Monday, January 30, 2012

Midweek TV Preview: 30 January - 2 February 2012

Monday 30 January

18.00 Sudan v Burkina Faso, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group B, British Eurosport/HD
Nothing grows under the heavy roller as Clement Atlee once said and with the heavy rollers of Nigeria, Cameroon and African Champions, Egypt removed from this tournament, the Africa Cup of Nations has flourished. Sudan have yet to win in their two games but have their best hope for three points against bottom of the group Burkina Faso.
18.00 Ivory Coast v Angola, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group B, British Eurosport 2
The Ivorians will fear no one in the Quarter Finals but could lose top spot in their group so are unlikely to relax for this game. Angola could still miss out if they lose and Sudan win.
19.45 Oldham Athletic v Chesterfield, Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area Final 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
If you're still hungry for some football after the excitement of the Africa Cup Of Nations then a lower division clash with a place at Wembley at stake may take your fancy. It's 2-1 to Chesterfield on aggregate so things are nicely poised at Boundary Park. We'll be keeping an eye on this while we record the Sound Of Football.

Tuesday 31 January

18.00 Gabon v Tunisia, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group C, British Eurosport/HD
I missed the Gabon v Morocco game which sounded like a doozy. Bruno Zita Mbanangoye’s 97th (ninety seventh) minute free kick saw the hosts take maximum points and are through to the Quarter Finals making this game a play off for top spot.
18.00 Niger v Morocco, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group C, British Eurosport 2
Hard to imagine a team as capable as Morocco with no points. Goodness knows what controversy reigned last Thursday after conceding that last last gasp goal to Gabon which dumped them out of the Cup. Niger's achievement has been in their attendance but would really add some salt into Moroccan wounds if they produce a win. It's not unlikely too if Niger's performance against Tunisia was anything to go by.
19.45 Parma v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Unbeaten Juve look to extend their lead at the top of the table. An away defeat would constitute a shock under most circumstances but particularly against a mediocre Parma.
20.00 Everton v Man City, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2/3D
Time was that this was a well matched and tasty sort-of-derby between two clubs with similar resources and ambitions. City may have lost their soul since becoming monied but I'm sure that will be scant consolation to the Everton fans who are watching their status diminish before their very eyes. Romantics will be hoping for a home win but should not bet on one.
20.00 Mirandes v Athletic Bilbao, Copa Del Rey Semi Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 3/HD3
On paper this should be a straightforward path to the final for tactics poster-boy Bielsa and his Bilbao boys. However, Mirandes are top of their Segunda B division and unbeaten at home. While an upset is unlikely over two legs against an Athletic team who have yet to concede in the Cup this season, a home win may provide some value on your coupon.

Wednesday 1 February

17.00 Atalanta v Genoa, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Just the seventeen goals conceded by Genoa in the last five games then. Atalanta have lost their last three but they were against Juve, Lazio and Milan so will be looking to improve on the paltry eleven goals scored at home this season.
18.00 Botswana v Mali, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group D, British Eurosport/HD
There are a few permutations involved in qualifying from Group D. More on that later. First, hats off to Botswana for qualifying, although they must be disappointed to have been thrashed by Guinea 6-1 on Saturday. Despite that they can still progress if Ghana beat Guinea and they win this match by nine goals.
18.00 Ghana v Guinea, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group D, British Eurosport 2
A Guinea and Mali win would put them and Ghana on six points. The group stages are determined by the head-to-head results and then by head-to-head goal difference. The most straightforward thing would be for Ghana to not lose. They will then go through and be joined by either Mali or Guinea depending on what happens in the other game.
19.45 Lazio v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN / ESPN HD
Assuming Juve do the business at Parma on Tuesday, Milan will still be playing catch up. Their trip is tougher as it is against a highly placed Lazio.
20.00 Sunderland v Norwich City, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
On the surface this is a mid table clash between two ordinary sides. However, Sunderland are the most improved team in England right now and everyone is rightly full of praise for Norwich's achievements. Of course whether that makes for a good game or not remains to be seen.
20.00 Valencia v Barcelona, Copa Del Rey Semi Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Hard to call this game since much depends on how hungry Barca are to win the Cup. In terms of the league there are ten points between the Catalans in second and Valencia in third which tells you all you need to know about football in Spain.
00.00 Flamengo v Real Potosi, Copa Libertadores, Premier Sports
The Bolivian Clausura is barely underway but Potosi still managed an impressive first leg 2-1 win against Flamengo. Nevertheless, you would make the Brazilians favourites to enter the group stages with the second leg in Rio.

Thursday 2 February

19.45 Novara v Chievo, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Bottom club Novara can take heart from Chievo's indifferent away record. However, there is very little interest here for the neutral unless you like to watch bad Italian football.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Weekend TV Preview: 27 - 29 January 2012

Friday 27 January

16.00 Niger v Tunisia, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group C, EurosportUK/HD
The Tunisian's lived up to their billing as dark horses in this group with a good 2-1 win against fellow North Africans Morocco on Matchday 1. Their goals came from domestically based players, both of whom play for the African Champions League holders Esperance Tunis. Despite a fantastic qualifying campaign, Niger just look there to make up the numbers.
19.00 Gabon v Morocco, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group C, EurosportUK/HD
Following that defeat to Tunisia, the Atlas Lions have it all to do now against the co-hosts in their capital city. Gabon cruised to victory in their game against Niger scoring both their goals in the first half. The Panthers will be looking to continue their good start in a bid to top the group and avoid Ghana in the Quarter Finals.
19.45 Watford v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup 4th Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
Harry Redknapp's been busy in Southwark this week which can hardly be the best preparation for this tricky encounter. The Hornet's league form has been been awful lately - having lost their last three - while Tottenham have been busy closing down the gap with the top two. The Cup might need a bit more magic than usual for this one, unless 'Arry decides that the League is his focus.

Saturday 28 January

12.45 Liverpool v Manchester United, FA Cup 4th Round, ITV1/ITV1 HD
The home team already have a place booked at Wembley after seeing off the other Manchester club midweek in the League Cup. Of course all the focus will be on Patrice Evra. An opportunity for the majority of Liverpool fans to adopt a higher ground - let's hope they take it.
14.30 Bayern Munich v Wolfsburg, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Hang on! What's this? Live Bundesliga on a Saturday! You know what I think I just might. Let's have live updates too please, ESPN.
15.00 Rhyl v Llanelli, Welsh Cup, S4C
More embargo busting action from Wales. Rhyl sit third in the Cymru Alliance League while Llanelli finished the third in the (relatively) big league above them's Apertura.
16.00 Botswana v Guinea, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group D, EurosportUK/HD
Tipped by our good friends at as a surprise package, Botswana pushed Ghana close in their first game though failed to capitalise on a numerical advantage for the last 25 minutes, losing 1-0. Guinea also lost by the same scoreline to Mali. This match is most likely to be the battle for third place in the group but whoever wins today will have the chance of causing an upset in the final round of fixtures.
17.15 Brighton & Hove Albion v Newcastle United, FA Cup 4th Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
Brighton needed a replay and penalties to get the better of Wrexham in the last round and face a Newcastle side that needs to bounce back after a 5-2 mauling against Fulham. Toon will be the third Premier League side to play at the Amex this season following Sunderland (who lost) and Liverpool (who won) in the League Cup.
19.00 Ghana v Mali, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group D, EurosportUK/HD
Almost certainly the key tie in this group, with both teams likely to advance. Ghana are missing a lot experience without the likes of Essien shoring up the midfield and Kingson in goal, they'll also be missing their captain John Mensah after he received a straight red against Botswana. Mali will probably start with more familiar names than the Black Stars, it could be just enough to tip it in their favour.
19.00 Real Madrid v Zaragoza, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Trust Sky to stink up the schedule with a complete non-event from Spain. The team five points clear at the top is playing the team six points adrift at the bottom with predictable consequences. Lucky for us there's a decent match to be watched on ESPN...
19.45 Juventus v Udinese, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Juve sit just a point clear of Milan at the top of the table with the visitors just two more points behind. Expect a tight, fascinating match in a tense season in Serie A.
21.00 Villareal v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
The Yellow Submarine's home form is almost identical to Barcelona's away form (the only difference being Barcelona have scored one more goal). Form would suggest then that despite 15 places separating them the draw is the most likely outcome.

Sunday 29 January

11.30 Feyenoord v Ajax, Eredivisie, ESPN/ESPN HD
Probably the tastiest fixture on the Dutch calendar but this game finds both of them sitting outside the top three. Shared points will most likely further the gap between themselves and the current third places side Twente, who are once again back under Steve McClaren.
13.30 Sunderland v Middlesbrough, FA Cup 4th Round, ITV1/ITV1 HD
You'd have thought after the Birmingham/Wolves bore-fest in the last round ITV would have learnt that locals derbies do not make for good cup ties. That said, these two have produce entertaining performances of late so it might be worth not going out for that pub lunch.
16.00 Falkirk v Celtic, Scottish League Cup Semi Final, BBC1 Scotland
Late goals have been the story behind Falkirk's cup run - an injury winner against Rangers in the third Round and an equaliser two minutes from the end of extra time in their Quarter Final against Dundee United. They're second in the First Division but will need Ross County to suffer a dip in form if they are to play today's opponents in the League next season.
16.00 Arsenal v Aston Villa, FA Cup 4th Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
Apparently things have got so bad for Arsene Wenger the only team that wants him is Real Madrid. The call will be for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to start and finish the game, at least one of those will undoubtedly happen following his performance against the Champions last week. Villa will be far more content with a replay than the Gunners will and will no doubt play accordingly.
18.00 Equatorial Guinea v Zambia, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group A, EurosportUK/HD
Co-hosts Equatorial Guinea are already through to the next round and need just a point to guarantee top spot. A point will suit Zambia too but may want to push for the victory to avoid Ivory Coast in the Quarter Finals.
18.00 Libya v Senegal, 2012 African Cup of Nations Group A, EurosportUK2
Senegal are already out of the competition marking another disappointment for a side that was seen as one Africa's brightest prospects after they reached the World Cup Quarter Final ten years ago. Libya must win to stand any chance of going through, relying on the co-hosts to beat Zambia.
19.45 Milan v Cagliari, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Milan coach, Massimiliano Allegri, gets another chance to stick it to his formers employers. He has three wins from three against them so far and with Ibra in the form he's in at the moment, it should be four out of four.
20.00 Malaga v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Seriously? Sky, why don't you just take the weekend off?

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #225

Did you mean...?
26 Premier League Football Players As Translated By Google's Speech Recognition Software On The Samsung Galaxy S2 Mobile Phone

1. Alex on the Colorado (Aleksandar Kolarov, Manchester City)
2. Beaumont Troy Oh Right (Armand Traoré, QPR)
3. Benny's Seafood (Danny Shittu, QPR)
4. Charles and Dog Beer (Charles N'Zogbia, Aston Villa)
5. David and Dog (David N'Gog, Bolton)
6. Emmanuel Had a Boil (Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham)
7. Floral Beluga (Florent Malouda, Chelsea)
8. Freda England (Breda Hangeland, Fulham)
9. Jamie Character (Jamie Carragher, Liverpool)
10. Joe Vineyard (Gervinho, Arsenal)
11. Julian Restaurant (Joleon Lescott, Manchester City)
12. Laurel Call Shelley (Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal)
13. Leak at the Mall (Lee Cattermole, Sunderland)
14. Pinnacle Bogota (Dimitar Berbatov, Manchester United)
15. Steph and Sentinel (Stéphane Sessègnon, Sunderland)
16. Steven and Zombies (Steven N'Zonzi, Blackburn)
17. The Man You Did It (Nemanja Vidić, Manchester United)
18. Sally's The Owl (Salif Diao, Stoke)
19. Silver Marlboro (Sylvain Marveaux, Newcastle United)
20. The Grand Phone Lookup (Vedran Ćorluka, Tottenham)
21. The New York Billy I Let You Know (Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Everton)
22. Where's Fullerton? (Wes Hoolahan, Norwich)
23. Yahoo Travel (Gerhard Tremmel, Swansea)
24. Your Poster Store (Jean Beausejour, Wigan)
25. You See Your Alignment (Jussi Jääskeläinen, Bolton)
26. You Suck New London (Youssuf Mulumbu, WBA)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Midweek TV Preview: 23 - 26 January 2012

Monday 23 January

16.00 Gabon v Niger, African Cup of Nations Group C, British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
As one of the co-hosts, Gabon have to be a decent bet for a place in the latter stages of the tournament. In an open group, they face a Niger team that impressively qualified above Egypt and South Africa. The wise money probably goes on The Panthers, but only just.
19.00 Morocco v Tunisia, African Cup of Nations Group C, British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
The Moroccans have, frankly, been a washout in the last two CAN competitions and are long overdue a decent campaign. They could well get it this time around, despite Marouane Chamakh being a part of their squad.
19.45 Southampton v Leicester City, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The Saints go into this match knowing they've been toppled from the Championship summit by West Ham. A swift return is required and against a Leicester team on poor form of late, they should get the win they need to restore the status quo.

Tuesday 24 January

16.00 Ghana v Botswana, African Cup of Nations Group D, British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
Something of a baptism of fire for Botswana, here at their first African Nations Cup but facing one of the stand-out favourites in their opening game. Featuring a wealth of European-based stars including Andre Ayew, Sulley Muntari and Agyemang Badu, The Black Stars should be treating this like an exhibition match, but this tournament has been known to throw up an upset or two in recent editions.
19.00 Mali v Guinea, African Cup of Nations Group D, British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
Mali made a complete hash of their 2010 CAN campaign, a run of form that spilled over into their qualification for this one. Guinea, for their part, have been here many times before but are unlikely to set the tournament on fire. A draw seems likely.
19.45 Juventus v Roma, Coppa Italia Quarter Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
Not easy to pick a winner between these two. Both teams are playing well in the league but Roma have won two of their last three games at Juve's ground which may just give them the confidence they need to win it.
20.00 Mirandes v Espanyol, Copa del Rey Quarter Final 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Arguably the story of the quarter finals surrounds the giant-killing exploits of third-tier Mirandes. Having already knocked out La Liga opponents Racing Santander and Villareal 3-1 on aggregate, they now find themselves 3-2 down after the first half of this tie against the team currently fifth in the Primera Division. A third scalp is still entirely possible for the team from Burgos.
19.45 Cardiff City v Crystal Palace, Carling Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg, BBC2/BBC HD
Advantage Palace after the fantastic first leg which saw Anthony Gardner's headed goal give the Londoners a 1-0 lead. Palace will be aware that Cardiff have lost the fewest games of anyone in the Championship this season and having seen their 1-0 lead at Blackpool turn into a 2-1 defeat last weekend, nothing will be taken for granted.

Wednesday 25 January

16.00 Libya v Zambia, African Cup of Nations Group A, British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
Zambia were the surprise winners on the opening weekend of this year's CAN, silencing Senegal with an impressive 2-1 win. Libya, meanwhile, will need to regroup following a disappointing defeat to co-hosts Equitorial Guinea. If Zambia can remain composed and get a win, they could be set fair for a place in the latter stages while at the same time knocking out The Mediterranean Knights.
16.00 Chievo v Siena, Coppa Italia Quarter Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
Chievo have won only one of their last seven games against their Serie A opponents but with Siena trying not to drop into the bottom three in the Serie A table, now might be a good time to strike a crucial blow. The winner plays either Napoli or Inter in the semi finals.
19.00 Mallorca v Athletic Bilbao, Copa del Rey Quarter Final 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Bilbao remain in fine form in the league and have a 2-0 lead in the bank from the first leg of this tie. It's been five long years since they last won at the Iberostar Stadium, however, so a transferral of their La Liga results will be very welcome to reach the last four.
19.00 Equatorial Guinea v Senegal, African Cup of Nations Group A, British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
A cracking start for the co-hosts in their CAN debut and who's to say they can't repeat their achievements against a faltering Senegalese side? Expect more in the way of fervent euphoria if the home side even so much as score against the 2002 World Cup participants.
19.30 Luton Town v Mansfield Town, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
Mansfield have turned things around of late and are currently unbeaten in four matches. Luton, however, are unbeaten in nine and haven't conceded a goal at home since December 10th.
19.45 Napoli v Inter, Coppa Italia Quarter Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
Napoli left it until the last five minutes to grab an equaliser away to Siena at the weekend and a nervy performance is the last thing they need against the current Coppa Italia holders here.
19.45 Liverpool v Man City, Carling Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
Like Crystal Palace in the other semi-final, Liverpool hold a 1-0 lead going into the second leg. Given the weekend's results, it's difficult seeing The Reds hold onto the advantage as morale in the Dalglish camp - to say nothing of technical ability - seems to have reached rock bottom. A Herculean effort will therefore be needed to stop City's advances which makes for a mouth-watering conclusion to the tie.
21.00 Barcelona v Real Madrid, Copa del Rey Quarter Final 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
There are so many El Clasicos these days that someone's going to have to recategorise them to suit the occasion. We're labelling this one 'El Clasico Ordinario.'

Thursday 26 January

16.00 Sudan v Angola, African Cup of Nations Group B, British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
The Palancas Negras are desperately seeking a return to the form that took them to the 2006 World Cup but which has since fizzled away. Against Sudan - one-time champions in 1970 - they stand a decent chance of getting three points at least.
19.00 Ivory Coast v Burkina Faso, African Cup of Nations Group B, ITV4/ITV4 HD/British Eurosport/British Eurosport HD
A golden crop of players knows this tournament represents one last chance to show they're not the late stage chokers we've seen in recent years. Burkina Faso, we're sorry to say, are here mainly to make up the numbers and shouldn't stand in the way of their opponents march into the knockout stages.
19.45 Lazio v Milan, Coppa Italia Quarter Final, ESPN/ESPN HD
The last four meetings between these two sides have been draws but Milan struggled to get rid of Novara in the last round of the competition, only winning 2-1 after extra time. That said, both sides have lost just once since late November so another draw could be on the cards.
20.30 Levante v Valencia, Copa del Rey Quarter Final 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Valencia won the first leg 4-1 to ensure you won't be watching this one at the end of another all-too-short weekend.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #224

Incomplete CVs
The 8 Most Capped England Players That Never Played In A Major Tournament

1. Emlyn Hughes (Liverpool, 62 caps)
2. Mick Channon (Southampton, 46 caps)
3. Robert Crompton (Blackburn, 41 caps)
4. Ian Wright (Arsenal, 33 caps)
5. Eddie Hapgood (Arsenal, 30 caps)
6. Roy McFarland (Derby, 28 caps)
7. Neil Franklin (Stoke, 27 caps)
8. Colin Todd (Derby, 27 caps)

For the latest England news and great articles galore, visit - a blog by our old chum, @ChrisTSC.

Weekend TV Preview: 20 - 22 January 2012

Friday 20 January

19.30 Borussia Moenchengladbach v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Gladbach have the opportunity to go within a point of Bayern at the top and go past Schalke and Dortmund in the process, but they won't have it all their own way in the Friday night Bundesliga match. Bayern have won three on the bounce and will be keen to pick up exactly where they left off as the league returns from its winter break.

Saturday 21 January

12.30 St Mirren v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Well, what to say about this one? Celtic's run of ten successive wins might say everything that needs to be said about Scottish football, but it has marked a very impressive charge to the top of the SPL. It's hard to imagine their run will end in Paisley on Saturday lunchtime against a Buddies side that hasn't won in three.

12.45 Norwich City v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 2/HD2
After four games without a win, Paul Lambert's Canaries have returned to winning ways with victories over Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion; with all due respect, those are exactly the teams they'll need to be beating this season. Steve Morison's winners have seen Norwich to away wins of late, but they'll need to exploit home advantage to defeat Chelsea.

17.20 Huddersfield Town v Brentford, League One, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Despite their phenomenal run of form that spanned the summer, Huddersfield are now seven points off the top, where Charlton are taking advantage of Lee Clark's team's worrying drawing habit. It's Jordan Rhodes that's hogging the Huddersfield headlines, scoring 25 league goals already this term.

17.30 Bolton Wanderers v Liverpool, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
When these two met at Anfield it was a walk in Stanley Park for the Reds, who took a 3-0 lead into the final minute thanks to goals by Jordan Henderson, the piscine Martin Skrtel and Charlie Adam. Bolton grabbed a consolation but will have their work cut out to achieve a better result on Saturday evening.

18.30 Equatorial Guinea v Libya, Africa Cup of Nations Group A, British Eurosport/HD
The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off on Saturday with co-hosts Equatorial Guinea in action, but it's the opponents that catch the eye. Libya has undergone enormous change this year and to qualify for the competition in those circumstances was a remarkable achievement in itself. With Senegal and Zambia completing Group A, it's possible but certainly not easy for the Mediterranean Knights to progress still further.

19.00 Real Sociedad v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
After a very indifferent start to the campaign, Sociedad are now unbeaten in seven league games. That run boasts wins over Betis, Malaga and Valencia, and Saturday's game is another challenging fixture. Atleti are looking to pick up three points in order to drag themselves back out of mid-table.

19.45 Atalanta v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
The Tooting & Mitcham United of Turin are flying under Old Lady legend Antonio Conte, and sit proudly atop Serie A having not lost a league game in forever. Aiming to become the first team to beat them this term are Atalanta, for whom a third consecutive defeat would mean edging still closer to the drop zone.

21.00 Real Betis v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 4/HD4
Having been punished by Alexis Sanchez and Leo Messi after Mario's dismissal last weekend, it's back to home soil for Betis in Saturday's late kick-off. Sevilla have now not won in four league matches and have dropped out of the European places as a result. With Jose Antonio Reyes back in the side, they'll be keen to kickstart their season.

21.00 Senegal v Zambia, Africa Cup of Nations Group A, British Eurosport/HD
While all eyes will be on Ivory Coast to finally establish themselves as Africa's leading side, Senegal have the firepower to hurt any opponent, African or otherwise. Demba Ba will be most familiar to English fans, but Moussa Sow is a favourite at Lille and Papiss Demba Cisse of Freiburg is a transfer target for many this month.

Sunday 18 December

11.30 Bologna v Parma, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
The first team to overtake Atalanta could be Bologna, who have climbed up slightly thanks to four points from the last possible six. Standing in their way are mid-table Parma and their top goalscorer, Sebastian Giovinco - the Atomic Ant. Remember him?

13.30 Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
It's first against third in the Premier League as Spurs look to continue a nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions. Manchester City will want to open up a six-point gap over rivals United before their game later in the day, and have gradually been putting their form back together after a slight wobble of late.

14.00 Novara v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
This one's a rematch from a midweek cup clash between the same opponents. AC Milan lost top spot last weekend, with Juve drawing and the Rossoneri losing out to rivals Inter in the Milan derby. Novara have won just twice this season - against Parma and Inter(!) - and are going down. There, I said it.

16.00 Arsenal v Manchester United, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
Once upon a time, there was a great rivalry at the summit of English football. The mutual contempt lingered thick in the air, dripping with pizza cheese. There's still a certain amount riding on Arsenal v Manchester United these days, but it's not what it was. United may well need a victory to stay in touch at the top, while defeat for Arsenal could leave them well adrift of fourth.

16.00 Ivory Coast v Sudan, Africa Cup of Nations Group B, British Eurosport/HD
Tournament favourites Ivory Coast have all the pressure on them as they get Group B underway on Sunday. With a squad packed full of internationally known stars, the Elephants will be expected to take advantage of the absence of the ever successful Egyptians and take the African Nations by storm. It is, as they say, Cote d'Ivoire's to lose. There are one or two teams capable of pouncing if they do so.

19.00 Burkina Faso v Angola, Africa Cup of Nations Group B, British Eurosport/HD
Burkina Faso qualified by topping Group F with relative ease, and are rewarded with an opening match against Angola. A handful of Angola's players impressed in their last ACN outing, but 32-year-old Flavio will still bear the bulk of the responsibility for finding the net. Burkina Faso's squad includes 16-year-old Bertrand Traore, a former Chelsea trialist.

19.00 Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Real Madrid's rampage towards the title continues. Since defeat to Barcelona, Jose Mourinho's side have bounced back with three consecutive victories to open their lead back out to four points. Having met their arch-rivals in midweek, Real will need to have their wits about them against an Athletic side unbeaten in the league since November.

19.45 Inter Milan v Lazio, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
All hail the Tinkerman! The Nerazzurri might be back in fifth but they're tearing through opponents like nobody's business under Claudio Ranieri. Six wins from six is blistering form by any standards, and they've conceded just once in those matches. Could a title charge yet be on the cards?

Former GDR clubs prepare for the Bundesliga Restart

This year Terry  hopes to spend a little more time looking at  clubs from the old East Germany, starting with those in the second division.

Their fans may not appreciate it but the German capital's second club (behind Hertha) is 1. FC Union Berlin. Based in the old old East Berlin this club has a romantic story as an anti-stasi club during communist era and has had a fantastic reputation as a fan oriented club. After promotion and rebuilding their stadium with supporter labour, the club have acclimatised themselves to the second tier and sit in a relatively stable seventh place as they prepare for the restart.

Prior to the final game of the Hinründe, Union had gone on a five game unbeaten run. This run included a 5-2 thrashing of Hansa Rostock and 4-0 mullering of FSV Frankfurt. Coach Uwe Nuehaus’ has assembled a forward line consisting of the Columbian John Mosquera, who has scored five goals in fifteen games, the Brazilian Silvio (5 in 17) and German, Christopher Quiring who has also score five goals in his seventeen appearances, this season.

But the players may have miss-read their calenders and figured the winter break had come a week early as they were walloped 5-0 by Greuther Furth in the final game before Christmas.

In terms of transfers it has been a quiet few weeks. In fact the only movement has been away from the Stadion An der Alten Försterei when 26 year old striker, Halil Savran, left for Erzgebirge Aue.

Aue (who used to play in Chemnitz, by the way, but that's another story) challenged for a promotion spot last season but tailed off towards the end and finished with nine points away from the third place play off spot. So far this season they are in thirteenth with a forward line that have only mustered just the seven goals between them. Savran’s goal return is less than steller (no goals in five games) but a change is as good as a rest and perhaps the Wiesbaden born “striker” will find his shooting boots at the Erzgebirgstadion.

Two places above Aue in the 2. Bundesliga are Dynamo Dresden, newly promoted with a swanky new stadium, Dynamo represent a brave new future for clubs in the former East Germany. For a club that has spent a very long time in the doldrums, there is a certain reassurance in the unspectacularliness of their season. But let’s not forget that they did for the mighty Bayer Leverkusen in the German Cup First Round after storming back from 3-0 down to win 4-3 after extra time.

As with many clubs associated with the old east Germany, there is a perception that their supporters can be troublesome. This is not necessarily unwarranted. However, the Dresden club are in a position to look forward and after a season of transition, who knows?

Victory against Furth on Friday will take Dynamo above Energie Cottbus, albeit for a day or so, at least. The Brandenburg club were in the first division as recently as 2009. I have fond memories of Dimitar Rangelov occassionally terrorising opposition defenses at the Stadion der Freundschaft. The Bulgarian rejoined Cottbus at the beginning of the season after spending a couple of seasons at Dortmund and Tel Aviv. The return to Energie seems to have energised him and the attacker has scored eight goals so far. They play 1860 Munich on Monday 23rd.

Another former East German club recently in the First Bundesliga is Hansa Rostock. The Hanseatic club were a mainstay in the top division for ten seasons before getting relegated in 2005. They returned for one season in 2007 but financial problems have beset them and they suffered the indignity of relegation to the 3-Liga.

After one season they bounced back but it would appear that their position in the third flight was not false. They are second from bottom on a run of eight games without a win. So far, only right full back, Marek Janecka has joined them during this January from Slovakia. You feel that it will be a long season for the Rostock.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Midweek TV Preview: 16 - 19 January 2012

Monday 16 January

20.00 Wigan Athletic v Manchester City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Bottom hosts top but is this fixture as cut and dried as it appears? City are having a wobble and haven't won away from the Etihad in the League for two months. Wigan of course haven't done much better, hence their position, but they could quite conceivably do enough to snatch a draw here - or get hammered - one of the two.

Tuesday 17 January

19.30 Leicester City v Nottingham Forest, FA Cup 3rd Round Replay, ESPN/ESPN HD
These two ground out a goalless draw at the City Ground and with a home tie against League Two Swindon Town both sides will fancy their chances of prgressing well in the competition. Watch it if East Midland "derbies" are your thing.
20.00 QPR v MK Dons, FA Cup 3rd Round Replay, ITV4/ITV4 HD
Mark Hughes's first game in charge showed promise for QPR fans despite nothing to show for their trip to the Sports Direct Arena. Sparky could be forgiven if he used this match to try out a few things to get to know his squad better and to concentrate on keeping his new side up - but the promise of local rivals Chelsea at home in the next round makes this a must win.

Wednesday 18 January

19.00 Athletic Bilbao v Mallorca, Copa del Rey Quarter Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Wednesday offers an explosion of domestic cup action from across Europe starting in Spain. Athletic are proving hard to beat and have been steadily climbing the table after a shaky start to the season. For the Islanders, the Copa has provided a highlight to an otherwise ordinary campaign. The second legs are next week.
19.45 Wrexham v Brighton , FA Cup 3rd Round Replay, ESPN/ESPN HD/S4C
A cracking cup tie at the Amex should have a worthy sequel here. Victory comes with the added bonus of a very lucrative televised home tie against Newcastle United.
19.45 Dunfermline Ath v Inverness CT, Scottish FA Cup 4th Round Replay, Sky Sports 1/HD1
A Jonny Hayes equaliser five minutes into injury time saved 10 man ICT's place in the Cup. The goal, that came from a fresh air clearance from Dunfermline's stand-in keeper, summed up Athletic's season with just one win in all competitions since August. The winners get plum home tie against Celtic in the Fifth Round.
20.00 Wolves v Birmingham City, FA Cup 3rd Round Replay, ITV1/ITV1 HD
This was an awful game in the original tie and it'll be an awful game this time too. Poor choice, ITV. Winners are away to Sheffield United next round.
20.00 Milan v Novara, Coppa Italia Round of 16, ESPN/ESPN HD
Should be a fairly routine win for Milan against the team that is rooted to the bottom of Serie A. There's an away trip to Lazio in the Quarter finals for the winners.
21.00 Real Madrid v Barcelona, Copa del Rey Quarter Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
These two legs represent the eighth and ninth meeting of these two sides since April. In that run of games, Cristiano Ronaldo's extra time winner in the Final of this competition was Real's only victory. Still, always worth watching.

Thursday 19 January

20.00 Inter v Genoa, Coppa Italia Round of 16, ESPN/ESPN HD
These two met at the San Siro at the same stage last year and battled out a 3-2 home win. Inter went on to win the trophy and in their current form you wouldn't beat against them doing it again (yes, they're a hell of a lot better than the were at the start of the season). Napoli at home is next up in the Quarter Finals.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #223

Given half a chance
The 12 Managers That Didn't Retain Their Role During Their Club's First Season In The Premier League After Promotion

1. Gary Megson (WBA)
Sacked 73 days into the 2004-05 season with the club 15th in the table

2. Brian Little (Leicester City)
Resigned to join Aston Villa 94 days into the 1994-95 season with Leicester 22nd in the table

3. Steve Bruce (Birmingham City)
Resigned to join Wigan 100 days into the 2007-08 season with Birmingham 15th in the table

4. Billy Davies (Derby County)
Left by mutual consent 107 days into the 2007-08 season with the club 20th in the table

5. Chris Hughton (Newcastle United)
Sacked 114 days into the 2010-11 season with the club 11th in the table

6. Roy McFarland (Bolton co-manager)
Sacked 135 days into the 1995-96 season with the club 20th in the table

7. Dave Bassett (Nottingham Forest)
Sacked 143 days into the 1998-99 season with the club 22nd in the table

8. Owen Coyle (Burnley)
Resigned to join Bolton 146 days into the 2009-10 season with the club 14th in the table

9. Neil Warnock (QPR)
Sacked 148 days into the 2011-12 season with the club 17th in the table

10. Roberto di Matteo (WBA)
Sacked 176 days into the 2010-11 season with the club 16th in the table

11. Mick McCarthy (Sunderland)
Sacked 205 days into the 2005-06 season with the club 20th in the table

12. Steve Coppell (Crystal Palace)
Became Director of Football 216 days into the 1997-98 season with the club 20th in the table

Weekend TV Preview 14 - 15 January 2012

Saturday 14 January

12:30 St Johnstone v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, ESPN/HD
The title race between the Old Firm has contained a few twists this season. Ally McCoist’s men recovered from a two-game slump in the last round with 3-0 win against Motherwell. St Johnstone are in decent shape themselves so it’s set up nicely for a close encounter at McDiarmid Park.
17:00 Watford v Reading, npower Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Their last round defeat to Cardiff interrupted an impressive run for Reading and bouncing back against a notoriously truculent Watford will present something of a challenge. Despite their low league position, The Hornets have lost only four times at Vicarage Road.
20:00 Mallorca v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Honoured hero of the tactical revolution, Jonathan Wilson wrote an interesting piece on the rise and fall of football dynasties and speculated that Barcelona may be ever so slightly on the wane. If so then Real Madrid are capitalising and enjoy a five-point gap over their Catalan rivals. Mallorca are fourteenth.
21:00 Valencia v Real Sociedad, Spanish La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Sociedad are unbeaten in six league games yet sit two points above the relegation zone. Now they played third-place Valencia in a fixture that they have not exactly owned down the years.

Sunday 15 January

11:30 Lazio v Atalanta, Serie A, ESPN/HD
Lazio have a resurgent Inter breathing down their necks and are winless in three. Atalanta have only one win in five so a draw would make a reasonable coupon entry.
13:00 Newcastle v QPR, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Shorn of Demba Ba, The Magpies welcome Mark Hughes for his first game as QPR coach. Not quite sure why Hughes is so disliked. While he may have been a bit previous with his departure from a club that erected a statue of Michael Jackson, the fact is he's done a good job at everywhere he's been with the possible exception of City and we all know what happened there.
14:00 Juventus v Cagliari, Serie A, ESPN/HD
There is a cracking title race on the cards in Italy this season, isn’t there? Milan have recovered the ground over the reborn Juve and who is to say that Inter can’t bridge the gap to the top three. This match is the second of a Serie A triple header ending in crucial derby to round off the weekend.
16:00 Swansea v Arsenal, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Swansea’s decent home record and high possession tactics gets a big test against one of the nation’s top teams. One for the purists, yes, but this game may be a bit low on goalmouth action.
19:00 Sporting Gijon v Malaga, Spanish La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Malaga are in a bit of a slump but have an opportunity to regain some momentum against a poor Sporting side.
19:45 Milan v Inter, Serie A, ESPN/HD
The Big One. Locked in a Tevez tug of war off the field and with a little more than civic pride at stake this promises to be close contest and a must watch.
21:00 Barcelona v Real Betis, Spanish La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Home win and a more interesting game on the other side.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Midweek TV Preview: 9 - 12 January 2012

Monday 9 January

19.45 Arsenal v Leeds United, FA Cup Third Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
Victory over Burnley ended a three-game winless streak for Leeds, whose visit to the Emirates will be dominated by the hubbub surrounding returning Arsenal icon Thierry Henry. The Frenchman signed his loan deal in time to be available for tonight's game and will be considered for inclusion by Arsene Wenger.

19.45 Cliftonville v Dungannon Swifts, Irish League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Rodney McAree's Swifts head to Cliftonville as underdogs, with the Reds in third place and the visitors in ninth. But they haven't lost in three matches and currently sit at the top of a four-team pack at the bottom of the table. Cliftonville have scored more goals than any other team in the division this season.

Tuesday 10 January

20.00 Crystal Palace v Cardiff City, Carling Cup Semi-Final First Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
The Carling Cup final on 25th February will involve a Championship side, and these two reached the last four by beating Premier League opponents. Cardiff saw off a poor Blackburn Rovers side, but it was Palace who stole the headlines by defeating Manchester United at Old Trafford.

21.00 Malaga v Real Madrid, Copa del Rey Fifth Round Second Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
A stirring first leg comeback put Real in the driving seat as they travel to Malaga looking for a place in the quarter-finals. After going 2-0 down inside half an hour at the Bernabeu, goals from Sami Khedira, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema gave Jose Mourinho's men the advantage.

Wednesday 11 January

19.45 Manchester City v Liverpool, Carling Cup Semi-Final First Leg, BBC1/BBC1 HD
The big games are coming thick and fast for Manchester City, who follow up Sunday's FA Cup derby game against rivals United with a League Cup semi-final tie against Liverpool. The Reds are subject to more controversy after their FA Cup win over Oldham Athletic which, like any result on Wednesday will be, was achieved without suspended striker Luis Suarez.

21.00 Sevilla v Valencia, Copa del Rey Fifth Round Second Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
This tie is as finely balanced as one could hope. A 1-0 win at home in the first leg gave Valencia a slight advantage ahead of the second, but they face a tricky visit to Sevilla with no margin for error. Alcorcon or Levante await the winners.

Thursday 12 January

21.00 Osasuna v Barcelona, Copa del Rey Fifth Round Second Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Barca are home and dry thanks to a 4-0 victory at the Nou Camp in the first leg, the goals coming from a brace each by Cesc Fabregas and Leo Messi. The reward for Pep Guardiola's side is a last eight clash with either Malaga or Real Madrid.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Weekend TV Preview: 6 - 8 January 2012

Friday 6 January

19.45 Wycombe Wanderers v Huddersfield, League One, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The Terriers are one of the top scoring teams away from home in the league this season and are stingy in defence too. A trip to Adams Park shouldn't hold any fear for them whatsoever.

Saturday 7 January

12.30 Dundee v Kilmarnock, Scottish FA Cup 4th Round, BBC1 Scotland
Dundee went down 4-0 to Motherwell at the same stage of the Cup last January. Hopefully the painful memory of conceding an early goal before the dam burst altogether will give them the necessary experience to hold out a bit longer this time.
12.30 Birmingham City v Wolverhampton Wanderers, FA Cup 3rd Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
Both teams have done far better at home than they have away this season. Coupled with the fact that Birmingham reached the quarter-finals last year, we wouldn't be surprised if one or two of you fancied a little flutter on The Blues to win.
17.30 Bristol Rovers v Aston Villa, FA Cup 3rd Round, ESPN/ESPN HD
A first meeting between these two since they met in the same round of the 1992/93 competition. Rovers took Villa to a replay that season but there shouldn't be any need for that kind of nonsense this time around, eh Villa fans?
19.00 Real Madrid v Granada, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Real looked far from convincing against Malaga in the Copa Del Rey last Tuesday but they won't mind a repeat of that against Granada as long as they can maintain or extend their three point lead at the top of the table.
21.00 Malaga v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Malaga are said to ne considering a bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios. They'll need him if they're serious about a shot at the title or even Europa League football next season.

Sunday 8 January

11.30 Udinese v Cesena, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Draws against rivals Lazio and Juventus have kept Udinese within touching distance of the leaders. Now for an easy home tie against 19th-placed Cesena.
12.45 Arbroath v Rangers, Scottish FA Cup 4th Round, Sky Sports 1/HD1
A reward for gaining their first ever league title before the summer break, this tie against The Gers has thrilled the locals in Arbroath. Up to 6,000 are expected to pack into Gayfield Park and though the outcome is likely to be a win for Ally McCoist's men, the day will really be about The Maroons getting some deserved attention on live TV. We wish them all the best.
13.00 Man City v Man Utd, FA Cup 3rd Round, ITV1/ITV1 HD
The FA Cup is a cruel mistress, and City's first match in their attempt to retain the trophy proves it. Some people are naturally hoping City can repeat their 6-1 win over United, but we won't hear a word of it. We're hoping for seven.
14.00 Atalanta v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
A potentially tricky tie for the league leaders. Atalanta have lost only once in their last 11 games and of those, seven have been draws. Wouldn't be surprised to see another one here.
15.00 Peterhead v Celtic, Scottish FA Cup 4th Round, Sky Sports 1/HD1
To say that Third Division Peterhead will be wary of Celtic's wonderful run of form recently is an understatement. That said, they'll be grateful for the TV money and the chance to show the world what they're really all about, i.e. not being made to feel inferior by their far stronger opponents. May the best team win.
15.30 Peterborough United v Sunderland (Followed by 4th Round Draw), FA Cup 3rd Round, ITV1/ITV1 HD
On paper at least, this has the makings of a cracking tie. Posh are unbeaten in the league since December 10th while Sunderland's new found form under Messiah O'Neill is well documented. One to watch
17.00 Villarreal v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Having sunk alarmingly towards the bottom, the Yellow Submarine attempt to resurface rapidly under the new leadership of Francisco Molina. Defeat against Valencia could see them drop two places to second-bottom, so no pressure, Francisco.
18.45 Real Betis v Sporting, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Sporting Gijon look for their first win over Betis since 1997. Despite the difference of seven places in the table, there's an outside chance they may get it.
20.30 Espanyol v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The World Club champions return to league action with a derby match against an Espanyol side that were unbeaten in four just before Christmas. Since then, however, they've been beaten by Segunda Division Cordoba in the Cup which may give a more accurate insight into the outcome of this match.

Friday List of Little or No Consequence #222

Facts amazing!
27 Statistics Mentioned During The Guardian Football Weekly Podcast of 29 December 2011 (Duration: 38 Minutes 44 Seconds)

1. Two weeks prior to the podcast Manchester City had a goal difference that was 17 better than Manchester United but now it was only five better. (JR)

2. Manchester United have only played two of the top eight teams away from home so far. (SI)

3. Sunderland have lost five of their six games against teams in the top seven of the Premier League. (BG)

4. Dimitar Berbatov has scored 19 goals in his last 13 matches. (JR)

5. All but four of Berbatov’s 19 goals were scored at home. (JR)

6. All of Berbatov’s goals were scored against sides lower in the table than Manchester United. (JR)

7. Swansea City have only lost once against United. (SI)

8. Swansea City have only conceded three goals in nine home games. (BG)

9. Swansea City have only won one game in their last seven. (SI)

10. Between December 26th and 27th 2011, seven of the ten Premier League games were draws of which five finished 1-1. (JR)

11. Every time Liverpool draw at home (with the exception of one game), the opposing goalkeeper has been the Man of the Match. (JR)

12. Chelsea have drawn three games in a row. (JR)

13. Paul Robinson’s save-to-shot ratio is one of the lowest in the Premier League. (MC)

14. Wayne Hennessey has made the most saves in the Premier League this season – 90 – with Brad Friedel second best on 71. (BG)

15. Liverpool have the worst shots-to-goal percentage in the Premier League. (JR)

16. Luis Suarez is the only Liverpool player that’s scored more than two goals this season. (JR)

17. Andy Carroll has only scored twice in 16 games (from nine starts). (SI)

18. Liverpool (17 times) and Newcastle United (12 times) have hit the woodwork most often in the Premier League this season. (BG)

19. Newcastle United got their first win in seven games against Bolton. (JR)

20. Celtic's 1-0 win over Rangers was their ninth consecutive SPL victory. (JR)

21. There’s been a 17-point swing towards Celtic from Rangers since November 5th 2011. (EM)

22. Newcastle United’s record at home and away this season is identical. (SI)

23. QPR are the only side not to have won any of their last six games. (MC)

24. QPR didn’t make any substitutions against Swansea City. (MC)

25. Vic Moses is the top dribbler in the Premier League (JR)

26. Yaya Toure has made the most passes in the Premier League – 1,401 (JR)

27. John Terry is one of only nine players to have passed more than 1,000 times in the Premier League so far and has the second highest success rate. (JR)

JR = James Richardson
MC = Michael Cox
BG = Barry Glendenning
SI = Sean Ingle
EM = Ewan Murray

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Midweek TV Preview: 3 - 5 January 2012

Tuesday 3 January

20.00 Man City v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
City blew the chance to establish some distance between themselves and United thanks to an errant linesman's flag at the Stadium of Light on New Years Day (not to mention 27 failed attempts on goal). Off pitch controversies aside, Liverpool are very dangerous opponents and this match promises to a thunderer, not to be missed.
22.00 Real Madrid v Malaga. Copa Del Rey 5th Round 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
After their break for the festivities, those lazy Spanish return for some domestic cup action. Malaga are the nouveau riche of La Liga and like all recently monied clubs will be anxious for quick silverware to justify their expense. Be interesting to see which team wants this more.

Wednesday 4 January

20.00 Newcastle United v Man Utd, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
Only one win in the last eight for the Toon. A worrying decline that could yet see them embroiled in a relegation scrap before the end of the season. Fortunately, for them they have a great chance to beat a United team that are so bad, they can't even manage as much as a point against Blackburn. *scoff*
22.00 Barcelona v Osasuna, Copa Del Rey 5th Round 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
The visitors are unbeaten in all competitions since they were hammered 7-1 by Real Madrid in November and are having a good season.Their success has not come through sound defensive virtues, however as they are the only team in the top six with a minus goal difference. Keeping things tight at the Nou Camp and bringing them back to their place with a clean sheet will not be part of the plan.

Thursday 5 January

19.30 Cambridge United v Southport, Blue Square Premier League, Premier Sports
Southport may be in fourth place but they were honkered 6-0 at home to table topping Fleetwood Town in their last match. Cambridge are only five points behind.

Finke’s lineage still strong at Freiburg

To use a hackneyed expression it’s all gone Pete Tong at SC Freiburg. Bottom of the table at the Winter Break, listed with another booted out for a breach of club discipline and now, the southern German club have taken the extremely uncommon decision, for them at least, to sack their coach, Marcus Sorg, mid-season.

The year old Sorg’s appointment was consistent with Freiburg’s previous hire, in that they promoted from within. Sorg’s predecessor, Robin Dutt, had replaced long time coach Volker Finke in 2007 and the club’s sporting director, Dirk Dufner, wasted no time in sticking to that policy with the appointment Sorg’s replacement, Christian Streich. SCF are a club in a hurry and at least having made the decision swiftly, Streich has the bulk of the Winter Break to prepare for the second half of the season and work on bringing some new faces into the squad.

The decision to sack Sorg suggests a conviction that the club’s foundations are strong but that their choice of head coach was incorrect or ill timed. Having said that there is no doubt that Sorg had his work cut out for him when he took up the reins, last Summer. For one there is the weight of history to carry. Freiburg is the beneficiary of a legacy left by Volke Finke who managed the club for sixteen years. SCF were a serial second tier club up until his arrival in 1991 (when SCG were in the Bundesliga South division). In 1993 he got the club in to the first division. There they stayed until 2005 with the exception of two relegation seasons in which they bounced back straight away. Their third relegation proved to be Finke’s last as on that occasion they failed to return. Robin Dutt, Finke’s assistant, took over in 2007 and after three near misses, the club returned to a league that, despite their modest size, had become their natural habitat. Under Dutt’s stewardship, SC Freiburg have retained their top flight status, for two seasons.

When Dutt left for Bayer Leverkusen, he took central defender Omer Toprak with him. A key player who has been missed. Indeed, the only significant signing to help bolster the squad was Garra Dembele, a striker from Levski Sofia. If you follow the axiom that playing squads need to be reinforced and refreshed then Sorg received little help. Perhaps it is no surprise then that Freiburg’s form has been wretched with only three wins in the first half of the season. That kind of form is likely to get any coach the sack, even one with such a strong connection with the club as Marcus Sorg.

Christian Streich, like Sorg and Dutt were coaches under Finke and it is understandable that they appoint from within. One can only imagine the difficulties in bringing a coach in from the outside, especially mid season, both to the club and the new coach. If Freiburg are relegated at the end of this season then Streich will be given time in the Second Bundesliga to get them back into the top flight. Dufner is banking on Finke’s lineage being strong enough without having to make radical (not to mention expensive) changes to the coaching structure by bringing in outsiders.

SCF’s return to action on 21st January could not be more tasty. Their opening game is a relegation six pointer with Bundesliga first timers, Augsburg. Central to Streich’s plan for a revival are Papiss Demba Cisse who has scored nine goals this season and at the back, Oliver Baumann in goal who is one of Germany’s more underrated goalkeepers. Look out also for Jan Rosenthal who has struggled with injury but scored on his return to the first team against Dortmund on Matchday 17. His experience, battling against the drop with his previous club, Hannover 96, will be invaluable.

Of equal importance is whether the five transfer listed players can be shifted of the wage bill and replacement brought in during the January transfer window. All being well, the club will start that big game against Augsburg with a refreshed squad and a renewed purpose. Anything less could spell trouble for the club from the Black Forest.