Friday, April 30, 2010

Jeu Du Jour Podcast - Week 34

Our second Jeu du Jour Podcast brings you news of Marseille's continuing dominance, Montpellier's continuing sequence of draws, Bordeaux's continuing capitulation and lots more besides including news of this weekend's French Cup Final.


The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #162

You'll win nothing with kids...
The 12 Youngest Managers And Coaches In The Premier League And Football League
(as at April 30 2010)

1. Eddie Howe, Bournemouth (aged 32, born November 29 1977)
2. Terry Skiverton, Yeovil Town (aged 34, born June 26 1975)
3. Roberto Martínez , Wigan Athletic (aged 36, born July 13 1973)
4. Chris Sutton, Lincoln City (aged 37, born March 10 1973)
5. Paul Tisdale, Exeter City (aged 37, born January 14 1973)
6. Lee Clark, Huddersfield Town (aged 37, born October 26 1972)
7. Andy Scott, Brentford (aged 37, born August 2 1972)
8. Paul Trollope, Bristol Rovers (aged 37, born June 3 1972)
9. Malky Mackay, Watford (aged 38, born February 19 1972)
10. Darren Ferguson, Preston North End (aged 38, born February 9 1973)
11. Roy Keane, Ipswich Town (aged 38, born August 10 1971)
12. Paul Peschisolido, Burton Albion (aged 38, born May 25 1971)

Weekend TV Preview: 1 - 3 May 2010

Saturday 1st May

07:00 Vegalta Sendai v Cerezo Osaka , J League, British Eurosport 2
A clash between two J-League mid-tablers to start off with. This one’s worth getting up early for, if only in the hope of hearing ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ – Vegalta’s theme song as belted out by their fans before every home game. Honestly, this stuff just writes itself sometimes.

12:30 Hibernian v Hearts, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
The laughably titled ‘Championship Group’ has opened with both these teams losing both of their opening two games. A win for Hibs in this Edinburgh Derby, however, will keep their hopes of a Europa League place well and truly alive.

12:45 Birmingham City v Burnley, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
One of the few remaining chances to see Burnley in those shirts with the special Premier League logo on the sleeve. And to think Burnley were 9th in the table when these two last met in October…

16:30 Bangor City v Port Talbot Town, Welsh Cup Final, S4C
“I took my wife to North Wales last week.”
“Mind your own business…”

19:45 AC Milan v Fiorentina, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Who do you believe… Silvio Berlusconi, who says that Leonardo’s days as Milan coach are numbered, or vice-president Adriano Galliani, who says this is not the case? Such distractions won’t help Milan as they try to nail that last Champions League spot for next season, but Fiorentina look unlikely to take advantage of the situation.

21:00 Villarreal v Barcelona , La Liga, Sky Sports 3 / HD3
It seems the world has now finally reached a consensus on Barca’s purchase of Ibrahimovic: it was a bad move. Him aside, Guardiola’s team should be a full-strength one (or as near as dammit) as they attempt to step up a gear in their title challenge and derail Villarreal’s Champions League aspirations in one fell swoop.

Sunday 2nd May

13:00 Sheffield Wednesday v Crystal Palace, Championship, BBC1/BBC HD
It has come to this. The final day of the Championship season (play-offs notwithstanding) and both these teams are separated by just two points – Wednesday currently one place inside the relegation zone, Palace one place above it. Alan Irvine’s side have to win if they’re to stay up, and for that reason he’ll be playing four men up front (so a Wednesday-supporting friend of mine tells me). Palace, however, will escape the drop if it finishes a draw – not that they’ll be playing for one, we suspect. A large capacity crowd will make this a tremendous occasion for all concerned… but spare a thought for our Terry who’s nerves may be torn to shreds by three o’clock on Sunday afternoon.

13:00 Blackpool v Bristol City, Championship, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Meanwhile at the other end of the table, Blackpool have the chance to reach the promotion play-offs by beating The Robins. A draw will only be good enough if Swansea, one place below Blackpool in the table, lose at home to Doncaster. Could happen…

13:30 NAC Breda v FC Twente, Eredivisie, ESPN/ESPN HD
A last-minute switch by ESPN to focus on the game that could see Steve McLaren elevated to sainthood by a large section of the Dutch football fraternity. His FC Twente side must beat NAC to win the Eredivisie title – a draw could let in Ajax if they themselves beat NEC Nijmegen. So many permutations to tell you about here, so check out the table, sit back and watch the drama unfold. Go Schteve!

13:30 Liverpool v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
If the Championship or Eredivisie isn’t your bag, the Premier League will be where it’s at on TV this Sunday. A win for Chelsea at Anfield will mean they can go into their last match at Wigan knowing a draw will be good enough to win back the title. But wait a minute – Chelsea have only won three of their last ten games at Anfield. Crikey… isn’t it exciting?

16:00 Sunderland v Man Utd, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Not that this game will be, by all accounts. The last time Sunderland beat Man United in the league Wayne Rooney was only eleven years old. Still, at least it keeps the title race on a rolling boil until next week…

19:45 Lazio v Inter Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Was it such a crime that Inter adopted the ultra-defensive approach in order to beat Barcelona? Methinks not. Inter used their technical and tactical superiority to its greatest effect, and if they can’t show such dominance against lowly Lazio then frankly we’ve all been duped.

19:00 Real Madrid v Osasuna (Second Half), La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
If you haven’t placed your bet on Real to win the league, now might be a good time to do so. They’re just a point behind Barca with four games to go and their run-in suggests a points tally better than their rivals is quite likely come the end of the season. You heard it here first (possibly.)

20:00 Athletic Bilbao v Real Mallorca, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
On paper, an anti-climactic way to bring your weekend to a close, but in reality these are two sides that play good football and are hoping to play in Europe next season. Expect an above-average match at La Catedral.

Monday 3 May

13.30 Wigan Athletic v Hull City, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Wigan get to laugh down their sleeves having escaped relegation against a team that needs to win 17-0 to have a chance of staying up.

15.00 Arsenal v Everton Women's FA Cup Final, Sky Sports 2
Arsenal go for their fifth consecutive cup win - this is their 11th final, they haven't lost one yet.

17.00 Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Dead rubber of interest to fans alone.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sound Of Football Episode 36 - Relegation, promotion, relegation again and survival

This week, Terry recounts the traumatic events at Selhurst Park on Monday as Crystal Palace battled to stay in the Championship, then we look at the prospects of the newly promoted clubs from the English second tier.

After that, the chaps look at the prospects for the clubs relegated from the Premier League before slagging off Gold and Sullivan, not for the first time it must be said.

You can listen to the podcast here or if you right-click on that link, you can download the MP3. Alternatively, you can subscribe via the your reader of choice or via our iTunes feed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Football Americana Week 5: Empty seats watch RBNY continue to fly

In a week of disappointing attendances, Major League Soccer still delivered all the thrills and spills as the Red Bulls opened up a lead over their Eastern Conference rivals and LA Galaxy finally dropped points for the first time in 2010.

The week's action got underway at Pizza Hut Park with Seattle Sounders visiting FC Dallas. In the 25th minute a mix-up led to Kasey Keller fouling Jeff Cunningham in the box and the Dallas striker found the bottom corner with the penalty. Steve Zakuani cut inside from the left to find the net and equalise for the Sounders, and Fredy Montero looked to have given his side all three points when his remarkable 35-yard free kick put them in front. But there was controversy deep into stoppage time, Dallas being awarded a penalty in very questionable circumstances. Cunningham stepped up once again and equalised.

New York Red Bulls earned yet another three points at a worryingly deserted RBA, this time against Philadelphia Union. Ibrahim Salou made it 1-0 with a towering 50th minute header, but Philly's Sebastien Le Toux levelled nine minutes later by turning in Alejandro Moreno's superb pass. Once again, a Juan Pablo Angel penalty turned one point into three for RBNY. A clumsy handball afforded him the opportunity which he took in style.

Far too many matches this season have been settled from the penalty spot, and there was another at Crew Stadium at the weekend. Champions Real Salt Lake were on the receiving end against Columbus Crew, who were awarded the spot kick when Robbie Rogers was tripped. Guillermo Barros Schelotto struck to give the Crew a home win. RSL had a late equaliser ruled out, perhaps a little harshly.

New England Revolution's stuttering start carried on with the visit of Colorado Rapids to Gillette Stadium. Mehdi Ballouchy opened the scoring for the Rapids in the 14th minute, but Marko Perovic quickly equalised with a vicious free kick past Matt Pickens. Pablo Mastroeni bagged the winner for the visitors with a 25-yard rocket off the post.

LA Galaxy headed to Kansas City Wizards with their 100% record intact, but left CommunityAmerica Ballpark with just one point after a goalless draw. Kei Kamara had an early goal disallowed when he used his arm to sweep in the rebound from a Davy Arnaud shot. Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts had to be in good form to keep the Galaxy in the game.

Chicago Fire hosted Houston Dynamo and emerged with three valuable points. Baggio Husidic headed home the Fire's opener in first half stoppage time, and the lead was doubled halfway through the second half when Peter Lowry nodded in from Patrick Nyarko's cross. The sides then exchanged red cards, Danny Cruz of the Dynamo earning a second yellow for his involvement (or otherwise, in fact) in a melee after an aerial clash, and Krzystof Krol seeing red for headbutting Luis Angel Landin. There was sad news out of Houston today, with confirmation of Geoff Cameron's season-ending injury.

An exciting encounter at HDC saw Chivas USA seal a 3-2 victory over San Jose Earthquakes. Sasha Kljestan made it 1-0 from distance but Chris Wondolowski pulled the Quakes level from the penalty spot. Justin Braun's 54th minute header put Chivas back in front and Chukwudi Chijindu made sure of the win four minutes from time. Steven Beitashour's consolation goal was impressive but futile.

In the final match of the week, Toronto FC made amends for defeat against the Rapids by picking up a 2-0 home win against the Seattle Sounders. Dwayne De Rosario bent in the first and then laid on the second for O'Brian White after a gift from the Sounders defence.

Week five saw the Rapids pick up ground on LA Galaxy, cutting their lead at the top of the West to three points. The Sounders and the Dynamo are in hot pursuit, while FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake prop up the standings, which you can see here.

In the East, New York are five points clear of Kansas City, Columbus and Chicago. DC United, enjoying a weekend off, remain the only pointless side in MLS.

You can view all the week five highlights here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Midweek TV Preview: 26 - 29 April 2010

(All times UK)

Monday 26th April

20:00 Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1

OK so here's the situation: Palace are fourth from bottom, one point above Sheffield Wednesday. If they can beat promoted West Brom they will stay in the league and relegate Wednesday. Any other result means that Palace will have to at least draw their last game at the weekend which happens to be against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Squeak!

Tuesday 27th April

19:45 Lyon v Bayern Munich, UEFA Champions League, Semi-Final 2nd leg (0-1), Sky Sports 2/HD2

Question marks surround the fitness of Bayern's centre back partnership and Ribery is out of sorts. A recipe for a Lyon comeback? I reckon the French team will win on the day but that itself may not be enough to make it to the Final.

Wednesday 28th April

17:00 CSKA Moscow v Zenit, Russian Premier League, ESPN

A nice little taster for those of you who are home by 5pm ahead of the main event tonight. A win for CSKA will put them on top of the table above Spartak Nalchik.

19:45 Barcelona v Inter, UEFA Champions League, Semi Final 2nd leg (1-3). ITV1/HD
One for the chalkboards this. Particularly: number of minutes in which the ball travelled in the direction of the Inter goal and number of complaints from Barca forwards about rough treatment from Inter defenders. Expect Barca to attack attack attack from the start. Can't wait.

Thursday 29th April

20:05 Fulham v Hamburg, UEFA Europa League, Semi-Final 2nd leg (0-0), ITV4

This could be Hamburg coach Bruno Labbadia's final game if he loses this one. Tonked 5-1 by Hoffenheim at the weekend, the Europa League Final hosts travel to west London needing to produce a heroic performance if they're to beat an excellent Fulham side.

20:05 Liverpool v Atletico Madrid, UEFA Europa League, Semi-Final 2nd leg (0-1), Five
Hard to see Liverpool not scoring at Anfield. Alas, I've not seen a single minute of Liverpool in this competition. However, something tells me that this one could go to extra time so here's hoping for a timely resolution at the Cottage.

Bundesbag Week 32 - Bayern leave a crack in the door

On the surface, the Bundesliga title race wide open. However, scratch away at the veneer and in reality, the latest round of results have only delayed the inevitable.

League leaders Bayern Munich travelled to Borussia Monchengladbach with the Wednesday's Champions League semi final on their minds. They looked subdued and nervous. 'Gladbach on the other hand were determined, organised and up for some party pooping. On 60 minutes they took the lead with a cracking strike from the excellent Marco Reus.

Meanwhile, in Berlin, second placed Schalke were looking for a win to keep themselves in the hunt. One can imagine the tension inside the Olympic Stadium as the Gelsenkirchen club looked for a goal while the home side, Hertha, struggled for their Bundesliga lives. Eventually a goal came, from Heiko Westermann of Schalke. The relief for Felix Magath's players was a copious as the despair for Hertha who need more than a miracle if they are to avoid a local derby with Union Berlin in .2 Bundesliga next season.

Back in Monchengladbach, Bayern managed an equaliser through Miro Klose which keeps them top on goal difference. Had they lost then the climax to the season may be even more interesting. As it is, the Munich club know that two wins will see them home. Their final two games are against Bochum, who are terrible, and Hertha who are even worse. Schalke, in the meantime, have two extremely difficult games against Werder Bremen, who are fighting for a Champions League spot and a truculent Mainz team. Advantage very much Bayern's, then.

Immediately below the top two, a cracking sprint to the final Champions League spot is taking place between Bayer Leverkusen in third but level on points with Bremen and Borussia Dortmund in fifth place, only a point behind on 56. Werder needed a last minute penalty to beat Koln, Bayer were comfortable 3-0 winners over Hannover 96 and BVB had to fight off stiff resistance from Nurnberg to win 3-2. Outsiders for the Champions League are Stuttgart who have now won 6 (SECHS) games in a row after their 2-0 win at Bochum.

Left relying on scraps from the Cup finalists are Hamburg whose only other path to European competition is by winning the Europa League. Of course, to do that they'll need to beat Fulham at the Cottage this Thursday but losing 5-1 to Hoffenheim is hardly ideal preparation for the trip to London. The Hoff are finishing the season strongly and ruthlessly exploited the Northerners shambolic defending. Vedad Ibisevic and Chinedu Obasi scored a brace each with Sejad Salihovic rounding off the punishment. Tolgay Ali Arslan was sent off at the end for Hamburg who most assuredly would have sacked coach Bruno Labbadia had it not been for the forthcoming semi final this week.

Elsewhere, in the totally meaningless game of the weekend, Mainz went 2-0 down at home to Eintracht Frankfurt thanks to some atrocious defending. They fought back to 2-2 only to concede again with a wonder strike from Umit Korkmaz. The home side rallied again and Aristide Bance scored an equaliser with a bullet header, his second of the day. A great advert for the Bundesliga when two teams put on a show for the crowd with only pride at stake.

Finally, with all the relegation dog fighters losing, it was left to Freiburg to capitalise on Sunday afternoon and capitalise they did with a hard fought 1-0 win at a raucous Europa Park. Cedric Makiadi's solitary goal against his old club was enough to move Robin Dutt's team up to fourteenth with a three point gap over Nurnberg and Bochum on 28 points. They must travel to Koln next weekend and then host Dortmund on the final day.

Koln will have a say in the relegation battle as they also play a Nurnberg side who also play Hamburg. Bochum will play Munich followed by what could be a fraught encounter with Hannover, assuming of course the 96ers are not relegated by then after their next match against 'Gladbach. As for Hertha, they have Leverkusen and Bayern and will surely be relegated.

That's it. Results and tables here. Follow the Bundesliga on Twitter here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jeu Du Jour Podcast - Week 33

In a change from what's gone before, SPAOTP brings you Jeu Du Jour in podcast form.

We figured our weekly articles were perhaps leaving you a little the worse for wear, so as we head into the last five or so weeks of the Ligue 1 season, we've changed tack to give you all the info you need in audio form.

The podcast can be listened to via our SoundCloud widget below, but sadly not from iTunes as things stand. Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. Enjoy...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bundesbag Vodcast - Week 32 Preview

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #161

Make mine a Coke...
5 World Footballers Who Think That Stripping To The Waist And Daubing Themselves In Day-Glo Body Paint To Advertise Pepsi Will Enhance Their Credibility

1. Didier Drogba

2. Thierry Henry

3. Fernando Torres

4. Lionel Messi

5. Frank Lampard

(Images shown in no particular order of masculinity.)

Weekend TV Preview: 23 - 25 April 2010

Friday 23 April

19.30 VFL Bochum v VFB Stuttgart, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Bochum sit with Nurnberg just above the bottom three on goal difference alone. Stuttgart have won five on the spin and are closing down fast on the European spots - a Champions League place is still possible but with just three games to go, unlikely.

Saturday 24 April

12.00 St Johnstone v Aberdeen, SPL, ESPN/ESPN HD
Dead rubber from the SPL post-season. St Mirren v Kilmarnock was the game to cover here.

12.45 Man Utd v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Spurs have beaten Arsenal and Chelsea so why not lay this old record to bed too? This would be a bigger achievement than both of those results for them.

17.00 Barcelona v Xerez, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Another 5 (CINCO) Lager Liga matches this weekend - better get in some extra San Miguel. Barcelona's draw in their local derby last week gave Real a glimmer of hope, but anything less than a comfortable win here would be a real shock.

17.30 Arsenal v Man City, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Probably the sort of fixture Arsenal need to fire themselves up instead of just relaxing and settling for third. Do yourself a favour and avoid the yawn-inspiring argle-bargle that will surround this fixture.

19.00 Real Zaragoza v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Still a bit of a way to go in Spain. Madrid are still playing catch up and will need maximum points - something they haven't achieved on their last three visits here. Zaragoza are being sucked slowly back into the relegation mire.

19.45 Palermo v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Two poor results have seen Milan's unlikely title hopes fizzle away. Palermo are still in the hunt for the fourth Champions League spot and with current occupiers Sampdoria away to league leaders Roma tomorrow, this could be the best opportunity to snatch it back. It's all very exciting.

21.00 Valencia v Deportivo La Coruna, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
The wheels fell off Depor's season so long ago that young people don't even remember that it ever had any. Valencia should just about manage to see the season out and hold on to third spot.

Sunday 25 April

12.00 Aston Villa v Birmingham City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Not as much knockabout fun as this fixture used to be and with the season winding down, little but local pride on offer too. For Villa, there's a number of players in a tricky situation: they still want to impress Fabio but they don't want to knacker themselves in the process.

12.15 Dundee United v Celtic, SPL, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Champions League football is still not an impossible dream for United. Beating Celtic would leave them four points behind with three games to go. They probably won't make that up but it's enough to give the game an edge, especially with Celtic knowing that anything less than a win gives the title to Rangers...

14.30 Hibernian v Rangers SPL, Sky Sports 3/HD3
... which means this could be a title-winning party for Rangers or the match that seals it. A win here is good enough no matter what Celtic do.

16.00 Chelsea v Stoke City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1/3D
I watched my first 3D match last week - the Manchester derby. In the bar I was watching you could see the 3D coverage next to the regular coverage, and it was interesting to compare the difference. The main camera for the 3D is much closer to pitch level than the usual position and you get a different commentary team. The 3D is noticeable but not exactly spectacular - until that is, you go pitchside and a corner flag or official moves across the shot - WOAH! By watching it, Sky have probably fed me a load of subliminal messages to vote Tory. Well you can't argue with them YouGov polls, can you.

16.30 SC Freiburg v VFL Wolfsburg, Bundesliga, ESPN/ESPN HD
Freiburg's win against Nurnberg last week has given them real hope of escaping the drop - a similar result against a Wolves team in their flip-flops could see them leave the bottom three.

19.00 Atletico Madrid v Tenerife, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1 (2nd Half Only)
Things looked grim for Tenerife a couple of weeks back but two consecutive wins have given them a shot at a second season in the top flight. Despite a run of poor results in the league and the distraction of the Europa League, Atletico are tough to beat at home - though if they want to qualify for Europe it'll have to be in the Copa del Rey, which they'll contest with Sevilla next month.

19.45 AS Roma v Sampdoria, Serie A, ESPN/ESPN HD
Table leaders versus the current holders of the fourth Champs League spot. Roma's run in is tougher than Inter's and they will need a win here against a strong, in-form Samp side. You can't see Inter not taking maximum points from the last four games, but hey, it is ora di fondo stridulo so anything could happen.

20.00 Getafe v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The race for fourth is between Sevilla and Mallorca, with the islanders holding the spot by one point. Getafe still have a good chance of getting a Europa spot.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Football Americana Week 4: The fall and fall of DC United

If Edson Buddle and LA Galaxy are the big story in Major League Soccer, DC United are running them close (and Seattle's new third kit running them even closer). United have lost four games out of four in 2010, turning one of the league's flagship clubs into a woefully inept outfit which shows few signs of improvement. Losing several key players to injury in the last two weeks does not bode well.

A midweek visit from Philadelphia Union provided a much-needed win for Toronto FC. Danny Califf got himself stupidly sent off after 33 minutes, hitting an awful backpass and rectifying his mistake by clotheslining onrushing TFC man Julian De Guzman as he tore through to latch on to the mistake.

The resulting free kick drew the second hilarious error in as many games by Philly goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who fumbled Dwayne De Rosario's squirming shot over his own line. But the Union went in level at the break, Jordan Harvey racing onto a great diagonal ball and finishing calmly to make it 1-1. Seitz was at fault again, felling O'Brian White in the box when he was going nowhere with ten minutes left. De Ro won it from the spot.

Kansas City Wizards have started the season in impressive fashion and it took until second half stoppage time for Seattle Sounders to prevent them taking a point home from Qwest Field. Both sides created some good chances but it was Michael Fucito, on for Steve Zakuani in the 85th minute, who banked the three points for the Sounders in the 92nd minute by beating Jimmy Nielsen at his near post.

Early goals for Geoff Cameron and Lovel Palmer set Houston Dynamo on the way to a resounding victory over Chivas USA. Cameron opened his 2010 account with a neat finish into the bottom corner and Palmer doubled the Dynamo's lead with a blockbusting 30-yard drive in the 20th minute. Dominic Oduro made it 3-0 with a 64th minute tap-in and celebrated by removing his boot and juggling it between his hands.

Just like they were in Week Two, DC United were undone by two late goals from their visitors after being devoid of quality. Marco Pappa put Chicago Fire in the lead with a shot into the roof of the net in the 79th minute and substitute Brian McBride glanced a last minute header through the hands of Troy Perkins to continue the misery for DC United and Curt Onalfo.

Midfielder Dax McCarty gave FC Dallas an early lead at Red Bull Arena with a poacher's header but a double from Juan Pablo Angel ensured a second half turnaround for New York Red Bulls. He'd already had one disallowed for a tight offside call when he tucked in the equaliser, and he could have had his second from the spot when Mac Kandji was fouled in the area. Dario Sala won that duel, but Angel got another chance after he was fouled in the last minute - no mistake second time round, and the Red Bulls got back to winning ways.

San Jose Earthquakes continued their solid early season form with a 2-0 victory over the inconsistent New England Revolution. The Quakes did most of the pressing before being rewarded by Chris Wondolowski's 57th minute goal and Ike Opara's second in as many games.

The amazing Edson Buddle story goes on and on in California. LA Galaxy came out on top in their match against Real Salt Lake and the in-form striker produced his sixth and seventh goals of the campaign to bank the points. Buddle thumped in a header from a Landon Donovan corner in the 12th minute before RSL skipper Kyle Beckerman equalised with a long distance pea-roller which should have been saved. Buddle won it for LA from the edge of the box in the 76th minute, maintaining LA's 100% record and putting himself firmly into World Cup contention. An incredible run of form for the 28-year-old.

Finally, Colorado Rapids won the battle of the penalties to seal a 3-1 victory over floundering Toronto FC. Conor Casey made it 1-0 Rapids with a trademark cheeky chip from the spot after Ty Harden handled at the feet of Omar Cummings. Dwayne De Rosario's penalty was less convincing but equalised nonetheless. It was shortlived parity for TFC, who fell behind thanks to a low free kick from Jeff Larentowicz. Five minutes from time Casey was dragged down in the area and opted for a more orthodox - but equally successful - spot kick.

You can check out all the Week Four action here and view the Eastern and Western Conference tables here. LA are flying, with 12 points won from 12 available, and lead the West ahead of Colorado, Houston and Seattle on seven. In the extremely weak East, the Red Bulls are top, three points ahead of both Kansas City and New England. DC are still pointless, and FC Dallas sit at the bottom of the West with just 2 points.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sound Of Football Episode 35 - PFA Awards and European Semi Finals

With a full compliment on the podcast, the chaps discuss the merits or otherwise of the PFA awards. Terry tries to put himself in the mind of a professional footballer and questions are raised about the value of having seasoned player James Milner nominated for Young Player of the Year.

Then we look ahead to the UEFA Champions League and Europa League semi finals. Can Fulham and Liverpool keep the British end up? And what of Jose's tactical tribulations against Barca?

You can listen to the podcast here or if you right-click on that link, you can download the MP3. Alternatively, you can subscribe via the your reader of choice or via our iTunes feed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting a decent presenter is Chiles Play for ITV

Adrian Chiles, it seems, has made his last appearance as presenter of Match of the Day 2. The BBC have today announced that Chiles will be moving to ITV to co-present GMTV and, of more significance to us, anchor the commercial channel’s World Cup coverage this year.

This is likely to bring about one of two distinctly different reactions in you: apathy bordering on abject relief, or contentment based on a secret admiration for the West Midlander.

Personally, I fall into the latter category. Chiles has an easy-going manner, very much that of the ordinary man on the street, approachable but knowledgeable and as comfortable discussing football as he is talking about knife crime or shopping habits on The One Show.

Some might say he’s a bit too ordinary and down-to-earth. Last week a feature in The Guardian suggested Chiles “never fails to give the impression of a Black Country labourer who has wandered into a television studio and doesn’t realise the camera is on.” Actually, is that such a bad thing? Sooner that than the clinical GQ magazine looks of Gary Lineker or the turgid shallowness of Richard Keys.

Speaking of looks, Adrian Chiles always seems to attract a little too much criticism where that’s concerned. Admittedly he’s no oil painting, but then again not many of us are, and those people that are oil paintings are probably having the piss taken out of them by the non-oil paintings anyway.

What can’t be disputed is the one thing that really sets Chiles apart from the vast majority of his peers – a genuine sense of humour. It’s this one aspect to his personality that particularly excites me about his move to ITV as he’s being installed as main anchor for their World Cup coverage ahead of Steve Rider, front man for the channel's Champions League coverage.

Rider, who turns 60 later this month, has never really exuded dynamism or a sparkling wit, and that’s just me using understated politeness. As professional as he undoubtedly must be, there’s something to be said for giving the viewer an appealing reason to watch its programmes and I think ITV will benefit for having Chiles on board. Unlike Rider, Chiles comes across as a genuine football fan who understands the game and can lighten the mood by dropping in the odd jocular aside here and there – just the sort of thing most footy fans will appreciate.

Quite who will replace Chiles on Match of the Day 2 remains to be seen, but our guess is that it'll be someone young with a two-dimensional personality and an awkward presenting style. Needless to say his absence will be all too noticeable for regular viewers of the programme.

So all that's left is to say 'well done ITV'. It seems you’ve finally made a wise choice for the job of presenting your World Cup coverage, and not before time. You’ve probably also ended up with someone who can bring some credibility to GMTV, but that was never going to be very difficult, was it?

Midweek TV Preview: 19 - 22 April 2010

Monday 19th April

19:45 Plymouth Argyle v Newcastle United, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
With promotion back to the Premier League already sown up, Newcastle can claim the Championship title outright with at least a point against The Pilgrims in this match. Sadly Chris Hughton's side can no longer beat Reading's record 106-point total from the 2005-06 season, but they can still notch up 104 if they win their three remaining games which will certainly be a great achievement in its own right. Plymouth, meanwhile, are realistically looking at winning all their three remaining games just to stay up. Not sure whether to commiserate with you now or later, to be honest...

20:00 Liverpool v West Ham, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Both teams are without key players for this one. Liverpool's Fernando Torres has had surgery on his knee and will be absent for the rest of the season while West Ham have to do without Scott Parker who yet again is suspended. Strangely enough The Hammers have a fair chance of picking up three points at Anfield - so long as they can maintain the spirited approach they've offered up in their last couple of games. Wouldn't bank on it though.

Tuesday 20th April

19:45 Queen of the South v Ross County, Scottish First Division, BBC ALBA
Fourth v fifth in the Scottish First. Both teams have lost just one game in their last seven in the league and a win for either will see them rise to third in the table. Warning: Not for the feint-hearted or non-Gaelic speakers, or both depending on your outlook.

19:45 Inter Milan v Barcelona, Champions League Semi Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Former Barca starlet Samuel Eto'o has gone on record as saying his old team are beatable in this tie, and heaven knows the distinctly average Espanyol came close to proving it on Sunday in La Liga. Inter got a morale-boosting 2-0 win over Juventus on Friday, so perhaps Jose Mourinho will fancy his chances of getting an honourable first leg win here.

Wednesday 21st April

17:00 Udinese v Roma, Coppa Italia Semi Final 2nd Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
Roma are already two goals up from the first leg so an way goal in this match (presuming the Away Goals Rule counts in the Coppa Italia) would kill off any Final ambitions plucky Udinese might have. The Bianconeri did beat Milan 1-0 in the previous round, but on paper at least this looks like one-way traffic for the Claudio Ranieri juggernaut.

19:45 Bayern Munich v Lyon, Champions League Semi Final 1st Leg, ITV1/ITV HD
What better way to keep your treble-winning hopes alive than by beating Hanover 7-0 at the weekend? Bayern were on blistering form on Saturday with Robben getting a hat-trick and Olic and Muller getting two each. Lyon, conversely, became the first team since March 21st to not beat Bordeaux in the league. Given Bordeaux's recent cataclysmic implosion, they should hang their heads in shame.

Thursday 22nd April

20:05 Atletico Madrid v Liverpool, UEFA Europa League Semi Final 1st Leg, Five
As mentioned earlier, Fernando Torres will not be facing his old side having just gone under the knife. That said, it's debatable whether any of the Liverpool players will be travelling to Spain given the ubiquitous threat of volcanic ash affecting air travel. Don't be surprised if this gets replaced in the schedules with an episode of 'Cowboy Builders' or some such nonsense.

20:05 SV Hamburg v Fulham, UEFA Europa League Semi Final 1st Leg, ESPN/ESPN HD
Likewise, Fulham may be heading over to the continent on the Eurostar even as we speak in order to ensure their participation in this intriguing semi-finaarl.

Bundesbag Week 31 - Brace yourselves!

To be honest, it could have been double figures. That's how many chances Bayern Munich had against Hannover 96 on Saturday. The visitors came to the Allianz looking to limit the damage and their plan backfired horribly, for them. By the end of the game Bayern were playing liquid football, using flicks and tricks, not to deliberately embarrass or humiliate their opponents but to stamp their authority on the Bundesliga. The final score was 7-0 and it is almost impossible to see any other team than Bayern winning the title.

Coach Louis van Gaal started Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben and it was the Dutchman who controlled the game. He was immense, scoring a fantastic hat trick. The first to goals were of superb quality while the third was from clearance. Ivica Oic and Thomas Muller scored the remainder, each bagging a brace, The Croatians importance to the Bayern squad cannot be underestimated. While not the most naturally gifted player in the squad, he brings balance to the team along with tremendous industry. Muller has the potential to be an international star which is why the Bundesbag is going to break from tradition this once and describe Bayern's win as a (Thomas) mullering as opposed to a (Gerd) mullering.

For Hannover, the result must leave a chasm in the squad where their confidence used to be. But they must remember that they still have a chance as the relegation scrap is wide open. More on that later.

Of course, one person who'll be keeping his head while the Bundesbag loses it's is Schalke coach Felix Magath. His team bounced back from two consecutive defeats with a 3-1 win against mid-table 'Gladbach. The game feature an absolute net-burster from Ivan Rakitic from maybe 30 yards. It also feature yet another dreadful mistake by Schalke 'keeper Manuel Neuer to let Bobadilla in for the equaliser. The Royal Blues retook the lead with a header from Jefferson Farfan after a controversial corner (the ball seemed to come off Kevin Kuranyi's haad) before Rakitic scored his second from the penalty spot and kept his team two points behind the leaders.

Immediately below and the wheels are coming off Bayer Leverkusen's wagon, not for the first time in their history. Despite taking the lead against Stuttgart, they lost Tranquillo Barnetta after accruing two yellow cards before 20 minutes were up. Christian Gross' players took full advantage of the extra man and Cacau scored a brace. The Werkself are still third but only on goal difference and their Champions League hopes are slipping away.

In fact, they could already be out of the top three were is not for a last minute equaliser from Vedad Ibisevic of Hoffenheim which denied Borussia Dortmund a 1-0 win. The Hoff haven't won a game since February and the pressure is mounting on coach Ralf Rangnik. For BVB, it betrays, perhaps that lack of ability to finish off teams when it matters. Werder Bremen capitalised by moving above the Ruhr giants on points and look to be peaking at the right time after beating champions Wolfsburg 4-2. The Bremen club are a could bet to be in the Champs League next season.

To the bottom then and while Hertha are not actually relegated, they soon will be. In fact it's pretty impressive that they have managed to survive this long. However, a 2-2 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt is only sufficient to keep the respirator on. The Berliners can score a maximum of 29 points. Hannover are above them on 27 and Freiburg, Bochum and Nurnberg all have 28. Realistically, those are the relegation candidates. Freiburg beat Nurnberg 2-1 in a sechs punkter while Bochum, who looked to have done enough to stay up a few weeks ago are right back in it after losing to Koln last Friday.

The Billygoats 2-0 win came courtesy of a brace from Zoran Tosic, the on loan Manchester United youngster. He had a cracking game and United fans should welcome him when he returns to Old Trafford next season. He was also the seventh player to score two goals or more the weekend stat fans. Koln are pretty much safe and will enjoy Bundesliga football for the third season in a row next season.

Finally, the importance of Hamburg's Europa League tie against Fulham was heightened even more after they lost at home to Mainz. Aristide Bance scored the only goal. Qualification for Europe next season through the league is looking increasing unlikely. It may be that the German Cup winner's spot will go to the sixth placed team as the finalists are Bayern and Bremen who will almost certainly have already qualified. Even so, the Red Shorts are in eighth place. Another route would be by winning the current Europa League competition. This makes the forthcoming Semi Final a season breaker for Hamburg and a must for all fans of English and German football. But you knew that already.

That's it. Results and tables here. Follow the Bundesbag on Twitter here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bundesbag Vodcast - Week 31 Preview

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #160

Grounds for sharing
25 Instances Of European Football Clubs Sharing A Stadium

1. SK Sturm Graz and Grazer AK (UPC-Arena, Austria)
2. Club Brugge and Cercle Brugge (Jan Breydel Stadium, Belgium)
3. FC Inter and Turun Palloseura (Veritas Stadion, Finland)
4. Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich (Allianz Arena, Germany)
5. AEK Athens and Panathinaikos (Olympic Stadium, Greece)
6. Galway United and Mervue United (Terryland Park, Ireland)
7. Milan and Inter (Stadio Giuseppe Meazza 'San Siro', Italy)
8. Roma and Lazio (Stadio Olimpico, Italy)
9. Chievo and Verona (Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi, Italy)
10. Genoa and Sampdoria (Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Italy)
11. Juventus and Torino (Stadio Olimpico di Torino, Italy)
12. Atalanta and AlbinoLeffe (Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, Italy)
13. Lyn and Skeid (Bislett Stadion, Norway)
14. Louletano DC and SC Farense (Estádio Algarve, Portugal)
15. Torpedo Moscow and Spartak Moscow (Luzhniki Stadium, Russia)
16. Dynamo Moscow and CSKA Moscow (Dynamo Stadium, Russia)
17. FC Ljubljana and NK Interblock (ZSD Ljubljana, Slovenia)
18. Hércules CF and Alicante CF (José Rico Pérez, Spain)
19. IFK Norrköping and IK Sleipner (Idrottsparken, Sweden)
20. IFK Göteborg, GAIS and Örgryte IS (Gamla Ullevi, Sweden)
21. IF Elfsborg and Norrby IF (Borås Arena, Sweden)
22. Halmstads BK and IS Halmia (Örjans vall, Sweden)
23. FC Zürich and Grasshopper-Club Zürich (Letzigrund, Switzerland)
24. Altay and Göztepe (İzmir Atatürk Stadyumu, Turkey)
25. Dynamo Kyiv and Arsenal Kyiv (Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium, Ukraine)

Weekend TV Preview: 16 - 18 April 2010

Friday 16th April

19:45 Huddersfield Town v Millwall, League One, Sky Sports 1/HD1
The penultimate weekend of the League 1 season commences with what promises to be a bruising encounter between two teams occupying the play-off spots. Millwall can overhaul Leeds with a win - and if the "white gods" trip up against struggling Gillingham. Huddersfield need the three points in order to kick the hands away from Colchester who are hanging on the edge of the play-off zone.

19:45 Inter Milan v Juventus, Serie A, ESPN
Kicking off a weekend of cracking derby action with the Derby D'Italia at the San Siro. Inter have, perhaps, taken their eyes of the Scudetto while they focus on Champions League affairs. Juve are sitting on that final European spot and nervously eyeing Napoli who are hovering over them at an uncomfortably close distance waiting for them to stand up. Always excellent value, this fixture. One of the great fixtures of world football.

Saturday 17th April

06:00 Gamba Osaka v Shimizu S Pulse, J.League Football, British Eurosport 2
Shimizu are out of the blocks in the fledgling J League season. Although Gamba are near the bottom of the table, they have only lost once so far.

12:15 Celtic v Hibernian, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Part one of Glasgow v Edinburgh in the Scottish "Clausura". Despite Celtic's win against Motherwell during the week, the gloom of their debagging at the hands of Ross County will probably not have lifted. Hibs have Euro plans and must fancy their chances.

12:45 Manchester City v Manchester United, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Will Rooney be back? If so, can he work his mojo against a City team oozing goals and hell bent on a Champions League spot and revenge for the extraordinary defeat at Old Trafford earlier this season? I think he can. What do you think?

17:30 Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea, Barclays Premier League, ESPN/HD
As I write this, Tottenham are 2-0 up against Arsenal so will, no doubt, be desperate to make amends for their 3-2 defeat to their hated rivals on Wednesday/back in the race for fourth and well placed to take advantage of City's slip-up earlier today against United. Don't you just love this time of the season?

19:00 Espanyol v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Another derby, this time in Barcelona. Espanyol have had a consolidation season and shouldn't trouble the champions much.

21:00 Villarreal v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 3/HD3
And we say goodbye to Saturday with a mid-table, ho-hum match of little interest - to me at least.

Sunday 18th April

12:30 Rangers v Hearts, Scottish Premier League, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Glasgow v Edinburgh. Again, as I write this, Rangers are being held at Dundee Utd. However, a home game against mid-table Hearts should be a different proposition as Walther Smith's team coast serenely to the Championship.

13:30 Wigan Athletic v Arsenal, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
It's getting pretty close to the end of the match now so it looks like The Gunners' faint title hopes are over. Wigan will be praying that their opponents will be so down about their defeat that they'll just capitulate. Fat chance!

14:00 Sampdoria v AC Milan, Serie A, ESPN
There may only be two places between these teams but there is a ten point gap. However, both teams have to go for the win. Milan can still win the league and Sampdoria are after a Champions League spot.

16:00 Portsmouth v Aston Villa, Barclays Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Portsmouth are down and Villa are out of puff. Not much to see, perhaps, but may be interesting to see if Martin O'Neill explodes should the ref give Pompey and innocuous penalty early in the game.

16:30 Eintracht Frankfurt v Hertha BSC, Bundesliga, ESPN
So I've come to the conclusion that hardly anyone watches football on TV on Sunday in Germany. This explains why the top fixture of the weekend in on at 5:15 on Saturday and that the late afternoon Sunday fixture is, well, this one.

18:00 Athletic Bilbao v Zaragoza, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1 (19:00-20:00 Second half)
Does Jermaine Pennant still play for Zaragoza?

19:45 Lazio v AS Roma, Serie A, ESPN
Tasty fixture to wipe away the Back to Work Blues. Roma are top and Lazio are on a terrific run that could see them escape relegation. Passion, drama, great football and Ranieri. Who are you to resist.

20:00 Real Madrid v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Yeah, whatever.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Football Americana Week 3: Hat-tricks steal headlines in chippy MLS

For the first time ever, Major League Soccer had eight games in one day at the weekend. And it was a dramatic octet of matches with no fewer than four red cards, surprising results and three goals each for Zach Schilawski and Sebastien Le Toux as the Revs and the Union bagged three points each on home soil. DC United and Toronto remain pointless, with United having played three matches already. Curt Onalfo is presumably already beginning to feel the pressure.

Le Toux's treble came in Philadelphia Union beat struggling DC United in their first ever MLS home game - if I weren't a DC fan, that would please me after my season preview acknowledged the acquisition of Le Toux to be a shrewd one. He nodded in the Union's first league goal in the fourth minute and made it 2-0 with a swaggering low finish in the 40th.

United pulled it back to 2-1 in the second half thanks to the awareness of Santino Quaranta and a tidy finish, and then equalised in controversial fashion. Chris Seitz was put off by Jaime Moreno as he prepared to kick the ball out of his hands and dropped it, allowing the Bolivian to score. Premier League fans may remember Dion Dublin scoring in similar circumstances for Coventry City, but Moreno feigned a challenge on the goalkeeper which should have constituted interference.

Union won out, though. Dejan Jakovic pulled down Alejandro Moreno - who may have fouled him - and watched on after his red card as Le Toux swept his free kick into the bottom corner. A great night for Philly.

After 30 minutes at Gillette Stadium it looked as if New England Revolution might find three points hard to come by against Toronto FC. Dwayne De Rosario headed TFC in front after the Revs wasted some chances, but Steve Nicol's side - and Schilawski in particular - were much less wasteful after the break. He poked in his first MLS goal unchallenged just after half time, and doubled his tally with a calm finish a few minutes later. 11 minutes after his first, he flicked in Kheli Dube's cross and completed his hat-trick. Sainey Nyassi added insult to injury for TFC by capitalising on some miscommunication at the back. 4-1 Revs.

Much improved New York Red Bulls lost their 100% record in LA, losing 2-0 to Chivas USA. Jesus Padilla was the hero for Chivas, "scoring" with the funniest goal you'll ever see. A weak shot from the Mexican was deflected onto the far post and back towards the grounded goalkeeper as kindly as he could even have begged for. His shonky, ham-fisted catch attempt was possibly the most awkward thing I've ever seen in football and he served only to prod the ball into his own net - clearly an own goal. Padilla doubled the advantage in stoppage time with a goal all of his own.

Unlike the Red Bulls, LA Galaxy did go three for three with a win on Saturday. A tricky trip to Houston Dynamo saw the Galaxy take the lead in the 26th minute, Edson Buddle firing in his fourth in three games from a ridiculously acute angly inside 30 minutes after a bad mix-up in the Dynamo defence. Luis Angel Landin saw red in the 43rd minute for a very ugly petulant swipe at the legs of Omar Gonzalez. His behaviour after the card could land him in hot water.

Before the break, Buddle bagged number five in his incredible start to the season. 2-0 stood through the second half and the Galaxy are flying. They haven't conceded a single goal in their three opening matches.

The Eastern Conference is topped by Kansas City Wizards despite their having only played twice. A 1-0 victory over Colorado Rapids was much closer than their win over DC, and came courtesy of a Kei Kamara header from Ryan Smith's free kick at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Colorado's Julien Baudet picked up a straight red card.

Chicago Fire's start to the season has been disappointing and continued with a home defeat at the hands of San Jose Earthquakes. Arturo Alvarez opened the scoring with a delightful chip after a mistake in the Fire defence, only for Marco Pappa to equalise with a fantastic strike into the top corner. The Quakes took home all three points, though, thanks to Ike Opara's free header.

If Opara's winner was late then the finales in the weekend's two remaining games were even more dramatic.

In Frisco, FC Dallas faced Easter Conference favourites Columbus Crew. David Ferreira was fouled in the area just before the half hour, allowing Jeff Cunningham to open his 2010 account from the spot (well, from near the spot).

But the Crew edged into the lead with goals from Adam Moffat and Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who nodded in the rebound from his own penalty after Kevin Hartman's parry. Eric Avila found the bottom corner deep into stoppage time to earn a point for FCD after Crew's Danny O'Rourke had been sent off.

And it was also 2-2 in Sandy, Utah, where Real Salt Lake needed a stoppage time equaliser to avoid defeat against Seattle Sounders. Steve Zakuani slotted the ball past Nick Rimando to put the Sounders ahead in the 11th minute. In the second half, Will Johnson equalised with a diving header, but a Nat Borchers own goal gave the Sounders the advantage again in the 72nd minute. It took RSL until the 94th minute to secure a point and it came thanks to substitute Alvaro Saborio, who found the net with a header from a corner.

Only the Galaxy and the Wizards have 100% records intact, with LA leading the West with nine points and Kansas City heading up the East with six. New England and New York each have six points in the East, while the Galaxy are already five points ahead of RSL, Seattle, Colorado and Houston. You can see the full tables here and view all the highlights from Major League Soccer here.

Sound Of Football Podcast 34 - Easter recap

Join us for another edition of the Sound Of Football Podcast, back after our Easter Break.

This week, Chris and Graham discuss the Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, FA Cup and the Eurovision Song Contest.

Actually that last one's a lie, but you have to admit it's still a pretty long list of subjects, isn't it?

You can listen to the podcast here or if you right click on that link, you can download the MP3. Alternatively, you can subscribe via the your reader of choice or via our iTunes feed.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Midweek TV Preview: 12 - 15 April 2010

Monday 12 April

19.45 Swindon Town v Exeter City, League One, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Swindon are currently in the box seat to join Norwich for automatic promotion from League 1. Still six games to go though and they're under huge pressure from Millwall and Charlton (but not from Leeds). Exeter's precarious position near the relegation zone could be made a little easier if Hartlepool are deducted points for fielding an ineligible player.

Tuesday 13 April

19.00 Real Valladolid v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 2/HD2
The start of a La Liga-fest with half of the full midweek card being shown live on Sky. Sevilla are back on winning ways in time for the run-in for fourth place. Valladolid are stuck in the relegation zone having won just two home games all season.

19.45 Celtic v Motherwell, SPL, Sky Sports 3/HD3
Defeat for Celtic would leave Rangers just three points away from the title and following Celtic's shock cup exit at the weekend Motherwell might fancy their chances

20.00 Chelsea v Bolton Wanderers, Premier League, ESPN/ESPN HD
Chelsea have the chance to go four points clear at the top against a side that has slipped back into the relegation battle after losing four or their last five. Bolton went down 4-0 here in the League Cup in October - expect a similar scoreline here.

21.00 Getafe v Villarreal, La Liga, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Mid-table tussle with two teams looking to sneak into the Europa League, which for Villareal would represent a huge turnaround (or highlight how weak La Liga truly is beyond the top two).

Wednesday 14 April

07.30 Changchun Yatai v Kashima Antlers, AFC Champions League Group F, British Eurosport 2
Strange choice of fixtures as this group is pretty much done and dusted. Antlers are already though while the Chinese hosts are already out. Dead rubber - very disappointing, Yoyosport!

11.00 Vissel Kobe v Urawa Reds, Japanese J League Cup Group B, British Eurosport 2
Magic of the Cup.
Hang on, they've got a group stage!
Crazy Japanese.

18.00 Willem II v Ajax, Dutch Eredivisie, ESPN
Just three games to go in the Eredivisie, but it looks increasingly unlikely that Ajax are going to close the four point gap at the top with Twente. Ajax are on an incredible 11 game winning streak, but Steve McLaren's men have only dropped five points themselves in that period.

19.45 Dundee United v Rangers, SPL, Sky Sports 3/HD3
The last game in SPL's regular season could be pivotal depending on the previous night's results. Rangers are just two wins away from the title while United know that victory against Celtic in the Clausura will make Champions League football a real possibility.

20.00 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Running around Wembley for two hours only to be knocked out of the Cup is hardly the best preparation before you play the top three in succession. For Spurs to finish fourth will require a herculean effort and will require them to bury a lot of ghosts. This fixture has been extremely tight over recent years, while Arsenal fans will point that Spurs haven't beaten them in the League since 1999, the Gunners have only managed two wins here themselves in all that time.

21.00 Barcelona v Deportivo, La Liga, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Deportivo's melt-down continues. Barca can now cruise to the title following their win in the weekend's Clasico.

Thursday 15 April

19.00 Almeria v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Still seven games to go and just three points off the top, but you can't help but feel that Real always knew they'd be second place in the end. Another joyless victory for them here.

21.00 Valencia v Athletic Bilbao, La Liga, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Valencia have suffered a couple of defeats lately making their current third spot a bit less secure than they'd hope. Their home form is fine though - they've only conceded two goals here this year and will be looking to make up for the disappointment of their Europa League exit last week.

Bundesbag Week 30 – Mirko’s revenge

After Schalke’s defeat against Bayern Munich last week, the perfect restorative would have been a trip to lowly Hannover 96. Indeed, as I pointed out in the Bundesbag Preview, if Felix Magath’s team did could not beat the 96ers then they did not deserve to win the Bundesliga. Well, guess what? They lost.

It proved to be a bad day for defender Heiko Westermann and ‘Keeper Manuel Neuer and a great day for Hannover coach Mirko Slomka who took the Gelsenkirchen club to a Quarter Final of the Champions League before getting sacked for not producing the results in the League.

The carnage began after 17 minutes when Westermann failed to deal with a speculative cross and headed the ball into his own net. Schalke were frequently undone by the high ball with Neuer tempted the footballing Gods with some unconvincing attempts to claim the ball in the penalty area. On 39 minutes, Hannover striker Didier Ya Konan latched on to another long one and from distance, threaded the ball through Neuer’s legs, embarrassing the German national keeper and putting his team 2-0 up.

I have no doubt that there is a German equivalent to the “hairdryer treatment” and am equally convinced that Felix Magath gave it to his players at half time. The Royal Blues came out of the tunnel anxious to make amends. For his part, Magath made some changes and brought on Rafina who proved to be instrumental in Schalke’s revival.
It was the Brazilian‘s run and pass to Kevin Kuranyi that set up Edu who verily rifled the ball home and began the comeback. Then Jefferson Farfan elicited a foul in the penalty area from which Ivan Rakitic scored the equaliser. Happy days for Schalke... or were they?

Despite the visitors renewed vigour, Hannover were not out of it. Arouna Kone was unlucky to hit the post and eventually the home side’s work was rewarded with a magnificent goal.

You won’t have read the name Hanno Balitsch in the Bundesbag much. The 29 year old midfielder is one of those journeymen who do a heck of a lot of work for damn all appreciation. However, last Saturday he grabbed the headlines for one of the goals of the season. He picked up the ball in the middle of the park, passed it wide to Sofian Chahed, continued on his run and picked up Chafed’s cross just behind him on the edge of the D. He gave it a bit of a flick and caught it immaculately on the half volley whereupon it flew passed the hapless Neuer and into the top left hand corner.

Had that been scored by Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery it would have been beamed around the World within hours of it being scored.

Neuer capped off a poor display by hesitantly going up field in the dying seconds to provide an extra man only to be bamboozled once again by Ya Konan. The match finished 4-2. So flushed with self righteousness was Slomka that he got himself sent to the stands by the referee which, if anything, only served to enhance the sweet taste of revenge over his former bosses.

For Schalke, the writing is on the wall. Two straight defeats means that their chances of grabbing the Bundesliga trophy are diminishing. Things could have been far worse for them however as Bayern Munich were held to a 1-1 draw by third placed Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern took the lead after Franck Ribery was upended by Gonzalo Castro in the box. Robben made no mistake from the spot. Leverkusen hit the post three times. On the final occasion Arturo Vidal managed to pick up the rebound and equalised. Late in the game, Toni Kroos should have scored the winner for the Bayer club but shot inexplicably wide. The youngster is on a season long loan from Bayern and is due to return to Munich at the end of the season. Just saying.

So, despite the shenanigans in Hannover, Schalke are still only two points behind Bayern in the table. It’s also worth bearing in mind that, as Manchester United fans will know, Bayern are still in the Champions League and have to negotiate a very winnable tie against Lyon. If, the Konigsblauen can get their act together then it is entirely possible that Bayern will drop points and the title may yet head to the Ruhr.

Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund kept the pressure off Leverkusen by losing 1-0 at Mainz. Werder Bremen kept the pressure on Dortmund with a 4-0 pasting of Freiburg. Koln do not know the meaning of the word pressure after winning 2-0 at Hoffenheim. The lights are almost off for Hertha because they lost to Stuttgart 1-0. Frankfurt’s European hopes are fading fast. They lost 2-0 to Borussia Monchengladbach. Wolfsburg’s European hopes are rising as they won 2-0 at Nurnberg.

Finally, Hamburg’s season is hanging by a thread. Seventh in the table going into this weekend, subject to dissention by their striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, another striker Paolo Guerrero banned for the rest of the season for chucking a plastic bottle at a fan last week, Bruno Labbadia is feeling the heat. European football is a must next season and if that was not pressure enough, the team have to get past Roy Hodgson and his mavericks at Fulham to get to the Europe League Final, a match that they are hosting in May.

So it was with much trepidation that the Red Shorts travelled to a raucous Rewirpowerstadion and try to take points of a Bochum side desperately trying to keep the bottom three at bay.

It was a decent game. Not one for the purist but full of blood and thunder which Hamburg eventually won 2-1 thanks to a late goal by van Nistelrooy who took advantage of some brilliant work by Ze Roberto (just the kind of player you need in a crisis). Honourable mentions should go to Zlatko Dedic who scored a cracker for Bochum. The Bundesbag would also like to alert you to Lewis Holtby, again for Bochum. This 19 year old is a quick thinking, attacking midfielder on loan from Schalke with an eye for a cunning pass. His Dad’s an ex-RAF Evertonian and the lad dreams of playing at Goodison. He needs a bit more composure in front of goal but looks like a typical David Moyes player to me.

That’s it. Results and tables here. Follow the Bundesbag on Twitter here.


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