Archive | March, 2014

La Liga, Week 32 Game of the Week

31 Mar

Recap: In what was a thrilling 2-1 victory for Atletico over Athletic Club at the new San Mames in Bilbao, Atletico Madrid managed to hold onto their 1st place position in the La Liga table. It was a tough win, particularly after Bilbao’s Iker Muniain scored in just the ‘6, but it was Diego Costa (22′) and Koke (55’) who managed to get Atletico back in the game and eventually win it.

This Week:

 

Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid CF

Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid CF

Saturday, April 5th, 1pm (CDT), Anoeta

Why This Game is Intriguing: The pressure is on for Real Madrid. The margin for error in every single game from here on out for Los Blancos is so small, that a single blemish probably will cause them a shot at winning a trophy. This is a heavy travel week for Real Madrid. After going to Germany to play Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League, they must quickly readjust their focus back to La Liga and travel to San Sebastian in the Basque Country to face a La Real team that is currently in 6th place. Even though Real Madrid beat Rayo Vallecano this past weekend handily 5-0, there is little reason to believe they could replicate that result at the Anoeta.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: This Basque club is tough, particularly at home. Just ask FC Barcelona, who lost there by a score of 1-3 in late February. Real Sociedad has several good players, among them: winger Antoine Griezmann, centerback Inigo Martinez, midfielder Xabi Prieto, striker Carlos Vela, and goal keeper Claudio Bravo. Real Sociedad poses a real threat to Madrid in this game, and Madrid skipper Carlo Ancelotti will be hard pressed to rest some of his regular starters particularly after playing Dortmund just days before. Managing the Champions League schedule along with the La Liga schedule is a challenge, because Real Madrid cannot afford a hiccup in either.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 2, Real Sociedad 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Atletico Madrid vs Villareal, FC Barcelona vs Real Betis,

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English Premier League, Week 34 Game of the Week

31 Mar

Recap: I thought Arsenal would get blown out by Manchester City, but I failed to acknowledge City’s struggles on the road this season. The end result was a 1-1 draw at the Emirates- a reasonable result from the Gunners’ perspective- as just last week, they had been blown out 0-6 at Chelsea.

This Week:

Everton FC vs Arsenal FC

Everton FC vs Arsenal FC

Sunday, April 6th, 7:30am (CDT), Goodison Park

Why This Game is intriguing: Because Arsenal is just 4 points ahead of surging Everton for 4th place in the table. Everton FC dreams of playing in the UEFA Champions League next season, and in order for them to qualify, a win here at home against the Gunners would give them a very solid chance of achieving that goal. Everton has won its last 5 matches in a row, and a lot of that has to do with the return of the injured young English superstar Ross Barkley. After this match, Everton has a few very tough games remaining on the schedule including vs Manchester United, at Southampton, and then vs Manchester City. If Everton can take care its business at home, they’ll have a great chance of usurping the Gunners for 4th place in the league.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: Everton is a club stacked with talent- talent that this offseason, you can bet Arsenal will try to pry down to North London. Arsenal will be clamoring to sign Romelu Lukaku, though his parent club Chelsea very well could want him back for next season. Lukaku is a matchup nightmare at striker, scoring 12 goals and earning 6 assists with his enormous, powerful frame. Kevin Mirallas is another player Arsenal would love to have, for his consistency in attack and particularly in front of goal is something the Gunners have lacked all season. Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman are two stud defenders who pick their spots when it comes to involving themselves in the attack. Baines is a sure-fire starter for England in this upcoming World Cup.

Soccahaus Prediction: Everton 2, Arsenal 2

Other Games this week worth Watching: Manchester City vs Southampton, Newcastle vs Manchester United, Chelsea vs Stoke City, West Ham vs Liverpool

La Liga, Week 31 Game of the Week

27 Mar

Recap: I expected Real Madrid to come out firing, even without usual starters Sergio Ramos and Angel di Maria out on suspension. Sevilla won 2-1 even though Real Madrid had control of the ball for 70% of the game. Sevilla looked dangerous in the counter attack, and the 2 goals by Carlos Bacca were class and well deserved. This match serves as crucial blow to Real Madrid’s chances of winning La Liga this season.

 

This Week:

Athletic Club Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid

Athletic Club Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid

Saturday, March 29th, 2pm (CDT), New San Mames

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because this match pins league leaders Atletico Madrid on the road against 4th place Athletic Bilbao. The last time these clubs faced each other resulted in a 2-0 victory for Atletico at the Vicente Calderon Stadium, with David Villa and Diego Costa each scoring before halftime. Atletico Madrid is 17 points ahead of Bilbao in the standings, while Bilbao remains only 6 points ahead of surging Sevilla for 4th and 5th place. Bilbao comes into this game in a scoring slump- they haven’t scored more than 1 goal in each of their last 4 games, resulting in just 1 win and 3 draws. Another concern for Bilbao is their captain Carlos Gorpegui is out for the rest of season because of an injury he suffered just last week at Elche.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: With Real Madrid having lost their last 2 matches, Atletico can make a statement as league leaders in one of the toughest environments to play in all of Spain. Atletico has been very consistent all season, mainly due to the performance of their superstar striker Diego Costa. Costa’s 24 league goals are second only to Cristiano Ronaldo (27), and players like Arda Turan and Koke are incredibly active in the final 3rd to provide him plenty of assistance. Athletic Bilbao has a number of good players and goal scorers, most notably Aritz Aduriz (leads the team with 11 goals) and Markel Susaeta (leads the team with 8 assists). Athletic Bilbao is a strong team and will be looking to earn at least a point as they try to hold on to the 4th and final Champions League spot.

Soccahaus Prediction: Atletico 3, Athletic 2

Other Games This Week worth Watching: Real Madrid vs Rayo Vallecano, Osasuna vs Real Sociedad, Espanyol vs FC Barcelona, Celta Vigo vs Sevilla

English Premier League, Week 33 Game of the week

26 Mar

Recap: I was convinced that after Manchester United’s win over Olympiacos in the Champions League followed by a 2-0 win at West Ham, that perhaps the Red Devils were feeling confident enough to withstand the Manchester City attack. I was wrong- and Manchester City proved once again that Manchester is blue, and that the best team in the land is led by Yaya Toure. As City manager Manuel Pelligrini said after the game, referring to Manchester United’s scoring opportunities, ” I don’t remember one single chance for United”- and that is truly how the game felt from a neutral standpoint just watching the match.

This Week:

Arsenal vs Manchester City

Arsenal FC vs Manchester City FC

Saturday, March 29th, 12:30pm (CDT), Emirates

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because these two teams are two of the top four in the Premier League, and Manchester City has a very strong chance of winning the league outright for just the second time in history. Manchester City has won its last 4 games, shutting out each opponent by a combined score of 11-0, including the 3-0 drubbing the other day at Old Trafford. Manchester City is healthy (other than Kun Aguero), sharp, dialed in, and ready to finish off its remaining 9 games in style. Arsenal on the other hand has seemingly nose-dived, earning an ugly 2-2 home draw to Swansea City, and before that, a 0-6 loss at Chelsea. Arsenal’s chances for the Premier League title this season are completely done, and the Gunners will be fighting very hard until the end just to finish 4th in the league- Everton is only 6 games back, and Arsenal must travel to Goodison Park in two weeks time to face the Toffees.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: These teams hate each other, and while some of the tension may have eased now that Pellegrini is in for Mancini at City- Arsenal still looks down at the City bench and recognizes some faces that are all too familiar. Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy were Gunners for a number of years, 2 players who would unquestionably be starters on this years Arsenal team. Arsenal seems to have lost its edge it had in the beginning of the season- and while injuries definitely are making an impact on that lack of success- Arsenal still seems shorthanded particularly against opponents with better records.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester City 4, Arsenal 1

Other games this week worth Watching: Manchester United vs Aston Villa, Crystal Palace vs Chelsea, Southampton vs Newcastle, Fulham vs Everton, Liverpool vs Tottenham

La Liga, Week 30, Game of the Week

24 Mar

Recap: In what was a thrilling, albeit extremely controversial matchup, FC Barcelona out-dueled Real Madrid 4-3 at the infamous Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Real Madrid’s northern Chamartin neighborhood. Lionel Messi became the first Barcelona player ever to score 3 goals at the Bernabeu, although 2 of them were penalties.

This Week: 

Sevilla vs Real

 

Wednesday, March 26th, 4pm (CDT), Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan

Why This Game is Intriguing: Real Madrid must have short memories, while also providing some of its key players from the Classico some much needed rest. 5th place Sevilla is no joke, despite Real’s earlier 7-3 trouncing of them earlier in the season. Despite the controversy surrounding the Classico, Real has no choice but to keep this schedule going and to continue getting 3 points after 3 points. A single blemish very well could end their hopes of taking back the La Liga title from Barcelona, because Atletico now remain in first place in La Liga.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: While at this point it is unclear which Real Madrid players will feature in this match, an absolute certainty is that Ivan Rakitic will be starting for Sevilla. Rakitic could very well be the most cerebral player on the pitch this Wednesday for either side, as the Croat currently leads his team in assists and is second on his team in goals. Rakitic is the type of player a team can play through, and his talent is immense- many experts have pointed out that he needs to be playing in the UEFA Champions League- he’s just that good. Madrid’s defense will need to focus their attention on surrounding Rakitic if they want to win this game. Another point of note: This game is always special for Sergio Ramos, who played for Sevilla both as a professional and as an amateur. Growing up in Camos (part of Sevilla’s Metropolitan area), Ramos holds a special place in his heart for his boyhood club.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 2, Sevilla 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: FC Barcelona vs Celta Vigo, Atletico Madrid vs Granada, Elche vs Athletic Bilbao

 

English Premier League, Week 32, Game of the Week

24 Mar

Recap: In what was easily the most embarrassing loss for the Gunners all season, Chelsea thrashed Arsenal 6-0 at Stamford Bridge. After the ref incorrectly sent off Kieran Gibbs instead of the Ox for a handball in the box, Chelsea seemed to score at will.

This Week:

Manchester United vs Manchester City

Manchester United vs Manchester City

Tuesday, March 25th, 2:45 PM (CDT), Old Trafford

Why This Game is intriguing: Although not as good the previous couple of years due to United’s struggles this season, this matchup still remains one of the best derby games in the English Premier League. United showed just how good it can be when RVP and Wayne Rooney combined for a spectacular performance in the UEFA Champions League against Olympiakos last week. Manchester City, although knocked out of the Champions League, has outscored its last 3 opponents (vs Stoke, at Hull, vs Fulham) by a combined score of 8-0.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: United’s priority to stop the bleeding against its most hated rivals. In United’s previous 3 games this season against its 2 most hated rivals; at Liverpool, at Manchester City, then at home against Liverpool again just 3 weeks ago, United has lost all 3 of those matches by a combined score of 8-1. The crowd at Old Trafford responded remarkably well when its club had their backs against the wall against Olympiakos. While the Greek Champions have less talent and less experience than the visiting Citizens- that game last week could very well have been the turning point for David Moyes and his quest to salvage this season. It is true that United can kiss its European competition aspirations goodbye, but a win here vs City would make the entire fanbase extremely pleased.

Soccahaus Prediction: Manchester United 2, Manchester City 2

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Arsenal vs Swansea, Newcastle vs Everton, West Ham vs Hull, Liverpool vs Sunderland

 

La Liga, Week 29, Game of the Week

17 Mar

Recap of Last Week: Atletico Madrid notched a much needed victory over RCD Espanyol by a score of 1-0 at the Calderon. Diego Costa’s game winner in the ’55 was his 22nd La Liga goal this season- just 3 behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s league leading 25. Atletico remains in 2nd place in La Liga after both Barcelona and Real Madrid also notched wins this past weekend.

This Week:

Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona

Real Madrid CF vs FC Barcelona

Sunday, March 23rd, 3pm (CDT) Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Why This Game is Intriguing: Although Xabi Alonso might disagree- this game very well could decide the La Liga title. Real Madrid’s form is second to maybe only FC Bayern Munich in European Soccer- Madrid’s last loss in any competition was way back in October when these two clubs last met at the Nou Camp- a 2-1 drubbing on the part of the Catalans. Neymar got on the board early, while Gareth Bale looked incredibly sluggish before being subbed off in the 61′. Another questionable move was Carlo Ancelotti’s conservative, defensive gamble to start Sergio Ramos as a defensive midfielder. Xabi Alonso was injured at that time, but considering playmakers Angel di Maria and Karim Benzema were on the bench to start the game- it was clear Carletto made a grave mistake- one he definitely won’t be making again.

Other Reasons to watch this game: The best players on the planet, both past and present, have featured in this game. Maradona, Zidane, Ronaldo Nazario, Ronaldinho, Luis Figo, Romario, Roberto Carlos- the list of greats to have donned the classic whites of Real Madrid and the Blaugrana of Barcelona is endless, and is what makes the El Classico a timeless event. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo- the world’s two greatest players, once again are featured on the same field. The Santiago Bernabeu is a stadium that recognizes and loves its Spanish National team heroes, and this game features several of them on both sides of the pitch, including World Cup Final 2010 savior, Andres Iniesta. Forget the rivalry. Forget the politics. The entire world will look up at the Bernabeu lights on this Sunday evening ready to be entertained by the Spanish Giants.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 3, FC Barcelona 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Athletic Bilbao vs Getafe, Osasuna vs Sevilla, Real Betis vs Atletico Madrid, Valencia vs Villareal