Football Station


Out of the Starting Gates

With the first round of games knocked down in the English Premier League, football fans across the globe now have their feet wet in one of the most appetizing leagues in the world.

A handful of games could have been dismissed as early season anxiety, however, some were worth note.  Newly promoted Blackpool took Wigan to the cleaners for 4 goals, and sit second in the table under Chelsea and above Manchester United.  They may want to relish the position, because not many can claim they’ve held it for long.  The reigning champions demolished West Brom by 6 goals to nil, Liverpool (i.e. Pepe Reina) surrendered their lead to Arsenal in the 90th minute after being reduced to 10 men, Tottenham and Manchester City played out a goalless draw in London and Manchester United cruised to a sweet 3-0 over

Impressive was an understatement for the reigning champions against West Brom.

Newcastle.

With the initial nerves fading fast and reality setting in, teams must soon realize that if they don’t snap out of their summer funk soon, they’ll be looking at a long season (we’re looking at you Wigan).  Standout fixtures are mainly Liverpool v. Manchester City and Manchester United at Fulham.  That’s right.  United have lost their last three visits to the Cottage, and you wonder in the Londoners can keep up the streak.

Liverpool will be looking to overcome their last minute draw against Arsenal in a tough tie against Chelsea look-a-likes Manchester City at Eastlands.  Manchester have yet to prove their credentials in the Premier League,granted their first game was against Champions League newboys Tottenham at White Hart Lane.  Liverpool will be without Joe Cole and with Aquilani seemingly on his way, it looks like Gerrard will line up behind Torres, with maybe Mascherano/Lucas paired up with Poulson, who looked rather impressive against Trabzonspor.  City have a slew of players in their ranks and Mancini has his pick.  Balotelli may well start up alongside Tevez, and, if he does, I will seem more like a statement from Mancini rather than a genuine selection.  Yaya Toure is expected to start and he will provide a great matchup for Gerrard and whoever wins that battle, controls the ebb and flow of the game and could very well control the outcome of the match.

Typically, a Manchester United matchup against Fulham would yield a full three points for the former, however, on Fulham’s

Danny Murphy nets from the spot as Fulham beat Manchester United at Craven Cottage.

ground, the Red Devils have lost three consecutive matches.  Will the fact that Roy Hodgson has moved on to Liverpool make a difference for the tie?  Or is Craven Cottage simply kryptonite for United?  Fulham may be without Mark Schwarzer between the sticks but Hughes is hopeful of a return for the Aussie stopper.  Patrice Evra was a doubtful for a little while, but it looks like he’s shaken off the knock and will suit up against Fulham.  Wayne Rooney hasn’t scored for his club since…United played Fulham at Old Trafford last March.  Since then, the boys gone dry.  Other than those little snippits of information, there isn’t a lot to be said about the tie until the teams actually take the field.

Predictions – Being so early in the season, it’s hard to try and call the shots.  However, that’s exactly what I’m going to do…

Saturday

Arsenal 2 – 0 Blackpool

Birmingham 1 – 0 Blackburn

Everton 2 – 1 Wolves

Stoke City 1 – 3 Tottenham

West Brom 0 – 0 Sunderland

West Ham 1 – 0 Bolton

Wigan 0 – 3 Chelsea

Sunday

Fulham 1 – 1 Manchester United

Newcastle 1 – 2 Aston Villa

Monday

Manchester City 1 – 1 Liverpool

A lot of close games, and, obviously, a lot can depend on who the head men select for the starting XI.  Until next week, we’ll see who is the quickest out of the starting gates…



Powerhouse Party – Group G

Group G –

Brazil

North Korea

Ivory Coast

Portugal

You can’t help but feel kind of sorry for the North Koreans.  They finally come out of hiding, and we promptly stick them in the “Group of Death”.   That’ll teach them to try and socialize with the world.  Group D has been called the “Group of Death”, and I can understand the logic in that.  But come on…there’s just no way around the fact that this is easily the toughest group to advance from.  Brazil, the Ivory Coast and Portugal would normally be shoo-in’s to advance to the knockout round, but instead they are thrown into a pit and told to slug it out for the top two spots.  And that’s exactly what they’ll do…

Portugal –

Being seeded in the 4th pot, along with France, certainly created the potential for a Group of Death.  However, the stars aligned

How far can Ronaldo take Portugal in the "Group of Death"?

for a group like this.  When you look at all the teams in Pot 4, there are only two teams that could create a power group, and in Pot 3, the strongest team, without too much of an argument is the Ivory Coast.  Who are the two teams on everybodys’ lips when talking about the real potential to win?  Spain…and Brazil.  Portugal doesn’t come packing pea-shooters though.  They’ve obviously got the 2008 World Player of the Year, Simao & Nani running laps around outside backs on the wings, Deco pulling strings in the middle and Ricardo Carvalho snuffing things out in the back with Jose Bosingwa and Bruno Alves for company.  They certainly have the talent to take them out of the group, however, there is a serious disliking of the manager Carlos Quieroz.  According to the players, he acts like a “teacher” and forces them to watch hours of game footage, and suddenly, the chipper atmosphere left by Scolari is all but gone.  In his formation, however, Ronaldo is played in a free role behind the striker (likely Hugo Almeida), and that, for any team, is a major concern.  Explosive and dangerous, Ronaldo could single handedly carry the Portuguese to the next round.

Ivory Coast –

Losing Didier Drogba is a huge blow to the Elephants, despite reports he still might make the World Cup.  The Ivory Coast’s international website issued a statement, “He’s not at all out of the World Cup. He can still play. We don’t know if he will be able to play the first game — that depends on the verdict of the medical team. But he’s definitely not out [of the tournament].”  Well that’s great news, as they are arguably the most talented African side at the World Cup, and had a serious chance of making some noise in the later rounds.  That said, without Drogba, the Elephants still have some stomping power.  With Salomon Kalou (no Drogba, obviously, but up to snuff), the young Gervinho, The Toure brothers, Sevilla’s Didier Zokora and Emmanuel Eboue there is more than enough potential for them to rough up the Portuguese maybe even the Brazilians.  They have good attacking flair ont he wings in Gervinho and Abdul Kader Keita (of Galatasaray), and should be able to supply Kalou and whoever partners him up top.  However, it will be hard for him to create an aerial threat against the sound Brazilian back line.  If Drogba has any chance of playing in the World Cup, The Elephants will need to find a way to progress into the later rounds.

North Korea

There isn’t a lot of info on North Korea, which I guess is explained by the fact that Kim Jong-Il has shut them off from the world.  What we do know is that they are very paranoid and are hardly answering any questions at press conferences.  Jong-Il also told the nation that they will only get word of the team’s results if they win…it’s going to be a quiet summer.  They haven’t appeared at a World Cup in 44 years since they debuted in England.  However, it turns out that they stormed into the quarterfinals amidst low expectations.  Can they emulate that kind of form and motivation?  Time will tell.  They do play a relatively tight defense, allowing only 7 goals in 16 games, which isn’t too shabby at all.  Tae-Se Jong is their leading scorer and plays his game in Japan with Kawasaki Frontale, and their captain Yong-Jo Hong plays professionally in Russia at FC Rostov.  Their best bet at getting any points will be to outmaneuver the Ivory Coast, out-jinx the Portuguese and…forget Brazil.  These guys are just happy to be here.

Brazil –

Coach and former player Dunga has fashioned El Selecao into quite the machine.  They flow effortlessly from defense into attack

Julio Cesar has been one of the best 'keepers in the world this year and is coming off of a Champions League Final win.

and their counterattacks are clean, crisp and awesome.  Their passing is creative and can cut open defenses before they know where the ball is.  Need proof? Glad you asked… I won’t gush about Brazil, but their chances of winning are pretty decent if they can keep themselves healthy mentally and physically.  With stars dropping like flies and being rushed into our Sick Ward, Dunga will want to take extra special care of his boys.  The spine of the team lies: Julio Cesar, Lucio, Kaká, Luis Fabiano.  All four are masters at their craft and will need an off day to be caught out by a better opponent.  The only ones who look likely to do it could be Nani and Ronaldo of Portugal and Drogba (if he gets fit) of the Ivory Coast.  In midfield, despite the fact that Felipe Melo is having a drab season at Juventus, he has been pretty consistent on international duty.  On attack, it’s almost silly to start, because they attack from all over.  Melo holds down the center of midfield while Kaká, Robinho and Elano all try to feed the ball to Luis Fabiano.  All this to say, they aren’t untouchable.  They lost to Bolivia and Paraguay on the road in qualification and may struggle playing in the colder temperatures of South Africa, as it is winter.  Other than that though, they finished 9-7-2 with a goal difference of +22, meaning when they won, they won big.  Can they claim another World Cup in South Africa?  I wouldn’t bet against it.

Prediction

1.  Brazil

2. Ivory Coast

3. Portugal

4. North Korea



Transfer News – July 6th

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July 6th, 2009

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MIRROR

* John Terry has been told by Chelsea to break his silence over Manchester City’s interest in him.

* Birmingham boss Alex McLeish is willing to pay Joey Barton £25,000 a week to join the club on loan next season.

* Burnley are making a move for freed Paris St Germain winger Fabrice Pancrate.

* Middlesbrough are lining up a move for out-of-contract striker Danny Webber.

* Millwall are hoping to beat Charlton to the signing of Plymouth winger Jason Puncheon.

* Derby boss NIgel Clough is eyeing a loan move for Arsenal youngster Mark Randall.

* Gary Ablett is in talks with Stockport about becoming the club’s new manager.

Brede Hangeland's future is in the balance at Craven Cottage.

Brede Hangeland's future is in the balance at Craven Cottage.

* Fulham defender Brede Hangelaan’s future is in doubt after he rejected an offer to double his wages.

* Sheffield Wednesday will make moves for NEC Nijmegen’s Collins John and Sunderland midfielder Liam Miller.

* Manchester United want to put a 25% sell-on clause into any deal to sell striker Fraizer Campbell.

DAILY MAIL

* Manchester United have asked about Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure amid growing concerns over the fitness of Owen Hargreaves.

* Yuri Zhirkov last night flew into London to finalise his £18million move from CSKA Moscow to Chelsea.

* Steve Bruce is ready to make Paraguay centre back Paulo da Silva his first signing at Sunderland.

* Fiorentina want Arsenal’s Emmanuel Eboue in part exchange for Brazil midfielder Felipe Melo.

* Fabio Capello is planning a pre-World Cup training camp in Austria next summer to help England prepare for playing at altitude in South Africa.

THE SUN

* Arsenal have slapped a £40million price tag on Cesc Fabregas as they brace themselves for a bid from Real Madrid or Barcelona.

* John Terry and Mark Hughes stayed in the same Dubai hotel complex last week.

* Chris Samba has put Manchester City on alert by refusing to pledge his future to Blackburn.

* Pepe Reina is sure Liverpool can hang on to midfield pair Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.

* Spurs and Aston Villa will battle it out for £10million-rated Marcus Berg.

Spurs and Aston Villa are battling it out for Swedish sensation, Marcus Berg

Spurs and Aston Villa are battling it out for Swedish sensation, Marcus Berg

* Bolton are to end their interest in Ferrie Bodde, after their £3.5million offer was rejected by Swansea.

* Graeme Souness thinks Alex Ferguson will turn Michael Owen back into an England World Cup star.

DAILY STAR

* Cristiano Ronaldo says Spanish football is now better than the Premier League.

* FIFA committee member Franz Beckenbauer has backed England’s World Cup bid, claiming the country could host football’s showpiece event “tomorrow.”

DAILY EXPRESS

* Chelsea are ready to consider a future without John Terry.

* Roman Abramovich is bracing himself to take the decision he thought he would never have to – to sell John Terry.

RUMOURS

* Manchester United will bid £10m for Russian striker Alexander Kerzhakov, and it is very likely that he will agree to a 3 year deal with the Red Devils.

* David Silva is in advanced talks with Liverpool FC.  His medical will begin within the week and the deal finalized next week.

* Arsenal have set a £40m asking price of captain Cesc Fabregas. Madrid will bid by offering £15m in cash and Wesley Sneijder and a choice between Arjen Robben or Klass Huntelaar.

Highly rated Argentinian, Sergio Aguero, is a target for a number of top clubs.

* Barcelona are offering £30m plus Thierry Henry for Liverpool hardman Javier Mascherano, who is rumoured to be unsettled at Anfield.

* Aston Villa are to bid for Blackburn Rovers winger Morten Gamst Pederson.

Highly rated Argentinian, Sergio Aguero, is a target for a number of top clubs.

*Manchester United will sign Sergio Aguero for £30m plus Nani in exchange.

*Real Madrid have expressed interest in signing Maicon from Inter Milan.