Archive for July, 2010

Don’t Sleep On These Ten La Liga Matches

Sure, the talk might be off EPL “B” teams touring the United States or Jozy Altidore transferring out of La Liga, but…with Jose Mourinho providing a foil to Messi, Guardiola and Barca….

and with storylines around Valencia decimated by player loss, Atletico coming on real strong off a Europa Cup win oh and with a Spain win at the World Cup…La Liga might be the “Don’t Miss” league on the 2010-’11 season.

Oh, you didn’t realize the schedule came out Tuesday?

Can the Special One bag tropphies in Year One...or will he have to babysit new dad Ronaldo?

TSG opens our La Liga coverage with a guest piece from La Liga expert Donald Wine.

Top Ten La Liga Matches For The 2010-2011 Season

By Donald Wine II

The Spanish Primera released their 2010-2011 schedule Tuesday, and it was the first chance for La Liga fans to see where their favorite teams were playing and when.  While Real Madrid and Barcelona are expected to go toe-to-toe once again for the title, several upstart and strong teams, from Villareal and Atlético Madrid to Sevilla and Valencia, will have something to say about that.  On the other end, La Liga welcomes Real Sociedad, Levante and Hércules FC back to top flight football, and all three will be looking to plant their roots in La Primera beyond this season.

While every match is important, there will be some matches where the 3 points will be essential, where the outcome will determine one’s place in the table, or where you will simply see the best players in the world battle each other for bragging rights and club glory.  Here is the list of the top 10 must-see matches that will take place this season in Spanish football.

Bye-bye...

10. Valencia-Atlético Madrid – September 22, Estadio Mestalla

Valencia has been decimated with the loss of its two major stars, David Silva (to Manchester City) and David Villa (to Barcelona).  Yet, the Mestalla will be rocking for the first major test to see how Valencia will handle its loss of talent as they take on Atletico.  The Mestalla is one of the toughest places to play in Spain, and Valencia will need their fans’ support in showing the rest of the table that the reports of their demise are greatly exaggerated.

9. Hércules-Athletic Bilbao – August 29, Jose Rico Perez

Jose Rico Perez should make for a special venue as La Liga welcomes Hercules back into the fixture list for the first time in 13 years.  They play host to a formidable Athletic Bilbao in their first game in the Primera, a team that should have aspirations of qualifying for Europe this season.  Hercules will want to use the heavy crowd support to gain a result in their first match to hopefully give them some momentum and keep them from their expected place at the bottom of the table.

8. Barcelona-Espanyol – May 8, Camp Nou

The Catalan Derby is always a hands-on experience...

The Catalan derby will be a great test for Espanyol to steal some points away from Barcelona, who will likely be in a dogfight with Real for the crown at this point in the season.  With only a couple matches after the derby for both teams, points will be essential to either win a title (Barca) or qualify for Europa (Espanyol).

7. Sevilla FC-Real Madrid – May 8 Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan

Top 4 finisher Sevilla has a very strong lineup that did not suffer any major departures.  They will be once again vying for a Champions League spot, and Real will look down the barrel of two loaded weapons in Sevilla and Villareal back to back to either hold off Barca or hope Barca falter.  Sevilla is definitely the tougher of the two, and Real will have to focus all their attention on beating this terrific side.

6. Sporting Gijon-Racing Santander – May 15, El Molinon

Sporting Gijon and Racing Santander will likely be playing to stay in the Primera by this point in the season, which makes this match so important.  The winner of this match will have a great chance of avoiding relegation, while the loser will need to start making plans for La Segunda.

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Donovan to City Still Plausible

Update here, 07/21:

Sky Sports is reporting that Landon Donovan to Manchester City is still a possibility for Roberto Mancini and crew.

Below our opine on the potential move right after the conclusion of the World Cup.

Here, our thougths on Don Garber’s commentary on Donovan from a week ago.

“Hey Garber, say Manchester City offers something you can’t refuse, what are you going to tell Los Angeles Galaxy ticket holders who you promised that Donovan wasn’t going anywhere?”

According to a great many responses on Twitter, it’s “Ronaldinho.”

…and the, uh, Manchester City community is not to keen on this possibility.

——

Lando headed eastward...and just a tad further?

From June 27th:

Just a brief moment here on this story that Landon Donovan is in consideration for a transfer to Manchester City.

Beyond the obvious–that is Manchester City played a 4-3-3 last year and Donovan would be an ideal option on the right wing to replace Craig Bellamy opposite perhaps Adam Johnson–Manchester City was recently deemed by Forbes one of the “poorest” clubs in the world. (Read the description here of why.) The Yahoo story title from the link above is not only a misnomer; the headline is just plain wrong.

TSG mentioned two months ago  that the 300M people in the United States represents a major, potential, source of supporter dollars for a club that needs to diversity its revenue stream.

Manchester City will take some time–and may never be–number one in Manchester. The big four–still–of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool dominate revenues in the English Premier League. So here is way to gain a whole new set of fans, in a potential lucrative market.

Really a no brainer when you consider Donovan’s present abilities.

Welcome, Blackpool

One of my–and Shaun’s–favorite things since starting this publication is meeting a wide variety of fans that comment on the site.

Many time, I learn more from our community than I do if I was listening or reading some of the most venerable columnists online or elsewhere.

Steve & Ade (rt.) Whitaker watching Blackpool earn their promotion in May

Due to some folks across the pond that liked and linked one of our pieces on the lack of merit to a potential Blackpool transfer for Michael “Junior” Bradley, I got to–virtually–meet Ade Whitaker on Monday who took the time to respond to our “Wading Through US Transfer Rumors” piece with an “Ode to Michael Bradley Transfer” comment.

Ade is –well, I’ll let him tell you about his fanaticism for the Tangerine….

I first went to watch matches, with my late father, Brian, in the mid 1960’s, when Blackpool were a top flight, First Division club, with attendances treble what we’re getting now.

Jimmy Armfield

Cap'n Armfield in action...

A certain Alan Ball, later to become a World Cup winner with England had just started his career with us at that time.  We also had England defender and ex captain, Jimmy Armfield, who although in the World Cup winning squad of ’66, was injured and missed out on the finals. (He WAS recently presented with a belated World Cup winning medal) meaning,Blackpool are now credited with having TWO World Cup winning players.  Chelsea FC, can’t match that.

Combining with meeting estimable and opinionated people, another thing I relish about soccer and commentary on it, is the first few weeks of the Premiership season when I am introduced to one of the new squads that has been promoted for the campaign.

In a sport and league where the focus on player aloofness are crescendoing with their rising salaries, I always welcome the newly promoted for what typically is a swashbuckling verve they bring to their matches accompanied with a wet-behind-the-ears conviction that “they belong.”

For this season and from my brief site and email dialogue with Mr. Whitaker, I’m more than excited to watch the Tangerine take the pitch for the first time in the upcoming campaign.

Our next entry in our “The Fan In You” Series: A conversation with a Blackpool faithful on the dizzying array of transfer rumors around Blackpool and what promotion means to the citizens of Blackpool.

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Tuesday 2nd Cup of Joe Hitters

Apologies in advance here…a lot of “we told you so” in these bullets.

Won’t happen again. Scout’s honor.

Go:

Gerrard, excited to be at Liverpool again?

• Steven Gerrard reassured Liverpool fans with comments made in the wake of the Joe Cole signing, saying he was excited by the opportunity to play next to Cole and was impressed with new boss Roy Hodgson’s plans for the future.

For my two cents, I think now is the time to transfer Steven Gerrard…if he wasn’t the soul of the team.

I know I’m in the minority, but I’ve long been a demoter of Steven Gerrard and for Liverpool to build with a new manager around him….well I think that would be a mistake.

Get top dollar for the limited Gerrard now.

• Well we told you Eric Lichaj is a prospect on both rear flanks.

Lichaj started for Villa in a friendly Sunday against League One side Petersborough. Villa came away with a 3-2 win.

Beyond heading in the game-winner, Lichaj went 90+ at left back for the Villains.

TSG will say it for the first time now. Lichaj will start over 10 games for Villa this year across multiple competitions.

…and we’ll say it again for the umpteenth time: Lichaj should have gotten more than a cup of coffee from Bob Bradley during the 2010 qualifying cycle.

Oh and one more note on the friendly: Villa went with a starting defense of: Friedel (G) and Lichaj, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Habib Beye…that’s pretty darn close to first string there.

• More Aston Villa…

McCready's star is already in the making...

If you are an ardent TSG fan and memorize all of our columns….well then you would be the first to memorize any column….but also…

…you would also know about our fondness of Irish national Aiden McGeady who we first mentioned back in September 2009.

McGeady who now appears to be the apple of Martin O’Neill’s eye. Rumor has Villa making a play for the current Celtic star.

McGeady is going to be a household name when he makes his next jump….he’s kind of like, generously, one-third Florent Malouda, one-third Franck Ribery, one-third Clint Demspey. He’s got moves, can cross it, but he can also take it to the hole with a defender on his hip.

Had Ireland trumped France for a World Cup spot this year, McGeady would have been on our  “one of the players to watch” list.

Note, since McGeady is rumored for a move, he is not currently traveling the States with Celtic.

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Americans Moving: Bornstein, Zizzo

Starting to percolate, that summer transfer season.

Zizzo had it going on in 2007...

• ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle reports that Sal Zizzo–who was let go by Hamburg a few weeks ago–is headed to MLS. Zizzo, who is recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery will be available through a weighted lottery with Carlisle reporting that D.C. United and Kansas City have the best shot at claiming the midfielder.

Univision is reporting that Jonathan Bornstein will join Mexican Club Tigres for the 2011 once he completes the 2010 campaign with his current club, Chivas USA.

• In other news, Ale Bedoya is nursing a foot injury and was forced to sit out his club Orebro’s last game.

Is He Worth It?

Jean Marc Bosman started it all

Joe Cole signed a four-year contract with Liverpool today. It’s been rumored that he will be making about 90k pounds per week. The transfer, however, was free. He’s 28 years old and in the last 18 months has been injury-prone. Often thought of as the most creative English midfielder in the past 8 years, his stock has dropped considerably since the ’06 World Cup in Germany. So the question is, “Is he worth it?” and what makes a player worth “it” these days?

In the US, free agency in baseball, basketball, football, etc. (the soccer equivalent is called a Bosman), is the main form of players moving from club to club. Often they do trades, but the majority of the time the club from which the player leaves does not get reimbursed.

In the soccer world, free agency is much rarer. A player is either signed to an extension, offered a new contract, or sold to another club within 18 months to a year remaining on their contract.

When a player is sold, for say 20 million pounds, the club receives that money. The player (actually his agent) then negotiates his own personal wages. This information is public, but rarely the focal point of the news surrounding the transfer.

Will Joe Cole and other potential signings keep this Nando in red?

So is Joe Cole worth it?
In this case yes, very much so. This is a very similar situation to United signing Michael Owen last year. The big difference is Liverpool expect a lot more out of Cole then Ferguson did from Owen.

Cole is going on the downside of his career, but his skill cannot be denied. A rising star with West Ham, he transferred to Chelsea as they began their recent dominance in the league. He was one of the stars that brought the first of three recent titles to the London club. He also cemented himself into the England side providing a creative spark that had been missing since Gascoigne left.

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Entourage: USMNT Episode

Johnny Drama, Vince and E get interviewed by ESPNU’s Britton Lynn–who sounds like she is auditioning for the Hills–just before the ESPY’s.

Half the interview about the vuvuzelas….aw shucks.

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