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

February 25, 2012 — by Suman3

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Saturday Feb 25

Italy, AC Milan vs. Juventus, 2:30pmET (FSC, ESPN3.com):  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, ESPN3.com): 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, ESPN3.com): #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 (ESPN3.com): #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 (ESPN3.com, 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, ESPN3.com: 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.

CommentaryEurope

First 14 into Last 32 of Europa

December 2, 2011 — by Rob Kirby

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Betting sites had tipped Tottenham to take home the silverware, but the odds are now against them even exiting the group stages.

With two weeks until the final matches of the Europa League group stages, 14 clubs have clinched spots in the knockout rounds of the cup with a game to spare. With the eight teams that finish third in their UEFA Champions League groups transferring over to Europe’s second-tier competition, that leaves 10 spots.

Anderlecht, who alone won all 5 of the first 5 group matches, FC Twente and Sporting Lisbon had already qualified even before Thursday’s matches kicked off, as had PSV Eindhoven and Legia Warsaw before Wednesday’s matches.

Meanwhile, former frontrunner Tottenham’s loss to 10-man PAOK Thessaloniki at White Hart Lane puts makes them unlikely to join the last 32. As punishment, perhaps Jermaine Defoe should write “Panthessaloníkios Athlitikós Ómilos Konstantinoupolitón” 100 times on the blackboard.

First 14:

Anderlecht (Belgium)
FC Twente (Netherlands)
Sporting Lisbon (Portugal)
Atlético Madrid (Spain)
Braga (Portugal)
Hannover 96 (Germany)
FC Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine)
PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece)
Standard Liège (Belgium)
Stoke (England)
Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia)
Legia Warsaw (Poland)
Schalke 04 (Germany)
PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands)

At the beginning of November, Tottenham had been tipped to take home the silverware, but their loss to PAOK on Wednesday made it such that while it’s still mathematically possible if they go on a goal spree against Shamrock Rovers and Rubin Kazan loses, it’s unlikely. For one, Redknapp may not even truly wish to progress. One school of thought says exiting the competition would help them finish in the top 3 or 4 in the Premier League, not playing weekend matches on the heels of Thursday nights in Europe and avoiding overall fixture congestion with all the two-leg showdowns to come.

Currently, odds are on Atlético Madrid to hoist the trophy on May 9 in Bucharest. Other frontrunners include Schalke 04, PSV Eindhoven, Paris Saint-Germain and Athletic Bilbao, despite the latter two having not yet qualified.

PreviewSchedule

What to Watch this Weekend (April 23-24)

April 22, 2011 — by Sean

Jeremain Lens will need to be on point against Feyenoord come Sunday

We’re approaching the end of club football in Europe, and while no fixture can be taken for granted at this point, there’s not a whole hell of a lot that’s particularly interesting this weekend. The games are important at the top and bottom of the table for sure, but will that make them something we want to watch? We think not.

The few exceptions are below, all times Eastern US, and click the teams for viewing information all around the world. Just think, with so few games to care about this weekend maybe you’ll actually get out there and have a kick about yourself? When’s the last time you did that afterall?

Saturday April 23

9:00am Inter Milan vs Lazio Lazio sits in fourth and Inter in third, with the sides separated by three points and automatic champs league qualification hanging in the balance. Inter does have a better goal difference though so even a loss would keep them in current places, but with Udinese breathing down the necks of the Rome side this match could have larger ramifications.

12:00pm Valencia vs Real Madrid Second place travels to third (though there are 14 points between them). Valenica will look to keep ahead of Villareal, while the Madriders are still keeping the faith for league glory. Highly unlikely on that later bit? Indeed.

Sunday April 24

8:30am Feyenoord vs PSV It’s all very tight at the top of the Eredivisie. Psv is currently in first position ahead of Twente, but only on goal difference, with Ajax siting third one point behind both (and with a better goals-for record than Twente). It’ll be a race to the end, and while Feyenoord aren’t the powerhouse team that challenged Ajax for the title so many times in the past, they’re no slouches either and could cause the champion’s league slots to shuffle this weekend.

NewsVideo

Suárez shows his fangs

November 23, 2010 — by Sean1

The Cannibal of Ajax

Uruguayan and Ajax striker Luis Suárez has been suspended from play by his own squad for biting PSV Eindhoven winger Otman Bakkal (you can hear the commentator reference Tyson in the video below).

Suárez and Forlan were so impressive during the summer’s World Cup, and we’ve hoped the best for the both. Forlan has been lackluster, but Suárez has 6 goals this season and though he’s not allowed to play in league matches for a couple games, he will be in play for the champions leagie match against Madrid.