Archive | October, 2012

English Premier League, Week 10 Game of the Week

30 Oct

Recap of Last Week: I anticipated a close, ultra competitive matchup between the two best teams in Premier League, with Chelsea ultimately winning by a goal. In reality, in what turned out to be a very controversial match with 2 red cards, Chelsea lost 2-3 to Manchester United while playing with two men down. Javier Hernandez scored the winning goal in the ’75.

This Week:

Manchester United vs Arsenal

Saturday November 3rd, 7:45 AM (CST), Old Trafford

Why This Game is Intriguing: Anyone remember what happened that last time the Gunners traveled to Manchester to play the Devils at Old Trafford? August 28, 2011. Manchester United 8, Arsenal 2. Wayne Rooney scored a hat trick, Ashley Young braced, and Park, Welbeck and Nani added to the tally as Man U blew past Arsenal in shocking fashion. At that point last year, many wondered if Arsenal’s season was over as far as competing for a place in the Champions League. Arsenal finished last season strong and ended up qualifying, but this year, again, Manchester United’s squad appears too strong and too cohesive as unit to lose a game such as this one on Saturday. Arsenal has not beaten Manchester United in its last 3 attempts, and Arsenal has not won at Old Trafford since 2006.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Dutch star Robin van Persie faces his old team for the first time since his transfer this summer. Arsenal fans weren’t so much shocked as they were disgusted with the fact that their superstar striker, the same striker that led the Premier League with 30 goals last season, jumped ship and joined the Red Devils of Manchester United. Robin van Persie is currently tied with Demba Ba as the top scorer in the league with 7 goals, and all of the doubts as to whether or not van Persie and Wayne Rooney could play well together have completely dissipated. Rooney has flourished in his role as quasi-attacking midfielder, accumulating 4 assists and dictating the tempo for the Man U attack going forward. Also, we must not forget the managerial situation heading into this game. Arsene Wenger of Arsenal and Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United know each other quite well, as both have been managers for their respective clubs for a combined 42 years. Sir Alex appears to be stepping down in the next couple of years (Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola possibly taking over?), so it is important to fully recognize and enjoy this game with the two old timers in charge their clubs.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester United 3, Arsenal 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Tottenham vs Wigan, Swansea vs Chelsea, Fulham vs Everton, West Ham vs Man City, Liverpool vs Newcastle, West Brom vs Southampton.

 

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La Liga Week 9 Game of the Week

25 Oct

Recap of Last Week: Real Madrid beat Celta Vigo 2-0. Even though I expected Real Madrid to win by a greater margin, 3 points is 3 points, particularly with no true left back on the Los Blancos roster due to Marcelo’s and Fabio Coentrao’s injuries. Michael Essien stepped right in to fill the void, and Mourinho opted to start Kaka, Ozil and Modric to bolster the possession game.

This Week:

Real Madrid CF vs RCD Mallorca

Sunday October 28th, 3:30 PM (CST) Iberostar Estadio

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because Real Madrid is in some serious trouble as they look to face a team that has lost its last 3 straight matches. Los Blancos return to Spain to continue their La Liga schedule after a Champions League loss to two time Bundesliga reigning champions Borussia Dortmund. The injury bug has hit Real Madrid especially hard this early season, especially along the back line where the absence of Marcelo (and for that matter, Fabio Coentrao as well) is really starting to take a toll on the flow and dominance of what we’ve come to expect from this team. The injuries didn’t stop in Germany, as Sami Khedira was forced off the pitch around the ’20 mark because of a leg muscle injury. In his place stepped Luka Modric, a player who is far less effective in the holding midfield role compared to attacking midfield, the exact position Mesut Ozil plays.

Mallorca is quickly dropping down the La Liga standings, as their past 3 games have all resulted in 1 goal losses. Their loss to Sevilla last week was expected, but losses to teams Mallorca should beat (such as Getafe and Granada) are disappointing to say the least. A plus for Mallorca is the emergence of Mexican star and former Barca Youth Academy graduate Giovanni dos Santos. He assisted twice in the loss against Sevilla, and looks to be part of an effective attacking combination along with rising La Liga and Israeli standout Tomer Hemed.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Because this game can also be dubbed “The Rafael Nadal Derby”. Why? Rafael Nadal, who was born in Mallorca (part of the Balearic Islands), has been a life long Real Madrid fan and supporter. ESPN soccer writer Graham Hunter once wrote about Rafael Nadal “He’s as Merengue as Raul, Iker Casillas, and Alfredo Di Stefano”. Despite this, it was reported on July 8th, 2010 that Nadal purchased a stake (10%) of RCD Mallorca to help assist its growing debt crisis. As a major shareholder for Mallorca and as a lifelong fan of Real Madrid, you can bet this game will cause some conflict of interest in the heart of one of the greatest tennis players ever.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 2, RCD Mallorca 0

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Espanyol vs Malaga, Real Betis vs Valencia, Celta Vigo vs Deportivo la Coruna, Rayo vs FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid vs Osasuna

And now… Enjoy a Nike commercial from earlier this year, featuring Soccer and Tennis’ biggest stars:

English Premier League, Week 9 Game of the Week

23 Oct

Recap of Last Week: I incorrectly predicted a 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at the White Hart Line. I underestimated both the pace of the game, and sheer firepower Chelsea possesses- even without Chelsea captain John Terry. A 4-2 result for the Blues was the final, with goals by Cahill 17′, Gallas 47′, Defoe 54′ , Mata 66′ & 69′, and Sturridge 90′. Chelsea is the class of the EPL this season.

This Week:

Chelsea vs Manchester United

Sunday October 28th, 11:00AM (CST), Stamford Bridge

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because this matchup features the 1st and 2nd place teams in the English Premier League. As mentioned above, Chelsea is a class above the rest, particularly after a convincing 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur, the same Hotspur team that beat Manchester United at Old Trafford just a few weeks ago. Wayne Rooney is back to scoring goals, and it seems as if the pairing of Van Persie and the English superstar is going to work out just as Sir Alex Ferguson planned. Both teams are playing a lot of football, as both face Champions League group play competition on October 23rd, play each other in the EPL on the 28th, and then play each other again in the Capital One Cup on the 31st (also at Stamford Bridge).

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Some of the top talent not just in England, but throughout the world will be playing in this match. Let’s start with Juan Mata- no one on the planet is playing better football than the Spaniard for Chelsea. His pace (and 5 assists) anchor the attack for the Blues, while Fernando Torres is finally starting to resemble the player he once was while playing for Liverpool. On the other side, Robin van Persie is tied for most goals in the Premier League with 6, while Wayne Rooney is one of the top assist men with 4. Both of these clubs rely on ball pressure and forcing the other team into costly turnovers. While no one would argue against the fact that Chelsea is the best club in the league right now, what remains up for debate is just how far apart the Blues are from 2nd place Man U and 3rd place Man City. This game should at least give some insight into just how good Chelsea is relative to the two or three teams fighting for 1st place.

Soccahaus Prediction: Chelsea 3, Manchester United 2

Other Games This week Worth Watching: Reading vs Fulham, Wigan vs West Ham, Arsenal vs QPR, Man City vs Swansea, Everton vs Liverpool, Newcastle vs West Brom, Southampton vs Tottenham

La Liga, Week 8 Game of the Week

18 Oct

Recap of 2 weeks Ago: I incorrectly predicted a 3-1 victory for Los Blancos over the Catalan Giants at the Nou Camp. In reality, both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi scored braces, for what ended up being a thrilling 2-2 draw. We look forward to the next Classico on March 3rd at the Bernabeu. Where will both teams stand relative to the rest of the league? Will the game have a major impact on whoever wins the league? Most likely.

This Week: 

Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo

Saturday Oct 20th, 11:00AM (CST), Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Why this Game is Intriguing: Who would have thought that through 7 league games, reigning champs Real Madrid would have the same amount of victories as Celta Vigo, the 2nd place finishers in the Segunda division? Of the 20 teams in La Liga, Real Madrid is currently in 5th place, while Celta Vigo is in 12th. Real Madrid is in a position where every game counts, especially if they want to catch up to league leaders and arch rivals Barcelona for tops in the league. This game is also vital for Real Madrid to figure out just how they will set their lineup prior to Wednesdays Champions League clash at Borussia Dortmund. The injury bug hit Los Blancos exceptionally hard during last week’s break for international duty- Marcelo has a broken foot and will be out for the rest of this calendar year. Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Arbeloa also were prematurely taken out of their respective international matches because of injury. Just two weeks ago, I wrote about how depleted FC Barcelona’s back line was with their injuries to Pique and Puyol. This week, I am expressing the same concerns for Real Madrid. On paper, this matchup should be a walk in the park for Los Blancos, which means Mourinho will be taking some chances with tinkering his back line to figure out which combination of players will be most effective, particularly against one of the top clubs in the world in Borussia Dortmund a few days after. While I am not entirely sure of what Mourinho will do regarding this gaping hole in the defense, my guess would be that Sergio Ramos, who played many seasons as a right back, will slide back over to that position, while young Frenchman Raphael Varane will emerge as a starting centerback next to Pepe.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: Celta Vigo ought to be taken seriously because the teams they have beaten are the same teams Real Madrid lost to early on in the season. Celta Vigo has beaten Getafe and Sevilla, the two teams Real Madrid stumbled and lost to out of the La Liga gates. The Real Madrid players should be wary of this, as it is important to A. not lose to this inferior club, and B. to not look too far ahead to the Borussia Dortmund Champions League game. Considering how consistently good FC Barcelona has looked, a draw or loss here to Celta Vigo, especially at the Bernabeu would be crushing towards Real’s goal of defending their league crown. As early as it still is in the season, the margin for error is incredibly small for Los Blancos.

Soccahaus Prediction: 4-0 Real Madrid.

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Malaga vs Valladolid, Valencia vs Athletic Bilbao, Deportivo La Coruna vs FC Barcelona, Osasuna vs Real Betis

English Premier League, Week 8 Game of the Week

17 Oct

Recap of Two Weeks Ago: To all of my readers, I am done considering Newcastle one of the top teams in England. I predicted a close game btw the Magpies and the Devils of Manchester United, but the game ended up being a blowout. The game ended in a 3-0 victory for Man U, with goals scored by Evans 8′, Evra ’15, and Cleverly ’71. In 7 EPL games played, Newcastle has just 2 wins, 3 draws, and 2 losses, with a -3 goal differential. Newcastle is mediocre this season so far, and I have no problem admitting it.

This Week:

Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea FC

Saturday October 20th, 6:45AM (CST), ESPN2, White Hart Lane

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because this is a London Derby featuring two of the top five placed teams in the English Premier League. Chelsea sits in 1st place, while Tottenham sits in 5th place with Manchester United, Manchester City and Everton in between them. Both of these clubs look very different than the last time time they played each other last season, as both were incredibly active in the transfer market. An early turning point in the season occurred September 29th, where Tottenham edged Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford. American transfer Clint Dempsey scored the winning goal for the Spurs, making it their first away win at Man U since 1989. Chelsea has been on a roll as well, with their worst result (a 0-0 tie to last place QPR) coming over a month ago. Both clubs boast an array of talent unlike most teams in the league. While Tottenham is still tinkering their 2 deep lineup and trying to figure out which starting 11 works best together, Chelsea’s is a bit more established with their starters at the moment.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Current Hotspur manager Andre’ Villas-Boas will be facing his old team, the same team that fired him before last season was complete. In his 40 games managed at Chelsea, Villas-Boas compiled a 19 win, 11 draw, and 10 loss season for a win percentage of 47.5. As the draws and losses mounted, Villas-Boas was shown the door and Roberto di Matteo was given the Chelsea managerial job on what was then an interim basis. Di Matteo has done a masterful job with the Blues since he took over, leading Chelsea to an improbable Champions League title while beating reigning champs FC Barcelona along the way. One of the reasons Villas-Boas was fired was because during a  Champions League game against Napoli last year, he decided to bench Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, and Ashley Cole- much to the dismay of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Even though this Tottenham vs Chelsea game is at White Hart Lane, how will Villas-Boas be received by his old club? Is there still animosity? At this point, does it even matter, considering the current place of both of these clubs relative to the rest of the league?

Soccahaus Prediction: 2-2 Draw.

Other Games this Week worth Watching: West Brom vs Manchester City, Liverpool vs Reading, Manchester United vs Stoke City, Norwich vs Arsenal, QPR vs Everton, Tyne War Derby: Newcastle United vs Sunderland

Why Arsenal Must Sign Radamel Falcao

8 Oct

Falcao celebrates after scoring a goal for Atletico Madrid

Arsenal has got to sign Falcao. Here’s why.

1. Falcao is one of the top scoring talents in the world. Other than Messi and Ronaldo, you’d be hard pressed to find a better player in the world at scoring goals. Last season he scored 24 league goals in 34 appearances for 5th place finishers Atletico Madrid- only Messi and Ronaldo scored more in La Liga. This season he already has 8 league goals in 6 appearances, currently tied with Messi and Ronaldo for tops in the league. Falcao was also the best player in the Europa League last season, as he led Atletico to championship glory by amassing 12 goals in 15 appearances. The Colombian striker continues to score at rate few players in the world are capable of. He is one of the elite talents, and that alone is reason enough to sign him.

2. A Van Persie Replacement: Arsenal is playing some solid football this season, as they are currently in 7th place but improving and gaining confidence. While they are in good shape to again qualify for the Champions League next season, there is no doubt the Gunners are missing the consistent goal scoring threat that was Robin van Persie last season. Olivier Giroud has been playing better, though has yet to fully break through. Lukas Podolski too has looked good at times, but I highly doubt Arsenal is hinging its hopes on Podolski becoming a regular scorer. Santi Cazorla has looked brilliant, and there is no doubt he is filling in what used to be Cesc Fabregas’ role as Gunner’s primary playmaker in the attacking-mid position. Arsenal is clearly missing Van Persie, for no reason other than putting the ball in the net. While the dutchman’s 30 goals last season probably won’t be replicated, you can bet that Radamel Falcao, if he signs, will at least get pretty close. Falcao thrives in a situation where he is the lone center striker- if Arsenal used him the same way they used Van Persie for years, this will be one of the elite teams in England. Plus, you can’t help but salivate at thought of Cazorla and Falcao teaming up together for the Gunners.

3. Falcao kicked Chelsea’s butt*: Not too long ago, the Champions League winner Chelsea played the Europa League winner Atletico Madrid for the UEFA SuperCup. Atletico Madrid stunned Chelsea by winning 4-1 thanks to a first half hat-trick by none other than Radamel Falcao. Falcao was running circles around Chelsea, making the Blues’ top class defenders like Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, and Branislav Ivanovic’ look silly. Not only would Arsenal love to see Falcao do the same to Chelsea playing for the Gunners, but it is imperative to not let such a talent sign with Chelsea. Chelsea has also been rumored to covet Falcao (I wonder why), so it is important for Arsenal to sign him because it also means Chelsea is not signing him. Arsenal wants a leg up on its rival- don’t let them sign Falcao.

4. Trophy or bust: It has been seven years since Arsenal won any silverware to add to its trophy case. Other teams interested in Falcao are Chelsea and Real Madrid, and very likely some others as well we just don’t know about. With Chelsea coming off a Champions League title, and with Real Madrid looking very much like the favorites to win it this year, it is vital that Arsenal beat these 2 clubs and sign Falcao for themselves. Too often, especially in that 7 year span, Arsenal has let players walk and go elsewhere, or they have missed out on some big potential signees in favor of saving money. According to the annual Forbes report ranking the most valuable soccer teams in the world, Arsenal is currently 4th (behind Manchester United, Real Madrid, and FC Barcelona) with an estimated value at just under $1.3 billion. Arsenal makes $364 million a year in revenue, and their sold-out-every-game home stadium is 2nd largest in capacity in the EPL behind Man U. Arsenal has a fan base that spans the globe. Arsenal has money. Spend it on Falcao. Spend it on an elite player, or continue to miss out on winning trophies.

*Video evidence.

La Liga, Week 7 Game of the Week

3 Oct

Recap of Last Week: I predicted Barcelona to win 3-1, but in actuality, Barca won 3-2 in what turned out to be a very controversial game. Sevilla at one point was winning 2-0, but in the ’72, Cesc Fabregas took a dive to the ground after barely being touched by Gary Medel. Medel was sent off, and the score at that point was 2-1. Fabregas tied the game up at ’89, and David Villa had the game winning goal in extra time as the Catalans returned home with a W.

This Week:

FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid CF

Sunday October 7th, 12:50 PM CST, Camp Nou

Why This Game is Intriguing: El Classico. FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid. The 2 biggest football clubs in Spain, and in the world as well. The rivalry between the two is the most heated rivalry in any sport across the world, and these 2 clubs continuously and routinely boast the two best squads in Europe. The hate that exists between the two teams is only exceded by the expectation by fans of both teams to win and defend the political identities of the clubs: Catalan Nationalism vs Spanish Nationalism. The first La Liga Classico this season takes place at the Nou Camp, where Barca will be looking to avenge a 2-1 loss to Real during their last meeting there this past April. In that game, Cristiano finally proved his “clutch” gene as he scored the game winner in ’73. Even though these teams play each other regularly through the various league and tournament matches, the El Classico never gets old, as regardless of which side one roots for, the match always proves to be tense and close.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: The Barca back line is depleted, and it could spell doom for the Catalans. Carles Puyol, Barca’s centerback and captain, suffered a gruesome injury in the Champions League group stage match against Benfica. His dislocated elbow will force him to miss a considerable amount of time. Gerard Pique missed the Champions League match as well because of a lingering injury, and it is unlikely he will start, or play much at all in this Classico. Barca will count on Javier Mascherano and Alex Song to provide the heavy lifting on defense- this against a menacing Los Blancos attack featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel di Maria, and Karim Benzema. This is the matchup to watch- especially in the counter attack where the Barca players will be on their heals against a lightning quick Real Madrid onslaught. Despite this disadvantage, all of the pressure is on Real Madrid and not FC Barcelona. The Catalans are firmly in first place in La Liga and have yet to lose or draw, while Real Madrid needs a win, and more importantly a loss for their rivals. Real Madrid must use this opportunity to close the gap in the standings, and would love to do so at the Nou Camp.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 3, FC Barcelona 1.

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Levante vs Valencia, Mallorca vs Granada, Athletic Bilbao vs Osasuna, Atletico Madrid vs Malaga.

In honor of the Classico, here is a video of some FC Barcelona chants at Camp Nou, last year vs Real Madrid: