Saturday, October 18, 2008

Premiership Power Rankings

Because I'm a reporter for a paper, writing long faux-columns or short entries for this blog takes too much effort. When I get home from the day the last thing I want to do is look at a computer and write, let alone think.

So I vow to post weekly power rankings that recap the previous weekend's actions in the EPL (shut up Barclays). Some division names will change, some will stay the same. Here's what I mean:

The Bundy's got nothing on us
20. Tottenham

You can't get relegated in October, can you?

19. Newcastle
18. Fulham

If only it was May
17. Stoke City
16. Bolton

Sacrificial Lamb of the week
15. West Brom

Everyone forgets we actually suck
14. Boro

Hoping to avoid the off-season exodus
13. Everton

Malt Liquor: not good, but does the job
12. Wigan
11. Blackburn
10. Sunderland

West-Hamming it up
9. West Ham
8. Portsmouth

Waiting for January
7. Man City

Overachieving 101
6. Hull City

Hoping Arsenal slips up
5. Aston Villa

Knows Aston Villa will slip up
4. Arsenal

Title Contenders
3. Liverpool
2. Man United
1. Chelsea

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Raising the Dead

How long its been? Two months? Five Weeks? My apologies. 

Well, I'm back. 

And where to begin other than the UEFA Cup, seeing how today was the last round of all these pre-group-stage rounds.

I won't break down the results as there's like 50 of them. But here's an interesting breakdown of how many nations' club qualified from the group stage, compared to how many competed (warning: my math is off on the group stages – do help!)

1st Round

5 clubs: Germany, Holland, England, Portugal, Romania

4 clubs: Spain, Italy

3 clubs: France, Russia, Czech Rep., Turkey, Denmark, Serbia, Switzerland

2 clubs: Belgium, Norway, Croatia, Poland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Austria       

1 club: Greece, Ukraine, Slovakia, Sweden, Israel, Ireland, Lithuania, Finland, Scotland

Group Stages:                                                                                                                  

5 clubs: Germany, Holland 

4 clubs: Spain, England, Italy

3 clubs: France

2 clubs: Portugal, Russia, Belgium              

1 club: Greece, Czech Rep., Ukraine, Poland, Serbia, Denmark, Turkey, Croatia, Norway

So who are the biggest losers? Well, Romania for one. Five clubs from the nation entered into the first round, and zero are in the group stages. Switzerland went 0 for 3, and Portugal 2 for 5.

The biggest winners are obviously Germany, Italy, Spain, and England that put in almost all their nations. And kudos to nations like Ukraine, Greece, and Slovakia that went one for one. But I gotta clap my hands to Holland, a nation whose domestic league has been on the decline internationally, whose UEFA Coefficient is below both Romania and Portugal, yet had all their 5 clubs advance. If only PSV could catch that magic in the Champions League…

Be sure to check out for all the UEFA Cup action.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Its the Second Qualifying Round already!

And what a round it was.

Four of the clubs that advanced from the First Qualifying Round won, and three drew. The biggest victor without a doubt was Artmedia Petržalka/Bratislava defeating Finland's Tampere United 3-1 on the road. And although at home, Anorthosis Famagusta still cruised to a 3-0 victory over Rapid Wein. The largest margin of victory though goes to Denmark's Aalborg BK who crushed Bosnia's FK Modriča Maxima 5-0. Rangers fan shouldn't start panicking, but a scoreless draw with Lithuania's Kaunas at the Ibrox is a bit unsettling. Venstpils and Drogheda United almost walked away with moral victories, whereas Inter Baku barely escaped an imminent exit. And BATE of Belarus definitely deserves mention as pulling off one of the biggest upsets, defeating Anderlecht 2-1 in Belgium -- it'll be difficult for Gooch's squad to come back from that one.

Below are the full results:

Rangers 0-0 Kaunas
Brann 0-0 Ventspils
Inter Baku 1-1 Partizan Belgrade
Tampere United 1-3 Artmedia
Anorthosis 3-0 Rapid Wien
Domžale 0-3 Dinamo Zagreb
Panathinaikos 3-0 Dinamo Tbilisi
Göteborg 1-1 Basel
Sheriff Tiraspol 0-1 Sparta Prague
Drogheda United 1-2 Dynamo Kyiv
Anderlecht 1-2 BATE/Valur
Beitar Jerusalem 2-1 Wisła Kraków
Fenerbahçe 2-0 MTK Hungária
Aalborg BK 5-0

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Champions League First Qualifying Round Second Leg

That title is a mouthful, huh?

Anyways, the second leg of the Cupcake Round (oops!) was completed today when nine of the fourteen participating clubs did battle. Lithuania's Kaunas and Sweden's Göteborg won big, Inter Baku advanced on away goals, and Aktobe and Llanelli couldn't advance despite winning the first leg. Below are the overall results (but home teams listed second):

FC BATE (Belarus) 2-0 Valur (Iceland)
still in progress...BATE leading 1-0...will update.
Drogheda United (Ireland) 1-0 Levadia Tallinn (Estonia)
Drogheda advances 3-1
Aktobe (Kazakhstan) 0-4 Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova)
Sheriff Tiraspol advances 4-1
Dinamo Tirana (Albania) 1-2 Modriča (Bosnia/Herzegovina)
Modriča advances 4-1
F91 Dudelange (Luxembourg) 0-2 Domžale (Slovenia)
Domžale advances 3-0
Tampere United (Finland) 1-1 Budućnost (Montenegro)
Tampere United advances 3-2
Inter Baku (Azerbaijan) 1-1 Rabotnički (Macedonia)

Inter Baku advances on away goals
Anorthosis Famagusta (Cyprus) 2-0 Yerevan (Armenia)
Anorthosis advances 3-0
Llanelli (Wales) 0-4 Ventspils (Latvia)
Ventspils advances 4-1
Murata (San Marino) 0-4 IFK Göteborg (Sweden)
Göteborg advances 9-0
Santa Coloma (Andorra) 1-4 Kaunas (Lithuania)
Kaunas advances 7-2
Dinamo Tbilisi (Georgia) 0-1 NSÍ Runavík (Faeroe Islands)
Tbilisi advances 3-1
Valletta (Malta) 0-1 Artmedia Petržalka (Slovakia)
Artmedia advances 3-0
Linfield (Northern Ireland) 1-1 Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)
Zagreb advances 3-1

So the first leg of the Second Qualifying Round is practically all set to begin next week, July 29th and 30th, and here are the pairings:

Rangers (Scotland) vs. Kaunas
Brann (Norway) vs. Ventspils
Inter Baku vs. Partizan (Serbia)
Tampere United vs. Artmedia
Anorthosis vs. Rapid Wien (Austria)
Domžale vs. Dinamo Zagreb
Panathinaikos (Greece) vs. Dinamo Tbilisi
Göteborg vs. Basel (Switzerland)
Sheriff Tiraspol vs. Sparta Prague (Czech)
Drogheda United vs. Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine)
Anderlecht (Belgium) vs. BATE/Valur
Beitar Jerusalem (Israel) vs. Wisła Kraków (Poland)
Fenerbahçe (Turkey) vs. MTK Hungária (Hungary, duh)
Aalborg BK (Denmark) vs.

With the exception of Tampere and Artmedia (who play another), each advancing club will have some difficulty moving onto the Third, and final, Qualifying Round. Even Kaunas and Gothenburg, who shelled their opposition, have tough opponents in Rangers and Basel respectively. It'll be interesting to see who, if any, survive.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

UEFA Cup First Qualifying Round

Oh, yeah, the UEFA Cup also began their qualifying procedures today. Now, this is way more complicated than the Champions League qualifying where victors of cupcake nations get to battle it out (before third and fourth place teams from big nations also get to play, inexplicably). Instead third place teams and domestic cup winners of cupcake nations get to battle it out. Sheeeeesh.

Lets just take a step back for a second and recap the competition. All in all 122 clubs will participate throughout the competition. Here's the breakdown:
  • Associations 1-6 each have 3 teams qualify
  • Associations 7-8 each have 4 teams qualify
  • Associations 9-15 each have 2 teams qualify
  • Associations 16-21 each have 3 teams qualify
  • Associations 22-37 and 39-50 have 2 teams qualify
  • Associations 38 (Lichtenstein), 51 (Andorra), 52 (San Marino) have 1 team qualify
  • Association 53 (Montenegro) have 2 teams qualify
  • 3 UEFA Fair Play entries
  • 11 Winners of the UEFA Intertoto Cup 2008
  • 16 Losers from the UEFA Champions League Third Qualifying Round
  • 8 third-placed teams from the UEFA Champions League Group Stage
Too much numbers for ya? Well, its gets worse. The First Qualifying Round, has 74 teams in all. 33 Cup-winners from associations 21-53, 32 runners-up from associations 19-37, 39-50 and 53, 6 third-place finishers from associations 16-21, and 3 entries through UEFA Fair Play (which should have been Fulham) all take part.

I'm not going to recap the results of the first leg because there were 37 of them. So just go here. There weren't any surprises in the results, other than Red Bull Salzburg scoring 7 on Banants Yerevan of Armenia, and HSC Berlin winning 8-1 against Nistru Otaci of Moldova. Gotta love mismatches! And Vaduz, who won the Lichtenstein football Cup (thus qualifying them for the competition as Liechtensteiner clubs play in Switzerland) lost to Bosnia's Zrinjski Mostar. C'mon Residenzlers!

The second leg reconvenes in two weeks, where they'll join 27 other clubs in the Second Qualifying Round. My head hurts.

UEFA Champions League Qualifying

Believe it or not, but the UEFA Champions League begun Tuesday, and continued Wednesday. Okay, so its the first round of qualifying, but still -- the long road to Rome is underway. As far as I know, no club has ever progressed from the First Qualifying Round to the Group Stages. So this may all be a moot point, but whatever.

The 28 Champions of associations 25-53 take part in the first round. A nation's association is determined by their UEFA league co-efficient. In this round, Sweden has the highest ranked league, whereas San Marino has the lowest (I was unaware San Marino had a league -- but they do have a funny entry in the Onion's Our Dumb World). Lichtenstein do not qualify for the Champions League, as they don't have a league. Per usual, each qualifying round is two-legged. So, without much ado, below are the results for the First Qualifying Round. And as always, home team listed first:

FC BATE (Belarus) 2-0 Valur (Iceland)
Drogheda United (Ireland) 2-1 Levadia Tallinn (Estonia)

Aktobe (Kazakhstan) 1-0 Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova)

Dinamo Tirana (Albania) 0-2
Modriča (Bosnia/Herzegovina)
F91 Dudelange (Luxembourg) 0-1 Domžale (Slovenia)
Tampere United (Finland) 2-1 Budućnost (Montenegro)

Inter Baku (Azerbaijan) 0-0 Rabotnički (Macedonia)

Anorthosis Famagusta (Cyprus) 1-0 Pyunik Yerevan (Armenia)

Llanelli (Wales) 1-0 Ventspils (Latvia)

Murata (San Marino) 0-5 IFK Göteborg (Sweden)

Santa Coloma (Andorra) 1-4 Kaunas (Lithuania)

Dinamo Tbilisi (Georgia) 3-0 NSÍ Runavík (Faeroe Islands)

Valletta (Malta) 0-2 Artmedia Petržalka (Slovakia)

Linfield (Northern Ireland) 0-2 Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)

The second leg continues next week, July 22nd and 23rd.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

On to the Round of Four

In what probably the most exciting round yet, two USL-1 sides upset their big MLS brothers, and Crystal Palace Baltimore came within a fraction of defeating the defending champions. The best part about the entire round though was the free live radio and streaming video from the Revolution, MLS and USL. Thanks guys -- Europe could learn a lot from that.

Gearing up for their inaugural SuperLiga appearance this weekend, the Revolution put out their JV squad against cinderella's Crystal Palace Baltimore/USA. Yet it almost went pear-shaped, as the USL-2 side took New England to the very brink, losing 5-3 on penalties. Charleston told FC Dallas that the third time ain't ever the charm, as they cruised to a 3-1 upset in Frisco. It took the Seattle Sounders seven attempts in the penalty shootout to dispatch the Wizards 6-5. I watched most of this match via streaming USL video, and was quite impressed with the Sounders play. Their stadium was empty, as predicted, but they should do quite fine next year in the MLS.

In typical DC United and Chicago Fire fashion, there were more bookings than goals. Yet this battle royale – which included 9 bookings – went into extra time, where a Bryan Namoff goal in the 99th put Barra Barra's boys ahead 2-1 for good. The biggest intrigue of the match was (another) brawl between Blanco, who just entered, and Marc Burch. The Washington Post has the best examination of the fracas:

In addition to his on-field conduct, which according to D.C. United defender Marc Burch included both punching and eye-gouging D.C. midfielder Clyde Simms, Blanco also allegedly head-butted a D.C. United operations employee as he was being escorted off the field, according to sources.

Here is D.C. United’s comment on the situation: “As a result of incidents last night, Major League Soccer has requested video footage, which we are preparing and will be sending to the league,” United spokesman Doug Hicks said. Hicks said MLS will have the video today.

I too am attempting to find that video, and video highlights of all the other matches. I did however find some photos which are here and here, and some vids here. So if you have any of either, do pass them along. Below are the results, home team listed first:

New England Revolution 1-1(5-3PK) Crystal Palace USA/Baltimore
DC United 2-1(AET) Chicago Fire
FC Dallas 1-3 Charleston Battery
Seattle Sounders 0-0 (6-5pk) Kansas City Wizards

The Cup goes on hiatus until August 12, four days before the Premiership starts. Here's the semifinal pairings, which, thankfully, allow a USL-1 side to make the final and, hopefully, win it:

New England at DC United
Seattle Sounders at Charleston Battery