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Beauty & the Beast in Group B

Group B –

Argentina

Nigeria

Korea Republic

Greece

Group B looks, off the cuff, a tame group.  Who would say otherwise?  Argentina should have a fairly easy task with all three teams, but, I suppose, the second spot is up for grabs.  The stingy Greeks will be defensively stout, as they always are.  Korea won’t have the home field advantage they had in 2002, but will still have a few tricks up their sleeve.  And Nigeria will probably be tipped to take the second spot, but funny things happen at the World Cup and this one should be no exception.

Greece – Probably the most boring team to watch it football.  How they won Euro 2004 is remarkable, but their defensiveKyrgiakos will test the resolve of attacking play resolve and their grinding out of wins got them the trophy.  The Greeks will look towards Theofanis Gekas for goals, Liverpool’s Sotirios Kyrgiakos for defensive leadership and Giorgos Karagounis for everything in the middle of the park as the Captain is also the most capped at 32 years old.  It’s hard to doubt Greece’s ability after their historic upset of the Euro 2004 tournament.  Still though, it’s hard to look past the attacking threats of Argentina and Nigeria.  They will probably watch footage from that 2o04 for inspiration and ideas…seriously.

Korea Republic

Like Greece, the Tigers will be looking to draw on experience and their 2002 World Cup run as the driving force behind this campaign.  Their oldest player and most capped at a whopping 129 games is goalkeeper Woon-Jae Lee and their most experienced at an elite level is without question Manchester United midfielder and captain Ji-Sung Park.  Park will float in right behind Dong-Gook Lee in attack with Chung-Yong Lee looking to press forward on the left as well.  They will have to rely heavily on their work rate to get them through as they are quick but not as quick as Nigeria and not as technically gifted as Argentina.  If they progress it will be because of their hard work and a little luck.

Nigeria – Do not underestimate the Super Eagles in Group B, as they have terrific pace and a lot of experience in the squad.

Obafemi Martins will lead the line against Group B

Three members (Joseph Yobo, Yakubu, Victor Anichebe) of it ply their trade at Goodison Park of Everton in England.  Portsmouth (Kanu, John Utaka), Fulham (Dickson Etuhu), Bolton Wanderers (Danny Shittu) and notably Chelsea (John Obi Mikel) boast Nigerian players.  Obafemi Martins is another player I’m expecting to make things happen in South Africa.  Martins once played for Newcastle and now plays for Wolfsburg in Germany.  His pace paired with the pace of Victor Obinna will give the physical Greeks something think twice about as well as the rest of Group B.  The captain, Kanu, stands the most capped, and his creative play will allow Martins to perform well, however his age has looked more noticeable as of late.  In qualifying they conceded only one goal in six matches and had a perfect run.  With John Obi Mikel steadying the ship in the middle of the park, breaking down attacks, and starting moves forward, the Nigerians are well equipped in all areas.

Argentina – How do you solve a problem like Argentina?  Maradona’s rag-tag group of players look unbeatable on paper, but have failed to impress as Maradona has come under intense scrutiny back in Argentina.  Obvious stand outs for the team are Lionel Messi, who has more individual honors than you can count on both hands, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and up and comer Angel Di Maria.  Their attack is probably the best in the world with Higuain, Aguero, Tevez, Messi and Milito all big time names.  Their midfield is commanded by the hard tackling Javier Mascherno and their defense steadied by Martín Demichelis.  The only question mark over La Albiceleste is the team chemistry.  For some reason, they have not been able to click into full gear and many are hoping they find their feet soon.  Maradona is taking the majority of the blame as he rotates more players in and out than anybody ever has.  His style is almost similar to Rafael Benitez’s bizarre rotation policy at Liverpool.  Still though, they’re not the best at the tournament, but they are too good to not advance out of their group and past a few more games.

Prediction –

1. Argentina

2. Nigeria

3. Greece

4. South Korea

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Up for Grabs for Group A

GROUP A –

1. South Africa

2. Mexico

3. Uruguay

4. France

Group A could be one of the trickiest groups to advance from, as every team will have a legitimate shot at clawing their way out.  The hosts will feel aggrieved to have the now-hated France squad thrown into their group.  However, home field advantage can do funny things to teams (Cue 2002 World Cup).

South Africa – The Bafana Bafana could come out deceptively strong in Group A with battle tested EPL players Steven Pienaar, Benni McCarthy and Aaron Mokoena (the captain) pulling the majority of the weight for the hosts.  Playing

Steven Pienaar with striker Bernard Parker

on their home turf will be key for South Africa, as the World Cup should work wonders for national pride (as well as the economy).  If you remember 2002, South Korea surpassed about everyones’ expectations by marching into the

semifinals of the tournament with the aid of their countrymen.  Steven Pienaar will be the spark plug that will ignite the South African engine.  His flair and work rate have dazzled at Goodison Park this season, and he will be looking to emulate his form for the Toffees in his national team colors.  It’s always a great thing to make the World Cup finals, but the nation will be gunning hard for one of the spots that sends them into the first round, and, all things considered, could actually be possible.

Mexico –

Nobody needs a second telling that Mexico are typically a card carrying tournament team.  With their recently returned (heavily) seasoned veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco (37 years old) pulling the strings and up-and-coming sensations Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela doing the footwork, El Tri should be favored to grab one of the top spots in Group A.  It also helps that they have a very adept keeper in Guillermo Ochoa.  However, it will still be a tall order as France is gifted in every position and Uruguay’s physical approach may disrupt their fluid build up play.  It won’t be a cake walk for El Tri, but if they stick to their guns and pass the way they know how, I’ll tip them to take top spot in the group.

Uruguay – Uruguay has two titles under their belt (sure they were in 1930 & 1950) and have a squad that may be capable of upsetting favorites Mexico and France.  Easily their top dogs are Ajax hitman Luis Suarez and Atletico Madrid Diego Forlan.  Forlan will be coming off a great win over Fulham in the Europa League final and will be looking to build off that.  Martin Caceres is a rising star in defense at Juventus and should sure-up the back line but will have his hands full with Nicolas Anelka, Steven Pienaar and Carlos Vela.  The rest of the back line could be relatively leaky for Los Charruas and could be their downfall.  Suarez and Lodeiro represent Ajax at the club level and are both fully capable of find ways to break down defenses in any group and shouldn’t be overlooked as a serious contender for a top spot.  Suarez is literally gushing goals for Ajax (49 goals this season in 48 appearances) and is one of the players to watch in Group A.

France – It’s hard to say anything positive about France still, as the infamous hand ball got them in the tournament

Gourcuff pulling strings for Bordeaux

and, if that isn’t enough, they get placed in the group where South Africa is the top seed.  The big man must really be looking out for Les Bleus.  That said, they should be the easy favorites for the group, but they failed to impress in any sense during qualifying and could flop as hard as they did in 2002.  France is a wild card and it is hard to predict which team will actually show up.  They won in 98, earned zero points in 2002 and made it to the final in 2006.  Nobody will know truly if they have a shot until kickoff, but it’s just so hard to look past their lineup.  When the spine of a team is Hugo Lloris, William Gallas, Lassana Diarra, Yoann Gourcuff and Thierry Henry, they should be tipped to win it all.  Not to mention, they have attacking dime pieces like Nicolas Anelka and Franck Ribery to tear apart defenses.  In terms of who to look out for?  I’ll put my money on the Gourcuff (Don’t believe me? Watch his goal against PSG), the midfield maestro is only 23, was named Ligue 1 player of the year for 08/09, made Ligue 1 team of the year  for 08/09 and 09/10 and was named French Football’s player of the year for 2009.

Prediction –

1. France

2. Mexico

3. South Africa

4. Uruguay



The Battle for 4th

Even at Christmas, we knew that the last Champions League spot would be up for grabs.  With Liverpool, Man City, Aston Villa and Tottenham all vying for the coveted position, there is serious potential for a dramatic climax to the end of the season.  It’s tough to get all the information you want and need about these four teams, their fixtures, tendencies and key players.  So, naturally, we’ve decided to compile what we think is a comprehensive analysis of the fourth place spot and all the parties involved.  Starting from our current (As of March 4th) fourth place team, we have Tottenham.

TOTTENHAM – 49 Points

The Spurs have been one of the seasons high fliers and now have a realistic chance at grabbing the fourth place spot as well as the FA Cup.  Despite some setbacks in injuries to players like Modric and currently Lennon, they have just as much bite as ever.

Remaining Fixtures:  Blackburn (h), Stoke City (a), Portsmouth (h), Sunderland (a), Arsenal (h), Chelsea (h), Man United (a), Bolton (h), Burnley (a)

Obviously the tough patch will be the Arsenal, Chelsea, United games on back-to-back weekends.  They play their two most hated rivals on home turf and then finish up with a monumental game at United.  They have the potential to knick full points from Arsenal and maybe scrape a draw of Chelsea, but if they fail to win either of the those games, don’t count on them taking points at United.  At home, they are a stingy group at the back, and are tied with Fulham for second fewest goals conceded at home (9, Birmingham and Man United only 8).  However, with Arsenal having scored the most away goals in the EPL (28) and Chelsea in a close third (24), it will be interesting to see how Redknapp handles them defensively.

Key Men:  Jermain Defoe, Luka Modric, Michael Dawson

With Defoe continually getting on the scoresheet, the Spurs will always be an offensive threat.  Combine Defoe’s speed with Crouch’s aerial ability and Pavlyuchenko’s knack for knicking goals and you have a potent mix. Luka Modric faced a lengthy spell out with a broken bone in his leg, but is back at his best in the heart of the Spur’s midfield.  The Croat is a genuine playmaker and will be essential to Tottenham breaking down defensively sound teams like Manchester United and Chelsea.  Despite not getting consistent starts in the beginning of the season, Michael Dawson has been omnipresent in the latter half of the season and is one of the main reasons Spurs hold such a strong defensive record.

MANCHESTER CITY – 49 Points

Who ever said money can’t buy happiness?  Who ever said money can’t win you a Premier League Title?  Abramavich?  Probably not.  Money bags City have been at the forefront of a boatload of media attention and for good reason.  They are the face stomping, trash talking, manager sacking bad boys of the EPL at the moment, and there’s no wonder there is speculation as to whether Mr. Jose Mourinho may be tempted to ply his trade at Eastlands.

Remaining Fixtures:  Sunderland (a), Fulham (a), Everton (h), Wigan (h), Burnley (a), Birmingham (h), Manchester United (h), Arsenal (a)

Easily enough to predict, the end of the season could be a nail biter for the Blue’s faithful.  Though, Everton and Birmingham shouldn’t be a walk in the park either.  Granted, City remain the ONLY team in the EPL who are unbeaten at home and that speaks volumes about their defensive line.  What has hurt City the most this year has been all the draws they’ve accumulated. If you look back, they dropped points to mediocre teams when they were in the driver’s seat.  Looking towards those last two fixtures, City only lost to United by seconds at Old Trafford and could certainly provide a game for the Red Devils at Eastlands.  They’ve met again in Carling Cup action in which the United dumped them out in the second leg.  As for Arsenal, City has already ousted them once at home and once in the Carling Cup.  Granted, Wenger followed the typical play-your-reserves type scheme whereas Hughes went for the jugular and grabbed a 3 – 0 win.  However, I’ll expect a goalfest at the Emirates as City have allowed almost as many goals they’ve scored on their travels and Arsenal boast the second highest number of goals conceded at home (Also Man City – 14, after Everton, 17).  Oh yeah, they also have a game in hand.

Key Men:  Carlos Tevez

City actually does a considerable job spreading the wealth in terms of goal scoring, but Carlos Tevez leads the line with 15 goals, with Adebayor coming in second with 9.  The little Argentine has been in a battle of words with several of his former teammates across the way at Old Trafford, and from a neutral supporter’s perspective, you can only smirk.  Should Ferguson have kept him around?  Put it this way, would you rather see Berbatov or Tevez on your teamsheet?  I know where I’d put my vote.  Tevez is like a bulldog.  A small, Argentinian, smiley, bulldog.  If he and Adebayor weren’t so efficient in front of goal, City would be miles down the table as they have a fairly high number of goals allowed at home.  Should, for some reason, Tevez or Adebayor be stricken with sickness or injury, Blues fans had better start praying to somebody.  It’s no wonder Mancini wanted Tevez back from Argentina so badly…

LIVERPOOL – 48 Points

“What’s happened?” could be the headline of Liverpool’s season so far.  That applies to the season in general, the game against Portsmouth and Manchester City as well as their illustrious history.  Really though, what happened?  The Reds were tipped to be right up there in the title fight and now face an embarrassing season outside the Champions League.  But now, with their big guns returning to the show, we may still have yet to see the Reds fight.

Remaining Fixtures: Wigan (a), Portsmouth (h), Manchester United (a), Sunderland (h), Birmingham (a), Fulham (h), West Ham (h), Burnley (a), Chelsea (h), Hull (a)

The script hasn’t yet been written by Benitez’s men, but a lot of people have surely started a rough draft.  Their remaining games aren’t anything to smile about as they face an airtight Birmingham defense (at least at home), Manchester United at Old Trafford and then the London Blues at Anfield.  Remember that last year at about this same time, Liverpool ousted United at Old Trafford to keep the title fight still alive.  Reds fans across the country will be hoping for a similar result.  And, in possibly their season defining fixture, host the mighty Blues.  The only thing they could have going for them going into this game is that Chelsea may already have one hand around the title, but still be gunning in the Champions League.  That could cause Ancelotti to field a weakened side which could allow Liverpool to take points.  Liverpool are known for pulling out magic comebacks, but Benitez has hopefully saved his biggest trick yet to get into the last Champions League Spot.

Key Men:  Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt

Anybody who knows anything can tell you that Gerrard and Torres are the backbone of this Liverpool team.  When they are fit, Liverpool’s chances of success increase exponentially, and now that they are, the Reds have a realistic chance at getting 4th.  Now the question is: can they stay fit?  Dirk Kuyt has been a hero for the Kop in Torres’s absence, ensuring wins at Tottenham, Everton and Bolton at home.  The Dutchman has a knack for popping up at the right time to grab points and could be instrumental in the dogfights they are going to face in coming weeks.  That plus Gerrard’s ability to be a game changer and Torres’s goal scoring record (13 despite being injured for a few moths)  just might be enough to see them through.

ASTON VILLA – 45 Points

The Clarets have been contenders for a top four spot from the start of the season, beating Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United but dropping silly points to bad teams.  This season has been a fairly open one, and the difference between here and there has been slim.  Villa does have two games in hand which will come to immense in coming weeks as they look to break into the top four.

Remaining Fixtures: Stoke (a), Wigan (a), Wolves (h), Sunderland (h), Chelsea (a), Bolton (a), Everton (h), Portsmouth (a), Birmingham (h), Manchester City (a), Blackburn (h)

Unfortunately for Villa, they have to face Chelsea and City away from home.  The good news is that both defenses are prone to giving up goals at home, which could make for edgy, high-scoring affairs.  However, Chelsea’s home scoring has been free flowing and their goals for sits at 41 while their goals allowed is 12.  Aston Villa is quick, can break on the counter and has multiple angles that they can attack from which makes them dangerous in virtually any situation.  The big worry for the other contenders is Villa’s games played.  The Clarets still have two games in hand which, if they play it right, could essentially get them into fourth spot.  And by playing it right, I mean being stingy and hard nosed when it comes to playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.  Their result there will shape the end of their season, and, having already beat them once, Aston Villa are hungry for another “W”.  But it is hard to look past the fact that, recently, whenever faced with tough opposition they’ve drawn.  That list includes Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal, not to mention teams like West Ham.  Aston Villa must avoid silly draws like these if they want Champions League football next season.

Key Men: Gabriel Agbonlahor, James Milner, Richard Dunne

In Agbonlahor, Aston Villa has a young, talented striker of the ball who tears defenses up with his pace.  His goal count as of now is 11, but that’s likely to change with games at home against Portsmouth and Blackburn.  His pace and agility iscomplimented well by his strike partner John Carew.  The big Norwegian provides him with space that he creates through physicality and using his aerial ability to play Agbonlahor through.  James Milner is the lynchpin of the Aston Villa midfield, particularly the attacking aspect.  Petrov is key as well, but not in the way that Milner dissects defenses with his through balls to his forwards.  It certainly looks like City may have been somewhat rash in letting Richard Dunne go.  He is proving to be one of the most valuable defenders of the season as his defending style is physical and smart, not to mention he scores the occasional goal.

Verdict:  Whatever the outcome of this season, we are in for a treat.  Many of the crucial games for these four teams come along towards the end of the season.  Let’s not be cliché and say that the winner of the fourth spot will be the one who takes full points from the small teams.  With the way things have been going this season, it is a virtual certainty that there will be some “shock” upsets over more than one of these teams.  Now the question is, which one?

Villa must break their recent hesitancy with quality teams.  Tottenham won’t be able to pull the results they need to in order to pull it out.  Liverpool have two very tough fixtures in Manchester United away and Chelsea at Anfield, if they keep everybody healthy, they can do it.  Manchester City look likely to pull it out given their upcoming fixtures and the game in hand.



Transfer News – August 23rd

NEWS OF THE WORLD:

  • Wayne Rooney is to be offered a stunning new contract in line with the biggest earners in the Premier League.
  • Arsenal are ready to open contract talks with Cesc Fabregas to fend off Barcelona.
  • Everton will demand a Premier League probe into their claim that Manchester City tapped up Joleon Lescott.
  • David Gold and David Sullivan will step up their bid to buy West Ham next week.
  • Fulham defender Brede Hangeland will not leave the club in the current transfer window despite the interest shown by Arsenal and Everton.
  • Portsmouth manager Paul Hart plans to offer former Wigan striker Henri Camara a Premier League lifeline.
  • Martin O’Neill is plotting to prise Jermaine Jenas from Tottenham with a £12million bid.

    The Republic of Ireland winger has been targeted by Redknapp.

    The Republic of Ireland winger has been targeted by Redknapp.

  • Wigan are poised to make a £3.5million bid for Bristol City midfielder Marvin Elliott.
  • Harry Redknapp has targeted Celtic stars Aiden McGeady and Scott Brown to bolster his Tottenham squad.
  • Phil Brown could turn to Matty Fryatt to solve Hull’s striker problems.
  • Everton and Blackburn have stepped up their interest in Norway winger Erik Huseklepp.

    STAR ON SUNDAY:

  • Chelsea will smash the British transfer record with a £40million move for Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero.
  • Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou is considering his future, despite being offered a new deal.
  • PSV Eindhoven winger Balazs Dzsudzsak claims Arsenal are preparing an offer for him.
  • Daniel Cousin is facing showdown talks with Phil Brown at Hull.
  • West Ham have asked Livorno to name their price for Italian hitman Alessandro Diamanti.
  • Newcastle have held move talks with the representatives of free agent Peter Lovenkrands.

    SUNDAY PEOPLE:

  • Furious Everton chiefs are to report Manchester City to the Premier League for allegedly tapping up Joleon Lescott.
  • David Beckham’s contract at LA Galaxy has a secret get-out clause, which could see him move to one of Europe’s top leagues.
  • Thailand manager Peter Reid is poised for a shock return to English football – as assistant to Tony Pulis at Stoke.

    The Argentine has long been linked with a move away from Atletico Madrid.

    The Argentine has long been linked with a move away from Atletico Madrid.

  • Chelsea are aiming to spring a major surprise before the transfer window closes – with sources in Spain claiming Sergio Aguero is on his way to Stamford Bridge in a £42million deal.
  • Joe Cole is set to be handed a new four-year contract worth around £90,000 per week.
  • Fulham will stage an ambitious late bid to sign Bordeaux hitman Marouane Chamakh.
  • Stoke boss Tony Pulis is ready to shatter their transfer record with a £12million bid for Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones.
  • West Brom’s wantaway midfielder Borja Valero will complete a deal to Real Mallorca this week.
  • David Moyes will spark a late transfer window buying spree with Russian star Vladimir Bystrov at the top of his shopping list.
  • Harry Redknapp is ready to make a cut-price move for West Ham midfielder Scott Parker.
  • Dietmar Hamann has turned down Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Notts County and will instead move to Portsmouth.

    SUNDAY MIRROR:

  • Dean Ashton is set to announce his shock retirement from football.
  • Everton will ask the FA to investigate their claim that Manchester City made an illegal approach for Joleon Lescott.
  • Rafa Benitez has told Liverpool’s fans they can put their money on him staying at Anfield for the remaining five years of his contract.
  • Arsenal want William Gallas to extend his stay at the Emirates Stadium.
  • Portsmouth are ready to sell Niko Kranjcar if a club will meet their £8million asking price.
    The Spanish mastermind looks set to remain loyal to his Liverpool contract.

    The Spanish mastermind looks set to remain loyal to his Liverpool contract.

    SUNDAY EXPRESS:

  • Everton are going to war with Manchester City after finally agreeing to sell Joleon Lescott for £24million.
  • Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is bidding to end once and for all the rumours that he is ready to walk out of Anfield.


  • Cottagers Tie Up Duff Deal
    August 18, 2009, 7:58 PM
    Filed under: premier league | Tags: , ,

    Damien Duff is convinced he has joined a club going places after signing a three-year deal at Fulham.

    The fee with Newcastle for the 30-year-old has not been disclosed, but is believed to be in the region of £4million as the north-east club come to terms with the cost of relegation to the Championship.

    The Republic of Ireland international is the latest addition to the squad.

    The Republic of Ireland international is the latest addition to the squad.

    Having made his breakthrough under Cottagers boss Roy Hodgson when they were both at Blackburn, Republic of Ireland winger Duff believes Fulham have a squad capable of building on last season’s seventh-place finish which secured a crack at the new Europa League.

    “I am happy that my move to Fulham has been completed and look forward to joining in with the rest of the squad,” said Duff, who had joined Newcastle from Chelsea during the summer of 2006.

    “Fulham had a fantastic season last year and I know having spoken to the manager in recent days that the club’s ambitions remain high and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.”

    The Fulham manager is in no doubt Duff still has what it takes to make an impact in the top flight.

    “I am delighted to add a player of Damien Duff’s calibre to our squad, and welcome the further midfield options he provides us with,” Hodgson said on the club’s official website.

    “I have known Damien for over a decade since he broke into the first team at Blackburn when I was manager, so I am fully aware of his qualities and I am looking forward to working with him again.”

    Analysis:  The Newcastle exodus continues.  It would be a bitter pill for any Geordie to swallow.  Duff will provide the kind of competition at Craven Cottage that Fulham need.  He will push players like Dempsey and Gera for the starting eleven, particularly Dempsey as Duff prefers the left wing.  However, he may have a tough time in doing so, as Dempsey has begun to establish himself as a vital part of the Fulham squad.  Luckily for the American, he can be deployed on either flank or up front (as the United States as utilized to great success).

    Analysis:  Duff will push Gera out of the starting eleven by Christmas, sliding Dempsey over to the right wing.



    Opening Day! Life Starts Again…

    Arsenal opened the new Premier League season in awesome fashion with a crushing 6-1 demolition of hapless Everton at Goodison Park.

    Arsene Wenger’s side produced a classy and clinical display to tear apart last season’s FA Cup finalists.

    Denilson started the avalanche with a superb strike on 26 minutes, and new boy Thomas Vermaelen was left unmarked to nod home the second from a free-kick 11 minutes later.

    The Spanish play maker was in fine form today at Goodison Park

    The Spanish play maker was in fine form today at Goodison Park

    The game was over as a contest four minutes before half-time thanks to another header from a free-kick – this time from William Gallas.

    Things didn’t get any better for the Toffees after the break, with Cesc Fabregas taking centre stage to net on 48 and 69 minutes.

    Eduardo added a sixth for Arsenal with two minutes remaining – his first Premier League goal since suffering that horrific injury at Birmingham back in 2008.

    Louis Saha finally got Everton on the scoresheet with a tap-in in the closing seconds.

    Earlier in the day, Didier Drogba had netted a fortunate winner in stoppage time to hand new Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti his first Premier League win as Hull were beaten 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

    Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen Hunt – signed only on Thursday from Reading – fired the visitors into a shock lead on 27 minutes.

    However, the title favourites were level 10 minutes later when Drogba crashed in a dipping 25-yard free-kick.

    Then, with two of the six added minutes played, just as it looked like the Tigers had secured a point following a stern defensive second-half display, Drogba’s chip into the area from a tight angle looped over keeper Boaz Myhill and into the back of the net.

    Manchester City started to see a return for their summer spending spree with a goal after just three minutes from £25million striker Emmanuel Adebayor in a 2-0 win at Blackburn.

    The Togo international, signed from Arsenal, converted Shaun Wright-Phillips’ cross to open his account.

    City boss Mark Hughes, who has laid out almost £100million, also handed competitive debuts to defender Kolo Toure and England midfielder Gareth Barry – but former Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez had to be content with a place on the bench.

    Midfielder Stephen Ireland wrapped things up with a second goal for the visitors in stoppage time.

    City’s victory was one of five away wins out of the first seven Premier League games.

    New Wigan manager Roberto Martinez saw his side produce an unexpected 2-0 victory at much-fancied Aston Villa.

    Colombia forward Hugo Rodallega (31) drilled in a 25-yard effort to put the visitors ahead at half-time, with Jason Koumas (55) securing the three points with a close-range finish following a fine run by former Newcastle midfielder Charles N’Zogbia.

    Last season’s Coca-Cola Championship winners Wolves went down 2-0 at home to West Ham.

    Mark Noble (22) put the Irons ahead midway through the first half, and following a string of good saves by England goalkeeper Robert Green as the hosts pressed for an equaliser, defender Matthew Upson (69) headed in a second from a corner to put the game beyond Wolves.

    The former Spurs man makes his mark for Sunderland

    The former Spurs man makes his mark for Sunderland

    Darren Bent marked his debut for Sunderland with a fifth-minute winner against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.

    The £10million signing from Tottenham headed in from close range following a left-wing cross by Steed Malbranque to give new Black Cats boss Steve Bruce a winning start as they held off a late onslaught by the home side.

    Fulham have already been in Europa League qualifying action and continued their early-season momentum as they beat Portsmouth 1-0 at Fratton Park.

    Clint Dempsey’s shot deflected off striker Bobby Zamora (13) and past England keeper David James, which was enough to collect all three points.

    Play-off winners Burnley were given a tough welcome back to the top flight as Stoke beat them 2-0 at Britannia Stadium.

    Ryan Shawcross (19) nodded in a free-kick from Liam Lawrence, before an own goal by Stephen Jordan (33) doubled the home side’s advantage and there was no way back for the Clarets.

    Analysis:  Well, well, well.  Arsenal are certainly hitting the ground running after terrorizing the blue Merseysiders on their home turf.  Their passing and technical abilities blew the lid off the Toffee defense.  I’ll say one thing, Bobby McMahon’s bold prediction that Arsenal will finish top of the table may be more legitimized after today’s rampage.

    Chelsea hit Hull late on with a fluke (you know it was) goal from Drogba.  The Ivorian looked to cross, but found the side of the net to give the Blues all three points and the best opening day record in the EPL.  Hull didn’t look terrible, especially when you consider they had their opening day at one of the biggest fortress’s in the League.  Gardener and Turner were kept busy, but the former was my man of the match for Hull, him or Myhill.



    Transfer News – July 30th

    ***********************

    Transfer News – July 30th, 2009

    ***********************

    THE SUN

  • Arsene Wenger wants Patrick Vieira to make a shock return to Arsenal.
  • Gianfranco Zola is stepping up his bid to sign a new striker after West Ham failed to muster a single shot in China.
  • Hull insist that it will take a ‘ridiculous’ bid to get Michael Turner.
  • Burnley boss Owen Coyle has been unable to sign winger Fernando Guerrero because his Ecuadorian club’s president is on holiday.
  • Kolo Toure was last night unveiled by Manchester City after sealing a £14million move.
  • Croatian forward Nikola Kalinic flew in to join troubled Portsmouth, but left without signing after a row over the £5.5million fee.
  • Portsmouth are close to sealing a shock move for ex-Southampton keeper Antti Niemi.
  • Manchester City’s injury-hit star Valeri Bojinov is poised to join Parma on loan.

    Cattermole, Liverpool and Tottenham target, is currently plying his trade at the JJB

    Cattermole, Liverpool and Tottenham target, is currently plying his trade at the JJB

  • Danny Murphy is set to sign a new one-year deal with Fulham.
  • Alvaro Arbeloa last night completed a £3.5million move from Liverpool to Real Madrid.
  • DAILY MIRROR
  • Real Madrid president Florentino Perez says signing Xabi Alonso from Liverpool is vital.
  • Ian Wright claims Patrick Vieira is going to rejoin Arsenal.
  • Aston Villa are set to make a £12million move for West Ham defender Matthew Upson.
  • Celtic boss Tony Mowbray is preparing to make a £2million bid for Sheffield United defender Matthew Kilgallon.
  • Middlesbrough defender Robert Huth could be set for a £2million move to Fulham.
  • Blackburn have pulled out of a £1.7million swoop for Celta Vigo striker Kamel Ghilas after the Algerian failed a medical.
  • DAILY STAR
  • Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Dimitar Berbatov to finally live up to his £30.75million price tag.
  • Martin O’Neill admits that Aston Villa have to sign five players or risk stretching their threadbare squad to breaking point this season.
  • AWOL Middlesbrough star Mido is ready to take a £15,000 a-week pay cut to return to Egypt.
  • Laurent Blanc has warned Steve Bruce that he is out to scupper Sunderland’s £10million move for Marouane Chamakh.
  • DAILY MAIL
  • Aston Villa are monitoring Robbie Keane’s situation at Tottenham following Peter Crouch’s £9million arrival from Portsmouth.

    Robbie Keane is being monitored by Aston Villa.

    Robbie Keane is being monitored by Aston Villa.

  • Inter Milan are ready to revive their interest in Chelsea midfielder Deco if Alexander Hleb backs out of a loan move to the Italian champions.
  • Newcastle last night accepted a £9million bid for Obafemi Martins from German side Wolfsburg.
  • Manchester City made a £19million bid for Everton’s Joleon Lescott last night as they completed the signing of Kolo Toure from Arsenal.
  • Liverpool are on the verge of striking a compromise deal to sell Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid and will plough part of his transfer fee into bids for Wigan midfielder Lee Cattermole and Hull defender Michael Turner.
  • Former Manchester City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver is training with Sheffield United.
  • DAILY EXPRESS
  • Arsenal could bank an incredible £17million by selling Kolo Toure to Manchester City.
  • Alex McLeish is fuming with new signing Christian Benitez after he played without Birmingham’s permission.
  • Darren Bent has his heart set on a move to Sunderland, but so far the Black Cats and Tottenham cannot agree a fee.
  • DAILY RECORD
  • Furious Kilmarnock players have threatened to strike after popular first-team coach Gary Locke was shown the door by the Rugby Park outfit.