American midfielders have been getting their shine on in England. Clint Dempsey has been leading Fulham, Stuart Holden has been a mainstay for Bolton, and Jonathan Spector has been a surprise performer for West Ham. Moreover, Jermaine Jones recently debuted for Blackburn on loan from Bundesliga club Schalke 04–and we may soon see Michael Bradley also make the move to the Premier League from the Bundesliga (where he plays for Borussia Moenchengladbach). According to a Fox Soccer report, Sunderland is lining up a bid for Bradley (apparently spending some portion of that staggering £24m they got in return for letting striker Darren Bent go to Aston Villa).
We’ll get a chance to see Holden play this afternoon, as Bolton host Chelsea (3pm ET, ESPND & ESPN3.com). Meanwhile, both Dempsey and Spector scored over the weekend for their sides. In fact, Dempsey scored two for Fulham yesterday, giving him eight for the season (which makes him the 5th highest scoring midfielder in the league, behind Kevin Nolan, Tim Cahill, Samir Nasri and Rafael van der Vaart, and just outside the Top 10 scorers overall):
Meanwhile, Jonathan Spector scored for West Ham over the weekend against Everton (scoring on American goalkeeper Tim Howard); it was Spector’s first-ever Premier League goal–although he did cause quite a stir a couple months ago when he scored twice against Manchester United in a 4-0 Carling Cup victory for West Ham.
[Editor’s note: Here’s the inaugural edition of something we’d like to make a semi-regular feature: a look at the top of the table. Here we look (once again) at the Premier League table, but we plan to check in on other tables around the world over the course of the season.]
Someone eventually has to win the Premier League title–but from recent results, it’s hard to figure out who. Here’s the top of the table as of today–it’s virtually certain to be one of these teams that ends up on top at the end:
But alas none of the top contenders have been especially impressive:
Chelsea lost again over the weekend, this time to lowly Birmingham–their third loss in four weeks, following losses at Liverpool and at home to Sunderland. And the latest loss came days after unceremoniously dumping their assistant manager; whether or not it contributed to the latest loss, it has precipitated close to a full-blown crisis at Stamford Bridge, with manager Carlos Ancelotti saying “I am not in control at Chelsea.”
Man Cityhad been the team in crisis-mode over the past month, with their home fans booing a scoreless draws against Man U and Birmingham–until they broke out of their doldrums this past weekend in a big way, with a 4-1 thrashing of Fulham. Following which, Fulham’s manager (and Man City’s former manager–and Man U legend), the “super classy” Mark Hughes, said Man City are still in the hunt: “On their performance today certainly they’re contenders. They were excellent. If they have belief and there’s some forward thinking, and maybe they’re a bit more attack-minded as they were today on more occasions, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be. They’ve got as good a chance as anybody.”
Man U? Somewhat surprisingly, still undefeated–but hardly dominating, with a record of 7 wins and 7 draws. And let’s not forget they had been the team in crisis not too long ago; in fact, young Mr. Rooney returned to the pitch this past weekend.
Rounding out the top of the table, tied with 22 points apiece, are the victors of that North London derby, Spurs–whose manager thinks they’ve got a shot at the crown; and Bolton (not sure who thinks they have a legitimate shot at the title). But who knows, the way things are going…
In fact, the situation can be best summarized by Uncle Harry’s comments referenced above:
This is the best chance anyone is going to get, this season. The league has never been more open. Sunderland go to Chelsea last weekend and win 3-0, Manchester United were losing by two goals at Aston Villa until late on. It’s wide open for somebody who can put a run together. It’s there for someone to have a real go at it. Why be fearful and say ‘we can’t win it’. Why can’t we win it?
Listings for what’s on TV taken again from Soccer Insidercourtesy of the kind and gracious Steven Goff at the Washington Post:
England, Bolton-Spurs 8:30 a.m. ESPN2, ESPN Deportes Will be funny to see if Steinsson handles Gareth Bale better than Maicon did on Tuesday. Guessing the first yellow will appear inside 5 minutes. Maybe ole ‘Arry will rest Bale as he is now the best player in the world.
Germany, Moenchengladbach-Bayern Munich 10:30 a.m. ESPN Deportes (Out of respect for the Bayern fan that was in the bar with us Wednesday afternoon..and who is Gründer, Gesellschafter und Berater of http://koelnsport.de/)
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
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 Goal.com’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 Goal.com for eachside‘s rosters, recent team news, and standard formations.
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: