Monday, September 29, 2008

Midweek TV Preview: September 29 - October 3

(All times - UK)

Monday 29 September

7.30pm Rushden & Diamonds v Altrincham, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
The Diamonds will be going hell for leather tonight as a win will see them jump from tenth to third in the Blue Square Conference table. On current form that seems quite likely, so our money's going on Garry Hill's mob.

Tuesday 30 September

5.30pm Zenit v Real Madrid, Champions League (Group H), Sky Sports 2
ZSP picked up their first win in three at the weekend with a 3-0 away victory against Lokomtiv Moscow while Real still can't quite get back to the top of La Liga despite the continuation of their impressive run of form against Real Betis on Saturday. This should be another three points for Los Blancos, though, and about as different a prospect as you can get to their next CL match against Juventus next month.

7.30pm Arsenal v Porto, Champions League (Group G), ITV1 & HD
What a difference a game makes. Arsene Wenger suddenly has a mini-crisis on his hands following Hull City's competency at out tactic-ing his Arsenal side on Saturday. With Porto visiting the Emirates Stadium, the question has to be asked: will Wenger put out his strongest squad, or make do with the lesser talents of Van Persie, Adebayor and Walcott?

7.30pm Aalborg v Manchester United, Champions League (Group E), ITV4
Those Danes from Aalborg might allow themselves a moment's optimism as they cast a casual eye over the Premier League table. It's not every September that ends with Man United in the bottom half of the table, but they'll do well to observe the 'Goals Played' column. Fergie's lads have a game in hand and will no doubt be right back near the top of the pile before you can say 'contentious refereeing decision'.

7.30pm Villareal v Celtic, Champions League (Group E), Sky Sports 2 & HD2
Both these teams picked up unlikely victories in their weekend league games, Celtic leaving it late to find a winner in their 3-2 win over Aberdeen and Villareal scoring a single goal against the run of play to beat Sporting Gijon. Villareal, however, remain top of La Liga while Celtic still find themselves chasing the shadows of Rangers. Call us picky if you like, but we think Brer Strachan might be just a touch scratchy in the post-match interview after this one.

7.30pm Bayern Munich v Lyon, Champions League (Group F), Sky Sports Xtra & HD3
Would you Adam und Eve it? Bayern lose AGAIN, this time by a single goal away to Hannover 96, and are now ninth in the Bundesliga. What better way, then, to revitalise your season than to play a team that hasn't lost in any competition since March 4th. "Oh 'ell", Klinsmann may be saying, and understandably so...
('O.L.' - geddit?!? Ahem...)

7.45 Fiorentina v Steaua Bucharest, Champions League (Group F), Sky Sports Interactive
Fiorentina started off with a safe and satisfactory 2-2 draw against Lyon a fortnight ago, and that's set the tone for their distinctly vanilla season thus far. Steaua, meanwhile, lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich, thereby leaving them bereft of any crumb of credibility they might have had. Press the red button if your curiosity comes perversely to the fore.

7.45 Fenerbahce v Dynamo Kiev, Champions League (Group G), Sky Sports Interactive
One wonders if Luis Aragones has bitten off more than he can chew in taking on the Fenerbahce job following their third defeat of the season at the weekend. His side now lie tenth in the Turkish Super League, and a second successive Champions League defeat here might get the locals a little agitated. Ah - it says here Dynamo Kiev are eleven games unbeaten at the moment...

7.45 BATE v Juventus, Champions League (Group H), Sky Sports Interactive
Let's face it - BATE Borisov are too star-struck at the moment to be bothered with results. Probably just as well given their opponents tonight.

Wednesday 1 October

6.00pm Liverpool v PSV Eindhoven, Champions League (Group D), Sky Sports 2 & HD2
Twelve games unbeaten now for Rafa's Reds and apart from that worrying draw with Stoke recently, they look like an altogether different prospect from last season. A win over The Farmers looks highly likely, especially given the 3-0 mauling the Dutch team had at the hands of Atletico Madrid a fortnight ago.

7.30pm CFR 1907 Cluj v Chelsea, Champions League (Group A), Sky Sports Xtra & HD3
As we reported here a fortnight ago, Cluj head coach Ioan Andone was recently shown the door despite guiding his team to the Romanian league title and a place in the Champions League for the first time. So much for getting behind your man, eh?

What was even more baffling was the appointment of unknown Italian Maurizio Trombetta as Andone's replacement, but credit where it's due, he did pull off an unlikely victory away to Roma in their first Champions League game. We're really not sure what to make of this one, so we're just going to sit back and take it all in, as indeed you should.

7.45pm Bordeaux v Roma, Champions League (Group A), Sky Sports Interactive
Both teams lost their opening fixtures a fortnight ago and will be looking to make amends this evening. To spice things up a bit, Roma finally got their first Serie A win of the season yesterday, so watch out Bordeaux - you've now got a fight on your hands...

7.45 Famagusta v Panathinaikos, Champions League (Group B), Sky Sports Interactive
Pity the poor Sky Sports commentator who pulls the short straw for this one. A match of interest only to the Redbuttonistas amongst you.

7.45 Inter Milan v Werder Bremen, Champions League (Group B), Sky Sports Interactive
Jose Mourinho's men came off second best in the Milan derby at the weekend, losing 1-0 to their red-and-black-striped counterparts. Inter also had five of their men booked and two (Burdisso and Materazzi) saw red. Time, then, to take a deep breath, open the lungs and consider the scoring prowess of their German opponents who have bagged twelve in their last three games. Not an easy game for Mourinho, and one well worth watching if you get the chance.

7.45 Shakhtar Donetsk v Barcelona, Champions League (Group C), Sky Sports Interactive
Barcelona may be playing well at the moment and Thierry Henry got himself on the scoresheet in the 2-1 win over Espanyol on Saturday, but is it too little, too late for the former Arsenal man? Is he heading for the exit? Will he be the next superstar to find himself wearing a Man City shirt in the January transfer window? This game may (or may not) have the answer.

7.45 Sporting Lisbon v FC Basle, Champions League (Group C), Sky Sports Interactive
Sporting and Basle are enjoying a similar season so far. Both have started well, both have had a wobbly spell of late, both have recovered but both lost their weekend matches. Basle currently lead the Super League by a couple of points after ten games but lost on Saturday to Young Boys while Sporting lost the Lisbon derby to Benfica and are second in the league after four matches. Gotta favour the Portuguese team in this one, though.

7.45 Atletico Madrid v Marseille, Champions League (Group D), Sky Sports Interactive
Javier Aguirre is a man to be respected and admired. He has single-handedly managed to turn Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Diego Forlan into regular goalscorers this season and all without the aid of an expensive course of hypnotherapy. As for Marseille, they're still unbeaten in Ligue 1 after seven games, so this will either be a cracker of the highest proportions or a mutual cancelling out of two great footballing middleweights.

Thursday 2 October

3.00pm Wisla Krakow v Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Cup, Five
Chances are you'll miss this one if you can't get home from work early, and if you're a Spurs fan, that'll be just fine. Juande Ramos finds himself with a mountain to climb as he re-enacts Martin Jol's darkest hours, but his team have a 2-1 lead from the first leg and will be looking for that all-important away goal to seal his passage (so to speak) through to the next round.

6.30pm Standard Liege v Everton, UEFA Cup, Five
Standard are flying high at the moment in the Jupiler League (which you can bet your life will appear in our League of the Week feature soon) and a repeat of their weekend victory over Anderlecht will see the end of Everton's European run this season. It was 2-2 when these teams met in the first leg, so realistically David Moyes' men have gotta go for a win tonight, unless they fancy their chances with a high-scoring draw. Unlikely, one has to assume.

7.00pm Manchester City v AC Omonia, UEFA Cup, ITV4
Here's how you play the away goals rule, Everton. Man City play hosts to the Cypriots having secured a 2-1 lead in the first leg, so if all goes to plan it'll be a case of 'score an early goal and shut up shop' for Mark Hughes men.

8.00pm Motherwell v AS Nancy, UEFA Cup, BBC1 One Scotland
1-0 down from the away leg, Motherwell find themselves with the daunting task of having to score at least two and stop the Nancy boys* from scoring themselves. They can do it, mind you, and we have every faith that Mark McGhee's men will do to Nancy what they did to St.Mirren at the weekend. (* Sorry.)

9.30pm Vitoria Guimaraes v Portsmouth, UEFA Cup, Five
Harry Redknapp's men have the same remit as Man City tonight - get an early goal and consider the game finished. Pompey won 2-0 at home in the first leg, so viewers of Five might be treated to an early night if Defoe or Crouch can bag one shortly after kick-off.

Friday 3 October

7.00pm Arminia Bielefeld v Karlsruhe, Bundesliga, Setanta Sports 1
Thirteenth plays Fourteenth tonight, and if that doesn't set the pulse racing, perhaps Bielefeld's recent unpredictable form will. Michael Frontzeck's team should have beaten Eintracht Frankfurt yesterday, but a late Benjamin Kohler goal saw the points shared.

Karlsruhe, on the other hand, made the wise decision to score twice before conceding a late goal at home to Wolfsburg and are now looking for a third consecutive victory in the Bundesliga. A win for either side tonight could result in a leap up to mid-table prior to next weekend's matches, and that's just about all the incentive you need (apart from the distinct possibility of overtaking Bayern). Watch with us and see which team "wants it more." (c) Jamie Redknapp.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

League of the Week: Russia / Premjer Liga

Welcomski once again to League of the Week, and before we start, no - this probably won't be the last comrade-like gag in this article because yes - this week we're turning our attention towards Russia.

First of all, a note to the more observant amongst you. It was suggested last week that we feature the American MLS as our next LoTW, but that will now be next week instead. (Apologies if you'd been gearing up all week for that.)

So, what's to know about Russian football and more specifically the Russian Premier League? Well first of all, you have to understand that in both cases, it's dominated by the Moscow-based clubs - Dynamo, Spartak, Lokomotiv, CSKA and FC Moscow. Between them (well, three of them), they've carved up the Role of Honour and taken 14 of the previous 15 titles. Spartak have been the most successful, winning nine times in the ten seasons between 1992 and 2001, while Lokomotiv won in 2002 and 2004 and CSKA won in 2003, 2005 and 2006.

Adding a touch of variation and interest to the proceedings, are Zenit Saint Petersburg, the team from the north-west of Russia who raised a few eyebrows by taking last season's Premier League title. A jolly close run thing it was too as they finished only two points ahead of Spartak, but it was good enough to earn them an automatic place in the Champions League this season where they were generously drawn in the same group as Juventus and Real Madrid. Lovely.

Back at home, Zenit, now led by Dick Advocaat, have struggled to maintain their amazing form of last season and are currently 8th in the sixteen-team league with only nine games left to play. Realistically, the best they can hope for is a UEFA Cup place for 2009/10 and their run-in begins tomorrow with an away tie against the team directly above them in the table, Lokomotiv Moscow.

Currently sitting on top of the pile are another surprise package a-la Zenit - Rubin Kazan. The team located south-east of Moscow have a very healthy nine-point lead ahead of nearest challengers, Dynamo, and have only lost two games out of 22 thus far. Ably assisted by the curious pairing of Sergei Rebrov and Savo Milosevic, they won seven straight games at the start of the season (thereby setting a new league record) and despite losing the plot temporarily, they're back, back, back in fine form once again. This weekend, they're up against FC Moscow, so we think that'll be another three points to add to their total.

As we said, Dynamo are desperately trying to close that rather noticeable gap between them and Rubin, and you can't say they haven't been trying. They're currently on an unbeaten run in the league that stretches back to July 20th (their season runs from March to November, by the way). This Saturday they're off to sixth-placed Krylya Sovetov where they may have to settle for a draw, we feel.

The Russians are particularly fond of an unknown quantity, and the team currently third in the RPL are another. Amkar Perm (insert a hairdressing joke of your own choice here) are situated east of Moscow and have battled their way to within a single point of Dynamo just above them.

And here's something for all you trivia fans out there: geographically-speaking, Amkar are the most Easterly-located team playing top flight football anywhere in Europe. You're impressed, we can tell...

This Saturday, Amkar are off to Saturn - Saturn Ramenskoe, that is. Occasionally known as 'FC Saturn Moscow Oblast' to their friends, their enemies call them by their full name - 'State-Owned Enterprise of the Moscow Region, Football Club Saturn Moscow Region.' Probably best to refer to them by their nickname: 'The Aliens'…

And what of the Moscow giants currently occupying fourth and fifth places in the table - CSKA and Spartak? Well, they finished third and second respectively last season and secured a passage through to this season's UEFA Cup (albeit as a second-best option, as far as Spartak were concerned).

Michael Laudrup's team were pitted up against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round but were beaten 4-1 at home and away, so they join CSKA in the competition they'll all be calling the Europa League one day. (Not until then, mind you.)

As for CSKA, they’re the Army club that actually won the UEFA Cup back in 2005 and with the likes of current top goalscorer Vagner Love and Russian international defender Yuri Zhirakov in their side, they may well do so again. They've already beaten Croatian side Slaven Belupo 2-1in the First Round first leg earlier this month and should make it through to the group stage when they meet again on October 2nd.

Elsewhere, Spartak aim to build on their 1-0 first leg victory over Banik Ostrava while FC Moscow (fourth last year) will have to come from 2-1 down against Copenhagen if they're to progress with them.

FC Moscow are one of a number of middling clubs that may have to settle for just staying in the top flight this season. Among them are Terek Grozny, runners-up from the Russian First Division last year, currently twelfth in the table and doing somewhat better than the team that came up with them, First Division champions Shinnik Yaroslavl. Shinnik are two points adrift at the bottom of the current RPL table and occupy one of the two relegation places along with FC Khimki in 15th. This Sunday sees Terek playing Khimki while Shinnik play host to Spartak.

And that pretty much covers everything you need to know about the Premier League. We're heading Stateside next week to check out what's happening as the MLS season comes to an end, but for now don't forget that if you have any suggestions for a future League of the Week, leave us a comment or get in touch at our usual email address: info [at] spaotp [dot] com. Until next time, "do svidaniya"...

Weekend TV Preview: September 26 - 28

(All times UK)

Friday 26 September

19.30 FC Koln v FC Schalke, Bundesliga, Setanta Sports 1
Top-of-the-shop Schalke will be looking to find more ways to enrage the demonstrative Koln Head Coach, Christophe Daum. If they can steal a march on their rivals while they're doing it, then that's a bonus.

Saturday 27 September

11.00 Kashiwa Reysol v Kawasaki Frontale, J-League, British Eurosport 2

Frontale are looking to avenge themselves after their 3-1 defeat earlier in the season to Kashiwa. Kawasaki are just six points behind joint leaders Oita Trinita and Gary Lineker's Grampus 8 which satisfies at least one quota on this page.

12.45 Everton v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 & HD1
Any game that ends without Jamie Carragher threatening to set his "boys" on someone has to be a good derby. Look out for some outrageously partisan refereeing in the first half followed by some unbelievably craven evening up in the second.

17.20 Ipswich Town v Crystal Palace, Championship, Sky Sports 1 & HD1
Both teams have high expectations that have failed to be realised yet. Ipswich's brand of football can be pleasing to watch when done right. Palace's Warnockians tend to take a more pragmatic approach. A good clash of styles which is a euphemism for 'watch something else'.

17.30 Arsenal v Hull City, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
Expect Arsene Wenger to rest his stars who demolished Sheffield United midweek in favour of back up players like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie.

19.00 Real Betis v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
Betis are yet to win while Madrid have just clicked into gear after a dodgy start. Saying that, Betis did well away to Barcelona this week, losing to a single Eidur Gudjohnsen goal 10 minutes from time.

20:00 Paris SG v Grenoble, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 2
Seventh v Eighth. Grenoble ought to be pleased with the start they've made to their campaign after promotion from Ligue 2. PSG also have reasons to be cheerful since they've been so abject in recent years. A lively atmosphere awaits afficionados of the French game.

21:00 Espanyol v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
Barca have failed to beat their local rivals in the last four attempts, but they're banging in plenty of goals at the moment. Expect another hard-fought derby this time as well.

22:20 Flamengo v Sport, Brazilian Campeonatos, SportsXchange
Just eight games to go in Serie A. Flamengo sit fifth but will be hoping to climb up thanks to 3rd and 4th playing tomorrow (see below). Losing to mid-table Sport will probably kill off any faint title chances they carried.

Sunday 28th September

13:30 Portsmouth v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 & HD1

Defoe 16. Crouch 18. Modric 44. James (og) 59. Campbell (og) 85. James 90.

14:00 Hibernian v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
The SPL is adopting its familiar holding pattern with the two Glasgow clubs leading the procession. On the second row of the grid are the two Edinburgh clubs. You have to go back nine games before finding a Hibernian win on the list.

16:00 Wigan Athletic v Manchester City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 & HD1
If you can wade through Sky's Robinho sychophancy there is a good game here. City are on fire and Wigan have got Zaki around to get their consolation goal. Lots - 1 to City.

19:00 Valencia v Deportivo, La Liga, Sky Sports 1
Valencia have flown out of the blocks this season and are deservedly top. For Deportivo it looks like another long trudge to mid-table respectability. It really looks like only going one way.

20:00 Sao Paolo v Cruzeiro, Brazilian Campeonatos, SportsXchange
Sao Paolo sit fourth in the table three points behind their third placed visitors. Both teams need the win to try and maintain a title challenge. A draw could effectively turn it into a two horse race.

20:00 Atletico Madrid v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 1
Both teams have started solidly this season and look set for a strong campaign. Last time round this match was a 4-3 thriller. I'm expecting more knockabout fun here.

20:00 Bordeaux v St. Etienne, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 2
Brilliant. I never get a chance to watch St Etienne because after all, who watches football on Saturday or Sunday evening. This weekend I'm in Cologne with the lads so we can dig ourselves in to a handy sports bar to watch it. Altogether now: # "Only love will break your heart..." #

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bundesliga Week 5: Goals that shook the World

When Tim Borowski went to bed last Friday, he may have dreamed about scoring two goals for Bayern against his old team Werder Bremen the following day. If so, his dream did indeed come true as he scored a second half brace at the Allianz Arena. As long as we finish the story there, we can all rest assured that occasionally people's dreams do become reality and learn the true meaning of the Oktoberfest.

Unfortunately we can't leave it there as little Timmy's goals proved to be the classic 'too little too late' consolations after a five goal pasting at the other end by Bremen. I haven't seen a player look quite so miserable after scoring against his old club since... oooh last week?

Bayern's 5-3 home defeat is probably the result of the weekend in Europe. Its true meaning has yet to be contextualised. In theory, it could be seen as a freak result. Bayern have had a decent start to the season and a very reassuring result in Bucharest on their return to the Champions League. From Jurgen Klinsmann's point of view it was as well to get a hiding like this out of the way early in his career as Bayern coach where the pressure is not so intense. At least now everything is out in the open and he can get to work on his defence. As stellar as last season's signings of Ribery and Luca Toni were, the club should strongly consider a marquee signing at the back to instill confidence in the team and the club. You feel that Michael Rensing may not survive for very long either.

As for Bremen, what a magnificent result. Signature performances from Diego and young Ozil carried the day. There was even a goal from returning "hero" Claudio Pizzaro. In Rosenberg they have a lean and hungry finisher. Consistency is the biggest challenge for Thomas Schaaf's team but if they can overcome that then they have the ability to challenge for the title. If nothing else, we are in for some cracking games involving Werder thanks to their open attacking play and accommodating defence.

Had it not been for the rumblings in Bavaria, the result of the week would have been at the Carl Benz Arena where Hoff II handed BVB a right (Gerd) mullering 4-1. Dortmund's post-Schalke hangover continued on Saturday after their shocking display at home to Udinese in the UEFA Cup in midweek. Ibisevic was the master of ceremonies with a double strike in the first half. Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp looked totally bemused by the end of the game and will be looking for a response from his players this weekend at home to Stuttgart.

Speaking of whom, Stuttgart played host to Karlsruhe in the big Swabian-Baden derby. Things went really well for the visitors after Freis put them a goal up. However, strikes from Khedira, Gomez and Marica meant they were dancing in the aisles of the Mercedes Benz Stadion.

Elsewhere, Schalke took top spot thanks to a 1-0 win over Frankfurt and Hamburg's 3-0 defeat to Wolfsburg. The Wolves are playing some cracking football under Felix Magath that demands attention and respect... unfortunately.

Artur Wichniarek's good form continued with another goal for Bielefeld against Koln. Armenia's second goal was something of a calamity in the Koln defence and resulted in some quality fits of rage from their coach Christophe Daum. 'Gladbach lost again, this time at home to Berlin by a goal to nil. Cottbus finally scored a goal this season although it wasn't enough to win the game against Bochum. 1-1 was the final score at the Friendship stadium.

There was another significant result last Friday at the Bayarena. Leverkusen's televised game against Hannover ended in a resounding 4-0 for the home team. Patrick Helmes bagged a hat trick with some superb finishing. A Germany call up cannot be too far way for the young striker. Dieter Hecking looked shell-shocked after the game. Clubs are not so quick to sack coaches in the Bundesliga as they are elsewhere and Hannover had a stack of players out injured. Still, worrying times.

That's it. Results and tables here. Next week, the Bundesbag will be off to Koln. While there, we'll be taking in BVB v Stuttgart plus Aachen v Freiburg. We'll post some pictures when we get back.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mascot Masquerade

Maybe we're getting old, but the launching of the new mascot for the 2010 World Cup has made us feel that people sometimes take things a bit too seriously.

At the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg yesterday, world football's governing body unveiled the latest in a long line of cuddly and lovable characters who, it's hoped, will convey the element of fun that the World Cup holds within.

For the next competition in South Africa, FIFA's World Cup mascot will be a leopard called Zakuni, and it's at this point that we feel obliged to go through our SPAOTP Mascot Feature Checklist.

So let's see… Inane grin? Check… Ill-fitting uniform in the colours of the home nation? Check… Bulging eyes suggesting an underlying serious prostate problem? Check…

Yes, it's all a bit predictable, frankly. The designers have fallen into the trap of using the tried and trusted three step procedure to create the end product, namely (1) Find out which country the competition's going to be held in, (2) Pick an animal / food item / inanimate object associated with that country, and (3) Give it a quirky and if possible stereotypical name that people will hopefully remember.

On that last point, one can at least point to a little bit of originality this time. The name 'Zakuni' comes from 'ZA' (the native abbreviation for 'South Africa') and 'Kuni' meaning '10' in numerous African languages. All well and good, but we guarantee you'll be calling it Zucchini before the week's out.

Once upon a time, it was almost mandatory for any mascot's name to have the phrase 'ito' at the end, as in Juanito (Mexico '70), Gauchito (Argentina '78) and Naranjito (Spain '82 - left). Nowadays, there's a lot more flexibility on both the naming and design of the character to be used. The trouble is, the more originality you employ, the less comprehensible it is to the consumers - sorry, fans - around the world.

Back in 1990, the Italians went back to basics and came up with a mascot which was based on a traditional children's toy made out of building bricks with a football for a head. It had no face, no inane grin and consequently no way of endearing itself with the general public. As for the three amorphous blobs called 'Ato', 'Kaz' and 'Nik' created for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, they arrived with all the appeal of a smoker's handkerchief after a heavy cold.

But whatever the mascot looks like, it's the accompanying corporate spiel that really irritates us. FIFA need only send round a picture of the character to all and sundry and leave it at that, but no. This is the 21st century, therefore it's essential (as far as they're concerned) to give us a vomit-inducing diatribe telling us what the mascot represents.

On this occasion, we're treated to a particularly fine piece of marketing claptrap which states that Zucchini - sorry, Zakuni - "represents the people, geography and spirit of South Africa, personifying in essence the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He symbolizes South Africa and the rest of the African continent through his self-confidence, pride, hospitality, social skills and warm-heartedness."

Lucas Radebe added his two-penneth worth by saying "[Zakuni] wants to create a good mood for the fans and raise the excitement for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first on African soil. He is a proud South African and wants to ensure that the world will come together in South Africa." All those years playing for Leeds United have clearly taken their toll, bless him.

So with all that in mind, how difficult can it be to create a mascot for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? The answer: easy - and to prove it, here's what we've come up with…

Monday, September 22, 2008

Midweek TV Preview: 22 - 25 September

(All times UK)

Monday 22 September

19:45 Kettering v Burton Albion, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
A big week of Non League action kicks off with second placed Kettering against steady eddies Burton, managed by Nigel Clough (or Old Li'l 'ead as he likes to be called). These are two of the league's more stable clubs, unlike some of the others on offer later in the week.

Tuesday 23 September

11:00 Jef United Chiba v Nagoya Grampus 8, J-League, British Eurosport 2
Eurosport have uncovered a bit of a gem in the J League. Definitely a contender for League Of The Week. This week, Gary Lineker's Grampus 8 look to inflect more pain on second bottom Ichhara.

19:45 Oxford Utd v Cambridge Utd, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
Two ex-league clubs, one in trouble, the other said to be in trouble. The varsity element of this game has always been a bit of a red herring. The Bull's latest defeat was at the hands of top club Crawley and pressure is mounting on boss Darren Patterson. There was talk on last week's BBC Non League Football Show that the supporters may protest against the board. Sixth placed Cambridge are only six points off top spot. Even so, expectations are massive and this should be a tasty fixture. If only it didn't clash with...

19:45 Swansea City v Cardiff City, Carling Cup 3rd Round, Sky Sports 2 & HD2
These two could be playing for an empty crisp packet and it would still be a hard fought grudge match. Good to see a League Cup tie worth watching. Despite the tendency for things to kick-off it's good that Sky have chosen to showcase one of football's more intense if lesser known derbies.

20:05 St. Patrick's Athletic v Derry City, Setanta Sports Cup, Setanta Sports 2
Second and third in the League meet in the Cup. The last time these two met in a knock-out competition it was in the Irish FA Cup and it finished 4-3 after extra time.

Wednesday 24 September

19:45 Newcastle Utd v Tottenham Hotspur, Carling Cup 3rd Round, Sky Sports 2 & HD2
Bit of a car crash fixture this. Could be 8-8 after extra time or could end with a tap-in after the first minute deciding the game.

Thursday 25 September

01:00 Defensor v River Plate, Copa Sudamericana, Setanta Sports 2
Uruguay's 2nd placed team face the Argentine giants in this second round encounter.

19:45 Grays v Stevenage, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
There are all sorts of shenanigans occurring at Grays. The Chairman Mike Woodward was also the manager until a couple of weeks ago when he stepped down. He's had to deny all sorts of accusations which our esteemed contemporary Twohundredpercent knows more about than we do. Stevenage manager Graham Westley has recovered somewhat from a torrid start. Worth a look if you can get control of the remote.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

World Cup 2010 Round-up

We know it's been a week or two since the most recent round of World Cup qualifiers took place, but we never quite got round to summing up all the action from outside Europe, so here's our whistle-stop tour of all you need to know, starting with…

South America
It seems we were a little hasty to cast our judgement on Brazil after the September 6th/7th matches. Brazil's surge up to second spot in the table came to a crashing halt when they could only draw 0-0 with bottom-dwellers Bolivia. With Argentina also drawing against the lower-placed Peru 1-1, Paraguay were able to extend their lead at the top by beating Venezuela 2-0.

Cristian Riveros and Nelson Valdez put the game out of reach before half time in Asuncion to leave the Paraguayans four points clear of Brazil, Argentina and a Chile side that bounced back from their 3-0 drubbing against the Brazilians by beating Colombia 4-0.

That result sees Chile push the faltering Colombians out of the automatic qualification places with Uruguay occupying the play-off spot following their goalless stalemate against Ecuador.

Oh and one other piece of late breaking news: Colombia's head coach Jorge Luis Pinto has been fired after his team's recent run of poor form. His replacement's first game will be next month against Paraguay… nice.

Yes, the CONMEBOL section resumes with another double-header programme between October 11th and 15th where the top three all look to be facing (supposedly) weaker opposition. In this part of the world, however, don't be surprised if the likes of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay all slip up somewhere along the line.

North and Central America
As predicted by us (and probably most of you, to be fair), each of the three Third Round groups in the CONCACAF section are all being led by the strong favourites in each one.

The USA have a 100% record after three games in Group 1, the second of which was the historic meeting with Cuba in Havana on September 6th. Clint Dempsey's first half goal proved to be enough in what was a slightly uninspiring performance in front of a partisan crowd of 8,000, and with a more convincing 3-0 home win over Trinidad and Tobago taking place four days later, the States look almost home and dry already in their group. Guatemala are their nearest challengers some five points behind, and despite beating Cuba 4-1 at home they could only earn a 1-1 draw with the Soca Warriors.

In Group 2, Mexico have a maximum nine points to their name and look totally at ease against all-comers thus far. Earlier this month, they beat Jamaica (who this week announced former England star John Barnes would be their new head coach) 3-0 before a narrow 2-1 win over Canada ensued. Honduras almost matched the Mexicans goal for goal after beating the Jamaicans 2-0 four days after their own 2-1 win away to Canada on September 6th. Honduras are now second in Group 2, three points behind Mexico.

Finally in Group 3, Costa Rica lead the way with three wins out of three. In their pair of games this month they managed to score ten (seven at home to Suriname) and concede just one in their away win in Haiti.

El Salvador are doing their best to stay in touch but find themselves three points behind. They managed to notch up a 5-0 win at home to Haiti along with a 2-0 away win in Suriname.

The next double header's played on October 11th and 15th and sees a reversal of the previous two fixtures taking place. That means Cuba go to the USA looking for their first win, Mexico go to Canada hoping to avoid another scare and Costa Rica look to inflate their +10 goal difference tally with a repeat performance against Haiti and Suriname.

We've much to get through here as there's just one fixture remaining for most teams in each of the twelve groups. That means if you're not one of the countries still in with a chance of finishing top, you're probably stand a fair chance of getting one of the eight best runners-up places which also guarantees entry to Round 3.

A few months ago, we told you that Nigeria had become the first team to confirm their place in the next stage of the African qualifying competition, and this month three more managed to join them - Cameroon and Benin.

In Group 1, Cameroon got the vital win they needed by beating the Cape Verde Islands 2-1 but the islanders could yet grab one of those valuable second place finishes if they can get at least a draw against Tanzania next month.

In Group 3, Benin beat nearest challengers Angola 3-2 this month leaving the Angolans and Uganda to fight over the runners-up spot. The final round of games in the group see Uganda play at home against the already qualified Benin while Angola are at home to bottom-placed Niger. An intriguing finish to that group looks to be on the cards.

In the other groups, there are more permutations surrounding who could go through than there are English words in Juande Ramos' vocabulary. In Group 10, any of the four teams involved could yet progress, although leaders on goal difference Mali had to suffer a recent defeat against second-placed Congo. They'll be grateful to face bottom-of-the-group Chad next month while a resurgent Sudan play hosts to the Congolese.

Group 12 is almost as tight with the top three all still looking to go through to Round 3 in October. Egypt have a three point lead at the top and should be all set to confirm their place when they play Djibouti next month as their opponents are yet to pick up a point thus far. But it's the teams in second and third place, DR Congo and Malawi that will battle it out to go through when they meet in Blantyre in three weeks' time. DR Congo won 1-0 in their first encounter in June but may be feeling less than confident after their recent defeat by the same score at home to the Egyptians.

Only one point covers the top three in Group 6, so that means Algeria's slender lead of one point may yet prove insufficient as Gambia and Senegal follow on in hot pursuit. As it is, Algeria may be the more relaxed going into the final fixtures on October 11th and 12th as they play the only team in the group that can't go through - Liberia. Senegal play Gambia in Dakar needing to win if they're to reach the Finals again after a six-year absence.

In a tight Group 7, Ivory Coast find themselves leading the way despite drawing three of their five matches so far - the most recent being against Mozambique a fortnight ago. The Ivorians' final game comes at home to their only challengers, Madagascar. A draw will be enough for Ivory Coast to go through, but a win for their opponents by four clear goals will see them swap places. At that point, The Elephants will have to suffer the lottery of the runners-up placing system, but to be honest, we don't think it'll come to that. Both sides drew 0-0 in Antananarivo back in June, and a similar result may yet prevail.

By way of a sum-up, here's the need-to-know on the remaining groups. Libya need just a draw against second-placed Gabon in Group 5 while a slip-up for Gabon could let Ghana through to take one of the top two spots if they can beat lowly Lesotho.

Morocco play host to Mauritania next month looking for the win that will secure their place in Round 3. They currently lie second in Group 8 behind Rwanda, but a win will put the Moroccans top on goal difference. In Group 9, however, Tunisia look as though they'll have to qualify as one of the best runners-up. They're currently three points behind leaders Burkino Faso with a much inferior goal difference. The two sides recently fought out a goalless draw in Burkino Faso leaving the hosts as good as qualified for the next stage.

Finally in Group 2, a draw between Kenya and Guinea will be good enough to see the former go through, and perhaps the latter too if they turn out to be one of the best runners-up while in Group 11, Zambia will be watching on helplessly as Togo play at home to Swaziland. A draw or a win for Togo will see the Zambians make it to the third round while a win for Swaziland will mean they're knocked off the top and entering the runners-up lottery.

It's still early days here in the fourth and final round so there's not too much in the way of excitement at the moment. In Group 1, Japan got a win in their first and only match so far, 3-2 away to the Bahrainis while Australia also got their campaign underway with a 1-0 away to the Uzbeks. Qatar top the group, though, after beating Uzbekistan 3-0 and drawing 1-1 with Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia are top of Group 2, picking up four points out of their first six with a draw at home to Iran and a win in the United Arab Emirates. North Korea join them on four points following an impressive 2-1 win in the UAE and a 1-1 draw with their South Korean counterparts.

The top two in each group are guaranteed a place in the 2010 Finals while the two teams finishing third play each other in a play-off, the winner of that going on to another play-off with the winner of the Oceania section. If only we knew who that might be...

New Zealand are the winners of the Oceania section after a brace of victories over closest challengers New Caledonia. That means with one match left to play against Fiji, the All Whites are assured of a high-profile showdown with one of the Asian elite as well as a place in next year's FIFA Confederations Cup.

Well done to them on a competent qualifying campaign and let's hope they can go one better by reaching South Africa in 2010, if only to silence those people who snigger about the Oceania section being a waste of time.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #79

The Fine Art of Management
The 9 Largest Fines Imposed on Premier League Managers by the FA

1. £200,000 (reduced to £75,000 on appeal)
Jose Mourinho (Chelsea, June 2005) for an illegal approach to Arsenal's Ashley Cole

2. £20,000
Graeme Souness (Newcastle, June 2005) for criticising the referee in a match against Everton

3. £15,000
Graeme Souness (Blackburn, October 2002) following his sending off during a match against Liverpool

4. £15,000
Arsene Wenger (Arsenal, December 2004) for comments made about Man United's Ruud van Nistlerooy

5. £10,000
Arsene Wenger (Arsenal, February 2001) after an incident with the fourth official at a match against Sunderland

6. £10,000
Graeme Souness (Blackburn, April 2002) for verbally abusing the referee in a match against Middlesbrough

7. £10,000
Sir Alex Ferguson (Man United, December 2003) for verbally abusing officials in a match against Newcastle

8. £10,000
Graeme Souness (Blackburn, May 2004) for an altercation with a referee following a match against Fulham

9. £10,000
Arsene Wenger (Arsenal, December 2006) for an altercation with West Ham manager Alan Pardew

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Weekend TV Preview: 19 - 21 September

(All times UK)

Friday 19 September

19.30 Bayer Leverkusen v Hannover 96, Bundesliga, Setanta Sports 1
Last week, Bayer shipped three goals and Hannover scored five. These Friday night Bundesliga games have been largely disappointing, so lets hope they put on a good show.

Saturday 20 September

07.00 Kashiwa Reysol v Kashima Antlers, J-League, British Eurosport 2 What finer way to start your weekend than with some J League action over breakfast. If Setanta had this game they'd call it "The Clash Of The Kash". The second-placed Antlers have had the upper hand in this fixture and will be keen to put pressure on leaders Gary Lineker's Grampus 8.

12.30 Aberdeen v Dundee Utd, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
These two have something in common: They have both bean beaten by supposed whipping boys Hamilton. Two teams in bad form, it'll probably end 4-4 then.

17.30 Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
After hogging Man City, Setanta return to their usual place on the under-card which will have your non-Setanta subscribing Arsenal-supporting friends casually asking you what you're up to Saturday evening.

19.00 Atletico Madrid v Recreativo, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
It was a good week for Spanish teams in the Champions League, with Atletico pulling out the performance of the round with a 3-0 away win at PSV. Hard to see Recreativo stopping them on this form.

21.00 Espanyol v Getafe, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
Two one-nil wins see Espanyol top of the table after the opening games. Both teams finished bottom half last season so there's not much between them. Getafe, however, have put five past the Espanyol a couple of times in recent meetings.

22.20 Atletico-MG v Nautico, Brazilian Campeonatos, SportsXchange
Mid-season, mid-table clash - nothing great on offer here.

Sunday 21 September

11.30 Feyenoord v Ajax, Eredivisie, Setanta Sports 1
If you've read our Eredivisie special you'll be looking forward to the clash of these two giants. Both teams occupy mid-table after their mediocre start and will be looking to this fixture to get things kicked off in earnest.

12.00 West Bromwich Albion v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 & HD1
Big local derby between two teams who will always give the opposition a chance to play. Must watch.

14.00 Chelsea v Manchester United, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 & HD1
Expect John Terry to be put under severe pressure by those United forwards. The England captain may have managed to convince the FA that grabbing people by the waist is not serious foul play but his deficiencies were cruelly exposed in that single moment. He may leave Old Trafford wishing he'd been suspended.

16.00 Kilmarnock v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
The second of an Old Firm double for Killie. Last week Rangers put the skids on their good start to the season. Can they upset Celtic after their post Aalborg hangover? You decide... well actually they do, but you get the idea.

18.00 Racing Santander v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 2
Racing play the champions having already faced Barcelona and Sevilla this season, getting two draws. Having finished strongly last season they'll fancy their chances at home to Real.

20.00 Sport v Sao Paolo, Brazilian Campeonatos, SportsXchange

These two have had pretty similar seasons so far and are just four points apart in the top half of the table. Both very strong at home but entirely indifferent away. Sao Paolo, currently fourth and a handful of places above Sport, will need to post only their second away win in nine attempts if they are to close in on the top.

20.00 Sporting Gijon v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 2
Back in the the top flight after a 10 year absence, Gijon came close to beating Sevilla last weekend, being edged out 4-3 after taking an early two goal lead. Hopefully the defeat won't have shaken them too much for this one.

20.00 Marseille v Monaco, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 1
Monaco finished comfortably mid-table last season and haven't shown any more ambition this time around. Marseille have a real chance of overturning Lyon this campaign, they were unlucky against Liverpool mid-week but it shouldn't affect this match. Monaco have lost their last five games against Marseille and haven't won their since 2003.

League Of The Week: Netherlands / Eredivisie

It is a matter of statistical fact that 89.7% of everything ever written in the UK press about Dutch football has been about the national team. Of that, 72% includes the words "turn" and "Cruyff". OK, that's probably completely untrue but it does reflect the relatively low profile of Dutch club football internationally. When we think of great Dutch footballers we don't always think of them in the club colours of Ajax or Eindhoven but of Barcelona or AC Milan.

So what better opportunity to, in a very small way, redress the balance than by making our second instalment of League Of The Week all about the Dutch Eredivisie?

The season started in the same week as the southern Europeans in Italy and Spain this year so is only into its second week. As is customary with early season tables, there is a distinctly unfamiliar look about the top of the table.

For starters, traditional powerhouses Ajax have not had the best of starts to the campaign. The Amsterdam club lost their first match to Willem II who are based in the south of the Netherlands.

Ajax did manage an unconvincing 1-0 victory against the south-western club Roda in the former mining town of Kerkrade. Expectations are high under new coach Marco van Basten that he will return this legendary club to its former glory and win the title for the first time since the 2003/2004 season. The club will point to the retention of Klaas Jan-Huntelaar (left) as a sign of their ambition.

In recent years however, the championship as gone to PSV Eindhoven who are doing a bit of a Lyon and hoping to ape their French counterparts dominance of the League. Eindhoven is another southern club and are two for two this season so far. Last weekend they squeaked past Sparta Rotterdam thanks to a single goal from Ibrahim Afellay. It was the Dutch international's third goal of the season after scoring a brace in the previous round against his home town of Utrecht, a game that ended 5-1 to PSV. Things didn't go too well for them in the Champions League, though, as they got thrashed 3-0 at home against Atletico Madrid.

Despite Eindhoven's good start, it was not enough to put them on top of the fledgling table. Above them are two other clubs with 100% records. In second place is FC Groningen. The northern club are there thanks to a 2-0 victory against the hapless Utrecht and an even more satisfying demolition at Vittesse Arnhem, 4-0. Groningen's next game is against the perennially strong Feyenoord who themselves have been no stranger to the back of the net.

The Rotterdam club were 5-0 victors last weekend but 3-1 losers the weekend before thanks to Heracles who are based in Almelo to the west of the country. Newcastle supporters will be dismayed to learn that Jon Dahl Tomasson is still banging them in for Feyernoord.

So that leaves newly promoted Den Haag at the top. The Dutch capital is not known as a footballing hotbed and they are not expected to maintain such a lofty position for long. However, they did beat the mighty AZ Alkmaar to get there and will be loving every moment. Striker Richard Knopper (right) has been among the goals with three in two matches.

That pretty much covers that but we couldn't possibly leave without giving you an update of Steve McClaren and his new club FC Twente. Well in fact its an unbeaten start for the former England coach with two 1-1 draws against Roda and NEC Nijmegen. The Enschede based club are ambitious and will be hoping for a good showing in the UEFA Cup this season after having been so narrowly beaten by Arsenal in the Champions League qualifiers 6-0 on aggregate. They travel to Stade Rennes in France tonight for the first leg. Strangely, the match isn't being carried here in the UK.

Eredivisie matches can be seen on Setanta Sports in the UK and for more information on those, check out our regular Some People Are On The Pitch TV Previews. If you have a request for the next League Of The Week, why not leave a comment below?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bundesbag Week 4: Pity poor Poldie

You never quite know how a returning hero will be greeted in football. I remember when Ian Wright was sold from Palace to Arsenal he got a right earful from the fans. He replied by scoring the goals that got The Eagles relegated and celebrated as though he'd won the World Cup.

Other players have a much better relationship with supporters of their old clubs. Andy Johnson is well known for not celebrating scoring against Man United and Birmingham respectively.

Both players walked back to the centre circle with quiet dignity. This is not
something that could be said about Lucas Podolski's return to Koln on Saturday.

Podolski left Cologne for Bayern two seasons ago after the latter were relegated. Since he arrived he's made it pretty clear where his heart remains. In fact sometimes he comes across like a player who has been forced out on loan rather than transferred for lots of money to one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

Anyhoo, last weekend saw the returning hero start Bayern's game at Koln on the bench where he spent most of the time signing programmes for the home supporters. When Kilnsie had decided he'd signed enough he sent Poldolski on the pitch where he received a rapturous welcome.

Bayern were 1-0 up from a goal by Luca Toni. The Italian doubled his tally and with the game won, Podolski put an easy chance away for the third. Being the emotional fella that he is rather than the quiet and dignified walk back to up the pitch, he fell to the ground and buried his head in the grass, stricken with grief or something. Toni wandered over to the ungrateful primadonna and ruffled his hair in sympathy, no doubt muttering "Get up you tart" under his breath, in Italian obviously.

The win for the champions moves them up to second after an unsteady start. Above them are Hamburg whose manager Martin Jol must be laughing his tits off every time he looks at the Premier League tables. His latest win was in a five goal thriller with Leverkusen. They were 2-0 down after 24 minutes and fought back to win with goals with from Guerrero and the two Craotians Olic and Petric.

Bremen's start to the season has been pretty awful by their standards and had to work hard against a dogged Cottbus, before Diego broke their spirit in the 75th minute. Goals from the returning Frings and Sanogo put some gloss on the performance.

Elsewhere, 'Gladbach are finding it tough going in the Bundesliga since their promotion. They found themselves on the end of a (gerd) mullering by Hannover. A brace a-piece from Szabolcs Huszti and Jan Schlaudraff plus a Brucie Bonus from Mikael Forsell. Hoffenheim and Stutgart played out a 0-0 draw while Berlin and Wolfsburg played out an entertaining 2-2 draw. Bochum will have targeted their home game to Bielefeld as 'must win' which is as well for them because that's exactly what they did, 2-0.

Which leaves us with the big derby: BVB v Schalke. The intensity of the fixture should not be downplayed. It is the biggest local derby in Germany and has been all the spikier since Schalke blew their title at the Westfalon two seasons ago. It was there that 80,000 plus turned up on Saturday to watch one of the most extraordinary matches so far anywhere this season.

Schalke took 3-0 lead with a penalty from debutant Jefferson Farfan and strikes from Rafinha and Heiko Westerman. Then it went wrong for the Royal Blues. The fun began when Alex Frei returned after his heart-breaking injury in Euro 2008 (right). He set up Subotic's 'consolation'.

Then Frei himself got in on the action just before Christian Pander was sent off. Pander wasn't playing with his rubber duck in the bath alone for long. He was joined by Fabian Ernst for a bad foul on Florian Kringe. The nine men hung on bravely until Mladen Krstajic handled in the box. Frei completed a triumphant comeback by slotting home the penalty and blowing the roof off the ground.

That's it. Results and tables are here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The SPAOTP Sponsorship Survival Guide

With the demise of West Ham's official shirt sponsor, travel firm XL, and Man United's equivalent, AIG, asking New York state for a multi-billion dollar loan to 'stabilise its finances' (give that one a try next time you meet your bank manager), you might be wondering whether the sponsors of any other Premier League clubs are about to go to the wall.

We certainly did, which is why we bring you our not-particularly-scientific report from the world of big business and high finance…

Arsenal: Emirates
Let's face it - if you were going to hook up with an international airline as your main sponsor during a time of rising fuel prices, it's probably wise to choose one from a country that runs most of the world's oil fields. Last year, in spite of the economic downturn, Emirates made a profit of around £759 million quid - enough to ensure their name remains plastered all over The Gunners' stadium for at least another year with sufficient left over to wave in the face of Alitalia's Chief Executive.
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 9/10

Aston Villa: Acorn
Here's an exception to the rule - Aston Villa aren't so much sponsored by Acorn Children's Hospices as the other way around. For the first time in Premier League history, a club has abandoned the practice of taking as much money from the highest possible bidder, instead choosing to advertise this local registered charity which provides care for over 600 life-limited children and supports their families, too. Long may it continue, and if anyone from West Ham or West Brom are reading this, have you picked up any ideas for shirt sponsorship in the last ten seconds or so?
SPAOTP Survival Rating: N/A

Blackburn: Crown Paints
Er, yes. What can one say… Surely Crown Paints aren't like to go out of business anytime soon, are they? I mean, everyone needs paint, don't they? When did you ever hear about a paint company going into administration? Come to think of it, when did you ever hear about a paint company full stop? No, Crown Paints were around when Liverpool were ruling the old First Division and they'll be around when you and I are long gone too. I just wish they'd bring back that old sheepdog for their adverts. Wait a minute - that was Dulux…
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 7/10

Bolton: Reebok
Yes, Reebok - that British Sportswear company whose future took a distinctly different turn when Adidas bought them out in 2006. Still, Adidas look set to remain as omnipresent as they ever were, raking in one multi-million pound profit after another - the only question is 'how long will the Reebok brand name last for?' No-one seems to know (including us) so don't be surprised if Bolton suddenly stride out in an Adidas kit one day in the not-too-distant future.
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 8/10

Chelsea: Samsung
Electronic giants par excellence, Samsung remain one of the big players in the market, producing every electrical item from vacuum cleaners to mobile phones. And let's face it, the mobile phone boom continues to… er… boom, so don't expect the credit crunch to put even a slight dent in the prospects of this South Korean company. They're here to stay and will always be the best company you can go to when it comes to purchasing your next mobile phone.
(So can I have my free upgrade now, please, Samsung? It's my SGH-G600, you see… the slidey cover doesn't quite work properly and it keeps losing all my ringtones…)
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 10/10

Everton: Chang Beer
They say that even in the deepest economic crisis, people will still buy chocolate, but there's a school of thought that the same applies to beer. If nothing else, it gets you so drunk you don't even realise the world around you is crumbling around you, but who do you know that drinks Chang Beer? Maybe they've got it on the menu down at your local Thai restaurant, but that's probably about all. Then again, if most of Thailand's drinking it, there shouldn't be any problems with it suffering from a lack of popularity. No problems here, we feel.
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 8/10

Fulham: LG
Yet another South Korean consumer electronics giant and arguably bigger than Samsung. A family of almost thirty sub-companies and co-partner with people like Philips and Hitachi, Lucky Goldstar (for that's their proper name) can also afford to be largely ignorant of the mess going on around them in this day and age. A shrewd business deal by Mohammed Al Fayed who knows a thing or two about acquiring a sizeable personal wealth.
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 10/10

Hull City: Kingston Communications
The biggest telecomms company in the world... are what Kingston Communications would like to be, but for now they're merely serving the fine folk of Kingston-upon-Hull. A big fish in a small pond, you might say, but with spiralling utility bills starting to affect your average UK household, will Joe Public turn to one of the millions of other companies providing similar services, hmmm? How long before the dot-com bubble bursts, hmmm? Are we quite possibly talking cobblers, hmmm?
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 6/10

Liverpool: Carlsberg
Carlsberg don't do credit crunches, but if they did, they'd probably be the best credit crunches in the world.
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 10/10

Manchester City: Thomas Cook
Given what happened to XL recently, you'd be excused for thinking any kind of collaboration with a travel company looks set to fail these days, but Thomas Cook are above all that. They've been going for donkey's years and have recently told all and sundry that there seems to be no let up in the number of people going abroad for their holidays. The thing is, as they put their prices up to make the most of the constant demand, so people will go elsewhere. Will their over-confidence prove to be their undoing? Time will tell…
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 8/10

Middlesbrough: Garmin Sat-Nav
Ask someone to name a maker of in-car satellite navigation systems, and people will say 'Tom Tom'. 'Nuff said. If Garmin wanna change that, they may have to drop the prices of their automotive hardware which in turn may affect profits, etc, etc, etc. There we are - another financial profile sorted. No FT - no waffle.
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 7/10

Newcastle: Northern Rock
Let's not waste our time with this one...
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 0/10

Portsmouth: OKI
All we know about this company is that they used to make rather shonky dot matrix printers back in the days of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. Presumably nowadays they're making comparable shonky colour laser printers instead, but don't quote us on that. We're sure their printers are really very good nowadays. Actually we recommend you go out and buy one immediately. Please don't sue us, OKI…
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 7/10

Stoke: Britannia Building Society
Britain's second biggest mutual lender after the Nationwide might be on shakier ground than you think. Their subsidiary company, Platform, relies on capital markets for much of the money it lends, and we all know how well the markets have been doing over the last few days or so. Will Stoke be the next team to embarrassingly cover their replica shirts with a large patch of fabric? All we'll say is the trusty old floorboards look like a good option if you're a Britannia customer…
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 3/10

Sunderland: Boyle Sports
It's probably no bad time to be one of Ireland's biggest betting companies. With household bills going up along with the cost of food, many people are only too happy to increase their monthly incomings by frittering their salary away on the 4.15 at Leopardstown. Nothing to worry about if you’re a fan of the Black Cats.
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 8/10

Tottenham: Mansion
And the same goes for Tottenham who are hooked up with a big name in online gambling and casinos. Yes, there's much to be gained from having a wild punt on a vague uncertainty, but history tells us it can all go wrong, as was proved by the appointment of Christian Gross as Head Coach back in 1997.
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 8/10

West Brom: No sponsor

Wigan: JJB Sports
JJB may no longer make the kits, but it's their name that's still on the shirts, however that may now be about to change. Back in April, JJB announced a drop in profits of some 70%, signalling the closure of 72 of its high street stores. Many blame the failure of England to qualify for Euro 2008 last year as a reason why people weren't rushing out to buy replica shirts from its shops, and with England's future looking decidedly unpredictable, JJB may have to take further economic problems squarely on the chin. Wigan fans - keep your fingers crossed that Fabio can pull some more results out of the bag like the one last Wednesday…
SPAOTP Survival Rating: 5/10

Monday, September 15, 2008

Midweek TV Preview: 16 - 18 September

Monday 15 September

20.00 Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
Spurs' first win of the season isn't too far away. It might not be tonight though. Should be a good contest between two well-matched sides.

Tuesday 16 September

19.45 Chelsea v Bordeaux, UEFA Champions League Group A, ITV4
A first chance for most viewers to see Laurent Blanc's Bordeaux variety which is said to be entertaining and non-uncompromising-centre-half like. No doubt the pundits will predict a win for Chelsea and on this occasion they're probably right.

19.45 Roma v CFR Cluj-Napoca, UEFA Champions League Group A, Sky Sports Interactive
Having guided his team to their first ever appearance in the group stages, the Cluj head coach Ioan Andone was sacked after a poor start to the domestic season. This has angered the football gods who have decreed that Roma give them an utter pasting on Tuesday. It shall be so.

19.45 Panathinaikos v Inter Milan, UEFA Champions League Group B, Sky Sports Xtra & HD3
Its been an easy-ozy start to the the season for Inter and the Greeks will reckon Jose's fancy-dans won't like it up 'em. Expect a suitably fawning interview with the Special One from Sky after the game with Richard Keys saying 'Never a dull moment with Jose Mourinho around...' to a disinterested Graeme Souness.

19.45 Werder Bremen v Anorthosis Famagusta, UEFA Champions League Group B, Sky Sports Interactive
Bremen's unsteady start to the Bundesliga season was made a little more steady by the thrashing of Energie Cottbus at the weekend. There is a whiff of 'we're just happy to be here...' about Famagusta. However, the conquerors of Olympiacos will fancy their chances against the Germans and will be given plenty of them too.

19.45 Barcelona v Sporting Lisbon, UEFA Champions League Group C, Sky Sports 2 & HD2
A nice blend of styles between these two great European teams and a good antidote to the English stuff on ITV.

19.45 Basle v Shakhtar Donetsk, UEFA Champions League Group C, Sky Sports Interactive
After nine games, Basle are five points clear at the top of the Swiss Super League. Shakhtar have not had such a great start and are languishing in 11th in their domestic league. In truth, there is not much to whet the appetite of the neutral unless you like being alternative down the pub. 'Er no actually I watched FC Baal play Donyetsk. It was one of the best nil-nils I've ever seen..."

19.45 Marseille v Liverpool, UEFA Champions League Group D, ITV1 & HD
Marseille have got themselves together and could have a go at the French League this season. They'd have loved to be playing the Liverpool that narrowly beat Liege the other week. Unfortunately, they are more likely to be playing the Liverpool that beat Manchester United on Saturday.

19.45 PSV v Atletico Madrid, UEFA Champions League Group D, Sky Sports Interactive
Two really good teams here. Atletico's return to the Champions League after an 11-year absence pits them against serial qualifiers PSV. Should be a cracker.

Wednesday 17 September

19.45 Celtic v Aalborg, UEFA Champions League Group E, Sky Sports Xtra
Aalborg will need to rely heavily on manager Bruce Rioch's knowledge of the British game if they're to get anything from Parkhead, a place where only Barcelona have won in the Champions League.

19.45 Manchester Utd v Villarreal, UEFA Champions League Group E, Sky Sports 2 & HD2
Good to see Villareal back at the top table. Just the sort of team to stick it to the champions as well. Not at Old Trafford though.

19.45 Lyon v Fiorentina, UEFA Champions League Group F, Sky Sports Interactive
Another former Champs League absentee is back after their travails with the bankers and the crooks. The best thing about La Viola's return to the big time is that the much maligned former Milan striker Gillardino will most likely be playing while his old comrades are reduced to playing in the UEFA Cup. Stitch that, Berlusconi.

19.45 Steaua Bucuresti v Bayern Munich, UEFA Champions League Group F, Sky Sports Interactive
Possible upset on the cards. Steaua are in good touch and Klinsie's open, attacking, relaxed attitude to defending brand of football may not hold much water in Bucharest, not without Ribery at any rate.

19.45 Dynamo Kiev v Arsenal, UEFA Champions League Group G, Sky Sports 3 & HD3
Kiev has not proved the happiest of hunting grounds for The Gunners. No doubt Comrade Wenger will be happy to come home with a point and a clean bill of health.

19.45 FC Porto v Fenerbahce, UEFA Champions League Group G, Sky Sports Interactive
Porto could easily have been kicked out of the competition for cheating. As it is, they face a tricky opener against Luis Aragones's new team. Will the fat old racist be looking to make it a country and club double?

19.45 Juventus v Zenit St Petersburg, UEFA Champions League Group H, Sky Sports Interactive
As long as Zenit don't allow the occasion to get to them, they are well capable of beating Juve. The Old Lady's best attackers (Del Piero & Trezuget) will probably start from the bench and Mellberg has not settled in at the back yet. Arshavin could tear them a new... well I don't think I need to draw a picture.

19.45 Real Madrid v BATE, UEFA Champions League Group H, Sky Sports Interactive
'I just told them to go out and enjoy themselves. I didn't mean go and lose 5-0'

Thursday 18 September

02.00 Palmeiras v Vasco, Copa Sudamericana, Setanta Sports 2
While the two teams have had vastly different fortunes in their domestic league, Vasco take a 3-1 first leg lead to Sao Paolo. The two teams are due to repeat this fixture in the League in three days time.

15.20 Litex Lovech v Aston Villa, UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg, Five
Conveniently for Five, the three games they wanted to cover don't appear to overlap. Convenient for them, that is - not for anyone who works normal office hours.

18.00 AS Nancy v Motherwell, UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg, BBC2 Scotland
Nancy have had an indifferent start to their domestic campaign but are tough to beat on their own turf, having lost only once in all competitions in the last year. Motherwell's season has started even worse though. They'll be happy with a draw and will probably play for it.

18.00 Omonia Nicosia v Manchester City, UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg, Sky1 & HD
Omonia knocked out AEK Athens to get here, a result which probably puts their 12 points in next year's Eurovision seriously in jeopardy. They'll put up a solid show against City... it's got 0-0 written all over this.

18.00 Portsmouth v Vitoria Guimaraes, UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg, Five
Vitoria's last encounter with a Premier League team was a 1-1 draw with Bolton three years ago. They've been relegated and promoted since then so you shouldn't read too much into it. Don't know why I mentioned it really. Another dour UEFA Cup first leg.

20.05 Everton v Standard Liege, UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg, Five
Visiting the city of Liverpool for the second time in a month, Liege will feel they still have something to prove. The importance for Everton to put on a good showing here will not be lost on David Moyes and his players.

20.10 Tottenham Hotspur v Wisla Krakow, UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg, Setanta Sports 1
Knowing Tottenham, they'll probably cruise the first hour of this and take a two goal lead - only to concede one late on setting up a tricky away leg.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

FA Cup: First Qualifying Round

This week, we at Some People Are On The Pitch have been focusing heavily on the recent World Cup 2010 qualifiers. That's all well and good, but we've always prided ourselves on our ability to bring you a running buffet of stuff across the football spectrum.

To prove our point, we'd like to bring to your attention today's First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup (sponsored by E.On).

The preliminary rounds are out of the way and here begins the run-in to the First Round Proper when the League 1 and League 2 clubs join in.

Today there are a few notable ties you might want to keep an eye on. Remember Sutton United? You know, the Sutton United that knocked out Coventry City in the Third Round in 1989. Well they're at home to Cray Wanderers and are aiming to reach the First Round proper again this season. They've started well in their first few games, so a win could well be on the cards down at the Borough Sports Ground today.

There's a top-v-bottom clash at the Middlesex Stadium as Ryman League Division One North leaders East Thurrock take on Hillingdon Borough in their own back yard. Though the home side will be considered the underdogs, they'll feel they have a chance to pull off a surprise as East Thurrock have conceded five goals in their last two games.

Finally, the Police will be out in force today in East Molesey. They're not expecting any crowd trouble - they'll actually be playing. Yes, the Metropolitan Police take on Corby Town this afternoon, hoping to reach the First Round proper for only the fourth time in their 89-year history.

It's been fifteen years since they last got through the qualifiers, Crawley Town putting an end to that run. This season, they're unbeaten in six Ryman League Division One South fixtures but that form will be put to the test by Corby who are currently second in the British Gas Business Premier Division. If you're heading down to Imber Court this afternoon, expect an arresting 90 minutes of action to ensue...

Once again, and are doing a sterling job of covering as much of the action as possible today. Here's a list of the matches they'll be covering in your part of the UK:
Sutton United V Cray Wanderers
Stewarts & Lloyds (Corby) v Croydon Athletic

Cambridge City v Lowestoft

Aston United v Kendal Town (provisional/tbc)

Buxton v Bootle

Truro City v Yate

Hednesford v Atherstone

Thamesmead v Great Wakering Rovers

Tyne Tees:
Ashington v Durham

Garforth Town v Ossett Town

Fleet Town v Cowes

Poole Town v Merthyr Tydfil

Failing that, why not get along to your local match in person? Full details of all the fixtures can be found on the website.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #78

Once every twelve years ain't bad...
The Only 8 Instances Of Luxembourg Winning A Competitive International Match Since 1911

1. v Portugal (Won 4-2, World Cup qualifier, 1961)
2. v Netherlands (Won 2-1, European Championship qualifier, 1963)
3. v Turkey (Won 2-0, World Cup qualifier, 1972)
4. v Malta (Won 1-0, European Championship qualifier, 1995)
5. v Czech Republic (Won 1-0, European Championship qualifier, 1995)
6. v Malta (Won 1-0 (again), European Championship qualifier, 1995)
7. v Belarus (Won 1-0, European Championship qualifier, 2007)
8. v Switzerland (Won 2-1, World Cup qualifier, 2008)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Attention all England fans in the UK!

If you're one of the many millions of people that missed out on the chance to see England beat Croatia 4-1 last night, fear not.

You now have a chance to see extended highlights on terrestrial TV this evening, thanks to ITV1.

Mark Sharman, Director of ITV News and Sport said: "We’re pleased to have secured the highlights of last night’s 4-1 victory. We know there is a huge demand to watch England and we’re glad we can offer fans a chance to see the action."

ITV holds the rights to broadcast live coverage of all of England’s competitive home fixtures until 2012 beginning with England v Kazakhstan live on ITV1 on October 11.

The one hour highlights programme will be broadcast immediately after News at Ten at 10.35 pm tonight, so if you want to see England's greatest footballing victory since the 5-1 win over Germany seven years ago, follow your nose and check out ITV1 this evening.

You'd be a fool not to...


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