What To Watch Today (Tues 31 Jan): More AfCON, Parma-Juve, Both Manchester Sides, Mirandés-Athletic Bilbao

January 31, 2012 — by Suman


African Cup of Nations (Group C), Gabon vs Tunisia (1pmET, Al-Jazeera Sports / Eurosport International):Tunisia and tournament co-host Gabon both won their first two group games and hence will advance to the final eight (while the other two teams in the group, Niger and disappointing Morocco, will go home). So might as well take a look at two teams that we’ll see in the quarterfinals, as they play for top of the group:

  • Gabon will win the group if they do not lose to Tunisia.
  • Tunisia will win the group if they defeat Gabon.

[Update: this match has been postponed due to heavy snow!] Italy (Serie A), Parma vs Juventus (2:45pmET, or in US): Juventus still topping the table, in pole position as the race for the Scudetto enters the home stretch.  We wrote this last month re La Vecchia Signora (The Grand Old Lady, as Juve is called in Italy) ahead of their match with Udinese [with annotations in brackets]:

Juventus is perhaps even more surprising [than Udinese]–still undefeated in the league (9W 6D 0L) [in fact, still undefeated! 12W 8D 0L].  We finally got to watch Juve play (thanks to the fact we flew cross-country on JetBlue, and so were captive with GolTV for 10 hours), specifically the rather dramatic Coppa Italia match they played against Bologna.  Players to watch on Juve: holding midfielder and Milan transplant Andrea Pirlo,  Claudio Marchisio, Paraguayan Marcelo Estigarribia, ageless trequartista Alessandro del Piero; we also like to see Dutchman Eljero Elia, whose been somewhat lost in the shuffle since coming over from Hamburg in August.

We don’t know much about Parma, who are mid-table (11th place); here’s what livesoccertv’s preview has to say:

Parma are likely to be stiff opposition, as since their humiliating 5-0 defeat to Inter Milan at the San Siro in early January they have gone unbeaten in three successive league games, with a 3-1 home victory over Siena and two away draws against Bologna and Catania, respectively.

Furthermore, their home record is quite impressive, with five wins, three draws and a mere two losses in ten games. But in order for Parma to obtain a positive result, much depends on the form of former Juve striker Sebastian Giovinco.

The diminutive 25-year-old has scored four goals in his last three games against his former club and will be hoping to convert once again in order to boost his teams chances of causing an upset.

“Giovinco is the star and we know him well,” Giorgio Chiellini, the wary Juve defender, stated in reference to the talented striker, who incidentally scored Parma’s only goal in the 4-1 defeat to Juventus in September.

England (Premier League), Everton vs Manchester City (3pmET, Fox Deportes and FSC in US) or Manchester United vs Stoke City (also 3pET, ESPN Deportes, ESPN2, in US): It’s come down to the two Manchester teams at the top of the Premier League table–City on top with 58pts, ManU on 51.  With the results a week ago Sunday, they’ve put some distance between them and the rest of the pack (Tottenham is 3rd with 46, Chelsea 5th with 41).

Pick whichever Mancunian side you prefer to watch.  The Everton-ManCity match (which like Parma-Juve is a case of the league-leaders going playing away against an erractic mid-table side) has the added attraction of American Landon Donovan, who’s not long on loan and on display in the Premier League. –Everton are 14th in the league, but they’re coming off a big 2-1 win Friday against Fulham in the FA Cup (with Donovan assisting both goals from his right wing position).

MU-Stoke is a closer matchup in terms of the table–Stoke sits in 8th, just 4 points behind Liverpool (and 5pts behind Newcastle and Arsenal, both of whom have 36pts).  But we really don’t have anything to say about what to watch w.r.t. Stoke.

Spain (Copa del Rey semifinal – 1st leg), CD Mirandés vs Athletic Bilbao (4pmET, no US TV): The Spanish clubs turn right around after playing out their quarterfinal ties last week for semifinal first legs this week.  The more high-profile match is tomorrow (Valencia vs Barcelona), and given this is a mismatch on paper–Mirandés plays in Segunda División B (i.e., 3rd division, below La Liga and Segunda División A), and so Athletic, one of the great clubs of Spain, is heavily favored to advance to the final.  Nevertheless, we try to watch Bilbao play whenever possible, given their Bielsan philosophy.  Here is what we wrote in November, ahead of their match against Barcelona:

Athletic Bilbao–the Basque team which aspires to be one of the “alternatives” to the Barcelona/Madrid axis of hegemony in La Liga, which is newly managed by a crazy genius Argentine whom Pep Guardiola considers one of his managerial inspirations–to whose house in Argentina Guardiola made a pilgrimage when he was considering a career as a manager.

His name is Marcelo Bielsa, his arrival in Bilbao was highly anticipated, and his tenure there started terribly: two draws and three losses in their first five league matches. But they started to turn it around at the beginning of October, which prompted both of the Guardian’s cerebral football columnists Sid Lowe and Jonathan Wilson to devote columns to Bilbao under Bielsa.



What To Watch Today: Côte D’Ivoire vs Angola, Osasuna vs Atlético Madrid

January 30, 2012 — by Suman


We’ve got to post a quick recap of what we watched this past weekend–but first, very briefly, here are two games today that you could tune in for, in case you’re looking for something to watch this afternoon/evening (depending on your timezone):

African Cup of Nations, Côte d’Ivoire vs Angola (1pmET, Al-Jazeera Sports / Eurosport International): The group stage of AfCON2012 wraps up over the next couple days. These are the top two teams in Group B, and will most likely advance to the knockout stage (Sudan, who are simultaneously playing Burkina Faso, can advance only according to a very convoluted–but not impossible–scenario:

Sudan will advance to the quarterfinals as the second-placed team in the group if they defeat Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire defeat Angola and

  • the combined margin of the two wins is at least 3 goals, or
  • Sudan score at least 3 more goals than Angola do, or
  • the combined margin of the two wins is exactly 2 goals and Sudan score exactly 2 more goals than Angola do and prevail over Angola by tie-breaking criteria No. 6 and 7.

Côte d’Ivoire’s squad of course has the most big-name big-club players in the tournament: Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou (both Chelsea), the Touré brothers (both Man City), impressive holding midfielder Cheick Tioté (Newcastle), former Arsenal man Emmanuel Eboué (now Galatasaray), current Arsenal attacker Gervinho. Another Ivorian striker we’ll keep an eye (given that we’re trying to watch more Eredivisie): Wilfried Bony, who just joined Vitesse Arnhem last summer, after a few years in with Sparta Prague.

Like much of the Euro-centric football-watching world, we’re not sure who to watch on Angola.  A look at their current squad shows (not surprisingly) a number of players playing club ball in Portugal–we’re guessing that forwards Djalma is a player to watch, given that he plays for Portuguese powerhouse Porto.

Spain (La Liga), Osasuna vs Atlético Madrid (3pmET, GolTV): Atlético has been experiencing a resurrection since they fired Gregorio Manzano and hired El Cholo–former Atlético star Diego Pablo Simeone.  As usual, we rely on Sid Lowe’s Guardian writing for our knowledge of La Liga.  Read his blog post from mid-January in full: “Atlético’s favourite son Diego Simeone returns to light up the Calderón: Atlético’s fans finally welcomed home ‘El Cholo’ on Sunday, and their new coach gave them hope for a more stable future” (and/or see below for an excerpt).

After selling off their big name players last summer (Kun Aguero to Man City, Diego Forlan to Inter), Atletico Madrid lost a lot of star appeal.  The player on their current squad that we’ve been hearing the most about is Colombian striker Falcao, who’s been banging in the goals, as he did previously at Porto under Andre Villas-Boas.  Indeed, AVB wanted to bring Falcao along to Chelsea over the summer, but somehow Atlético got him instead–and now there there are rumors AVB will ask Abrahamovich to open up his moneybags yet again to do the deal this summer. Falcao as a replacement for Drogba–or maybe even Torres? Maybe a swap that send El Niño back to his boyhood club?

Beyond Falcao, we recall from a previous viewing of Atlético that we were impressed with Brazilian midfielder Diego, who’s on loan from the Bundesliga’s Wolfsburg. Also keep an eye on Spanish youngster Adrián López, who just joined the club last summer after five years with Deportivo La Coruña.  Further back on the field, Uruguayan international Diego Godín and captain Antonio López (a product of Atlético’s youth system) anchor the defense, and in front of them experienced Portuguese midfielder Tiago Mendes (30yo, has stints at Chelsea and Juve on his resume, plus 58 caps for Portugal, including two World Cups and a Euro championship).

Now for those excerpts from Sid Lowe’s column about Diego Simeone returning to “the banks of the Manzanares“:

Madrid awoke to the front-page news that “El Cholo” had filled the Vicente Calderón on his return, 55,000 faithful atléticos acclaiming the third coming. The headline came as bit of a surprise: not so much because he hadn’t filled the Calderón as because he hadn’t even returned to it yet. Still, there’s nothing quite like selling successes that haven’t happened and still might not, especially round here, and it was only a few hours away. Noon on Sunday 15 January and Diego Pablo Simeone was at last back on the banks of the Manzanares, a saviour.

At last? In truth, he hadn’t taken all that long. It had been just six and a half years. Yet it felt longer. It often feels like Atlético Madrid work in dog years: everything happens so fast, so much goes on, that each year at Atlético is worth seven anywhere else.


Simeone always knew this day would come. Twice he had played for Atlético Madrid, between 1994 and 1997 and again between 2003 and 2005. The first time he had been at the heart of the side that won the double in 1996. When he left Atlético, he did so in tears to a huge, emotional ovation. A hardnut and a football nut who stood sadly under the shower the day he finally retired at Racing de Avellaneda, half an hour thinking silently, he went into coaching immediately. He had, team-mates said, been a coach as a player. There were six managerial stints in five years at five different clubs, some successes too, but none were Atlético. And the promise was always there, hanging in the air: maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day …

Sunday, at last, was the day. “The day of the Cholo,” as El Mundo Deportivo put it. Brought in at Christmas, Simeone had returned to action the week before, with a 0-0 draw at Málaga. Now, he was making his debut as coach at the Vicente Calderón and against another hero from the double – José Molina, Atlético’s goalkeeper in 1996, the unexpected debutant manager at Villarreal and back at the Calderón for his second game in charge. Team-mates but never actual mates – the photo of the pair “together” that the media used most last week shows the quiet, occasionally distant Molina posing with the trophy while Cholo Simeone stands saluting the fans as he waits his turn, a little too close to get out of the shot – here they were again, 15 years later.



What To Watch This Weekend: FA Cup, African Cup, Serie A, Eredivisie

January 28, 2012 — by Suman


Saturday, January 28

England FA Cup, Liverpool-Manchester United (7:30amET FSC): The most heated of English rivalries?  Which has become even more fraught with the Evra-Suarez controversy–due to which the essential Uruguayan striker is still sidelined for this one.  Liverpool has been relying on Craig Bellamy up front–leaving a £35 elephant on the sideline.  Man U continues to lose players to injury–Phil Jones being the latest–but after some mid-season wobbles somehow seems to keep winning.

African Cup, Ghana-Mali(2pmET Al Jazeera Sports USA): The one African Cup of Nations group stage match that we’d circled to watch. Ghana is one of the co-favorites to win the whole thing (along with the Ivory Coast), with largely the same squad that went to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in South Africa (and would have made the semifinals if not for the goal line stand of the aforementioned Luis Suarez).  Mali looks like they’ve got a decent squad, based just on the fact that the majority of the Malian squad play in Ligue 1–and their captain is Barcelona’s Seydou Keita.  SI has a match preview–and in fact Jonathan Wilson (who’s down in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea covering this firsthand) penned a tournament preview for them.

Italy, Juventus-Udinese(2:30pmET FSC, Big game in Turin, 1st  v 3rd in Serie A. Actually Udinese can pull even with Juve if they can manage a win, but that will be a tall order. Remarkably, I Bianconeri are still undefeated in the league: 11W, 8D, 0L for 41pts, with AC Milan just a point behind and Udinese next with 38. For Udinese, any goals are likely to come from di Natale–but watch for Colombian winger Armero to create chaos on the flanks with his speed. Udinese will be missing Ghanaian holding midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah, who’s down with his national team, playing in that aforementioned match vs Mali today.


Sunday, January 29

Netherlands, Feyenoord-Ajax (6:30amET – ESPN Deportes, The most heated rivalry in Holland–De Klassieker.

England FA Cup, Arsenal-Aston Villa (11amET – FSC): Any Arsenal match is of interest to the CultFootball crew. And after last Sunday, it’ll be interesting to see how the Emirates responds to Arsene’s squad.

Spain, Malaga-Sevilla (4pmET GolTV): Since we like to look at La Liga beyond the Big Two, and these are two southern sides that aim to join (or rejoin, in Sevilla’s case) Valencia as the primary alternatives to Madrid and Barcelona.

EnglandItalySpainThe Americas

What We Watched Yesterday + W2W Today: Three More Cop(p)a Matches

January 26, 2012 — by Suman


Yesterday was quite an afternoon of football, with two compelling Cup matches.  Turns out there’s more today–another Copa del Rey quarterfinal second leg, another Coppa Italia quarterfinal, and–this just in from our Uruguayan buddy–it’s time for Copa Libertadores again.  Click thru for livesoccertv’s TV listings and match previews:

Coppa Italia quarterfinal – Milan vs Lazio – 8:45pm CET / 2:45pmET / 7:45pm GMT (USA: GolTV, From FootballItalia: “It is a swift return to San Siro [for Lazio], where the Biancocelesti were beaten 2-1 [by Milan] at the weekend.”

Copa dey Rey quarterfinal – Levante vs Valencia – 10pm CET / 4pm ET / 9pm GMT (No USA TV): The 2nd leg of this Valencia derby is at Levante’s home field (Estadio Ciudad de Valencia), with Valencia holding a commanding 4-1 lead from the 1st leg at the Mestalla.  Remarkably, however, Levante are 4th in La Liga, just 4 points behind Valencia (31 vs 35, as compared with Barcelona’s 44 and Madrid’s 49).

Copa Libertadores – Peñarol vs Caracas – 5:45pmET (USA: Fox Deportes): “Uruguayan giants Penarol clash with Caracas of Venezuela in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores preliminary qualification play-off at the Centenario stadium of Montevideo on Thursday.”

Let’s also take a quick look back at what we watched yesterday:

Liverpool will be returning to Wembley, for the Carling Cup final, after stunning Man City at Anfield (yesteday’s result was a 2-2 draw, but Liverpool advance by virtue of a 3-2 aggregate score over the two legs, having won the first leg at Etihad Stadium 1-0). Crazily the second half of that English game overlapped with a much bigger game in Barcelona–the 2nd leg of the El Clasico Copa del Rey quarterfinal clash. We watched both games simultaneously, by virtue of sitting at the bar at Woodwork.  But it made for a disjointed afternoon, given that the sound was on for Liverpool-City for that game, with approximately half the audience watching that one, while the other half focused on the Spanish match (including a table of rather distractingly loud jersey-wearing self-proclaimed Cules del Barça in the back, who had also been there for the first leg).

All that, plus conversation with a couple Liverpool supporters that we’d met at the spot before, meant that we didn’t really absorb the nuances of either match.  From what we can recall (we should have jotted down some notes), it seemed like City was dominating (possession, at least) for long stretches in the first half, although Gerrard and Parker did fairly well in breaking up City attacks in the center of midfield–but of course Silva did get free on occasion, most damagingly for Nigel De Jong’s surprising screamer of a goal.  On the other hand, Liverpool did grow into the match in the second half, with Gerrard, Downing and Adams on occasion delivering the fine balls they’re known for, and Kuyt getting into space on the right flank especially.  It was from that direction that the decisive goal came from, with the irrepressible Craig Bellamy combining with Glen Johnson for the 74′ goal that gave the aggregate advantage back to Liverpool.  It was a stunner since Man City had just pulled even on aggregate–and with an away-goal advantage–with an emphatic finish by Edin Dzeko, who got behind the Liverpool defender on the back post to slam home a Kolarov cross from the left wing (the rather loud Man City supporter who’s a Woodwork regular leapt to his feet and shouted “UNLEASH THE DZEKO!” for the whole bar to hear, which drew plenty of laughs.  But his Liverpool-supporting friends/rivals had the last laugh..

All of our attention (and the sound system) shifted to El Clasico, which was about 25′ in by then.  Out of the corner of our eye, we’d seen the two early misses by Higuain, and in general how Barcelona looked a little discombobulated, especially in trying to play the ball out of the back.  Edhinho’s observations after the game: “Barca strangely lacked control and gave away the ball much more carelessly. Could it be that as Madrid plays them more and more, like regular pick up games, players start to read the  now familar players’ moves and become more effective in pressurizing them to lose it?”  But predictably, and to the joy of los Cules, Barca went up 2-0, off a dashing run and pass by Messi for a Pedro goal, and then from a cracker by Dani Alves just before the half-time whistle.

It seemed as if the tie had been decided–a 4-1 lead for Barcelona on aggregate, with 45 minutes left to play at the Camp Nou?  No chance for Madrid, right–especially given the recent history between these two sides.

But then, to the confusion of Cules everywhere, Madrid did not fold, and Mourinho did not go insane.  Instead he made some interesting and pivotal substitutions.  Let me quote Sean’s “¡El Clásico Fantasico!” match report, since he watched the game in the quiet confines of home and hence with more concentration (he might have even taken notes, as he is wont to do):

Heading in at halftime Barcelona had shot twice, scored twice. Madrid had more chances, but weren’t bringing players forward quickly enough to  play a possession game in Barça’s half.   That changed in the second period, when Mourinho made three changes, bringing in Esteban GraneroKarim Benzema, and José Callejón for Diarra, Higuain and Kaka, respectively. Within 15 minutes the game was 2-2. Ronaldo was set free by a piercing pass off the foot of Germany’s Özil, and Benzema acrobatically brought down a cross before smashing home the tying goal. Along the way Callejón had a perfect cross skid off his pompadour that would’ve helped the effort.

Though I’m a Barcelona supporter, it was exciting to see younger players like Granero and Callejón get a chance to play alongside more often-seen Madrid creative players Benzema and Özil.

Enough about yesterday’s matches–we’ll revisit the Carling Cup ahead of the Liverpool-Cardiff City final, and we’ll revisit Barcelona-Madrid again in the coming months, as there will be at least one more Clasico (a La Liga fixture at the Camp Nou, which will likely be essential for Barcelona to even hope of catching Madrid in the table), and perhaps one or two Champions League matches as well.



¡El Clásico Fantasico!

January 26, 2012 — by Sean1


What started off el clásico predictable turned into a wide-open and exciting affair. Though they were the losing side, Madrid's performance is sure to embolden them on their league return to the Camp Nou.


What We Watched This Weekend: Borussia Bundesliga Shocker, Dempsey Hat-Trick, USMNT in Phoenix, Super Sunday in Spain & England

January 23, 2012 — by Suman


We’ve semi-regularly tried to post a Friday “What to Watch this Weekend” (WtWtW) viewing guide. Starting today, we’ll aim to bookend that with a companion “What We Watched this Weekend” (WWWtW) summary–pulled primarily from weekend email chatter among the CultFootball crew, maybe spiced up with some video highlights.

(If you’d like to contribute, hit us up with a message on Twitter or a comment/wall post on our Facebook page as you’re watching matches over the weekend–or just comment here on the site. Our comment sections have been mostly lying dormant since that initial burst of activity and enthusiasm following our launch for the 2010 World Cup–see the “most popular” list in the right side-bar–but we’re working on a resurrection.)

Using this weekend’s “WtWtW” posts as an outline (atypically, there were three this weekend, one each for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), here’s what we watched:

Friday, Jan 20

Germany,Borussia Moenchengladbach 3 – 1 Bayern Munich: This one was a bit of a random pick–just to have something on Friday, and since we’d been hearing lots about Marco “Rolls” Reus. But it turned out this was a great pick–a stunning upset by Moenchengladbach of the Bavarian giants. Back in the fall, some were saying the Bayern had wrapped up the Bundesliga title after their hot start. But with this victory, Bayern, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke all have 37 points, and Moenchengladbach is remarkably just a point behind. From’s match report (headlined “Herrmann & Reus run rampant as hosts move second:
Young attacking duo accounted for all three goals as hosts repeated their first round success with a victory over the leaders”):

Amid a first-half chess match, Marco Reus scored into an empty net to put the hosts ahead on 14 minutes. Patrick Herrmann made it 2-0 shortly before half-time, and completed his brace on 71 minutes. Bastian Schweinsteiger, in his first competitive game since early November, pulled a goal back in the 76th minute, but it was too little, too late for the visitors.

Saturday, Jan 21

England, Norwich 0 – 0 Chelsea: We didn’t get to see any of this one, but our correspondent Edhino did:

Miserably snowed out of me own game, came home just in time to watch Torres give away the ball twice in a row and then frantically try to get it back like a kid whose lollipop got taken away. Sad really. Norwich were impressive in the concentration and discipline, with good signs of competency in control; in particular Pilkington who showed great skill (I was going to add ‘for his size’, but the awkward incongruence of big blokes with good control is more illusion than correlation) and speed, making huffing Cole look old and tired. Overall Chelsea looked tired and Kalou-like (i.e. Sumit speak for clueless) in attack. I haven’t watched a Chelsea game in a while and it was surprising to see them so toothless sans Drogba or even Shanghai-bound Anelka.

We’d also picked the Fulham-Newcastle match as one to watch, but had mostly focused on Newcastle in our preview. Imagine our surprise at seeing this scoreline–and as mildly patriotic Americans, pleasant surprise at seeing who did the scoring:

England, Fulham 5 – Newcastle 2: Newcastle took an early 1-0 lead but then collapsed in the second half–and American Clint Dempsey banged in three of Fulham’s handful. From the Washington Post’s SoccerInsider (who in general does a great job of covering Americans playing abroad):

For the second time this month, Clint Dempsey has recorded a hat trick for Fulham. And this time, during a 5-2 victory over Newcastle on Saturday, he became the first American ever to post a three-goal performance in an English Premier League match.

Two weeks ago, he accomplished the feat in an FA Cup game against third-tier Charlton.

Dempsey’s goals against Newcastle came in the 59th, 65th and 89th minutes, increasing his haul to nine in league play and 15 in all competitions. He is among the top 10 scoring leaders in the EPL this season. In his five-year career at Fulham, he has scored 52 goals overall.

PL Highlights: Fulham/Newcastle

Spain, Real Betis 1 – 1 Sevilla: We had this game–the Seville derby–on in the background as we lounged around on a snowy afternoon.  From what we saw, it was an exciting, open match.  One that Sevilla mostly dominated, but they found themselves down a goal for most of the match after conceding on a set play.  But they equalized on a late great header by one of the players we told you to watch–striker Álvaro Negredo.  Read this great match report on Fox Soccer by freelancer Andy Brasell: “Class prevails in renewed Seville derby.”

Int’l Friendly, USA-Venezuela: See our match report on the Germanic flavor of this largely positive performance by the Americans (and check back in mid-week, as the US boys travel down to Central America for another friendly in Panama City on Wednesday.)


Super Sunday, Jan 22

Super Sunday lived up to the hyperbole–not only in England, but in Spain as well:

England, Manchester City 3 – 2 Spurs: What a game!  Match of the season? So much drama. City goin up 2-0 (Nasri 56′, off a superb thru ball from Silva, after Nasri had got inside of Kyle Walker; then Lescott 59′, off a Nasri corner flicked on by Dzeko that caught the Spurs defense standing still on the back post), then Spurs responding resoundingly (Defoe 60′ after a Savic blunder, though great finish by Defoe; and Bale 65′–goal of the weekend? after Lennon came inside-out..or rather outside-in).  And then, of course, Super Mario–on for Dzeko at 66′, probably should have been sent off a few minutes later (but how does one infer intent from a video replay?), and then won the game with a well-deserved and coolly taken penalty in extra time–and that after Defoe had been but a few centimeters from earning Spurs a few more points than they did:

England, Arsenal 1 – 2 Manchester United: See Rob Kirby’s latest rant, which despite its title is not primarily about Pier Morgan.  And watch these BBC MotD highlights before they’re taken down:

Spain, Real Madrid 4 – 1 Athletic Bilbao: Read Sid Lowe’s epic column about palace intrigue in Mourinho’s court–and something about the match as well, which Athletic led 1-0 before ultimately losing 4-1:

Spain, Malaga 1 – 4 Barcelona: More from Sid Lowe’s column: “Messi: bloody hell. He’d only scored once away all season – now he has scored four times thanks to an astonishingly good hat-trick away at Málaga. AS gave him four stars (well, aces) out of three, while Roberto Palomar in Marca finally saw sense and said: ‘there are no longer any words, except swear words.'”


What to Watch This Weekend: Super Sunday

January 22, 2012 — by Suman


It’s Super Sunday due to the two big EPL North London-Manchester games, but there’s also a couple interesting La Liga matchups and an relevant Eredivisie matchup today:

Super Sunday, Jan 22

Netherlands, Alkmaar-Ajax (8:30amET ESPN Deportes, A league meeting between two teams in contention for the Eredivisie title (AZ Alkmaar).  This will be the 3rd meeting between the two sides in just over a month–first there was the already-infamous pitch invasion at Amsterdam Arena in December, and then the replay in front of 20,000 Dutch schoolchildren last week.

Most eyes, however, will be on England, with the two North London teams taking on the two Manchester teams (“a tale of two cities” if you will):

England, Manchester City-Spurs (8:30amET FSC): 1st vs 3rd, with City still atop the table and Spurs hot on their heels in 3rd. We liberally excerpt from our man John Lally’s PoliticalFootballs preview post:

Manchester City still have their 100% home record in the league, having won all 10 of their fixtures at the City of Manchester I mean massively overpriced sponsorship with financial shenanigans definitely going on Etihad Stadium – but their last two games there have ended in defeat – against United in the FA Cup, and Liverpool in the Carling Cup. The absence of Yaya Toure, who is representing the Cote D’Ivoire at the Africa Cup of Nations, has weakened the City midfield, giving Tottenham an opportunity to dominate in the middle of the park. However, Spurs will be without Emanuel Adebayor up front – he is on loan from Manchester City and thus is ineligible to play against his parent club. Harry Redknapp, who tax evasion case goes to trial the day after the match, will be hoping that Rafael Van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe will be able to join forces and lead the line, having been competing with each other for a single place in the starting lineup all season. If Bale on the left and Lennon on the right-wing can get behind the City full backs – Micah Richards and Gael Clichy – then Tottenham will have a great chance at putting the home team under pressure – but they will need to be less wasteful with their chances than they were in the draw with Wolves last week.

England, Arsenal-Manchester United (10:30amET Fox main network, tape at 5pmET on FSC): Despite Arsenal slipping back down the table over the past few weeks, out of contention for the title, this is still a marquee matchup.  There’s the history of course–the recent history that Arsenal will seek to avenge today; and before that, the acrimonious clashes of the past two decades.


Finally, if that’s not enough footy for you, and if you don’t have Barcelona/Madrid fatigue (don’t forget the 2nd leg of their Copa del Rey tie is this coming Wednesday, back at the Camp Nou), the Big Two in Spain actually have potentially tricky fixtures today:

Spain, Malaga-Barcelona (12pmET GolTV): Yet another non-trivial away fixture for Barça.  The Qatari-funded Malaga project hasn’t been entirely successful so far, although they did threaten to knock off Real Madrid a couple weeks ago, before a goalkeeper howler doomed them.  The player to watch for Malaga is Spanish international midfielder Santi Cazorla.

Spain, Real Madrid-Athletic Bilbao (3:30pmET, tape at 7 p.m. on ESPN Deportes): We are fascinated by the Bielsa-Bilbao project.  Will they press Madrid at the Bernabeu?  How will Madrid respond after last Wednesday’s demoralizing loss? Players to watch for Athletic–if we might be so solipsistic as to blockquote ourselves (from our preview of November’s fantastic Bilbao-Barcelona match):

Fernando Llorente up front, at “la punta” of the attack, a player who has won 19 caps playing for Spain (including an appearance in South Africa for the World Cup-winning side); “the highly exciting 18-year-old Iker Muniain,” who seems to play in an attacking midfield role; and behind him in central midfield the 23-year old Javi Martinez

And if you’re a lover of the Italian game, here’s a Serie A match for good measure:

Italy, Inter Milan-Lazio (2:30pmET. FSC,