Archive | September, 2012

La Liga, Week 6 Game of the Week

26 Sep

Recap of Last Week: I correctly predicted rising Mallorca to defeat Valencia, but I was just a little bit off when it came to predicting the exact score. My 2-1 result was close, however Mallorca managed to score 2 goals, AND shut out their opponents. The 2-0 victory had little to do with the 2 players I expected to shine, most notably Israeli star Tomer Hemed and Emilio Nsue, as the goals game from Victor Casadesus (8′) and Javier Arizmendi (55′).

This Week:

Sevilla FC vs FC Barcelona

Saturday September 29th, 3:00 PM (CST), Stadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan

Why this Game is Intriguing: Simply put, these are 2 of the top 4 teams in La Liga right now. FC Barcelona, as is to be expected year in and year out, is undefeated (and has not drawn either) with 5 wins, 0 losses, and 0 draws. Some wins have been blowouts (see 5-1 to Real Sociedad, 4-1 to Getafe), while others have been close (1-0 to Valencia, 2-1 to Osasuna). Lionel Messi has been on a tear, leading the league with 6 quality goals- a couple of them being game winners in a couple of those close games mentioned above. Sevilla too, is undefeated with 3 wins and 2 draws, including a victory over defending La Liga champs Real Madrid. Sevilla will be challenging for a Champions League bid this year, and if they can somehow manage a win, or even a draw against Barca (thus making it 2 early, positive results against Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona), then they will have an inside track at securing one of the top 4 spots in the league.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: Will David Villa play? There have been a few articles on espn.com that suggest Lionel Messi and David Villa do not get along. Villa, once a staple in La Liga and starring for Valencia, FC Barcelona, and the 2010 World Cup winning team, has been primarily relegated to a bench role with FC Barcelona as new manager Tito Villanova has preferred to use some younger players in his place such as Cristian Tello and Isaac Cuenca. FC Barcelona, particularly during their incredible run and accumulation of trophies over the past 4,5 years, has prided itself on selfless, team-first football- especially in comparison to their rivals Real Madrid. Take note of how manager Villanova uses his substitutions in this game, and when. Perhaps we will be able to see what this team is all about, and how/if David Villa fits in.

Soccahaus Prediction: FC Barcelona 3, Sevilla 1

Other Games this Week Worth Watching: Real Betis vs Atletico Madrid, Valencia vs Real Zaragoza, Malaga vs Real Betis, Real Madrid vs Deportivo la Coruna, Espanyol vs Atletico Madrid

Advertisements

English Premier League, Week 6 Game of the Week

25 Sep

Recap of Last Week: I incorrectly predicted a Manchester City 3-1 win, as the eventual score was a 1-1 tie. Arsenal’s center back Laurent Koscielny tied the game off a loose ball that appeared just in front of him after an Arsenal corner kick in the ’82. The powerful strike culminated a resounding Arsenal attack that seemed to overwhelm City for much of the last 20 minutes of the game or so.

This Week:

Arsenal FC vs Chelsea FC

Saturday September 29th, 6:45 AM (CST), Emirates Stadium (ESPN2)

Why This Game is Intriguing: Who doesn’t enjoy a London derby featuring two of the top teams in England? Both of these teams boast incredibly talented squads, and each is seeking to do some damage in the Champions League this year as well. Chelsea currently sits in 1st place atop the English Premier League standings, and remain undefeated through its first 5 games- its lone draw was to QPR. Arsenal on the other hand has struggled at times to score this season, but ever since the Liverpool match a few weeks ago, they have played remarkably well- including a tough Champions League group play win over French champions Montpellier. Chelsea and Arsenal are two of the most popular English teams in the world, and both have rabid fan bases that stretch well beyond the boundaries of London.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla and Oliver Giroud. Both clubs look drastically different than they did the last time they played each other, primarily because of some roster overhauls that occurred during this past transfer window. Chelsea said goodbye to living legend Didier Drogba, and welcomed in players such as Belgium star Eden Hazard and Brazilian attacking midfielder Oscar. Arsenal lost Robin van Persie, and replaced him with striker Olivier Giroud, winger Lukas Podolski, and attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla. Eden Hazard has made a rather seamless transition from Ligue 1 where he played for Lille into the English Premier League. In just 4 regular season games, Hazard has 1 goal and 6 assists. At only 21 years of age, Hazard is emerging as one of the top players in England- his skill set is off the charts and he will only improve with more experience playing at this level. Arsenal so far has struggled to fill the void left by league leading goal scorer last year Robin van Persie. Santi Cazorla has looked impressive and his creativity on the ball has wowed his opponents as much as Arsenal fans, but the problem lies with Olivier Giroud. The French striker, who tallied 21 goals and 9 assists for Montpellier last season in 36 regular season games, has failed to do anything for Arsenal thus far. He has no goals, no assists, and really hasn’t shown any resemblance to the player he was at Montpellier. The pressure is on Giroud, as Arsenal, even with the 1-1 tie against Manchester City last week, has struggled to put the ball in the net.

Soccahaus Prediction: Chelsea 3, Arsenal 2

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Fulham vs Manchester City, Norwich vs Liverpool, Reading vs Newcastle, Manchester United vs Tottenham, Aston Villa vs West Brom

La Liga, Week 5 Game of the Week

21 Sep

Recap of Last Week: I incorrectly predicted a Real Madrid romp over Sevilla, but Real Madrid continued to slide in the standings as they lost 0-1 off a ‘2 goal by Piotr Trochowski. While Sevilla is considered one of the better teams in Spain, in no way was a result like this expected. Real Madrid bounced back in dramatic fashion a few days later to win their Champions League opener against Manchester City by a score of 3-2.

This Week:

RCD Mallorca vs Valencia CF

Sunday September 23rd, 5:00 AM (CST), Iberostar Estadio

Why this Game is Intriguing:While still early, I believe Mallorca is already out to make a statement against one of the top clubs in Spain. Currently in 3rd place in La Liga, Mallorca might be a team to challenge for a Champions League spot. With 2 wins and 2 draws, Mallorca has looked sharp thus far. Valencia will be looking to turn things around after a resounding 2-1 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich. Valencia was outclassed in that match, as they were outshot 17-5, and out-possessed 63%-37%. Valencia is typically recognized as the 3rd best team in Spain behind giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, and on many occasions have competed in the Champions League. Mallorca seeks to usurp Valencia and perhaps take over this spot for this season. A win against the team that beat Real Madrid already and currently competes against the best in the world in the Champions League would do wonders for Mallorca.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Tomer Hemed, the Israeli striker who plays for Mallorca. In just 4 La Liga games, he is tied for 2nd in the league with 4 goals scored- only Lionel Messi has more (6). The 25 year old Maccabi Haifa product has been one of the stories of the league this year, and has been unstoppable thus far in the season. Mallorca will rely on him, along with fellow striker Emilio Nsue (who has 3 assists), to carry the load against one of the toughest back lines in the league anchored by Aly Cissokho, Jeremy Mathieu, and Joao Pereira. Is Mallorca ready to take the next step at home? This is a big test.

Soccahaus Prediction: Mallorca 2, Valencia 1.

Other Games this Week Worth Watching: Celta de Vigo vs Getafe, Real Betis vs Espanyol, FC Barcelona vs Granada, Atletico Madrid vs Valladolid, Athletic Bilbao vs Malaga, Rayo Vallecano vs Real Madrid

English Premier League, Week 5 Game of the Week

19 Sep

Recap of Last Week: I managed to accurately predict a 2-2 draw between Newcastle and Everton, but that’s not without controversy. In the 76′, Everton had tap in that clearly crossed the entire goal line on replay but was NOT called a goal. While Demba Ba’s game tying goal came after, had the ref called the goal line play right, or had there been goal line technology, the result could have been very different.

This Week:

Manchester City vs Arsenal

Sunday September 23rd, 10:00 AM (CST), City of Manchester Stadium aka Etihad Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: There is no love lost when it comes to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and his feelings towards Manchester City. After City snagged former Arsenal player Samir Nasri during last summer’s transfer window for a reported 25 million Pounds, rumors had Robin van Persie possibly headed there as well during this transfer window. This past March, before the season was over and before the transfer window reopened, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini publicly acknowledged his interest in adding van Persie to his club- something Wenger was reportedly “furious” about, considering his star player was still on contract and currently playing with the Gunners. While van Persie ended up signing with Manchester United, Man City still has plenty of players who can score goals, including Samir Nasri.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Questions still remain in North London: Is Arsenal simply becoming a feeder club to what are now the English Premier League giants of Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea? Arsenal hasn’t won any silverware since 2005, while the previously listed 3 teams have not only won numerous trophies in that span, but have done so by adding Arsenal players to their respective squads. But for this weekend’s game in particular, both of these teams come off dramatic Champion’s League games, Arsenal in a 2-1 over Montpellier, and Manchester City in a 2-3 loss to Real Madrid. Both clubs will be looking to improve on their league campaigns as they continue to tinker with their starting lineups.

Soccahaus Prediction: 3-1, Manchester City over Arsenal

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Swansea vs Everton, Chelsea vs Stoke City, Liverpool vs Manchester United, Newcastle vs Norwich, Tottenham vs QPR

La Liga, Week 4 Game of the Week

12 Sep

Recap of Two Weeks Ago (*Last week players were on International duty): I incorrectly predicted FC Barcelona to beat Valencia by a score of 3-1. In actuality, the game was very close, as the Catalans won 1-0 behind Adriano’s 23′ goal.

This Week:

Sevilla vs Real Madrid

Saturday September 15th, 3:00 PM (CST), Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan

Why This Game is Intriguing: While it’s hard at this point in the young season to really call any game a “must win”, both of these teams can’t afford a loss- especially Real Madrid. Just about every soccer news site or outlet has been on fire surrounding the rumor that Cristiano Ronaldo is unhappy. In Real Madrid’s last game, a 3-0 win over Granada in which Ronaldo netted twice, the superstar unusually failed to celebrate, and instead appeared straight-faced and stoic. After the game, Ronaldo was quoted as “being sad” but neglected to explain why. Whether the story is overblown, or whether Ronaldo was upset at losing the UEFA Player of the Year award to Andres Iniesta, is irrelevant. The old sports cliche’ “winning cures everything” is especially true here, as I believe a win by Los Blancos would set aside all of the distractions Ronaldo and his Real Madrid teammates have had to deal with for two weeks now. Sevilla is a proud club, and consistently one of Spain’s best- In that next group following Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, Sevilla is usually right alongside Valencia. Currently, Sevilla’s only win is against Getafe (a team Real Madrid lost to already this season), with two draws against Rayo Vallecano and Granada respectively.

Other Reasons to Watch The Game: Real Madrid Manager Jose Mourinho and his recent quotes regarding his clubs upcoming schedule. Just 3 days after this Sevilla vs Real Madrid fixture, Real Madrid plays host to the first leg of their Champions League group stage matchup against the English champions, Manchester City (9/18). In an interview given to Spanish sports newspaper AS last week, Mourinho said, “I will tell my players that you cannot just be at your best for a certain game or against a certain opponent, “To be at our best in the Champions League we must also be at our best in La Liga and in the Copa del Rey. This means each game does not just have one objective, to win, but also to look for improvement and progress.” Mourinho is linking success and progress together, regardless of which competition his club is playing in at a given time. While Chelsea last season managed to finish outside of the top 4 in the Premier League while still winning the Champions League, Mourinho’s vision for his team is one of consistent dominance, regardless of who they play and when they play. So far Real Madrid has yet to flex its muscles- steady, consistent improvement is exactly what Mourinho is demanding.

Soccahaus Predition: Real Madrid over Sevilla, 3-1.

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Malaga vs Levante, Valencia vs Ceta de Vigo, Getafe vs FC Barcelona, Osasuna vs Mallorca, Atletico Madrid vs Rayo Vallecano

English Premier League, Week 4 Game of the Week

10 Sep

Recap of Two Weeks Ago (*International Duty last week): I incorrectly predicted Liverpool to win 2-0 at home to an Arsenal squad that was reeling and in desperate need of its first goal of the season. In actuality, Arsenal won the game 2-0 behind goals by newcomers Lukas Podolski (31′) and Santi Cazorla (’68). The new, Van Persieless Gunners finally asserted themselves on the offensive end, while Liverpool continued to struggle in the open field.

This Week: 

Everton F.C. vs Newcastle United

Monday September 17th, 2:00 PM (CST), Goodison Park

Why This Game is Intriguing: Everton is currently in 6th place in the Premier League, while Newcastle is in 10th Place. While nobody would say that either of these teams is an elite club in England, I believe most at this point in the season would be open to mentioning them in that 2nd group of teams. Everton has looked sharp thus far, with wins over Manchester United and Aston Villa. Newcastle is looking for its second win of the season, but notched an important opening week victory over Tottenham Hotspur. The Magpies’ lone loss thus far comes at the hands Chelsea, the league leaders and without a doubt the best playing soccer team on the planet right now. At this rate, both of these teams possibly are vying for that 4th Champions League bid, or at least an automatic bid in the Europa League.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian international midfielder has been sensational thus far in the season. In 3 games he has 2 goals on 13 shots, and has been involved in just about every positive play for Everton. His vastly improved quality, coupled with his size (6’5) and age (he turns 25 in November), makes him one of the most valuable players Everton has. His partner in the midfield, Steven Pienaar has looked good as well, and together they compliment what appears to be a strong, consistent Everton attack. In previous articles I have mentioned the strength and talent Newcastle possesses. The skills of Hatem ben Arfa, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Cheick Tiote, and Fabricio Coloccini are well known in England, and it will be a thrill to watch them matchup against a surging, confident Everton team.

Soccahaus Prediction: 2-2 Draw.

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Norwich vs West Ham, Stoke City vs Manchester City, Manchester United vs Wigan Athletic, QPR vs Chelsea, Fulham vs West Brom, Arsenal vs Southampton, Sunderland vs Liverpool