Archive | September, 2014

La Liga, Week 7 Game of the Week

29 Sep

Recap: Real Madrid looked very good at El Madrigal, particularly on the defensive end, as they shutout the Yellow Submarine 2-0. Iker Casillas had some nice saves in goal, while Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo each scored for Los Blancos. Cristiano Ronaldo now has 10 goals in 5 league games.

This Week: 

Rayo Vallecano vs FC Barcelona

Rayo Vallecano vs FC Barcelona

Saturday, October 4th, 11am (CST) Campo de Futbol de Vallecas

Why This Game is Intriguing: This is my third year of writing for Soccahaus, and this marks the first time I have included Rayo Vallecano in one of my previews. Barcelona has appeared several times because of their talent, success, and involvement in huge fixtures that ultimately determine the La Liga title- but Rayo Vallecano, just 6 games in, has shown that they are a club worth watching and following, irregardless of who they play. The Madrid-based club has beaten Levante and Athletic Bilbao, while their best result was drawing city rivals and defending La Liga champions Atletico Madrid at home. Vallecas, the neighborhood of Madrid that is home to Rayo, historically is known as the city of rebellion- one which defied the centrist, brutal regime of Francoist Spain.

Other Reason to Watch This Game: FC Barcelona is the best team in La Liga at this time, and they are dominating opponents with style, and shockingly- with defense. Through 6 La Liga games, the Catalans have yet to concede a goal, in large part due to an improved defense, and a great goal keeper newly aquired in the offseason, Claudio Bravo. The Barca defense will need to come through in this tough road match, because Rayo Vallecano players Leo Baptistao and Alberto Bueno (formerly of Real Madrid’s youth academy) have 4 goals a piece already in this early season. It will be interesting to see how Rayo approaches this game: whether they continue their free flowing attack and run at Barca, or if they park the bus- a defensive strategy employed by Malaga last week, which proved to be successful in a 0-0 draw in that game. Barcelona won’t have as much time to prepare for this game, because they play Paris St. Germain in the French capital on Tuesday in the Champions League.

Soccahaus Prediction: Rayo 2, Barca 2

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English Premier League, Week 6 Game of the Week

29 Sep

Recap: Chelsea rocked 3rd place Aston Villa 3-0 thanks to goals from Oscar, Diego Costa, and Willian. Chelsea continues to look the part, as they are the class of the English Premier League. Their depth and goal-keeping continue to be points of consistency.

This Week:

Chelsea FC vs Arsenal FC

Chelsea FC vs Arsenal FC

Sunday, October 5th, 8:05am (CST) Stamford Bridge

Why This Game is Intriguing: A London derby featuring 2 of England’s best clubs. Chelsea comes off a 3-0 drubbing at Villa Park- while not unexpected, the result seems to have catapulted Chelsea into what we already knew they were- the best Premier League team at present time. Arsenal on the other hand comes into this game after a less than stellar result, a 1-1 draw to North London arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Arsenal scored the game tying goal late, as young English star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found the back of the net in the ’74. The Gunners were playing without injured captain Mikel Arteta, and Welsh star Aaron Ramsey had to be substituted at half due to a hamstring issue. It is also important to note that both of these clubs have Champions League matches earlier in the week: Chelsea travels to Portugal to face Sporting Club Lisbon on Tuesday, while the Gunners host Turkish Champions Galatasaray at the Emirates on Wednesday.

Other Reason to Watch this Game: Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea. The Catalan midfielder will play his old club, the club he played at for 9 years, for the first time as a Chelsea player. Cesc was the captain at Arsenal for many years, and was without a doubt, along with Robin van Persie, their best player. Now, Cesc is the focus of the Chelsea attack, leading the league in assists with 6. Cesc was an important player for Barcelona too in between his spells at the two London-based clubs, but opted to return to England to receive more playing and in the hopes of winning his first Premier League title- something he was unable to achieve at Arsenal.

Soccahaus Prediction: Chelsea 2, Arsenal 1

La Liga, Week 6 Game of the Week

25 Sep

Recap: Malaga played a smart, defensive game as they drew 0-0 at home to FC Barcelona. Centerback Sergio Sanchez was the man of the match, intercepting several balls into the box, and holding Gerard Pique from scoring off any headers, particularly from the corner spot. While Malaga didn’t look too threatening on offense, they played a well rounded, tough game against the league leaders.

This Week: 

Villarreal CF vs Real Madrid CF

Villarreal CF vs Real Madrid CF

Saturday, September 27th, 9am (CST) El Madrigal

Why This Game is Intriguing: To state the obvious, any match featuring Cristiano Ronaldo is must-watch material. The Portuguese “Dark Invader” as beIN Sports commentator affectionately calls him, already has 9 league goals through just 4 matches, including 4 goals this past Tuesday against Elche at the Bernabeu. Simply put, this man cannot be guarded. In that game against Elche, Ancelotti experimented with a 4-4-2, using Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo as the 2 forwards up top, benching striker Karim Benzema. The system seemed to work just fine, and despite CB Pepe’s injury, Raphael Varane, who just extended his contract with Real Madrid until 2020, looked absolutely spectacular.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: This road match should be a true test for Real Madrid, who seemed to have turned a corner after winning their last 3 games (vs Basel, at Deportivo, vs Elche) by a combined score of 18-3. None of those 3 teams are as talented as Villarreal, who find themselves in 7th place in La Liga, despite winning just 1 of their last 3 La Liga games. Villarreal’s most threatening player is Denis Cheryshev, a Russian youngster who is on loan from Real Madrid. Cheryshev is a dynamic player on the wing, with a lethal shot to boot but also a knack for passing and seeing the entire field. He already has 2 league assists to his name, and seems to be improving his abilities receiving first team action for a top La Liga club. Another key feature of this game to watch: Keylor Navas. It seems that Ancelotti is giving his newly acquired Costa Rican goal keeper a chance to prove he can be this club’s #1 in La Liga.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 2, Villarreal 0

English Premier League, Week 5 Game of the Week

22 Sep

Recap: Down a man, Frank Lampard scored in the final minutes against his old club for Manchester City. The 1-1 draw was an outstanding result for the Citizens as home, because it was Chelsea who dominated much of the game, and are currently the league leaders. This is a game City can look to build upon.

This Week:

Chelsea FC vs Aston Villa FC

Chelsea FC vs Aston Villa FC

Saturday, September 27th, 9am (CST) Stamford Bridge

Why This Game is Intriguing: 2 games, 2 draws for Chelsea. First against against Schalke at home in what was frantic, come from behind effort on the part of the Germans in the Champions League, and second at the Etihad in a hard fought, emotional game against Manchester City. Chelsea will look to bounce back from those results, and that shouldn’t be too hard considering they have the top goal scorer in the Premier League in Diego Costa (7), and the top assist man in Cesc Fabregas (6). As is typical with Jose Mourinho managed teams, this Chelsea squad is compact defensively, dangerous and attacking on the wings when on the counter, but not as poised or intelligent when it comes to possession. Against Schalke, unless Chelsea were on the counter, they seemed lost just passing the ball around, without much flair going towards the net.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: Aston Villa is currently in 3rd place, having won 3 games, drawn once, and lost once. The lone loss was a blowout at home to Arsenal, the lone draw was at home to winless Newcastle, and the 3 victories came at Liverpool, at Stoke, and at home to Hull City. Gabriel Agbonglahor is a real threat going forward, as is Austrian Andreas Weiman. Fabian Delph is an incredibly athletic and intelligent midfielder, who recently made his first international appearance with the English National team. Anchoring the defense is Aly Cissokho, formerly of Liverpool, Valencia, and Lyon. American Brad Guzan is one of the best goal keepers in the Premier League, and has played sensationally thus far in the early season. Aston Villa was in real danger of being relegated last season, but already this season the club looks to be much improved.

Soccahaus Prediction: Chelsea 4, Aston Villa 1

La Liga, Week 5 Game of the Week

22 Sep

Recap: Real Madrid have arrived! With a resounding 8-2 win over Deportivo la Coruna, combined with an easy 5-1 victor over Swiss Champions FC Basel in the Champions League, Real Madrid have picked up two very important, decisive wins.

This Week: 

Malaga CF vs FC Barcelona

Malaga CF vs FC Barcelona

Wednesday, September 24th, 3pm (CST) La Rosaleda

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because under new manager Luis Enrique, the Catalan Club is perfect thus far this season- 4 wins in 4 games, with a +11 goal differential. The Neymar-Messi combination has looked sensational thus far, as Messi currently leads the league with 4 assists, and Neymar is one of the league’s top scorers with 3 goals. I know it is early, but this Barcelona team, to me, is unquestionably better than the team that finished 2nd in La Liga last season. Neymar seems more comfortable, new acquisition Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla has fit in beautifully as a regular starter, Luis Suarez will be back in a month, and there is more depth on this squad than there was last season. This club is confident as they down to Andalusia to face 11th place Malaga.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: Despite Barcelona coming off an easy 5-0 win at home to Levante, Barcelona’s 1-0 at home to APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League is a bit of a concern. Placed in a group with Paris St. Germain, and Dutch champions Ajax- you would have assumed Barca would have dominated the small team from Cyprus- but that was not the case. Barcelona has aspirations to not only win La Liga and the Copa del Rey, but to make a statement by returning to at least the semi finals of Europe’s most prestigious competition.

Soccahaus Prediction: Barca 3, Malaga 0

English Premier League, Week 4 Game of the Week

15 Sep

Recap: In what was by far the most exciting game of the season, Manchester City and Arsenal drew 2-2 at the Emirates. Jack Wilshire and Alexis Sanchez scored for the Gunners, while Kun Aguero, and Martin deMichelis (who scored the game winner) were the goal scorers for the Citizens. These 2 clubs look to be true contenders, along with Chelsea, for the Premier League title. Both Arsenal and Man City open their Champions league campaigns this week against against Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, respectively.

This Week: 

Manchester City FC vs Chelsea FC

Manchester City FC vs Chelsea FC

Sunday, September 21st, 10pm (CST) Etihad Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because Chelsea takes their league leading perfect record: 4 wins, 0 draws, and 0 losses to the Etihad to take on Manchester City, the defending Premier League Champions. Manchester City comes off a 2-2 draw at Arsenal, and currently finds themselves in 5th place with 2 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss. This match against Manchester City will be, by far, the best opponent Chelsea has faced up until this point- of their 4 matches played, only 1 team finished in the top 6 last season (Everton), and 2 of the opponents (Burnley and Leicester City) weren’t even in the Premier League last season. This is a tough, early regular season matchup for the Blues, and it will be interesting to see the chess match between skippers Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: There will be a lot of talent on the field considering both of these clubs are two of the richest in world football, but if there’s one player to watch, it is Diego Costa of Chelsea and formerly of Atletico Madrid. For those who follow La Liga, it’s not a total shock to see Costa perform this well this early, considering the player scored 27 league goals (in 35 appearances) for league winners Atletico. In just 4 games, Costa has a league leading 7 goals- more than twice as many as any other player in the Premier League (several have scored 3 goals). Fellow Spanish newcomer Cesc Fabregas leads the Premier League in assists with 6, and Cesc has transitioned seamlessly back to the Premier League after a spell at Barcelona . Chelsea takes this potent attack to Manchester to face one of the most formidable defenses in world football- a group that includes captain Vincent Kompany and Argentine Pablo Zabaleta.

Predictions: Manchester City 3, Chelsea 1

La Liga, Week 4 Game of the Week

15 Sep

Recap: Atletico Madrid outplayed Real at the Bernabeu once again, as Los Colchoneros, even with skipper Simeone suspended, went on to win 2-1. The final goal by Arda Turan in ’78 sealed Real Madrid’s fate- which now includes 2 losses in 2 games. Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid being their 2014-15 Champions League campaigns against FC Basel and Olympiacos, respectively.

This Week:

Real Madrid CF vs Deportivo La Coruna

Real Madrid CF vs Deportivo La Coruna

Saturday, September 20th, 9am (CST) Estadio Riazor

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because Real Madrid is reeling, and are currently in 13th place in this young season. They have lost their last 2 games (at home to Atletico Madrid and on the road at Real Sociedad) by a combined score of 6-3. Real Madrid, despite beating Atletico in the Champions League final, have absolutely lost their edge against their city rivals, and have not beat this team in La Liga in 2 years now. Atletico Madrid, led by Gabi in the center mid, Arda Turan in attack, and that incredible defense featuring Juanfran, Miranda, and Diego Godin- are as good as any group in world soccer, and they prove it time and time again.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Deportivo should come into this game rather confident considering Real Madrid’s struggles- and a player of theirs who knows them well, Jose Rodriguez, formerly of Real Madrid Castilla, is a talent who seemingly has waited a long time for some first team, La Liga action- and his found his place in la Coruna. Expect some changes for Real Madrid in this game, and some tactical tinkering from skipper Carlo Ancelotti. Against Atletico Madrid, Toni Kroos played DM (in place of Xabi Alonso and Khedira) and played quite well, but I expect Kroos to be moved up closer to goal, and youngster Asier Illarramendi to play in his natural position against Deportivo.

Prediction: Real Madrid 2, Deportivo 1