Monday, December 31, 2007

EPL 1/1/2008 - Reading vs Portsmouth

Ok, so Portsmouth continues to be the great pretender. Lethal away from home, facing a mental crutch and lack of balls at home. Well, tonight, against a Reading team who certainly enjoy playing wide expansive football, Portsmouth's African brigade should offer a farewell gift to their manager Harry Redknapp before disappearing for the African Nations' Cup.

The only thing that worries me is that Portsmouth have their fair share of injuries coming into this game. This might affect their fluidity. But if you cannot score against a team that led 3 times in a game before succumbing to 6 goals, you certainly don't deserve scoring away from home anymore.

Steve Coppell is showing signs of cracking and frustration. He hates the limelight, but craves success. You've been warned - the man has a history of throwing in the towel when his career gets one step closer to widespread acclaim. In fact, if not for Ramos, perhaps Coppell might have been the best candidate for Spurs stake for past glories. Attractive soccer is what the mental wrecks at White Hart Lane crave for. Coppell has made 5-4 games his specialty.

It looks dodgy, but I cannot see further than over the total for the goals category in Reading vs Portsmouth.

EPL 1/1/2008 - Arsenal vs West Ham

There's something about Upton Park that even someone like Alan Curbishley enjoys significant achievements such as consecutive home wins against Manchester United. But this game isn't at Upton Park - it's at the fortress that is the Emirates Stadium, and fueled by oil and aircraft money, Arsenal are the new financial giants of world football and on the field, they look to emulate their success off it.

Add to that the growing list of injuries and doubts that West Ham is compiling and this looks like a shoo-in for easiest over of the season. Arsenal scored four against Everton and most of those came from direct football. Just imagine how many more they could add playing their fantasy football in the comfort of their own home.

It might be a bonus if the lunatic hooligan Lee Bowyer gets the nod. He'd probably lose it when Fabregas and co. run rings around him and start going for legs. Another red card later and it would make the Gunners' job so much easier, and our wallets so much fatter.

EPL 1/1/2008 - Manchester United vs Birmingham

If ever there was an easier game for the New Year, it should be the demolition of Birmingham and resumption of normal operations for both teams. Perhaps the bullies from Manchester were too horny over the Christmas period after getting locked out by Alex Ferguson - no outlet for frustration and it showed on the pitch. Even Cristiano Ronaldo had trouble shooting as he misfired. Rio Ferdinand looked out of sorts and returned to his old ways of blaming everyone else but himself. And Rooney? Probably wasted after having a marathon with two fit birdies.

And what about Alex McLeish's Birmingham? I have no idea because spending time watching a team like that might be akin to spending your afternoon watching grass grow. Other than restoring some hard graft, no different from when Steve Bruce was around and without some clueless Hong Kong businessman hanging a noose over his head, I am not sure how McLeish can hope to improve this team. Perhaps a few new buys with the re-opening of the transfer window this month might do the trick. Then again the only stars that might arrive would be from the Scottish international team. McFadden of Everton?

That said, this will be at Old Trafford, where Manchester United does not lose and get every decision their way. Another no-brainer (that's what I said vs West Ham), another Manchester United win, and plenty of goals.

EPL 1/1/2008 - Fulham vs Chelsea

Another new year, another round of the best EPL games on offer. Fulham vs Chelsea welcomes 2008 and it is certainly a game which will set our imagination alight and tongues wagging. The football world sits in anticipation at the silky skills and red hot action that awaits us in the soccer architectural masterpiece that is Craven Cottage in the live streaming Fulham vs Chelsea game.

Are you ready for new Fulham manager Roy Hodgson's organized and tactical prowess as he attempts to lay a defensive stranglehold on Avram Grant's marauding football buccaneers? Are you salivating just thinking of the athletic beauty of Chelsea's African contingent while jumping in two-footed on opponents? Getting all hot under the collar as you just cannot wait for the multiple red cards to be flashed?

Chelsea are enjoying a red hot patch themselves - of immense luck, which they guarantee from their plucky play. However, they do lack a little confidence when under the cosh, but again, luck has been their byword in the past week or so. They spend 70% of the time misplacing passes and kicking opponents, get a lucky rebound and score with their only chance(s) of each game. Certainly even Shevchenko would have to be surplus to requirements based on this form.

Birmingham was the subject of the Soccer Rag jinx while succumbing to dreadful Fulham. No doubt it would have been the new manager effect, and it might continue again tonight like so many football writers and papers are saying. Chelsea will struggle and Fulham has a great chance to score an upset. Not based on this Chelsea form, I say. They might have a whole first 11 in the treatment room, but kick a few more opponents and launch some long range longshots and you are likely to score, especially against faceless opponents from Craven Cottage.

Chelsea to win - I think the handicap certainly looks safe for a no bet at least.

Landan Donovan On Mission To Become Leading Scorer

Landan Donovan, with the United States football team in preparations for a friendly with Sweden, looks to score that one goal to become the all-time leading scorer in the tiny international team's history.

At only 25 years old and the club team mate of David Beckham, Landan Donovan has a scoring record of just over 1 goal every 3 games for the United States. With many more good years to come for the young American, it'd be hard pressed to find another player who could overtake his haul in the foreseeable future, unless the player takes drugs to become a high-powered athlete like Marion Jones.

Manchester City vs Liverpool - Liverpool Inches Closer To Premier League Title

By one point and perhaps 5 seasons more, that is. Sure, they had enough chances and Richard Dunne was a giant for Manchester City, but Liverpool continues to be a team with an obvious lack of conviction. Until they get rid of the mental crutch, they will always flatter to deceive.

Before we go on, here are some highlights of the game:

You could see that it was virtually the team in red all the way. Better chances, faced less problems. But the rest of the team do not have the same self belief that possesses Steven Gerrard to drive himself to the ground each game (I have to give him credit for that), and this disability is dangerously close to driving the Kop's favoured boy away.

Benitez is a brilliant tactician - but it would seem this only works in Europe where the smarts can get you by. But in Britain, physical power and swagger are the additional ingredients required. I only have to point to Alex Ferguson's results to prove this. The reason why Queiroz has a place on the management is because Ferguson needs advice on the white board placing markers. But add to that Ferguson's famed man management and it is the reason why even third rate players like Darren Fletcher wins Championship medals while Steven Gerrard sticks to Cup wins.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

EPL 29/12/2007 - Everton vs Arsenal - Arsenal Storms Back To Top of English Premier League

With Arsenal beating Everton 4-1 with a storming second half revival, is this the turning point in the race for the English Premier League title? Can Arsenal now build on this gutsy fightback and find renewed self belief to push Manchester United off the throne?

Before that, here are some highlights of the Everton vs Arsenal EPL game:

Honestly, the scoreline flattered Arsenal. Everton really got stuck in and into the Gunners' faces but so did the young Arsene Wenger team. However, Everton is a poor man's team and will always have to depend on defensive solidity against the bigger teams (yes Everton fans - your club no longer deserves to be called a big team). Clinical finishing in front of goal separates the Arsenals and Manchester Uniteds from even the false pretenders Chelsea and Liverpool. And opportunism - witness Adebayour's goal.

That said, with Manchester United and Ronaldo in particular suffering from my famed Soccer Rag jinx, the tide could finally be turning back towards Arsenal and hopefully, staying there. Manchester United winning the English Premier League is bad for English soccer, because it would mean prima donnas who indulge in sexual scandals continue to rule in football.

There might have been a temporary loss of belief over the holiday period from Fabregas and his street gang, but they have since returned with greater vigour and crunching tackles. Bendtner in particular plays almost like a ruffian but you certainly have to do that to survive getting knocked down by war dogs like the Evertonians.

The next round of EPL games will come thick and fast. The slugfest continues - will Arsenal reclaim the English Premier League throne and become the richest football club in the world by overtaking Manchester United on both counts?

Motherwell Player And Skipper Phil O'Donnell Dead

Sad tragic news from Scottish football as long-serving Motherwell player and skipper Phil O'Donnell collapsed on the field of play last night against Dundee United and passed away later in hospital, reportedly from a seizure. He was 35.

A player described as a 'perfect gentleman' and 'role model' by former Scotland manager Craig Brown and other fellow professionals, O'Donnell was a player that others like Steven Gerrard played like - full of heart and gave everything for each team he played for.

Motherwell's next game on Jan 2 has been postponed and all Scottish games in the next round will observe a minute's silence as a mark of respect and mourning for Phil O'Donnell.

EPL 29/12/2007 - West Ham vs Manchester United

There won't be another easier game tonight - with the form Manchester United are finding themselves in right now, it should be a walkover if Ronaldo plays. The boy is on a mission and if Alan Curbishley isn't careful, West Ham could be in for a hiding tonight.

Of course, there is no such thing as a banker - a formality could easily turn out to be the biggest upset in history. But you know Ronaldo wants a repeat title, and he's simply running rings round every team. If he stays healthy and motivated, I don't really see Arsenal even coming close by the end of the season. Honestly, I hope he gets injured or involved in a sex scandal, but with every girl wanting to bed a stud like him instead, there's hardly any chance of that happening.

The pre-match talk obviously centres on the Argentinian man-boy Carlos Tevez since he's another West Ham Judas that crossed over to the evil rich trappings of Manchester. He was also the reason why West Ham and Curbishley could do the double over Manchester United last season. Now he's on the other side, so why even bother thinking of another upset? Once again, the media would write anything with a little sniff, but you get the real deal from the Soccer Rag.

Huge win for Manchester United with goals to come.

EPL 29/12/2007 - Tottenham vs. Reading

Back when Juan Ramos was installed as Tottenham's new manager, I wondered if he would survive the rigours of the English Premier League. He has since proven he's got something going for him (not to mention loads of luck) by guiding London's premier "living-in-past-glories" team to a long unbeaten sequence before losing out to their bitter neighbours Arsenal.

Tonight, with Ledley King continuing his jaunt back from injury and providing some stability to a still suspect backline, this form should see them through a tough encounter with Reading. Now, Steve Coppell has done a great job with limited resources, and I do hope Reading survives and see them back again in the EPL next season, but they are suffering from a really bad case of sophomore blues. Hardly scoring and losing by the odd goal every game is hardly mid-table material. In fact, it'll allow doubts to creep in increasingly by the week.

It would be easy to go for the home win, but I have a sneaky feeling that Reading might pull a rabbit out of the hat and snatch at least a draw, if not a win. Tottenham should get back in the business of providing some holiday cheer for football fans - but shooting themselves in the foot!

EPL 29/12/2007 - Portsmouth vs Middlesbrough

Portsmouth does not appear to have any goalposts set up for the home team at every game, but that is set to change tonight. We all know Middlesbrough only play football when they face the big teams, and that increasingly senile Gareth Southgate, while not lacking in technical ability, seems to be devoid of any managerial pizazz. You don't need to gee up your troops when the biggies visit the town, but facing your relegation comrades require more powers of persuasion.

Add to that, Boro will not feature their captain Boateng and a few other regulars, while Portsmouth has generally been unlucky at Fratton Park. Harry "Houdini" Redknapp will continue to justify Southgate's calls for only English managers to be the England manager, and in the process provide a lesson in coaching for the younger clueless gentleman who did much better as a columnist.

EPL 29/12/2007 - Chelsea vs Newcastle

In a game that has already been hailed widely as Sam Allardyce's last game as Newcastle manager (those media guys are always at it - why read them when you can read the Soccer Rag?), facing Chelsea tonight at Stamford Bridge could in fact be Big Sam's defining moment in becoming the most successful Newcastle manager in recent times.

And why not? Chelsea are shorn of their 'Special Spine' with Drogba, Terry and now Lampard out of the team through injury. Add to that they have basically a backup defensive line playing and you can start to see the first home EPL defeat for Chelsea in ages.

div>And Tal Ben Haim might play. Big Sam would know how to break him (if he's not already broken) - perhaps that quicksilver Obafemi Martins could run a few rings round the leaden footed Israeli.

We know by now that Chelsea won't have much of a team tonight and Essien should play in defence (if Avram is really a football manager), but the Tyneside circus act hardly seems better off. Barton continues to clamour for a jail cell and Michael Owen remains sitting on the bench laughing his way to the bank as clubs like Newcastle still think he can play football. But what makes you wonder is why hasn't Big Sam ignored all naysayers and put his Bolton blueprint in place? Newcastle isn't any much better in terms of attractive football (they only contribute to the goals conceded department) so getting results first should be first and foremost.

The problem with Newcastle is the fans. They should stop getting on the team and back them instead, bad play or not. Let Big Sam put in players in the mold of Kevin Davies and Nolan. After all, Newcastle does not belong in the Big Four of English soccer so attractive soccer really isn't for them anymore.

No defenders at Stamford Bridge, no real good players at Newcastle. This usually means goals goals goals but there're also strikers with the calibre of Shevchenko so you wonder. Still, a little flutter on over the total should provide some excitement.

EPL 29/12/2007 - Birmingham vs Fulham

Roy Hodgson will watch his team Fulham from the sidelines as they travel to St. Andrews to take on the host Birmingham. In a move apparently inspired by the owner's desire to bring attacking football back to Craven Cottage, Roy Hodgson was hired to drag Fulham out of the relegation zone. I'm not exactly sure how attacking football will come from a man known more for a dreary personality than anything on the pitch outside of international football since 1997. And with the same set of players who have shown capable of nothing besides beating a sorry Liverpool team (thankfully, only at Craven Cottage) most of the time.

Before that silly Mohamed Al Fayed (alright, he's at least got more money than all of us combined) starts dreaming about stylish football, he'd better worry about not playing the likes of Watford and Charlton next season. I'd think Hodgson would be one of the busiest managers come the January transfer window as buying their way out of trouble would still be the best bet.

Unfortunately, I doubt the Swiss renaissance (oops, he's not Swiss is he) will begin tonight. Birmingham, another team I'd love to see drop out of the EPL (but at least thankfully Bruce is no longer the head), has added another layer of steel to their side with the appointment of Alex McLeish, whom I regard highly for his achievements. He's managed to coax belief out of a team of admittedly limited potential, and it's something McLeish has to milk for all its worth right now. Another 10 games down the road and you'll see the usual return to relegation struggle for sure. McLeish has never been someone who could hold a job for long as his magic usually starts to wear off on any team after a season and a half or two. However, tonight, the magic will be in the air at St. Andrews as they squeeze a win over Fulham.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Santa Is A Blackburn Fan

Roque Santa Cruz delivered some late presents to the little town club Blackburn, as he knocked the stuffing out of Manchester City. Just as the Manchester City owner Thaksin's own country authorities said he will be sent to prison if he ever steps foot again in Thailand, his team experienced some of that door slammed shut in their face feeling, with Santa scoring two goals to pull them back level.

Still, I don't see Manchester City slipping up this weekend against Liverpool. The Anfield side is still poor (in more ways than one) and Benitez looks no closer to having ANY clue of making Liverpool an English champion. Sure, he knows a thing or two about cup football, but unless he wants to tell his team that every game in the EPL is a cup final, be prepared to see more experimentation (shooting in the dark) and issuing threats of leaving the club if they do not throw him more money to flush down the drains with 8 flop purchases out of 10.

Arsenal Vs Tottenham

I know there are some Arsenal fans reading this blog, this might be a bit late but seeing that they struggled to a tame draw with Portsmouth when everyone else comes away with a win from that place, perhaps it might be good for some post North London derby pictorial pleasure. Enjoy. - Guess the Secret Sound & WIN Instantly!

Ronaldo The Best Player In The World?

It's not the fat Brazilian loser that I am referring to, but the dazzling twinkle toes from the English club everyone loves to hate - Cristiano Ronaldo. Is he the best player in the world right now? FIFA disagrees, Liverpool fans as well, and probably Sunderland's few remaining supporters. But Portugal's soccer officials beg to differ, and who can blame them? They're Portugese after all.

Hate to say this but at the rate he is going, he's probably deadlier than Kaka. Without him, Manchester United is nothing. - Guess the Secret Sound & WIN Instantly!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

EPL 26/12/2007 - West Ham Vs Reading

If not for Alan Curbishley, this game should easily see many goals. But because of Alan Curbishley, who happens to have been exposed for nothing more than an average manager since leaving Charlton, West Ham still struggle in defence. Reading seem to have lost their way but what can you expect after losing some key players and suffering from a clear second season syndrome. I still cannot believe Curbishley's name always gets thrown in the hat whenever the England post is mentioned.

EPL 26/12/2007 - Tottenham Vs Fulham

A tale of two teams - one on the up, and the other heading straight down to the Championship (and good riddance, no doubt). Tottenham have actually started to build a fine run under new manager Ramos and looked increasingly solid before slumping to arch-rivals Arsenal (but only because it's a derby - they are no match for their North London neighbours). The team faces another dreadful Fulham team today, but shorn of numerous key players, a potential banana skin presents itself.

I have nothing much to say about Fulham except that the sooner they disappear from the EPL, the better. Too many teams like them make up the EPL - boring, unimaginative, scrappy soccer that ridicule the incredibly high ticket prices that fans have to pay. Maybe if Jimmy Bullard was not injured their season might have turned around, but Bullard's another slightly above average midfielder whose strength is... yes, you guessed it, tough tackling and pressing. God knows how many more of those we really need in the EPL.

Another case of many players missing, and both teams might struggle to find any rhythm. It could go either way, but I see Spurs beating Fulham easily.

EPL 26/12/2007 - Chelsea Vs Aston Villa

Injury-hit Chelsea hosts Aston Villa looking to continue the momentum picked up from their bruising 1-0 win over Blackburn. First choice keeper Petr Cech strained his side and looks highly unlikely to turn out for the team today in a must-win game to maintain the pressure on Arsenal and Manchester United at the top of the EPL summit.

Hilario, the third choice keeper should take his place as Carlo Cudicini is also ruled out. Hilario has in the past done a decent job of covering for the other keepers but Aston Villa will be pressing hard, after having beaten Chelsea earlier in the season at Villa Park.

Aston Villa will try to capitalise on their speedy forward line, although goals are a rare commodity despite this fine attribute they possess. Martin O'Neil, a British forerunner for the England manager post before Fabio Capello grabbed it by its neck, has forged a team with his signature ruggedness and obstinance, but it resembles his past Leicester teams in terms of goal shy forwards. Jon Carew will look to overpower a Chelsea defence lacking lynchpin John Terry.

Both teams have not exactly been hitting the goal trail of late, but the missing players and after Christmas binges might leave some players out of sync. I fancy the over 2.5 total and it provides some value. Past Boxing Day fixtures have been known to go goal crazy. - Guess the Secret Sound & WIN Instantly!