What to Watch This Weekend – Interlull Edition, Pt 1 (Friday March 25)

March 24, 2011 — by Suman2

The Interlull is upon us.  Just when the domestic and Champions leagues are hurtling towards their conclusions, getting us all hot and bothered…they take a break so the best players can fly all over the world to risk injury playing for their respective national teams in largely meaningless international games.  (Full disclosure: we picked up the “Interlull” terminology from the indispensable Arseblog.)

That said, some of these games aren’t completely meaningless–included on this weekend’s are a handful of Euro 2012 and African Cup qualifiers featuring some nations/players we like to watch. And some of the meaningless international friendlies shouldn’t be completely uninteresting–particularly USA hosting Argentina at the (New) Meadowlands (Saturday), Brazil playing Scotland at the Emirates (Sunday), and Ghana playing England at Wembley (Tuesday).

But you’ll have to come back for our previews of the latter matches.  There are so many fixtures (over 100) spread out over so many days (Friday thru Tuesday) that we’ve been forced to split up this weekend’s viewing guide into a multi-installment day-by-day affair.   As in the past, we’ve relied upon WaPo’s Soccer Insider for a complete listing of matches, times, and US television options.  Here our choices for…

Friday, March 25

Hungary-Netherlands in Budapest (3:30pmET,; 7pm on ESPND): A Euro 2012 qualifier between the two teams at the top of the Group E standings.

For the Dutch, no Arjen Robben nor Huntelaar due to injuries.  But still plenty of talent to watch in midfield, on the wings, and up front: Schneijder, van der Vaart, van Persie, Kuyt, Elia, Affelay.  Plus watch for up-and-coming right wingback Gregory van der Wiel. Barcelona was said to be keeping an eye on him in case they were unable to resign Dani Alves.  Now that Alves has turned his back on a potential big money transfer to Man City and signed on for a few more seasons in Catalonia, Man City has apparently shifted their focus to van der Wiel.

We’re really not sure who to watch for on the current Hungarian squad–but after watching this match we should know for the return fixture in Amsterdam on Tuesday (see below).


A Dark Cold Monday Night at Craven Cottage

February 14, 2011 — by Cunning Linguist

[Editor’s note: We’ve been soliciting commentary from our resident Chelsea fan via back-channel communications over the course of the season–here is his writeup of the scoreless draw between the Blues and Fulham.]

Watching the Monday game in the EPL. On a dark cold night, very little shine on offer to dispel the gloom. 45 mins in, this is dreadful stuff. The only bright point is that Duff, Sidwell and Sparky are former blues.

Dempey the Tex vs. Čech the Czech

The second half saw Chelsea establish complete and utter domination in the midfield and dictate ball movement with relative ease. By my count Fulham had less than 4 credible attacking forays; in fact, the second half was mostly played in Fulham’s half with about 8 men in the box. Chelsea attacked from all angles but found it extremely difficult to break Fulham down. If Fulham’s resolute defending weren’t sufficient, Chelsea contrived to muck up every opportunity that came their way, and there were quite a few opportunities for Chelsea.

Chelsea were too much for Fulham in the second. In one of two errors for Luiz, Tex was able to win a very soft penalty. Tex then missed his gift-penalty to hand Chelsea a point when they should’ve gone home to face Everton in the FA Cup replay and ManU in the EPL fresh from another loss. Chelsea really should’ve won this game; the ease and abundance of goals from early on in the season have completely disappeared. I do believe the rot is in at the Bridge.


Fernando Torres, (Previously) “Hero of Anfield” (+ Anelka as Trequartista?)

February 6, 2011 — by Suman1

YouTube is littered with overdramatic Liverpudlian tributes to Torres.  To add to the buildup for today’s Chelsea-Liverpool match (kicking off at Stamford Bridge at the top of the hour), here’s one that is a highlight reel of El Niño when he was at the top of his game, in 2008-09–primarily Liverpool highlights, followed by a coda of Spain national team clips (set to an Akon soundtrack):

Meanwhile, the teams are in, according to the Guardian’s liveblog:

The teams are in:

The Team With Torres: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Mikel; Essien, Lampard; Torres, Drogba, Anelka. Subs: Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira, David Luiz, McEachran, Sala, Malouda, Kalou.
The Team Without Torres: Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Kelly; Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas, Maxi; Meireles; Kuyt. Subs: Gulacsi, Aurelio, Suarez, Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos, Ngog, Poulsen.

So Suárez isn’t considered ready to start despite impressing in midweek. Torres, as expected, starts for the Team With Torres. Very, very interesting to see how those two line-ups dovetail.

Worth reading in preparation for the game is ZonalMarking’s note on “Nicolas Anelka as a trequartista?” (trequartista, which means “three-quarters” in Italian, refers to a withdrawn forward/attacking midfielder–a player who drops deep to receive the ball from his defenders and defending midfielders and serves as a playmaker in attack):


What To Watch This Weekend (Feb 5-6)

February 4, 2011 — by Suman

But will King Kenny be this happy at Stamford Bridge this Sunday?

A handful of viewing options for the weekend, culled from the full set of televised matches.  If you have to pick just one to watch, it’s got to be Chelsea-Liverpool on Sunday, with the £50m man Fernando Torres set to debut for the Blues against his former Liverpool teammates and manager Kenny Dalglish (pictured to the right, celebrating after scoring at Stamford Bridge to clinch the title for Liverpool in 1986).

As usual, all times ET:

Saturday, Feb 5

England, Newcastle-Arsenal or Manchester City-West Brom 10am, FSC/FSP respectively: Take your pick to see whether the two teams right behind Man U in Premier League table can keep pace.  Arsenal are on 49 pts, Man City on 46, while Man U are at the top with 54 (and still undefeated, which we expect them to maintain later in the day against cellar-dwellers Wolves)–so neither Arsenal nor Man City can afford to drop points.

Spain, Barcelona-Atletico Madrid 4pm GolTV: Atletico have been severely underachieving this season, especially given their South American star strikeforce of Diego Forlan and Kun Agüero.  Barcelona should get a La Liga-record 16th consecutive victory in front of their home crowd, breaking the record set by Real Madrid in 1960-61 (the legendary squad that featured di Stefano and Puskas in attack, and that had won five European Cups in a row).

Sunday, Feb 6

England, Chelsea-Liverpool 11am FSC: The main event of the weekend, following last Monday’s transfer madness.  Fernando Torres became the £50m man–that’s how much Chelsea paid Liverpool for the Spanish striker, and now he’ll play his first game for the Blues against his former side. Liverpool used all that money plus a bit more to replace Torres with an odd couple of effective, exciting and infamous strikers: Luis Suarez (£23m) and Andy Carroll (£35m!).

But aside from all the recent transfer drama, this is a rivalry with a good deal of history to it–some of it featuring King Kenny Dalglish, a legendary Liverpool player, then player-manager, and as of the past couple months, manager once again.  That’s him pictured above, as part of the current installment of the Guardian’s Joy of Six: “great Chelsea v Liverpool moments and matches”; here’s the video that goes with that photo (“Kenny Dalglish chesting down Jim Beglin’s clever dink down the inside-left channel and guiding it past Tony Godden. It was one of the most famous title-winning goals, the first half of a famous double sealed”):


Mascherano Wants Out

July 27, 2010 — by Sean

New ‘Pool manager Roy Hodgson has waited patiently to hear from his Argentine holding midfielder who’s been vacationing after World Cup duty. His patience has paid off with an immediate transfer request from the snaggle-toothed hatchet man upon stepping foot inside the training facility. This isn’t exactly shocking news, and the Daily Star suggests plans are already in place for Inter to send Sulley Muntari northward, while Hodgson wants to also add Hammer Scott Parker with a share of the Mascherano proceeds.

Better news about Torres, who is apparently happy to come back to the Reds:

“As far as I know he is looking forward to coming back here on Monday,” said Hodgson. “He is enjoying a holiday – a well-deserved break as he has not had one for three years – spending a lot of time with his family, keeping a low profile.”


A Listicle: 5 Reasons Spain Lost To Switzerland

June 16, 2010 — by Adam5

This was an upset that absolutely no one thought would happen, except, perhaps, for Switzerland’s veteran German coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who has, as they say, seen it all, or at least he’s seen the film of how the United States beat Spain last summer in the Confederations Cup. His surprisingly simple game plan gave the world a blueprint to beat the European champions. Journalists like the venerable @sidlowe are saying that Switzerland’s goal was “absurdly silly and fortunate,” but France went down to such a goal against Senegal and never recovered in 2002. It looked unlucky at the time, but seems indelible in retrospect.

Because Spain’s football is considered the standard for beauty, symmetry and international poetry, watching the Swiss defend them out of the match was a little like watching Republicans outmaneuver Harry Reid. It simply isn’t fair! Still, Spain will have to be more than poster children for liberal self-congratulation in their next game. They will have to adjust. Here are five issues Spain will have to understand if they are going to survive what is now a very tricky group: