Posts Tagged ‘ Serie A ’

Weekend Warrior

Call it what you want—Super Sunday, Survival Sunday, D-Day—his Sunday is going to be an epic day of footy with key relegation battles and the races for Europe in England and Spain.  Mid Michigan United is planning a massive watch party on Sunday, starting at 10am.

In England, City controls the destiny of the title.  If they match United’s result, they are Champions for the first time in over 40 years.  As for the top four, Chelsea’s slip up against Liverpool means the only way the Blues can get back into the Champions League is to defeat Bayern on May 19.  Arsenal, Spurs and Newcastle all slipped up in Round 37, meaning all three have a chance at third and fourth.  Down at the bottom, Blackburn are down, meaning that Bolton and QPR will have to get results to avoid the drop.

All games at 10am EDT.

  • Manchester City vs QPR, ESPN2/ESPN3
  • Sunderland vs Manchester United, FX
  • Chelsea vs Blackburn Rovers, SPEED
  • Swansea City vs Liverpool, FUEL
  • West Bromwich Albion vs Arsenal, FSN
  • Tottenham Hotspur vs Fulham, FOX Soccer
  • Stoke City vs Bolton Wanderers, FOX Soccer Plus
  • Norwich Cityvs Aston Villa, FOX Soccer 2Go
  • Wigan vs Wolverhampton Wanderers, FOX Soccer 2Go
  • Everton vs Newcastle United, FOXSoccer.com

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As for La Liga, the top three places are set.  There is competition for fourth and the Europa League spots, which will be determined based on the winner of the all Spanish affair in the Europa League Final.  I don’t pretend to know all the permutations, so I’m just going to watch.  Down at the bottom, five teams will be going all out to avoid the last two relegation spots.  The momentum is with the two teams currently in the relegation zone: Real Zaragoza and Sporting Gijon, while fortune is not favoring Rayo Vallecano orGranada.

Sid Lowe gave a quick summary of the relegation possibilities:

Relegation:Granada 42; Villarreal 41; Rayo 40; Zaragoza 40; Sporting 37.

• Rayo and Granada face each other, Villarreal go to Champions League-chasing Atlético, Zaragoza travel to nothing-to play-for Getafe and Sporting go to Malaga, who are also chasing a Champions League.

• If Sporting, Rayo and Zaragoza all end on 40 points, Sporting survive. If Rayo, Zaragoza and Villarreal end on 41 points. Rayo go down. If Rayo and Villarreal end on 41 points, Rayo go down. If Villarreal and Zaragoza both end on 41 points, Villarreal go down. If Rayo and Zaragoza both end on 41 points, Zaragoza go down. If there is tie on 42 points between Granada and Villarreal, Granada go down.

All games at 2pm EDT

  • Villarreal v Atlético Madrid
  • Málaga v Sporting Gijon
  • Getafe v Real Zaragoza
  • Levante v Athletic Bilbao  ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
  • Rayo Vallecano v Granada
  • Espanyol v Sevilla FC DirectTV 477
  • Racing Santander v Osasuna  DirectTV 478
  • Real Madrid v Mallorca GolTV

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One final note.  In Italy, final day drama was avoided as Juventus won and Milan lost last Sunday, so the Old Lady is back on top.  The struggle for third will be waged between four teams, Udinese, Napoli, Lazio and Inter, with Lazio and Inter playing on the last day.  I haven’t followed the league closely enough to handicap the race but should go right down to the wire.

Udinese

37

17

10

10

15

61

Lazio

37

17

8

12

7

59

Napoli

37

15

13

9

19

58

Inter

37

17

7

13

5

58

All times 2:40 EDT and games on ESPN3

  • Catania vs. Udinese
  • Lazio vs. Inter (also on FSC)
  • Napoli vs. Siena (also on FS+)

Old Futbol Buffet–Blues, Yaya & Third Star

Originally I had May 5th all worked out.  Get up, go for a quick run, then head over to the pub for the FA Cup Final, and back to my house to get ready for a community event.  Plan the work; work the plan.  Then the FA decided to move the game to 5:15p local time, which threw off my finely constructed plans.  So I got up, went for my run, checked the score of the Arsenal game (HOLY COW!) and started my media blackout.  After the event, I took a nap and headed up to the pub to watch the replay.

I should have taken a longer nap or drank more at home or done something else because the first half made me want to poke my eyes out with a fork.  LFC were awful, playing 60 yard balls to a striker who is like 5’8”.  The Reds also could not play down the middle and constantly pinned themselves in the channels which led to turnover after turnover.  But Chelsea were not exempt from criticism either despite heading into the interval up 1-0.  Cech’s distribution was terrible as over back pass to him ended up as a throw-in at midfield.  Drogba had obviously been working on passing with his chest during training as that was only the way he could connect a dot.  Finally, I know Mikel does something, I just don’t know what it is.

The second half was a little better as some good build up play led to Drogba’s goal, with Skrtel and Reina very unlucky as the ball went through the Slovakian’s legs to give the goalkeeper no shot.  Carroll was immediately introduced and thought he played well.  I missed his goal.  Why? Liverpool played another wasted ball into the channel, so I immediately went back to my beer.  I looked up to see the big Englishman celebrating. After some more Liverpool pressure came the controversial non-goal.  To be honest, I still don’t think it was a goal.  Between the freeze frame and how the ball came out, just have to give Cech kudos.

In the end, Chelsea got the measure of the game right, doing just enough to ease past a poor Liverpool side.  And did I mention that Jose Enrique is shambolic?  Wow! What a bad game at the end of a poor season for the Spainard.  No way he’s getting a ticket to Poland and Ukraine.

John Brewin summed up the game for Soccernet, noting that Chelsea now has four FA Cups in six years, with four different managers.  As for the Reds, he focused on their poor start and a lack of presence from Suarez and Gerrard.

Zonal Marking saw the game as basically two completely separate games – Liverpool before Carroll, and Liverpool with Carroll, with Chelsea following their game plan and getting the result.

As for the league, Villa secured Premier League football next season (despite only winning seven times) and put a real dent in Tottenham’s chances for the Champions League.  Yaya led the way for City against Newcastle, scoring both goals to give every advantage to the Citizens next week.  United rebounded with a home win against Swansea(entirely predictable) and will now need a favor from former United great Mark Hughes next week.

The panel on the Manchester United Redcast tried to get excited for a final day in which the Reds are not in control.  They looked ahead to next season and identified five players to get rid of: Park, Anderson, Berbatov, Owen and the twins.  Funny as always, we’ll see how Sunday shakes out.

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What a day in Serie A.  After the Buffon blunder in midweek, which I feel partially responsible for*, things were tense as Juventus travelled to Cagliari for Match 37.  The game was moved to the same time as the Milan Derby, so that the league leaders played at the same time to increase the drama.  Juve took care of business, winning 2-0 while Milan fell 4-2 to Inter, results that meant the Old Lady was crowned champion officially for the first time since 2003.

Giancarlo Rinaldi tied this success back to the 2003 victory in his post for Football Italia, noting the presence of Conte, Buffon and Del Piero threading throughout both triumphs.

Paolo Bandini commented on the proceedings as Conte delivered the title for Juventus through a mixture of man-management and tactics.  Plus he hit the highlights of a crazy night at San Siro.

Juventiknows.com assembled some great videos and pictures of the celebrations.

The celebrations of Juventus’ scudetto game continue to hit the web, including this great video compilation from Sky Italia of the build up, dramatic moments at the end and raucous scenes afterwards.  Plus Del Piero wrote a letter praising the fans and the players who supported the club through thick and thin.

*I haven’t watched a Juventus game since mid-March and they have been winning almost every match, barely giving up a goal.  I tune in for the last 15 minutes of theLeccematch and watch in horror as Buffon loses the ball in front of the goal.  Had they lost the title, I may had to into hiding.

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Pods

Ken Early interviewed Roy Keane for Off the Ball and they discussed Keane’s future while also revisited the Irishman’s bust up at World Cup 2002.  Things get frosty.

The panel at the SI Soccer Roundtable wrapped up the Manchester Derby and looked at the battle at the bottom going into the weekend.  Plus they discussed Hodgson’s hiring for the England job.

Another great pod from the World Football Phone In.  Couple of highlights:

  • The legacy for Poland and Ukraine after Euro 2012 especially as Ukraine are struggling with infrastructure.
  • Status of Brazilian league and the CBF and possible call ups for 2014.
  • Anderson trade for James Rodriguez from Porto.
  • Great venues. Vallecas, Velodrome, La Bombonera, etc.

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Article

A friend on Facebook and twitter posted this article.  It struck me as interesting because of the political and ecopinomic comparisons that seem to be ignored by the uniformed.  I really don’t care if you hate soccer.  That’s fine.  I don’t enjoy other sports but I don’t go around railing against.  There are dozens of games; you can’t like them all.  Just keep your opinions to yourself, especially if you have a platform like Beck orRome or Kornheiser.

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Europa League Final

To be honest I missed first 15 minutes of the match, getting my son situated and all that at the pub, so didn’t even see Falcao’s opener live. After that Bilbao had plenty of possession but lacked the necessary quality in final third. The second goal was a stupid turnover and then an amazing finish from Falcao. To be fair Los Leones were slipping all night with both goals indirectly caused by defenders playing on roller skates.  Bielsa went right to the bench for the start of the second half, but it didn’t do much to change game. Eventually Diego completely killed the game off with the third goal minutes from the end.

Overall, Simeone’s side got everything just about right.  An early goal, disciplined defending from all players and a quick, dangerous counterattack.  For Athletic, Muniain had a good game but wasn’t able to influence the game enough; Ander was poor; Llorente was isolated; and Amorebieta struggled all match.

Zonal Marking assessed the game, noting that Atleti’s early goal set them up perfectly to sit back and counter.  With Bilbao having a hard time breaking through the middle and also not being able to stretch the play wide, the winners were able to absorb pressure and get forward quickly, with special praise given to Falcao.

Billy at AtletiFans.com reveled in the fine performance of Los Colchoneros, appreciating the actions of the rearguard, Diego and Falcao.  Their twelfth win a row in this competition saw Atleti raise a European trophy for the second time in three years.

Meanwhile, at the Athletic Bilbao Offside site, the title of Jack’s post match wrap said it all—Heartbroken. Maybe the occasion was too big for Los Leones as their sharp, incisive game was blunted by an organized Atleti team.

Old Football Buffet–Dark Days

I am in a very dark place footballing wise.  It started twelve days ago when Didier Drobga knocked the ball in from close range to give Chelsea a vital 1-0 lead heading back to the Nou Camp. The following Saturday, CR7 rounded off a fantastic counter attack to seal the La Liga title for Real Madrid.  Seventy-two hours later, Barca ran out to a dream start before hitting a wall covered in Chelsea Blue to get eliminated from the Champions League.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Manchester Derby rolled around and added to my misery.

Ferguson clearly went for the draw, going for experience and energy in the midfield.  But City ran circles around United, with Nasri having a particularly good game, and on another day Aguero would have had a goal or two.  Kompany’s goal was coming, especially after a series of corner kicks followed by poor clearances.  I felt if United could have made it to halftime, the pressure would swing back to City and allow the Red Devils the crack they would need to break the game open.  Instead down a goal away from home, the changes did not come quick enough for me.  Young brought something but I felt Valencia was well off the pace, with very little drive in front of goal and a lackadaisical attitude in the defending third.

Zonal Marking assessed the game, noting that Fergie may have had the tactics right but the personnel wrong.  Park was brought in to nullify Yaya Toure, which I found shocking, because Toure had a fantastic game, snuffing out play and charging forward more and more as the game progressed.  Giggs was overrun by Nasri and Zabaleta on the left side, but I’m not sureYoung,Valencia or Nani would have done much better.  Mancini got his subs spot on as he nullified any change United tried to make.  As Zonal Marking mentioned: This was evidently a completely different type of game from the 6-1 earlier in the season – it was low on technical quality, but high on tension.

Doron Salomon echoed the sentiments regarding the right formation but wrong players in his post at Stretford-End.com.  He went one step further criticizing the lack of fight and goal scoring chances in a big match.  United have the easier run in but the dropped points against Everton may well be the difference in the title fight this year.

The momentum is well and truly with City as they go to Newcastle next Sunday. If the Magpies go at City, they may be in trouble.  As for the QPR game, my hope is that Hughes will take a team fighting for survival and fuel them with his hatred for the blue city of Manchester, causing them to stumble at very last hurdle.

As for the battle for third and fourth in the Premier League, all I can say is giddy up.  The midweek games could reconfigure the table dramatically, especially Chelsea v Newcastle, setting up two weekends of crunch time games.

My other team, Juventus, crushed Novara to get one step closer to the title.  Of course, I can’t take any solace in that because I have only been watching them from afar, having not seen a game since the Old Lady’s thrashing of Fiorentina back in mid-March.  Juve could claim the title this weekend if results go their way.

Roberto Gotta handicapped the race for third in Italy as teams headed into the midweek fixtures.  Roma are a long shot but still in with a shot, but Inter seems to have the momentum with Napoli possibly getting back on track just in time.

 

Old Futbol Buffet–A Loss, A Draw and A Win

These posts usually focus on the EPL with a smattering of Juventus information and analysis, but this weekend was all about El Clasico.  Saturday was spent nervously anticipating the big game (thank God I did not get up for Arsenal v Chelsea), in part because of the need for a win and in part due to the slightly unnerving loss to Chelsea in midweek.  I showed up to the bar early to watch Spurs lose AGAIN, as they could fall from third to sixth in a matter of weeks.  Don’t even know where to start with them.  But back to the confrontation between the two Spanish Super Powers.  Thousands of words were written before and after, and I won’t try to add to the deluge (too much). I also won’t try to break down tactics or drill down on the stats or put this game into the context of almost 100 years of conflict.  I’ll just concede the title and move on.

Barca’s team selection was surprising, especially Tello and Thiago, but exciting because the Blaugrana were going for it, aiming for the only result that would help them—a win that would cause a nervous breakdown in the capital.  However, Tello struggled.  He provided width, but lacked the final ball and his finishing was poor, to be kind.  Thiago came into the match, and in the second half I thought he had more impact as he dribbled the ball out of deep midfield.

Real Madrid’s first goal was a cluster, as Valdes could only kill the ball in front of goal and Puyol just didn’t hoof it out.  I helped organize an El Clasico Watch Party, and the crowd was pretty pro Barca so there was a lot of face palming at that moment.  A sense of doom and resignation was setting in until the equalizer, during which the place went nuts, but the celebrations were cut short after CR7’s goal.  The winner, stunning in swiftness and execution, was a confluence of factors: Ozil out wide, CR7 cutting in the middle, Puyol, Masch not coordinating their efforts, and Valdes out of sorts.

Barcelona’s goal was scrappy, but it was the result of driving at Madrid instead of passing side to side or negatively, which made the game feel like an offense versus defense drill.  Against Chelesa, the Blaugrana had tons of possession and were dangerous, just didn’t finish, while in the game against Real, they had possession but were blunt, not sharp, and relatively easy to manage for Los Merengues.

In my preview of the season, I opined that the extra games would catch up with Barcelona, and I feel that my thoughts are being validated.  They have reached the final of the Copa del Rey, the semis of the Champions League and participated in the Club World Cup this season, so as the Blaugrana hit crunch time, they are missing that extra gear, which allows them to put the necessary distance between them and their opponents.  Is this the end of Pep’s team?  We won’t know until it’s over and the heights are hit less and less frequently.  But look at next year.  Sanchez has been a decent signing and will continue to make an impact.  Cesc should be back to full fitness, both mentally and physically, which should give the manager more options.  Hopefully Pedro will back on song and Villa will be back from injury.  Plus the cantera players will learn and improve and add dynamism to the team.  Tello will learn from this match; Cuenca will continue to improve; and Thiago will grow as the heir to the midfield three.  Continuing on to next year, both teams dropped points this season and will drop points next year, but the rivals keep putting pressure on each other to be great and both will be at each other’s throats for silverware next year.  And that’s all we can ask.

Zonal Marking wrote an excellent summary of the game, noting that Barcelona did not have enough directness in the game (until Sanchez and Pedro entered) and were not clinical enough in front of goal.  Real’s set up was typical, 4-2-3-1, and they executed a brilliant game plan, which included a mixture of pressing and sitting back and swift counterattacks.

John Pelini at El Centrocampista had similar thoughts, noting that Messi did not have enough support in attack as teams are crowding Messi in an attempt to blunt the Barca attack.  Mourinho picked the same 11 as he played against Bayern and was rewarded with an effort that produced key goals, finely tuned counterattacks and organized defense.

On to Sunday . . .

United v Everton at Old Trafford was early Sunday morning, and I figured that it would be a drab 1-0 home win.  So I got up, started cleaning the house, checked the score: 1-1 at halftime.  Not great but . . . Next time I checked, United was up 3-1.  Great.  Title 20.  Check.  But then I refreshed and to my horror, I saw the score was 4-3 to United and while I was scrolling through the commentary, Everton equalized just before the death.  With City beating Wolves 2-0, the gap is down to three, setting up an epic confrontation next Monday.  I’m taking the afternoon off to focus on the game that will determine which half of Manchesterthe trophy will reside.  Can’t wait.

Andy at the Stretford-End.com enjoyed the exciting match, including an impressive performance from Fellaini.  He wondered if Ferguson might have gotten the substitutions wrong towards the end as United looked to add a fifth instead of protecting the three points.

Later that day, Juventus hosted Roma in a key match for both sides: Juve in their quest for the scudetto and Roma in their fight for a European spot, with an outside chance at third, the last Champions League spot.  My son had something that afternoon so I followed the game on twitter.  The Juventini were all over it, letting me know that Vidal had put the Old Lady up 1-0.  Shortly after Vidal scored a second, then Stekelenburg took down Marchisio, got sent off, and Pirlo converted the penalty kick. Milan’s draw and Juve’s 4-0 win puts the Old Lady up by three points.  With just five matches to go, the black and whites are close to a 28th title after years of suffering.  I think to fail now, Juventini might be more heartbroken than the relegation to Serie B.  Forza Juve.

Aaron recapped a devastating performance by the Bianconeri at Juventiknows.com.  High marks were given to the five man Juve midfield that ran the show and overwhelmed their opponents, while the defense has solidified into the best unit in Italy, only giving up one goal in the last six games and 18 for the season.

Finally, Grant Wahl did a feature piece on Brad Friedel, who has started every match for his clubs (Blackburn, Aston Villa and Spurs) since the beginning of the 2004/05 season.  An amazing reward for dedication, fitness and desire.

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Podcasts

The World Football Phone In on 4/14 was fantastic.  The panel explored why they loved this game; the Brazilian striker Fred and his prospects of playing at the World Cup; the rise and fall of the Uruguayan National Team, from the dominance of the 20’s and 30’s to their footballing wilderness to a fantastic performance at World Cup 2010; and the success both on and off the field of the Seattle Sounders.

Janusz Michallik was on Beyond the Pitch to look at the issues of the day.  His comments on the eventual use of video replay were interesting, in that the broadcasters will demand it in order to justify huge contracts for a game that is decided fairly.  Straightforward and opinionated, Janusz gives an interesting perspective on players, teams, leagues and topics.

Weekend Warrior

The weekend will be dominated by El Clasico but there are plenty of other good games on as well.

In England, Chelsea looks to keep their week of glory going with a game against Arsenal.  The Blues are already in the FA Cup and have FCB on the ropes.  Could they sneak fourth place as well?  United play Everton on Sunday.  A win and the pressure will really be on City next week.

La Liga is coming to a close the race to avoid relegation could get tight, especially if Villarreal drop points and Zaragoza continues their run.  As for the European places, it’s anyone’s guess who will finish in the top six.

Serie A resumes and Juventus host Roma in game that is important for both squads.  Juve will want to win to stay clear of AC Milan, while Roma need all three points to maintain their Europa League spot and give them hope for finishing third.

All Times Eastern Daylight Time

Saturday

7:30a EPL Arsenal Chelsea ESPN3
2:00p La Liga Barcelona Real Madrid GolTV/ESPN3

Sunday

5:55a La Liga Real Sociedad Villarreal ESPN3
7:30a EPL Manchester Utd Everton FSC
9:50a La Liga Racing Santander Athletic Bilbao ESPN3
12:00p La Liga Atlético Madrid Espanyol GolTV
2:40p Serie A Juventus Roma ESPN3

Midweek Warrior–Be Sick on Wednesday

Take Wednesday off.  I can’t but you should.  Epic games in big leagues that could determine the where the championships end up.

2:00p    Bundesliga         Borussia Dortmund x Bayern Munich        GolTV

1st against 2nd.  If Bayern wins, they catch Dortmund and would have the momentum.

2:40p    Serie A              Juventus vs. Lazio                                  ESPN3

Juventus finally overtook AC Milan and this will be a tough game as the Old Lady tries to win back the scudetto.

4:00p    La Liga              Atl. Madrid x RealMadrid                        GolTV

Real Madrid stumbled at the weekend and will need all three points to keep FCB at arms length before El Clasico on 4/21.

Weekend Warrior

Don’t have time to craft this post. Let me just say, WATCH. Serie A, La Liga, EPL, even Portuguese Super Liga. Get in front of an electronic device and soak it in.

All Times Eastern Daylight Time

Saturday

12:30p Serie A Palermo v Juventus FS+/ESPN3
2:00p La Liga Zaragoza x Barcelona GolTV
3:30p Portugal Braga vs. FC Porto ESPN3
4:00p La Liga Betis x Villarreal GolTV

Sunday
5:55a La Liga Levante vs. Atletico de Madrid ESPN3
8:30a EPL Manchester Utd. v Queens Park Rangers FSC
10:30a EPL Arsenal v Manchester City FSC
12:00p La Liga Ath. Bilbao x Sevilla GolTV
3:25p La Liga Real Madrid vs. Valencia ESPN2/3

Old Futbol Buffet–What I Missed

My life has been super super busy.  I have been trying to keep up on events going inEurope, which has been tough.

Two Saturdays ago I spent six hours at the local bar watching Chelsea v Spurs, Arsenal v Aston Villa (with an eye on Liverpool v Wigan) and then Real Mallorca against FC Barcelona.  Needless to say a nap was on the cards afterwards.

The London Derby wasn’t that great of a game.  Spurs seemed to be completely out of sorts with Bale drifting inside while Mata seemed awfully subdued for the Blues.  There were very few moments of quality: Adebayor’s run down the sideline and Walker’s terrible run to goal; free kicks from Bale and Mata; and double save on VdV. 2 pts from last 15 for spurs.  They will be lucky to hang to fourth.  (Did manage make the FA Cup semis against Chelsea though.)

Arsenal ran circles around Villa.  Albrighton had one nice run for the Villains but that’s about all I can remember from the visitors.  Once Given let in a soft goal from Gibbs, the writing was on the wall.  The goals from Theo and Arteta were simply spectacular.

Midweek saw the return of the Champions League, with Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Chelsea all but booked their places in the semis, with the gigantic clash between AC Milan and FC Barcelona still in the balance.  The game was entertaining but the surface and the lack of finishing kept the gloss of the game.  Zonal Marking examined the narrowness of FCB (until the introduction of Tello) and the organized pressing from the Rossoneri in his post.

The weekend in the Premiership saw more surprising results, with Arsenal losing to QPR and Wigan winning again in a dramatic last push to avoid relegation. Liverpool lost again but that’s not really a shock.  The biggest shock had to be Sunderland leading City 3-1 at the Eithad, before the blue team of Manchester pulled it back for a 3-3 draw.  If United beat Blackburn, then the Citizens may have kissed the title good bye.

The Men in Blazers pod this week was a mixed bag.  Roger’s phone line fromLiverpool was not stellar, but the banter on the previous week’s fixtures was great.  The guys spent a moment remembering Giorgio Chinaglia, who passed away last week.

Scott the Red is seeing his prediction for league honors come good in his post match wrap as United finally broke down a determined Blackburn team with two stunning goals from Valencia and Young.  I had the game on the background at work and, while it always looked like United were in control, there were some nervy moments.  As usual, I looked away and both goals were scored.  United have QPR on Sunday and if they win, surely City will feel the pressure against Arsenal.

One issue that has bothered me this season is Evra’s form for the Red Devils, which Doron addressed at stretford-end.com.  He examined all of the factors affecting the Frenchman—playing almost every minute this season, dealing with Suarez incident, negotiating the tendencies of the players around—and feels that United are lucky to have a player of his caliber.  Yes his form has dipped slightly but the rest of Europe would kill to have him.  Decent perspective, but next year Fabio has got to put up or shut up, so that Evra can be phased out.

In Serie A, Juventus thumped Napoli 3-0 to get within two points of AC Milan.  The title race is definitely back on and should be a fantastic finish.

Aaron and Marco of Juventiknows looked back at the Juventus game against Napoli which featured a comprehensive second half that produced 3 goals without replay.  Although Conte’s selections still cause some head scratching and face palms, you can’t argue with the results.  30 games unbeaten, two behind the leaders, and an easier run-in.  How great would it be if ADP ended his Juventus career by lifting the scudetto?

Speaking of dramatic title races, keep an eye on Portugal, Germany and Holland.  Epic finishes ahoy!!

PORTUGAL

Porto 60
Benfica 59
Braga 58

Ben Shave was on Beyond the Pitch to talk about the Portuguese League as the a dramatic run-in approaches.  Great information about the traditional powers and some of the surprising stories like Maritimo and Guimaraes.  They also discussed where AVB might land after his short time at Chelsea.

GERMANY

Borussia Dortmund 63
Bayern Munich 60

HOLLAND

Ajax Amsterdam 58
AZ Alkmaar 57
Twente Enschede 55
PSV Eindhoven 54
Feyenoord Rotterdam 54
Heerenveen 54

Finally, Jonathan Wilson looked ahead to England’s Euro 2012 campaign by reminding readers of the events of the last two years.  His verdict: And soEngland, with three months to go until Euro 2012, is without a manager, without a captain and, frankly, without much of a clue.

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Podcasts

Phil and Doron were back on Beyond the Pitch to look at news around Old Trafford, with the Reds picking up three vital points against Fulham.  Doron did an extensive look at Academy prospects and gave an update on the reserves.  Possible transfer window possibilities were discussed, focusing on Macheda and Berbatov.

Roberto Gotta was on Beyond the Pitch as well to discuss Serie A.  Inter took center stage as they have hired their 17th coach in 17 years.  Plus the guys looked at AC Milan down the stretch.

Grant Wahl and Alexi Lalas discussed the US’s failure to qualify for the London Olympics on the SI Soccer Roundtable and what that might mean for the coaches, players and program down the road. Interesting thoughts and well worth a listen.

Graham Hunter and Jonathan Wilson were Off the Ball Tuesday to discuss the FC Barcelona v AC Milan. Wilson pointed out that FCB’s manipulation of the refs does not cover them in glory and feels that this year’s vintage is not of the same standard as previous years.  Hunter praised the Blaugrana and thoroughly enjoyed the encounter between the European heavyweights.

Weekend Warrior

Quite a weekend is in store as there are crucial match ups inItaly,SpainandEngland.

Saturday starts things off early with Spurs travelling to Stamford Bridge, having only gained one point from their last 12.  The Blues fell late on to City midweek so their response will be critical.  From there Milan host Roma, who have been improving as of late. Milan must get three points to keep Juventus four points behind them.  The afternoon is filled with La Liga action with FCB playing before Madrid who have stumbled as of late.  A win for the Blaugrana would cut the deficit to three before Los Merengues host Sociedad right after.  Two draws have seen Mourinho’s men lose a ten point lead.  The final match of the day is Valencia travelling to Getafe.  Los Che were stunned in midweek by bottom of the table Zaragoza and are now only three points ahead of Levante.

Sunday gets off an early start as well as the Old Firm match comes to Fox Soccer.  That is followed by Espanyol against Malaga.  Pellegrini’s men are on quite a run and Espanyol need the points to keep their faint European hopes alive. Bilbao host relegation candidates Gijon and need three points to get off their recent slide.  Finally the Italian Derby wraps up things.  Inter travel to the new Juventus Arena in all sorts of trouble—poor form, coach on the hot seat and may not qualify for Europe.  Meanwhile the hosts, buoyed by a 5-0 thrashing of Fiorentina last weekend and knocking AC Milan out of the Coppa Italia, will be looking for all three points as they chase the Scudetto.

All Time Eastern Daylight Time

SATURDAY

8:30a EPL Chelsea Tottenham ESPN2/3
12:55p SerieA AC Milan Roma ESPN3
1:00p La Liga Mallorca FC Barcelona GolTV
2:50p La Liga Real Madrid Real Sociedad ESPN3
4:55p La Liga Getafe Valenica ESPN3

SUNDAY

8:00a SPL Rangers Celtic FSC
10:30a La Liga Espanyol Malaga GolTV
12:30a La Liga Ath. Bilbao Sporting Gijon GolTV
2:40p SerieA Juventus Inter FSC/ESPN3

Weekend Warrior

This weekend is problematic for me on several levels.  One, just found out my son is involved in yet another floor hockey tournament.  Seriously, this needs to be over.  Two, Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, which prevents me from watching games at my favorite pub.  Three, March Madness has started so my eyes will be inexorably drawn towards those games.  But there are some really good fixtures over the weekend so I will attempt some sort of balance.

All Times Eastern Daylight Time

Saturday

1:30p FA Cup Tottenham Bolton FSC
3:00p La Liga Sevilla FC Barcelona ESPN3
3:30p Serie A Juventus Fiorentina FSC

Sunday

9:30p EPL Wolves Manchester United FSC
1:00p La Liga Atl. Bilbao Valencia GolTV
4:30p La Liga Real Madrid Malaga GolTV