Juventus 3-0 Roma: The Scudetto Slips Away?

January 11, 2014 — by Suman


Editor’s note: It’s been a while since we’ve done any match reports on CultFootball–not like the good old days, when trunchfiddle might watch a Bundesliga match over the weekend and write up a quick post and title it “Borussia Dortmund beweisen ihren Wert

Of coures, it’s not as if trunchfiddle and the rest of us have stopped watching matches–we’ve just stopped writing about them. But even that’s not entirely true–in what’s become a bit of a double-edged sword, most of our typed match-related output has migrated to our email listserv. It better fits the transient nature of match commentary

So here is a compilation of some of our thoughts, pre- during, and post-game of last weekend–the match in question being Sunday’s late Serie A matchup in Turin, which ended in a decisive 3-0 win for league-leading and two-time defending domestic champion Juventus over unexpected challengers Roma.

This match, at the halfway point of the season, was going to essentially decide whether there would be a Scudetto race the rest of the way. Going in, Juve was 5pts ahead of Roma in the Serie A table–even though Roma remarkably entered undefeated (Juve’s line: 15W 1D 1L -> 46pts; Roma: 12W 5D 0L -> 41pts).

But Roma had lost the momentum going into the winter holiday break. After starting the season with a record 10 wins in their first 10 fixtures, they slumped to 5 draws in the last 7 fixtures of 2013 (cf the Guardian’s handy Stats Centre, which includes team-by-team league form and league position time series.).  For accounts of that magica-l early season form, see Paolo Bandini in the Guardian (“Roma’s resurrection embodied by Francesco Totti but made by Rudi Garcia“) and Gabriele Marcotti in the WSJ (“Manager Rudi Garcia’s Tactics Spark Turnaround at Roma Soccer“), both writing in early October.

Meanwhile, Juve had dropped points early in the season with a draw at Inter and a shocking 4-2 loss at Fiorentina–but they won the rest of their league matches, finally pulling past Roma into the top spot in late November.

The 5-point gap at the New Year meant a Juve win Sunday would result in I bianconeri basically sewing up their 3rd straight Scudetto, while a Roma upset would mean the race would be back on.
One match preview worth reading, even now post-match, is by tactical guru Michael Cox, focusing on who he claims are Serie A’s two best midfielders,  La Vecchia Signora’s Chilean attacking Arturo Vidal & Roma’s Dutch deeper-lying Kevin Strootman:
(One of the themes of our match previews and reports over the next 5 months will be pointing you towards players to watch ahead of this summer’s World Cup–keep an eye out for Vidal and Strootman this summer, as well as Juve’s other midfielders: young Frenchman Paul Pogba, and Italians Claudio Marchisio and of course elder statesman Andrea Pirlo.  Roma’s Daniele de Rossi may also feature for the Azurri in midfield.)
In response to this link, our Roman amico Simeone wrote:
Definitely, the game will be decided in the middle…Pirlo-Vidal-Marchisio vs Pjanic-Strootman-De Rossi. WOW !!
I think Juve is still better in the middle, but if Pjanic and Totti (with Gervinho) have a good day, the match will be really fast-paced and exciting to watch.
And I wouldn’t discard the role of Maicon, he is a crazy player who excels in big games….and there on the right Juve is not strong….
Roma must be fast, very fast in counter attacks because Juve’s defense can be beaten by speed only.
I hope Roma wins, it would be good for Serie A and for all the Magica fans….
I wish we could watch it together !!
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to watch it together, and even more unfortunately for all the Magica fans, the game went against Roma from very nearly the beginning. Trunchfiddle’s halftime report:
I’ve got a nice clean English language sopcast feed running on the desktop.
Saw the Juventus goal. Made by Tevez, scored by Vidal.  Tevez has still got it.
Pogba is very good. He’s a blur in the open field and has a shot like a rocket. His and Vidal’s hairstyles are some next level shit.
Juve look very dangerous in the attacking third (and on the counter). Nice intricate passing and movement, very pleasing on the eye.
Roma apparently held more possession before the first 20 mins, but I didn’t see it. Their play is also nice to watch, very attacking but not nearly as sharp or intricate as Juve’s.
Totti flopping all over the place. Gervinho wearing some kind of headband.
And now James Richardson running the halftime show for BT Sport
Coach Larry weighed in with a few words at halftime–or rather just after halftime:
Roma just seem a couple steps too slow. Have done little threatening from their extra possession. Pjanic been suffering with some sort if knee issue.
Now Roma don’t react at all to a free kick to the far post, late runner Bonucci slides it home. This match is over.
That 2nd Juve goal came in the 48′, and did effectively end the match. Well, if it didn’t end prematurely then, it certainly did just after I tuned in, at the 75′, when Roma’s captain Daniele de Rossi, clearly a step slow even chasing Juve’s defender Giorgio Chiellini down the flank, went in two-footed after Chiellini had crossed the ball, and earned himself a straight red. Off the ensuing free kick, some more poor set-piece defending resulted in a Suarezian goal line clearance by Roma defender Leandro Castan and a Juve PK for a gravy 3rd goal.
It was Castan’s 2nd ignominious moment of the match–it was Castan that lost his mark on the earlier free kick for Juve’s 2nd goal.  Indeed, here were Simeone’s words Monday morning:
I owe you few words after yesterday….
First, yes, Serie A was available on dish in 2001. [in response to an unrelated Serie A question]
Regarding the game, although I liked the way we started it, and overall the whole first half, I was worried because Juventus was playing the game that we were supposed to play: stay calm, wait for their attacks and punish with lethal counter attacks. I was thinking “Look at that smartass of Conte, he is waiting for us to show off how good we are and he will punish us on the first real chance…..son of a b….!!”. And that is what happened….The match was decided by few episodes and it seems like everything is going in Juve’s advantage these days.
Unfortunately De Rossi and Totti didn’t play well and Castan made a huge mistake on the 2nd goal (unusual for him), which kind of ended the game for me. Strootman is a giant. I love that player. The rest is history. Now, unless Juve thinks that they already won, there is no way they will lose this scudetto….;-(


What To Watch Today: Four Matches Across the Continent

April 11, 2012 — by Suman


A busy week across the continent, including five more matches in the English Premier League.  But none of those look particularly compelling to us, while there are four compelling and consequential matches elsewhere featuring teams at or near the top of their domestic tables–highlighted a huge match in Germany and a derby in Madrid.  Here they are in order of importance, according to our subjective estimation and interest–given that it’s this member of CF’s birthday today, I’ve humbly requested the good guys at Woodwork to tune of their TVs to GolTV so that we can watch the first two matches in the German-Spanish doubleheader.  Join us if you’re in the neighborhood:

Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern München (2pmET, GolTV): #1 vs #2 in the Bundesliga–the biggest match of the day, and the biggest match of the season in Germany. Bayern has closed the gap between them and Dortmund to 3 points over the past couple months, so that a win on the road in North Rhine-Westphalia, in the mammoth Westfalenstadion (capacity: 80, 720) would pull them even at the top of the table.

Dortmund won the title last year, and with their campaign to repeat, and their young and exciting squad–to be strengthened next year by the arrival of Marco Reus (“the latest star off Germany’s production line“), for whose signature they beat out Bayern–they are looking to challenge Bayern’s Germanic hegemony.  (See this feature on “Why the emergence of a rivalry between Bayern Munich & Borussia Dortmund is essential to the revival of German football“–something that even Bayern fan Boris Becker agrees with.)

In a previous “what to watch” feature, we noted that Dortmund has:

young and exciting players from across the globe on their squad: strikers Robert Lewandowski (Poland) and Lucas Barrios(Paraguay); Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa; Serbian(-American) Neven Subotić, who teams up with German Mats Hummels in central defense.  FC Bayern blogger & “Bundesliga wannabe expert” @RedRobbery kindly replied to our question about who to watch in this match, and directed us to also watch midfielders Sven Bender and Jakub “Kuba” Błaszczykowski. (The latter is captain of the Polish national team, and described by Polish great Zbigniew Boniek as a “litte Figo” when Dortmund signed him from Wisla Krakow in the summer of 2007).

Bayern’s squad should be better known to non-German watchers, given their prominence in the Champions League (where they’ll be facing Real Madrid in the semis–1st leg next week!), and the prominence of their star players on various national sides: star wingers Arjen Robben (Netherlands) and Franck Ribery (France), along with the core of the exciting German national team: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller, Mario Gómez, Jérôme Boateng, Holger Badstuber, Manuel Neuer. Two more players to watch in central midfield: Ukrainian Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (who will be leading the Euro2012 co-hosts this summer) and Brazilian Luiz Gustavo.

Atlético Madrid vs Real Madrid (4pmET, GolTV): El derbi madrileño is always a bitter battle, and this time it’s a match that matters deeply for both teams. Real Madrid is still at the top of the table, where they’ve been all year–but their once-commanding lead over Barcelona has shrunk over the past month to a mere 4 points, following a three draws in their past five matches (1-1 to both Malaga and Villareal, and a scoreless draw Sunday to Valencia)–and now it’s down to a single point following Barcelona’s 4-0 win over (3rd Madrid team) Getafe. So the pressure is on Mourinho and his squad, especially with El Clasico coming up a week from Saturday at the Camp Nou.

Atlético are 7th in La Liga, 7 points behind 4th place Valencia (who’ve just relinquished their seeming stranglehold on 3rd to Malaga) and a Champions League spot.  A return to Europa is more likely–where they’ve had a successful run to the semifinals this year, and in fact play Valencia over the next two weeks (April 19 and 26).  If a goal against Real is going to come today, it’ll most likely be from prolific Colombian striker Falcao, who’s had a great first season in Spain with 20 goals, tied for 3rd best in the league. But 3 of the top 5 are from Real: Messi 39, Cristiano Ronaldo 37, Falcao 20, Higuain 20, Benzema 17.

(Photo above grabbed from, who got it from an excellent Historias del Derbi fotogaleria)

Juventus vs Lazio (2:45pm, Fox Soccer Plus, Juve is still undefeated in Serie A, and after Saturday’s results they’re back on top of the table.  Lazio continues to solidify their hold on 3rd place and hence a Champions League spot–at the expense of competing clubs with bigger names (Udinese, Napoli, Roma, Inter–who sit behind them in 4th, 5th, 6th & 7th).

We’ll be watching for peerless deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo–who Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox recently described as “the most important player of his generation.”

AZ vs Twente (1pmET, #2 vs #3 in the Eredivisie.


What To Watch This Weekend (Feb 25-26): Milan-Juve, North London Derby

February 25, 2012 — by Suman3


Saturday Feb 25

Italy, AC Milan vs. Juventus, 2:30pmET (FSC,  Could be the match that decides the Scudetto.  These two are the top of the Serie A table, separated by just a point (although Juve has a game in hand). Can La Vecchia Signora go into San Siro and beat the defending champions? A prominent subplot: this is aging midfielder Andrea Pirlo‘s return to Milan, to play against the club where he spent a decade as the premier deep-lying playmaker in Serie A (and perhaps in the world).

Spain, Espanyol vs. Levante 4pmET (ESPN Deportes, Yet another match pivotal in the bunched-up race for 4th place in La Liga.  Espanyol is tied for 4th with Athletic Bilbao (33 points), while Levante (and Atletico Madrid) are just a point behind them. We wrote last weekend about Espanyol’s youthful talent.


Sunday Feb 26

England, Arsenal vs. Spurs 8:30amET (FSC): The North London Derby–and for the first time in many years, Spurs are widely acknowledged to have the superior squad, and are favored to win on Arsenal’s home ground.  But Spurs supporter PoliticalFootballs isn’t buying it. An excerpt from his match preview:

I am not so optimistic about Tottenham’s chances, neither for this weekend or the following week’s match against United.  For too long, Spurs have looked good and then collapsed – it seems inevitable that it will happen again this year.  With their 10 point advantage over Arsenal, they have a great opportunity to finish above them for the first time since the 1994/5 season, having never done so since Arsene Wenger became the Gunners’ manager.  Tottenham have also not done the double (beat them home and away) over their neighbours since 1992/3 – and even then, the match at Highbury was against a makeshift team, as the home side were looking ahead to the FA Cup final the following week.

Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven vs. Feyenoord 8:30amET (ESPN Deportes, #1 in the Eredivisie table vs #5, separated by only 4 points (with AZ Alkmaar, Heerenveen and Twente in between, and Ajax in 6th a point behind Feyenoord).  Also a chance to see some young Dutch internationals that are still playing in the home country: from PSV defender Erik Pieters and midfielders Georginio Wijnaldum and Kevin Strootman are in the Dutch squad that will be playing England on Wednesday, as is Feyenoord central defender Ron Vlaar.  The one to watch is deep-lying midfielder Strootman, who has been called the future of the Dutch midfield.

Germany, Bayern Munich vs. Schalke 9:30amET ( #3 hosts #4 in the Bundesliga table.  Bayern is in somewhat of a crisis, after slipping behind both Borussias in the table, and then losing at Basel in the Champions League last Wednesday.  They’ll need to win at home to avoid falling further into crisis–and to avoid falling further behind the Borussias.

Spain, Rayo Vallecano vs. Real Madrid 10amET (, tape at 5 p.m. on ESPN Deportes): A Madrid derby of sorts–Rayo Vallecano is located in the Vallecas neighborhood of Madrid, where they play at the 15,500-capacity Campo de Futbol de Vallecas. Rayo Vallecano just got back to the first division this season, after spending most of the past decade in Segunda Division and Segunda Division B. But they’re currently just two points off that all-important 4th place, and Sid Lowe cited them as a team that’s worth watching in a recent column:

Look at La Liga now and few teams are exciting; few look genuinely good; fewer still have achieved any sort of consistency. Rayo Vallecano are one (five wins in seven and great to watch), Athletic Bilbao another (they lost three of their first four but just three in 19 since), improving Atlético Madrid perhaps a third. A case can be made for Espanyol. And then?

England Carling Cup, Liverpool vs. Cardiff City 11amET (FSC): Liverpool’s first time back at Wembley since the 1996 FA Cup final (a match that’s remembered more for the Spice Boys’ pre-match white Armani suits than for the match itself).

Italy, Napoli vs. Inter Milan 2:30pmET FSC, Another chance to watch perhaps the most exciting and dynamic attack in Europe–Napoli’s front line of Cavani, Lavezzi and Hamsik, supported by Inler and Gargano in the center of the midfield, Zuniga and Maggio on the wings.  (Note that Maggio is the only Italian among those, and note the strong South American contingent: Cavani and Gargano are Uruguayan, while Lavezzi is Argentine.)

Spain, Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona 3:30pmET (GolTV): Might Barca drop yet more points at the Estadio Vicente Calderón?  Atletico certainly has more to play for, as they’ve climbed back into contention for that last Champions League spot, while Barcelona has practically given up any chance of catching Real Madrid for the La Liga title–due to struggles on the road–and has consequently shifted their focus and energies on the Champions League campaign.  We looked at Atletico’s squad–and their recently installed manager, former Atletico player (and Argentine international) Diego Simeone–in this post a month ago.


AC Milan Needs to Beat the Top Teams, Stat

February 3, 2012 — by Rob Kirby


The Tevez-Pato “will he? won’t he” questions ricocheted every which way this January as the musical chairs transfers song played at AC Milan, but at the end everyone retook their own chairs. Boring. Perhaps they were dating Berlusconi’s daughter, or were on £200,000 a week slave wages that no one else could match, but whatever the reason, that anti-climax will be followed up by a busy February and early March. The Rossoneri take on first-place Juventus twice in the Coppa Italia and once in the league, Napoli and Udinese in the league, not to mention the two Champions League legs against Arsenal.

It all starts with the home match/grudge match against Napoli this Sunday at 2:30 ET (Fox Soccer).

To put the upcoming matches in perspective, Milan has not beaten any team in the top five in a league match this season, including the painful loss to Inter in the Derby della Madonnina in January. Furthermore, Napoli beat Milan 3-1 in their only other matchup this season. If Milan continues to find itself unable to beat the top teams, this upcoming run could prove very difficult and very damaging.

However, aside from the Tevez-Pato dud of inaction, Milan did bring in five reinforcements over the window to deal with the second half of the season, including striker Maxi Lopez from Catania and out-of-favor midfielder Sulley Muntari from Inter. Coming off a disappointing 2-0 loss to Lazio that could have seen them take pole position, they have everything to play for—and conversely, everything to lose.

Napoli has stuttered to a string of draws and a defeat to Genoa of late, but Cavani fired them to a 2-0 victory over Inter in the Coppa Italia last week and they could come roaring back this Sunday.

Feb 5, 9:00 ET  AC Milan  vs.  Napoli
Feb 8, 2:45 ET  AC Milan  vs.  Juventus
Feb 11, 12:00 ET  Udinese  vs.  AC Milan
Feb 15, 2:45 ET  AC Milan  vs.  Arsenal
Feb 19, 9:00 ET  Cesena  vs.  AC Milan
Feb 21, 2:45 ET  Juventus  vs.  AC Milan
Feb 25, 2:45 ET  AC Milan  vs.  Juventus
Mar 3, 12:00 ET  Palermo  vs.  AC Milan
Mar 6, 2:45 ET  Arsenal  vs.  AC Milan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has 15 goals in the Serie A this season. But should he get injured or need a breather during the fast-and-furious fixtures ahead, Lopez may be called into action. Alexandre Pato suffered a thigh strain last month that may see him missing out on the next 4 matches, including the home leg against Arsenal. Lopez was not top-choice at Catania, so while there is cover, it’s not of the same quality. The decision between Lopez and Tevez was never one of equals, rather of finances.

New loan signing Muntari continues his international engagements with the Ghana national team in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon and may not be back in time for the Champions League fixture against Arsenal in the San Siro, either. Muntari was brought on to help bolster a depleted midfield that has lost Mathieu Flamini, Gennaro Gattuso, Alexander Merkel and Alberto Aquilani to injury. Kevin Prince-Boateng also has spent quality time on the injury table of late.

Obviously, with talented players such as Thiago Silva, Robinho, van Bommel, Seedorf, Ambrosini and Zambrotta all hale and hearty, the team is not in crisis, but performances this month could very well determine their fates in all remaining competitions: the league, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League.

It should be getting quite interesting quite soon.


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.



What To Watch This Weekend: FA Cup, African Cup, Serie A, Eredivisie

January 28, 2012 — by Suman


Saturday, January 28

England FA Cup, Liverpool-Manchester United (7:30amET FSC): The most heated of English rivalries?  Which has become even more fraught with the Evra-Suarez controversy–due to which the essential Uruguayan striker is still sidelined for this one.  Liverpool has been relying on Craig Bellamy up front–leaving a £35 elephant on the sideline.  Man U continues to lose players to injury–Phil Jones being the latest–but after some mid-season wobbles somehow seems to keep winning.

African Cup, Ghana-Mali(2pmET Al Jazeera Sports USA): The one African Cup of Nations group stage match that we’d circled to watch. Ghana is one of the co-favorites to win the whole thing (along with the Ivory Coast), with largely the same squad that went to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in South Africa (and would have made the semifinals if not for the goal line stand of the aforementioned Luis Suarez).  Mali looks like they’ve got a decent squad, based just on the fact that the majority of the Malian squad play in Ligue 1–and their captain is Barcelona’s Seydou Keita.  SI has a match preview–and in fact Jonathan Wilson (who’s down in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea covering this firsthand) penned a tournament preview for them.

Italy, Juventus-Udinese(2:30pmET FSC, Big game in Turin, 1st  v 3rd in Serie A. Actually Udinese can pull even with Juve if they can manage a win, but that will be a tall order. Remarkably, I Bianconeri are still undefeated in the league: 11W, 8D, 0L for 41pts, with AC Milan just a point behind and Udinese next with 38. For Udinese, any goals are likely to come from di Natale–but watch for Colombian winger Armero to create chaos on the flanks with his speed. Udinese will be missing Ghanaian holding midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah, who’s down with his national team, playing in that aforementioned match vs Mali today.


Sunday, January 29

Netherlands, Feyenoord-Ajax (6:30amET – ESPN Deportes, The most heated rivalry in Holland–De Klassieker.

England FA Cup, Arsenal-Aston Villa (11amET – FSC): Any Arsenal match is of interest to the CultFootball crew. And after last Sunday, it’ll be interesting to see how the Emirates responds to Arsene’s squad.

Spain, Malaga-Sevilla (4pmET GolTV): Since we like to look at La Liga beyond the Big Two, and these are two southern sides that aim to join (or rejoin, in Sevilla’s case) Valencia as the primary alternatives to Madrid and Barcelona.


What to Watch This Midweek (Pre-Christmas Crunch Edition)

December 21, 2011 — by Suman

Who knew there’s a full slate of games in the Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1, Spain (Copa del Rey)? Though to tell the truth, not a whole lot of must-see TV today. Actually the one match today that we will try to watch just kicked off, so this will have to be a very quick post:

Udinese-Juventus at Stadio Communale Friuli (12pmET, Fox Soccer Channel, RAI Internazionale, ESPN3 USA, FOX Deportes): 3rd vs 2nd – Udinese with 31 points, two behind Juve, who are in turn a point behind table-toppers Milan.  Neither team was really expected to be competing for the Scudetto, but here they are. Udinese had a great season last year, but sold off three of their best players (Alexis Sanchez, Gokhan Inler, and a defender whose name escapes me right now).  They failed to get past Arsenal in Champions League qualifying, but that may have been a blessing in disguise, as they’ve been able to concentrate on the domestic league.

Juventus is perhaps even more surprising–still undefeated in the league (9W 6D 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.

Regarding the English fixtures, go over to PoliticalFootballs and see John’s latest post–“This week in: English Football – Christmas Time is Here“.  The one match today in England that we might try to catch later on is:

Fulham-Manchester United at Craven Cottage (3pmET, Fox Soccer Channel, FOX Deportes): Fulham has had success against MU at home: 2 wins and a draw in the past 3 seasons, according to the honorable Barry Glendenning (“purveyor of ‘lazy journalism’ and ‘anti-[insert name of your favourite team here]’ bias”) on this past Monday’s Guardian Football Weekly pod. Although he doesn’t rate them to repeat that success today.  Raphael Honigstein, on the other hand, said he thinks Fulham could very well earn a point from this match, and cites two 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 Dembele, 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.

Bonus reason to watch this match: Dempsey is #3 on the list of jid’s players to watch.

CommentaryEnglandUnited States

Dempsey Ties American Expat Talk

October 31, 2011 — by Rob Kirby

If Dempsey were a dolphin, he'd have a platinum fin.

When Clint Dempsey scored for embattled Fulham in the 2-0 victory over Wigan this weekend, he tied the record of former U.S. international Brian McBride as all-time highest American goal scorer in England’s top flight. (McBride did loan spells at Preston North End and Everton before his tenure at Fulham.) The pair also share another distinction, along with Landon Donovan they are the only American players to have scored in multiple World Cups.

The 28-year-old Dempsey now has 36 league goals in his Premiership career. He also holds the record for highest goal scorer at Fulham, where he joined from the New England Revolution in 2007. Only the most down and out gambler would bet against him extending that onward and upward. Duece be doin’ it up. Clint D, Nacogdoches, represent.

For those who have never checked it out, watch him shout out an alternate reality in which he’s a  platinum-finned dolphin. It’s astounding that he has the balls to rhyme with cameras capturing it all for posterity. But you can’t help but love this clip. Could anyone actually hate a player dophin?

Don’t hate, celebrate (with Clint). Perhaps by reliving his incredible chip at Juventus in the 2010 Europa League.

“He scores with his left,
He scores with his right.
That boy Clint Dempsey
Makes Drogba look shite.”

              — Fulham chant