Akhmetov’s Brazilian carnival arrives at the not-so magica Roma

February 16, 2011 — by Sean

The Croatian/Brazilian has scored in 1/2 his UCL games this season

The second day of Champions League knockout action is about to start, with the Ukrainian side sitting tops of their league (having won it last season) while Roma have been smacked around of late, dropping to 8th position a full thirteen points off the lead in the Serie A.

What’s the problem at Rome? There are a few injuries that are causing concern: Striker Marco Borriello has a nagging thigh injury keeping him on the bench, and preferred midfielder David Pizzaro is feeling pain from a recurring knee injury. Of some serious concern is the injury to first choice keeper Julio Sergio, who will be replaced by former first choice Doni. The Italian side should be excited to have their talisman Francesco Totti back in action, though rust may play a part in his finding space amongst the quick midfield of the Girnyky.

The ex-soviet side come into the match having bested Arsenal at home to claim top spot in their group stage. But, speaking of rust, they’re on an extended winter break and haven’t played in roughly two months now. They traveled early, hoping to become accustomed to the 60 degree change in temps (and had a chance to tour the Vatican, how lovely!). What’s most interesting perhaps is the number of samba boys on the side: Adriano (a currently effective version, not the one who may come on for 5 minutes at the end for Roma), Eduardo (Croatian…technically), William, J√°dson, Costa, Teixeira, and Fernandinho (out today, unfortunately). Pretty much the entire midfield was born in South America, plus the little spark plug up top.

Roma have historically held firm against the Ukrainian side at home, though they haven’t played in a number of years now and are in the middle of a three-game slump. What’s most concerning is the lack of faith in the gaffer, with Ranieri reportedly having lost the support of his dressing room and the boardroom as well. The well-traveled manager insists nothing is wrong, though concerning the security of his job he has opined, “The coach is like the husband, he’s the last to find out about certain things.”


The Carling Cup – Does Anybody Care?

January 27, 2011 — by Sean

Two semifinals gone (one actually exciting, sorry Hammers fans for that tough extra time loss) and we’re on to Wembley at the end of February with Birmingham City and Arsenal for the league cup. This one’s been traditionally contested by mid-table teams since it’s seen as a mostly meaningless achievement, that is until they changed the format to reward the victor with a Europa League berth (previously winners would gain entry to the UEFA Cup tourney).

That sort of reward would certainly drive a team like Birmingham (who have in fact won the cup once, back in 1963), but what of the Arsenal, whose manager famously remarked back in 2009, “If you win the League Cup, can you honestly say you have won a trophy?” Looks like a couple more years without any hardware have changed the man’s mind, as the competition was once described by the Frenchman as “…a competition for our younger players. If I don’t play them here where would I play them?” You may have noticed, by the by, that the team he’s been sending out in the competition this season is pretty close to his starting XI for premiership action.

Still, it’s good to see Arsenal actually trying to win what has been deemed the “Worthless Cup” and the “Mickey Mouse Cup”. The idea being tossed around is that any cup win is just the spark the team needs to bring more trophies, and quick. We’ll know before the final if they’ll be proceeding toward the most sought after trophy around (Champions League, ‘natch), though it looks unlikely they’ll get by high-flying Barcelona.

Now, a quick historical assessment of Birmingham City vs Arsenal. The teams have met 116 times in all competitions, the first time being back in 1905. Aside for a spell in in the 1950s, Arsenal have dominated the meetings, and own a record of 54 wins and 34 draws to their 28 losses. Mostly known as a tough-tackling, defense-first side, the West Midlands club have been improving their football the past couple of seasons though they find themselves currently on the cusp of relegation. They may be most notable to Arsenal fans for Taylor’s horrific ankle breaking tackle on Eduardo. We haven’t shown the full extent of the injury here, but you’re welcome to do a quick youtube search to see the lad’s foot flap around backwards.