What to Watch This Weekend (Oct 30-31)

October 29, 2010 — by Suman

We’re back once again with our recommendations on when exactly you should plant yourself on your couch or local pub stool this weekend.  Again using SoccerInsider’s full TV listing as a reference, here we go, with some notes from various members of the CultFootball collective:

Saturday Oct 30

Striker, Goal Scorer, Contortionist

Manchester United-Spurs 12:30 p.m. FSC: a matchup of the 3rd and 5th place teams in the EPL table, with goal-scoring players in form on both sides (Chicharito and Nani for Man U, Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart for Spurs)

Barcelona-Sevilla 4 p.m. ESPN Deportes: One of the more challenging La Liga games for Barca, especially since Sevilla seems to finally coming into form (6th in the table) after a slow start, and their Brazilian WC2010 star Luis Fabiano back in the lineup and finding the back of the net.

Those are the two matches to make time for, but if you need a couple additional matches to fill out your day:

Hercules-Real Madrid 2 p.m. GolTV: It’ll be interesting to see if Real Madrid can keep up their recent dominating form (well, last week’s scoreless draw against 3rd division Murcia in a Copa del Rey game excepted), or conversely whether Hércules can pull off another upset.

AC Milan-Juventus 2:30 p.m. FSC: AC Milan is 2nd in the Serie A table, and has an exciting set of big names in attack: Ronaldhino, Pato, Robinho, Ibrahimovic, Seedorf, while Juve is in 5th.  See’s rundown of key individual matchups here.

And since the MLS playoffs have started, a Saturday night special…

San Jose-New York 10 p.m. Telefutura:  Sounds like Thierry Henry will miss this match due to an injury, but the Red Bulls have a number of players to watch: Rafa Marquez, the Mexican international recently arrived from Barcelona; Estonian Joel Lindpere; Jamaican Dane Richards; and Senegalese-American goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul (see this NY Daily News article about his journey from Senegal to the Bronx to high school in Manhattan, and eventually to the MLS).

Sunday Oct 31

Palermo-Lazio 7:30 a.m. FSP: Roman side Lazio sits atop Serie A, while Palermo is in 8th.  We’ll refer you to for each side‘s rosters, recent team news, and standard formations.

Stan Cummins (sunderland) 1980's tyne-wear derby

Newcastle-Sunderland 9:30 a.m. FSP: The Tyne-Wear derby. Overlooked step-sister Sunderland have held their own against Newcastle on the pitch over the years, if not in international fame. Always good to share your name with a tasty brew.

Bolton-Liverpool noon FSC: Liverpool played well last week, and Fernando Torres finally scored, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can build on that—and work their way up in the table.

And one more—another MLS playoff game, featuring the star-studded Galaxy:

Seattle-Los Angeles 8 p.m. ESPN2


Messi Injury Not So Bad Afterall

September 21, 2010 — by Sean1

It does send shivers down the spine.

At the very end of a pretty entertaining match between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona, Czech defender Tomáš Ujfaluši came in late on everyone’s favorite player Lionel Messi, and stomped on his ankle something awful. Messi went down in agony and held his hands over his face, crying as he was stretchered off the field. Fortunately for fans of the beautiful game, there is no break or dislocation, and the little peanut should be back in about 10 days.

From the live-action shot it looked intentional. Ujfaluši came in very late and from the angle it seemed as if  he came down on Messi’s foot. Upon further inspection it looks like a real ankle breaker. The big man did issue an apology:

“I’m sorry. I would like to publicly apologize, because, honestly, it wasn’t my intention. I tried to go for the ball, but naturally, with the speed he had, he also could not stop and I was unlucky as my foot stepped on his ankle.”

Messi had, of course, been running around the pitch as he pleased before this. The first half was standard Barça—they controlled the ball 70% of the time (actual stat!), and whenever they lost it they seemed to win it back immediately.

The second half was more even, with Atletico clearly trying to wedge themselves back into the flow. They’d never wrest control though, not with Forlan gone missing, and Simão and Kun similarly nonexistent up front. Mainly they played more aggressively (ahem) and pulled off a number of dangerous set pieces before the crushing tackle on la pulga put them to ten men.

It ended 2-1 in favor of the away side, but it really could’ve been more with the chances Barça manufactured. Pep thinks so too, and more:

We are happy with the Atletico win and it could have finished 5-1 with the number of chances we had,” said Guardiola. “However, we are sad about the Messi incident. It is not only Cristiano Ronaldo (of Real Madrid) who needs protecting. The referees should protect all the players.


Hércules Hércules! Shocker at the Nou Camp

September 13, 2010 — by Suman1

Valdez puts Hercules up 2-0 over Barcelona

The shocking result from this past weekend’s La Liga fixtures was Barcelona losing on the Camp Nou to newly promoted Hércules by a score of 2-0, with Paraguayan international Nelson Valdez scoring both goals.  It was certainly an unexpected result, as Sid Lowe writes in the the Guardian:

Barcelona are the league champions; Herculés are making their first appearance in the first division since 1997 – in fact, they’ve spent just two of the last 26 years in the top flight. Hell, they’ve spent half of the last decade in the regionalised, four group, eighty-team Second Division B. And Barcelona had not been beaten by a newly promoted side for a decade.

Barcelona had won 17 out of 18 at home last season, drawing the other. They had not lost a league game at home for 16 months – and that didn’t really count, what with it being a who-cares-we’ve-already-won-the-title defeat against Osasuna. You have to go back to February 2009 for their last ‘real’ defeat at home – and that was a miracle. Since Pep Guardiola made his managerial debut in La Liga they have not once been beaten by two goals in the league. And Valdez, the goalscorer who doesn’t score, was making his La Liga debut. 2-0? To Herculés? With Valdez getting them both? On Catalonia’s official holiday, too? No chance.

Except that the ‘diada’ marks the bloodiest of Catalan defeats. Except that Herculés have a bit of a habit of this. The last time they were in the first division, back in 1996-97, they beat Barcelona twice. 3-2 at Camp Nou and 2-1 at the Rico Pérez – the game that effectively cost Bobby Robson’s side the title, handing it to Fabio Capello’s Madrid. Thirteen years later, history might just have repeated itself. Last night’s saw the two-point advantage over José Mourinho’s Madrid disappear; Barça now trail by a point.

Click thru to read Lowe’s whole essay–starting with an account of Valdez’s journey from Paraguay to Werder Bremen to Borussia Dortmund and now to Hércules.

Here is video of Valdez’s two goals–the first off a scrambling attack on Barca’s goal following a Herculés free kick in the 26th minute, and the 2nd a clinical finish off a rolling cross from the right side in the 59th minute (note how Valdez pulls up his run at the top of the box and hangs in that unmarked space):

Though this more complete highlights reel seems to show that it was Barcelona that dominated play and created many more chances–numerous near misses by the likes of Villa, Pedro, and Pique (coming up from defense for an aerial attack):

Things get even more interesting for Pep Guardiola’s side this coming week: they’ll get no rest, as they’ll be back on the Camp Nou tomorrow, hosting Panathinaikos in the first set of Champions League fixtures; and then they travel to Madrid next weekend, to play the top team in Spain.

No, not the overyhyped and overpaid collection of stars at the Bernabeu (who at least managed to finally score a goal this past weekend, at home against Osasuna), but rather the guys crosstown at Atletico Madrid.  Led by Uruguayan star Diego Forlan, Atletico Madrid sits atop the table with two wins after two games (Valencia being the only other side with six points).  Forlan has picked up where he left off in South Africa, scoring 3 goals in the first two matches.  Atletico Madrid sits atop the table (Valencia being the only other side with six points).


Santos Star Neymar Still with Club…for Now

July 20, 2010 — by Sean2

So slight he needs to hold up his shorts.

So everybody wants a piece of the goal-scoring phenom Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, more easily: Neymar. He’s a speedy, quick footed attacker who is of course a whiney brash little thing seeing that he’s all of 18 yrs-old. Playing alongside Robinho and Ganso has certainly helped him this year, but he is the type of player who would surely excel in any system that could feed him the ball 35 yrds out, as he’s quite capable of dribbling through the remainder of the defense from that point.

Clubs have lined up to get him, with Real, Chelsea, West Ham, Man City, and Barça among the suitors (yes, the Hammers don’t exactly fit with the level, but they do (try) and play possession football and are generally easy on the eye, though they lost often last season). Chelsea have felt the first sting of rejection, as their €20M offer was dismissed.


Cesc Will Go

July 17, 2010 — by Sean1

Eventually, Cescly Fabregasly will take his leave of Arsenal and head to Barca.  The La Liga side are in no rush, since they don’t really need him right now anyway. From Barcelona President Sandro Rosell:

“The Cesc issue is very complicated. The reality is that Arsenal were very hurt by the Barcelona institution and do not want to listen to offers,” Rosell told Spain’s TV3. “They say he is not for sale. There was a brief discussion three or four months ago and they were offended.

“Anyway…the new board is convinced that if the Spain international doesn’t join for this season he will join for the next.”

There’s no doubt that Pique and Puyol would like to see Cesc join them for club as well as country…