Archive | February, 2013

La Liga, Week 26 Game of the Week

28 Feb

Recap of Last Week: I expected FC Barcelona to completely manhandle Sevilla 4-0. In what was one of the closest games Barca has played all year, and in a game in which they were down 0-1, Barca stormed back to win the game 2-1 in the 2nd half. Thanks to goals by David Villa 52′ and Lionel Messi 60′, the Catalan Giants were able to hold onto their 12 point, 1st place lead in La Liga.

This Week:

Real Madrid CF vs FC Barcelona

Real Madrid CF vs FC Barcelona

Saturday, March 2nd, 9am (CST) Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Why This Game is Intriguing: It’s simple- this is the greatest rivalry regardless of sport in the entire world. The circumstances surrounding this match however are a bit unusual. It will have been just 3 days in between this match and the last match these two teams played against each other, though the previous one was at the Camp Nou, and to decide who will move onto the Copa del Rey Finals. In that game just this past Tuesday, Real Madrid absolutely dominated Barca in a 3-1 victory, which featured two goals by Cristiano Ronaldo, and another by young Frenchman Raphael Varane. Jordi Alba scored a goal in the 90′, but the match was decided well before then. It’s entirely possible Real Madrid will not return to Barcelona for the rest of this soccer season, unless the Spanish Football Federation decides to play the Copa del Rey Final at the Camp Nou, in which case Real Madrid will be playing their fellow city rivals, Atletico Madrid in the largest football only stadium by capacity on the continent.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: 62 goals is the number of combined La Liga goals for the two best players on the planet, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Lately in this matchup, Ronaldo has had the upper hand as the Barca defenders- mainly Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, have had no answers for the streaking Portuguese winger. At the same time, Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, a speedy, tall, and talented young centerback who has been starting lately over Pepe, has been responsible for shutting down Messi- a task no one on the planet has been able to master. Another major point surrounding this game: Barca has a 16 point lead over Real Madrid heading into this game. Real has conceded the title to Barca, and there is no way the Catalan Giants walk away from this 2012/2013 season without hoisting the La Liga trophy. That said, Real has had Barca’s number over the past few games the two clubs have played against each other, and with AC Milan’s shocking 2-0 victory over Barca in the Champions League, many are wondering whether or not FC Barcelona, this generation at least, is finished being the “best club on the planet”. I am not ready to count them out just yet, but the result in this matchup would go a long way towards seeing what Barca has left in the tank against their most hated rivals.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 3, FC Barcelona 1

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

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English Premier League, Week 26 Game of the Week

27 Feb

Recap of last week: I thought Chelsea would come into the Etihad and win rather easily, partially because I expected Manchester City to unravel and fold under the pressure of playing one of the top teams in the league. My 3-1 score prediction in favor of Chelsea could not have been more inaccurate, as it was the club from London that looked sluggish and outmanned. In a game in which Manchester City had more shots (both on and off target) and than Chelsea, City ended up with the 2-0 victory thanks goals by Yaya Toure ’63 and Carlos Tevez ’85.

This Week:

Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal FC

Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal FC

Sunday, March 3rd 10am (CST) White Hart Lane. The NORTH LONDON DERBY

Why This Game is Intriguing: Tottenham has a whole lot to play for, including sweet revenge over their most hated and closest rival. It’s been a few months since the November 17th Arsenal romp at the Emirates, where Arsenal destroyed Tottenham 5-2. After Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor scored the game’s first goal, he was red carded and taken out of the game just a few minutes after for recording a vicious tackle on Arsenal player Santi Cazorla. The Spurs were then forced to play a man down for much of the game, and Arsenal took full advantage, scoring 5 times with 5 different players. The stakes for this game on Sunday are even higher, and you can bet the team from Tottenham will remember every minute of the disaster that occurred last November.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: The current standings and the ability to watch the two best players in the English Premier League. As far as the current standings, Tottenham is in 3rd place in the league thanks to the heroic efforts and a last minute goal by Gareth Bale during Monday’s game at West Ham United. In all competitions thus far this year (39 starts), Bale has scored 22 goals. Not only that, but Bale has scored at least 1 goal in each of the last 5 premier league games. Gareth Bale is as in form a player as there is in the world- and if you ask me, right now- Bale is the 3rd best player on the planet behind Messi and Ronaldo. Arsenal on the other hand is in 5th place, just 2 points behind 4th place Chelsea, and 4 points behind  Tottenham. Santi Cazorla has had a masterful season, scoring 11 goals already in the league this season, and amassing 6 assists from his CAM position. This game is absolutely huge for a number of reasons, but the key players to keep an eye on are Bale and Cazorla.

Soccahaus Prediction: Tottenham 2, Arsenal 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Manchester United vs Norwich, Chelsea vs West Brom, Swansea vs Newcastle, Southampton vs QPR, Wigan Athletic vs Liverpool

La Liga, Week 25 Game of the Week

21 Feb

Recap of the last week: I successfully predicted Malaga to beat struggling Athletic Bilbao by 1 goal. Malaga showed much more discipline than Bilbao, with the Basque club called for offsides a whopping 7 times in this game. With the result, Malaga maintains their 4th place position and are just 7 points behind Spanish giants Real Madrid. Bilbao on the other hand is in 15th place and only 6 points ahead of relegation zone.

This Week: 

FC Barcelona vs Sevilla FC

FC Barcelona vs Sevilla FC

Saturday, February 23rd, 3pm (CST) Camp Nou

Why This is Intriguing: Because FC Barcelona is in a position where it needs to refocus playing steady, tiki-taka football in La Liga, particularly after a shocking and humiliating (by Barca standards) loss to AC Milan at the San Siro. I don’t think many soccer fans expected AC Milan to truly dismantle Barca, but the Serie A club played some of the best defense the Catalan Giants had seen in a number of years. Barca has won 3 of their last 4 La Liga games by a combined score of 13-3, and the Catalan Giants have a 12 point lead over 2nd place Atletico Madrid. It is important for Tito Villanova to treat the rest of this La Liga season as a completely separate campaign than the Champions League- winning La Liga is an incredibly important accomplishment, especially when it means taking the title back from rivals Real Madrid.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Sevilla is playing pretty well despite their current spot in 10th place in La Liga. Like FC Barcelona, Sevilla has won 3 of their last 4, but by a combined score of 8 to 3. Spanish international winger Alvaro Negredo has put together a nice season thus far with 10 goals and an assist. Negredo’s teammate and Croatian international Ivan Rakitic has 5 goals and 6 assists, providing for a consistent attack for the Andalusian side. While Sevilla is in 10th place and has a ways to go as far as stringing several wins together, it is not out of the question to think Sevilla can represent La Liga in next season’s Europa League tournament.

Soccahaus Prediction: FC Barcelona 4, Sevilla 0

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Athletic Bilbao vs Real Sociedad, Deportivo la Coruna vs Real Madrid, Rayo vs Valladolid, Atletico Madrid vs Espanyol, Real Betis vs Malaga, Levante vs Osasuna

English Premier League, Week 25 Game of the Week

19 Feb

Recap of Two Weeks Ago: In what was a relatively easy game for Manchester United, the Red Devils beat a solid Everton team to go ahead 12 points in the league. After Manchester City’s stumble against Southampton, I expected Manchester United to take full advantage of the opportunity to stretch their lead in the league to double digits. Manchester United won by a score of 2-0, thanks to first half goals by Ryan Giggs 13′, and Robin Van Persie 45′.

This Week:

Manchester City FC vs Chelsea FC

Manchester City FC vs Chelsea FC

Sunday, February 24th, 7:30AM (CST) Etihad Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Take a minute to swallow this: Second place Manchester City has not won a premier league game in over a month. City’s last three premier league games have been compete disasters, including a 0-0 draw to last place QPR, a 2-2 draw to the inconsistent Reds of Liverpool, and a 3-1 defeat at Southampton. Aside from City’s success thus far in the FA Cup, most English Premier League fans believed, especially given this club’s talent, that last year’s league title win was no fluke. 2nd place City is only 4 points ahead of Chelsea heading into this matchup, meanwhile 4th place Tottenham Hotspur is right on Chelsea’s tail, only trailing by one point in the standings.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: The defending Champions League title winners are still fighting to secure a birth in next year’s tournament, and earning 3 points at the Etihad will go a long way towards attaining that goal. Chelsea’s 3 headed monster of Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Juan Mata continues to grow and improve as the season moves along under manager Rafa Benitez. The English Premier League season is finished to the extent that Manchester United’s 12 point lead will be not be overcome- but spots 2,3, and 4 are all very much up for grabs, with Chelsea and Manchester City in prime position to earn two of those spots. After Manchester City’s loss to Southampton, some of the Fox Soccer reporters observed that several of City’s players had seemingly given up on their manager Roberto Mancini. Rafa Benitez too has received a great deal of criticism since he took over the Chelsea position. Both of these coaches hot seats could become a lot cooler with a win in this matchup.

Soccahaus Prediction: Chelsea 3, Manchester City 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Norwich vs Everton, QPR vs Man U, Arsenal vs Aston Villa, Liverpool vs Swansea, Newcastle vs Southampton, West Ham vs Tottenham

La Liga, Week 24 Game of the Week

11 Feb

Recap: Given Real Madrid’s lack of consistency with regards to playing up (or down) to their La Liga competition, I expected Real Madrid to struggle en route to a close victory against Sevilla. In a match played just days before Real Madrid’s Champions League round of 16 tango with Manchester United, Real Madrid opted to rest stars Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso, while playing winger Cristiano Ronaldo. Los Blancos cruised to a 4-1 home victory, led by 3 goals and 1 assist by Ronaldo.

This Week: 

Malaga CF vs Athletic Club Bilbao

Malaga CF vs Athletic Club Bilbao

Saturday, February 16th, 11AM (CST) La Rosaleda 

Why This Game is Intriguing: Athletic Club Bilbao is in danger of being relegated from La Liga, something that has never happened since the Spanish Primera division was formed in 1929. Last Sunday Athletic Club suffered a humiliating home defeat to Barcelona’s other club, RCD Espanyol- a far cry from the fact that just two weeks prior, Athletic Club demolished 2nd place Atletico Madrid by a score of 3-0. Athletic Bilbao sits in 16th place in the La Liga table, while they are only 6 points ahead of being in relegation zone. Bilbao will be playing all bottom 3 teams: Celta Vigo, Mallorca, and Deportivo la Coruna before the season ends. Considering Bilbao is just 1 year removed from finishing 2nd in the Europa League, the Basque club is in a situation where they cannot string together consecutive losses, particularly against the teams that are below them in the La Liga. Also keep an eye on Aritz Aduriz. The striker from San Sebastian is a prolific goal scorer, and if anyone from Bilbao gets on the board in this game, it will be him.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Malaga is going through an incredibly important stretch here in this soccer season. Not only is Malaga making preparations for next week’s opening Champions League leg at FC Porto, but the Andalusian side must also continue to succeed in La Liga in order to qualify for the tournament again next year. Currently in 4th place, Malaga is only 2 points ahead of surging Valencia and surprising Rayo Vallecano. Malaga, a club that has been in financial disarray for several years now, recently sold starting left back and Spanish National team member Nacho Monreal to Arsenal FC- another club preparing for the Champions League round of 16. Malaga’s center attacking midfielder Isco has continued to impress the soccer world, and his efforts were rewarded as Vicente del Bosque called him up and played him significant minutes during Spain’s international friendly against Uruguay a couple of weeks ago in Qatar.

Soccahaus Prediction: Malaga 2, Athletic Bilbao 0

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Real Betis vs Valladolid, Sevilla vs Deportivo, Grenada vs FC Barcelona, Real Sociedad vs Levante, Valencia vs Mallorca, Real Madrid vs Rayo Vallecano

La Liga, Week 23 Game of the Week

6 Feb

Last Week: Atletico Madrid beat Real Betis 1-0 to keep their hold on 2nd place in La Liga. 24 year old striker Diego Costa scored the game’s only goal, a game that featured 7 yellow cards (all the 2nd half). Real Betis is now in 5th place, just 1 point behind Malaga for 4th, with Valencia, Ray Vallecano, Real Sociedad and Levante right on their heals. While the top 3 places in La Liga are pretty much secured, the 4th place and final Champions League spot is very much up for grabs.

This Week:

Real Madrid CF vs Sevilla FC

Real Madrid CF vs Sevilla FC

Saturday, February 9th, 3pm (CST) Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Why This Game is Intriguing: I think I’m in the same boat as most La Liga fans when I say that i’m still in shock by the fact that Real Madrid left Granada last week without any points. Not taking anything away from Granada, but nothing is more humiliating than losing to a team, when that team has 0 shots! Cristiano Ronaldo’s first own goal came to a team that is battling to stay out of relegation, and Granada should be feeling extremely confident as the La Liga season closes out. Expect Real Madrid to take this game against Sevilla seriously, but perhaps not play their key players as much or at all, with the Manchester United Champions League match just 4 days after this game.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Sevilla is only 7 points behind Malaga, which means earning a Champions League bid will be difficult, but at this point in time, that goal is definitely not out of the question. Sevilla has had a very up and down season, and their -1 goal differential is something this club is not used to. Spanish International and Sevilla winger Alvero Negredo is having a very solid season, netting 10 goals already. His Croatian teammate, Ivan Rakitic has 6 assists, and the two of them make a lethal pair running up the middle attacking. Sevilla plays Real Madrid, followed by Deportivo la Coruna, followed by FC Barcelona. The Deportivo game is a must win for Sevilla, but if they can manage any points at all between the two Spanish giants, Sevilla should be feeling confident. Also, Sevilla will be facing Diego Lopez, their starting GK who transferred to Real Madrid after Iker Casillas went down with a hand injury. In his place, Sevilla will be starting Beto, the Portuguese GK on loan from Braga.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 3, Sevilla 2

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Mallorca vs Osasuna, FC Barcelona vs Getafe, Athletic Bilbao vs Espanyol, Rayo Vallecano vs Atletico Madrid, Real Betis vs Valladolid

English Premier League, Week 24 Game of the Week

5 Feb

Recap of Last Week: While Liverpool did not escape Manchester with a win, the Reds looked mighty impressive in their 2-2 draw at the Etihad. Liverpool had the advantage in possession, shots on target, and corner kicks, and newcomer Daniel Sturridge had his best game thus far with his new club. Manchester City is in a position where, according to goal keeper Joe Hart “we have to win every game now and look to not drop any points…” City is currently 9 points behind rivals and league leaders Manchester United.

This Week: 

Manchester United vs Everton

Manchester United vs Everton FC

Sunday, February 10th, 10am (CST) Old Trafford

Why This Game is Intriguing: There are just 13 games left for both of these teams in the English Premier League season, which means crunch time, down the stretch performances are going to be key as this season wraps up. Manchester United is sitting in a comfortable spot, but they understand that by no means is the title theirs just yet, especially with Manchester City (April 6) still on the schedule. Manchester United’s last 4 games have all been incredibly close, low scoring games- and if it wasn’t for Clint Dempsey’s extra time goal a few weeks back at White Hart Lane, Manchester United would have won all of those games. Manchester United is in a precarious position as they enter the thick of 3 major competitions: The Barclays Premier League title chase, the UEFA Champions League round of 16, and the FA Cup. Staying fit, healthy, and confident is Sir Alex Ferguson’s major concern at this point in time. While winning the Champions League is the ultimate goal for any major European club, holding onto this 1st place lead in England should be the main priority for Sir Alex.

Other Reasons To Watch This Game: When the season started, who would have thought that with 13 games left, Everton would have a legitimate chance to finish in the top 4 and snatch a Champions League spot? Everton is currently in 5th place, as they are 3 points behind 4th place Tottenham Hotspur, and just 4 points behind 3rd place Chelsea. Chelsea is reeling after a loss to Newcastle last week, although Everton’s 3-3 home draw to relegation bound Aston Villa was hardly a match to cheer about. Everton is in a position where it controls its own destiny, as they play all of of the teams ahead of them, and a few of the times directly behind them, in the closing months of the season. While I don’t think many would suggest Everton will walk away from Old Trafford this weekend with 3 points, holding the Red Devil’s to a draw would be a huge towards securing a Champions League bid.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester United 2, Everton 1

Other Games this Week Worth Watching: Tottenham vs Newcastle, Sunderland vs Arsenal, Chelsea vs Wigan, Southampton vs Manchester City, Liverpool vs West Brom