Carling Cup Final Preview

February 27, 2009
berba

Expect a Lot of This on Sunday

So on Sunday Manchester United and Tottenham will kick off from new Wembley (can I call it that? kind of like new Comiskey, even though it was built in the early 90s and is called US Cellular Field?) for the right to call themselves champions of the tournament named for the UK’s highest selling beer. That’s actually true by the way, or at least that’s what everyone always told me.

There shouldn’t be too much to talk about in this match assuming one thing: that Man United actually bring their top squad. It’s true that they just played on Tuesday in Milan, drawing Inter nil-nil in the Champions League. And it’s also true that there will be mid-week Premiership matches as well as matches again next weekend. So there is a very real possibility that United could opt out with their A team and play a bunch of youngsters. Granted, Spurs just played yesterday (at home) in the UEFA Cup and have the same domestic schedule as United.

But as Pratt and I discussed on the phone last weekend, if they’re already in the final, why not win it? United still have the farfetched chance to win four trophies this season, and that includes the Carling Cup. Why not bring out the big guns against a sorry Tottenham side and mop the floor with them for a well-earned trophy? That way, in case the FA Cup or Champions League go down the tubes, at least they’ll have two trophies.

Spurs on the other hand have absolutely no reason not to play their top side. They are the holders of the Carling Cup and if United fail to bring their top players, it’d be possible to pull off the rare back-to-back Carling Cup title. That could bring at least a little light to the darkness that has been this season for Tottenham. Plus it guarantees them at least a qualifying position in the UEFA Cup next year. There is no way Spurs can make it into Europe next year besides winning this tournament so it’d be well-worth trying. That and the fact that their domestic season has been such a disaster and they are now out of the UEFA Cup, there’s not a whole lot left to rest the regulars for.

My prediction is that United will come out blasting and take Spurs out 3-1 for the title.


Does the NFL Really Need LA?

February 27, 2009
industry

This is Industry, CA

The City Council of Industry, California, a town about 15 miles east of Los Angeles unanimously approved a proposal to build an $800 million football stadium with the intention of luring an NFL team back to the Los Angeles market. I can’t argue with a place deciding they want to build a stadium, they’ve done it in Kansas City with the Sprint Center that houses neither an NHL or NBA team (but hopes to). But LA has always been a weird place when it comes to pro sports.

Most people in LA are from somewhere else so a fan base is tougher to come by for a pro team. Sure, the Lakers and Dodgers usually draw well, but it’s not like the Clippers do or the Rams did when they were in LA. The city is very fair-weather when it comes to pro sports and if the Lakers or Dodgers suddenly became terrible, their attendance would surely suffer.

There are other issues as well, like the history of the Rams and Raiders. Neither of those experiments ultimately worked out especially well. The Raiders won a Super Bowl while in LA but mostly the two teams weren’t very good. They played at the iconic LA Coliseum but the teams wanted luxury boxes and other means of revenue not available in a 75-year old stadium. So building a new stadium would make sense in that regard but would bringing an existing team create an instant fan base? I doubt it.

Another issue with the LA sports scene, especially in regards to the Lakers, is the visibility of celebrities. At basketball games you can sit courtside and have your face on the jumbotron all game long. Ordinary people can also have the thrill of seeing Jack Nicholson or any number of celebs while at Staples Center. That just isn’t going to work in football. You’re more likely to see a celeb in a luxury box on tv than you ever would be actually attending the game. There’s just not the same closeness to the action that draws celebrities.

But all those other points are ancillary in comparison to the major reason a team doesn’t need to move to LA: the NFL has done better than ever since the teams moved from LA in the mid-90s. The growth of the league has been incredible since the Rams moved in 1994 and despite the current economic issues, shows not signs of slowing down. Teams like Buffalo and Minnesota that are linked to possibly be interested in relocating to LA really can’t expect to do any better than they already are, nor can the league expect huge revenue gains from such a move. To start, the Vikings and especially Bills are beloved in their current cities. But even if they did venture out to LA, why would thousands of people pay exorbitant prices at a brand new stadium to see the Los Angeles Vikings or the Los Angeles Bills? West coast fans have absolutely no connection with midwest or northeast teams, unless they grew up in those areas.

It just doesn’t make any sense for the NFL to sacrifice a team for the sake of returning to the second largest media market in the country. I just don’t see revenue being equalled in LA as compared to the long-time fans of existing franchises. The only possible exception to this is Jacksonville, but even there fans exist in large numbers in an area where there are no other professional sports franchises drawing attention away.


Premiership Predictions – Week 27

February 27, 2009

epl

This week’s Premiership schedule comes just days after the latest Champions League and UEFA Cup ties and should feature some very tired clubs. Manchester United and Tottenham will play in the Carling Cup final on Sunday so they will both skip out on the weekend matches. There are no really serious match-ups this week so we’ll just get right to the picks. One other thing, Philip Oliver is resting on his laurels after last week’s destruction of my feeble picks, but will be back for next week’s mid-week Round 28 matches.

Saturday:
West Brom @ Everton – Everton
Fulham @ Arsenal – Draw
Wigan @ Chelsea – Chelsea
Liverpool @ Middlesbrough – Liverpool

Sunday:
Man City @ West Ham – West Ham
Blackburn @ Hull City – Draw
Newcastle @ Bolton – Bolton
Stoke City @ Aston Villa – Villa

Results Thus Far:

Week 1 – 19 points
Week 2 – 16 points
Week 3 – 12 points
Week 4 – 13 points
Week 5 – 13 points
Week 6 – 27 points
Week 7 – 14 points
Week 8 – 22 points
Week 9 – 18 points
Week 10 – 19 points
Week 11 – 11 points
Week 12 – 10 points
Week 13 – 16 points
Week 14 – 13 points
Week 15 – 9 points
Week 16 – 18 points
Week 17 – 11 points
Week 18 – 14 points
Week 19 – 15 points
Week 20 – 23 points
Week 21 – 21 points
Week 22 – 20 points
Week 23 – 21 points
Week 24 – 14 points
Week 25 – 23 points
Week 26 – 11 points


AC Milan Out in the UEFA Cup

February 26, 2009

pizzaro

After Andrea Pirlo and Pato scored in the first half for Milan, Claudio Pizarro scored twice in ten minutes in the second half to earn a draw for Werder Bremen 2-2 at the San Siro. The two away goals send German club through to the round of sixteen on a 3-3 aggregate. Milan, who looked poised to move on convincingly after their first three halves, have to be stunned to be out of Europe before March. Bremen meanwhile have had quite a rough go of it in Germany so this victory should be seen as quite a lift.

A Craig Bellamy brace sends Manchester City through to the next round on a 2-1 home victory over København and a 4-3 aggregate. Martin Vingaard Hansen scored in the 90th minute for the Danes but it was not enough to equal Bellamy’s superb late efforts.

In Spain, Artem Kravets scored twice for Dynamo Kiev to earn a 2-2 draw with Valencia. As in the Milan-Bremen situation, the Ukrainian side’s two away goals gave Dynamo the victory despite the 3-3 aggregate score.

Hatem Ben Arfa’s 24th minute goal gave Olympique Marseille a 1-0 lead over FC Twente, pushing the aggregate to 1-1 and eventually forced a penalty shootout. The French port city’s 7-6 advantage in penalties sends them through to the round of sixteen, crushing the hopes of Dutch leaders Twente.

At the Luzhniki Stadion in Moscow, Yuri Zhirkov’s 61st minute goal pushed CSKA Moscow past Aston Villa on aggregate. Vagner Love tallied yet another goal for the Russian side, adding insult to Villa’s injury and sending the Birmingham club home on a 3-1 aggregate.

Finally, at White Hart Lane Giovani dos Santos gave Tottenham brief hope of a comeback against Shaktar Donetsk but Fernandinho’s 86th minute goal pushed the aggregate score to 3-1 in favor of the Ukrainians and left Spurs with just Sunday’s Carling Cup final as a chance to remain in Europe next year.

Here are the rest of the scores:

Zenit St. Petersburg 2 – Stuttgart 1 (Zenit 4-2 ag)
St. Etienne 2 – Olympiacos 1 (St. Etienne 5-2 ag)
Metalist Kharkiv 2 – Sampdoria 0 (Metalist 3-0 ag)
Hamburg 1 – NEC Nijmegen 0 (Hamburg 4-0 ag)
Paris Saint-Germain 3 – Wolfsburg 1 (PSG 5-1 ag)
Galatasaray 4 – Bordeaux 3 (Galatasaray 4-3 ag)
AaB Aalborg 3 – Deportivo La Coruña 1 (Aalborg 6-1 ag)
Braga 1 – Standard Liège 1 (Braga 4-1 ag)
Udinese 2 – Lech Poznań 1 (Udinese 4-3 ag)
Fiorentina 1 – Ajax 1 (Ajax 2-1 ag)

So, here are the Round of 16 matchups:

Werder Bremen v. St. Etienne
CSKA Moscow v. Shakhtar Donetsk
Udinese v. Zenit
PSG v. Braga
Dynamo Kiev v. Metalist Kharkiv
Man City v. Aalborg
Marseille v. Ajax
Hamburg v. Galatasaray


Bayern Advance

February 25, 2009

toni

Franck Ribery and Luca Toni (above) both scored twice and Miroslav Klose added to his exceptional Champions League campaign as Bayern Munich destroyed and humiliated Sporting Lisbon 5-0 at the Jose Alvalde Stadium. The five away goals will certainly be more than enough to send the Bavarian club through to the final eight, barring a catastrophic disaster in Munich two weeks from now.

At Stamford Bridge Chelsea regained their home form in a solid 1-0 victory over Juventus. Didier Drogba scored in the 12th minute to send the Blues to an important home victory. Perhaps most important was the fact that the Blues kept Juve from scoring an away goal. Now Chelsea will can do well in Turin in a fortnight if they can simply score a goal away from home.

Yossi Benayoun stole a Liverpool victory at the Bernabéu with his 82nd minute header. The away goal and clean sheet were a fantastic result for the Reds as Real have been playing extremely well of late domestically. Now Liverpool will take that away goal and one-goal lead back to England in a shocking result.

Finally, at El Madrigal Giuseppe Rossi’s penalty in the 67th minute saved a draw against upstart Panathinaikos. Giorgos Karagounis opened the scoring for the Greek side in the 59th minute. The away goal will do Panathinaikos well in returning home in two weeks time.


The Rest of the First Legs

February 25, 2009

cl

After three draws and a surprising Arsenal victory yesterday we’ve got four more Champions League ties today.

Juventus @ Chelsea
Both clubs are very near the top of their respective domestic leagues yet are probably out of it in terms of catching the leaders. Chelsea have barely scored in this competition so far, to the point where John Terry is their leading scorer with just two goals. Juve have been led by the old man himself, Alessandro Del Piero. Usually Chelsea are unbeatable at Stamford Bridge but have lost several times there this season. Still, the advantage lies with the Blues and their stingy defense.

Prediction – Chelsea 1 – Juventus 1

Liverpool @ Real Madrid
The great unknown at the time of writing is whether or not Steven Gerrard will be fit for the match at the Bernabéu. Gerrard did not play against Man City on the weekend for the Reds and would be sorely missed in this tie. He is their leading scorer in the Champions League with five goals and is obviously the team leader. Real on the other hand have been fantastic of late in La Liga. Even with Gerrard, Liverpool face quite a test against the surging Whites. Juande Ramos has pushed Real to a strong record including a 6-1 thrashing of Real Betis over the weekend. And the rich only get richer as Real add Rafael van der Vaart to their lineup.

Prediction – Real 3 – Liverpool 2

Panathinaikos @ Villareal
The Greeks had a very nice run through the group stages back in the fall, winning Group B over Inter Milan. While I can’t claim to know much about Panathinaikos apart from the support of a buddy from high school, I do have a good feeling about them in this tournament. Villareal are in fourth place in La Liga but are quite distant behind the front-runners. The Spaniards are in no way dominant at El Madrigal where today’s match will be played.

Prediction – Panathinaikos 2 – Villareal 1

Bayern Munich @ Sporting Lisbon
The Bavarian club won Group F on a tiebreaker with Lyon but they sit just fourth in the Bundesliga. Of course that must be tempered with the fact that they are just four points behind the leaders at this point. Miroslav Klose has been quite good in the Champions League thus far and will again be counted on for scoring. But a weak performance in this round could possibly see Jürgen Klinsmann off as the Bayern boss. Sporting for their part are running third in the SuperLiga in Portugal. They have not been a particularly high scoring club in the Champions League and were routed by Barcelona in both of their group play matches.

Prediction – Bayern 1 – Sporting 1

We also have Philip Oliver’s thoughts on this, the second day of first leg matches:

Chelsea 2 – 0 Juventus
Real Madrid 1 – 1 Liverpool
Villarreal 2 – 0 Panathinaikos
Sporting 2 – 1 Bayern Munich


Fulham Eke Through in FA Cup

February 24, 2009

zamoraFulham needed two goals in the final thirteen minutes to escape their 5th round replay with Swansea at Craven Cottage. Clint Dempsey (77th) and Bobby Zamora (81st) (both pictured) did the trick for the Cottagers, earning them a home game with Manchester United in the quarterfinal round. Jason Scotland, the first match’s hero for the Welsh side, opened the scoring in the 47th minute. But the Championship side’s dreams were dashed when Zamora headed in the winner just nine minutes from time.

The other 5th round replay today saw Coventry City advance to the quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers at the Ricoh Arena. Leon Best’s 59th minute goal was all Coventry needed to earn a home showing against Chelsea in the next round.

Additional 5th round replays will take place tomorrow and Thursday between West Ham and Middlesbrough on the one hand and Hull City and Sheffield United on the other.


Arsenal Are Big Winners

February 24, 2009

persie

On a day where three of the four Champions League matches finished in draws, Robin Van Persie’s 37th minute penalty sent Arsenal to an important and 1-0 home victory over AS Roma at the Emirates Stadium. Entering the match Arsenal had to have felt some embarrassment after having drawn Sunderland nil-nil at home over the weekend and in fact failed to score in three consecutive Premier League matches. So Van Persie’s goal from the spot was a huge boost to the sagging English giants. Importantly, the Gunners did not allow Roma to score meaning there is no away goal advantage for the Roman club. They will have to defeat Arsenal by a 2-0 or 3-1 margin to guarantee survival to the round of eight.

At the Vicente Calderon, a Lisandro brace puts Porto in a fine position against Atlético Madrid in a 2-2 draw. Maxi Rodríguez and Diego Forlán scored in the first half for the home side. With Lisandro’s equalizer in the 72nd minute, Porto give themselves plenty of room to work with having scored twice away.

On the opposite hand, Manchester United did themselves a disservice by not scoring at the San Siro against Internazionale. The nil-nil draw between Inter and Man U is a somewhat surprising result. Between the high-powered Inter attack and the injury and suspension riddled defense, it was supposed that some scoring might take place. Instead the teams will travel to Manchester to renew their battle with a draw including scoring giving Inter advancement. Of course United can simply win the match at Old Trafford to advance, which is the huge benefit of having taken a clean sheet from Milan.

Finally, Barcelona gave itself a nice chance to advance by pulling out a draw in Lyon. Juninho led things off for the home side with a fantastic goal in the 7th mintue but Thierry Henry pulled one back for the Catalan club in the 67th minute. With Barca so devastating at home, it is a good chance to see them advance though Lyon have to be given credit for their strong performance today.


Tottenham Win Away

February 23, 2009

woodgate

When Jonathan Woodgate of all people scored the match winner in the 85th minute, Tottenham finally earned three away points and jumped from sixteenth to fourteenth in the Premier League standings. Passing Newcastle and Portsmouth and now just a point behind Hull for thirteenth, Spurs are on track to remain in top-flight football in 2009/2010.

Aaron Lennon started the scoring in the 17th minute but Michael Turner equalized for Hull City in the 27th minute. There the score stood until Woodgate headed in his goal just five minutes from full time. Meanwhile Hull, an early season surprise, continue to fall on hard times with just two points from their last nine Premier League matches. Hull look like they will probably finish the season in the bottom quarter of the table.


The Champions League Returns

February 23, 2009

cl

Four matches tomorrow and four more Wednesday mark the long-awaited return of the best European soccer has to offer in the form of the Champions League. We’re now in the knock-out rounds so the home-and-home series for each club is all there is between a date in the next round or crashing out of Europe.

Roma @ Arsenal
Both clubs are in similar situations domestically. Neither is in the title hunt and both cling desperately to automatic qualification into the UEFA Cup for next season. Neither can really be considered a serious contender for this year’s Champions League title but the match should be interesting nonetheless. Arsenal just drew Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on the weekend so expect the Gunners to be out to prove they’re much better than that recent result.

Prediction – Arsenal 2 – Roma 1

Porto @ Atlético Madrid
Two clubs with very different seasons this year as Porto is the leader of the Portuguese Superliga while Atlético have found wins much harder to come by in La Liga, currently sitting seventh. I really don’t know much about these two clubs though Atlético was fantastic in the gropu stage.

Prediction – Atlético 2 – Porto 2

Man United @ Inter Milan
Inter have been by far the best club in Italy all year, currently holding a nine-point lead atop Serie A. Of course, as well documented on this site, Manchester United have gotten better and better as the season has continued, and now hold a seven-point lead atop the Premiership. United have had some injuries of late, particularly on defense, but have still given up just a single goal in the EPL over the past few months. Inter have a very strong offense led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and have not lost at home this season.

Prediction – Inter 1 – United 1

Barcelona @ Lyon
Lyon and Barca are both domestic leaders in their respective countries with solid leads atop the Liga and Ligue 1 tables. Olympique have also not lost at home this season but have managed just seven wins compared with five draws. Barca have the incomparable Samuel Eto’o who has already scored 23 goals in La Liga this season. Barca have an astounding +51 goal differential this season.

Prediction – Barca 3 – Lyon 1


Duke’s New Alternates

February 23, 2009

duke

I didn’t actually watch last night’s Duke-Wake Forest game but check out what Duke was wearing (above). They’ll wear the whites again against Florida State and break out the blues for the second North Carolina game. Apparently they’re supposed to be a lot lighter fabrics and some kind of breathable mesh that’s supposed to improve performance. It’s all part of the Nike scheme of course and is sort of based on the USA basketball unis worn in the 2008 Olympics. The design is a depiction of the gothic look that is pervasive on Duke’s campus.

This is a trend that I really hope does not spread, whether through Nike or otherwise. And honestly, it’s not because Duke did it first. I actually don’t mind what Duke did because it’s kind of a vertically based scheme that isn’t overwhelmingly obvious or annoying. But I can just picture what other schools or NBA teams would do with this kind of a concept, even if it’s just for an alternate. I’m afraid it would turn into slightly backgrounded versions of those ridiculous baseball turn-ahead-the-clock unis from the late 90s. Not the futuristic part but just the huge logos.


Philip’s Domination

February 23, 2009

dead mao

Last time you all saw Mao in triumph after my beatdown of Philip Oliver in our head-to-head Premiership predictions. Well you can guess how I did this week based on the view on this post. Let’s break it down:

Update: Tottenham did defeat Hull City today 2-1 at the KC Stadium. Thus, Philip tacks on three more points and I, miserably, get nothing.

Correct:
mao – Man United, Fulham
Philip – Chelsea, Man United, Draw (Boro-Wigan), Fulham, Draw (Liverpool-Man City), Tottenham

Incorrect:
mao – Villa, Arsenal, Wigan, West Ham, Stoke, Liverpool, Everton, Hull City
Philip – Everton, Stoke, West Ham, Arsena

The way I score myself is that I take three points for a correct pick, one point if a match ended in a draw and zero for a completely incorrect pick. In that scale the score this week was:

mao – 11
Philip – 21

In a straight up and down scoring:

mao – 6
Philip – 18


The Return of Podcasts

February 23, 2009


micAfter many moons of not hearing my voice on here, I’m happy to bring back The AD Hall’s podcasting. This is the first of what I hope will be a much more frequent occurrence as I really enjoy doing them and I think it’s cool to add something a little more multi media to the blog.

So, here’s me and Prizz chatting about Atlanta sports, the Premiership and Mister Lady jeans. We cover a pretty wide range of topics and yes, it goes on for about an hour. So bear with us as we slowly make these a little more concrete and enjoy the chatter. And if you have any interest in being on the podcast, let me know. It’s super easy and pretty fun.

Cheers


Liverpool Held, Lose Ground

February 22, 2009

bellamyLiverpool fell even further behind front-running Manchester United today with a lame 1-1 draw with Manchester City at Anfield Road. Dirk Kuyt saved the shared points for the Reds with his 78th minute goal after Craig Bellamy scored by a Álvaro Arbeloa deflection just after halftime. What is particularly appalling about the draw is how awful City are away from home. They have lost to some of the worst clubs in England yet could hold their own on the pitch of the supposed second-best club in England. So now Liverpool are seven points behind Man United at the top, probably enough to now deny them any chance of catching back up. Also, with Chelsea’s big win at Aston Villa yesterday, Liverpool are just three points ahead of the Blues and four ahead of Aston Villa. City, meanwhile, remain in tenth place, though they now hold that distinction by way of points and not just differential.

At Craven Cottage, Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson scored in the second half to propel Fulham to a 2-0 home victory over DFL West Bromich Albion. With West Ham United losing yesterday, Fulham take over eighth place on differential, now just two points behind Wigan for seventh. Albion have just 22 points and are still in last place, likely destined for a return to the Championship next season.

Finally, despite playing a man down for the entire second half, Newcastle drew Everton nil-nil at St. James’ Park. The shared points are a disaster for Everton who could have made up ground on stumbling Arsenal for fifth place. Instead, the Toffees are still four points behind the Gunners for the important final European qualification spot. As for Toon, they switch spots with Portsmouth for fourteenth position and are just several points from really jumping into the mix for a top-ten final position.

Tottenham will travel to the KC Stadium to face ever-slipping Hull City. Three points could move Spurs up to fourteenth place, just a point behind Hull. Three points for Hull would send them to eleventh place. Shared points would not change the table one bit.


A Weird Day in England

February 21, 2009

anelka

Today was a day with several bizarre results in the English Premier League. We’ll start in Birmingham:

Chelsea finally broke through and stunted Aston Villa’s climb toward the top with a 1-0 victory at Villa Park. Nicolas Anelka scored in the 19th minute for the Blues which was interestingly enough for the win in Guus Hiddink’s managerial debut. The points send Chelsea back over Villa for the third spot on the table, now one point clear.

At the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal further confirmed their status as an average club (at best) with their nil-nil draw with Sunderland. True, the Black Cats are actually a middle of the table club right now (in 10th) but this was a sad result for the once-mighty Gunners in the debut of Andrei Arshavin. But Arsenal remain in fifth, still in Europe.

Another nil-nil draw took place at the Riverside when Middlesbrough, of relegation zone fame, held Wigan. Wigan, who are just a few points behind Everton (who play tomorrow) for sixth place completely wasted this trip by earning a single point against a club firmly entrenched in the relegation zone.

A surprise result also took place at the Reebok where Bolton took care of West Ham, 2-1. Matthew Taylor and Kevin Davies scored in the 10th and 11th minutes and Bolton held on, despite Scott Parker’s 66th minute goal. With Wigan’s draw, West Ham could’ve taken seventh place but instead remain in eighth. Meanwhile, Bolton inch toward the top half of the table, now in twelfth.

Stoke City were heartbroken today when an own-goal in extra-time gave Portsmouth an unearned draw with Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. James Beattie’s double in the final twelve minutes was wasted when Ryan Shawcross deflected into his own net. The result does not do much in terms of placement on the table but would’ve been a decent victory for Stoke.

Finally, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo sandwiched a Roque Santa Cruz for a 2-1 Manchester United victory at Old Trafford against Blackburn Rovers. The three points send United to a temporary eight-point lead over Liverpool atop the table. Blackburn remain in the relegation zone after a match they never expected to win anyway. The match was rather significant though, as Santa Cruz’s goal was the first against United in many many moons.

Three more matches tomorrow and one on Monday. Hopefully I’ll do a little better with the last four as I was horrible through today’s predictions