Friday, January 18, 2008
Atletico Madrid (3rd) vs. Real Madrid (1st). Los Blancos are coming off a tough week that saw their chance at a Treble canceled out by Mallorca in the Copa del Rey. They'll need to regain focus quickly against an Atletico side pulling an Arsenal this season and giving further credence to the Bill Simmons "Ewing Theory." Los Indios can do a lot for themselves (and Barca) if 19 year old wunderkind Sergio Aguero continues to make his partnership with Diego Forlan pay off in goals; this Argentine-Uruguayan alliance has already netted 16 in La Liga.
The verdict: A draw. Both teams are playing extremely well at the moment, and even though San Iker* stops most everything (including the ladies' hearts) , Atletico will get a result at home in this capital city derby. They'll also snap his 5 game clean sheet run. 1-1.
Udinese (4th) vs. AC Milan (12th!). At this point, Milan qualifying for the Champions League is looking more likely to come from an outright victory in this year's competition. Their league form (especially at home) has been absolutely woeful, with just one recently recorded victory. Meanwhile, Udinese are sitting in the spot Milan probably believe is rightfully theirs as they continue to grind out results.
The verdict: Udinese has been more than solid at home, but methinks Milan are hitting their stride. An 18 year-old duck made an impressive debut for them in their first home win, and this will carry over to victory on the weekend. Plus, they're not at the San Siro, which for some reason seems to help them. Udinese 1 - 3 Jekyll/Hyde.
Liverpool (4th) vs. Aston Villa (6th). A Monday game, so it's not technically the weekend, but close enough. I think it's pretty fair to say that the Premiership is a three horse race at this point. That being said, Liverpool need to maintain their tenuous grasp (they're among four teams sitting on 39 points, albeit with a game in hand) on fourth and a CL spot. Oh, and save Rafa Benitez's job, too. In recent years they've been a second half team, but this won't be easy; Villa are playing good football and their quick young wingers, Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor, are a scary test for any defense.
The verdict: Will it be the same backs-against-the-wall response that we saw against Besiktas in the Champions League? Highly doubtful. However, with the fans and players firmly behind Rafa, one would expect to see an inspired display at Anfield. Reds 2 - 0 Villans.
*Speaking of Iker Casillas, I have a treat for everyone. Google Eva Gonzalez. You won't regret it.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The key - as apparently Firefox doesn't recognize arrows, is blue = on the upswing, orange = on the downswing, black = steady as expected
2) Manchester United. Anyone (I'm looking at you, Arsenal) who saw their recent display against Newcastle should be very afraid. Very, very afraid.
3) Real Madrid. Two words: Iker Casillas. Apologies to Petr and Gigi, but on current form he's the best keeper in the world.
4) Arsenal. Wenger just took responsibility for the home draw against Birmingham. Without a convincing win on Saturday at Fulham, this team might start questioning itself.
5) Roma. They're keeping pace, Mancini is close to a new deal, and Totti is back from injury and scoring. Can't really ask for much more.
6) Chelsea. Avram Grant claims that his Chelsea are more entertaining than Mourinho's. Which is absurd. That being said, they're right in the mix and signing Anelka will be a huge boost for this team.
7)4Barcelona. Blinded by the lineup? So what if I am. They're within striking distance and just edged past Sevilla in the Copa del Rey. (Also, has anyone seen this? How would they ever select a team??)
8) Bayern Munich. Locked up with Werder Bremen in a fierce battle for the Bundesliga. No Champions League, though, so who have they played? Off the field, you've got the possibility of losing Podolski to Man City. Oh, and Liverpool might be trying to steal Klinsmann for '08. Yikes.
9) Porto. A convincing 4-0 victory over Braga widens their lead in the Portuguese League to 11 points over Benfica. The most important word in that sentence? Portuguese.
10) Lyon. Dominating a weak Ligue 1, even by recent standards. Juninho has been in fine form, and Benzema is an excellent young talent, but we'll really see what this team is made of when they face Man U in the Champions League.
11) Juventus. See Juan's most recent post for the details of their thrilling win over Empoli. Though it was the Italian Cup, it's sure to be a motivator. Also, David Trezeguet can't stop scoring.
12)4Rangers. Cruising the SPL. Smacked down rivals Celtic earlier in the season. The only knock on them at the moment is their failure to qualify for the CL knockouts.
Juventus with the aggregate must win 2 nil to tie and force Pks or any margin higher scoring than that to win outright.
Nedved, Iaquinta. An argument can be made for Tiago. Buffon, Del Piero, Trezegol not playing.
N/A (Vannuchi, honorable mention)
Notable game moments
3' - Nedved puts a great chip in and the resultant cross is broken up.
4' - Marchioni receives a cross on his chest, finds some wheels into the box, cuts his defender at full speed and buries it left footed middle left side netting. 1-0 Juventus. At first the cut didn't look graceful as the defender got a little piece, but the slow motion showed how Marchioni was clever to get the cut off at all. Well done sir.
The boys look much better than they did already against Catalina (drew 1-1). I wish I had typed that before the goal, but still.
10' - Marchioni (again, hmmm) with a low cross in. Keeper misplays the cross outside the six, deflection to the middle of the top of the box where Pavel's long blonde locks of love wait to place it in. 2-0 Juventus.
It's weird to think, but it's almost too early to announce that the rout is on because they're on pace to finish 18-0. With all the corruption recently surrounding Italian soccer, I'm praying that doesn't happen.
15' - I just noticed the stands. It looks like a Florida Marlins game in June
17' - Pavel gets a ball dropped back and blasts it wide (nog).
21' - Corner kick Juve. Nedved contested header caught.
25' - Top of the box, an Empolian rips a volley from a cross one-time right into the keeper. Anywhere else and it's on Sportscenter.
26' - Marchioni (hmmmm) heel flicks in the box to Tiago running on. First touch is heavy and the shot is suffocated by the out-coming keeper. Good save.
28' - Camera shows three Italians and they are visibly soaking wet. I know it's not raining but I actually wondered for a moment.
30' - Marchioni (clearly feeling snubbed by me) crosses in to a diving header by Iaquinta (nog).
33' - Fudge. Antonini slides and buries a cross just inside the near post. No chance for the keeper or defender, fantastic cross. 2-1 Juventus still.
36' - Jeff walks in, sees the replay and asks, "Is it raining?" Not making that up.
38' - Antonini, 4 on 3, screws it up. No threat in the end.
40' - Pavel with speed, splits three dudes and is dragged down 5 meters outside the box. Free-kick hits wall.
44' - Marchioni (alright already!) crosses to Pavel's feet. He was running free and his shot his blocked. Rebound bounces around and eventually Pavel pokes it over onto the top of the net. He seems upset about the missed opportunity.
46' - F*&^!! Empolian crosses at the flag to another effing Empolian who elevates and heads it past the goalie. 2-2 Empoli. Recall Buffon is not starting and other-guy couldn't make up his mind. A good header, but it should have never gotten to him.
Half. To say it was entertaining is to sell it short. Effing hell though, Juve looks (and empirically so) weak through the air. The announcers indicated earlier that Treze-answer is available as a sub. We'll see if he comes in. This is getting long so for the second half I'll just summarize goal scoring plays and the half in general. This is supposed to be shorter, but we'll see. As you can read above, Juve has had more chances, many more in fact, so the final should be 4-2 good guys. Marchionni's first half earned him this picture of him.
50' - Holla! Iaquinta from a quick restart on a free kick rips a bouncing ball cross body and cross defender past the goalie far post. 3-2 Juventus
52' - Omfg. 3-3 Empoli. Recall Juventus needs to win by 2 goals to avoid elimination. We lost 2 nil earlier. As you can see the events of this 2nd leg are ridiculous. Eff.
61' - Iaquinta! Iaquinta! Iaquinta! Bouncing ball from a corner, he tucks away the rebound. I think I'm going to have a heart attack. The small crowd suddenly seems 80-strong singing and yelling wildly. The laptop is no longer on my lap for fear of breaking it.
63' - Header just wide. An amazing chance. Trezeguet is likely not coming on say the announcers... we'll see. If this crowd stays in it til the 80th and starts chanting his name, tell me again he's not coming in. He's not hurt.
65' - Del Piero. The captain. The genius. That Fire jogs onto the pitch to a roar from the crowd.
77' - PENALTY. Iaquinta cuts his man just inside the top of the box (after a great play by Nedved with speed), pulls back about to kill the hopes and dreams of every Empolian and gets tripped. THAT FIRE! finishes easily 5-3 Juventus. Holy crap. I need a moment. They lead 6-5 on aggregate now. Empoli must score or they're eliminated. The announcer exclaims that this is the best match he's called. I believe him.
83' - Giveaway from Empoli, Del Piero all alone with the keeper. He tries. to chip. the keeper. nog. I really, really hope that doesn't come back to burn.
4 minutes of stoppage...
There it is! The final whistle! Juventus is through to the quarters. My goodness.
Now entering the 80th minute I have noticed, in total, 3 scoring chances. Titi Henry had a counter attack shot nog (never on goal) and Sevilla had two freekicks that Beckham would have put in rather easily. I don't count "chances" as any plays ending in offsides because cheating and getting caught isn't an opportunity.
For those of you who might not know, the man yelling directly above this text is Rafael Benitez, Liverpool's currently beleaguered manager. Why is Rafa's job in trouble? Well, for starters, English clubs have decided recently to begin treating their managers like contestants on Survivor. With Newcastle, Tottenham, Fulham, and others all giving their managers the boot this year, it appears as though the grace period for growth or improvement is practically nonexistent. Like the managers of the aforementioned three clubs, Benitez is about to fall victim in part because of unreasonably high expectations. Unlike them, though, he will also be sacked as a result of his own tactical genius.
It's true that this season in particular has seen Benitez spend vast amounts of money and still fail to keep pace with the Big Three of Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United. Part of the reason for this, some claim, is his unwillingness to deviate from his notorious rotation policy. According to detractors, this policy prevents his players from reaching their best form because they don't have consistent opportunities to reach it, and that he outsmarts himself by sometimes benching his better players when he thinks other might match up better against a side. Sort of like soccer's Tony LaRussa, but better, and a whole lot cooler.
This might not be the best policy, but the fact of the matter is Liverpool are not underperforming this season, they're playing exactly how one should have expected. What was unexpected was that in the last few years Liverpool would go to two Champions League finals (winning one) and win the 05-06 FA Cup, knocking off Man U and Chelsea along the way. The reason they've managed to do this is because of Benitez's tactical ability to exploit matchups, because essentially, they've been a two man team (then: Gerrard and Carragher, now: Gerrard and Torres) for the entirety of his tenure. This isn't his fault, either; Benitez has never had the opportunity to bring in talent he can develop due to the incredible pressure for immediate success. Instead, he's stuck grabbing mediocre established players and praying they'll play to their full potential. [Note: And his big money signing, Torres, has been sensational.] Because of the unrealistic expectations created by the early success of his tactics, he would have been in a more secure position now had he never won the aforementioned competitions.
At any rate, people are still speculating about whether or not he'll be fired this season. I, for one, would bet the house on it. The whole Klinsmann thing sounds a lot like the Jol/Ramos fiasco without the overt lying. At any rate, Real Madrid could get a fine manager out of this.
It's true. The world needs another blog, and especially another football/soccer blog, like it needs Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with nukes. But this isn't about the world, it's about us.
When you spend your Saturdays (and sometimes Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays) watching and analyzing the beautiful game, it's probably time to find a useful outlet for your thoughts, opinions, biases, etc. Thus, The Legend of Carl Awesome.
Just two Americans trying to enjoy the best that world soccer has to offer. Located in
See here. Almost as good as Joe Bread-and-Water. Oh, and one of us has a thing for the Uruguayan National Team and long, flowing locks.
All over the board, but I can guaransheed that the big European clubs and national teams will take the lion's share of discussion. Also, MLS shall be shunned until
We'll try not to be too ridiculous and always give credit where it's due, but there should probably be some disclosure.
Jim: Arsenal FC, U.S. National Team; and to a lesser extent AS Roma, TH14, Air McBride, Leo Messi, Super Robert Pires.
Juan: Uruguayan National, Arsenal FC, Juventus (most recent), Penarol, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luca Toni, Italian wet hair, and storybook runs like Ivory Coast 2006.
Just your everyday thoughts and arguments. Needless to say, outrageous goals will also receive attention. Hopefully, though, there will be some special features like club rankings, match diaries, and football pub reviews. Stay tuned.
We'll probably just Beyonce as we go along.