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.


EnglandPreviewScheduleUnited States

What to Watch Today: Everton vs Fulham – Donovan vs Dempsey

January 27, 2012 — by Suman


There’s a whole slate of FA Cup 4th Round matches this weekend, kicked off by a match today that is especially interesting for viewers on this side of the pond. Everton hosts Fulham, which means it’s also a faceoff of the two best American players of this generation: Landon Donovan vs. Clint Demspey.

England FA Cup, Everton vs Fulham (3pmET, USA TV: Fox Soccer Channel)

Grant Wahl has a SI column up today previewing the matchup between “the two best American field players of their generation” which is worth reading in its entirety. Some excerpts:

Who’s done better with the national team? Donovan. Who’s had a better European club career? Dempsey. Who’s got more endorsements? Donovan. Who’s been better overall the past 18 months? Dempsey. Who’s done more to grow MLS? Donovan. Who’s got the better chance to be the U.S.’s first European superstar? Dempsey.

Donovan just rejoined Everton earlier this month on another short-term loan from MLS champions LA Galaxy.  He had a successful loan spell with the Merseyside club two years ago, for three months at the beginning of 2010.  Indeed, Everton wanted to extend the loan, but the LA Galaxy refused, and Everton manager David Moyes would have liked to have bought him–but Donovan’s valuation was too high (£10m) for the cash-strapped Everton.

On the other hand, Dempsey has been in the English Premier Leauge full-time for almost exactly five years. He joined Fulham on a $4million transfer from the New England Revolution during the January 2007 transfer window, and made his Fulham debut on January 20, 2007.  He’s since scored 42 goals in 169 appearances for Fulham–setting records for not only most goals by an American in England, but claiming the record for most Fulham goals in the Premier League era (since 1992).

More from Wahl’s SI piece:

Donovan has played well since joining Everton on a short-term loan, often leading the attack and making Toffees fans wish he would stay permanently. Dempsey, meanwhile, is in the best form of his life. Think about this: the only Premier League players with more goals in all competitions this season than Dempsey (15) are Arsenal’s Robin van Persie, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero — a trio worth a quarter of a billion dollars on the transfer market.

Even then, as recently as last spring, English columnist Georgina Turner wrote a column for SI headlined “Dempsey still underrated Despite star performances at Fulham“–and inevitably Donovan came up:

[Dempsey’s] quality seems forever caught in soccer’s peripheral vision. In part, he has suffered from the constant comparison to Landon Donovan; up against the U.S.’ wholesome, twinkle-eyed star, Dempsey’s brooding demeanor makes him an unlikely poster boy. Donovan’s injury-time goal against Algeria at last summer’s World Cup is seared on to the nation’s memory — even people who aren’t that interested in soccer could probably describe it to you. That it was Dempsey’s run and shot that created the opportunity, leaving the box open and the goalkeeper on the floor, is merely a footnote.

Some related posts from our own archives:

On Donovan: see this post from December 2010, about Donovan deciding to pass on a similar loan deal to Everton last season, and this video of that aforementioned most famous goal in US soccer history.

On Demspey: see this post from last October about him claiming the record for most goals scored in England by an American, and this post from August 2010 speculating about how Dempsey might or might not combine with Belgian youngster Moussa Dembélé.  Fulham has since added yet another cook that we like to watch into its attacking midfield kitchen–Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz.  We wrote this just over a month ago, for a pre-Christmas edition of “what to watch”:

two [Fulham] players to watch: Costa Rican attacking midfielder Bryan Ruiz, who arrived from FC Twente over the summer, and seems like he’s only now adjusting and fitting in; and Belgian striker Moussa Dembélé, who also came over after success in the Eredivisie, with AZ Alkmaar, the previous summer.  We wrote at the time that perhaps Fulham might have to choose between playing him and American Clint Dempsey–but they combined rather well last year, and from what we saw in their draw versus Liverpool a couple weeks ago, Bryan Ruiz is starting to combine well with the two of them.


Spurs to Taste Egg on Face?

January 9, 2012 — by Rob Kirby

Should Tottenham fail to win their gimme game in hand, that hand will be wiping egg off that puffy face.

For those who don’t support Tottenham, the frequently heard refrain of, “we’ve got such and such points, and when we win our game in hand…” got old a long time ago. At long last the fixture lost to the months-ago unpleasantness in London (August riots) will be resolved on Wednesday, and none too soon.

Should Tottenham really be expecting a pushover Everton side, though? Not in my opinion. Landon Donovan is back on loan after a successful stint at Merseyside in 2010. Having started in both the loss to Bolton last week and the FA Cup win over Tamworth on Saturday, Donovan should be re-bedded into the team and adds the pace and goal-scoring threat they’ve needed all season.

Marouane  Fellaini has moments of brilliance in him. Leighton Baines, as well. And Tim Cahill is long overdue for a goal. And now that Tim Howard’s scoring long-distance goals, they’re a teamwide goal threat. (Against Bolton, Howard became the fourth goalkeeper to score end-to-end in Premier League history. Oddly enough, Spurs goalie and fellow American Brad Freidel did the game goal-scoring number in 2004.)

On the other side, Tottenham are sweating over the fitness to Ledley King (hamstring). William Gallas and Sandro have both suffered calf tears. Add to the list Scott Parker. But every team has injuries. Everton have lost Phil Jagielka for the time being. Ultimately, Tottenham has to be the better team on the day.

So, win and Spurs go level on points with Manchester United. Lose and they’ll have egg on their face after months of just assuming the game in hand was a 3-points gimme.

Personally, I quite like the egg-on-the-face outcome.

(All that said, Spurs are massively huge favorites to win and, no, Everton is not actually a teamwide goal threat. Gareth Bale will likely give them night terrors for weeks to come, and Adebayor as well. There, I said it.)


What to watch this weekend: Feb 19-20

February 18, 2011 — by Sean

Champions League knockout play now committed to memory, we’re back into the domestic leagues with a touch of cup action in England, and the rest of the world getting on with earning points. As you may know, faithful readers, we tend to look to the Soccer Insider for our weekend tv listings, but seeing as so many of us watch matches through variously legal web outlets, we thought of expanding the list a bit this week. Fascinating, we know.

All times Eastern US. Click the teams to see on which channel the games are being shown in your country. Fancy!

Saturday, February 19th

7:30 am Chelsea vs Everton FA Cup The pick of the round. Everton has become a second-half-of-the-season team, and though they’ve lost the speedy little Bafana Bafana Steven Pienaar to Spurs, they’re still a dangerous side. Though saying that,  Evra is out with another injury just when he was getting back into goal-scoring form—he was the man who put the Toffees ahead in the initial fourth round meeting between the teams. Chelsea struggled to equalize and bring the match back to Stamford Bridge, but they have…now let’s see if they can put it away.

9:30 am Hamburger SV vs Werder Bremen Bundesliga The Nordderby (or North Derby) sees the two most successful sides in Bundesliga history meet to add to what has been so far a pretty evenly matched rivalry. Neither team is setting the league on fire this year, and Die Werderaner is a little too close to the relegation zone for comfort, but over the course of the teams’  139 meetings, 48 have gone to Hamburger, 50 to Werder, and the remaining 41 ended in draws.

10 am Nottingham Forest vs Cardiff City England Championship Two teams separated by two points battling for automatic promotion through to the Prem. A quick primer for those of you who ignore all but the Barclay’s-shielded teams, positions one and two of the Championship earn an immediately place in next season’s Premiership, while the third through sixth teams meet in playoff rounds to determine the final addition to the top flight. Currently Cardiff sit in second with Nottingham in fourth. This one promises to be a battle.

12 pm Valencia vs Sporting Gijón La Liga If for no other reason than that we enjoy the powerful mustache of Manuel Preciado. We’ll also be watching to see how well Los Che rebound from the midweek draw with Schalke. Sporting Gíjon will look to surprise another top team after having drawn with Barça last week.

12:15 pm Manchester United vs Crawley Town FA Cup We can’t imagine this will be too much of a match, but good for you Crawley Town! The gate receipts and television earnings for this match alone will be enough to keep the tiny club afloat for a couple more seasons (they’d been in administration in the 90s and nearly went kaput mid 00s). Other fun fact, this match will see the meeting of the red devils and the red devils.

12:30 pm FSV Mainz 05 vs Bayern München Bundesliga Bayern started the season slowly but have now climbed to third (though still thirteen points behind league-leaders Borussia Dortmund). Die Roten have had a rough go with Ribery and Robben both out for significant spells due to injury, though they are slated to play together come this weekend even though Robben pulled up in training. Mainz sit just two points behind the visiting side in fifth. This is a squad with a long history of not playing in the top flight, but the last decade has been something quite different for the team, which saw them playing top flight ball 5 non-consecutive years. Now they’re challenging for a place in Europe after starting the season with eight wins.

1 pm Olympique Marseille vs Saint-Étienne Ligue 1 We never point to the French league, so in the spirit of fairness let’s all have a quick look at two teams fighting for a place in Europe. Marsielle host Man United in Champions League play next week so would normally look to rest a few key starters, but the less-monied St. Étienne side are only a few points back from last year’s Ligue 1 champions, and though they haven’t produced the kind of quality on display in the mid 60s-70s or even the 90s (when they developed the likes of Laurent Blanc, and Michel Platini) they are sure to put up a solid front at home.

7:15 pm Racing Club vs Boca Juniors Primera División It’s the start of the clausura (the Argentine season is split in two, with a start “apertura” and a closing “clausura” season), and the Boca boys are in last place after one game on a -3 goal difference. It’s sure to turn around, there is plenty of time to find the top of the table, but if you’re going to commit to some league play why not start at the beginning?

Sunday, February 20th

7:30 am Celtic vs Rangers Scottish Premier League Old firm derby: A massive tie with plenty of history behind it, either of these teams is generally a lock for the league title, and this year Celtic (playing at home) are a comfortable five points clear of their Glaswegian neighbours. Rangers being the Protestant side and Celtic having Catholic ties, the derby tends to dredge up all the conflict between subsections of the rival systems…any excuse to beat each other with a bat:

The Old Firm rivalry fuels many assaults and many deaths on Old Firm Derby days; an activist group that monitors sectarian activity in Glasgow has reported that on Old Firm weekends, admissions to hospital emergency rooms increase ninefold over normal levels, and journalist Franklin Foer noted that in the period from 1996 to 2003, eight deaths in Glasgow were directly linked to Old Firm matches, and hundreds and thousands of assaults.

10 am Fulham vs Bolton FA Cup We expect this will be a very even game, both teams being very organized in back and having a very even midfield between them. We’ll be tuning in from Stateside as some US faves (in the form of Stuart Holden and Clint Dempsey) will be facing off in knockout action. Stu, well known for his hairstyle, has been both breaking attacks and serving the ball well, while Clint has moved with some success into a central striker role (classic #9 stuff).

3 pm Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao La Liga You may have heard about Barça’s loss this week. Well they’re back at home and we’re wondering how they’ll react. Puyol is due back to shore up the center of their defense, and, well, what more can you say except that loss will probably just be treated as a blip. Though…of three teams to have never been relegated from the first division, the third is Athletic Bilbao (the first two Madrid and Barça, of course). Also, before their Basque neighbors started offering citizenship to foreign players to get around the max-three non-nationals on a team, Bilbao was a serious force, handing Barça a 12–1 loss, their worst ever defeat. There’s a lot of pride behind this match-up. Could be a shock or a blowout.


Landon Donovan Takes a Rest

December 22, 2010 — by Sean

Sorry lads, not this season.

After his fantastic showing in Liverpool last winter, Evertonians were abuzz over bringing the little speedster back to Goodison. They weren’t alone. Plenty of us in the States were hoping for his return to the people’s club, and a good many of us were hoping for a more permanent move. Everton is a club that’s easy to follow for the drama alone – they’ve a solid squad with an attractive style that tends to get down before fighting back in the second half of the season. Donovan as part of that struggle made for great drama, and his quality displayed on such a big stage brought some tiny increase in respect for the game coming out of america.

Were the Merseysiders really that enamored of the man? Just check out the 400 pages of comments in this Everton forum: Sir Landon of Donovan.

But while he would’ve been very welcome on loan, Landon has sat himself out for the winter, and who can really blame him? He’s played almost nonstop for two years, what with the spring-fall MLS season, loans to Bayern Munich then Everton in the winters, and the World Cup last summer, he’s had all of 2 months off out of 24. Let’ snot forget he’s pushing thirty, and those muscles and joints starts to ache all the more at the turn of one’s third decade (just ask anyone in La Liga Fabulosa).

So we’ll see him again with the Galaxy come Spring, and maybe he’ll have Ronaldinho alongside him in attack? According to certain sources, the Galaxy have made a $40M offer to Milan for the chubby Brazilian. We’ll see about that, but one thing is for certain, Donovan will stay in LA for the time being.


Everton Earn Gutsy Win over Mancini’s Men

December 20, 2010 — by Sean

The west coast excursion continues with a stop in at Brent’s Deli (to sample their take on pastrami. Being from New York, we’ll stick with Katz’s), where lunchtime gave us a chance to check out David Moyes’ men away at the Eastlands. Early goals from Tim Cahil – off his head, as if he scores any other way – and left back Leighton Baines got the toffees off to a flying start.

What of constant disruption Carlos Tevez, you ask? Why the Argentine decided to settle his dispute by expressing his “absolute commitment” to the club, retained the captain’s armband, and started the game of course. From the mouth of Mancini:

“Carlos is a world-class player whose contribution since he joined the club has been invaluable. I am pleased that we are now able to focus on pure football matters and to be able to look forward to Carlos continuing to play a significant role in the club’s progress.”

Things now peachy keen, City entered the game facing an Everton side who hadn’t posted a win since October, and with the chance to go top of the Premiership at Christmas for the first time since 1929. Though down quickly 0-2, City’s odds took a turn back in the favor with the ejection of Everton’s Nigerian striker Victor Anichebe on sixty minutes.

Though City continued to pound on the people’s club, the defense held firm and Tim Howard managed his box with an expertise he seems to have been missing for a few months. He wasn’t able to deflect City’s seventy-second minute goal, a blindly struck effort that was moving well-wide before striking Jagielka’s leg and deflecting in for an own goal. The sky blues pressed and pressed, and Balotelli (who started with Tevez) did look like he had an opportunity late on, beating Howard and hitting the post before coming up lame and being replaced by Jo (loaned to Everton last season, and coming out to meet his former teammates for the first time since).

Everton’s desperate defending refused to fail, and after four minutes of extra time the game was called, sending Moyes and his charges into a joyous team clutch around Howard, and seeing City stuck in third position on 32 points, two points behind leaders Man United who have two games in hand.


A Bad Weekend for American Goalkeepers in England

November 28, 2010 — by Suman

Americans Tim Howard and Brad Friedel–generally considered among the stronger goalkeepers in the Premier League–had weekends to forget, as each gave up four goals Saturday in front of their home fans.

Howard’s Everton side lost at home to West Brom 4-1, while Friedel’s Aston Villa side lost 4-2, also at home, to Arsenal:

Video: PL Highlights: Everton/West Brom

Video: PL Highlights: Aston Villa/Arsenal

A much better performance and result for another American abroad in England: midfielder Clint Dempsey continued his strong play and scoring for Fulham, getting the equalizer for them against Birmingham City. Dempsey is playing aggressively and with confidence–watch the way he wins the header for the goal, and follows that up with a cracker that almost goes in for a 2nd goal, if not for a great save by the Birmingham ‘keeper:

<a href=";from=IV2_en-us_foxsports_videocentral_player" target="_new" title="PL Highlights: Fulham/B&#39;ham">Video: PL Highlights: Fulham/B&#39;ham</a>


A Premier League Preview

August 5, 2010 — by John Lally

The 19th Premier League season begins on August 14th with an exciting round of opening fixtures, including last season’s 4th and 5th placed teams, Tottenham vs. Manchester City, and two of the “traditional” big 4 squaring off when Liverpool play Arsenal on Sunday 15th. I say “traditional” because it’s good to remember that things weren’t always like this.

Nowadays, the Premier League is the biggest league in the world with huge television revenues and very little turnover in terms of who competes for the title or finishes in the top 4 spots, which bring with them Champions’ League qualification and more money to boot.  But this oligarchic nature of the top flight of English football is a product of the Premier League structure rather than something that has always been in existence.  In its first season, the Premiership looked much different, and was a lot less predictable.