Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weekend Couch Guide

(Apologies, but the ESPN website is "unsure" which matches they will be showing. Be sure to check ESPN Deportes throughout the weekend for a handful more to watch)

Saturday, November 20
7:30am Arsenal vs Tottenham (ESPN2)
9:30am Schalke 04 vs Werder Bremen (GolTV)
10:00am Manchester United vs Wigan (FSC)
10:00am Birmingham City vs Chelsea (FSC Plus)
12:00pm Roma vs Udinese (FSC Plus)
12:30pm Liverpool vs West Ham (FSC)
2:30pm AC Milan vs Fiorentina (FSC)
4:00pm Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao(GolTV)
4:00pm West Brom vs Stoke City - tape delay (FSC Plus)
5:00pm Bolton vs Newcastle United - tape delay (FSC)
6:00pm Blackpool vs Wolverhampton - tape delay (FSC Plus)

Sunday, November 21
6:30am Genoa vs Juventus (FSC Plus)
8:30am Blackburn vs Aston Villa (FSC Plus)
9:00am Chievo vs Inter Milan(FSC)
11:00am Stuttgart vs Cologne- tape delay (GolTV)
11:00am Fulham vs Manchester City (FSC)
1:00pm Sevilla vs Mallorca (GolTV)
2:30pm Napoli vs Bologna (FSC)
3:00pm Real Sociedad vs Atletico Madrid (GolTV)
3:00pm RC Lens vs Olympique Lyon (FSC Plus)

Five years ago today - a standing ovation for Ronaldinho in Madrid

On November 19, 2005, Frank Rijkaard took his Barcelona side to Madrid for another incarnation of El Clasico, which the visitors won 3-0. At the time, nobody would have guessed Rijkaard and his side would finish the season hoisting the La Liga and Champions League Trophy. Neither could anyone have foreseen the unprecedented events which transpired on the field.

A Samuel Eto'o goal 14 minutes into the match put the visitors ahead, but this night would belong to Ronaldinho. The first was a scintillating run down the left flank, leaving Sergio Ramos on his ass, and Iván Helguera and Iker Casillas helpless. For the second goal, he again made Ramos look pedestrian finishing ever so calmly to seal the win. Then the unthinkable - the Bernabéu rose to its feet to give the Brazilian, a Barcelona player, a standing ovation in one of the very few classy gestures in this extremely fierce rivalry.

Ronaldinho later capped off that season with the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Worst goalkeeper in the world

No questions asked, this guy is the worst. Either he was drunk, or high, or had trouble seeing the ball during a evening match without lights.

I don't buy the excuses. Anything short of "this guy is embarrassingly bad" won't be accepted.

Ronaldo robbed of wonder goal

My personal feelings aside, you can't argue with the ability of this guy. Cristiano Ronaldo, in the midst of his country's utter shellacking of World Champion Spain, created one of the most jaw dropping "goals" you will ever see. The problem is, it didn't count.

After stopping short on Pique, flicking the ball behind him to his stronger right foot, Ronaldo then dragged the ball ever so slightly and chipped a flat footed Casillas. Unfortunately, his teammate thought it important to make sure the goal-bound ball really crossed the line with some gusto and headed it home. Nani flagged for offsides and the goal waved off.

After watching about fifty replays, and you should too, watch the drag before the chip. Usually Ronaldo adds twinkle toe accessories to his moves for the sake of pissing people off. However, the drag is what kept Puyol and an onrushing Xabi Alonso on edge for that split second to prevent them from blocking the shot. It also occurred to me that if Nani was the shooter, Ronaldo probably would have done the exact same thing by heading the ball into the net.

But hey, Portugal still won 4-0 and Captain Ronaldo didn't celebrate a single goal with his teammates. Why? Because he wasn't the one who scored them....duh.

Italian racism strikes yet again

Mario Balotelli always seems to find the headlines for the wrong reasons. Whether spats with the coaching staff or reckless play on the pitch, the 20 year old never seems to get the benefit of the doubt from anyone. Which is why his most recent comments are a bit baffling:

Until June I am certainly at Manchester City. I have a five-year contract and can’t say anything.

What do I think of Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Ah, Ibra and I would make a very strong pairing

They are not baffling because of the nature of his remarks - a lack of complete commitment to his current squad and always hinting at moving to other clubs. They are baffling because of what awaits him at home, and he is fully aware of it.
Yesterday's international friendly between Italy and Romania took place in Austria. Balotelli made a much anticipated start for his country, but any pre-match excitement was immediately squashed. Every time he touched the ball, whistles filled the stadium as Romanian supporters spewed racist chants and slogans at the Italian striker born of Ghanaian immigrants. However, this was not even the tip of the iceberg. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

FIFA unveils Puskas Award shortlist

FIFA has unveiled the 10 finalists for the 2010 Puskas Award for goal of the year.

Established only last year at the behest of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, the award is given to the best goal of the year scored by a man or woman. It is named for Ferenc Puskás, captain of the Hungarian national side in the 1950s and scorer of 84 goals in 85 international appearances at one point.

Ibrahimovic and his agent go too far - Barcelona block payments

There has been to decrease of pathetic, classless, insulting remarks from former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his stupid, gluttonous agent Mino Raiola. To start with, the gangly Swede has used every breathe over the past few weeks and months to slander the Barcelona manager and his image.

He has repeatedly mocked Pep Guardiola calling him a "philosopher" - claiming he is no better than any other manager or player in the game - that he barely had anything to do with Barcelona's success. Just a few days ago, he told reporters that Guardiola thinks of himself as Ghandi. "He seems to think he invented Barcelona's style of play."

As if that wasn't enough, his agent joined the fray yesterday stating, "I think [Johan] Cruyff and Guardiola should go to a mental institution, shut their mouths, and play cards. They would be doing a great favor to Barcelona and the modern game."

Enough is enough. For all the bad blood and supposed bust-ups between manager and player, Ibra is long gone and has almost single-handedly carried AC Milan to the top of Serie A. Upon transferring to Milan, he and his agent made out like bandits with Barcelona's money. So why must they keep pestering and badgering?

There is no rational answer. And luckily, Barcelona Football Club have slammed their fists in response. In an official statement, the club defended their coach and, effective immediately, threw the book at Raiola:

Futbol Club Barcelona considers inadmissible the recent statements issued by Mino Raiola, which have attacked the honor and moral integrity of our manager, Pep Guardiola, and Mr. Johan Cruyff.

These statements have been published by the Swedish daily newspaper "Expressen" and widely reported by numerous agencies and international media.

In this regard, the Legal Department is considering legal action against Mr. Mino Raiola, including criminal proceedings.Taking effect immediately, FC Barcelona has blocked all outstanding payments to Mr. Raiola as per his contractual agreement with the club.

I do wish they had mentioned Ibrahimovic in here, but on second thought, that would only bring the club down to his level. Everyone in their right mind knows that the stupidity coming from Ibra's mouth is exactly that. He's the one looking like an ass. Raiola is a different story altogether - a businessman and an agent. He deserves everything the club has threatened him with.

WAG Wednesday Part 13 - Dorien Rose

And what a lucky 13 this is.

Barcelona recently secured the services of PSV Eindhoven captain, and Dutch international winger, Ibrahim Afellay. The 24 year brings creativity, skill, depth to Barcelona's depleted squad, and oh yeh, his okay looking girlfriend Dorien Rose.

The 27 year old former Dutch Playmate of the Year will turn plenty of heads on the streets of Barcelona. She also bears a striking resemblance to Angelina Jolie. Unfortunately, Jolie ain't no WAG so there's no place for her here.

If Afellay's impact on the sqaud is as good as his girlfriend's looks, Barcelona will be licking their chops for years to come.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sporting Gijon supporters let loose on CR7

Over the weekend, Real Madrid traveled to Gijon for an anger fueled match after Gijon's manager Manolo Prediado called Mourinho a "scoundrel." And while Mourinho enjoyed the confines of an enclosed box seat after receiving a two match suspension, his players faced the most vile of vitriol from the supporters who packed El Molinón all evening.

Needless to say, Cristiano Ronaldo is not one of their favorites.

If you need more, right this way.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Don't give up on La Liga just yet

Only eleven matches in and the gap is six. Villarreal, with a chance to choose contender or pretender, were put to the sword by an emphatic Barcelona. Cynics would look at the result of that match without a blink of an eye and promote La Liga as a two horse race here on out. However, such people would be incredibly dumb to do so.

Those who watched can tell you it was probably the most artistic and technically gifted match of any played this season in Europe, or the rest of the world. The visitors matched their hosts in every facet of the game - high defensive lines to push forward, neat and tidy possession, wing play and attacking fullbacks. What they lacked, though no fault of their own, was the world class brilliance of Messi and Villa whose goals may go down as the best of the season.

With that in mind, don't be fooled by the final 3-1 tally. Villarreal taught us more in a loss than you would expect. And if you look ahead to the next few weeks, yesterday's match was but a prelude to the true deciders as to whether this league will be a two or three horse race.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Must see matches on the weekend

All eyes turn to Italy this weekend in what is a top heavy fixture list of massive encounters. Quite simply, all of the top six clubs will face each other (including the Milan derby), not to mention the Sicilian derby on Sunday. Not to sell the other leagues short, but aside from Serie A, there is really only one other match of note and that is in Spain where a true test of contender/pretender faces Villarreal. Inasmuch as I obviously support Barcelona, I'm sick of the two horse race and all the flack La Liga receives. Spain needs a Villarreal win or draw, and to be honest it would not be all that bad in my mind.

But hey, that's why they play the game. Buckle up for a roller coaster Italian style weekend:

A Veterans Day Tribute

So I'm a day late, relax. I was clearly just looking for the perfect story to honor the veterans of war and now I've got it:  The Amputee World Cup

This year's tournament was held in Argentina, and for the second straight year, Uzbekistan took home the championship. However, it is the English squad which included a number of men who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. After war, bloodshed, and missing limbs, these men are still able and motivated to compete in a sport that they love. It is truly a heroic and touching tale of human sacrifice and the strength of the human heart.

(Video courtesy of The Guardian)

Weekend Couch Guide

Saturday, November 13
7:30am Aston Villa vs Manchester United (ESPN2)
9:45am Wolfsburg vs Schalke 04 (ESPN Deportes)
10:00am Manchester City vs Birmingham City (FSC)
10:00am Tottenham vs Blackburn (FSC Plus)
12:00pm Fiorentina vs Cesena (FSC Plus)
12:30pm Stoke City vs Liverpool (FSC)
2:00pm Atletico Madrid vs Osasuna (GolTV)
2:30pm Juventus vs Roma (FSC)
4:00pm West Ham vs Blackpool(FSC Plus)
4:00pm Barcelona vs Villarreal (ESPN Deportes)
5:00pm Newcastle United vs Fulham - tape delay (FSC)
8:30pm Mainz vs Hannover - tape delay (GolTV)
9:30pm Colorado Rapids vs San Jose Earthquakes - MLS Eastern Conference Final (FSC)

Sunday, November 14
6:30am Lazio vs Napoli (FSC Plus)
8:30am AZ Alkmaar vs Ajax (ESPN Deportes)
9:00am Everton vs Arsenal (FSC Plus)
9:00am Palermo vs Catania (FSC)
11:00am Mallorca vs Deportivo La Coruña (ESPN Deportes)
11:00am Chelsea vs Sunderland (FSC)
11:00am Zaragoza vs Sevilla(GolTV)
1:00pm Sporting Gijon vs Real Madrid (GolTV)
2:30pm Inter Milan vs AC Milan (FSC)
3:00pm Valencia vs Getafe (ESPN Deportes)
3:00pm Olympique Lyonnais v Nice (FSC Plus)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Man love at the Manchester Derby


I can barely find the words to describe this. It looks like Carlito is looking for a pot of gold up Rio's ass. Or simply a way in...

Here's a side view:

El Clásico to be contested on a MONDAY

Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) have agreed to move El Clásico to Monday, November 29th. On Sunday, the originally scheduled date of the match, Catalan elections are set to be held, and the local authorities had reservations about security for both occasions (and getting people to vote). 

On the one hand, I completely understand why Barcelona did not want the game staged on Sunday. Although it would kick off around 10pm local time at the Camp Nou and polls would be long closed, there is the issue of security. At the stadium itself and around the city, there will be plenty of Madrileños aka targets for violence and vitriol. Security forces will need to be at their fullest capacity. The problem is, 10pm is around the time when results could come in. And even if they came in earlier, there is the issue of celebrations and election parties where security would also be necessary. Frankly, it's a logistical nightmare and the RFEF could ill afford risking a lax in security for one of the most heated derbies on Earth.

Then we have the RFEF itself who were, in my opinion, too weak to assert any influence here. We all know every decision made in this sport revolves around money, and nothing more. Not the supporters, not attendance levels, not the squads (and in some cases not even security). Money and revenue only. So how could the Federation allow the biggest, and most anticipated game on the planet, to be played on a workday?! When ratings will drop. When interest will dwindle. Catalans would have complained (or at least the candidates would have) were the game held on Sunday. And I doubt many people would have argued with their reasoning to do so. But the RFEF needs to do what is in the best interest of their league - a league with the potential to be the most exciting in Europe. This is their grand spectacle to the world, and most won't be able to watch.

You could say that having it on a Monday makes it even more engaging. They will have their own Clásico day. That's just crap though. Spain missed an opportunity here to reach a record number of televisions in every corner of the world. I can't think of a bigger inconvenience in history than this.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WAG Wednesday Part 12 - Gina Lisa Lohfink

I know you are probably thinking from the name and photo that Gina Lisa must be a porn star name. Okay, so she may have released a sex tape in 2008 and featured in Playboy. HOWEVER, Lisa is a former contestant on Germany's Next Top Model and a notorious serial WAG.

Her current conquest is VfB Stuttgart's Ivorian left back Arthur Boka.

Lucky bastard:

WAG Wednesday Part 11 - Melissa Castagnoli

Mario Ballotelli made his Premier League debut over the weekend with two goals and a red card. The Italian kicked out at an opponent prompting his marching orders, and a three match suspension which unfortunately rules him out of today's enormous derby with Manchester United.

In his absence over the next few weeks, it seems only fitting to feature his wonderfully adorable girlfriend today, Melissa Castagnoli. The 19 year old former Miss Italy finalist was once brutally attacked by another girl jealous of her looks, resulting in a broken nose and some bruises.

Looks like she found the right guy to prevent that from happening again any time soon.

A beautiful and unblemished Ms. Castagnoli after the jump: