Our Sweet 16 Starts Today…UEFA Champions League Knockout Phase

February 15, 2011 — by Suman

Round of 16 - Feb 15/16 & 22/23; March 8-9 & 15/16

Yet another advantage of being a soccer fan–our March Madness arrives a month early. The knockout phase of the Champions League starts today, with a sweet collection of 16 teams remaining. If you were one of the fans that was caught up by the World Cup last summer, but haven’t watched a game since Spain-Netherlands, now is the time to tune back in.

See below where and when to tune in. US-based fans, set your DVRs accordingly–or make plans to duck out of whatever responsibilities you may have in the afternoons (all matches kickoff at 20:45 CET = 2:45pmET/11:45amPT).

For tomorrow’s two games, see here for a preview of Milan-Tottenham by our resident Spurs fan, and here for a preview of Valencia-Schalke by Sean (who honestly didn’t know much about either side until researching this piece).

(A rather detailed aside on the structure of the tournament: there are four games this week, two on Tuesday and two on Wednesday, featuring 8 of the 16 teams that advanced from the group stage; and four more games next week (again two on Tuesday and two on Wednesday) featuring the other 8 teams.  Together these 8 matches constitute the first leg of the Round of 16.  Each round of the tournament from here until the championship game (Saturday May 28 at Wembley) consists of home-and-away legs.  So we’ll see these same 8 matchups again in a few weeks time (on March 8-9 and 15-16) for the return leg.  For instance, Tottenham Hotspur play AC Milan tomorrow in Milan; in three weeks AC Milan will travel to London to play Spurs at White Hart Lane.  Which team advances to is determined by aggregate goals, with away goals as the tiebreaker.)

Here are details regarding this week’s four fixtures (pulled from–click thru for club/match pages), followed by next week’s four fixtures, and for good measure the eight fixtures of the 2nd leg of the Round of 16 following that:

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Milan AC Milan 20:45 Tottenham Hotspur FC Tottenham FSC, Fox Deportes
Referee: Stéphane Lannoy (FRA) – Stadium: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan (ITA)
Valencia Valencia CF 20:45 FC Schalke 04 Schalke MSG Plus,, Fox Sports Network
Referee: Aleksei Nikolaev (RUS) – Stadium: Estadi de Mestalla, Valencia (ESP)

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Roma AS Roma 20:45 FC Shakhtar Donetsk Shakhtar Donetsk Fox Soccer Plus,
Referee: TBD – Stadium: Stadio Olimpico, Rome (ITA)
Arsenal Arsenal FC 20:45 FC Barcelona Barcelona FSC, Fox Deportes
Referee: TBD – Stadium: Arsenal Stadium, London (ENG)
The four matches next week which complete the first leg of the Round of 16:


What to Watch This Weekend (Feb 12-14)

February 11, 2011 — by Suman

Here are a bunch of matches to watch over the next few days–a few on Saturday, one Sunday, and one Monday.  Which takes you right up to Tuesday…and the start of the Champions League Round of 16.  Bananas.

As always, all times ET, and a hat tip to WaPo’s Soccer Insider for posting the weekend listings every week.

Saturday, Feb 12

England, Manchester United-Manchester City 7:30am FSC: Manchester derby! Early in the morning! This is a big one–City is but 5 points behind Man U, after the latter finally lost last weekend.  See here for squad sheets.  Also, Mancini denies he is Italian.

England, Arsenal-Wolves 10am ESPN2: Why?  Because we have so many Gunners fans among us, because it will be interesting to see how they rebound after the debacle last Saturday at Newcastle, and because it will be interesting to see if Wolves can pull off two upsets in a row.  They just might.

"If Villa comes anywhere near my touchline during the game, I might just bite him"

Spain, Sporting Gijón-Barcelona 2pm ESPN Deportes: Not only because one should watch this year’s Barcelona side at every given opportunity–but also b/c we have a thing for Gijón, Manuel Preciado, and his moustache.  Another storyline here: David Villa is from Asturias (the son of a miner) and started his professional career with Sporting Gijón B at the age of 18 (1999-2001) before playing for the A team (2001-2003), followed by stints at Real Zaragoza (2003-2005) and Valencia (2005-2010).  Read this column by Sid Lowe from April 2009 about Villa and his relationship with Gijón–no, really, read it now.  For instance: ” ‘If Villa comes anywhere near my touchline during the game, I might just bite him,’ declared Sporting’s coach, Manolo Preciado, ‘but before and after, I’ll give him a hug. He’s the best player in this club’s history, after Quini.’ ”

Italy, Roma-Napoli 2:30pm FSC: We told you to watch Inter-Roma last weekend, and hopefully you did, as it was perhaps the game of the year in Serie A.  Unfortunately the result wasn’t good for Roma, as they fell further back in the table, in 7th place–10 points behind AC Milan, and 7 points behind 2nd place Napoli.  Here’s a chance for Roma to climb back in the race–or conversely, for Napoli to keep the heat on Milan (and stave off Inter, who are now only two points behind them!)

Sunday, Feb 13

England, QPR-Nottingham Forest 8:30a FSP: Take a peak at the Championship. Why? Why not? Well, these two are currently #1 and #2 in the table, so there’s a good chance one or both will be in the Premier League next year.

Italy, Juventus-Inter Milan 2:30pm FSC: Derby d’Italia! Juve needs a win to stay afloat (they’re currently in 8th place, one point behind Roma).  Meanwhile, Inter is hot as fire since Leonardo took over in December, and he has them “playing a brand of Brazil-like attacking football

Monday, Feb 14

England, Fulham-Chelsea 3 p.m. ESPN2: Torres, Demspey & Dembele, Valentine’s Day..


International Friendlies Today – France v Brazil, Argentina v Portugal, Denmark v England

February 9, 2011 — by Suman

A More Meaningful France-Brazil Match Than Today's (12 Juin 1998, Paris)

There is a full slate of meaningless international friendlies today, with the European and South American powers in action in some attractive matchups (Guardian blogger Paolo Bandini, in a bit of hyperbole: “Is this the best night of friendlies ever?“).   Moreover, most of those matches available for viewing here in the US (at least on ESPN3).

We may peek in on France-Brazil, Argentina-Portugal, or even Denmark-England.   Especially since the storyline for that latter one, at least from the English point of view, seems to be young Jack Wilshere’s first start.  Fabio Capello did nothing to manage expectations of a nation looking for yet another savior by mentioning “Baresi, Maldini, Raúl” when asked about Wilshere.

Such expectations which have been building his performances in the early stages of the Premier and Champions Leagues last fall. For example, here is another Guardian columnist back in October, writing that he’s “nervous about Jack Wilshere, teenage midfield scamp and current bearer of the title of most promising young footballer in England. Watching Wilshere set up Arsenal’s first goal against Partizan Belgrade [in September] with a brilliant backheel, two thoughts sprang to mind. First: Wilshere is really good. And second: how are we going to ruin him?”

(We’ve indulged this tangent about Wilshere since its further fuel for our ongoing internal debate about his role in the Arsenal lineup; see here.)

Here’s a list of some of the matches of interest:

2:15pm Denmark vs England
2:30pm Netherlands vs Austria
2:45pm France vs Brazil USAESPND
2:45pm Germany vs Italy
3:00pm Argentina vs Portugal FIFA.comGolTV,
3:30pm Spain vs Colombia

A France-Brazil matchup is a good reason to look back at the famous Final Coupe du Monde 1998, which took place on the 12 Juin 1998 in the Stade de France (Paris):

Update: For reference, here are the squad lists for a few of the matches, which are now in progress.


France: Lloris; Sagna, Rami, Mexes, Abidal – A Diarra, M’vila – Menez, Gourcuff, Malouda – Benzema.
Subs: Mandanda, Carrasso, Réveillère, Koscielny, Sakho, Clichy, Cabaye, Matuidi, Diaby, Gameiro, Hoarau, Rémy
Brazil: Julio Cesar; Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Andre Santos; Elias, Lucas, Hernanes; Renato Augusto, Pato, Robinho
Subs: Gomes, Neto, Breno, Luisao, Marcelo, Rafael, Anderson, Sandro, Jadson, André, Hulk


Denmark: Sorensen, Christian Poulsen, Jorgensen, Agger, Simon Poulsen, Jacobsen, Kvist, Eriksen, Krohn-Delhi, Rommedahl, Bendtner.
Subs: Lindegaard, Wass, Kjaer, Silberbauer, Schone, Vingaard, Junker, Lorentzen, Enevoldsen, Pedersen.
England:Hart, Johnson, Dawson, Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Wilshere, Walcott, Rooney, Milner, Bent.
Subs: Green, Walker, Cahill, Lescott, Baines, Downing, Parker, Barry, Young, Defoe,
Carlton Cole, Stockdale.


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”):


Matches to Watch This Weekend (Jan 21-23)

January 22, 2011 — by Larry

The Monsters of the Midway

Our picks for the weekend–a couple Premier League games, a couple Serie A games, a USMNT friendly, and the final of the Copa Centroamericano.  As usual, culled from SoccerInsider’s comprehensive listings, and all times ET:

Saturday, Jan 22

England, Wolves-Liverpool 7:30 a.m. ESPN2: This exact sort of fixture continues to bedevil Liverpool.  Can they fix a two-year problem visiting the grounds of England’s lesser lights?  If not, will Daiglish snap?

England, Aston Villa-Manchester City 12:30 p.m. FSC: Darren Bent’s debut for the Villans as they begin their campaign to avoid the drop.  Gotta believe Kompany will have his hands full paired with the useless Lescott if Kolo Toure not back from injury.  Can Dzeko grab his first or even play nearly as well as last time out?  Who will Manciin rest after the FACup replay in mid-week?

Friendly, USA-Chile 10 p.m. Telefutura, Almost exclusively young, uncapped players for Team USA.  A good chance perhaps to see who will take over for the current team, but only available on Telefutura/ESPN3 means very little chance of actually doing so. (Why is the game only on Telefutura and ESPN3? Details here)

Sunday, Jan 23

Italy, Udinese-Inter Milan 6:30 a.m. FSP: Inter on a roll after Leonardo replaced Rafa; a player to watch for Udinese: Alexis Sanchez

Italy, AC Milan-Cesena 2:30 p.m. FSC: it should (might?) be interesting to see how Italian teams approach being near relegation.  We are all familiar with the English “Route One”, but how Cesena approach travelling to the leaders.

NFL – NFC Championship, Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers 3pm: For only the 2nd time, we expand our listings to include an contest of the “other” football.  Why this one?  Because CultFootball’s prehistory can be traced back to when we were (a variety of) the Monsters of the Midway.

Copa CentroAmericana final, Costa Rica-Honduras 6 p.m. GolTV


Matches to Watch Midweek (Jan 18-20)

January 18, 2011 — by Suman

Kick back & watch some footy this week

We’ve been pretty regular about putting up a “what to watch this weekend” post Friday of every week.  Given all the good midweek fixtures (especially with the Champions League knockout matches starting in about a month), we’re going to add a similar weekly feature that will go up Monday or Tuesday.

So here’s your viewing guide for this week, today thru Thursday.  A handful of good matchups–two FA Cup replays involving two Premier League heavyweights hosting Championship League sides fighting above their weight; two Copa del Rey matches, one involving our new must-see Spanish team, the other a Derbi Madrileño; and a Coppa Italia match, also a capital city derby–known, in fact, as Derby della Capitale.

As usual, all times ET:

Tuesday, Jan 18

Man City v Leicester
England FA Cup
Fox Deportes, FSC

Sevilla v Villarreal
Spain Copa del Rey

Wednesday, Jan 19

AS Roma v Lazio
Coppa Italia

Leeds United v Arsenal
England FA Cup
Fox Deportes, FSC

Real Betis v Barcelona
Spain Copa del Rey

Thursday, Jan 20

Real Madrid v Atl Madrid
Spain Copa del Rey


What to Watch This Weekend (Jan 14-16)

January 14, 2011 — by Suman1

Merseyside Derby Lambananas

While most of America will no doubt be focused on the American version of football this weekend, there are plenty of futbol matches for you to watch instead.  Here are a bunch of selections; one each from the German Bundesliga, the Italian Serie A, and the Spanish La Liga; a handful from the English Premier League; and an international Copa Centroamerica match, broadcast live from Panama City.

As usual, all times Eastern–you do the math for your time zone:

Friday, Jan 14

2:30pm, ESPN Deportes & Bayer Leverkusen v Dortmund #1 vs #3 in the Bundesliga table. See a detailed match preview here.

7:00pm, GolTV – Costa Rica v Honduras: We choose this Copa Centroamericana matchup since a few members of the CultFootball team will soon be travelling to Costa Rica, and hence should start getting familiar with Costa Rican football.  Also a chance for all you fans of the USMNT to scout out their CONCACAF WC qualifying competition.

Saturday Jan 15

10:00am, FSC & Fox Deportes – Manchester City v Wolves: Man City’s latest (& last?) big money signing, Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko, is set to get his English debut after being brought in from German club Wolfsburg for a mere £27 million.  Mancini’s Man City has been much-criticized this season for their “negative” tactics–will Dzeko somehow make them an attacking squad?  Mancini said this past week he may on occasion use all five of his strikers at once (Tevez, Balotelli, Silva, Johnson, and now Dzeko; Adebayor is quite out of favor, and apparently on his way out of Manchester–maybe to Madrid!).  Although Balotelli is hurt, this match against Wolves could be a chance to finally entertain the home crowd.

12:00pm, FSP, & – Napoli v Fiorentina: The Neapolitans are 2nd in Serie A, a mere four points behind AC Milan. Could this be the year of the club’s 3rd Scudetto–and the first outside of the near-mythical Maradona era?  Napoli’s standout striker is Edinson Cavani.  He was somewhat overshadowed in the World Cup by his teammates Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, but he’s come into his own this season in Italy–he’s tied for the Serie A scoring lead with 13 goals, including a hat-trick last weekend against Juventus–including un scorpione.

12:00pm, GolTV – Villarreal v Osasuna: Osasuna is mired down in 15th place in La Liga, but we choose this one to because Villareal is a team to watch.  We linked to this Sid Lowe column a couple months ago, which hailed “Villareal’s miracle” and their “perfect football ecosystem.”  Lowe’s column this past week was also about Villareal, following their unfortunate loss at to Real Madrid, in which they outplayed the home side during the first half: “Santi Cazorla, Bruno and Borja Valero controlled the midfield, moving the ball swiftly and with great variety, short and sharp then suddenly long, opening up the pitch. On either side of them, the full-backs Angel and Joan Capdevila gave width. [Jersey-born] Giuseppe Rossi – arguably the season’s best player outside the big two – was quick-footed and clever, always on the move. And Cani and Marco Rubén provided wonderful finishes.”

12:30pm, Fox Deportes & FSC – West Ham v Arsenal: Which Arsenal team will show up?  The one that beat Chelsea 3-1 a few weeks ago–or the one that lost to Ipswich Town on Wednesday?  You’ll find out only by tuning in.

Sunday Jan 16

9:00am, FSC – Liverpool v Everton: A Merseyside derby is a match to watch under any circumstances–but this weekend especially so.  King Kenny back at Anfield, managing his club after two decades away, against their crosstown rivals–with whom their tied on points in the table, and whom they lost to 2-0 back in October.  American John Henry will also be in attendance; although that’s not really a reason to watch, the camera will probably find him for reaction shots.

11:00am, FSC – Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United: The match of the weekend.  Man U are still undefeated in the Premier League.  We keep waiting for them to lose, and we think this is the weekend it will happen.  The biggest match at White Hart Lane since Inter Milan came to town in November…and we all remember what happened in that one.  In any case, another crucial match in the Premier League race–here’s the top of the table as it stands going into this weekend:

Team Pld W D L F A Diff Pts
1 Manchester United 20 12 8 0 43 19 24 44
2 Manchester City 22 12 6 4 33 16 17 42
3 Arsenal 21 12 4 5 42 22 20 40
4 Tottenham Hotspur 21 10 6 5 31 25 6 36
5 Chelsea 21 10 5 6 36 19 17 35


Matches to Watch – Special Holiday Midweek Edition

December 28, 2010 — by Suman

The Premier League certainly doesn’t give its players any rest over the holidays. After a full slate of fixtures on Boxing Day (plus yesterday’s Arsenal-Chelsea clash), there is another round of fixtures spread over today and tomorrow!

For those of you home for the holidays (or trapped at home due to the Snowtorious B.I.G.), here are the matches being televised in the US today; as usual, all times ET:

Tuesday, Dec 28

Manchester City-Aston Villa, 10am FSC & Fox Deportes

Tottenham-Newcastle, 10am FSP

West Brom-Blackburn, 12pm FSP

West Ham-Everton, 12:30pm FSP (tape delay)

Arsenal-Chelsea, 1pm ESPND (rebroadcast of yesterday’s match)

Birmingham City-Manchester United, 3pm ESPN2, ESPND &

Stoke City-Fulham, 5pm FSC & Fox Deportes (tape delay)

(Note that is streaming the following games live, all 10am ET starts: Tottenham-Newcastle, West Brom-Blackburn, Stoke City-Fulham, and Sunderland-Blackpool.)

And a special one-time only foray into the “other” kind of football…

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles, 8pm NBC: We venture outside of our usual purview of global football to American football, only because, even more than Real Madrid vs Barcelona, causes a schism in the CultFootball partnership.  You see, one of us was born and raised in the Twin Cities, and hence grew up a fan of the Purple People Eaters; the other, in the greater (if one can really apply that adjective in this instance) Philadelphia area, and hence is a fan of the Eagles.  Tonight, in the first Tuesday night NFL game since 1946, they square off in the City of Brotherly Love.