Archive | January, 2013

English Premier League, Week 23 Game of the Week

31 Jan

Recap of last Week: It was a tale of two halves, as Liverpool started off with a quick goal in the 5′. After controlling much of the 1st half, Arsenal stormed back in 2nd, mainly because of Santi Cazorla’s outstanding ball control at the CAM position. Olivier Giroud ’64 and Theo Walcott ’67 scored back to back goals for Arsenal, tying the game for good. In what was an exciting game, many are left asking: Is Arsenal a club capable of returning to the Champions League?

This Week: 

Manchester City FC vs Liverpool FC

Manchester City FC vs Liverpool FC

Sunday, February 3rd, 10am (CST) Etihad Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Both Manchester City and Liverpool are each coming off dreadful draws earlier in the week- draws that could come back to haunt both of these clubs in their ultimate quest to get back to playing Champions League soccer. Liverpool’s draw at Arsenal last Wednesday was disappointing for the Reds. Liverpool came out of the gate in North London with a purpose, and they seemed to playing a few steps quicker than Arsenal. After leading 2-0, they let Arsenal back in the game. Manchester City was held goalless in an away draw at Queens Park Rangers. Manchester City remains in 2nd place in the EPL, but dropping points against the worst club in top flight football is really no excuse. Manchester United holds a firm 7 point lead over City, and Chelsea (who also had a horrendous draw this week to Reading FC) is only 6 points behind City as well.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Manchester City has sold troubled star Mario Balotelli, which should relieve some tension within Roberto Mancini’s dressing room. Players like Sergio Aguero, Eden Dzeko, and Carlos Tevez no longer have to look over their shoulder- while everyone would agree Balotelli is hardly the consummate team player, the fact of the matter is that the Italian, when not getting himself into trouble, is a fantastic and intimidating goal scoring threat. Selling him to AC Milan is a move that will benefit both clubs in the long run, and knowing Manchester City- expect them to put that money they earned from the sale into adding another important piece to their roster by the start of next season. All of that said, Roberto Mancini’s hot seat is burning hotter than ever. With Balotelli gone (a player Mancini had a history of issues with), it is up to Mancini to unite this club, free of distractions. Manchester City has got to play incredibly well the rest of the season, and be in close contention for defending their league title in order for Mancini to have any chance of being this club’s manager next season.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester City 2, Liverpool 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Arsenal vs Stoke, Newcastle vs Chelsea, West Ham vs Swansea, Everton vs Aston Villa, Fulham vs Manchester United, West Brom vs Tottenham

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La Liga Week 22, Game of the Week

28 Jan

Recap of Last Week: In a game that opened with all of Real Madrid’s players wearing custom white shirts that read “Animo Iker”, which translates to “Get well Iker” before walking onto the pitch to honor their captain and goal keeper Iker Casillas, Real Madrid went on beat Getafe 4-0. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hattrick and Sergio Ramos (who has taken over the captainship while Iker is out) tapped another goal in. Real Madrid looks be turning a corner as they face FC Barcelona in the Copa del Ray and Manchester United in two weeks.

This Week: 

Atletico Madrid vs Real Betis

Atletico Madrid vs Real Betis

Sunday, February 3rd 2pm (CST), Vicente Calderon

Why This Game is Intriguing: Radamel Falcao is injured, and Atletico is really struggling to stay afloat. Last week Atletico was shutout 0-3 against Athletic Club Bilbao. The Basque team had been struggling all year, even flirting with relegation zone- but Atletico looked completely lost, chasing the ball around the entire game at the San Memes stadium last week. Atletico Madrid has the talent to beat Real Betis, but they will need a much better effort from their Turkish star Arda Turan who seems to disappear at times. There are rumors that Atletico Madrid is interesting in signing Yohann Gourcuff on loan from Olympic Lyon in Ligue 1, a player who has battled injuries over the past couple of years, and slowly starting to return to his old form. While Atletico Madrid is still 11 points behind 1st place FC Barcelona, the ultimate goal for Atletico is remain in the top 4 of La Liga for the rest of the year so they can play in the Champions League next season.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Real Betis is a team i’ve been paying attention to all year, and unfortunately the club from Sevilla has fallen out of form. Of Betis’ last 7 games, they’ve won 3, lost 3, and drew once. Real Betis has fallen back into 5th place, behind FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Malaga. Last Sunday was Betis’ worst lost of the season as they were held goalless in a 3-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano, the club from Madrid that is just 1 point behind Betis in the standings. Real Betis is led by midfielder Benat and striker/goal scorer Reuben Castro . Castro’s 12 goals is tied for 4th best in La Liga with Aritz Aduriz of Athletic Bilbao. This matchup is important for both teams to prove that they belong in the upper echelon of La Liga.

Soccahaus Prediction: Atletico Madrid 2, Real Betis 2

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Valladolid vs Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol vs Levante, Malaga vs Real Zaragoza, Sevilla vs Rayo Vallecano, Valencia vs FC Barcelona, Granada vs Real Madrid

English Premier League, Week 22 Game of the Week

25 Jan

Recap of Last Week: What a game! In what was surely one of the most remarkable games of the season thus far, the real Clint Dempsey stood out with his game tying goal in extra time at the White Hart Lane against league leader Manchester United. The 1-1 draw was a fantastic result for the Spurs, as they inch closer and look forward to securing a Champions League bid.

This Week:

Arsenal FC vs Liverpool FC

Arsenal FC vs Liverpool FC

Wednesday, January 30th 1:45pm (CST) Emirates Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Liverpool is on the rise, and they have looked like a different club since acquiring Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea a couple of weeks ago. Currently in 7th place and playing some great football, the Reds have won 3 of their last 4 matches by a combined score of 12-2, their one loss coming to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Liverpool is surging after starting the year off slowly, and the Champions League is definitely within reach at this point. Liverpool’s next two Premier League matches, at Arsenal and at Manchester City will be major tests to see just how far Liverpool has come in the past couple of months. Manchester City, as defending champs, leads the league with 2 losses, so walking away from the Etihad in a couple of weeks with a draw would be an incredibly positive result for Brendan Rodgers’ club.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Arsenal comes fresh off their best match of the season thus far. After losing 1-2 at Stamford Bridge to rivals Chelsea, Arsenal played a masterful midweek game against fellow london club West Ham United. After West Ham scored the first goal, Arsenal tied it up to go into halftime 1-1. Arsenal went on to score 4 goals in 10 minutes in what was the most electrifying, clinical performance Arsenal fans have seen in quite some time. At the beginning of the game, the Fox Sports Soccer commentators were noting how empty the Emirates stadium was, how quiet and uneasy the fans seemed to be about their slumping club. Between the 47′ and 57′, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Giroud again scored one goal after another, prompting the commentator to blurt out “THIS IS THE REAL ARSENAL!!!”, which accurately summed up the dumbfoundedness Arsenal fans found themselves in at the peak of this game. Heading into this game, Arsenal leads Liverpool by just 3 points. While Liverpool has been surging, and despite Arsenal’s most recent performance, many still question whether Arsenal is good enough to hang onto a Champions League birth.

Soccahaus Prediction: Arsenal 3, Liverpool 2

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: QPR vs Manchester City, Sunderland vs Swansea, Norwich vs Tottenham, Everton vs West Brom, Manchester United vs Southampton

La Liga, Week 21 Game of the Week

22 Jan

Recap of Last Week: Real Madrid romped Valencia 5-0, a game that was unquestionably Los Blancos’ best performance of the season. Playing without 3 regular starting defensemen (Sergio Ramos, Pepe, and Marcelo), Real Madrid’s execution in the counter attack combined with the standout performances of Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria ( 2 goals a piece) resulted in an away romp for the ages. With FC Barcelona losing for the first time this season, and with 2nd place Atletico Madrid beating 4th place Real Betis, the gap in points between the La Liga top 3 clubs has shrunk significantly in the span of just 1 week.

This Week:

Real Madrid CF vs Getafe CF

Real Madrid CF vs Getafe CF

Sunday, January 27th 5 AM (CST) Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Why This Game is Intriguing: Revenge. In what was the worst lost of the season up to this point, Real Madrid fell to fellow Madrid club and rival Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez last August. The only goal scorer for Real was Gonzalo Higuain, and Real Madrid’s lack of agression was exploited as Getafe out-tackled Real Madrid and forced them into costly turnovers. What made this loss even worse was the fact that last year Getafe was never close to securing a top 6 finish in La Liga, and at times was in relegation zone. They ultimately finished in 11th place that season, and that is the same place Getafe finds themselves in heading into this matchup with Real. Getafe is looking for their first win of 2013, as they have not won a match since December 1st, which was a home game against Malaga.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Cristiano Ronaldo has been one of, if not the most impressive players since the new year began. The Portuguese international has 7 goals in just 3 games, 2 against Real Sociedad, 3 against Celta de Vigo, and another 2 against Valencia. Real Madrid deeply cares about winning the Copa del Ray, and there is little doubt Jose Mourinho will be playing his best 11 players for the match January 23rd to get the win over the Roberto Soldado-less Valencian Club. Expect Angel di Maria, who for the first time all season showed glimpses of the star he was last season in Madrid’s most recent win over Valencia, to not only play, but be relied upon to get the offense moving at Real Madrid’s preferred, uptempo pace.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 4, Getafe 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Celta de Vigo vs Real Sociedad, Levante vs Valldolid, Rayo Vallecano vs Real Betis, FC Barcelona vs Osasuna, Athletic Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid, Mallorca vs Malaga

La Liga, Week 20 Game of the Week

17 Jan

Recap of Last Week: With Malaga playing extremely well as of late, particularly in their game against Real Madrid towards the end of December, I thought the Andalusian side would play a masterful game at home against league leaders FC Barcelona. In hindsight, there was no surprise here, as Barca continued to roll through league play despite playing some of the better teams in La Liga. Look for the Catalan Giants to be heavily favored in every game this season until they play rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on March 3rd- and even then Barca very well could be expected to walk away with a victory.

This Week:

Valencia CF vs Real Madrid Cf

Valencia CF vs Real Madrid CF

Sunday, January 20th, 2pm (CST) Mestalla Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: In what is an odd, though hardly unusual situation- these two clubs are in the process of facing each other 3 times in the span of just 9 days. How? Tuesday, January 15th was the first of those 3 meetings, and Real Madrid won 2-0 at the Bernabeu for what was the first of two legs in the quarterfinals of the Copa Del Ray. This weekend, Real Madrid visits Valencia at the Mestalla Stadium for what is a rematch of both clubs’ first league game way back in August- the score of that game was a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu in Madrid. Following this league game, Real Madrid again goes to Mestalla Stadium to face Valencia on Wednesday, January 23rd to wrap up the final leg of the Copa del Ray.

Other Reasons to Watch This game: What is Mourinho’s strategy heading into this league game as opposed to the Copa del Ray matches? Which does he place more importance on? As previously noted in Soccahaus, Mourinho is quoted as essentially giving up on the league title because the gap in points between Real and Barca is simply too great. Look for Real Madrid to perhaps show some different looks (and a different lineup?) in this league game as they prepare for the final Copa del Ray leg against Valencia next week. Also, and I recognize that there have been several rumors surrounding Real Madrid and the transfer window- most of which will never come into fruition. The most recent reports and rumors surround Kaka and a mutual (between the player and management) inclination to part ways in the near future. It is obvious Kaka has not lived up to his 65 million Euro transfer fee back in 2009 from AC Milan- at the same time, Kaka has not performed and has not been part of the Real Madrid regular rotation for the past couple of years. Look for the Kaka saga to hopefully and finally end in the coming weeks.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 2, Valencia 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Real Sociedad vs FC Barcelona, Getafe vs Valencia, Malaga vs Celta de Vigo, Atletico Madrid vs Levante, Real Betis vs Athletic Bilbao

 

English Premier League, Week 21 Game of the Week

16 Jan

Recap of Last Week: I predicted a high scoring, exciting affair between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium in north London. I did predict a victory of the Blues of Manchester City, but I did not expect the Gunners to be shut out. An early, 9′ red card for Laurent Koscielny put Arsenal down a man for pretty much the entirety of the game, and even though City captain Vincent Kompany was red carded in the ’75, it was just too late for Arsenal at that point.

This Week: 

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United

Sunday, January 20th, 10 AM (CST) White Hart Lane

Why This Game is Intriguing: This match features two of the best clubs in England right now, including the league’s current 1st place team in Manchester United. The Spurs have not lost a match in well over a month (Dec 9th at Everton), meanwhile Manchester United’s last loss came on November 17th at Norwich City. Manchester United has a full slate of football ahead- between the FA Cup (an away match against West Ham Jan 16) followed by this game against the Spurs in London, on top of already starting to plan for the home/away Champions League tango with Real Madrid next month. Manchester United has played very well much of the season, and like most of the world’s elite teams, their ability to rotate quality players and create many mismatches using 15-20 players regularly is a strength of the club. In a huge away match against a top club like Tottenham, the Red Devils are staring at an opportunity for a major statement win.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Will the real Clint Dempsey please stand up? With Brazilian midfielder Sandro out for an undisclosed amount of time (he was carted off with a knee injury in last week’s draw against QPR), and with the struggling Emmanuel Adebayor gone for at least the next few weeks as he participates in the African Cup of Nations, this is prime opportunity for Clint Dempsey to rediscover the form he had last season at Fulham. Dempsey can play very well in the midfield, but he is equally as good as a central striker- and he is at is best when going forward towards the goal. With Sandro and Adebayor out, Clint Dempsey will be seeing significant playing time, and he will have the opportunity to show Tottenham whether he is truly part of their future plans. Scott Parker who is also starting to finally recover from injury will be seeing an increase in playing time as well.

Soccahaus Prediction: Tottenham 2, Manchester United 2

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Chelsea vs Southampton, Manchester City vs Fulham, Swansea vs Stoke, Liverpool vs Norwich, Chelsea vs Arsenal

La Liga, Week 19 Game of the Week

10 Jan

Recap of Last Week: Atletico Madrid failed to capture 3 points against RCD Mallorca, a club that is within 3 points of being at the very bottom of the La Liga table. The 1-1 tie was hardly the result Atletico expected as they further distanced themselves from FC Barcelona. 11 points now separates the Catalan Giants from Atletico Madrid, and barring an epic collapse, the La Liga crown is Barca’s to lose.

This Week:

Malaga CF vs FC Barcelona

Malaga CF vs FC Barcelona

Sunday, January 13th, 2pm (CST) La Rosaleda

Why This Game is Intriguing: Malaga is having an incredible season, although their last La Liga game (a 0-1 loss to Deportivo la Coruna) was definitely a hiccup in this season’s campaign. Malaga’s win over Real Madrid, although not terribly shocking, was definitely a triumph for the Andalusian club, and particularly for their manager (formerly of Real Madrid) Manuel Pellegrini. Not only is Malaga holding their own in La Liga, but after a recent 4-1 defeat over Segunda Division club Eibar, the Andalusian side now joins Valencia, Real Madrid, and FC Barcelona as the 4 teams left in the Copa del Rey. Malaga’s talented core of Isco, Roque Santa Cruz, Martin Demichelis, Nacho Monreal, and Jeremy Toulalan among others is a force to be reckoned with both in Spain as well as in the Champions League.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Because FC Barcelona is the best soccer club on the planet right now. They are undefeated in league play and with a +42 goal differential, they have been blowing out teams in literally every facet of the game. FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has scored 27 goals thus far in league play- that’s 10 more than Radamel Falcao and 11 more than rival Cristiano Ronaldo. FC Barcelona’s unselfishness on the pitch- the most important quality in Barca’s tiki-taka style of play, is evident while looking at La Liga’s top assist statistics. Andres Iniesta leads the league in assists with 11, while teammates Cesc Fabregas (9), and Lionel Messi (6) are good for 2nd and tied for 3rd best in the league. FC Barcelona looks to continue their dominant streak, and barring what would be deemed as a highly unlikely stretch of ties and losses, the La Liga trophy will belong to the Catalan Giants at the end of the season.

Soccahaus Prediction2-2 Draw.

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Athletic Bilbao vs Rayo Vallecano, Osasuna vs Real Madrid, Valencia vs Sevilla, Real Betis vs Levante, Real Sociedad vs Deportivo la Coruna, Atletico Madrid vs Real Zaragoza