Archive | April, 2014

La Liga, Week 36 Game of the Week

28 Apr

Recap: Atletico continues their remarkable run, a 12-match unbeaten steak as they march towards their first La Liga title since 96′. Their 1-0 result at the Mestalla was extremely impressive, and a result representing a microcosm of Atletico’s season as a whole. They are predicated on outstanding defense, selfless counter attacking, and intelligent, intermittent pressure combined with sitting back. Atletico has a shot at winning the double. These next few games are the biggest in the club’s history.

This Week:

Levante UD vs Atletico Madrid

Levante UD vs Atletico Madrid

Sunday, May 4th, 10am (CDT) Ciudad de Valencia

Why This Game is Intriguing: It’s all very simple for Atletico- win out, and win the league. They hold the tie breaker with Real Madrid, so even if their derby rivals equal them in wins and total points, Los Colchoneros will win the league because of their advantage in the head to head meetings already this season. Atletico Madrid will also be playing this game just 4 days after playing Chelsea in London for the Champions League semi-final. Regardless of the result of that match- La Liga is still there to be won, so there is zero doubt Simeone’s men will take this game lightly. Though the players may be fatigued, this match against Levante should be slated as being just as important as the Champions League semi.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Something lost it seems because of how close this La Liga race has been, is the issue of the Pichichi Trophy. The Pichichi goes to the highest goal scorer in La Liga, and currently Cristiano Ronaldo leads the league with 30 goals, while Lionel Messi and Diego Costa are tied for 2nd with 27 goals. With 3 league games left (Real Madrid has 4), the Pichichi is still very much up for grabs. Diego Costa has had a season to remember, and if he could win the Pichichi and the double, he would go down as one of the greatest players to ever play for Atletico Madrid. Costa would also become the first Atletico Madrid player to win the award since Diego Forlan won it in ’08-’09.

Prediction: Atletico Madrid 1, Levante 0

Other Games this week worth Watching: Rayo vs Athletic, FC Barcelona vs Getafe, Sevilla vs Villareal, Real Madrid vs Valencia

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English Premier League, Week 38 Game of the Week

28 Apr

Recap: So Liverpool’s 16 match unbeaten streak comes to a halt at home to Chelsea. Liverpool now has 2 games left, at Crystal Palace, and then home to Newcastle to close out the season. Liverpool needed 7 points from their last 3 games to secure the league title, but falling to Chelsea now puts the pressure squarely on Manchester City to win out and perhaps win, for the second time in history, the Premier League title.

This Week:

Everton FC vs Manchester City FC

Everton FC vs Manchester City FC

Saturday, May 3rd, 11:30am (CDT) Goodison Park

Why this game is intriguing: The saying often goes “we are prisoners of the moment”- well in this case, yeah, i’ll buy that, because depending on the result of this game- there might even be a more important game next week- the final week of the Premier League. This game is VITAL for both Everton and Manchester City. For City, it’s simple- win out at Everton, home vs Aston Villa, then home vs West Ham- and they are champions of the 2013-14 Premier League season. Everton also needs to win, though their hopes of securing a top 4 finish and Champions League bid hinges upon Arsenal and how the Gunners perform in their last 2 games. Everton has stumbled as of late, losing 2 of their last 3.

Other Reasons to watch this game: World class players. Players who will feature prominently in the World Cup in less than 2 months will take the field in this game. For City: Joe Hart, Kun Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta- these guys will be counted on to not only perform well in Brazil, but will also be trusted to captain their teams to victory. For Everton- Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku, Tim Howard, Leighton Baines, and Phil Jagielka will all be key players in the World Cup. But before all of that, both sets of players have some serious work to do- and some trophies possibly to win, before they set out to join their national teams in Brazil.

Prediction: Manchester City 2, Everton 1

Other Games worth watching: West Ham vs Tottenham, Aston Villa vs Hull, Stoke vs Fulham, Arsenal vs West Brom, Chelsea vs Norwich, Crystal Palace vs Liverpool

La Liga, Week 35 Game of the Week

21 Apr

Recap: Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao to earn a much needed victory after a tough couple of weeks of losing and sanctions. Pedro and Lionel Messi came through when the Catalans needed it most in order to beat 4th place Bilbao at the Nou Camp. FC Barcelona is in 2nd place in the Premier League, and 4 points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid. Real Madrid is in 3rd place, but has 1 more game to play than Barcelona.

This Week: 

Atletico Madrid vs Valencia CF

Atletico Madrid vs Valencia CF

Sunday, April 27th, 10am (CDT) Mestalla

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because Atletico continues their La Liga campaign with the hopes of winning their first league title since the ’95-96 season. The similarity between that season and this season? Current Atletico manager Diego Simeone was a starting midfielder for that Atletico team that won the league. Atletico plays this match in between their 2 semi final fixtures against Chelsea- so it is possible that Atletico’s focus could be elsewhere- but on talent alone, this match is Atletico’s to lose. A cup double is absolutely in play here for Atletico, and the coming fixtures are pivotal in their quest for glory.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: Valencia too has Europe on their minds, specifically the Europa League where they must battle fellow La Liga club Sevilla over 2 legs in order to advance to the Europa League final. Valencia is led by Brazilian striker Jonas, along with playmaking midfielder Sofiane Feghouli. Valencia has shown tremendous spirit and fight already in the Europa League with their 2 leg tie against FC Basel, where they found themselves down 0-3 after Basel’s home leg, but came back to Valencia to win 5-0 over the Swiss Champions. Valencia has mettle, and while they won’t be finishing top 4 in La Liga, the club is battle tested and has the talent available to steal some points from the league leaders.

Soccahaus Prediction: Atletico 1, Valencia 1

Other Games this week worth Watching: Villareal vs FC Barcelona, Real Madrid vs Osasuna, Espanyol vs Almeria, Getafe vs Malaga,

English Premier League, Week 37 Game of the week

21 Apr

Recap: Arsenal beat West Ham United 3-1, and they also beat Hull City, their FA Cup finalist opponents, 3-0. Since Everton lost to Crystal Palace, yet beat Manchester United, the Gunners maintain just a 1 point lead over the Toffees for 4th place in the Premier League. With 3 games remaining for both clubs, this is set to go down the wire for the Gunners in order to maintain their Champions League streak.

 

This Week:

Liverpool FC vs Chelsea FC

Liverpool FC vs Chelsea FC

Sunday, April 27th, 8:05am (CST) Anfield

Why This Game is Intriguing: This matchup certainly lost much of its luster because of Chelsea’s shocking home defeat to Sunderland on Saturday- Mourinho’s first home defeat as a Premier League manager. Not to take anything away from Sunderland, but of all of the shocking results this year, particularly looking at Manchester United and who they’ve lost to at home this season, Chelsea’s loss to Sunderland is THE most unimaginable upset of the entire season. Jose Mourinho was quick to blame the refs, which is somewhat understandable considering the lone PK was relatively soft and undeserved- but Chelsea did not look aggressive at all on offense the entire game. Unless Liverpool drops points to Crystal Palace and Newcastle (Palace has not lost a match in 8 games), Liverpool will walk away with the title, in part due to Chelsea’s loss to Sunderland.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: The stage is set for Liverpool. Their win against Norwich clinched the Reds their first Champions League bid since the ’09-10 season, with much more still to play for. While Liverpool will have an entire week to focus, prepare, and get healthy for this match, Chelsea travel to Madrid to face Atletico in the Champions League semi final, with the hopes of getting on the board before their home return leg at the Bridge next week. Liverpool’s goal differential is 2nd highest in the Premier League behind Manchester City, and of course the Reds are led by a combined 50 goals between their 2 star strikers in Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. As always, captain Steven Gerrard provides consistency and poise on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field.

Soccahaus Prediction: Liverpool 3, Chelsea 2

Other Games this Week worth Watching: Southampton vs Everton, Stoke vs Tottenham, Manchester United vs Norwich, Sunderland vs Cardiff, Crystal Palace vs Manchester City, Arsenal vs Newcastle

 

La Liga, Week 34 Game of the Week

14 Apr

Recap: What a stunner! Granada defeated FC Barcelona 1-0 thanks to an early goal by Yacine Brahimi in the ’16. Granada won despite being outshot by the Catalans 29-5 and outpossessed 81% to 19%. With Atletico Madrid defeating Getafe and Real Madrid defeating Almeria, the top of the La Liga table looks like this: 1. Atletico w/82 points, 2. Real Madrid w/79 points, and 3. FC Barcelona w/78 points.

This Week: 

FC Barcelona vs Athletic Club Bilbao

FC Barcelona vs Athletic Club Bilbao

Sunday, April 20th, 2pm (CDT), Camp Nou

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because FC Barcelona is reeling after getting knocked out of the Champions League to La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid last week, and losing to a bottom feeding club in Granada over the weekend. Their La Liga title hopes received a crushing blow in Andalusia, and despite the 29 shots, Barca really didn’t look like a team that dominated the game. The Catalans also have a huge game this Wednesday at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia where they face arch rivals Real Madrid for the Copa del Rey final. This game against Bilbao is critical to not only keep Barca’s title hopes alive, but to also stop the bleeding over the disastrous results, both on and off the pitch.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: The Basque club has had an excellent season, but this game too means just as much to them as it does to Barcelona. Currently in 4th place, Athletic is looking to fend off surging Sevilla for the 4th and final Champions League bid. Sevilla is on a hot steak, winning 8 of their last 10 La Liga matches, including a huge win over Real Madrid in that span. Just as the top spot in La Liga is up for grabs, so too is the final Champions League spot. Even a single point here for Athletic would be an extremely positive result in their quest to return to Europe’s most prestigious competition. Bilbao continues to be led by striker Aritz Aduriz and winger Markel Susaeta.

Soccahaus Prediction: 1-1 Draw

Other Games this week worth watching: Atletico Madrid vs Elche, Osasuna vs Valencia, Sevilla vs Granada, Real Sociedad vs Espanyol

English Premier League, Week 36 Game of the Week

14 Apr

Recap: I expected Manchester City to win this game, especially with Sergio Aguero back in the fold. Liverpool now controls its own destiny after beating City 3-2, thanks to a winning goal by Brazilian Philippe Coutinho in the ’78. If Liverpool wins its remaining 4 games (at Norwich, vs Chelsea, at Crystal Palace, and vs Newcastle), the Reds will go on to win their first first title in the Premier League era circa 1992.

This Week:

Arsenal FC vs West Ham United

Arsenal FC vs West Ham United

Tuesday, April 15th, 1:45pm (CDT) Emirates Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Arsenal need to win after dropping down to 5th place. Everton is now 2 points ahead of them after the Toffees earned an ugly 1-0 at Sunderland. The Gunners are in real danger of not finishing top 4 and earning a Champions League bid. Their dip in form has been somewhat surprising and alarming for Gunners fans, as the Gunners have not won a league match since the mid-march North London derby win over Tottenham. While some of this can be attributed to injuries (Wilshire, Ozil, Walcott, Ramsey), Arsenal skipper Arsene Wenger is on the hot seat, particularly if the end of the season does not end on a high note.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: Another intense, heated London derby is set for Tuesday afternoon. The West Ham Hammers have put together a nice season, as they are currently in 11th place and in very little danger of being relegated. West Ham is led by veteran midfielder Kevin Nolan who has 7 goals and 5 assists so far this season. A win here for the Hammers would earn them their 40 points in the league, a telling number for a complete, good season and safe from relegation. A loss here for Arsenal (combined with a positive result for Everton) would absolutely crush the Gunners and place an unprecedented amount of pressure on Wenger to win his last few games.

Soccahaus Prediction: Arsenal 3, West Ham 0

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Manchester City vs Sunderland, Everton vs Crystal Palace

La Liga, Week 33 Game of the Week

7 Apr

Recap: I expected Real Madrid to ultimately get the win, but figured it’d be close because A. Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t playing, and B. Fatigue after playing Dortmund just a few days before in the Champions League. Nevermind all of that- Real Madrid dominated this game as they beat Real Sociedad 4-0 thanks to goals by Illarramendi, Bale, Pepe, and Morata.

This Week:

Granada CF vs FC Barcelona

Granada CF vs FC Barcelona

Saturday, April 12, 1pm (CDT) Los Carmenes

Why This Game is Intriguing: Frankly, any week from here on out- take your pick between Barca, Real Madrid, and Atletico, because all of their remaining games are important, and a single hiccup could mean the difference between winning the league and finishing 3rd in the table. Atletico plays Getafe, and Real plays Almeria- both of the those clubs are in the relegation zone- so the natural choice for this week was to choose Granada hosting FC Barcelona. Barcelona has struggled lately on the road, and their form dips drastically when not at the Nou Camp. Their last 4 road games have been: 1-0 win at Espanyol, 4-3 win at Real Madrid, 0-1 loss at Valladolid, and a 1-3 loss at Real Sociedad. Will Granada pose a serious threat to the Catalans?

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: This will be FC Barcelona’s first road game since the sanctions came about- preventing Barcelona from spending any money and acquiring/releasing players over the course of the next two transfer windows. How will FC Barcelona play when they don’t have 90,000 people supporting them despite this ruling? There is little question Barcelona has better players at every position in this game, and Granada is on a bit of slide, losing their last 3 matches in a row to Malaga, Levante, and Atletico by a combined score of 2-7. Barcelona also will be playing this game after an important, gut wrenching effort at the Vicente Calderon where they play Atletico Madrid to finalize the Champions League quarterfinal tie. One game at a time must be the mantra for Tata’s men- because despite all of the drama going on behind the scenes- Barca still is in a legitimate fight to win the treble.

Soccahaus Prediction: FC Barcelona 3, Granada 1

Other Games this Week worth Watching: Real Madrid vs UD Almeria, Getafe vs Atletico Madrid, Real Betis vs Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao vs Malaga