Archive | December, 2012

La Liga, Week 17 Game of the Week

18 Dec

Recap of Last Week: Last week’s showdown between the top 2 teams in La Liga, FC Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid, wasn’t as close as I expected it to be. Radamal Falcao got on the board early with the first goal of the game, but the Catalan Giants rallied to score 4 unanswered goals, capped by a brace by Lionel Messi in the 57′ and 88′. Barca continues to roll, as their grasp on first place in the league is stronger now than it has been all season with their W, Atletico’s L, and Real Madrid’s draw with Espanyol earlier in the day.

This Week:

Malaga CF vs Real Madrid CF

Malaga CF vs Real Madrid CF

Saturday, December 22nd, 1pm (CST) La Rosaleda

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because Real Madrid can’t seem to play up to their potential for the whole 90 minutes, a scary thought leading up to one of the toughest road challenges of the La Liga season. Real Madrid’s 2-2 draw to Espanyol last week was nothing short of embarrassing for Los Blancos, especially considering they had over 70% possession for the game. Espanyol has the 2nd worst record in La Liga, and Real Madrid draws? On the the other hand, Malaga’s 4th best record in La Liga is no fluke, and at 8-4-4, only trail Real Madrid by 4 points. Mourinho even conceded the league title to Barcelona- which means only one thing for Real Madrid: Champions League winners or bust. With 9 European titles (more than any other club), all of Real Madrid’s eggs are in the European Cup’s basket.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: This matchup is unique, as Real Madrid and Malaga are 2 of the 4 La Liga teams that not only qualified for the Champions League, but still remain in the round of 16, aka the knockout stage. Malaga won Group C easily with 3 wins and 3 draws, thus going undefeated playing AC Milan, Zenit St. Petersburg, and Anderlecht each once away and once at home. Real Madrid’s road to the round of 16 was a bit more difficult, as they were placed in a group with 3 other league champions including Borussia Dortmund, Ajax Amsterdam, and Manchester City. Watching Real Madrid and Malaga play a La Liga game against each other should be exciting- Malaga has emerged as one of the most talented teams in Spain, while Real Madrid’s struggles continue to be more apparent by the week. For Malaga, watch Isco- the 20 year old starting attacking midfielder is an incredibly crafty, hard-nosed player anchoring the attack for the Andalusian side. He was the only non Real Madrid or FC Barcelona player to win a postseason award last year, beating Benat (Real Betis) and Isaac Cuenca (FC barcelona) for breakthrough player of the year award.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 2, Malaga 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Real Sociedad vs Sevilla, Valencia vs Getafe, Atletico Madrid vs Celta Vigo, Real Betis vs Mallorca, Valladolid vs FC Barcelona

Here are some highlights of Malaga attacking midfielder Isco:

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English Premier League, Week 17 Game of the Week

17 Dec

Recap of Last Week: I predicted a close 2-1 result between the Spurs of Tottenham and the Swans of Swansea City. The end result was close, but the Spurs ended up completely shutting out Swansea by a score of 1-0. Michu, one of the league leaders in goals, was rendered useless- the Swans were limited to just 3 shots on goal, 0 on target, while Tottenham had 29 shots and 8 on target.

This Week:

Swansea City vs Manchester United

Swansea City vs Manchester United

Sunday, December 23rd, 7:30AM (CST), Liberty Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Swansea, you get one last chance. Just kidding- even though the Swans had a rough outing against Tottenham last week, they have another shot to prove themselves against the best club in England. Manchester United has not lost a league game in over a month, and the momentum the Red Devils have through the middle of the season is not only impressive, but downright intimidating for the rest of the league. Man U is rolling, and they are in prime position to take not only a commanding lead in the Premier League, but to also start gearing up for the knockout stages of the Champions League. In games such as this, where it is clear Man U has a wealth of talent, especially compared to the opposition, it is important Sir Alex Ferguson give his entire roster a chance at significant playing time, particularly the youngsters. Players like Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck need to receive at least some playing time to spell players like Robin van Persie and Ashley Young, especially for the long haul that is the rest of the EPL season and the Champions League.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: If you haven’t yet watched Manchester United this season, you are missing out on some beautiful, team-first football. Robin van Persie is tied with Swansea Midfielder Michu for the most goals in the league this season at 12, and van Persie has been on a tear recently, scoring at least 1 goal in each of the last 4 EPL meetings for Man U. The Wayne Rooney to van Persie combo continues to improve by the week, and the Dutchman’s class and the way he carries himself not only on the pitch tactically but as a member of a team-first club such as Man United has been one of the highlights of this season so far. While Arsenal has struggled mightily at times this season, Man U has seamlessly taken off to new heights with their leading goal scorer. As for Swansea, they must have a better showing at home this week than they did at White Hart Lane last week. 3 shots, 0 on target will not cut it against a team of Manchester United’s caliber. Swansea needs to play their best game in order to have a legitimate chance of getting any points against the league leaders.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester United 3, Swansea 0

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Man City vs Reading, Tottenham vs Stoke City, West Brom vs Norwich, West Ham vs Everton, Newcastle vs QPR, Liverpool vs Fulham, Chelsea vs Aston Villa

La Liga, Week 16 Game of the Week

11 Dec

Recap of Last Week: I expected FC Barcelona to beat Real Betis rather easily, but Betis proved once again that they are a tough out in this league. The Catalan giants won 2-1, with Lionel Messi scoring a brace within the first 30 minutes of the match. Messi’s goals were historic, as he passed Gerd Mueller’s record (85) for most goals scored in a calendar year.

This Week:

FC Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid

FC Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid

Sunday, December 16th, 2pm (CST) Camp Nou

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because similar to last week’s EPL game of the week, this matchup features the two clubs at the top of the respective league table. FC Barcelona continues to roll, and is thus far undefeated through 15 league games. Atletico Madrid remains firmly in 2nd place in La Liga, as their 12-1-2 record gives them a 5 point cushion over 3rd place and fellow capital city rivals Real Madrid. This game is an excellent opportunity for Atletico Madrid to prove how good they can be against arguably the best club in the world right now. If Atletico plans on holding on to their present standing in the league, a draw or even a win here would catapult this club to new heights. Not only that, but after losing to Real Madrid a few weeks ago, Atletico really needs to take advantage of the grand stage that is Camp Nou, the largest soccer stadium in Europe, and the greatest cathedral of the sport internationally.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: This game features the two best strikers not only in La Liga, but arguably in the entire world as well. Both Atletico and Barca have played 15 La Liga games, and Lionel Messi and Radamal Falcao have combined to score 39 goals in those games. Messi shattered Gerd Mueller’s record of 85 goals in 1 year, and the Argentinian still has several games left in 2012 to push the new record even farther. What makes Messi’s feat so incredible is the fact that he regularly produces much needed goals for his team, but he isn’t a shoot first player by any means. While it is safe to say that Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamal Falcao are prolific scorers as well, neither can say that they have the vision, unselfishness, and overall passing prowess that Messi has- Messi is tied for 3rd in La Liga with 5 assists. I have written about Falcao several times in this blog, but his performance this past week against last place Deportivo La Coruna was definitely worth noticing. The Colombian scored 5 goals in a 6-0 romp at the Vicente Calderon Stadium. Which star will step up in this game between the top 2 teams in La Liga?

Soccahaus Prediction: FC Barcelona 3, Atletico Madrid 2

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Mallorca vs Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla vs Malaga, Valencia vs Rayo Vallecano, Real Madrid vs Espanyol

English Premier League, Week 16 Game of the Week

10 Dec

Recap of Last Week: I thought the Manchester Derby would be a tightly contested game (which it was), with the victory ultimately going to home team in Manchester City. In what was hands down the most dramatic game we’ve seen thus far this year, Manchester United won 3-2 off a 90′ freekick goal by none other than Dutchman Robin van Persie. It’s too bad that a game with so much quality and intensity on the pitch was largely overshadowed by the actions of a small number of Manchester City fans. Coins were thrown from the fans in the direction of United star Wayne Rooney, and one coin actually hit Rio Ferdinand in the face. Another incident saw City Keeper Joe Hart holding back a City fan who had run onto the field before Etihad security eventually took fan into custody.

This Week:

Tottenham Hotspur vs Swansea City AFC

Tottenham Hotspur vs Swansea City AFC

 

Sunday, December 16th, 7:30am (CST) White Hart Lane

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because both of these teams are strong, talented teams who suffered unexpected, heart breaking losses last week. After Tottenham midfielder Clint Dempsey scored the go-ahead goal in the ’76 at Goodison Park, Everton scored two unanswered goals, the first by Steven Pienaar in the 90′, and the second by Nikica Jelavic in extra time. Swansea lost at home to Norwich City 4-3 in what was a high scoring, back and forth affair. Prior to Swansea’s loss to Norwich, The Swans previous two games were a 2-0 win at Arsenal and a 3-1 win at home against West Brom. Swansea has played some excellent football thus far this season considering their overall talent level, so it will be exciting to see them play a team as exciting and as supported as Tottenham.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Tottenham believes they are Champions League worthy, and Swansea believes they are good enough to be in the top half of the league- and the performance in Sunday’s game will definitely make a statement for either team as far as proving their worth in obtaining their respective goals. Tottenham is currently in 5th place in the league, while Swansea is in 8th place- and strangely enough, the two teams sitting in between the Spurs and the Swans are the two teams Swansea just beat, Arsenal and West Brom. Clint Dempsey of Tottenham and Michu of Swansea are the two players to keep an eye on in this game. After struggling mightily to start the season, Clint Dempsey has definitely stepped up his game and looks more comfortable with his new club than he has all season. Miguel Perez Cuesta, aka Michu is without a doubt one of the best players in the Premier League. The Spaniard leads the entire league in goals with 12, ahead of of Robin van Persie (11) and Luis Suarez and Demba Ba (10 each). What makes Michu’s rise even more surprising is that the 26 year old Spaniard is only playing in his second full season in top-flight football. Last season Michu played for Madrid based club Rayo Vallecano in La Liga, where he amassed 17 goals in 29 appearances.

Soccahaus Prediction: Spurs 2, Swansea 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Newcastle vs Manchester City, Manchester United vs Sunderland, Stoke City vs Everton, Liverpool vs Aston Villa, West Brom vs West Ham, Arsenal vs Reading

Michu Highlights So Far This Season

La Liga, Week 15 Game of the Week

4 Dec

Recap of Last Week: In what was a very important La Liga game featuring the two top clubs in the Spanish capital, Real Madrid prevailed by a score of 2-0 (I had predicted a 2-1 victory for Los Blancos). I predicted Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo would get off to a quick start, which he did by scoring a free kick goal in the ’16. Mesut Ozil also added a goal in the ’66, as Real Madrid closed the gap on their rivals Atletico Madrid, but still remain in 3rd place in the league.

This Week:

Real Betis vs FC Barcelona

Real Betis vs FC Barcelona

Sunday, December 9th, 2pm (CST) Benito Villmarin 

Why this Game is Intriguing: Because Real Betis has been La Liga’s most surprising team, and it is time to recognize just how good their club is leading up to their matchup at home against league leaders FC Barcelona. Real Betis plays excellent defense, as they shutout Real Madrid two weeks ago in impressive fashion. They forced Los Blancos into playing a slow paced, “half field” game, eliminating what Real Madrid does best, which is the one or two pass quick counter attack, either finding Benzema or Ronaldo for the finish. Having watched several Real Madrid games, the game against Betis proved to be one of the most stifling efforts I have ever seen played against the Spanish giants. Real Betis sits at 4th place in La Liga with 8 wins, 1 draw, and 5 losses. Meanwhile FC Barcelona continues their impressive run in La Liga and is firmly in 1st place with 13 wins, 1 draw, and 0 losses.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: Real Betis is a special club, and it isn’t just because they beat Real Madrid two weeks ago. The club is known for some of the most loyal fans in Spain: As of yesterday’s statistics, Real Betis ranks 5th in all of La Liga (behind FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, and Valencia) and ahead of rival Sevilla for total and average game attendance. Betis is led by two excellent players, one of which plays for the Spanish National Team. Benat is Real Betis’ starting attacking midfielder and was recently called up to Spain’s first team. He leads his team in assists with 5 and scored the only goal in Real Betis’ 1-0 victory over Real Madrid. His clever and crisp passing combined with his shooting range (see the clip below) make him a lethal force in the midfield. Betis forward Ruben Castro leads his club in goals this season with 8, and already has amassed 50 goals in 83 appearances in just his 3rd season with the club. Real Betis beat Real Madrid by limiting their counter attacking opportunities. FC Barcelona thrives in the slow-paced, half-field offensive system, where the tiki-taka style of play seamlessly breaks down any defense. Let’s see how Betis adjusts their style to what FC Barcelona does best.

Soccahaus Prediction: FC Barcelona 4, Real Betis 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Malaga vs Granada, Valladolid vs Real Madrid, Osasuna vs Valencia, Athletic Bilbao vs Celta Vigo, Atletico Madrid vs Deportivo la Coruna

English Premier League, Week 15 Game of the Week

3 Dec

Recap of Last Week: I predicted Manchester United to beat West Ham by a score of 3-1 at Old Trafford. While I was correct in predicting Man U to win the game, the end result was shocking, even to the supporters of both sides. Robin van Persie of Manchester United scored the first goal, and it happened within less than 1 minute into the game. At that point, I along with many expected the game to be a rather back and forth affair, with both sides scoring multiple goals. Instead, that one goal was the difference in a rather unimpressive game, especially for the Red Devils.

This Week:

Manchester City vs Manchester United

Manchester City vs Manchester United

Sunday, December 9th 7:30AM (CST) Etihad Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because this season’s first Manchester Derby features England’s first place team in Manchester United vs the second place team in Manchester City. Manchester United has yet to draw a game (12 wins, 3 losses, 0 draws), while Manchester City has yet to lose a game (9 wins, 0 losses, 6 draws). A draw in this game I believe would be a positive result for both teams, however in a rivalry game such as this, winning seems to carry a lot more weight than just adding another 3 points to the table. Manchester United with a victory though would take a commanding 6 point lead over their rivals, which could give the Red Devils some much needed cushion. It would be hard to argue against the notion that the two clubs from Manchester (ok, one technically is from Old Trafford, City fans) are the best clubs in the Premier League, particularly with the recent troubles of Chelsea under new manager Rafa Benitez. That said, regardless of the result in this game, you can bet that the rematch of this game at Old Trafford on April 6th, 2013 will be just as, if not more important than this week’s fixture.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Because Manchester United will be looking to maintain their first place position by avenging the two losses suffered at the hands of Manchester City last season. The last two regular season games between the two clubs were both won by City by a combined score of 7-1, and the final 1-0 result last season at the Etihad last April was first domino to fall that ultimately led to Manchester City winning the league. With City playmaker David Silva listed as doubtful for this game, all eyes will be on Carlos Tevez. The 28 year old Manchester City forward formerly of Manchester United has been a model of consistency this season. Tevez leads his club in goals (7) and in assists (4), and with the erratic behavior of teammate Mario Balotelli, the Argentinian has been an anchor in Mancini’s lineup. With the way City swept the series and took the league title from United last season, look to see if City plays with that continued edge, or if United musters up the energy and anger needed to win the derby.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester City 2, Manchester United 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Southampton vs Reading, Sunderland vs Chelsea, Swansea vs vs Norwich, Arsenal vs West Brom, Everton vs Tottenham