four teams. New York have a three point advantage over Portland and Chicago, and five points over DC. United and Portland will play each other in midweek and then all four teams will have just one game left. It's set to be one hell of a finale.

Midweek TV Preview: 17 - 20 October 2011

Monday 17 October

19.45 Glentoran v Linfield, Irish League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Linfield have the chance to go top after Portadown drew with Coleraine at the weekend, which should add even more excitement to an often fractious Belfast derby. Glentoran have finally got into their stride this season and have scored 25 goals in their last six wins.

Tuesday 18 October

17.00 CSKA Moscow v Trabzonspor, UEFA Champions League Group B, Sky Sports 2/HD2
CSKA are looking for their first win against the side that sits at the top of the table two games in. The Moscow side in their domestic league at the moment have just one win in their last eight games. Trabzonspor are taking full advantage having been promoted from the Europa League following Fenerbahce's expulsion
19.45 Manchester City v Villarreal, UEFA Champions League Group A, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
Defeat could mean an untimely end for either side's campaign in this tough group. City should have enough to hold off the Yellow Submarine and get back into the mix for the qualification to the last 16.
19.45 Napoli v Bayern Munich, UEFA Champions League Group A, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
It's 1,108 minutes since Bayern conceded a goal. Manuel Neuer beat Olly Khan's previous club record in their home win against Hertha at the weekend but is still 282 minutes short of the European record and a massive 708 minutes away from the world record. Easily the pick of tonight's games. (I see a Friday List coming up).
19.45 Lille v Inter, UEFA Champions League Group B, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
When Inter won away in Moscow on Matchday 2 it was thought they'd turned a corner on their awful start to the season. Since then, though, they've been mauled at home by Napoli and at the weekend lost to Catania thanks to a controversial second half penalty. Lille's performances have improved in that time, winning both games, so it's theirs to lose.
19.45 Otelul Galati v Manchester Utd, UEFA Champions League Group C, Sky Sports 4/HD4
While Galati have lost both their group games so far they certainly haven't embarrassed themselves. That, of course, might change tonight with United still looking for their first win. Galati won their first ever league title last season under Dorinel Munteanu - Romania's most capped international player.
19.45 Basel v Benfica, UEFA Champions League Group C, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
This always looked likely to be the decider as to who would join Manchester United in the next round from this group. It still does. That pressure could make this fixture less a spectacle than it should be.
19.45 Real Madrid v Lyon, UEFA Champions League Group D, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
This fixture has been a Round of Sixteen knock-out encounter in the last two seasons - with Lyon having the upper hand in 2010 and Madrid going through earlier this year. Neither side have conceded so far in the group stage and you'd be safe in saying that all this decides is who finishes top in the group.
19.45 Dinamo Zagreb v Ajax, UEFA Champions League Group D, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Zagreb should go into this with reasonable expectation of taking the win. Ajax are in poor form at the moment, having failed to register a win in the their four domestic league games.

Wednesday 19 October

19.45 Chelsea v Genk, UEFA Champions League Group E, Sky Sports 2/HD2
The Genk manager is called Mr Been, which is something that will no doubt amuse Chelsea fans.
19.45 Bayer Leverkusen v Valencia, UEFA Champions League Group E, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
A must win for Leverkusen, you'd feel. Unfortunately they haven't stood up to any real test this season. That said, Valencia aren't exactly in the best of form. Could be knock-about fun here.
19.45 Marseille v Arsenal, UEFA Champions League Group F, ITV1/ITV1 HD
Marseille have saved their best performances for this competition and domestically they've just one win from ten. Arsenal need all the points they can get in this tricky group and will hope that Marseille won't put together the sort of performance that saw them tear apart Dortmund on Matchday 2.
19.45 Olympiakos v Borussia Dortmund, UEFA Champions League Group F, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
Dortmund's defeat to Marseille should really have woken them up to life in the Champions League. It's certainly improved their domestic campaign, seeing them return to the sort of form that led them to the German title last season.
19.45 Shakhtar Donetsk v Zenit St Petersburg, UEFA Champions League Group G, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
2009 UEFA Cup winners play the 2008 UEFA Cup winners - an intriguing encounter for those fans of Eastern European football...
19.45 FC Porto v APOEL, UEFA Champions League Group G, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
...while the 2011 Europa League winners host the side that leads them all in the group.
19.45 Barcelona v Viktoria Plzen, UEFA Champions League Group H, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Easy win and more goals for Messi and co. You only need to watch this while you wait for the red button to warm up.
19.45 AC Milan v Bate Borisov, UEFA Champions League Group H, Sky Sports 4 Interactive
I reckon Milan will top this group. There, I've said it.
23.50 Sao Paulo v Libertad, Copa Sudamerican Round of 16 1st Leg, Premier Sports
Arsenal fans might be interested to know that their on-loan midfielder Denilson has been sent off in THREE of his ten games so far for Sao Paulo.

Thursday 20 October

18.00 Club Bruges v Birmingham City, UEFA Europa League Group H, ESPN Classic
Bruges must be favourites to top this group after a 2-1 win away to Braga on Matchday 2. Defeat for Birmingham will allow them to concentrate on the league.
18.00 Stade Rennes v Celtic, UEFA Europa League Group I, ESPN/ESPN HD
Celtic really need to find a performance here. Hopefully their three goal comeback against Kilmarnock at the weekend hasn't taken too much out of them. It's a shame the other game in this group, Atletico v Udinese, hasn't been picked up. I know, I'm greedy.
18.00 Wisla Krakow v Fulham, UEFA Europa League Group K, ITV4/ITV4 HD
Wisla are yet to register a point so far in the group and face a Fulham side starting their eleventh game in the competition. While they'll be happy coming back with a point, Martin Jol's men should be pushing for all three.
20.05 Stoke City v Maccabi Tel Aviv, UEFA Europa League Group E, ITV4/ITV4 HD
Should be another comfortable home win for Stoke. Maccabi's away record in Europe is pretty weak.
20.05 PAOK Salonika v Shamrock Rovers, UEFA Europa League Group A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Hopefully Tottenham's comeback against them in the last round of fixtures won't have knocked the confidence out a side that has brought huge attention to the competition.
20.05 Tottenham Hotspur v Rubin Kazan, UEFA Europa League Group A, Channel 5/Channel 5 HD
A much tougher proposition for Spurs than Shamrock but they should still have enough to win this. If they want to.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #210

Wembley Treasure Hunt
The 18 Matches Roger Hunt Played In At Wembley Stadium During His Career, None Of Which Ended In Defeat

1. England 3-1 Austria (Friendly, 1962)
2. England 2-1 Wales (Home International Championship, 1964)
3. Liverpool 2-1 Leeds United (aet) (FA Cup Final, 1965)
4. England 1-0 West Germany (Friendly, 1966)
5. England 0-0 Uruguay (World Cup Finals, 1966)
6. England 2-0 Mexico (World Cup Finals, 1966)
7. England 2-0 France (World Cup Finals, 1966)
8. England 1-0 Argentina (World Cup Finals, 1966)
9. England 2-1 Portugal (World Cup Finals, 1966)
10. England 4-2 West Germany (aet) (World Cup Finals, 1966)
11. England 0-0 Czechoslovakia (Friendly, 1966)
12. England 5-1 Wales (European Ch'ship qualifier/Home International Ch'ship, 1966)
13. England 2-0 Spain (Friendly, 1967)
14. England 2-0 Northern Ireland (European Ch'ship qualifier/Home International Ch'ship, 1967)
15. England 2-2 USSR (Friendly, 1967)
16. England 1-0 Spain (European Championship Quarter Final, 1968)
17. England 3-1 Sweden (Friendly, 1968)
18. England 1-1 Romania (Friendly, 1969)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Weekend TV Preview 14 - 16 October

Friday 14 October

19.30 Werder Bremen v Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, ESPN / ESPN HD
No Arnautovitch for Werder or Barrios for BVB due to suspensions and injuries respectively. Despite these two top strikers' absence this still promises to be a game brimming with attacking intent. A welcome respite from the all too frequent Friday night egg chasing on ESPN.
19.45 Lincoln City v Fleetwood Town, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
The Lincoln Players waved goodbye to their erstwhile coach, Steve Tilson with their first win of the season against Alfreton on Tuesday. Caretaker, Grant Brown should still be around for this game against third placed Fleetwood.
19.45 Doncaster Rovers v Leeds United, Championship, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Dean Saunders is the new man in charge at Doncaster and a new sense of optimism is present at the Keepmoat. There is even talk of signing Mahamadou Diarra and Frederic Piquionne on loan. The natives are restless at Leeds so the pressures on. Mind you, when was the pressure ever off?

Saturday 15 October

12:30 Kilmarnock v Celtic, SPL, ESPN / ESPN HD
Celtic may have a game in hand but find themselves in the unusual position of being below Motherwell in the table. With ten points in ten games, Killie can be said to have had a steady start to the season.
12.45 Liverpool v Man Utd, Premier League, Sky Sports 2 / HD2 / 3D
The Big One. Liverpool will set out like they are worth the extra money they want to charge those overseas broadcasters. Of course brand self awareness only gets you so far, especially when you have to face up to a disgruntled Wayne Rooney, anxious to let off some steam.
17:20 Portsmouth v Barnsley, Championship, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
Sky's limp counter-scheduling gesture only underlines how much English Football is reliant on TV money. Drag the Barnsley fans down for a late kick off for no other reason than to compete for viewing figures against ESPN. Pathetic.
17:30 Chelsea v Everton Premier League, ESPN / ESPN HD
Curious choice of game since 1-1 seems to be the most common thread running through this fixture in recent years. Still it gives everyone a chance to over analyse Fernando Torres and curse AVB for his youth. *shakes fist*
18.00 Real Madrid v Betis (Second Half), La Liga, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Presumably the first half will be hiding behind the red button somewhere. After a reasonably good start to the season, Betis have lost their last two games. Real on the other hand have scored 13 (thirteen) in their last 3 games.
19:00 Barcelona v Racing, La Liga, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Third from bottom Racing travel to the best team in the World. In fairness, Santander have lost only one in their last five. Nevertheless, a home win on your coupon would be one of your easier decisions this weekend.
19:45 AC Milan v Palermo, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Champions Milan are still smarting after that dramatic defeat to Juve before the international break. The fixtures don't get any easier for them as they encounter a Palermo side in rude health.
21:00 Granada v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
With Falcao and Diego among the new arrivals, Atleti are among the more watchable Spanish teams outside of the top two. Newly promoted Granada are just happy to be there.
22.00 Ceara v Flamengo, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
Flamengo are recovering nicely after their rocky start to the season. Ronaldinho is playing so well that he has earned a recall to the Brazilian National team. Ceara are no great shakes but they have not lost at home since August.

Sunday 16 October

11.30 Cesena v Fiorentina, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Some Serie A to go with your left over curry? Not the most inspiring of fixtures given the form of both sides. Cesena picked up their first point of the season last week with a 0-0 draw against Chievo so they're on a roll, in a manner of speaking.
13.00 Birmingham City v Leicester City, Championship, BBC1 / BBC1 HD
Leicester on the telly again? How tedious. Must be a Sven thing.
13.30 Arsenal v Sunderland, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Sunderland don their clown shoes and hop aboard the fun bus to the big red top in London. With any luck a football match might break out.
14.00 Chievo v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Having been the first team to drop points against Cesena, in the last round, Chievo welcome table topping Juve who are shaping up as genuine Scudetto contenders.
16.00 Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1 / 3D
Fresh from stinking up the London 2012 Olympic legacy, Spurs travel to Newcastle to see it they can ruin the Toon Army's weekend. After a shaky start, Spurs are getting into the swing of things. Newcastle have had a great start to the season and having nothing to fear from the North Londoners. Or should we call them cockneys since they're so anxious to move to East London.
16.30 FC Cologne v Hannover 96, Bundesliga, ESPN / ESPN HD
In all likelihood the big Norwegian Mohammed Abdellaoue will be absent after sustaining an injury after his hat-trick against Werder Bremen in the big northern derby two weeks ago. That's OK though because the quicksilver battering ram in the shape of Didier Ya Konen is on hand to paste the Koln defence. If you've not seen Hannover yet this season, do so.
19.00 Palmeiras v Fluminese, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
More other Serie A action. The away side have carried the day in recent seasons and have involved themselves in a couple of 3-2 results. Plenty of entertainment for those not interested in the Rome derby.
19.30 Lazio v Roma, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Two fierce city rivals just hitting form, a lively atmosphere but sadly not Totti for Roma. Definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. Expect fireworks on and off the pitch both figuratively and literally.
21.00 Sevilla v Sporting, La Liga, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Shouldn't be any major dramas at home for Sevilla. Sporting are rock bottom of the Lager Liga table.
22.30 Boca Juniors v Belgrano, Argentinian Apertura, Premier Sports
Unbeaten Boca have only dropped points on three occasions this season and sit atop the table. Belgrano are seventh which is not too shabby for a promoted side. They last beat Boca away in 2001. Good luck with that.

Monday 17 October

19.45 Glentoran v Linfield, Irish League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Linfield have the chance to go top after Portadown could drew with Coleraine at the weekend, which should add even more excitment to an often fractious Belfast derby. Glentoran have finally got into their stride this season and have scored 25 goals in their last six wins.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Midweek TV Preview: 10 - 13 October 2011

Monday 10 October

19.45 Oldham Athletic v MK Dons, League One, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The Dons, unbeaten in four, travel to the world's coldest football stadium (maybe) with a view to moving into second place in front of the television cameras. Their opponents have lost their last two, to Brentford and to last-placed Exeter City. Pop this one down as an away win.

Tuesday 11 October

18.00 Germany v Belgium, Euro 2012 Qualifier, ESPN/ESPN HD
With Germany qualified, Group A is now all about whether Belgium or Turkey will get second place and enter the playoffs. It's an uphill task for Belgium, who must beat Germany to guarantee their place; Turkey host Azerbaijan in the final game and are just a point behind.
18.45 Republic of Ireland v Armenia, Euro 2012 Qualifier, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Armenia went above Ireland on Friday afternoon, but by the evening were once again behind Giovanni Trappatoni's side who won against Andorra to re-take second place. Russia should beat the Andorrans to top the group, meaning Ireland will only fail to make the playoffs should they lose on Tuesday.
19.05 Bulgaria v Wales, Euro 2012 Qualifier, Sky Sports 2/HD2
If the two previous TV games have everything going for them, this one has nothing. England have won the group and Montenegro are assured of second place, so this clash is the deadest of dead rubbers. Except, of course, that the winners will not finish bottom of the group.
19.45 Spain v Scotland, Euro 2012 Qualifier, BBC2/BBC1 Scotland
Spain's 100% record could be what stands between Scotland and a playoff place. If Craig Levein's side lose, a draw in Lithuania would be enough to send the Czech Republic into the tie-breaker instead, so it's looking unlikely. To make matters worse, the Lithuanians have nothing to play for.
20.00 France v Bosnia, Euro 2012 Qualifier, ESPN/ESPN HD
By the power of Grayskull! In what is surely the most exciting match of the evening, France and Bosnia go head to head with everything to gain and nothing to lose. With France a point ahead, if this game produces a winner they will be off to Euro 2012 and the losers heading into the playoffs. A simple shoot-out with a safety net. Lovely.

Wednesday 12 October

01.15 (Thu) Independiente v LDU Quito, Copa Sudamericana, Premier Sports
It's Argentina v Ecuador in this Round of 16 Second Leg. Goals from Paul Ambrosi and local boy Luis Bolaños gave the home side a 2-0 win in the first leg at the altitude of Quito, but 2010 Copa Sudamericana winners Independiente will be hopeful of turning the result around at home.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Football Americana Week 30: Red Bulls back in business

In a week stunted by international football (not least the USA's victory over Honduras), just four matches took place in Major League Soccer. The top three in the West (all qualified for the playoffs), all lost - if I were more meticulous, I'd tell you when that last happened.

The deadly duo struck again as New York Red Bulls beat LA Galaxy 2-0 at Red Bull Arena. Luke Rodgers pounced on a rebound to crash the ball into the roof of the net after half an hour, and the second goal inevitably came from Thierry Henry, who raced onto a superb ball from Rafael Marquez and dinked the ball over Donovan Ricketts to secure the points.

Vancouver Whitecaps welcomed Real Salt Lake to BC Place and won 3-0, their first win in the newly refurbished stadium. The first two goals were scored from the spot by Camilo (pictured), the first arriving after Jay Demerit's header appeared to have been handled off the line by Collen Warner, who was dismissed. It wasn't a clear-cut handball, but the Whitecaps went on to take advantage regardless, the second penalty being given for a second handball in the box and squeezed home by Camilo. Nizzar Khalfan got the third with a powerful drive from outside the area.

Chris Wondolowski scored early for San Jose Earthquakes to set them on the way to a 2-1 win over New England Revolution. He fired low in the eighth minute and the Quakes took the lead into the break. Benny Feilhaber equalised early in the second half, volleying in brilliantly to finish off a scramble in the box. Wondo's winner for San Jose didn't come until the 82nd minute, but was vintage Wondolowski - a back post header to win the game late on.

In the final game of the week, Seattle Sounders were beaten 2-0 at home by Philadelphia Union, ending their hopes of winning Supporters Shield. The opener came on the hour and it was scored by Freddy Adu, who clipped it past Kasey Keller to punish some appalling defending by James Riley. Brian Carroll scored the second with a neat finish after Sebastien Le Toux had dragged three defenders away and then laid the ball into him.

So, LA have now clinched Supporters Shield despite their defeat, with Seattle and Salt Lake confirmed in the playoffs. The three guaranteed spots in the East are occupied by Philadelphia, now top, along with Kansas City and Columbus. The four wildcards at present are Dallas, Colorado, New York and Houston.

You can have a look at the tables at

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #209

Adjectively speaking
11 Players In The English And Scottish Leagues With Descriptive Surnames

1. Darren Bent (Aston Villa)
2. Lee Camp (Nottingham Forest)
3. Mark Little (Peterborough United)
4. Shane Long (West Bromwich Albion)
5. David Low (Raith Rovers)
6. Mark Noble (West Ham United)
7. Bas Savage (Northampton Town)
8. Billy Sharp (Doncaster United)
9. Jonathan Smart (Montrose)
10. Gary Wild (Annan Athletic)
11. Ashley Young (Manchester United)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weekend TV Preview: 7 - 9 October 2011

Friday 7 October

19.45 Czech Republic v Spain, Euro 2012 Qualifier, ITV4/ITV4 HD
A match that has a huge bearing on Scotland's qualifying campaign. Spain are already through to the finals, so it's a race for the play-off spot which the Czechs currently occupy. Scotland are only two points behind in third and will be hoping Spain are in the mood to preserve their 100% record in Group I.
19.45 Northern Ireland v Estonia, Euro 2012 Qualifier, Sky Sports 4/HD4
The Estonians have made a good fist of this campaign and could (technically) still get the play-off spot behind the already-qualified Italy in Group C. The reality is that Serbia, currently in second place and leading Estonia by a point, have two games to play and will almost certainly finish as runners-up.
19.45 Wales v Switzerland, Euro 2012 Qualifier, Sky Sports 3/HD3
The Swiss will be hoping for a Montenegrin slip-up against England to retain any faint hopes they may still have of travelling to Poland and Ukraine next year. As it is, they've been far too inconsistent to be treated seriously and will have to settle for third in the group.
20.00 France v Albania, Euro 2012 Qualifier, ESPN/ESPN HD
Group D sees a straight fight between the French and Bosnia & Herzegovina for top spot. With France only a single point ahead of their rivals, anything other than a point here will be seen as a catastrophe ahead of their final match of the campaign against B&H next Tuesday.
20.00 Montenegro v England, Euro 2012 Qualifier, Sky Sports 1/HD1
With a chance to bask in the glory of qualification, it's funny how no-one ever drops out of the England squad ahead of a match like this. A draw for Capello & Co will prove satisfactory although a performance like the one against Wales last month probably won't.
20.30 Andorra v Republic of Ireland, Euro 2012 Qualifier, Sky Sports 2/HD2
An ideal chance for the Irish to turn the psychological screw on Group B leaders Russia. Trappatoni's men are two points behind the Russians who face Slovakia - the team they lost at home to in the last round of fixtures.

Saturday 8 October

12.45 Northampton Town v Crawley Town, League Two, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Both teams have won three games out of their last four, a fact that betrays Northampton's 15th-placed spot in the table. Crawley are second behind Southend on goal difference but won't be taking anything for granted on this trip to the Sixfields Stadium.
15.45 Afan Lido v Bala Town, Welsh Premier League, S4C
Apparently the done thing these days is to play Football Manager 2011 as the coach of Bala Town and be as successful as possible within five seasons. Difficult to know whether this match will be more interesting than that or not, frankly.
18.30 Liechtenstein v Scotland, Euro 2012 Qualifier, BBC1 Scotland
To qualify, Scotland need to (a) beat Liechtenstein, (b) beat Spain in Alicante next Tuesday and (c) hope that the Czechs get beaten by Lithuania on the same night. Suddenly my lottery ticket is a source of great hope.
22.00 Botafogo v Bahia, Brazilian Serie A, Premier Sports
Despite being ten places behind 4th-placed Botafogo, it's Bahia that are on the better form at the moment. Three wins in the last four games gives them a decent chance of beating their faltering opponents who have just one win from their last six outings.

Sunday 9 October

16.30 Notts County v Hartlepool United, League One, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Finally to Meadow Lane where the home side got a 3-0 win in the equivalent fixture last season. With both teams level on points in 8th and 7th place respectively, a well-fought draw is probably more likely this time around.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Football Americana Week 29: Eastern Conference wide open

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Major League Soccer, and here's what went down with the pink-trimmed ball over the last week.

Sporting Kansas City got going early, taking the lead against Columbus Crew through Kei Kamara's penalty after CJ Sapong had been unceremoniously dumped to the ground by Chad Marshall. Emilio Renteria thumped the Crew level but his side would leave Livestrong Sporting Park with nothing thanks to Julius James' own goal, a looping backwards header from Matt Besler's long throw into the box.

Sporting's second game of the week was a 1-1 draw with San Jose Earthquakes, with the teams exchanging quickfire goals in the final ten minutes. Chris Wondolowski drew first blood for the Quakes in the 85th minute, but Teal Bunbury saved a point for Kansas City just 30 seconds or so later.

The early sending off of Kyle Beckerman set the scene for Real Salt Lake's 3-0 defeat by Chicago Fire. The dreadlocked midfield maestro saw red for butting Daniel Paladini, by which time Marco Pappa had already bent in the first goal of a brilliant hat-trick. Pappa's second arrived in the 36th minute, this time a delicious finish with his left foot. His third was another curling shot after cutting in unchallenged from the right wing. But the biggest cheer of the game was reserved for the home fans, who finally welcomed back their talismanic playmaker Javier Morales, whose season has been decimated by injury.

The Fire were back in action as early as Saturday, but this time had to settle for a point from a 1-1 draw with Houston Dynamo. Colin Clark poached Houston's goal from close range, with former Dynamo striker Dom Oduro showing his strength to hold off Bobby Boswell and then poking the ball past Tally Hall.

Salt Lake also played on Saturday and lost again, this time to LA Galaxy. Fabian Espindola gave RSL the lead with a clever header on the stroke of half time, but LA turned it around on home soil in the second half. Chad Barrett equalised by dinking it over Nick Rimando from David Beckham's deep pass, and it was Beckham's free kick that caused enough chaos for Nat Borchers to have to watch the ball bounce off him and into his own net. After the game, Beckham and RSL coach Jason Kreis (pictured) indulged in an unedifying set-to.

Philadelphia Union kept pace with SKC by defeating DC United, but they made hard work of it despite a blistering start. Sebastien Le Toux beat Bill Hamid on a one-on-one after less than four minutes and scored again just over ten minutes later from a similar position. United quickly drew level, Dwayne De Rosario bagging their first with a near post header from Austin Da Luz's corner, and Andy Najar racing from deep into his own half into the box and crashing in a low finish for 2-2. But it was Philly who nicked it with a goal just before the hour. Michael Farfan scored it, firing from 25 yards into the top corner to top off a lovely little run.

Philly then dropped points of their own after failing to bury Chivas USA. The Union took until the 59th minute to break the deadlock, Justin Mapp scoring with a low left-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area. But the Goats have an in-form striker in Juan Pablo Angel and he ruined Philadelphia's evening with a goal in the 90th minute. Michael Lahoud's cross seemed to hang in the air for an age before the Colombian rose to head in his sixth goal in four games and save a point.

It was the Daniel Woolard show as Columbus defeated DC. The United defender put his side into the lead before the break, sending a glancing touch past Will Hesmer from a free kick. But he soon came back to earth with an own goal two minutes into the second half to equalise. Eddie Gaven won it for Columbus on the hour with a brilliant diving header. Najar hit the crossbar for United deep into stoppage time.

The exciting Diego Fagundez gave New England Revolution a surprise lead against Seattle Sounders, and by the time he thumped his header in off the bar the Revs had already had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside. But the Sounders replied almost instantly, Fredy Montero firing across Matt Reis to equalise. The Colombian got the winner for Seattle in the second half, squeezing the ball home just after the break.

New York Red Bulls failed to capitalise on DC's defeat against Philly and they required a late goal to take anything from their visit to Toronto FC. In-form Danny Koevermans put TFC ahead with a controversial goal that ultimately stemmed back to an appalling waste of possession by the returning one-man team Rafael Marquez. New York's equaliser was late but worth waiting for. Thierry Henry controlled a loose corner as if time had stopped round him and then caressed it low into the net.

In the West, Colorado Rapids beat FC Dallas 1-0 with a single goal from former Dallas defender Drew Moor. He headed in powerfully from a first half corner to bank the three points for Colorado. Miguel Comminges made life more difficult for the leading side by getting himself sent off for two bookable offences, the second for a late tackle on Zak Loyd.

Portland Timbers spoiled the party at the opening of the refurbed Vancouver Whitecaps stadium, and it only took one goal to do it. Kenny Cooper smashed it in right in the middle of the first half, finding the top corner from the edge of the box for his seventh goal of the season.

LA, Seattle and Salt Lake are confirmed playoff entrants from the West, while Kansas City, Philadelphia and Columbus remain under threat in the East. The four wildcards at present are Dallas, Colorado, Houston and New York, with Portland catching up to the Red Bulls on points.

Toronto, New England and Vancouver cannot qualify. You can see those tables here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Football Fail: Everton v Liverpool

Part of the experience of being a football fan – even being a neutral – is that from time to time you have to accept the failings of the modern game. The Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park on Saturday was just such an occasion.

For those of you just returning from a weekend excursion to a nearby planet, the Everton-Liverpool game was predictably noisy, fiery and antagonistic. Liverpool were the eventual winners (2-0), but the main talking point was the sending off of Everton player Jack Rodwell.

To be brief, Rodwell lunged in with both feet to win the ball from Liverpool striker. Rodwell won the ball cleanly, but the nearby Suarez opted to leap in spectacular fashion as if the Everton midfielder had actually made contact with him. The referee, Martin Atkinson, blew his whistle, trotted confidently up to Rodwell and showed him the red card.

With the atmosphere inside the stadium already at thermonucleic levels, the air became even more saturated with ire and vitriol between the two sides and the referee. The match staggered on through a series of ever more ill-tempered episodes as several players tried to dismantle their opposing number using sheer brute force. Unconfirmed reports also suggest that some actual football broke out, but that’s not vital to our discussion right now.

What is important to note is how stupefying an effect the game had on everyone involved in it. For a start there was Referee Atkinson who was almost universally condemned for not spotting the legality of Rodwell’s tackle. Many observers have commented that Rodwell didn’t even deserve a yellow card, let alone a red one, and technically they’re correct.

That said, no-one seems to be asking why Rodwell needed to lunge in with both feet for an open ball. True, he didn’t actually touch Suarez or anyone else and yes, the match was as heated as it has been in recent times, but the potentially dangerous lunge showed the Everton player to be lacking responsibility in his play. Ifs and buts, perhaps, but worth acknowledging ahead of a serious injury that Rodwell’s likely to inflict on an opponent in the future.

Then we have the managers, Kenny Dalglish and David Moyes. In the post-match interviews seen on Match of the Day, Dalglish was first asked about the sending off. He told the interviewer that he was disappointed to be discussing the incident rather than the game as a whole. Aside from the fact that there was little football in the match to actually discuss, he went on to admit that he hadn’t seen the incident very clearly anyway. Perhaps the former Scotland international should have said that in the first place, but hey-ho.

Moyles, as you’d expect, was keen to criticise the referee and his apparent failings, yet for all that he didn’t even bother to lodge a complaint with Atkinson after the game. Hardly the actions of a man who believes in his own principles and certainly redolent of the modern football manager that thinks ‘all refs are crap’ / ‘none of them like us’. For the record, Everton have now lodged an appeal against Rodwell’s red card, presumably under sufferance.

We obviously can’t speak of football failings without a further mention of Match of the Day, if only briefly. There was an obvious irony in hearing pundit Alan Shearer complaining that the referee hadn’t done his job properly, especially when you recall Shearer’s ‘Ben Arfa’ episode from last season, but that wasn’t the biggest fail on their part.

For reason’s best known to themselves, they failed to acknowledge the terrible sight of Everton fans throwing plastic bottles and other objects at nearby Liverpool players towards the end of the game. Here was a chance for the BBC to humiliate the mindless idiots who do such stupid things, yet they chose not to bother. An ideal opportunity wasted, one would have to say.

All in all then, a multiple fail on the part of players, managers, broadcasters and fans alike. Not exactly a high point in the history of Premier League football, but hopefully one that everyone can improve upon the next time these two teams meet.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Midweek TV Preview 5 - 6 October 2011

Wednesday 5 October

01:00 New York Red Bulls v LA Galaxy, MLS, ESPN / ESPN HD
If Major League Soccer commissioner, Don Garber, had his way this would be MLS' Blue Ribbon fixture, the derby of America if you will. In years to come, this may be the case in the future but at the heart of every great rivalry are great games between great sides. However, at present the Harrison Energy Drink Concern XI are in the last play-off spot and need to put a shift it if they want to beat himself Robbie Keane and Lord Beckham. You can read all about this game in Chris Nee's excellent Football Americana, right here on the Football Fairground.
19:45 Charlton Athletic v Brentford, Johnstone's Paint Trophy 2nd Round, Sky Sports 2 / HD2
A third tier London Derby in a much maligned competition. Charlton are in decent form at the top of League 2 and could probably do without this game. Brentford, on the other hand are comfortably mid table and may enjoy a modest cup run in what is a winnable competition, for them. They also have a point to prove after getting humped 4-0 at home to Huddersfield, last weekend. Possible upset for your coupon.
23:15 Univ Catolica v Velez Sarsfield, Copa Sudamericana Round of 16 1st Leg, Premier Sports
Catolica have lost their last four matches in the Chilean League so will be grateful for some respite. Sarsfield haven't been that great this season but picked up a couple of wins, domestically. Hard to see the appeal of this game, it must be said.

Thursday 6 October 

19:45 Iceland U21 v England U21, UEFA Euro 2013 U21 Qualifying, ESPN / ESPN HD
Would you believe that England's 6-0 win over Azerbaijan last month, was their first competitive victory since October 2010. Iceland lost to Norway in their last match but beat a handy Belgium side in the opening fixture of this qualifying group. So the question is, can the English boys do it on a cold Thursday evening in Reykjavík?
19:45 Cambridge United v Stockport County, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
As is often the way when impoverished league clubs are relegated to the top of the Non League Pyramid, Stockport are finding life tough in the Conference under rookie coach Didi Hamaan. Despite their defeat to Southport, last Saturday, Cambridge are in pretty good shape. More pain for the Cheshire club, methinks.