Actually we’ve copied and pasted the table in below, but we’ve also done you the service of choosing one match per day (from the group stage) that you should plan your day around:
(all times ET, and all games on ESPN unless otherwise noted)
Thursday, June 12: Brazil-Croatia (4pmET)
Friday, June 13: Spain-Netherlands (3pm)
Sat, June 14: England-Italy (6pm)
Sun, June 15: Argentina-Bosnia (6pm)
Mon, June 16: Germany-Portugal (and also Ghana-USA later that day, at 6pm)
Tues, June 17: Brazil-Mexico (3pm)
Wed, June 18: Spain-Chile (3pm)
Thurs, June 19: Uruguay-England (3pm)
Friday, June 20: Switzerland-France (3pm)
Saturday, June 21: Germany-Ghana (3pm)
Sunday, June 22: USA-Portugal (6pm, again on ESPN–why not put this one on ABC??)
For the last 4 days of the group stage, there are 2 games played simultaneously at 12pmET and 4pmET each day. Which ones to actually watch will eventually depend on group standings and scenarios for who advances; here are some preliminary picks:
Monday, June 23: any/all?
Tuesday, June 24: Italy-Uruguay (12pm)
Wednesday, June 25: Nigeria-Argentina (12pm)
Thursday, June 26: USA-Germany (12pm)
Tell your wives, hide your kids, plan your long lunches, clear your DVRs. it’s going to be busy month.
Sunday’s Liverpool-Arsenal match at Anfield is the marquee matchup of the weekend, but there are a bunch of games worth checking in on if you’re looking for something to watch. Especially if any of the transfer activity shows up on the pitch.
Here are our picks–a few games each from the Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A (plus one from the Eredivisie):
Will Dempsey play for Spurs? Maicon for City? Granero for QPR? de Jong for Milan? Probably not.
The City-QPR fixture is of course the one that decided the Prem League title in such dramatic fashion last May. We’ve included it here partly only so we could repeat James Richardson’s plea that this fixture should really be retired, so that it’s not sullied by some dreary nil-nil draw (or more likely a 5-0 drubbing).
Liverpool-Arsenal at Anfield is the big match–the first match of the season that feels like a big one. Not just b/c it’s between two (ostensibly) “big” clubs, but a fortiori because both teams need to get their first win of the season to avoid falling futher off the pace in the table. Read (if you have the stamina) Kirby’s comprehensive Arse-centric post (this extensive excerpt represents but a sliver of the post):
Arsenal has a crunch match against Liverpool up at Anfield on Sunday (8:30 EST, Fox Soccer Channel). Both teams have yet to win a game this season, although it’s not quite crisis intervention time, as it’s only the third game in. Still, Arsenal has yet to score a goal, which is worrying since we just sold the player who scored 40% of our goals last season. Coupled with that, we sold the one who provided the most assists. Also, Liverpool nearly beat the champions last weekend in their 2-2 home draw with Manchester City. I don’t know that we could have done the same. In fact, I’m pretty sure we couldn’t. However, I don’t know that Liverpool could do so again, either.
Liverpool get Daniel Agger back from suspension, while reports have Laurent Koscielny in contention to return to the central defence, with Wojciech Szczesny facing a fitness test on Saturday. Liverpool have bolstered their ranks with the likes of the impressive Joe Allen (Brendan Rodgers’ playmaker at Swansea) and almost-Gunner Nuri Sahin, on loan from Madrid. More on Sahin to follow. They’ve also shipped out Charlie Adam to Stoke and loaned Jay Spearing to Bolton, Andy Carroll to West Ham. As a team stacked with dead wood ourselves, we could learn a thing or two there.
But the day offers up a handful of additional compelling matches. If you’re a follower of the Dutch game, PSV-AZ is a good matchup. The two Serie A matches are feature four teams that will be aiming to finish near the top of the table. Real Madrid should deal with Granada–but including it gives us an excuse to link to our post about Granada from last spring. Finally, the late La Liga game could be a good one. Valencia battled Barcelona to a draw last season, and did the same with Real Madrid just a couple weeks ago.
Another season of European club football is upon us, and so we here at CultFootball are back from a couple-month hiatus. Over at PoliticalFootballs, John Lally has a Premier League preview which runs to a few thousand words. And here on CultFootball, Rob Kirby devotes almost as many words to just Arsenal’s chances this season.
Without further preamble, here are our picks for opening weekend in the EPL–plus one match from the opening weekend in La Liga:
As usual all times ET, and all listing from (and links to) the very useful livesoccertv.com:
(*) Note that the US TV right to La Liga (and Serie A, which kicks off next weekend) have been snapped away from GolTV by the new “beIN” network–a venture of Al-Jazeera Sports. Check your local listings to see if you can get it on your cable lineup.
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).
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.
A whole gaggle of interesting matches to watch this weekend. We’ve chosen a handful each on Saturday and Sunday, including the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations, a couple each from the big leagues (Premier League, including Chelsea-ManUtd; Serie A, highlighted by AC Milan-Napoli; La Liga–the one we’re most interested in is Atletico Madrid-Valencia), plus a few wild cards (e.g., a Futsal Euro match Saturday night and East Bengal-Mohun Bagun, live from Kolkata). And there’s also the small matter of a Northeast (US) derby of sorts Sunday night in Indianapolis.
Check back in over the weekend for additional preview notes on these matches. But since our first selection kicks off shortly…
Germany, Nürnberg-Borussia Dortmund (2:30pmET GolTV): Just for something to watch today, and for a Bundesliga match. Plus Dortmund is one of the teams we like to watch–and they’re doing very well again this season in the league: joint top of Bundesliga with Bayern and Schalke.
(Contrary to the conventional wisdom that the German national team is pretty much Bayern Munich, note that Bender, fellow midfielder Kevin Großkreutz, Hummels and of course Mario Götze have all made appearances for the German national team–as has Marco Reus, who will be coming over to Dortmund this summer after a breakout season at the other Borussia.)
England, Arsenal-Blackburn 8 a.m. ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com: Gunners achieved 1 point from their 4 January league fixtures–and that a scoreless draw against lowly Bolton. This weekend they play even lower Blackburn. But let’s not forget Arsenal lost at Blackburn back in September, and that Arsene has maybe lost the stadium. Groundhog Day for Arsenal?
African Cup quarterfinal, Zambia-Sudan (11amET, Al Jazeera Sports USA – DISH Network 601): The first AfCON2012 quarterfinal match features two teams that weren’t widely expected to reach the knockout stage.
Al-Smith’s blog post opens with the line: “A common stat you may have heard in the past few days: the last time Sudan won the African Cup was 42 years ago, 1970” and a story about Sudanese club Al Hilal playing Canon Yaounde in the Cameroon capital in a 1987 African Champions Cup semifinal, after which
a six-year old got his wish and shook hands with the legendary Sudanese forward Ali Gagarin. Gagarin was shocked when he met the little boy, not because he was not aware of his fame, but at the sheer awe in the boy’s eyes.
Gagarin, in a recent interview, recalls the incident: “I was told that a young man came to the stadium and asked for the jersey of Gagarin and said ‘I want the number 9 jersey of Gagarin.’ Do you know who is that young man today?”
The boy would later become Africa’s greatest footballer. The boy was Samuel Eto’o.
The other quarterfinal scheduled for today features one of the co-favorites versus one of the co-hosts: Ivory Coast-Equatorial Guinea (2pmET, also Al Jazeera Sports USA). For some pre-game reading on this one, see see Jonathan Wilson’s column in the Guardian: “Kily keen to upset the odds for Equatorial Guinea against Ivory Coast: The co-hosts’ right-back usually plays in the Spanish fourth division but on Saturday he will face the much-fancied Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals”
Spain, Athletic Bilbao-Espanyol (12pmET, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com): We have been trying to look beyond the big two in Spain. This is an interesting match not only because it’s Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao, but because it’s an important match for the league standings. Espanayol is in 5th place with 31 points, Athletic hot on their heels in 6th place with 29 points. Here’s the top half of the table (columns: played, won, lost, draws, goals for, goals against, goal differential, points):
Futsal Euro, Ukraine-Spain (6pmET GolTV): The 2012 Futsal European championships are taking place in Croatia. Who knew? The group stage is ending this weekend, with the quarterfinals Monday and Tuesday, the semifinals Thursday, and the final next Saturday.
Sunday Feb 5
Italy, Roma-Inter Milan or AC Milan-Napoli (both 9amET, both on ESPN3.com; Milan-Napoli also on Fox Soccer Plus): Two big-club clashes in Serie A. Roma, Inter and Napoli are all likely out of contention for the Scudetto, but are aiming for a spot in Europe. Milan is in 2nd, just a point behind still-undefeated Juventus–but they’ve been struggling lately, including a loss to Lazio mid-week. The table:
England, Chelsea-Manchester United (11amET, Fox main network): The big one this weekend in England. ManUtd are trying to keep pace with City at the top of the table, while Chelsea are seeking to hold on 4th (and that crucial Champions League spot). See here for squad sheets, as well as John Ashdown’s quick match preview:
This is second against fourth in the Premier League, a clash between two sides who have carved up the last seven titles between them, but somehow it does not feel like it. United have won eight of their last 10 fixtures in the league but are grinding out results in their pursuit of Manchester City. Chelsea, meanwhile, stumble and stutter in their attempt to hold on to the final Champions League spot. Neutrals must hope that at least one of these big beasts can rediscover their mojo come Sunday tea-time.
Indeed, Chelsea have often seemed on the verge of crisis throughout the season–whether due to grumbling about new manager Andre Vilas-Boas’s tactics or squad selection, speculation about whether Fernando Torres will ever score again, or controversy about captain John Terry. Here was our Chelsea observer The Cunning Linguist with some observations he offered up back on Boxing Day:
I think part of the problem with Torres is the obvious pace he’s lost but the other part is the way he’s being utilized and the infrequency. When at the kop he looked to be picking the ball up further up field from long balls and such but now he’s coming back further to build play given the tight band of barca’s that is being employed; obviously Chelsea’s personnel doesn’t warrant the barca style. The odd part is that drogba seems to be getting faster and a bit more creative as he gets older; hat’s off to the old boy. let’s see what drogba’s absence for the African cup in jan means; can’t believe Torres is done. Saw some decent stuff from him in the game; movement, control, etc. There was a great chest ball and shot that didn’t do much but it was a damn neat piece of skill.
Until avb figures out what the new Chelsea style is, it’ll be mourinho against good teams and experiments against lesser quality teams. For me the real story is mikel’s loss of favor; romeu’s the future. Lampard’s done; feel bad it has go go down this way but that’s that.
African Cup of Nations quarterfinals, Gabon-Mali 11amET and Ghana-Tunisia 2pmET: Take a look at The Hard Tackle’s match previews. Looking ahead at the schedule, both semifinals will be Wednesday, with the final next Sunday in Libreville.
Spain, Atletico Madrid-Valencia (3:30pmET ESPN3.com): As we wrote last weekend, Atletico salvaged their season after turning to Diego Simeone in December. They’re up to 7th in the table, and challenging for a spot in Europe is not out of the question. Valencia is trying to solidify its hold on yet another #3 finish–but they’ve also got a big Copa del Rey clash coming up mid-week–the 2nd leg of their semifinal against Barcelona, following the 1-1 draw at the Mestalla last Wednesday.
USA (NFL), Super Bowl – NY Giants-New England Patriots (6:30pmET): See Political Footballs’ match preview here.
As you sit nursing your hangover, why not turn to the headache-soothing action of Premier Leauge play? We know of no better way to pass through the haze of the year’s first day into the clarity you’ll need to fight the future’s impending troubles. You know the sort of things we mean: climate change, declining standards of education, goal line technology, and so forth.
Saturday, Jan 1
West Brom-Manchester United, 7:45am ESPN2, ESPND The Baggies are a fun side to watch, and at home they’ll be less inclined to sit back and defend against the current table-toppers. Not that they know how. The team likes to attack, and since they’ll be missing two starting backs their best bet is to keep the ball in the offensive third. United are heavy favorites, but they may find themselves on the back foot now and again.
Liverpool-Bolton, 10am FSP Anfield is not the fortress it’s been for so, so long, and the home fans have taken to booing the squad’s crap performances of late. Bolton, with our boy Stu Holden firming up the center, have been the mid-table team done well this year and are pushing to secure their place in Europe (let’s not forget they were in danger of relegation this time last season). Liverpool will be hard pressed to deal with the Wanderers’ quick counterattack, and unless Torres can get his head screwed on right they’ll never pierce the Bolton backline.
Birmingham v Arsenal, 12:30pm FSC Birmingham have an excellent home record, and have drawn Manchester United & City, Spurs and Liverpool at home, while handing Chelsea a defeat. Arsenal come in after a poor performance by their second squad got them but a draw against Wigan, and they’ll need to put forward a tougher side while balancing the starters rest, what with the big clash with City coming four days later.
Tottenham-Fulham, 2:30pm FSC, Fox Deportes (tape delay) The Cottagers should pose no problem for the Spurs, seeing as the home side is flying, and the visitors are floundering. We like Mark Hughes for his classy ways, but how long will this guy get to keep his post? Too bad for Hodgson as well, maybe he should’ve stayed with the boys from London.
Sunday, Jan 2
Chelsea-Aston Villa, 8:30am FSC, Fox Deportes Have Chelsea gotten their season back on track? Probably not just yet, but the gutsy win against Bolton have them headed in the right direction. Lampard is back and though not up to speed just yet, his vision has been sorely missed. Villa have had a mediocre showing this season, but we’ll tune in anyway for a chance to see if one of our next generation US backs can make it in the top flight
Wigan v Newcastle, FSC 11am We’re not terribly interested in this game, though Carroll has been a lot of fun to watch as he torments defenses Drogba-style. Still, the 11am slot is just right as it’s the perfect time to turn on the game and let the gruelingly slow pace of this one lull you into a late morning nap.