Monday, April 28, 2008

It may have faded fast, but its back in a hurry...

If I was the CIA and my post on April 7th a torture tape, it would have been destroyed.

But instead, I must eat crow for stating that the Premier League was solved at both ends of the table. Now, both the title and relegation are wholly up for grabs. What happened in the past three weeks? Well, besides Birmingham unable to defend, a lot actually...

1) Ferguson playing not to lose
Its easy to point to the 4-5-1 he threw out at Barca and Chelsea, but it goes back to the Blackburn match where ManYoo were lucky to snatch a point. How Nani didn't start then is vexing. How Carrick continually starts over him (and Anderson) is even more so.

2) Chelsea playing in spite(?) of Avram Grant
I really don't understand how Chelsea is still performing this well. Usually teams with a lot of (individual) talent quit on thier uninspiring coaches whenever adversity is first encountered. The trophy should have been given to ManYoo when they let Wigan get a point at the death, AT HOME. Instead they rebounded with a 1-0 victory at Everton, and 2-1 win over United (and lets not forget Riise's gift at Anfield in the CL). With Toon Army and Bolton on the horizon, Wednesday's CL fixture -- same goes for United -- is monumental.

3) Bolton Winning
Equally as inexplicable is Bolton. For a team that couldn't score, and won only six times all season, the Trotters' run of 7-out-of-9 points in the past three matches have seen them barely breathing in safety. Davies, McCann, and Stelios have come up huge; considering Kevin Nolan is their leading scorer -- with 5 goals.

4) Fulham Winning -- Away
The Cottagers hadn't won away since September of 2006. Then they went to the Madjeski and shutout Reading 2-0. They also hadn't won back-to-back away fixtures since 2003. Then they come back from 2-0 down and relegation to upset ManCity 3-2 -- in the final 20 minutes.

5) Reading not Scoring
Some time ago I wrote how Reading could be this year's Wigan. Well, their inability to score (last tally was back on March 22nd) could/will see their final match away to Derby as being their last gasp in the league.

The sale of personal oxygen tanks are going to skyrocket in the concluding weeks.

I know I got one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

UEFA Cup Semi-Final Preview

I should deeply apologize (again) for not covering the second leg of the quarterfinals, because dear me it was fantastic. Luca Toni playing like a Roman deity at the death is something us fans will be discussing for ages, and firmly established himself in the pantheon of footballing legends. And Zenit St. Petersburg continue their impressive run, raising the status of Russian Premier League football each step of the way.

Here's how they breakdown:

Bayern Munich vs. Zenit St. Petersburg
Its funny how some semi-finals often have a better bill than the finals: every Western Conference semi-final in the NBA this decade; the '04 ALCS between the Sox and Yankees, and the '07 ALCS of Sox vs. Indians (I'm a Red Sox fan, but still). Bayern's scoring arsenal feature UEFA Cup scoring leader Luca Toni (10), as with Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski (each with 5). Zenit on the other hand, have relied extensively on Pavel Pogrebnyak (8). Bayern have been shaky very often during this competition, and Zenit appear a team of destiny, dispatching both Marseille and Villareal in historical fashion. Its a crapshoot, but expect a spectacle.

Rangers vs. Fiorentina
I gotta admit, I really don't understand how Rangers are this far. Thats not to suggest that I dont like it, but they've had six different scorers. Granted, they did get to the party late but at this point scoring can't be a group activity. Fiorentina meanwhile have scored at least two aggregate goals, relying on Romanian star Adrian Mutu (who's netted 3). Fiorentina have had a pretty tough run of games in the knockout stage, having to beat both Everton and PSV, but if Rangers can keep the (odd) mojo, expect them in the final.

Rangers/Fiorentina will be live at 2:30pm on FSC, with Bayern/Zenit on tape-delay at 5. Looks like a long day at the pub for me!

UPDATE: Looks like it'll be a long day for Rangers tomorrow. And no Luca Toni for Bayern.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Bottom, Top, and Bottom

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about this blog. I've been busy trying to wrap up my diploma, and I've been blogging over at The Offside. So please pardon the lapses.

But with all the hoopla of the Champions League semifinals commencing today. I want to call people's attention to the bottom of the Premier League and the Top of the Coca-Cola Championship, and how what used to be up is now down in both leagues.

With Bolton winning two straight, and Brum and Reading dropping points at the least favorable time, the relegation party now has three participants trying to get out alive. Separated by just one point, Reading needs to gain more points than the others as their goal-differential is the worst in the league (excluding Derby, who don't count).

At the top the CCC, things are finally beginning to sort themselves out. West Brom are on the pole position, two points ahead of second-place Stoke City. Behind Stoke are Hull (72pts), Bristol City (71, AND A NEGATIVE-1 GD!), Watford (69) and Crystal Palace (68). Ipswich (65) need a victory at Preston this weekend if they have any hopes to sneak into the playoffs.

The bottom of the CCC in a whole other matter with six clubs separated by just three (!) points.

But that deserves its own post. (Yes that means I will be updating again).

Monday, April 7, 2008

well, this used to be exciting...

A month ago us fans faced the mouth-watering prospects of the title, championship league spots, and relegation dogfight going down to the wire. Now, essentially everything is decided. ManYoo are taking (another) title, Liverpool are in the CL, and Bolton, Fulham, and Derby are all going down.

On March 7th, the table looked like so:

1) Arsenal 65pts
2) ManYoo 64
3) Chelsea 58
4) Everton 50
5) Aston Villa 48
6) Liverpool 47
7) Blackburn 45
8) ManCity 45
9) Portsmouth 44
10) WestHam 40
11) Tottenham 32
12) Boro 29
13) Newcastle 28
14) Wigan 27
15) Sunderland 27
16) Birmingham 26
17) Bolton 25
18) Reading 25
19) Fulham 19
20) Derby County 10

Now, a month later, it looks like this. What's so different? Well, Arsenal collapsed and are 6 points from the title. Everton got stuck in neutral while Villa went in reverse, as Liverpool went on their run and are now a shoe-in for 4th spot.

At the bottom, Bolton have acquired just a point; whereas Sunderland have gotten 9, Reading and Wigan 7, and Newcastle 10. Fulham have achieved 5, but are still exactly where they were a month ago -- six points adrift.

Thank God the Championship won't be decided until the very end, because the BPL sure faded fast.