Critics Corner.

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Archive for the ‘English Football’ Category

If I were a rich man

Posted by Sports Snob on January 13, 2007

I feel rather sorry for Jose Mourinho. I’m not echoing too many sentiments here, obviously, because by and large, people look at him and think, “Arrogant Git” (Perhaps its empathy?). Anyway, let me tell you why.

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I don’t need to give any of you guys the background of the situation. Roman buys Chelsea. Chelsea finish second. Roman buys Jose (literally). Spends millions and millions of pounds. Chelsea win title. Roman vaguely happy with his football empire. Still wants more. Spends millions again. Chelsea win title again. Empire not crumbling, but certainly not expanding. Spends a few more quid. Season so far – second in the table, in the second round of the Champions League. Through to the FA Cup 4 th round. And a 1-1 draw against Wycombe Wanderers (!) in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final. Didier Drogba and Michael Essien apart, they haven’t really set the league on fire, by any measure. There have been two or three spectacular games, notably against Arsenal and, dare I say it, Reading. But on the whole, Chelsea have looked defensive, and there doesn’t appear to be any real strength in depth, as far as the squad is concerned.

‘Chelsea’s squad?’, you may ask. ‘They’ve spent hundreds of millions of pounds on that squad!’ True, true, but almost every single player they bought came with an inflated transfer fee, and the squad as a unit haven’t really lived up to the prices on their heads. Didier Drogba, of course, looks a steal, especially now that he’s cut the diving out of his game (for the most part). Petr Cech was bought by Ranieri, and was a real bargain at just 6 million quid. But then look at the rest – Shaun Wright-Phillips? Jon Obi Mikel? Asier Del Horno? Michael Ballack? (He came on a free, with a 130,000 pound/week pay packet) Andriy Shevchenko?


That last name in particular holds a lot of significance for me. And for Jose too, I believe.

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It seems fairly clear that Jose wasn’t that keen on buying Sheva. At least, he wasn’t as keen as Abramovich was. He has undoubted quality, but he’s getting older, losing his pace, and generally looks like he’ll have trouble adapting to the physical nature of the English game. I’d love for him to prove everyone wrong and score bagfuls of goals, because an in-form Shevchenko is magnificent. Can’t see it happening in the immediate future though.

The Oligarch was behind the transfer deal, it is widely suspected, and he was going against Jose’s wishes. For all his bravado and big talk, Jose is actually a very good manager. I won’t say anything about his tactics, because the sight of Robert Huth playing up front still makes me laugh, His man management skills are without question, however. And so are his motivation techniques. His persona seems to have rubbed off on a lot of the squad, as is evident by the arrogance of Lampard and the whining of Terry. Not to mention the gamesmanship of Carvalho and Drogba. They take themselves too seriously though. With Jose, its clear he’s having a laugh, even when he’s whining. Everything he says, everything he does, is designed to attract attention towards him and away from the failings of his team. Not 3 days ago, the Pensioners drew 1-1 against Wycombe, a club three divisions below them in the league. Normally, this would attract much attention and more than a lot of mirth from non-Chelsea supporters. Nobody’s talking about it for two reasons though. One, David Beckham (see below). And two, Jose’s come out and said that he is ‘only a manager’ and effectively said that he doesn’t control the signings. Normally, we’d dismiss this as the (engineered) ravings of a man desperately trying to draw attention away from his team. This time, I think he has a point.

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I think a lot of the buys Chelsea have made over the last two and a bit years (Alexei Smertin, anybody?) have been made against Jose’s wishes. The specter of Roman appears to be hanging over a lot of their signings. Specifically those who are out of favour. Peter Kenyon was in all likelihood the mastermind behind the deals involving SWP, Ballack and Mikel, to name but three. Apart from Sheva, of course.

Mourinho doesn’t want to play any of these guys, but it appears that his hand is being forced by someone higher up, at least in the case of Ballack and Shevchenko. Ballack has been anything but impressive so far, and Shevchenko has been played out of position in order to accommodate him in the eleven. The side’s defensive frailties have been exposed by the recent injury to John Terry, and with Joe Cole out for the season, he’s lost one of the most mercurial players in the league. He has tons of players, but he doesn’t want to play them. Instead, he wants to buy MORE players, which leads me to believe that he didn’t really want any of these guys in the first place. Peter Kenyon has shoved off to China (how convenient), and Roman Abramovich recently said in an interview ‘We do not have a warm relationship. But it is friendly’. Or something like that (make of that statement what you will).

In summary , Jose’s got players he doesn’t want to play in the squad. He doesn’t have control over a lot of the transfers (this is my suspicion). He is being forced to play big names, because they are big names. And he’s got injuries in the squad which he wants to cover with new players. Abramovich, for all his philanthropy, is not going to shell out more money. Kenyon’s not in town. Jose’s got his back against the wall. And I’d like to think he’ll fight back.

They play Wigan tonight, and Mourinho has said that Shvechenko will be dropped, and if the board have a problem with that, well, too bad, I’ll be off now. And for all his outbursts, I’m quite fond of him, and I hope he stays in England. What do you reckon?

Oasisboy

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Beckham to LA Galaxy

Posted by Sports Snob on January 13, 2007

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Well, it had to happen. Beckham had to leave Real Madrid and to no one’s surprise, he chose a move across the Atlantic to sunny Los Angeles where he would take his freekicks against teams such as Washington Wizards and Dallas Cowboys . Nobody really expected to move from Madrid to Portsmouth (although the prospect of him moving to Liverpool seemed interesting). What has surprised everybody has been the cash involved and the duration of the the deal.

The deal:

From the Wall Street Journal:


Mr. Beckham’s five-year pact includes an annual salary approaching $10 million a year, 40% to 50% of team-jersey sales and a share of club ticket revenue. His endorsements are expected to bring in $20 million to $25 million a year. Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the operating rights to the Galaxy and two other MLS teams, said it estimates that, including endorsements, Mr. Beckham could could earn in excess of $250 million over the five years — a deal the company called “the biggest in sporting history.”

Thats an obscene amount of money for any sportsman, let alone a player who is now past his prime, is entering a country where the sport has little mass support (come on even George Best and Pele did try!), is not part of his national football team and at age 31 is now watching his limited football skills go on the decline. Beckham will also be selling global brands such as Adidas, Pepsi and Gillette to Americans.

Miserable days in Spain

After a very successful career at Manchester United where Beckham won trophies every year, he moved to Real Madrid following a spectacular fallout with Fergusson. United had agreed a deal to sell Beckham to Barcelona (albeit a Barcelona that were struggling and had not won a trophy in ages) and the deal appeared to be going through until Beckham hijacked it by signing a contract with Real Madrid. Beckham was a perfect fit for the galactico policy of Real, he was a global superstar, and he would bring millions to Madrid through jersey sales and image rights.

Since then, Barcelona, inspired by Ronaldinho (ironically a Madrid reject) and driven by manager Frank Rijkaard have gone on to win 2 league titles and were crowned European Champions in May. Madrid on the other hand have gone to the gutters as a result of poor management and terrible transfer policies. Last heard, emergency talks were being held at the Bernabeu to understand why the club was under achieving.

To be fair to Beckham, he tried and tried hard. I cant understand how people like Guti and Raul continue to be in the Madrid first XI ahead of Beckham. And, being pushed to the centre of midfield by a series of managers didn’t help his cause either. Worse, he had lost pace. He is no Zidane but he is no Pennant either. You put him on the right side of midfield and Beckham will deliver perfect crosses to your strikers all day long.

What does this mean for the MLS?

Short term interest is no doubt going to shoot up, when every national newspaper and television channel covers the story, you know it’s something big. There will be a definite spike in attendances wherever the Galaxy play atleast over the coming season. But can somebody explain to me how in four years time, a 36 year old David Beckham is going to continue to draw the crowds for much longer?!

Worse, the chances of the Yanks taking to the sport in a big way are about as remote as India qualifying for the 2014 football World cup. Football (or should I say soccer) is perceived to be a sport to be played by young kids, where every kid however poor gets to kick the ball. And there is way too much competition for the MLS from the other big leagues. On the other hand, the young kids (and there are eight million between the ages of 8 and 16 who are playing the sport) might just be the perfect target for the MLS bosses and Beckham’s football academy.

It is also going to be interesting to see if this transfer results in other football superstars like Figo, Ronaldo hopping across the atlantic. Who knows? maybe Shevchenko will move there too. There is already talk of Edgar Davids joining the Dallas Cowboys.

Will Beckham be the messiah who will take Football to the final frontier? Will a very average and ageing 36 year old David Beckham be able to sell cars and razor blades? Will this website survive to discuss that in 4 years time? Only time will tell.

– Z

Posted in English Football, Football, Transfer Talk | 6 Comments »

The English Premier League: season thus far

Posted by Sports Snob on December 29, 2006

Its just past the halfway stage, but a few things are already pretty obvious.

Title: A two horse race

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The title race is a duopoly, with Manchester United having the upper hand and Chelsea having serious problems at the back without John Terry. It is the exact opposite at United who have strong back up in defence, but are lacking in quality replacements in midfield and attack. Both these problems should be addressed when the transfer window opens. My prediction, a Chelsea hattrick of titles mainly due to the firepower they have in the squad. Classic case was last weekend when Chelsea and Man U played Everton and West Ham respectively. Chelsea brought on Kalou and Sheva while Man U brought on O’Shea to replace Giggs. Also given the amount of money that Chelsea have, a replacement defender for John Terry will not be too tough to find.

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It’s going to be interesting to see the impact that Henrik Larsson has on the United squad. And what happens if he is a success? Is there a clause that lets him stay on till the end of the season? Also, will the whole Owen Hargreaves saga will come to an end? Hargreaves should cost upwards of 12 million pounds and this signing might mean that United wont have cash for any other signing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in English Football, Football, Goals | 5 Comments »

Chelsea Vs Arsenal: Review

Posted by Sports Snob on December 11, 2006

After a pulsating 90 minutes, the London derby ended 1-1. The draw means that Chelsea now trail Manchester United by 8 points 9 (well, five as they will beat Newcastle on Wednesday). Arsenal will come away with a lot of confidence and will hope to cement their hold on the third place in the coming weeks. This season promises to be an exciting one and promises to stay alive till April.

My thoughts.

The Bull:

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What a goal by Essien! Almost like Gerrard’s goal against Olympiakos but from a longer distance and a tighter angle. This guy is a bull, and would make a brilliant right back if not for the fact that he is even better in the centre of the park. Just like against United, Chelsea became more potent the moment Mourinho put him in right back and brought in Robben. And right now he is one of the 5 best players in the World (of course most footballer of the year polls would tell you that the best players right now are Henry, Owen, , Ronaldo, Raul and Zidane)

Theatrics:

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Lehmann and Drogba reminded me of a couple of 5 year olds in the school playground trying to get the teacher’s attention at the right time. What a joke! This is one part of football I really hate and hopefully sometime in the next decade video rulings will help the referee come to the right decision. But what it definitely does is make the game more interesting. Frankly, I cant stand either Lehmann or Drogba and would have loved to see the two of them take each 0ther out. (by the looks of it it didn’t take too much to knock them down)

Whining Wenger:

The game showed what an annoying hypocrite Arsene Wenger really is. Arsenal went to the Bridge as the weaker team (missing key players) So what did they do? they had defended with all they had and hoped to hit the opponents on the break. What is wrong then? Just that Arsene whines everytime an opponent does the same thing against his team. Sure, the game was more attractive to watch because Arsenal have a lot of flair players (unlike say Everton) but it is still the same policy. So stop whining and try scoring, the next time you are playing Everton or Wigan at home.

Cashley Cole:

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I would love to see what happens when Cole goes to the Emirates Stadium later on in the season. I wonder if the reaction will be any worse (or better) than what Figo got the first time he went back to the Camp Nou after his transfer to Real Madrid. From his career point of view, he did the right thing- he went to a company that offered him much better pay and also better chances of success but then try explaining that to the football fans!

Premiership:

What an advertisement for the premier league! Some of these big games can end up being a snoozefest with both teams cancelling out each other, but this one was anything but one. Two goals of very high quality, Chelsea hit the post thrice, hard tackles and some theatrics. What more could one ask for? The premier league might not be the best technically and the English team might be mediocre, but in terms of sheer entertainment nothing can beat this league.

Z

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Posted in English Football, EPL, Football | 2 Comments »

Manchester United 0 – Arsenal 1

Posted by Sports Snob on September 18, 2006

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A great win for the the gunners and well deserved i might add. IMO, Man Utd didn’t offer much and also looked happy with a draw. Arsenal on their part didn’t make heavy weather of the absence of Thierry Henry and Robin Van Persie and this vicotry sets up their season perfectly.

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The First half was electric with both sides creating openings. Arsenal had the better of the half with a penalty being awarded in their favor. However, Gilberto Silva scoffed the attempt and it was still nil nil. The second half was insipid and the only interesting portions were due to the defensive lapses of the Man Utd backline….that was until Cesc Fabregas produced some magic, albeit assisted by some slack defending by United. His perfectly weighted pass found Adebayor who calmly slotted the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak. Despite his ungainly stature, Adebayor does add an extra dimension to the Arsenal style. The last few minutes were frantic but the Gunners did enough to hang on to the lead.

Its back to the drawing board for the Red Devils and for Fergie in particular. He got his subsitutions wrong and his tactics were a bit conservative, a far cry from the swagger of the late 90’s. But it was all about the Gooners today and as much as the Red Devils might hate accepting it, Arsenal are Back!

V

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Posted in English Football, EPL | 2 Comments »

Everton 3- Liverpool 0

Posted by Sports Snob on September 9, 2006

It seems kinda inauspicious that the first time I contribute to this blog has to be after a Liverpool defeat. Oh well, I’m sure we’ll win someday…

Anyway, to the game. Everton scored three goals against their city rivals for the first time in 40-odd years, to win the 175th Merseyside derby 3-0. This is painful to write as a Liverpool fan, but we all have to start writing reviews somewhere.

The game started fairly well for Everton, who seemed to have the edge over Liverpool in the first tem minutes. I’m only saying this because that’s what my dad said on the phone when I called him from an auto on the way home from work. I hate it when ANYthing interferes with football, especially work. In any case, I managed to get home during the 22nd minute, so I’ll start from there. The first half was fairly even, possession-wise, with a long ball game being played by both teams. Bit of a shame really, considering Liverpool are such a good passing side, but then I would say that now, wouldn’t I?

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The first Everton goal came in the 25th minute, when Mikel Arteta swung a ball in from the right, with Lee Carsley heading on towards the far post. The Liverpool defense had forgotten where they were supposed to be, and somehow the ball popped up right in front of goal, with two Everton players waiting to pounce, not a Liverpool defender to be seen. Tim Cahill scored, swept the ball between Reina’s legs into the back of the net. 1-0. The build-up to the goal was excellent, and I didn’t really grudge them their goal. Ridiculous defending, certainly, but worse was to come.

Not before the Reds equalized almost instantly when Luis Garcia’s cross, via Tim Howard’s gloves, was stabbed towards goal by Steven Gerrard. It was a difficult chance though, and Gerrard saw his effort go off the outside of the near post for a goal kick.

Everton scored again in the 36th minute through Andy Johnson. Shock-horror defending by Hyypia and Carragher, with the latter practically laying it on a plate for Andy Johnson to strike a very composed finish past the helpless Jose Reina. Poor sod.

I’ve been told to cut this down a little, so I’ll only mention a couple more incidents (truth is, I can’t really remember everything else I was so depressed, but it’s nice to blame the ed!)

The Second Half

The second half started much as the first had finished, with Andy Johnson breaking free briefly, only to be halted by the Liverpool defense. To be fair to Liverpool, they did play well, creating several chances over the course of the game. Their finishing let them down, however, and I believe this is something which needs to be addressed by Rafa Benitez. Who is, officially, a genius, in spite of this blot on his copybook. (I love this guy!)

Momo Sissoko, the Mali International, had a bit of a stormer. True, he did make a couple of mistakes, but to be honest with you, he looked frightening. I lost count of the number of times he made inch-perfect, AGGRESSIVE tackles, which invariably left his opponent on the deck, and him with the ball. One to watch out for, methinks.

Midway thorough the second half, a well worked Liverpool move resulted in Steven Gerrard breaking free down the right. His shot from an acute angle cannoned off the inside of the post, with Tim Howard, the Everton goalkeeper, well beaten. Almost tantalizingly, it rolled right across the face of goal, but no one in a Red shirt was there to put it away. Dirk Kuyt, who had come on for Peter Crouch earlier, did manage to get a shot in from an equally acute angle, which appeared to bounce off Tony Hibbert’s trailing left arm. To be fair to him, I didn’t really think it was a penalty the first time I saw it, although replays proved me wrong. No penalty, however, from our erstwhile international referee, Graham Poll. Bit of a shame, really, because it turned out to be pivotal.

There was more bad news for Liverpool when John-Arne Riise was stretchered off, after a badly mistimed tackle on. His left ankle twisted almost backward, and it was no surprise that he stayed down. Poor Sod, seriously. He’d spent, I dunno, twenty minutes (max) on the pitch after being out for two weeks with an injury. A big blow, and exacerbated by the referee booking him as the stretcher passed him, AND Liverpool being down to ten men, having made all their substitutions.

They put up a bit of a fight though, and deserved to pull at least one back, attacking repeatedly in the last ten minutes. Everton’s back four stood firm though, and kept everything Liverpool threw at them at bay. And they scored an almost farcical third goal.

The third goal:

Andy Johnson got a good shot in from around twenty yards out, which Pepe Reina was only able to palm straight up in the air. The ball’s trajectory took it over his head and towards goal. Under pressure from the speedy little tyke that is Andy Johnson, he pushed the ball away from goal. Unfortunately, Johnson’s head got in the way, and the ball thumped into the roof of the net – a bald head really is the ultimate weapon. (Just ask Marco Materazzi!)

Verdict:

3-0, then. The scoreline did flatter Everton to an extent, but Liverpool really didn’t do enough to get anything out of this game. Here’s to PSV Eindhoven away midweek. Crikey.

Man of the Match: Andy Johnson. Lee Carsley did have a good game, but Johnson continued his incredible run of form with two priceless goals in a derby match.

Oasisboy

(Oasisboy is a great guy and recommends you download the live version of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter)

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West Ham takeover rumored!

Posted by Sports Snob on September 5, 2006

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The plot thickens

Last week, the whole world was shocked by the signings of Macherano and Tevez by the unheralded London Club West Ham United…..It quite possibly is the biggest coup since Diego Maradona signed for Napoli in the 80s. Why would these two Argies, who have been the subject of interest from clubs such as Manchester Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea choose to move to a club, whose biggest signing until last week was the 7 million pound capture of Dean Ashton, a gifted player but yet to make his debut for his home country. There was a rant odor to it. Its not everyday that clubs with modest ambitions get two proven players from another country commanding huge transfer fees. As expected the air cleared with West Ham claiming that they were in takeover talks with Iranian born self made millionaire Kia Jobarcheen. It is very clear that he has a vested interest in West Ham and seeing his top stars move to the english capital was favorable if he did indeed finalise his takeover of the club. Kia is a man shrouded in mystery, Not much is known about the reclusive businessman but just that he is close to Russians Roman Abromovich and the shady Boris Berezovsky, Russia’s most famous mafia don. Insiders are convinced that he is acting at the behest of Boris, who was incidentally Russia’s first billionaire.

Kia has huge plans for West Ham if he the takeover comes through. He was CEO of MSI and was in charge of Brazilian club Corinthians but there is only so much you can do in the penury of the brazilian leagues. The money and the fame is in Europe and this move will expedite one of those goals.

What appears is that the deal is more complex that what meets the eye. Many are claiming that MSI have offered the players to West Ham and then after the year whatever profits they expect wil be pocketed by parent organisation . It seems a lot like a loan deal but Kia and MSI have been quick to refute that. Also, Alan Pardew may have his hands forced as far as team selection goes. Apparently there is a clause in their contracts that allows them to be selected automatically if passed fit, regardless of Pardew’s plans. This could prove to be very tricky, especially if the two dont live up to the hype.

It was leaked yesterday that MSI’s attempts to hawk their wares was unsuccessful. Portsmouth and Man Utd turned down moves for the duo. So it left West Ham being the only viable destination.

The next few days will be crucial to clearing up the fuzzy picture we have at present.

V

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Posted in English Football, EPL, Football | 2 Comments »

Euro 2008 Qualifiers

Posted by Sports Snob on September 2, 2006

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A Preview

Its been two years since the unfancied Greek team lifted the Euros at Lisbon. The tournament wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the word. Defensive football had won over attacking flair, whence the saying ‘To do a greece’- which means to defend at all times and score on set plays. Hardly edge of the seat stuff but as Portugal found out on two occasions in 2004 , it is very effective. But lets be more optimistic and hope that that style of football is a thing of the past…….

On the subject, Euro 2008 qualifiers kick off this weekend with some top european teams slugging it out. It will be fascinating to see them in action just two months after the enervating World Cup [ I’m trying to make it as interesting as possible, please bear with me. Given the material- Georgia vs France, England vs Andorra and Serbia vs Azerbaijan to name a few, I think I’m doing a fine job of it 🙂 ]

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Here are the groups for the Euro 2008 qualifiers :-

Group A
Portugal
Poland
Serbia & Mont
Belgium
Finland
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Kazakhstan
Group B
France
Italy
Ukraine
ScotlandLithuania
Georgia
Faroe Islands
Group C
Greece
Turkey
Norway
Bosnia
Hungary
Moldova
Malta
Group D
Czech Republic
Germany
Slovakia
Rep Of Ireland
Wales
Cyprus
San Marino
Group E
England
Croatia
Russia
Israel
Estonia
Macedonia
Andorra
Group F
Sweden
Spain
Denmark
Latvia
Iceland
Northern Ireland
Liechtenstein

Group G
Holland
Romania
Bulgaria
Slovenia
Albania
Belarus
Luxembourg

Change to the Format :The Qualifying Format has been changed compared to previous tournaments. The winners and runners-up from seven groups will automatically qualify for the Championship, with the hosts filling the other two slots in the 16-team tournament. The change means there will be no play-offs between teams finishing in second place in the groups. Six of the qualifying groups will contain seven teams, and the other eight.

Predictions : I don’t see any of the heavyweights struggling but there will be a few mouth watering matches on offer. The most interesting will be the WC 2006 final rematch sans Zidane on 06/09/2006 and the replay on 08/09/2007. Its a spread out competition so the business end will be a few months away. Group B seems very interesting with Ukraine offering stiff competition to the WC finalists. I tip the french to get the boot.

Group A: Portugal, Poland

Group B: Italy, Ukraine

Group C: Greece , Turkey

Group D: Czech Republic, Germany [ The team placed third in the WC , hasn’t qualified for the following Euro in a long time, but the teutons get the nod for lack of quality opposition]

Group E: England, Russia [Remember, Hiddink is the coach of Russia now. A shoo-in given his pedigree]
Group F: Sweeden , Spain [The danes to miss the bus]

Group G: Holland, Bulgaria

V

PS: Interesting friendly this weekend at The Emirates Stadium with Brazil and the Argies locking horns. Its Ronnie [if his injury isn’t very serious] vs Messi for me. We will also get a chance to see Sergio Aguero and West Ham’s latest signings in action. *still pinching myself*

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Posted in English Football, Football | 7 Comments »

English Premier League: Weekend Review

Posted by Sports Snob on August 28, 2006

Result of the Weekend:

Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal

Arsene Wenger must be hoping that his side can put together a string of good performances after the 2-week break. Perfect example of the unpredictability of sport. City were coming in off a rotten run, nothing has been going right for them and Thatcher’s horrific elbow on Pedro Mendes did not help either. City rode their luck through the match and somehow got home with a 1-0 victory. Special menion for Nicky Weaver. Only god knows how this man is playing football after all the operations. In fact he is making first team appearences after close to three years.

Goal of the Weekend:

Daniel Agger’s absolute cracker against West Ham United.Supposedly the best defender to come out of Denmark since the glory of Euro 92.

Watch the goal here.

Verdict:

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Early days but all the signs are pointing towards a very interesting season. The presence of Martin O Neill and a rejuvenated Aston Villa could make the season more interesting. With Randy Lerner ‘s (What a name!) imminent take over of Villa, it will be interesting to see the players he signs before the transfer window closes.

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Posted in English Football, EPL, Football, Goals | 4 Comments »

Champions League Draw!

Posted by Sports Snob on August 24, 2006

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Group A: Barcelona, Chelsea, Werder Bremen, Levski Sofia
Group B: Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Sporting Lisbon, Spartak Moscow

Group C: Liverpool, PSV Eindhoven, Bordeaux, Galatasaray
Group D: Valencia, Roma, Olympiakos, Shakhtar Donetsk

Group E: Real Madrid, Lyon, Steaua Bucharest, Dynamo Kiev
Group F: Manchester United, Celtic, Benfica, FC Copenhagen

Group G: Arsenal, FC Porto, CSKA Moscow, Hamburg
Group H: AC Milan, Lille,AEK Athens, Anderlecht

Barcelona V Chelsea

This is bloody sexy! Unlike Chelsea v Liverpool (which are usually snooze fests) you just cannot get enough of Chelsea vs Barcelona. Two great teams, two brilliant coaches and most importantly so many mouth watering match ups all over the pitch. Plus, with Shevchenko and Ballack in the Chelsea starting line up, things will get even better. Barca have significantly strengthened their defence through Zambrotta and Thurram. The only problem is probably the long over-drawn build up to the games.
Rijkaard V Mourinho

Rijkaard probably got the most important footballing lesson in his life when Chelsea scored those 3 quick goals against Barcelona in the at Stamford Bridge two years back. Rijkaard came back stronger and was a lot more pragmatic in his approach. Mixing defensive midfielders with flair players such as Messi and Ronaldinho. He came back last year to trump Mourinho and Barcelona were way better than Chelsea last year in every part of the field.

Arsenal might find it tough (just might!, before all you Arsneal fans get on my back) against Porto, Hamburg and Moscow. Hamburg finished third in the Bundesliga last year and Moscow were UEFA cup champions two years back ( plus, they are bankrolled by Roman Abrahamovich‘s  Abramovich’s company)

Manchester United should go through with ease, but the Battle of Britain (Fergie V Strachan) will be fun. Benfica have lost their coach (Koeman) to PSV. But then Man Utd were expected to sail through their group last year as well. Copenhagen should be easy to beat but then they are the reason that Ajax aren’t here!

Verdict: Group stages are usually just a task to be done away with before the real show. Expect all the usual suspects to be around come the knock out stage.
Group to Watch: Group A. Werder Bremen are no push overs. Expect them to give both Barca and Chelsea a real fight. Levski Sofia will have two great match days! When the the Barca and Chelsea teams come into town.

Z

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Posted in Champions League, English Football, EPL, Football | 11 Comments »