Archive | November, 2012

La Liga, Week 14 Game of the Week

29 Nov

Recap of Last Week: I am proud to say I correctly predicted the score between Levante and FC Barcelona match. With all of Barca’s talent, I knew they would steamroll through Levante even though the match was in hostile territory for the Catalan Giants. A 4-0 result was well deserved, as 2 goals by Messi (47′ and 52′) were shortly followed by goals from Andres Iniesta (57′) and Cesc Fabregas (63′). Dani Alves suffered a minor hamstring injury to his right leg, so expect him to miss two to three weeks.

This Week:

Real Madrid CF vs Atletico Madrid

Saturday, December 1st, 3pm (CST) Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because this round of El Derby Madrileno features the 2nd and 3rd place teams in La Liga right now. Historically speaking, Atletico’s fan base is derived primarily from the middle/working class neighborhoods of the southern portion of Madrid, located along the bank of the Manzanares River. In contrast, Real Madrid’s stadium and the core of their fan base lies in the northern portion of the city, where many of Madrid’s banks and businesses are located and where the upper classes used to reside. In present day, both clubs have fans that overlap these economic and political divides, and both clubs continue to be extremely competitive both in league play and in international tournaments as well. While Real Madrid represents the establishment club, particularly with their record 32 league titles and 9 European championships, Atletico Madrid at this moment has the more in form team, and arguably the most desired striker in the world right now in Colombian Radamal Falcao.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Even though Atletico Madrid has not beaten their crosstown rivals since the ’99/’00 season, Real Madrid is the club that is in dire need of this victory. Last weekend’s 0-1 loss to Real Betis further separated the gap between Real Madrid and their rivals FC Barcelona, with Atletico still firmly in the middle between them. Thus far in their campaign, Atletico has only lost once (at Valencia) and drawn once (opening game at Levante). Radamal Falcao averages just under a goal per game, and his Turkish teammate Arda Turan is another can’t miss talent dictating the middle of the pitch. After advancing to the round of 16 despite an unlucky draw in the Champions League ‘group of death’, Real Madrid for now must turn their attention to the La Liga schedule. Cristiano Ronaldo has not scored a goal since Real’s November 11th match against Levante. Look for Cristiano to get on the board early in this game, while opening up the counter attack for his teammates later on. Real Madrid desperately needs a statement win here, and only time will tell if they do indeed get it.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 2, Atletico 1

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

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English Premier League, Week 14 Game of the Week

27 Nov

Recap of Last Week: A 0-0 draw was the last thing I expected from the Chelsea vs Man City game, but given the off field issues that occurred just days before kickoff, the result shouldn’t be too much a surprise. After a 0-3 loss to Juventus in the Champions, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich decided to fire manager Roberto Di Mateo and hire former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez.

 

This Week:

West Ham United vs Manchester United

Wednesday, November 28th, 2pm (CST) Old Trafford

 

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because West Ham United has been the biggest surprise of the newly promoted teams to the Premiership. Finishing in 3rd place in the Championship League last season, I don’t think many expected West Ham to be in the top half of the league 13 games in. At 5 wins and a total of 19 points, West Ham has outplayed fellow “promotees” Southampton (3 wins, 11 points) and Reading (1 win, 9 points). The club from East London is currently involved in some controversy: During last week’s game between West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur at the White Hart Line, some away fans were reportedly singing anti-semitic slurs directed at the home fans. An investigation is currently under way by the FA, so stay tuned to see what the investigation turns up and if any punishment/sanctions are levied against West Ham. Yossi Benayoun, an Israeli midfielder of Tottenham and formerly West Ham United, admitted he was “embarrassed” by the actions of what he called a minority group of West Ham Supporters.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Manchester United has been on a roll, winning 10 of their last 12 EPL matches. As the current EPL leaders, the next two games should be cakewalks (Home against West Ham and then at Reading) before Manchester United plays arch rivals Manchester City at the Etihad. Robin van Persie continues to impress, as his 8 Premier League goals are good for 2nd in the league behind Liverpool’s Luis Suarez (10). Wayne Rooney is tied with Juan Mata at the top of the assist table with 6. Even with a loss to Galatasaray in Turkey last week, Manchester United will still finish in 1st place in Group H, and is in prime position to advance to at least the semifinal in Champions League play.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester United 3, West Ham 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Chelsea vs Fulham, Tottenham vs Liverpool, Swansea vs West Brom, Wigan Athletic vs Manchester City

 

 

La Liga, Week 13 Game of the Week

22 Nov

Recap of Last Week: I knew Real Madrid would beat Athletic Bilbao at home, after all- Athletic Bilbao hasn’t beaten Real Madrid at the Bernabeu since 2005, but I was a bit off as far as predicting the number of goals scored. Real Madrid won handily by a score of 5-1. The most significant stat from that game was shots on target- Real Madrid had 18 to Athletic’s 1.

This Week:

Levante UD vs FC Barcelona

Sunday, November 25th, 2pm (CST) Ciutat de Valencia

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because FC Barcelona is in a class of their own, and the way they play football continues to stretch the bounds of skill, creativity, and teamwork. In 12 La Liga games, Barca has 11 wins and 1 draw, with an unbelievable +24 goal differential. Lionel Messi continues to mesmerize, as his 17 goals lead La Liga and his 5 assists are tied for 2nd (only teammate Cesc Fabregas has more). Other than a 1-2 loss in the Champions League to Celtic and a 2-2 draw to Real Madrid at the Nou Camp, Barca has looked flawless thus far in their campaign, despite dealing with several injuries to their back line. FC Barcelona plays this game after a rather easy, albeit impressive 3-0 win over Spartak Moscow in Russia in the Champions League.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Believe it or not, Levante is currently in 4th place in La Liga. Valencia’s “other” team already has 6 wins and 20 points, and has played relatively well compared to the rest of the middle tier teams in the league. I’ll admit- there is no chance Levante wins this game against FC Barcelona, but considering both of these teams in the top 3rd of the league, this is a big game for both teams, especially Levante. A draw here would keep Levante right where they are, as a return to the Europa league is definitely in the cards once again. Levante captain and starting centerback Sergio Ballesteros is a beast, just ask Cristiano Ronaldo how his eye is doing after receiving a vicious elbow to his face. The 37 year old Ballesteros remains one of the best at his position in all of La Liga- so keep an eye on how he performs against the best players in the world (Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta) in this game.

Soccahaus Prediction: FC Barcelona 4, Levante 0

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Rayo Vallecano vs Mallorca, Malaga vs Valencia, Real Betis vs Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao vs Deportivo La Coruna, Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla

English Premier League, Week 13 Game of the Week

20 Nov

Recap of Last Week: I expected a pretty even match in last week’s North London derby between old foes Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. A 2-2 draw was definitely not in the cards, particularly after Emmanuel Adebayor of Tottenham (and formerly of Arsenal) was sent off in the 17′ after a vicious slide tackle that sent Santi Cazorla flying in the air. Arsenal won handily by a score of 5-2, placing them firmly in 6th place in the league. With Manchester United losing to Norwich and with Chelsea losing to West Brom- Manchester City, the defending champs are now back on top.

This Week:

Chelsea FC vs Manchester City FC

Sunday, November 25th 10pm (CST), Stamford Bridge

Why this Game is Intriguing: Because Chelsea (now in 3rd in place) has spent more weeks in 1st place than any other team thus far this season- while defending champs Manchester City is back atop the table and is looking to secure their rightful place there by defeating Chelsea at the Bridge. Manchester City earned a victory over an inferior opponent (relegation bound Aston Villa) whilst rivals Manchester United (who sat atop the table prior to last week) had a devastating loss at Norwich City. Couple that with Chelsea’s loss to 4th place West Bromwich Albion- the result is a very crowded top of the table, of which this game definitely means a lot.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Both of these teams pay their players more than any other two teams in England. According to an espn.com article, Manchester City ranks 3rd and Chelsea ranks 4th in total payroll of any professional team in the world, regardless of sport- the only two teams with a higher average per player salary are Real Madrid and FC Barcelona of La Liga. The results are evident- Chelsea won the Champions League last season, and Manchester City won the EPL. As improbable as Chelsea’s Champions League run was last season, they beat reigning champs FC Barcelona in the semi-final to advance to the final against Bayern Munich. After years of “City being City”, Manchester’s ‘only team’ beat the odds in what was the most dramatic last day of the English Premier League season in the history of the league. The results are clearly there, but what remains largely in question is the job security of the managers of these clubs, Roberto Mancini of Man City and Roberto DiMateo of Chelsea. Both clubs play difficult Champions League matches prior to this game (Chelsea plays Italian Champs Juventus, Manchester City plays Spanish champs Real Madrid).

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester City 3, Chelsea 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Sunderland vs West Brom, Everton vs Norwich, Manchester United vs QPR, Aston Villa vs Arsenal, Southampton vs Newcastle, Tottenham vs West Ham

La Liga, Week 12 Game of the Week

14 Nov

Recap of last Week: With Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain out with injuries, Real Madrid Manager Jose Mourinho decided to place Cristiano Ronaldo at striker, and use Angel di Maria and Jose Callejon on the wings. In what ended up being a wet, stormy game that included a bloody eyed Ronaldo off a vicious elbow to the face, Real Madrid won 2-1. Real Madrid Castilla star Morata took advantage of his opportunity with the first team, scoring the winning goal in the ’84.

This Week:

Real Madrid CF vs Athletic Club Bilbao

Saturday, November 17th, 3pm (CST) Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because I have yet to write about Athletic Bilbao thus far in this blog- a shame considering that along with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the Basque football club are one of only 3 Spanish clubs to never be relegated from La Liga. Athletic Bilbao are currently in 12th place in La Liga, and despite winning 2 of their last 3 games, their overall record epitomizes mediocrity at 4 wins, 2 draws, and 5  losses. Of the last 10 match ups between Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid at the Bernaubeu, Real Madrid has won the last 7 in a row, and has outscored Bilbao 31-10 in those games. Real Madrid is dealing with some injury issues, most notably Marcelo and Higuain- 2 players who made tremendous contributions to the club during last seasons La Liga title run. With Benzema back and healthy and with Gonzalo Higuain out for a month or so, Real Madrid and its fans fully expect the Frenchman to embrace his opportunity without looking over his shoulder. Cristiano Ronaldo is also recovering from an eye injury suffered last week against Levante- so stay tuned to see if he will be fully fit to play in this game.

Other Reasons To Watch This Game: As inconsistent as Athletic Bilbao has been this season, there is zero doubt that the club boasts some of the best young talent in all of Spain. A unique aspect of Bilbao’s club is that every single player other than defender Fernando Amorebieta (Venezuela) is a Spanish international, with many of those players from the local, Basque country itself. Fernando Llorente is a 6’3 striker who has caused some controversy already this season. The man who scored 17 goals and 18 goals the past two seasons respectively has just 1 goal thus far. On top of that, it is well known that he has a rift with head coach Marcelo Bielsa, and has repeatedly asked to be released from his contract. Along with other Bilbao standouts including GK Gorka Iraizoz, MF Ander Iturraspe , MF Markel Susaeta, MF Gurpegi, MF Ander Herrera, and DF Andoni Iraola, Iker Muniain is the Bilbao player to watch in this game. The 5’6 winger is not even 20 years old, but is looked at as the face of the next generation of Spanish football greats.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 3, Athletic Bilbao 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Osasuna vs Malaga, Valencia vs Espanyol, FC Barcelona vs Real Zaragoza, Deportivo la Coruna vs Levante, Granada vs Atletico Madrid, Sevilla vs Real Betis

Here are some highlights of Athletic Bilbao winger Iker Muniain:

English Premier League, Week 12 Game of the Week

13 Nov

Recap of Last Week: I predicted a 2-2 tie between the defending EPL champs Man City at home against the surging Tottenham Hotspur. I was definitely correct in predicting the Spurs would hang tough at the Etihad Stadium, but City once again won the game off a last ditch effort by none other than Edin Dzeko. His goal in the 88′ secured Manchester City’s current 2nd place spot in the overall EPL standings behind arch rivals Manchester United.

This Week: 

Arsenal FC vs Tottenham Hotspur

Saturday, November 17th, 6:45 AM (CST), Emirates Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because this is the North London Derby, one of the best rivalries in all of England. Less than 5 miles separate the Emirates and White Hart Lane. Arsenal leads the all-time series with 72 wins, 47 draws, and 53 losses to the Spurs. Both of these clubs are microcosms of North London as whole; diverse, multi-ethnic fan-bases that span a multitude of ages,  socioeconomic class structures, and religions. As is to be expected with this matchup, players who were once regular starters for one side have jumped to the other team. This fixture includes two such players in Spurs’ French defender William Gallas and Togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor. Gallas played 4 seasons for the Gunners from 2006-2010, and now is playing his 3rd for the Spurs where he has been named captain by manager Andre Villas-Boas. Adebayor also played 4 seasons for Arsenal from 2005-2009. After two seasons at Manchester City followed by a brief loan spell at La Liga champs Real Madrid, Adebayor is back in London for his second complete season with Tottenham.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Both clubs need a win to remain contentious for a Champions League bid. Currently Tottenham is in 7th place with a record of 5-2-4, while Arsenal is just behind them at 8th place with a record of 4-4-3. Both of these clubs have yet to win a game in November, and both clubs each have a horrendous loss on their schedule. Tottenham lost at home to Wigan Athletic 0-1, and Arsenal lost at Norwich 0-1. Arsenal and Tottenham have the talent to make a serious run at a top 4 finish, but bad losses such as those cannot happen if such dreams were to become realities. Spurs striker Jermain Defoe has been lights out so far this season, leading his club with 5 goals and tied with several others for 2 assists. Arsenal’s attack is more balanced- Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, and Gervinho all have a team leading 3 goals a piece. As far as overall talent, while it is clear both of these clubs have some gaping holes and could definitely use another standout player or two to vault themselves to the top of the league standings, at this point in time Arsenal and Tottenham are very even in what should make for an entertaining game.

Soccahaus Prediction: Arsenal 2, Tottenham 2

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Manchester City vs Aston Villa, Reading vs Everton, Liverpool vs Wigan, West Brom vs Chelsea, Newcastle vs Swansea, Norwich vs Manchester United

Summer of 2011 I visited and toured the Emirates Stadium (I am on the far left):

My friends and I at the Emirates Stadium, Summer of 2011

English Premier League, Week 11 Game of the Week

8 Nov

Recap of Last Week:  I correctly predicted a Manchester United win, but I expected the victory to be by a wider margin. The final was 2-1 in favor of the Devils. Santi Cazorla scored an incredible albeit meaningless goal in the closing seconds as Man U once again proved their dominance over the Gunners at Old Trafford.

This Week:

Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur

Sunday, November 11, 7:30Am (CST), Etihad Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because these are two of the top teams in England. Defending EPL champs Manchester City is currently in 3rd place, while the Spurs of Tottenham are in 6th place. Teams 4-6 (Everton, West Brom, and Tottenham) are all tied with 17 points a piece, in what is already looking like a long haul fight for who will capture the final Champions League spot. Both Tottenham and City are struggling to score goals, which should come as surprise considering the attacking options for the respective clubs. In City’s last 5 games (1 draw, 4 wins), they have scored just 7 goals. Meanwhile in Tottenham’s last 5 games (2 losses, 3 wins), the Spurs have scored just 10 goals. These clubs are too talented to not score more goals regularly, which is why as good as these clubs are, they are not playing nearly as well as they expect to.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is feeling the heat. At just under $200 million in total payroll, Manchester City ranks 3rd in the world of any club regardless of sport- only FC Barcelona and Real Madrid pay their players/coaches more than Man City. Despite winning the English Premier League last season, Mancini continues to disappoint in the grand stage that is the UEFA Champions League. City failed to advance to the round of 16 last season, and this season is sure looking to breed similar results. The group City was placed in (Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, and Ajax) is as tough a group as there has ever been, and winning games has just not been in the cards. After 4 games in, City is still looking for their first W, and has looked absolutely dreadful against Ajax- a team that while respectable throughout Europe, should not really be giving City much of any game at all. With such a lack of success in Europe, every single game City plays is magnified, particularly in England where City plays on as reigning champs.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester City 2, Tottenham Hotspur 2

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Everton vs Sunderland, Wigan vs West Brom, Arsenal vs Fulham, Aston Villa vs Manchester United, Newcastle vs West Ham, Chelsea vs Liverpool