Sound the Alarm? Which Premier League Teams Need to Worry, After One Week

August 19, 2014

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“One weekend of Premier League action is in the books. The most important word in that sentence is ‘one.’ It’s easy to get so amped up for the first week that even the smallest hiccups can loom large in the fan’s imagination. It can be difficult to tell the difference between an insignificant blip and the beginning of a long-term problem. To help, here’s a handy Week 1 alarm-o-meter, to help keep things in proper perspective.” Grantland (Video)


Crimean cup teams could cost Russia the right to host 2018 World Cup

August 19, 2014

“Last Tuesday SKChF Sevastopol won 2-0 away at TSK Simferopol while Zhemchuzhina Yalta went down 2-0 at home to Sochi in the first round of the Russian Cup. On Saturday the winners of the two ties met, SKChF advancing to the third round on penalties after a goalless draw. Their reward is a home tie against Taganrog to be played on Friday. In themselves there is nothing particularly remarkable about those results, although SkChF were fined 30,000 roubles (£500) after their fans invaded the pitch at TSK (who were fined 10,000 roubles for failing to keep spectators off the pitch). But context is everything: SKChF Sevastopol, TSK Simferopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta are clubs based in Crimea.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Man Utd 1 – Swans 2 Stats and Chalkboards

August 19, 2014

“As Gylfi Sigurdsson stroked in what turned out to be the winner, the commentator called it a ‘Smash and Grab’ which was an enormous exaggeration. Yes, Man Utd might have outshot the Swans by 14-5 but in terms of decent chances there were only 3 and all of them ended up as goals.” We Are Premier League


Plenty on the line in Napoli’s UCL playoff tie

August 19, 2014

“‘It’s not long now until we hear that tune again,’ tweeted Napoli’s stadium announcer, an excited Decibel Bellini. The emcee known throughout the world for his spine-tingling call and response routines when the likes of GON-ZA-LO HI-GUA-IN sgonfia la rete [make the net bulge] wasn’t referring to the latest summer hit to emerge from the city’s flourishing rap scene. Nothing from the likes of CoSang’s Luche, nor Rocco Hunt. Instead, Bellini was alluding to a piece of classical music — George Frideric Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest,’ the Champions League anthem.” ESPN – James Horncastle


Where are Africa’s next generation of stars?

August 19, 2014

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Fraser Forster
“With Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o – for so long the icons of African football – now meandering through the twilight phases of their respective careers, there are growing concerns regarding a lack viable candidates to take over the responsibility as Continental flag bearers. YaYa Toure is undoubtedly now Africa’s gold standard – as three consecutive African footballer of the year titles vindicate – and arguably his specific achievements earn him a pedestal beside Drogba and Eto’o, however now the wrong side of 30 the Manchester City man is not getting any younger – which only heightens anxiety relating to who will take up the mantle.” backpagefootball


Player Focus: Can Ancelotti Maintain Midfield Balance With Kroos’ Arrival?

August 19, 2014

“Last January, after a routine 2-0 home win over Granada sent Real Madrid top of La Liga while keeping a club record seventh consecutive clean sheet, coach Carlo Ancelotti was beaming. ‘The most important thing is the balance we have at the moment,” Ancelotti said. “That is the key. I have said it too many times, now the team defends really well and attacks really well.’ The Italian coach did talk a lot about balance (‘equilibrio in Spanish) throughout the 2013/14 campaign, especially after games such as the 7-3 win over Sevilla in October, and 2-2 draw at Osasuna before Christmas. Once it was eventually put in place this ‘equilibrio’ saw Madrid go 31 games without defeat in all competitions, and of course end the season holding aloft the long awaited ‘Decima’ European Cup trophy.” Who Scored


How much practice is enough practice?

August 19, 2014

“When Rafa Benitez was the manager of Liverpool, he had a chart on his wall that showed how many minutes each player had played. He was obsessive about it, substituting key players even in tight games to ensure they didn’t suffer burnout. Last week, the Irish journalist Ken Early suggested that one of the reasons the Uruguay striker Luis Suarez had been injured so rarely in his career was that he kept getting bans that allowed him to rest. Ensuring players arrive at matches not merely fit but fresh has become a central preoccupation of modern sport, and one that will become an increasing issue for cricket next year as England face up to a schedule of 17 Tests in about 10 months.” ESPN – Jonathan Wilson


Rafa Benitez and Napoli Need to Hit the Ground Running in Champions League

August 19, 2014

“It is the day that the dress rehearsal becomes the gala performance. A full 12 days before Napoli’s Serie A campaign starts with an away trip to Genoa, Rafa Benitez’s side begin to shape their destiny of their fledgling season as Athletic Bilbao arrive at the Stadio San Paolo for a Champions League play-off. Such a high stakes tie is probably not what the former Liverpool boss would ideally want at this stage of preparation, with transfers still in the pipeline and peak form yet to be attained. Yet Napoli and Benitez have no choice. They have to be ready, knowing a false step could put a hugely negative spin on their season before it has really begun.” Bleacher Report