Monthly Archives: March 2012
The best succinct one-liner we’ve ever heard came from the mouth of English comedian Les Dawson, and it is one that son-in-laws the world over can relate to: “I can always tell when the mother-in-law’s coming to stay – the mice throw themselves on the traps.” As sometimes it’s best to get straight to the point, today’s previews have a certain direct quality about them.
1) Liga: Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao, 22.00 CET/16.00 EST
If brilliant Basque blitzers Bilbao can replicate their mind-blowing Europa League form, and allowing for awful alliteration, this match could become the must-see fixture in world football this weekend.
2) Ligue 1: Nancy vs PSG, 21.00 CET/15.00 EST
PSG fans are beginning to realise that pesky leaders Montpellier, the Kim Kardashian of the French top flight, are just not going to go away, so capturing three points in Lorraine today is essential.
3) Bundesliga: Hertha Berlin vs Wolfsburg, 18.30 CET/12.30 EST
Hertha may have shipped six goals to Bayern a fortnight ago, but everybody’s doing that at the moment, so they’ll look to continue the form they showed at Mainz last week in their increasingly desperate attempts to avoid playing at Duisburg next season.
The Germans are known for many things, but humour is not necessarily one of them. A couple of incidents in the football world this week have sent disseminators of lazy stereotypes scurrying back to their caves, however. First, there was this image, depicting the resourceful way in which fans of German regional side Magdeburg decided to help their team regain its nose for goal (their heroes had gone 5 matches without finding the net):
It worked, kind of. They scored, but ultimately lost 2-1
And then there was this photo, which shows Schalke fans protesting at the cost of tickets for their upcoming Europa League second-leg away clash with Atletico Madrid:
The banner reads (in Spanish, cleverly): “Tickets at 90 Euros = 1 Euro per minute? Football isn’t phone sex!”
Creators of the banner were heard explaining to their wives (in German this time) that a ‘friend’ had told them how much it cost, and that they had no personal experience of such a salacious service.
Today is National Cleavage Day. Apparently. Which is perfect timing, as we’ve been waiting for a chance to try out our new mankinis. Today’s Scaramanga-like voluptuous set are:
1) Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund vs Stuttgart, 20.30 CET/14.30 EST
Dortmund’s front pair have been doing the business recently, while Stuttgart’s have been rather flat. A win for the away side would give them a bit of a lift as they lean forward towards Europe, but the league leaders have been in bouncy form recently, and should emerge on top.
2) Belgian Pro League Play-offs: Club Brugge vs Genk, 20.30 CET/14.30 EST
Belgium’s terribly distracting play-off system, now in its third year, has never truly been welcomed into fans’ bosoms. We don’t really have the time to explain it here (especially when we’re racking our brains for boob puns…ooh – ‘rack’, nice one), but suffice to say that Club Brugge look hot and Genk do not.
3) MLS: DC United vs FC Dallas, 01.30 CET/19.30 EST
If you’ve been keeping abreast (ha!) of early MLS results, you’ll know that DC have done little to arouse their fans so far, and that the Texans have been udderly inconsistent. Goals have not always flowed from this fixture, so we’re tipping the home side’s twin-pronged attack of Maicon Santos and Hamdi Salihi to bust through the Dallas defence.
It’s a Europa League extravaganza today, a competition that, for Marathon-eaters of a certain age, will always be the ‘UEFA Cup’.
1) UEFA Europa League quarter-final, first leg: AZ Alkmaar vs Valencia, 21.05 CET/15.05 EST
Alkmaar are going well in the league, but got booted out of the Dutch Cup last week by modest Heracles. Valencia look like they may achieve this season’s domestic objective, which was to finish within 800 points of Real and Barcelona. Amazingly, despite making that third spot their own, coach Unaï Emery is under considerable pressure, mainly due to a run of poor results, including a shock home loss to bottom club Real Zaragoza. A bad defeat here coupled with a failure to beat Levante in this weekend’s Valencia derby could see him being politely asked to spend a little more time in his vegetable garden.
2) UEFA Europa League quarter-final, first leg: Schalke vs Athletic Bilbao, 21.05 CET/15.05 EST
Schalke are playing well and contain debatably the most in-form striker in the world in their line-up, Jan-Klass Huntelaar. Bilbao gave Man United the most awful rogering (x2) in the last round that at times made it seem as if they were the league champions and the English team the also-rans. Watch for strong Schalke pressure and speedy Basque counters. It could well be an absolute cracker, but then, we’ve said that a few times this season.
3) UEFA Europa League quarter-final, first leg: Atletico Madrid vs Hanover 96, 21.05 CET/15.05 EST
Hanover, in just their second-ever European campaign, have crept stealthily into the last eight like a Rush Limbaugh sponsor, but have recorded impressive results along the way – they lost just one of their pool games, and comfortably dispatched a solid Standard Liege side last time out. Atletico, who won this competition as recently as 2010, will be favourites, but if the Germans can keep it watertight at the back, a raucous 50,000-strong second-leg crowd awaits to propel them into the uncharted seas of the semis.
Three Champions League ties, across two continents. Here’s today’s trio to watch:
1) UEFA Champions League quarter-final, first leg: Marseille vs Bayern Munich, 20.45 CET/14.45 EST
The Frenchies haven’t won the Big Cup since 1993, while Bayern haven’t ruled Europe since 2001. The Germans have a far superior team on paper (Ribery, Gomez, Neuer, Robben, and I’ll stop there so I don’t have to write out 11 names), but as that toothless bloke at the bar is fond of reminding you, paper is not the surface upon which the beautiful game is played. Munich have come unstuck in France before, but L’OM will need to find some form (recent results: losses to Dijon in Ligue 1 and 3rd division Quevilly in the Coupe) if they wish to give themselves a fighting chance in the second leg.
2) UEFA Champions League quarter-final, first leg: AC Milan vs Barcelona, 20.45 CET/14.45 EST
The chat doing the rounds at the moment is that Milan may be the only side that can stop Barça tippy-tappying their way to Euro glory once again. For inspiration, fans of I Rossoneri will look back to 1994, when one of the finest Milan teams in history put in debatably the greatest team performance ever seen in a Champions League final, spanking their highly-fancied Catalan opponents 4-0. The odds on that scoreline being repeated tonight? 150-1. Go on, you know it makes sense.
3) CONCACAF Champions League semi-final, first leg: Toronto v Santos Laguna, 03.00 CET/20.00 EST
The first Canadian side to reach the last four of CONCACAF’s showcase event, Toronto are also the last MLS team left in the competition, leaving Americans in the uncomfortable position of having to cheer on their northern neighbo(u)rs. Aron Winter’s men took care of GoldenBalls and the Galaxy rather impressively in the last round, but the task remains a sizeable one. Los Albiverdes currently top the Mexican league, are playing some damn sexy football and smacked six past Seattle Sounders in the second leg of the quarter-final. If they’re in the mood, it could be watch-through-your-fingers time at BMO Field.
You’re the new Inter coach, Andrea Stramaccioni. You’ve just landed the biggest gig of your life. You’re more nervous than the US Olympic team coach in the 93rd minute last night. Then a certain thunder-stealing Man City legend-in-the-making walks in the room:
After Balotelli meanders on his merry way, the bemused head honcho can only turn to a reporter and ask, “What was the last question?”
With the kick-offs to today’s three games just a hop and a skip away, we’ll limit this preview to one adverb and one adjective. Lazily sparse, in other words.
1) UEFA Champions League quarter-final, first leg: APOEL Nicosia vs Real Madrid, 20.45 CET/14.45 EST
2) UEFA Champions League quarter-final, first leg: Benfica vs Chelsea, 20.45 CET/14.45 EST
3) English FA Cup: Tottenham v Bolton, 20.30 CET/14.30 EST
…with what can only be described as a ‘drag-back nutmeg’ (© this blog), followed by some damn sexy balls skills down the flank. From Dijon’s surprise league win over Marseille a week ago, but still worth dripping some saliva down your chin over. To quote the French commentator, “What a festival”.
Today’s three matches to keep an eye on are brought to you by Football Clichés, taking one game at a time.
1) French Ligue 2: Lens vs Nantes, 20.30 CET/14.30 EST
‘How the mighty have fallen’.
Really? This is one of today’s picks? Well, it’s certainly the most symbolic encounter of Monday’s fixture list. French champions in 1998, desperate to return to the big league so that their fervent supporters can once again fill their 40,000 capacity stadium, Lens have fallen on hard times recently. French champions in 2001, desperate to return to the big league so that their fervent supporters can once again fill their 40,000 capacity stadium, Nantes have fallen on hard times recently.
2) English Premier League: Manchester United vs Fulham, 21.00 CET/15.00 EST
‘A six-pointer for United’.
Given that those big-spending baddies across town dropped two points to Peter Crouch FC on Saturday, a win would put Man U three points clear with eight games to go. Clint D and Co., who have turned mid-table mediocrity into an art form in recent years, should put up
some stiff no resistance whatsoever at Old Trafford.
3) Spanish Primera División: Granada vs Sevilla, 21.00 CET/15.00 EST
‘Too big to go down’.
No not, Granada, who came up from the second division last year and are doing well to be lying (just) outside the relegation zone. Sevilla have had an awful second half of the season so far, and although they currently appear well clear of trouble, a defeat to El Graná would not augur well for the run-in. The 2007 UEFA Cup winners would seem to have more match-winners in their side (Jesus Navas, Manu del Moral), but Granada may prove to have more cojones over 90 minutes.
A picture is worth a thousand words, as lazy journalists are fond of telling us. The above snap is actually worth 86, by our calculations, which go something like this:
“While I, Alistair McCoist, manager of Rangers Football Club and a resourceful and prolific (if slightly limited) striker in my day, am utterly delighted to have vanquished our evil foes Celtic 3-2 and delayed their inevitable SPL title for one more week in the process, there is still a pesky wee voice in the back of my head informing me that my club might not exist at the end of the season, and that I may be back headlining an exceedingly dated BBC quiz show sooner rather than later.”