World Cup 2018 and 2022: Why I Think Spain/Portugal and Qatar Win

01 December 2010

On Thursday, Sepp Blatter will announce whose bids will win the FIFA World Cup for 2018 and 2022. (Credit Image: © Imago/ZUMApress.com)
Thursday is D-Day. For seven bids, their hopes of hosting either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup will be gone. However, for two select bids, years of hard work will have paid off. As I've said in the title, my feeling is that the Spain/Portugal bid will win the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with Qatar winning the 2022 World Cup. On 10 am Thursday, we'll see if I'm right.

Why I think the Spain/Portugal bid will win the 2018 FIFA World Cup
When it comes to the 2018 World Cup, it could honestly be the tightest of three horse races this process has ever seen. There is only one bid that I think is dead on arrival: the joint bid from Belgium and Holland. While it would be nice to see Holland one day host a World Cup, trying to negotiate lesser demands from FIFA has finished off this bid. I think when the voting comes, Belgium and Holland are the first to go.
The Spain/Portugal bid has one thing going for them- momentum. It certainly helps to have Spain be the current World Cup champions. It also helps they have done nothing to create massive waves in the manner the media has in almost hijacked the England bid, and the Russian Prime Minister has taken away from Russia's bid.
This joint bid has flown under the radar, mainly because the majority of the people didn't think joint bids had a snowballs chance in hell. However, since Sepp Blatter has done nothing to quell joint bids this go around (as he did during the 2010 bidding process), the other nations made a serious error in judgment.
The kicker for me with regards to Spain and Portugal's bid is they have the right mix of old and new. They have the classic stadiums in the Camp Nou and the Santiago Bernabeu. They also have the stadiums built in Portugal for Euro 2004. With new stadiums to be built in Bilbao, Malaga, and Santander, it will help further the infrastructure for the game in Spain.
It also would unite the entire Iberian Peninsula. It's not often you will ever see anyone say that.

Why I think the Qatar bid will win the 2022 FIFA World Cup
This one is all about one thing: Sepp Blatter's legacy. Sepp Blatter was immensely proud to see the World Cup hosted on the African continent this year. He would also love to see another first time host before he leaves as the head of FIFA. That would leave two choices- Qatar and Australia.
Make no mistake about it, the United States is a serious player in this bid. For sheer stadium size and profit from those stadiums alone, they will make it to the last round of bidding. However, I just don't think the United States will win the 2022 World Cup. I think though the United States will end up with the 2026 World Cup.
Qatar presents many unique challenges for FIFA. It would be the first time the World Cup would be hosted in the Middle East, something that Sepp would love to say he was the first to do. In Qatar's presentation Wednesday, they were quick to present a front to help unite the Middle East. While history would be quick to say that's nigh impossible, I think Qatar's the safest nation in that region to help unite everyone.
It would also be the first time a World Cup would be staged in such a centralized region. With five of the seven host cities within a twenty-five kilometer radius of Doha, and all seven within 100 kilometers, it would present a challenge for the current logistics. However, with the amount of money the government has promised for both stadiums and upgrades to current infrastructure, I don't think this will cause a problem come 2022.
The coolest thing about this World Cup bid is the technology involved in keeping the fan zones and stadiums at a reasonable temperature. With the temperatures in Qatar hovering around the triple digits for most summer days and not getting below 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the evening, this technology is key for providing safety for players, officials, and fan alike in official FIFA areas. Qatar is convinced the technology will work, and by using solar power to keep these areas cool, they promise a carbon neutral World Cup. The promise of that carbon neutral World Cup also helps the bid.
I do feel for South Korea and Japan's bid. South Korea's bid pretty much died with the present uncertainty surrounding the nation politically. During Japan's bid presentation, I couldn't help but feel it was nothing more than an advertisement for Sony. Make no mistake about it, FIFA will find use for the 3D technology promised by Sony in Japan's bid. It's just a pity Japan won't be the host when that technology comes into play.
As for Australia, I think the infighting between the various football codes in the nation is the thing that ultimately ends their hopes. While they came to an agreement now, there's no guarantee they are able to keep that agreement come 2022.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear: as an American, I would love to see the FIFA World Cup come back to the United States. I will be among the first to celebrate should they win the right to host. As I said above, I think the USA is all but a lock for the 2026 World Cup. The only thing that would stop that is if China says they want the World Cup. If that's the case, it could be 2034 before the United States has a shot at the World Cup.

Read more...

BBC Panorama: My Thoughts on World Cup Vote Corruption Show As It Happened

FIFA President Sepp Blatter. (Credit Image: © Imago/ZUMApress.com)
On Monday, much to the chagrin of most on the England World Cup bid committee, the BBC aired a Panorama special over allegations that certain members voting on the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup had taken bribes for their services. With the voting on this set to take place on Thursday, the BBC thought it hit a home run. However, after listening at work to the program on Five Live, I started to think most of this program was a bunch of bull. So I've decided to have a look at this program as it aired.

While the program was only a half an hour in length, I've decided the only way I could give my true feelings on this show was to just hit play, watch what I could, hit pause, and just write. I honestly have no clue how this is going to look when I hit publish, so I apologize in advance. So, what are my thoughts on this Panorama 'special'? Let's take a look.

* First off, let's take a look at the man narrating this programming, Andrew Jennings. Sure, the man has written a book, with alot of allegations and very little concrete evidence, but people everywhere take the man's every word as gospel truth. The first thing I don't want to hear about is how proud you are at the fact you are banned from FIFA House in Zurich. From the way Jennings says this, it makes me think he's boasting like an 8 year old son who think he is doing something right. When he asked those worthless question to security, it made me wonder if he ever was going to ask himself the question 'maybe if I had legit concrete evidence from start to finish they might actually take me seriously.'

* Yes, I could understand why Sepp Blatter was not happy at the press conference aired. While the allegations were proven in video, one is never happy having to make changes to already made plans ahead of time. Now I will grant that Sepp should have treated the situation in a much different way. The answer should have been 'while I am not happy with the manner in which the investigation was done, it did lead to results. I hope we can be more careful in the future with regards to these allegations'. It would have smoothed over the wrinkles for the moment and people would have moved on in a quicker manner. Hell, it may have even prevented this program from being aired. Then again, with Jennings doing anything he can to try and nail these people dead to rights on circumstantial evidence at best, I doubt that would have happened.

* So Andrew Jennings gets a hold of a 'secret document'. He never says what this document is nor where it is from. So it makes me ask the question; how on earth can the BBC do a program that is centered around a document we only know as 'secret'? Oh that's right, it takes an additional 90 second to two minutes before we find out this is from ISL. Wouldn't that information been better off told from the start? Yet the next time the document is named, it's back to 'secret'. Maybe if Jennings told us what this document was in full from the start, it would look a little more credible.

* ISL.. how many times does Andrew Jennings have to go to this? Sure, ISL went to trial in Zug, it's old news. In fact, of the four named on this program, only one was ever mentioned in court.

* Let's start with Senor Leoz, the man who was alleged to have taken 2 payments totally 130,000 dollars. This document shows another 3 totaling another 600,000 dollars. So all we know is money, and it was from this 'secret document'. Nothing more. So basically, you have a 'secret document' that says this man was paid three times totally 600k, and no proof they were a bribe. At this point, it's getting harder for me to take this show seriously. And Jennings, if someone was screaming at me like a mad man from a distance, I'd probably ignore him as well.

* Next we move on to CAF head Issa Hayatou, who has one 'cash payment' on the list for 100,000 French Francs. So this time he gets face to face with no proof, just an allegation. Again, from my vantage point, Jennings looks like a mad man when confronting him. Did you ever think Jennings to attempt to follow a money trail from start to finish with more than just a document? Maybe call around and find out and get further proof before confronting? Yea, that's just not up your ally is it.

* Next we find out about companies on the list based in Lichtenstein. One of those companies, Sicuretta, had 36 payments made to it totally almost 50 million dollars. Another of those companies, Sanud, had 21 payments totaling over 9.5 million dollars. What Jennings has is a 2001 Brazilian Senate investigation on Ricardo Texiera. So instead of Jennings trying to find someone inside Sanud to help him trace the money from Sanud to Texiera, he tries the tact he did with Leoz, failing miserably. 

* We then find out about the Zug ruling, and how Sepp tried to twist it. This was one thing Jennings did get right, mentioning that 'some FIFA officials were investigated and that the issue was settled out of court'. However, that's where my compliments stop. At no point does Jennings attempt to find out who these people are, how much money was paid back, and for what reason that money was paid back. If Andrew Jennings claims to be the man he is, he would have attempted to follow the trail. Instead, this just seems like shoddy reporting from a desperate man.

* Now we meet David Mellor. Just from the reaction I saw from those in the UK on Twitter, they found this hilarious. I only wish I personally had the time to figure out why.

* We finally end with Jack Warner. We get the rehash of his ticket touting escapades in 2006, and then his failed attempt at 2010. However, we already knew this. Thanks again Jennings for rehashing old news. One thing I wish the press would have continued to do was press Blatter for what he meant by 'official channels', instead of asking someone else. At least then, that would have been a story.

* It takes 22 minutes before we finally get something the general public had no prior knowledge of: some of FIFA's government demands for hosting a World Cup.  There are eight of them, ranging from Visa issues, to tax protections, and guarantees that protect their commercial interests. However, we never get a list of what those eight guarantees are. All eight should have been made known.

* We end up with one final rehashing of old news, a payment of 1.5 million Swiss Francs that ended up in FIFA's accounts for Joao Havelange. The money has never been proven to be a bribe, and Jennings just goes off half cocked trying to get the answers he wants. Again, this tact is laughable at best.

* The show closes with an open and honest question: is it time for people to start demanding FIFA to investigate everything? Look, everyone wants a clean FIFA. However, as much as we would like to believe everything is perfect, it's not. Hell, let's look at what England did in hopes of getting Jack Warner's vote. Does anyone forget that friendly England had in Trinidad in 2008?

The reality is everyone makes deals in major business. The issue is if these deals are not made on the up and up. All everyone is asking for is full disclosure. That's not a difficult request. However, going about it in the manner in which Andrew Jennings did in this program only makes one question how serious he is about actually uncovering the truth.

When this show was over, I was angry that I wasted a half hour to only get about 3 minutes of material we didn't know before. The one document this show centered around was not vetted in the manner I expect an investigative reporter to do. If Jennings wanted a story, he would have followed the money trail to it's conclusion, instead of screaming at men from a distance acting like a fool who looked past his prime.

Read more...

Premier League Thoughts: Blackpool Blow it, West Ham Finally Perform, Berbatov Wakes Up For A Game

27 November 2010

Owen Coyle wasn't happy early, but he was happy late as Bolton came back to draw Blackpool 2-2. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Bolton have been a joy to watch this season. I know that's not exactly an earth shattering statement, but it can't be emphasized enough. However, the question isn't how much fun their football has been to watch, but how much fight this side now has. The one thing about Bolton that I feel hasn't gotten enough attention this season was their fightback. They don't know when they're down. Against Birmingham City earlier this season, they came back from a 2-0 deficit to draw 2-2. And again today, they did the exact same thing.

Today, Bolton should have been done and dusted down 2-0. Blackpool were creating plenty of chances to kill the game off, but failing to put anything on frame. Once Petrov pulled one back with 20 to play, you just knew that Blackpool would wilt again. Bolton's equalizer exemplified the football they have played all season: short passes in and around the 18 with a run from midfield finishing the move. Even with Blackpool camping 8 behind the ball, they couldn't do a thing to stop it. It shouldn't be a surprise though; it was the fifth time that's happened this season.

We all know Blackpool love to attack thanks to Ian Holloway. After being one of the more negative managers tactically, he said screw it with this Blackpool side, and it shows. About the only team who has been more open than Bolton this season has been this Blackpool bunch. With their 90 minute attack like your life depends on it policy, it's been attractive on the eyes, and even pleasant on the points table, but it's also cost them as well.

With quotes like "I believe that playing like that will get us more points than it loses us", it makes me wonder if Blackpool will survive the season. Already in 15 games, Blackpool have dropped 8 points from winning or drawing positions this season (dropping two points in games with Fulham, Everton, and Bolton, while dropping one point in games with Blackburn and Aston Villa). Sure they have 19 points right now, but when they face opponents a second time around, they are not going to have it as easy as they have up until this point. Unless Ian Holloway spends just a little time on defensive lines, Blackpool will end up in the Championship. It would be a pity as we wouldn't get to see the football they play, but they'd only have themselves to blame for not defending better. While it's more realistic they stay up this season, with Blackpool's defending, that's still not a guarantee.

Other thoughts on games I've seen today.

* There was a brief moment of 'here we go again' when Arsenal saw Aston Villa pull one back early to start the second half, but Aston Villa don't have the talent Tottenham do. Even at 3-2, I never felt for a second Villa would come back. While Houllier is still trying to find out which players fit his system, it's just apparent that the team just isn't as strong as they have been over the last couple of years.

* West Ham United looked dead and buried for the better part of the opening half hour in their game against Wigan. However, once they took the lead, it was Wigan that looked devoid of ideas. While this is a nice mental win for West Ham, they have two tough matches to come, traveling to Sunderland and hosting Manchester City. It could quickly be another case of one step forward, three steps back.

* Blackburn Rovers were a joke today. Honestly, Blackburn Rovers would have been turned over by Dover Athletic or York City (non league winners in the FA Cup 2nd Round Proper). Berbatov's five goals maybe forgotten by Monday morning, but he was sensational. While Wayne Rooney didn't have to do much, he did set up Park well for the second goal. What's the most impressive about this result is that it now erases the goal differential Chelsea had.

What are your thoughts on the games on Saturday? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more...

Intemperate Thoughts: ESPN Spoiler Crybabies

20 November 2010

Paragraph two of this piece finally was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. It was yet another asinine American Premier League blogger crying like an eighteen month old who was told they couldn't get their favorite candy bar in the checkout line. Why? It was because of the fact ESPN actually did its job while broadcasting their game in the round and inform their viewers of the scores from elsewhere. After having to deal with the whaling and gnashing of teeth from bloggers, and reading the comments from readers for a third of a season, I've finally had enough. In fact, I've got just one simple thing to say to them, SHUT UP!

Where do I start with these folks? Mind you, these are the same folks who, in a time not too long ago, were begging ESPN to take some games off FSI, and even Setanta. They got their wish when Setanta went out of business and ESPN helped FSI out with the contract. For those who think HD is the greatest thing since sliced bread, they even got their wish thanks to this. But that's where the compliments ended.

Last season it started with the fact the ESPN bottom line didn't go away for entire matches at a time. Then it was the fact the halftime presentation was awful, which at the time it was. Thankfully ESPN quickly rid America of the root cause and, while not spectacular, was respectable the rest of the season.

Moving onto this season, ESPN got mixed reviews for hiring one of their brighter spots to their World Cup coverage in Ian Darke. They also started doing their own production from Premier League grounds around the country, which no one had complaints about that. However, the one thing people can't stand (or so it seems), is ESPN having a traditional 10 am game. Maybe not that in particular, but something ESPN has done for years, and will continue to do until every generation in the future dies: give away scores from games they are not doing live.

When ESPN agreed to sublet rights from Fox Sports International, ESPN wanted and received the first choice game at 10 am whenever there was no Saturday lunchtime kickoff. They also got first choice whenever midweek games came about. They did it knowing they would get the game that would attract the most eyes. It also meant that unless one of the Fox Soccer Channels was going to show the game from the team you support, you were more than likely going to watch the game on offer from ESPN.

The reality is that in these situations, there are going to be multiple games going on at the same time. It's unavoidable, it's not tragic, and it doesn't require one to set up multiple triggers just to avoid scores ESPN gives out during telecasts. Look, if your watching the game on ESPN, it means that game was the highest priority live. In today's day and age of instant everything, unless you decide to live the life of the Amish during match days, avoiding scores is simply impossible. If you feel the need to sink to shallow depths to watch the ESPN game last because of spoilers, please don't hesitate to also stick your pacifier in your mouth and pour your pint into a sippy cup. We get it: your going to whine and that's never going to change. You think ESPN can only broadcast a game one way and if it's not done that way, your going to kick, shout, and scream until they do things your way. Well toddlers, that's not how life in broadcasting works.

You wanted ESPN, and you got it. Just one last message to these crybabies: please come back to the real world. We'd all appreciate it.

Read more...

Premier League Preview: Chelsea Look to Make it Four in a Row Against Arsenal

01 October 2010

Could Drogba be doing this on Sunday? This was Chelsea's opener against Arsenal from February. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)
While this weekend is all about the battle at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, there are still a few intriguing storylines out there in this weekend's Premier League matches. Can Everton go on the road and break Birmingham City's home non losing streak? Can West Ham win two London derbies in a row?

Please note that all times are Eastern and TV schedule is subject to change.

Saturday 7:45 am: Wigan Athletic v Wolverhampton Wanderers (Live on ESPN3.com). There’s only one reason this game was moved from Monday night to the early Saturday morning kickoff spot…so Sky can have programming that helps them meet quota while the Ryder Cup is going on. So if Sky feel like this game should be thrown behind a barrier, and ESPN don’t have the decency to broadcast it (but instead throw it on broadband), why should we care. Either way, Wigan can’t defend and Wolves can’t hold a lead. Prediction: Wigan Athletic 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1.

Saturday 10:00 am
Birmingham City v Everton (Live on FoxSoccer.tv. On delay, FSC 12:00 pm)
: For a team who is still looking for a win, the last side Everton would want to face is one that hasn’t lost at home in 18. However, there is some hope for them against Birmingham City, as they have only scored 2 goals at home this season, with their last two home fixtures ended 0-0. With leading goal scorer Craig Gardner out, I think we’ll see the third consecutive nil-nil draw at St. Andrews this season. Prediction: Birmingham City 0 Everton 0.

Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers (Live on FoxSoccer.tv, On delay FS+ 4 pm): If Blackburn could get off to a fast start, something Stoke City have no idea how to do, they could enjoy their day out. The Potters players are still trying to adjust to their new style of play, and in a game like they will have this weekend, it might be best to revert to their old ways. If there’s one thing we can expect from this game, it’s plenty of tackling. I don’t think Stoke come back from another halftime deficit. Prediction: Stoke City 1 Blackburn Rovers 2.

Sunderland v Manchester United (Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com): I think Sunderland’s luck of their last two results come back to haunt them here. With Rio Ferdinand more than likely getting a start, don’t expect United to leak the goals they did while he was out. Prediction: Sunderland 0 Manchester United 2

Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa (Live on FSC): Ledley King or not, this should be a fun match. Spurs are riding a Champions League high, while Villa are riding the new manager high. This fixture has a history of draws, but with Villa having to play in two tricky matches in a row away from home, I think that’s enough of a difference. Expect Van der Vaart to play like a man possessed, and possibly get a goal or two. Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2 Aston Villa 0.

West Bromwich Albion v Bolton Wanderers (Live on FoxSoccer.tv. On delay, FS+ on Sunday 10:30 am): West Brom have played exceptional football at the Hawthorns this season. With Owen Coyle’s attacking style failing them away from the Reebok Stadium, I think West Brom continues to fly. Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 2 Bolton Wanderers 1.

West Ham United v Fulham (Live on FS+ and FoxSoccer.tv): Fulham are the ultimate mystery. Mark Hughes has not had a full compliment of healthy strikers all season long, yet have yet to lose a game. West Ham United deserved their three points against Tottenham, but I have no faith in them making it two in a row. I would not be shocked if Clint Dempsey scores a goal here that all of us collective go WTF. Prediction: West Ham United 0 Fulham 1.

Sunday 8:30 am: Manchester City v Newcastle United (Live on FS+ and FoxSoccer.tv). On the day Andy Carroll probably gets called into England’s senior side, I expect him to have his worst Premier League performance this season. With Manchester City’s stifling defense, I don’t expect him to have any chances on goal. I think Adebayor will also come into the fray here and show his worth to Roberto Mancini. Prediction: Manchester City 3 Newcastle United 0.

Sunday 10:00 am: Liverpool v Blackpool (Live on FoxSoccer.tv, on delay, FSC 5:00 pm). There’s no way Blackpool can get a point at Anfield…right? With the way Liverpool’s been playing this season, it’s possible. Add to the fact that Liverpool produced another lifeless performance on Thursday, mixed with Ian’s belief, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility Blackpool could get three. The problem with this is, whenever I think something along these lines, the favored side usually wins 1-0. I’m thinking that happens here when Gerrard finds Torres to take all three points. Prediction: Liverpool 1 Blackpool 0.

Sunday 11:00 am: Chelsea v Arsenal (Live on FSC). So the big one on Ryder Cup Sunday happens at Stamford Bridge. Both sides are coming off identical weeks where they lost their last league match, and then had convincing Champions League performances. The only difference in the preparation is Carlo Ancelotti had to miss the last half of the week after the death of his father.

Arsenal are a walking wounded right now, with six different first team players out for Sunday. Lukasz Fabianski will be in the sticks for Arsenal, something that should worry them. While he had a good performance against Partizan Belgrade, he will be dealing with a different class of striker here. Make no mistake about it though, Chelsea aren’t fully fit either. If Arsenal was smart, they would make Ramires’s job difficult. In replacing Lampard against City, he was by far Chelsea’s worst player.

In truth, this match boils down to if Chamakh or Drogba has the better day up front. This will be Chamakh’s first great test in a Premier League match, and his pace could cause Chelsea’s center backs problems. If Chelsea’s spacing is spot on against him, I think Chelsea ends up neutralizing him out of the match. With Didier Drogba facing a center back partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci, he won’t have as easy a time as he did in the last three meetings. The one thing that will be to Drogba’s advantage is that Arsenal’s center backs have not had to deal with someone of Drogba’s size and strength in the Premier League to date.

When it’s all said and done, while Drogba will not have an easy day up front, with the help of Anelka, and even Kakuta off the bench, there will be enough for Chelsea up front to wreck havoc. Since Scolari was sacked by Chelsea, this fixture has not been a competitive one. While Arsenal will get closer to competitive in this match, with the combination of Chelsea's home form right now and the shaky keeper situation at Arsenal, it all equals another comfortable Chelsea win. Prediction: Chelsea 2 Arsenal 0.

How do you see this weekend's action in the Premier League shaping out? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more...

Bundesliga Preview: Can Mainz Tie History And Extend Lead at the Top?

Mainz head coach Thomas Tuchel smiles during a press conference on Thursday. Mainz is surprisingly topping the Bundesliga table undefeated and faces TSG Hoffenheim on Saturday. (Credit Image: © DPA/ZUMApress.com)
I would like to take this moment to air my contempt of both GolTV and ESPN right now. There have only been two other times in the history of the Bundesliga that we have seen a team start the season 7-0-0, and neither network felt it was necessary to show potential history in the making. Sure, you can say I’m biased when it comes to Mainz, but all I’m saying is: when history can be made, you have to show it. Considering their opposition, it should be an open contest. If results go in Mainz’s favor this weekend, they could end up with a 5 point lead atop the table.

Friday 2:30 pm (Live on GolTV): Hannover 96 v St. Pauli. With Carsten Rothenbach injured and out for St. Pauli, the right of the park is completely exposed for Hannover to exploit. They should be able to do so with ease. Prediction: Hannover 2 St. Pauli 0.

Saturday 9:30 am
Borussia Monchengladbach v Wolfsburg:
Gladbach give up goals for fun, and with Wolfsburg getting back into the groove of things after their early season start, I think this will be a no contest. Prediction: Borussia Monchengladbach 0 Wolfsburg 2.

Hamburg v Kaiserslautern (Live on GolTV): Considering both teams lack of defending, this should be a very open affair. However, Kaiserslautern’s attack has faltered since starting the season so brightly. Hamburg’s got the experience to take advantage, and I expect them to do so here. Prediction: Hamburg 3 Kaiserslautern 1.

Mainz v Hoffenheim
: If you follow my twitter account, you know I have no problem in not hiding my love for Mainz. What has been amazing about them this season is they have defended brilliantly (save one moment of stupidity against Bayern Munich), and attacked with purpose. When teams throw wave after wave forward, Mainz has almost perfectly connected the dots in the counter attack. The other impressive thing about Mainz is they have been able to score in a variety of ways.
I hate to be so blunt about Hoffenheim, but it’s been the same old story with them. They love to attack, score goals in bunches, but their defending lets them down in critical situations. Against an in form Mainz side, away from home, I think that costs Hoffenhaim in the end. That’s right, the eternal pessimist when it comes to the clubs I support is actually going to predict Mainz starts the season 7-0-0. Prediction: Mainz 2 Hoffenheim 1.

Nurnberg v Schalke: Schalke have had more than their fair share of problems getting this season started. Their defending abandoned them at critical moments, and their attack failed miserably when having to come from behind. Nurnberg don’t have the greatest of attacks, but they have defended very well. All signs point to a draw here, but I think Schalke’s got just enough class, and confidence, to pull through. Prediction: Nurnberg 0 Schalke 1.

Freiburg v Koln: Koln keep losing strikers, with Sebastian Freis being the latest one who won’t be available. Considering Koln haven’t been hitting the back of the net already, I think Freiburg’s surprising start to this season continues with another win. Prediction: Freiburg 1 Koln 0.

Sunday 9:30 am (Live on ESPN3.com): Stuttgart v Eintracht Frankfurt. Make no mistakes about this one, it will be ugly. Stuttgart are a mess, and Eintracht Frankfurt have had their fair share of screw-ups that have cost them at least six points. I’m still sticking to my guns with regards to Stuttgart, though I would not be surprised if this game ended in a 1-1 draw. Prediction: Stuttgart 1 Eintracht Frankfurt 2.

Sunday 11:30 am
Bayer Leverkusen v Werder Bremen
: Both sides form coming out of European competition is weighing heavily on my mind. Bayer gave up six to Gladbach and drew 0-0 to Nurnberg in the following fixture after playing in the Europa League, while Bremen have lost to Hoffenheim and Mainz immediately after Champions League play. When it’s all said and done, I think a score draw is appropriate. Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 1 Werder Bremen 1.

Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich (Live on ESPN3.com): Bayern Munich have not lost to Dortmund since 2007. However, since the loss of Ribery, Bayern Munich have looked an even worse mess. There is hope for Bayern Munich though, as Dortmund did not have a great European adventure. I think Bayern Munich pull off the same theft they did in their wins against Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim to steal another three points. Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 0 Bayern Munich 1.

What do you think will happen this weekend in the Bundesliga? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more...

Wednesday Morning Attack: Quick Champions League Thoughts, Holloway, Attwell, and More

29 September 2010

JOHN TERRY (R) celebrates with GAEL KAKUTA after scoring the first goal for Chelsea against Olympique Marseille. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com
Thoughts on Premier League and Bundesliga sides in the Champions League on Tuesday
* I was impressed with how Chelsea rode Marseille's early storm, and in the end finished off the French side with ease. It didn't hurt Chelsea that John Terry's flick on goal from an awful corner kick had the benefit of an open near post. When will managers and players alike learn that until the danger is completely cleared, the player needs to still be glued on the crossbar.

* Bayern Munich were very lucky in my mind to escape Basel with three points. Frei's opener for Basel was such a thing of beauty. Van Gaal has to figure out how to get more creativity from the players he has available to him. Right now, they are proving too much they are a two man show. There's only one problem with that: those two men are injured.

* Arsenal had an easier time than I expected them to have in Belgrade. It didn't hurt that Partizan stupidly had a man sent off. After that, it was curtains. This was a much needed boost in the arm heading to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Other Thoughts
* John Terry admitted after Chelsea's Champions League tie that the team took their foot off the gas in the second half. It only confirms to me what I've been thinking of their performances since week three of the season: once they get up by a comfortable enough margin, they mentally check out of games. One of these days, it will bite them in the backside.

* Ian Holloway was charged by the FA on Tuesday with improper conduct. At least he admitted he knew he was going to be in trouble in his post match press conference on Saturday. The sad thing is, you would think he'd know better. Even with a guilty plea, something tells me he's going to be sitting three matches out for his moment of stupidity.

* I knew it wouldn't be too long before we'd got an official stance on Stuart Attwell's assignment as a fourth official this weekend. Their claims that he was always assigned to fourth official duties this weekend just reeks of convenience. While I understand not wanting to make the man in the middle known until a few days before, how difficult would it be for the FA to think 'well the fourth official doesn't do much to influence the outcome of a match...why not announce them a few weeks in advance'? I know, I'll break out my pipe and smoke it. That's not happening any time soon.

* A couple of injury updates to close. We know Wayne Rooney will miss three weeks with his ankle injury. Hopefully he can also get his head straight in the meanwhile and find his form as well. And in what could be a boost for Manchester City, Mario Balotelli could be back by December.

Read more...

Tuesday Morning Attack: Vidic States Obvioius, Ancelotti's Faith, Injuries, and More

28 September 2010

* Nemanja Vidic admits that Manchester United's defending is a worry. Thanks for telling us what everyone has already thought out loud. What's sad is, I really wonder if Rio Ferdinand returning from his injury woes would instantly help? Based on what we've seen so far, until Rio comes back, this will be the status quo.

* Carlo Ancelotti insists Chelsea's rookies are ready for the big stage. Well if the rookies are mixed with a great dose of regular starters, I'd be willing to concur with him. However, if it's like the team we saw against Newcastle United, there's no faith in the world that should convince him they are completely ready to hang in one of the biggest competitions in the world.

* Wenger wants Fabianski to step up. Wenger would love any goal keeper that would cost him nothing but weekly wages to step up. However, if Almunia is hurt, this is just stating the obvious. Wenger needs to spend some of that post tax profit the club will have left over and at least go keeper hunting. If he doesn't, they may not even win the League Cup.

* So Dirk Kuyt is saying that it just isn't Fernando Torres that's not happy right now at Anfield; no one is. That's what happens when a club drops alot of points in a row. Honestly, other than rehashing the usual lines, I don't see what would start making people around there happy.

* Here's the  long laundry list on injury updates from this weekend. The two obvious ones are Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard, who won't be playing in the Champions League midweek. Rooney's ankle is injured again, while Frank Lampard still hasn't recovered from the magic German hernia operation. Other Champions League casualities are Manuel Almunia, who is recovering from an injured elbow, and William Gallas, who will be out for three weeks because of an injured groin.

In a case of good news, bad news, and worse news, it's good news for Ricardo Fuller. Scans revealed Fuller did not break his shoulder, but that he only separated it on Sunday. The last time he separated his shoulder, he only missed one game. The international break will more than likely mean he'll only miss one game due to this injury. In the bad news department, Roberto Martinez is worried he's going to lose Franco Di Santo for a lengthy spell of time after an ankle injury on Saturday. In worse news, Wolves look set to be without Adlene Guedioura for up to six months after breaking his leg on Sunday.

Read more...

Premier League Preview: Manchester City and Chelsea Highlight The Weekend's Action

24 September 2010

Things won't be as testy as the non handshake between John Terry and Wayne Bridge last season when Chelsea travel to Eastlands Saturday. Credit Image: © Alan Walter/Daily Mail/ZUMA Press)
This weekend's Premier League action is highlighted by the early kickoff at Eastlands between Manchester City and Chelsea, but also sees two local derbies as well. With Champions League coming up midweek, and teams looking to respond from their results from the Carling Cup, their is an even greater chance at a couple of shock results.

Note all times are Eastern and the TV schedule is subject to change without notice.

Saturday 7:45 am: Manchester City v Chelsea (Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com). The game of the weekend is the first one this weekend, as Chelsea look to rid the ghosts of last season when Manchester City did the double over Chelsea. Chelsea look set to be without Kalou and will be without Lampard for this lunchtime kickoff. John Terry will more than likely replace Ivanovic in central defense, and I would expect Anelka to also come into the squad. I would expect Roberto Mancini to play the same squad that picked up a 2-0 victory at Wigan last Sunday.

Manchester City’s biggest concern is up front. The lost of faith in every striker other than Carlos Tevez has been baffling to say the least. This side has missed more than their fair share of chances this season, and did not look all that impressive in their last home match against Blackburn. Joe Hart, while allowing only two goals so far this season, has previously shown he’s not against making a big mistake.

If you’re a Chelsea fan, the biggest worry you have to have is that Chelsea are already looking at the two fixtures to come: Marseille in the Champions League midweek before Arsenal next Sunday. While this is the first big ‘test’ as many have called this, I seriously wonder how much of a test this is. Sure, they don’t want to drop points ahead of their match with Arsenal, but I think that’s when their big test truly will be.

When it’s all said and done, I think Chelsea will have just enough to see off Manchester City. Drogba and Malouda are in fine form right now. Ramires has shown a competent replacement for Lampard. The only worry on the pitch for Chelsea is Jon Obi Mikel, and his propensity for red card tackles. If I was Mancehster City, I’d do my best to exploit that. I think Chelsea will get the opener before halftime, and with City having to break out of it’s shell, countered for a second before Tevez makes the last five minutes interesting. Prediction: Manchester City 1 Chelsea 2.

Saturday 10:00 am
Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion (Live on Fox Soccer Channel)
: West Brom have not scored away from home so far this season, while Arsenal have scored ten already at home. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who wins this. The only question is by how many. Prediction: Arsenal 3 West Bromwich Albion 0.

Birmingham City v Wigan Athletic (Live on FoxSoccer.tv, On delay Fox Soccer Channel 5:00 pm)
: Was Wigan’s previous away fixture a fluke? I think so. Birmingham City have the patience to break down Wigan’s defense, and roll out comfortable winners. Prediction: Birmingham City 1 Wigan Athletic 0.

Blackpool v Blackburn Rovers (Live on FoxSoccer.tv)
: I’d like Ian Halloway to define the words ‘heated debate’. After being whipped by Chelsea 4-0 inside the first 45 minutes at Stamford Bridge, they played much better against a more than disinterested Chelsea in the second half. Blackburn’s direct nature may give Blackpool problems, but I think Blackpool will find a way to pick up yet another point. Prediction: Blackpool 1 Blackburn Rovers 1.

Fulham v Everton (Live on FoxSoccer.tv, On delay Fox Soccer Plus 4:00 pm): I think Fulham’s an attacking injury too far to pick up a point. I also don’t see this game ending nil-nil. I think this is the match that starts to steady the ship for Everton. Prediction: Fulham 0 Everton 1.

Liverpool v Sunderland (Live on Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv): I think Roy Hodgson is very sincere in his apology to Liverpool supporters after being embarrassed by Northampton Town. I also think Liverpool will take out their frustration on Sunderland in this one. Prediction: Liverpool 2 Sunderland 0.

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur (Live on FSE and FoxSoccer.tv. On Fox Soccer Channel at Noon): West Ham have had a good week that saw them pick up their first league point and advance in the Carling Cup. While Tottenham have not been all that impressive so far this season, they should have no problems seeing off West Ham. However, if Harry gets too worried about the Champions League midweek, things will get harrier than they ever have the right to be. Prediction: West Ham United 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2.

Sunday 7:00 am: Bolton Wanderers v Manchester United (Live on Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv)
. Owen Coyle will try and play a little football against Manchester United on Sunday, and get burned badly for it. Last season this game ended 4-0 to Manchester United, and while I don’t see that as the full time score, it won’t be far off the mark. Prediction: Bolton Wanderers 0 Manchester United 3.

Sunday 9:05 am: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa (Live on Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv). Nothing like a tough physical derby to get the juices flowing on a Sunday. Wolves will provide plenty of tackling, Villa players will be still looking to impress Houllier, and I think the result will be Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Aston Villa 1.

Sunday 11:10 am: Newcastle United v Stoke City (Live on Fox Soccer Channel). Newcastle United are on a high that they won't be coming off of against Stoke City. I think Andy Carroll is going to have some fun with Stoke’s defense. Prediction: Newcastle United 2 Stoke City 1.

How do you see this weekend shaking out in the Premier League? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more...

Bundesliga Preview: Mainz Travel to Munich With History On Their Mind

23 September 2010

Mainz continue to top the Bundesliga, but for how long? (Credit Image: © Imago/ZUMApress.com)
After a full slate of fixtures midweek, the Bundesliga returns this weekend with the table slowly starting to sort itself out. However, it's still a little unfamiliar at the top. With teams starting to get into the groove of season play, one wonders how much longer teams like Mainz and Borussia Dortmund will occupy top of the table positions.

All times are Eastern and TV is subject to change without notice.

Friday 2:45 pm: Koln v Hoffenheim (Live on GolTV). Hoffenheim have started their slide after another bright start to the season, while Koln are just looking for a spark to get their season back on track. If Koln can get forward and help Podolski in the attack, something they have not been all that successful at doing so far, they have a chance. In the end, I think Hoffenheim will get back on track. Prediction: Koln 1 Hoffenheim 2.

Saturday 9:30 am
Bayern Munich v Mainz (Live on GolTV)
: The record for most consecutive wins to start a season in the Bundesliga is seven (Bayern Munich in 1995 and Kaiserslautern in 2001), something that isn’t lost on the Mainz manager heading into the Allianz Arena. I won’t lie, if this match was being held after Bayern Munich’s uninspired performance last Saturday, I’d give Mainz a legitimate shot at picking up all three points. However, after Bayern Munich’s victory midweek, I think Mainz’s perfect start ends here. Don’t give me wrong, Mainz will force FC Bayern to work for it, but they will pull it out in the end. Prediction: Bayern Munich 2 Mainz 1.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Nurnberg: This is going to be ugly, uninspired, and devoid of goals. I don’t say this often, but you may want to even avoid the highlights of this one. Frankfurt have already shipped 4 goals in their two home losses, but Nurnberg are more than content to play for the draw. That won’t change here. Prediction: Eintracht Frankfurt 0 Nurnberg 0.

Schalke 04 v Borussia Monchengladbach
: Schalke got it’s first win midweek at Freiburg. With the way Borussia Monchengladbach are shipping goals right now, I think it’s safe to say Schalke make it two in a row. Prediction: Schalke 3 Borussia Monchengladbach 1.

St. Pauli v Borussia Dortmund: I wish St Pauli supporters could finally have a winning home performance, but it won’t be against on song Borussia Dortmund. They will crack St. Pauli’s defense early in this one, and pick them apart on the counter once they do so. Prediction: St. Pauli 0 Borussia Dortmund 3.

Stuttgart v Bayer Leverkusen: I hate to be so cruel to Stuttgart, but I have to be: until you can prove you can prevent a side not named Borussia Monchengladbach from scoring goals, don’t expect me to pick you to win. While I don’t think Bayer Leverkusen will have an easy day out, they will walk out with three points. Prediction: Stuttgart 0 Bayer Leverkusen 2.

Saturday 12:30 pm: Werder Bremen v Hamburg (Live on ESPN3.com). The only defense that’s shipped more goals in the first five rounds of the Bundesliga then Werder Bremen is Gladbach. While Bremen’s defense isn’t that bad, it isn’t that much better. The only thing that will save Bremen further embarrassment is the fact Hamburg likes to keep things close to the vest. Prediction: Werder Bremen 0 Hamburg 1.

Sunday 9:30 am: Wolfsburg v Freiburg. Steve McClaren has finally ironed out the wrinkles to the system he is playing with at Wolfsburg. That will help them continue to move up the table, along with Freiburg’s continued slide downward. Prediction: Wolfsburg 3 Freiburg 1.

Sunday 11:30 am: Kaiserslautern v Hannover (Live on ESPN3.com). This could possibly be the most open game of the weekend. Both sides love to attack, and both sides have shipped their share of goals in the process. However, Kaiserslautern still have too many weaknesses in their defending that Hannover should be able to exploit. Prediction: Kaiserslautern 2 Hannover 3.

How do you think this weekend in the Bundesliga will go? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more...

Manchester United's New Contract Policy is All Hype and Hypocrisy

Will Sir Alex Ferguson have a new contract policy for his players to deal with? I don't think so. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)
Being the current owners of Manchester United can't be easy. For starters, most of your fans just don't like you. They protested like hell last year in a failed attempt to get you to sell the club. After a head scratching signing of Bebe this past summer, United then announced they did not sell the amount of season tickets they would have liked to. To add icing to the cake, on Tuesday, the Guardian announced Manchester United's new contract policy. Reading the story, there's only one thing I have to ask: could this be the biggest non story of the week?

While the policy looks clear on the surface, (all new player contracts will be done a year out instead of two years out), the story itself doesn't take five paragraphs to show that this isn't going to be a hardened rule. Being flexible with a policy of this nature could result in dividing the dressing room. With it out in the open already that the club is looking to lock Wayne Rooney into a long term deal that would take him past 2012, and other key names like Berbatov, Fletcher, Carrick, and Park Ji-Sung having contracts expiring in 2012, now isn't the time to be picking favorites to be doing contract negotiations with this.

Knowing historically that transfer fees diminish as the contract gets closer to expiring, along with players thinking they are worth much more than the club believe, says this has the propensity to backfire in the worst way possible. With agents knowing this policy, they will demand higher wages to keep the player at Old Trafford, while starting to work on backdoor deals for his player elsewhere.

While Manchester United is a desired destination, the tax rate in the country for highly paid people will start to make it a less desirable destination as these players can make more money elsewhere. With the media having no problem making public who's contracts are being worked on, players will not be happy knowing which guys are having their deals worked out earlier than the twelve month threshold. Those type of small divisions could potentially grow into gaping cracks in a hurry. Also, if players won't sign a new deal twelve months out, the club won't make much money on potential transfer fees.

However, where the hypocrisy in all of this comes into play is that we're already less than 2 years out of these contracts expiring. While Wayne Rooney's contract was already being discussed, no one knows if other contracts have been discussed already. Also, new contracts are generally worked out 12-18 months out in the first place. That way the club has some wiggle room if they don't want to sign to ship them out.

In truth, this new policy is all hype and no substance. What they basically are saying is 'most deals will now be done 12 months out, the rest will be done as per the old status quo'. For a club like Manchester Untied, I also can't see how this is much of a big deal in the first place. They know what players will stay, what players they will ship out, and which ones they have tagged for the future. In the end, it's a policy that they would have been better off keeping to themselves.

Read more...

Is it Time For David Moyes to Leave Everton?

21 September 2010

Everton manager David Moyes. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)
...to give a non committal answer, it might be.

It has not been the greatest of starts at Goodison Park this season. Currently, only West Ham United are below Everton in the Premier League table, and they are the only other Premier League club without a league victory. You can also add to that list third round victims of the Carling Cup, after they went out to League One Brentford tonight on penalties. Brentford are 44 places below Everton in the league

Since taking over for Walter Smith in 2002, Moyes's league form has stabilized, but his cup competition form has pretty much stayed the same. After guiding Everton away from the relegation zone in 2002, he has seen finishes of 7th, 17th, 4th, 11th, 6th, then back to back 5th place finishes, before finishing eighth last season. At the same time, Everton have only advanced past the fourth round of the FA Cup twice, and past the fourth round of the League Cup once.

Moyes in the transfer market has been good at buying, but not the greatest at selling. Until the financial situation turned for the worse at Everton this summer, Moyes has done a good job picking up players that have served their purpose for a time, including Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta, Phil Jagielka, Dan Gossling, Marouane Fellaini, and Diniyar Bilaletdinov. What's telling about his purchases are that a good percentage of the names are still with the club today. However, he's only been able to sell off Andrew Johnson, Wayne Rooney, and Joleon Lescott for over ten million Euros, and only six others for over 2.5 million.

What makes me think it's time for Moyes and Everton to mutually part ways is because, unless there is a sudden influx of cash from a very wealthy owner, I just don't see Moyes being able to take Everton higher than seventh in the table. As we've already seen with this year's League Cup, the secondary trophies aren't high on the manager's priority list. The slow starts over the past two seasons are also not helping him. While Everton were able to finish eighth last season, nothing in their play so far this season tells me that they will get any higher in the table. All-in-all, it's the classic case of going as far as you can with a club and needing to leave for another challenge.

The only problem with Moyes leaving Everton is where can he go that would be both a move up and a challenge. A move to Celtic or Rangers in the SPL would be more a lateral move than a move forward. At this time, Moyes is not ready for the challenges a 'big four' job would provide. The only option I could see in England would be at Manchester City, but that would only be if Roberto Mancini got sacked. In truth, Moyes should consider taking a job on the continent, maybe even in Holland. It would expand his tactical mind, while at the same time showing that he is a better manager than the finishes at Everton show.

While it's nice to be the third most tenured manager in the Barclays Premier League, sometimes you just have to know when it's time to move on. David Moyes is at that point. While I don't agree with bailing on a team in season, if things stay the same until the end of October, I wouldn't put it past both Moyes and the Everton board to mutually part ways. Moyes should be proud of what he was able to do at Goodison Park. He should also be prouder that there will be plenty of opportunities waiting for him in the future.

Read more...

Manchester United 3 Liverpool 2: Berbatov Hat Trick Greater Than Gerrard Double

19 September 2010

Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov (L) scores the second goal for his side. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)
Dimitar Berbatov showed why Manchester United paid thirty million pounds for him as his hat trick was the difference in a 3-2 win at Old Trafford over Liverpool that also included a Steven Gerrard double.

The first half was one way traffic of a most frightening order. Liverpool opened trying to get some of the ball. However, as the first half wore on, Liverpool conceded to simply defending. From Manchester United's early offerings, it was easy to understand why. After an early corner was headed well over the crossbar, Nani's effort in the sixteenth was bottled from seven yards. Another wasted effort by Scholes off a set piece showed the lack of United bite. Liverpool's only first half chance came in the twenty-fifth when Glen Johnson's effort off a short corner was well wide of the frame of goal.

Manchester United's opener three minutes before halftime was just reward for the dominance on offer. In fairness, it wasn't the best corner kick in the world, as it appeared to miss it's intended target running near post. However, all the credit should be given to Berbatov, who was perfectly placed to simply head the ball past the near post. Fernando Torres had no shot of getting to it, and then went on to beat the outstretched arm of Paul Konchesky, who should have been on the post in the first place.

The second half continued the United dominance. On the hour, their dominance was rewarded with a second. Fletcher's cross from the wing appeared to overshoot it's intended target of Wayne Rooney. However, in the movement, the entire Liverpool defense crashed on Rooney. It gave Berbatov all the time to settle the ball on his thigh before completing the move with an overhead kick as Jamie Carragher watched on. For all of Manchester United's dominance, a 2-0 lead was just.

After that, the game completely changed. Three minutes after taking the two-goal lead, Jonny Evans stupidly took out Fernando Torres legs. He gave Howard Webb no choice but to point to the spot, and Steven Gerrard easily got Van der Sar to guess wrongly. However, seven minutes later, Howard Webb bottled it. A though ball sent onto Fernando Torres's direction didn't have the opportunity to be completed as John O'Shea decided it would be a better idea to take him down as the pass came in. In my opinion, it was the denial of a goal scoring opportunity. Torres would have been 1 on 1 with Van der Sar, and the Manchester United keeper did not look interested in coming out for that. Steven Gerrard finished the sequence off the free kick by putting the ball in the space Darren Fletcher moved from in the wall.

The game deserved a winner, and Manchester United justly got it five minutes from time. John O'Shea's cross found the hot head of Berbatov who put it near post. Carragher was more than second best to the cross, and didn't have a chance to defend it.

Obviously Sir Alex can't be happy with yet another 2 goal lead being thrown away. However, I'm sure he'll be happy that Dimitar Berbatov is starting to show the talent that caused Manchester United to fork out the money for him. While many will say Wayne Rooney had a 'quiet day', I don't think you can call it all that quiet. His movement forced Liverpool into doing more defending than they would have liked to, and left Berbatov more space to take his chances.

Liverpool should have started David N'Gog from the off. It was only when he entered the match did Liverpool start to show any attacking bite. However, their defending on the day was simply pathetic. You would have thought that after his first, or even his second goal, Liverpool would have attempted to mark Berbatov better. Jamie Carragher was nothing more than a spectator on Berbatov's second and third goal.

And finally, I have to ask this: what would have happened had John O'Shea been sent off? I don't think Manchester Untied would have won the game, but the game would have ended 2-2. Remember, it was O'Shea's cross in that provided the service on the game winner.

Read more...

Premier League Preview: Manchester United and Liverpool Renew Classic Rivalry. Blackpool Return to London

17 September 2010

Gary Neville of Manchester United clashes with Jamie Carragher of Liverpool Following The Award of A Penalty. (Credit Image: © Imago/ZUMApress.com)
This weekend is all about one matchup: Manchester United's first clash of the season against Liverpool. Both managers rested key players in midweek action for this game, and will both be looking to atone themselves for their draws last week. More thoughts on that game below.

Note that all times are Eastern and TV schedule is subject to change.

Saturday 7:45 am (Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com): Stoke City v West Ham United. Tony Pulis has all my respect after his second half appearance against Aston Villa on Monday. To think about the team you manage after the loss of a parent will be something I will always remember him for. As for the result, Stoke City's match against Villa midweek brought back memories of their first Premier League win. It helps they are playing the worst team in the Premier League this week. Even if Avram Grant prays during Yom Kippur to save West Ham from relegation, I just don't see it happening as I think it's well in into Ocbober before they get a point. Prediction: Stoke City 2 West Ham United 0.

Saturday 10:00 am
Aston Villa v Bolton Wanderers (Live on FoxSoccer.tv. On delay, Fox Soccer Plus 6:00 pm): I believe this will be the week Villa concedes their first goal at home. Bolton's fitness will be the difference between leaving Villa Park with 0 points and potentially 3. I think this ends a score draw. Prediction: Aston Villa 1 Bolton Wanderers 1.

Blackburn Rovers v Fulham (Live on FoxSoccer.tv. On delay, Fox Soccer Channel at 5:00 pm): Just a hunch: both sides may end on 10 men. With two hard tackling teams playing at Ewood Park, I think the absence in Bobby Zamora will cost Fulham a chance at three points. Prediction: Blackburn Rovers 2 Fulham 1.

Everton v Newcastle United (Live on Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv): I don't see why David Moyes is so angry about the referee blowing full time last week. Newcastle have fallen to the level I expected them to fall to. While I've been hard on Andy Carroll, he can change my mind with a strong performance here. With Everton's defending of late, I think he's gotta be licking his chops. I also expect another draw. Prediction: Everton 2 Newcastle United 2.

Tottenham Hotspur v Wolverhampton Wanderers (Live on Fox Soccer Channel): With Rafael Van der Vaart's injury, I think this match bogs down into a midfield quagmire. With Wolves being the hard tackling club that Mick doesn't want to admit to, expect it to be even uglier than usual. Even with all that said, I think Peter Crouch will find a winner in this one. Prediction: Tottenham 1 Wolves 0.

West Bromwich Albion v Birmingham City (Live on FoxSoccer.tv. On delay, Fox Soccer Plus Sunday at 12:30 pm): Birmingham City's resistance away from home, added to West Brom's fight at home, multiplied by this being a derby match, equals an entertaining 0-0 draw. Since I said something to that effect last week and have it bite me in the backside, I think Birmingham City's the better team in this match and will leave with three points. Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 0 Birmingham City 1.

Saturday 12:15 pm (Live on Fox Soccer Channel): Sunderland v Arsenal. With Lee Cattermole's second suspension of the season, Sunderland must be happy they can end a game with 11 on the pitch. The only problem is it won't matter as Arsenal are hitting a perfect stride. That's a scary thought considering Theo Walcott and Robin Van Persie aren't healthy. Prediction: Sunderland 1 Arsenal 3.

Sunday 8:30 am (Live on Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv): Manchester United v Liverpool. Liverpool will be happy to see Joe Cole return to the starting lineup in time for this one. After two draws in a row, I expect Manchester United to come out angry following getting embarrassed against Rangers.
To me, this match boils down to how well Fernando Torres plays. To put it kindly, I have not been impressed with him this season; he has looked way too disinterested in Liverpool's season so far. Another bad performance against Manchester United will have me wondering if Torres is already thinking about the next club he lands on.
When it's all said and done, I expect this to be a one sided affair. I think Rooney and Berbatov will frustrate Liverpool all day long. Despite the scoreline, you will know who dominated from start to finish. Prediction: Manchester United 2 Liverpool 1.

Sunday 10:00 am (Live on FoxSoccer.tv): Wigan Athletic v Manchester City. Manchester City has historically had issues with Wigan. However, if Manchester City has problems with Wigan's defense, Roberto Mancini better start formulating a plan b. Wigan's defense is so bad, I think City will improve on their Europa League performance. Prediction: Wigan Athletic 0 Manchester City 3.

Sunday 11:00 am (Live on Fox Soccer Channel): Chelsea v Blackpool. At least Blackpool fans will enjoy another away day in London. As for their team...I see visions on another 6-0 defeat coming to my mind. However, with Chelsea checking out of their last two games, at least Blackpool will see enough of the ball in the second half to put something on the score sheet. Prediction: Chelsea 4 Blackpool 1.

What are your thoughts on the weekend to come in the Premier League? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more...

Bundesliga Preview: Hoffenheim and Mainz Have To Drop Points Eventually...Right?

Hoffenheim's players cheer after taking 1-0 lead against Schalke. (Credit Image: © DPA/ZUMApress.com)
I have to be honest, this isn't exactly the best weekend of viewing in the Bundesliga. The only real storyline of note to me is if Hoffenheim and Mainz can keep up their perfect starts.

Friday 2:30 pm (Live on GolTV): Eintracht Frankfurt v Freiburg. Freiburg has been a nice surprise to start this season, while Eintracht will look to build upon it's 4-0 win at Gladbach last week. I don't see it happening though; Frieburg has a much better defense than Gladbach does, and they have found their attack. My only worry is that Freiburg slowly starts to return to the side I remember them for last season and forget how to score goals. Prediction: Eintracht Frankfurt 0 Freiburg 0


Saturday 9:30 am
Bayern Munich v Koln (Live on GolTV): Bayern Munich turned it's season around after beating an Italian side in the Champions League last season, and I think they will get back on the right track in the league here. Koln have not impressed, and Bayern Munich have finally gotten over the long absence of Robben to adjust. Prediction: Bayern Munich 2 Koln 0


Kaiserslautern v Hoffenheim: Kaiserslautern returns home after giving up two second half goals in a losing effort at Mainz. Hoffenheim continue to show they are the darlings of the early season. Expect both sides to go all out attack, but for Hoffenheim to keep on winning. Prediction: Kaiserslautern 2 Hoffenheim 3


Stuttgart v Borussia Monchengladbach: In Gladbach's only away trip this season, they scored six goals, while in Stuttgart's only home match this season, they gave up three goals. While Gladbach's defending is poor, Stuttgart's attack is worse. Prediction: Stuttgart 1 Borussia Monchengladbach 3


Wolfsburg v Hannover 96: I hate to say it like this, but it's the only way I know how to kindly: until Steve McClaren wins a game in the Bundesliga, I'm not going to consider Wolfsburg getting a result. It also doesn't help their cause that Hannover has surprised everyone with their start. Prediction: Wolfsburg 0 Hannover 1.


Werder Bremen v Mainz (Live on ESPN3): Mainz has done more attacking then anyone expected so far. That could be because their defending has let them down in every game this season. Having to go on the road, and face a Bremen side that knows how to get forward, I expect plenty of goals in this one. What I think ultimately decides this one is Mainz has done a better job than Bremen at settling into games. Prediction: Werder Bremen 1 Mainz 2.


Sunday 9:30 am (On GolTV at 10:30 am): St. Pauli v Hamburg: Yes, I was wrong about Hamburg; they have done a better job finishing their chances. St. Pauli's return to the Bundesliga has gone from perfect to bad. I think after Sunday, it gets worse. Defend as they might, St. Pauli won't hold out for ninety minutes against a Hamburg side that are steadily scoring. Prediction: St. Pauli 0 Hamburg 3


Sunday 11:30 am
Bayer Leverkusen v Nurnberg: Nurnberg have done a good job getting points on the road so far. However, against this Bayer side, I can't see them getting a goal. This will be ugly football that Bayer eventually finds a goal from. Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 1 Nurnberg 0

Schalke 04 v Borussia Dortmund (Live on ESPN3.com): Schalke could be the worst team in the Bundesliga right now. With Borussia Dortmund's discipline, this won't be close. Prediction: Schalke 0 Borussia Dortmund 2

What are your thoughts on this weekend in the Bundesliga? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more...

Champions League Thoughts: Gifts from Manchester United, Assou-Ekotto, and Sporting Braga

16 September 2010

Manchester United's WAYNE ROONEY dejection as he pushes the steady cam away.(Credit Image: © Andy Hooper/Daily Mail/ZUMA Press)
With the first round of group games complete in the UEFA Champions League, all I can think of are the gifts certain teams, and one particular player, gave their opposition.

* Could Manchester United have picked up three points if Sir Alex Ferguson picked his strongest eleven? I think they could have. When I saw the lineup Manchester Untied picked, along with the fact that Berbatov and Scholes were not in the lineup, and I don't think I'm the only one who had this thought: bet Rangers on the Asian Handicap line of +2. When you know your opposition is going to play a defensive game, having someone who's known for long distance shots (Scholes), and one who's creativity seems to be finally coming back to him (Berbatov) at least on the bench would have been a wise idea. Instead, Rangers perfectly set themselves up for a point. The Scottish outfit forced Manchester United into long distance and odd angled shots. Whenever any dangerous ball came close to the six, McGregor had a firm handle on the situation.

* There is one image from the Manchester United/Rangers game that I still have not gotten out of my head: the sight of Antonio Valencia's broken leg. While no replay was shown, the one and a half seconds it took for the cameras to pull away from the injury is something that gave me nightmares Tuesday night. It also made me feel guilty that I never had that same reaction whenever Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey broke their legs. I wish Valencia nothing but the best and here's hoping to the speediest of recoveries.

* If there is one person you can solely put the blame on for Tottenham blowing a two goal lead at Werder Bremen, it's Benoit Assou-Ekotto. It takes a genius to blow two different assignments in the process of the same sequence. His 'clearance' that started Werder Bremen's move was nothing but stupidity. He never had the right footing, and was forcing it more than making a rational move. His blown assignment in assisting Ledley King, seeing the cross go in that led to Bremen's opener, should have seen him immediately subbed out of the game and promptly put on the transfer list. With those two moves, Tottenham went from being in firm control to only being a goal up and on the back foot the final forty-five minutes. Sure, it didn't help Harry Redknapp had to subbed off Rafael Van der Vaart, but those are two points Tottenham may want back come matchday six. At least Twente and Inter Milan bailed them out drawing 2-2.

* It was embarrassing to see the defending Sporting Braga had on offer against Arsenal. With the way the Gunners carved them up, I was wondering if Arsenal was working on their own connect the dots book. It didn't help that Braga's keeper gave up such a cheap penalty only 9 minutes into the match. Arsenal's passing in their last two competitive matches could be the best passing I've seen them have in the last five years. It helps when your opposition forgets all sense of positional responsibility. I was also very impressed with how involved Jack Wilshere was in the attack.

* While Chelsea have been spectacular since the opening day of the season, one thing has creeped into their play the last two games that should be worrisome: checking out of matches prior to the ninety minutes ending. Even though Chelsea were well in front both times they did it, it led to their opposition getting enough chances to get themselves back into the game. It was also a nice moment to see 17 year old Josh McEachran come on for the final ten minutes of the match. One other thought; what could the scoreline have been had Didier Drogba not been suspended?

Read more...

Premier League Preview: Wayne Rooney Goes to Everton, Promoted Sides Collide

10 September 2010

David Moyes Manager of Everton and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United Shake Hands AT The End of The Match Barclays Premier League Everton v Manchester United 20th February 2010 (Credit Image: © Imago/ZUMApress.com)
So who's hating the international break more as the Premier League returns this weekend: Arsene Wenger or Harry Redknapp? Considering Harry Redknapp's politicking to get the England job after Euro 2012, I think Wenger edges that out right now. At least both sides have reasonable ties to navigate this weekend.

Note all times are Eastern and TV is subject to change without notice.

Saturday 7:45 am (Live on Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv): Everton v Manchester United. So Wayne Rooney, after having affairs revealed to the press and scoring for England midweek, gets to enjoy some home town abuse. That maybe the only highlight for Everton this weekend, as they have made way too many elementary mistakes in conceding goals this season. I don't expect that to stop this weekend. Prediction: Everton 1 Manchester United 2.

Saturday 10:00 am
Arsenal v Bolton Wanderers (Live on Fox Soccer Channel): With Sam Allardyce gone, Bolton has had little success against Arsenal. Even with Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott missing, Bolton's attempt at beautiful football will backfire badly. While I expect goals, I think this will be rather one sided. Prediction: Arsenal 4 Bolton Wanderers 1.

Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers: (Live FoxSoccer.tv. On delay 11:30 pm Fox Soccer Channel): With Fulham's injuries, and Wolves ability to scrap goals, this has 1-1 draw written all over it. Expect the game to bog down in the midfield, and chances to be few and far between. Prediction: Fulham 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1.

Manchester City v Blackburn Rovers (Live on Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv): With Manchester City's new formation, they should have no problem picking Blackburn apart. The only thing that will stop them is the hard tackling that Blackburn are sure to start up. Then again, I thought that against Sunderland and was proven wrong. Blackburn kept up against Arsenal, and probably do the same here for an hour. Prediction: Manchester City 2 Blackburn Rovers 1.

Newcastle United v Blackpool (Live FoxSoccer.tv. On delay Sunday 8:30 am Fox Soccer Plus): Blackpool have shown a great fighting spirit in the opening month of the season, while Newcastle United are starting to find their stride again. I have a bad feeling this game could be as ugly as Blackpool's trip to Arsenal. While I don't think it will end up as bad on the scoreline, expect Blackpool fans to keep on making plenty of noise. Prediction: Newcastle United 3 Blackpool 1.

West Bromwich Albion v Tottenham Hotspur (Live FoxSoccer.tv. On delay 12:00 pm Fox Soccer Channel): No Dawson or Defoe for Tottenham, but Van der Vaart should make his debut and Peter Crouch is fit. This, however, will be an ugly game, as I expect West Brom to bunker and pray for a goal, while Tottenham will huff and puff and expect the best. When it's all said and done, I think Van der Vaart will be the difference in his first game. Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1.

West Ham United v Chelsea (Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com): I'm going to spare you the time with the old 'West Ham has a chance' lines. They have none. However, Chelsea will make this hard on themselves. Prediction: West Ham United 0 Chelsea 2.

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland (Live FoxSoccer.tv. On delay Sunday 12:30 pm Fox Soccer Plus): Wigan have given up 10 goals at home so far this season, while Sunderland have yet to score away from home. If this match was played last week, I'd give Wigan a chance. However, with a week to revert to their old ways again, I think Sunderland will enjoy a fun away day in front of the faithful few at the DW. Prediction: Wigan Athletic 1 Sunderland 3.

Sunday 11:00 am (Live on Fox Soccer Channel): Birmingham City v Liverpool. Both games last season ended in draws. It could be argued that the referee robbed Birmingham City of a win at home last year as well. If this was at Anfield, I'd give Liverpool a chance at winning. However, I think Birmingham City will scrape out another draw. Prediction: Birmingham City 1 Liverpool 1.

Monday 3:00 pm (Live on ESPN3.com): Stoke City v Aston Villa. With Gerald Houllier taking the reins at Villa, I'm curious to see what changes he makes. Stoke City have tried to tinker too much with what made them successful in the last two Premier League seasons. I don't expect them to catch onto that just yet. I think the new manager bounce will be in full effect here. Prediction: Stoke City 0 Aston Villa 1.

What are your thoughts on this upcoming weekend in the Premier League? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more...

Bundesliga Preview: Bayern Munich Host Werder Bremen, Mainz Host Leaders Kaiserslautern

09 September 2010

Kaiserslautern keeper Tobias Sippel Celebrates Kaiserslautern's 2-0 win over Bayern Munich. (Credit Image: © Dirk Waidner/Action Press/ZUMApress.com)
The Bundesliga returns on Friday with five teams looking to keep up their perfect start. For Mainz and Kaiserslautern, that will be impossible. Their meeting on Sunday will guarantee that at least one of them will not be on nine points when this weekend is over.

Please note all times are Eastern and TV schedule subject to change without notice.

Friday 2:30 pm (Live on GolTV): Hoffenheim v Schalke. Hoffenheim have played two totally different games to start the season, while the script for Schalke has been the same. Schalke's defensive woes have been startling to say the least, and I don't expect any different here. In fact, I expect the same scoreline Schalke has seen the previous two match days. Prediction: Hoffenheim 2 Schalke 1.

Saturday 9:30 am
Borussia Dortmund v Wolfsburg (Live on GolTV): Steve McClaren needed the international break after seeing his side give up two late losses. The second one could have truly undone the season if they had to play last week. Borussia Dortmund is still looking to score their first goal at home. The good news for Dortmund is I expect them to get a goal here. The bad news is I expect it in a losing effort. Prediction: Dortmund 1 Wolfsburg 2.

Borussia Monchengladbach v Eintracht Frankfurt: If Gladbach could keep up the scoring pace like they did against Bayer, they would be just fine. Their only problem is they score too many goals in bunches. Eintracht Frankfurt just doesn't have a sound enough defense. This won't be a pretty match by any stretch of the imagination, but I expect the home side to pick up the three points. Prediction: Borussia Monchengladbach 2 Eintracht Frankfurt 0.

Hamburg v Nurnberg: Expect Nurnberg to come out and play for a 0-0 draw, and for Hamburg to tear them to shreds. If there's any game that I don't expect to be close, this is it. Prediction: Hamburg 4 Nurnberg 0.

Hannover v Bayer Leverkusen: Hannover have been a pleasant surprise to start the season, while Bayer Leverkusen are still shaking the cobwebs from last season's collapse. I think this will be the most entertaining match of the weekend. While Hannover's defense has look fine, I think Leverkusen will slice it open and pick up three more away points. Prediction: Hannover 2 Bayer Leverkusen 4.

Freiburg v Stuttgart: Stuttgart have been shockingly bad to open this season; their defense has played like they were kids playing the adults. If there's a chance for Freiburg to pick up three points I don't think they were expecting before the start of the season, this is that chance. I just don't have enough faith in them to do so. Prediction: Freiburg 1 Stuttgart 1.

Saturday 12:30 pm (Live on ESPN3.com): Bayern Munich v Werder Bremen. This game sets up exactly like Bayern Munich's last away loss to a promoted side early in the season. After Bayern Munich lost to Mainz last season, they then came home against Wolfsburg and beat them 3-0. Bremen's problem has been at center back early on, and with Bayern Munich's attack looking for a spark, this could be the perfect tonic. Prediction: Bayern Munich 3 Werder Bremen 1.

Sunday 9:30 am (Live on ESPN3.com): Mainz v Kaiserslautern. I know it's only the third week of the season, but never did I expect this matchup to be between the first place (Kaiserslautern) and third place (Mainz) teams. This will also be a contrast in styles. Mainz knows how to shut up shop at home and pick out the counter attack. Kaiserslautern may play right into Mainz's hand with their attacking. To me, this is the match of the weekend. I also think the dream start continues for Mainz. Prediction: Mainz 2 Kaiserslautern 1.

Sunday 11:30 am (on delay GolTV 5pm): Koln v St. Pauli. With Koln's shambolic defending, and St. Pauli's ability to pick their spots in the attack, I don't expect this to be much of a contest. I don't expect many goals either. Prediction: Koln 0 St. Pauli 1.

What are your thoughts on the weekend to come in the Bundesliga? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more...

How Can Anyone Be Surprised Wayne Rooney Is Still With England Team

05 September 2010

England's Wayne Rooney. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)
God bless the UK press. In a rush to beat their rivals to the 'headline of the moment', the Telegraph came out in first place over Wayne Rooney's latest controversy.

Sure, he's alleged to have cheated on his wife when she was pregnant. However, the response should really be: 'who's next to be busted?' The problem is, the response has been 'Rooney is still with the squad amid new allegations'. It started with the Telegraph, the Daily Mail was next, and by Monday afternoon, most of the rest of will follow in suit.

The issue isn't his life outside the game, it's the blatant stupidity of the English press to think that this latest revelation is going to cause him to miss time. The more I think about it, and as I said above, this is just par for the course. Let's just look at some of the cheaters on the England team.

David Beckham: cheated on Victoria with Rebecca Loos. I'm sure there were others, I just can't remember them off the top of my head.
Jermain Defoe: Sure, it was only Danielle Lloyd of celebrity Big Brother lost fame, but he still three timed her.
Frank Lampard: got busted cheating on his fiancee with Montse Lucas
John Terry: this one isn't even the most recent. He got busted with Wayne Bridge's ex girlfriend. Everyone else knows the rest of that story.
Ashely Cole: Even being married to Cheryl couldn't keep his pants on.
Peter Crouch: went on a friend's stag party in Madrid, had sex with Spanish prostitute.

I'm sure there are more, but those are the only ones I could rattle off the top of my head. If we wanted to even go one further, well...
Steven Gerrard: was acquitted after allegedly being caught punching a DJ on CCTV. Was rumored to have had an affair, but nothing was ever proven.
Rio Ferdinand: was suspended eight months after missing a drugs test.

While Rooney may not have had the best of World Cups, he still is a player who can score goals. He's a guy who, as we saw Friday, can set up other players extremely well. He's not afraid to help out in defending either. With Peter Crouch injured, Defoe uncertain for the Switzerland game, and Darren Bent your next best option, there's no way in hell Rooney is going to be asked to leave this team.

Let's face it, it's not the last time we're going to hear of an England National Team member having an affair. It's definitely not the last time we're going to hear the same old headlines about said player with the squad either. All I have is a simple message to the UK media: if you honestly think that this latest affair was going to have implications with the England squad, retire now and save us all the headache. We've heard the same old song and dance way too many times to give a damn anymore.

Read more...

About This Blog

Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

Get In Touch

If you have any questions regarding content on the blog, wanting to write on the blog, or to potentially advertise on the blog, email thethirdhalf@thethirdhalf.net

Donate to The Third Half

  © Blogger template Leaving by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP