Monthly Archives: February 2010

Julio Cesar bears a huge responsibility for Brazil

“It is hard to think of a position in sport that carries the same pressure as keeping goal for Brazil in a World Cup. While there is often little to do, there is even less margin for error. Do it badly and the hopes of an entire nation crash from a height unmatched anywhere else.” (World Soccer – Tim Vickery)

Aston Villa hope for League Cup glory

“Sixteen years ago I saw Aston Villa play Manchester United in what was then called the Coca-Cola Cup final. Our opponents were favourites on that day too, although the gap between the clubs was less clear cut than it has become in the intervening period. Man Utd were going to be League champions for the second year in a row but prior to that they had gone 26 years without winning the title (a fact that rivals fans gloated over in much the same way that United fans now like to laugh at Man City’s 35 years without silverware).” (WSC)

Rangers 1 – 0 Celtic

Susanna and the Elders, Artemisia Gentileschi
“Rangers moved a step closer to securing a second successive Scottish Premier League title with victory over 10-man Celtic in a pulsating Old Firm derby. Robbie Keane was denied a debut goal when Allan McGregor twice saved brilliantly to thwart the striker. Rangers had a Maurice Edu goal chalked off for Kenny Miller’s handball. Celtic captain Scott Brown was controversially red-carded following a clash with Kyle Lafferty before Edu scrambled home the winner at Ibrox.” (BBC)

Tony Mowbray queries standards of referees but sees no bias against Celtic
“Tony Mowbray is a man who prefers to deal with statistical evidence, rather than conspiracy theories. So the Celtic manager will be hoping that his number comes up in more ways than one when he takes his side to Ibrox tomorrow.” (TimesOnline)

No paranoia at Celtic, says Tony Mowbray ahead of must-win Old Firm clash
“It is a safe assumption that the leak was designed to put the performance of Sunday’s referee – in this case, Dougie McDonald –under even more intense scrutiny than is normal on such occasions. However, Mowbray made it clear that Celtic, like any other Scottish club, have exercised their right to discuss such matters with the SFA’s head of refereeing development, Hugh Dallas.” (Telegraph)

Guardiola claims Barca back to their best after win

“Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola felt his side were back to near their best during their 2-1 home win over Malaga, even though they needed a late strike from Lionel Messi to seal the points. Guardiola admitted earlier this week that his sextuple winners were struggling to find top gear but he was far happier following last night’s victory which kept the Catalan giants two points clear of Real Madrid at the Primera Division summit.” (ESPN)

Stage set for Old Firm showdown

“Old Firm games rarely fail to throw up controversial storylines and juicy sub-plots ahead of the big kick off, which only serve to add even more appeal to the famous fixture. Throw in an alleged attack, alongside the pending debut of a new hero and the events leading up to the latest blockbuster between the two arch rivals could scarcely have been more colourful.”> (ESPN)

Rangers v Celtic
“Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor will be in the squad for Celtic’s visit to Ibrox on Sunday. McGregor has recovered from injuries sustained in a night out incident, while midfielder Lee McCulloch is expected to shake off a knock. Celtic striker Robbie Keane has not trained all week and will be assessed before the lunchtime kick-off.” (BBC)

Scott McDonald backs ref to handle Old Firm pressure
“Former Celtic striker Scott McDonald says ref Dougie McDonald is more than capable of handling any extra pressure put on him for Sunday’s Old Firm derby. His former club this week expressed fears over refereeing standards.” (BBC)

Arsène Wenger’s revival at Arsenal will take time

“Every night inside the Revival Centre, patients offer up thanks to Arsenal Football Club, who have brought funds and hope to a blighted region. With 2,000 treated last year, many children now survive. Some don’t. The last request of a 15-year-old terminally ill girl was that she be buried in her beloved Arsenal top.” (Telegraph – Henry Winter)

The luxuries of being a Young British Manager

“When Mark Hughes left Manchester City back in December the English football media went into head-shaking overdrive. Don’t these foreign owners know that managers need time? And Hughes’ record certainly wasn’t bad, was it? OK, he went seven League games without a win, but he did match Wigan’s achievement of beating Chelsea, you know.” (WSC)

Juan Sebastian Veron looks to finish his career on a high

“Everything Barcelona’s Lionel Messi touched at club level in 2009 may have turned to gold but Juan Sebastian Veron wasn’t too far behind his countryman, leading Estudiantes to the Libertadores Cup and retaining his personal crown as South America’s footballer of the year.” (World Soccer)

Notts County: The Long View

“Notts County might not be a name that sets the pulses of football fans around the world pulsing. It doesn’t even do that for most of the city of Nottingham, never mind the rest of planet football. In recent decades County has been comprehensively outshone by its near rivals just across the River Trent at Nottingham Forest.” (Pitch Invasion)

Football clubs in administration: Maps and Stats

Attempting to make sense of the financial state of English football. It’s almost eight years since the ITV digital collapse brought chaos and financial meltdown to the lower leagues. By pulling out of their deal to pay £315million over three years for the right to screen fixtures such as Chesterfield vs Barnet they provided us with some great anecdotes (heard the one about the Tuesday night match where it would have been cheaper to drive every viewer to the ground in a limo, put them up in a hotel and give them £500 rather than pay the costs of televising the game?) and the perfect bogeyman to blame for all the problems at England’s provincial football clubs.” (This is Pop)

Old Firm frenzy eclipses other derbies

“Such is the hysteria that engulfs Glasgow ahead of Old Firm derbies, even dogs on the street have a view on who’s going to win. On Sunday, Rangers play Celtic in front of 50,000 emotionally-frazzled fans at Ibrox. Countless more will be viewing and listening at home; while others, unable to watch, pace the room until the madness of the derby of derbies is over.” (BBC)

Messi leads list of top 10 South Americans in Champions League

“It’s no secret that without the top South American players, European soccer’s biggest club competition — the UEFA Champions League — wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. With the amount of South American talent integrated into the competition in recent years, the quality of play has reached a level never imagined before. (SI)

United States (USA) 2-1 El Salvador – Recap and Video Highlights – International Friendly – Wednesday, February 24, 2010

“The United States played a friendly against El Salvador on Wednesday, February 24, 2010. It was a chance for USA manager Bob Bradley to give Major League Soccer players a chance to prove themselves. While many of the spots will go to European based players, there are still a few left to MLS based players. The match was in Tampa, Florida at Raymond James Stadium.” (The 90th Minute)

Fan Diary #27 – At Least Torres Is Back…

“Well, Torres is back. That’s about the biggest consolation I can take from the last two outings. We may have gotten the right result against Unirea, but if you didn’t watch that match, trust me, the outcome doesn’t reflect the awful, numbing football we sat through for most of ninety minutes. Where was the team who beat Everton with only ten men? Where was the spark that undid Spurs? We were saved by N’Gog switching on at just the right moment (he was useless up until then) and Unirea’s players forgetting how to strike a ball any time they got a look at goal.” (EPL Talk)

Soccer Players and Anglo Saxon Prayers

“John Terry. Did I miss the bandwagon? Or am I fashionably late? Regardless of your level of interest, know this – John Terry’s sex life has stuck a simmering poker into the gaping chasm between the anglo-saxon cultures and the Latin world. And yes, I am referring to Sepp Blatter’s odd comments. And yes, I am giving him way too much credit. And yes, I will muse on the Bridge snub. Just bear with me…” (futfanatico)

English Football Clubs Face Heavy Debts

“The full extent of the debts engulfing English football has been laid bare in a report that shows Premier League clubs are carrying more debt than the rest of Europe’s clubs put together. The findings are contained in a study from European football’s governing body into the state of football’s finances and come as the Premier League’s bottom club Portsmouth FC prepares to file for administration—a form of bankruptcy protection—on Friday as a result of debts of roughly £70 million ($105.5 million).” (WSJ)

Barry Hearn On Administration

“Michel Platini, with all of the elegance that one might expect from a man with such a playing career, describes it as ‘financial doping’. It is, in short, the accumulation of debt to purchase success on the pitch. Some clubs do it as a result of the egos of their chairmen, some do it from the fear of what might happen if they don’t, and some do it in the genuine but misguided belief that somehow everything will be okay if they manage to get the team winning on the pitch. The result, however, is usually the same. The players and the manager leave when things turn sour, there is a desperate rush for new investors and, when these can’t be found, it ends in either administration or a close shave with administration.” (twohundredpercent)

Football Weekly Extra: Bridge waves World Cup goodbye

“Sean Ingle, Paul Doyle and Raphael Honigstein join James Richardson to talk about the midweek’s action. As Wayne Bridge calls time on his England career, the pod ponder his reasons and consider how missing Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge will affect England in South Africa. Could the excellent form of Leighton Baines ease Fabio Capello’s pain?” (BBC – James Richardson)

Is the Copa Libertadores better than the Champions League

“There are people who argue that South America’s Copa Libertadores is better than the Uefa Champions League. It’s a perverse view, often motivated by bitterness – a bit like those who like to claim that The Beatles were over-rated. The Champions League congregates the best players from all over the world – it’s where they want to be, and where they need to shine these days in order to be considered truly great. But if Europe’s leading club competition is Lennon and McCartney, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the Libertadores is Herman’s Hermits, as last week made abundantly and gloriously clear.” (BBC – Tim Vickery)

TIm Vickery Interview: EPL Talk Podcast
“On this episode of the EPL Talk Podcast we welcome Tim Vickery, who picks up on some of the theses regarding player developed that we addressed with Andy Brassell two weeks ago. Then, Tim talks to us about some notable players in Brazil, talking about how their styles would fit into the Premier League. Then, we talk about Tim’s support of Spurs, the nature of being a club supporter, and how he found his way to Brazil.” (EPL Talk)

Raul’s Declining Influence: A Legendary Real Madrid Career at it’s Twilight

“A highly symbolic moment took place at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu last weekend. As Real Madrid cantered to a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired 6-2 victory over Villarreal, they did so without the presence of their captain, leader and inspiration over so many years – Raúl Gonzalez. That in itself is quite normal. At 32 years of age, the great Raúl’s on-field influence has waned in recent months, largely due to the massive influx of fresh talent acquired by los Merengues over the course of an extraordinary summer spending spree. These days it is the Ronaldos, Kakas and Higuains of this world who hold centre stage at the Bernabeu. But the moment of symbolism came later on.” (Just Football)

Fiorentina 1-2 AC Milan – Recap and Video Highlights – Italian Serie A – Wednesday, February 24, 2010

“AC Milan played a midweek match in the Italian Serie A with a chance to close the gap behind Inter Milan to four points. They currently are third, two points back of 2nd place AS Roma, and have been unable to catch Inter Milan all season. Fiorentina is in the middle of the table, safe from relegation, but probably to far back to earn a spot in Europe for next season.” (The 90th Minute)

A Rising Star Despite the Taunts

Mario Balotelli
“Could 19-year-old Mario Balotelli be Italian football’s Jackie Robinson? The latter changed a nation, became a symbol of the fight for equal rights and left a legacy that’s made him a national hero in the U.S. The former may be given the chance to achieve all that for Italy, and maybe more, but so far hasn’t shown he wants the responsibility.” (WSJ)

Are battle-weary Baggies running out of ammunition?

“The muddy, bloody battlefields of the Championship appear to be taking their toll on West Bromwich Albion’s promotion challenge. Ok, I exaggerate a little. The pitch at Plymouth was poor, though hardly Somme-like, and some of the injuries have been sustained in training or warm-up rather than in the rough-and-tumble of match action. Yet Albion looked like shell-shocked soldiers during a tame second-half surrender at Bristol City on Sunday afternoon.” (thetwounfortunates)

The Best Football Tournaments, Ever…

Mario Kempes
“Since the dawn of time man has wrestled with this impossible conundrum. And following the glorious football that has generally been on display in Euro 2008 a lot of people are wondering where it stands in the pantheon of great tournaments. Coupled with this excellent Guardian blog and some terrific contributions from posters, it’s got us here at MD Towers thinking. Is it possible to assess which are the best and worst major tournaments? The simple answer is no. So here goes.” (midfielddynamo)

Video Of The Week: All The Goals Of South Korea & Japan 2002

“This week’s Video Of The Week is a little late, but it’s another cracker. All The Goals Of South Korea & Japan 2002. This one is a bit of a marathon (it weighs in at an hour and forty minutes), but it is broken up into handy ten minute segments. The 2002 World Cup was FIFA’s first joint venture between two countries, an experiment that the confederation has changed its mind about whether they will repeat about five hundred times in the eight years since.” (twohundredpercent)

Little player power in Major League Soccer

“The 2010 Major League Soccer season is due to kick off in just over a month, but don’t get too excited. A good old-fashioned labour dispute over player contracts could mean that the season is either delayed or cancelled altogether if the players go on strike. Negotiations between the league and the players’ union have already been extended beyond the original January 31 deadline (when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the union expired) until Thursday of this week. But there seems little prospect of an immediate deal after both sides went public with their grievances at the weekend.” (WSC)

Wayne’s World: Rooney Leads the Field

The Building Of The Trojan Horse The Trojan Horse Into Troy 1760, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
“This year’s Premier League title race has been notable for its unexpected twists and turns, but one thing seems certain: If Manchester United is to be crowned champion for a record fourth consecutive year, it will be thanks to Wayne Rooney. If it seems like the England striker has single-handedly kept United’s title challenge afloat this season, it’s because that’s pretty much true.” (WSJ)

Smurf with boundless belief

“At breakfast with the Dutch national team, Wesley Sneijder called out to Piet Velthuizen, goalkeeper of a small Dutch club: ‘Hey, Piet, how much do you earn?’ Velthuizen proudly replied: ‘€400,000.” “Don’t you think it’s funny,” asked Sneijder, Inter Milan’s playmaker, “that I make 20 times as much as you?’ After the exchange was publicly leaked, Sneijder protested that he and Velthuizen had been joking. That may be true – footballers’ humour is no laughing matter – and yet the conversation was classic Sneijder. The little man, whose Inter host Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday, has an unusually large dollop of confidence per square inch.” (FT – Simon Kuper)

One small step forward, two giant leaps back

“First, the now traditional apologies for this site’s dormancy over the past week. For once, this was down to technical problems. The main Smog PC has fallen ill with viruses, indeed so riddled has it become that I’ve waved a white flag, declared myself to be out of my depth and sent it off to be fixed. Using Mini Smog’s computer as an emergency back-up, it turned out that this too had virus problems, but for some reason they were treatable, though it took a few days and working through various routines to put it back in order. I wish I could blame inappropriate site visiting for these issues to have happened, but in reality I think it had more to do with running computers that hadn’t been using properly maintained checking software for some time.” (Smog Blog)

England’s World Cup 2010 base will be ready on time, insist officials

“Officials at England’s likely World Cup base in South Africa have dismissed reports suggesting the facilities will not ready for the June deadline. Photographs appeared today showing a building site that awaited the England coach, Fabio Capello, when he arrived in South Africa. One report described it as ‘a landscape more suited to a scene from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet than a multimillion-pound training camp’.” (Guardian)

The Real Real Madrid – Manuel’s Smoking Gun

“In the off-season, despite the wave of cash and new signings, I had one serious concern: could Manuel Pellgrini balance the all-star egos in the locker room? And could he impose the Villareal short-passing approach on Madrid? He has done neither. And he has succeeded with fantastic aplomb. The Alcocorn hiccup aside, Madrid trails Barcelona by 2 points. The games, the goals, the endless and relentless storm ahead of progress. But exactly has Manuel done? It’s quite simple – he has imposed a style of Madrid that is Madrid. Madrid no longer plays like a lost puppy sniffing for scraps. Madrid now plays like Madrid. Allow me to elaborate.” (futfanatico)

Mince & Tatties

“Sorry, I can’t be arsed blogging too much today as I’ve got a lot to do before I’m away on my holidays at the end of the week. Besides, I missed most of the weekend’s action due to sheer apathy, so I’m not exactly a fountain of stroke-yer-beard insights theday. The following is pretty much all I could muster as I sat staring into my mulligatawny soup and sweaty cheese sandwich over lunch this afternoon.” (Inside Left)

Too Many Danish Flap Hats in Chester

“Just when Chester City fans thought their club might finally be put out of its misery in its present state — its ownership having wrecked the club’s finances to the extent that they could not field a team, thus now facing a vote on expulsion from the Blue Square Premier — things have taken a turn for the even more bizarre. Last week, Chester’s supporters’ trust said they hoped they would be given the chance to start the club over, but now it seems a Danish consortium claiming to be saviours might make things even worse.” (Pitch Invasion)

Chester City Reportedly Sold To The Danes
“Chester City, according to widespread reports today, are to be sold to the Danish consortium that expressed their interest in buying the club a couple of weeks ago. This sale comes less than three days after a meeting of Chester Fans United at which it was made perfectly clear that CFU had a business plan in place to start up a new club when the new one expires. They have, as we suspected they might, run utterly roughshod over the desires of Chester’s supporters in doing this and deserve nothing more than our contempt for their own contempt of the club’s supporters.” (twohundredpercent)

Football Weekly: Everton turn on the style and the race for fourth

“The little big man is back! Yes, James Richardson returns to lead the Football Weekly team – that’s Messrs Ashdown, Ronay, and Duarte to you – in its latest battle with mediocrity (aka 6-0-6). This week, having shown Manchester United a thing or two about free-flowing football, we’re asking whether Everton have the best midfield in the Premier League? Plus, after Manchester City and Liverpool played out the dullest game of the season, we assess the chances of Aston Villa or Tottenham Hotspur clinching that final Champions League spot.” (Guardian – James Richardson)

Dennis the Menace

“I don’t know what I could write, what other words could be contributed to describe the best deep lying centre forwards that the Premier League has even seen. The two songs here are done by some Arsenal supporting musical acts about his time at Highbury, but I want give a mention to one of the greatest World Cup goals I’ve ever witnessed…” (Football and Music)

Fourth-place hopefuls play out bore draw

Claude Gillot, Les deux carosses
“The eagerly-awaited top-four showdown turned into a goalless bore draw between Manchester City and Liverpool at Eastlands. Gripped by the fear of losing, the north-west rivals did not manage a shot on target during the first-half and only threw off their shackles in a half-hearted search for victory in the final 15 minutes. But even the introductions of Craig Bellamy and Fernando Torres failed to lift the game from its overall torpor.” (ESPN)

Man City 0 – 0 Liverpool
“Manchester City and Liverpool played out a miserable stalemate at Eastlands as they battled for fourth place in the Premier League. Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez have their sights set on a place in next season’s Champions League – but this was a wretched advert for their lofty ambitions in an encounter that plumbed the depths for long periods.” (BBC)

Manchester City 0 Liverpool 0: match report
“Even the return from injury of Craig Bellamy and Fernando Torres could not inspire either Manchester City or Liverpool to win the game neither team could afford to lose. Bellamy featured for half an hour just days after a reported spat with manager Roberto Mancini, while Rafael Benítez allowed Torres, who has not played since the FA Cup defeat to Reading on January 13, a 15-minute run-out. Neither talisman, though, could break the deadlock as two under-performing teams cancelled each other out.” (Telegraph)

Manchester City 0-0 Liverpool – Recap and Video Highlights
“Manchester City hosted Liverpool on Sunday, February 21, 2010 looking to remain 4th place in the English Premier League. Both clubs are fighting for the last UEFA Champions League spot along with Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur. Arsenal, Man United, and Chelsea are clearly the top three sides separating themselves from the rest of the league. The match was at the City of Manchester Stadium.” (The 90th Minute)

The banality of football broadcasting

” A few years ago you never got to hear what football supporters thought. Players, presenters and pundits told us black was white and right was wrong. All we could do was scream at the TV so loud we frightened the kids or whack the off button on the radio so hard it wouldn’t go on again. Now it’s phone-ins, discussion programmes, reality TV and invitations to text your views, email your comments or reply to some blog or other.” (WSC)

Mourinho Stretches a Record and Our Patience

José Mourinho
“There might never have been a coach more intent on turning his teams into a sideshow to his own performance than José Mourinho. Yet he is not the pretty sight he imagines. On Saturday night in the San Siro, his Inter Milan was reduced by foul play and gamesmanship to nine men before halftime for the second match running. No matter, Mourinho applauded them, mocked the referee, and boasted that a team of his would have to be reduced to six players to lose a home game. He is a bitter and twisted man — and a successful one.” (NYT)

One small step forward, two giant leaps back

“First, the now traditional apologies for this site’s dormancy over the past week. For once, this was down to technical problems. The main Smog PC has fallen ill with viruses, indeed so riddled has it become that I’ve waved a white flag, declared myself to be out of my depth and sent it off to be fixed. Using Mini Smog’s computer as an emergency back-up, it turned out that this too had virus problems, but for some reason they were treatable, though it took a few days and working through various routines to put it back in order. I wish I could blame inappropriate site visiting for these issues to have happened, but in reality I think it had more to do with running computers that hadn’t been using properly maintained checking software for some time.” (Smog Blog)

And Then There Was One

England against Scotland in 1877
“Let’s talk about Scottish football for a bit. We’ve obviously visited this ground before; back in November, Fuse did an incredibly intricate and in-depth series of posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) looking at the troubles of the Scottish League, In it, he surmised that the easiest way to fix the problem of declining revenues and quality was to consolidate several local clubs into one team; the revenues to keep lower league teams (and, truthfully, some upper league teams) are just not there to support one club per 20,269 citizens.” (Avoiding the Drop)

Video Of The Week 2: The Greatest Goals Of World Cup USA ‘94

“Something of a Friday time-waster for you here this morning, with ‘The Greatest Goals Of World Cup USA ‘94’. Note the slight change in name from the previous videos in this series. For whatever reason, it was decided that the compilation vdeo for the 1994 World Cup would not include all of the goals scored in the tournament. According to this video, there were 140 goals scored in the 1994 World Cup, but only a paltry 55 make this compilation, which is also notable for some absolutely excrutiating music and a commentary so bland that it slips through the viewer like a dose of figs.” (twohundredpercent)>

Fifa admits World Cup ticket prices too high

“Acknowledging that Fifa has lost money and that mistakes in the ticketing process and opportunistic pricing by travel operators had deterred many supporters, Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke also promised an overhaul of ticketing before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Ticket sales for the tournament have been far lower than expected, with just 2.1 million of a total 2.9 million tickets sold. Prohibitive travel, accommodation and ticket packages sold through Fifa’s single licensed agency, Match, have deterred many fans.” (Telegraph)

How Supporters’ Groups Have Won the Ear of the English Media

“For a long time, the only place you’d hear about supporters’ trusts in the national English media would be in the pages of When Saturday Comes. Yet now, it seems we hear more from spokespersons of supporters’ trusts — democratic non-profit fans’ organisations aiming to influence how their clubs are run — than we do from clubs themselves, at all levels of the game.” (Pitch Invasion)

Ngog nets winner for frustrated Reds

“Striker David Ngog’s goal nine minutes from time eventually broke the resistance of a determined Unirea Urziceni at Anfield in the Europa League. With the visitors intent on soaking up plenty of pressure Rafael Benitez’s side struggled to find the creativity to get past the massed Romanian ranks. However, the Frenchman’s close-range header meant the Reds have some breathing space as they head to Bucharest for next week’s last-32 second leg.” (ESPN)

Fabio Capello

“Fabio Capello (born 18 June 1946) is an Italian football manager and former professional player. He is the current manager of the England national team, having started the role in January 2008 after the dismissal of Steve McClaren, who was sacked after England failed to qualify for Euro 2008. He is the second foreigner to have managed the England side, the other being McClaren’s predecessor, the Swede Sven-Göran Eriksson.” Wikipedia, Guardian

Anti-Spaniards for Spain: Irony, Terrorism, and La Roja

“The whole army of Spanish media outlets has been splashed with this bit of news, regarding the facebook page of suspected ETA members–ETA being, for those unfamiliar with Spain, the Basque separatist-terrorist group responsible for thousands of acts of violence since their establishment during the Franco dictatorship. From sports dailies such as AS to Marca, to dailies such as El Mundo and even regional papers like La Voz de Galicia, most everyone had a shot at this piece.” (Soccer Politics)

The Sweeper: Scotland Loses Champions League Spot, Rangers and Celtic Face Financial Crises

“Rangers and Celtic’s financial futures look a little bleaker today. Scotland will only have one entrant in the UEFA Champions League for the 2011-12 season, after falling below Belgium in the rankings used to determine each country’s qualifiers. Moreover, their champions will not advance automatically to the group stage, and will instead have to navigate through three qualifying rounds.” (Pitch Invasion)

At 20, a Dane Prepares for Biggest Stage

Simon Kjaer
“Even attired in the soft pink tones of the Palermo uniform, Simon Kjaer cuts an intimidating figure on a soccer field. The sturdy 6-foot-2 frame of Kjaer, a Danish central defender, doubles as a canvas for a collection of tattoos (one likely to grow, he says) and is topped by a mop of platinum hair, which flops about as he patrols the ground and air around his team’s goal.” (NYT)

Breathe and Stop… Manchester United: ‘An Italian Team from Another Era’

“… Where else to start but Manchester United’s impressive 3-2 win over AC Milan at the San Siro, which hands them a desirable advantage heading into the 2nd leg of their Champions League round of 16 knockout clash. United have become a truly masterful European outfit over the last three seasons, winning the tournament once and reaching two finals, and on the evidence of Tuesday’s game they look capable of making it all the way to Madrid for round three.” (Just Football)

Football Weekly Extra: Arsenal and Real Madrid on the back foot

“Kicked out of the near-earth-orbit studio by overrated Indie rockers Vampire Weekend and with a presenter still somewhere in the alpine wilderness, Football Weekly makes do with a broom cupboard and whoever Producer Pete could find five minutes before recording was due to commence. Luckily he found Paul MacInnes, Rob Smyth, Kevin McCarra and Paul Doyle at a loose end and they all agreed to do him a turn. The hastily assembled bunch waste no time getting stuck into the week’s Champions League action, including Lukasz Fabianski’s night to forget, a Rooney-inspired comeback at the San Siro and Bayern Munich’s ludicrously offside goal to beat Fiorintina.” (Guardian – James Richardson)

The Sweeper: How Not to Question the US Soccer Federation About Diversity

Sunil Gulati
“Our post yesterday on the future of SoccerAmerica sparked an interesting discussion in the comments about the purpose of the magazine in print and online. The magazine still has outstanding access to decision-makers. This week, Paul Gardner has a two-part interview on the SoccerAmerica website with the recently re-elected President of the US Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati.” (Pitch Invasion)

Match Of The Midweek: Porto 2-1 Arsenal

“Sometimes, it feels as if Sol Campbell’s entire life might be scripted by someone that was laid off from the Eastenders’ writing team. In recent times, there doesn’t appear to have been very much in his life that hasn’t been accompanied with some sort of melodrama, and this didn’t let up in tonight’s match at the Estádio do Dragão. Moreover, the match raised fresh questions over Arsene Wenger’s goalkeeping policy, as both Porto goals were, ultimately, the fault of the Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and the match is now balanced on a very delicate line ahead of the return match at The Emirates Stadium.” (twohundredpercent)

Barcelona lead the way at the halfway mark

“No sooner had Barcelona lost their first-ever competition under Pep Guardiola than they won a seventh title. No sooner had the coach sealed up a virtual contract renewal than he wrapped up a virtual title. Top of the table at the halfway stage of the season, Barca are Spain’s campeon de invierno (winter champions). And while Guardiola said it was “merely anecdotal”, most others insisted it was rather more significant.” (World Soccer)