Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Another Fine Mess is pencilled in

Fifa Watch

So it's all but rubber-stamped now.

The 2022 World Cup Finals will take place in November & December.

FIFA's taskforce for cleaning up the Qatar-clysm has confirmed what had been widely suspected.

Another Fine Mess is pencilled in.

The recommendation released today does not give specific dates - that part of the process will be finalised at next month's FIFA Executive Committee meeting. Yet the time-frame of November 26th to December 23rd has already been floated.

The Superbowl and Winter Olympics will not budge from January, which means a World Cup in the run-up to Christmas, which is hardly ideal for Europe and the Americas.

The thought of their TV networks accommodating three football matches a day instead of their usual holiday fare is bizarre, though not unimaginable. European clubs had proposed an April-May compromise, but Ramadan happens to fall in April 2022, so that was a non-starter. In May the temperatures are also between 25C and 38C.

The poor Africa Cup of Nations, also scheduled for January 2023, is the main victim as it is inconceivable big European clubs will release their stars for two big tournaments that winter.

A winter tournament also entails at least a two-month break in the heart of the European club seasons and an extended finish to UEFA competitions in the summer of 2023. There are strong rumours of a shortened finals format, which could prove stressful for the players, but might initially soothe their clubs' worries.

US Soccer and the Football Federation of Australia, the wronged parties in the initial vote, do not have the clout within FIFA to fight back and UEFA and the other five regions have got into line behind the rescheduling.

The Association of European Professional Leagues expressed dismay at today's news and Football Association chairman Greg Dyke called November & December "the best of the bad options" but European clubs, who have most to lose, seem unlikely to mount a rebellion, although will try to extract some money from FIFA for their manufactured mess.

"We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage," confirmed European Club Association President Karl-Heinz Rumenigge.

It has all been one big cock-up, from the votes bought by Mohammed bin Hammam, the subsequent cull of disgraced Ex.Co. members, the shocking revelations of modern-day slavery surrounding the stadia building and the appalling whitewash of Michael Garcia's investigation.

Not many in the football world are licking their lips over the 2022 World Cup, but it will surely happen in winter now.

"The matter is resolved," concluded Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, head of the taskforce, solemnly.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Monday, February 23, 2015

Barça hiccup but Ronaldo 'does not drink water'


* The depressing but far from shocking smell of match-fixing wafted into Spain this week as it was revealed Osasuna's former president is under investigation over four matches at the end of last season.

It seems his club had a scam underway to avoid the drop but their plan backfired as other teams' results meant they were relegated on the final day.

Real Betis are also under the microscope for a 4-3 win at Valladolid in the penultimate game of their 2013-'14 campaign, a scoreline beneficial to Osasuna. Central defenders Antonio Amaya and Jordi Figueres were allegedly offered €250,000 each to participate.

In their final match, Osasuna needed a 3-0 win over already relegated Betis to stay up and raced into a 2-0 lead after a quarter of an hour.

But then, after news filtered through that rivals Granada were winning at Valladolid and Almeria drawing with Athletic Bilbao. Betis scored, the game ended 2-1 and both went down. If there was an attempt to nobble players, it all ended messily.

The Basque club's accounts are now being scrutinised and appear curious, including a cash withdrawal of €1.5million, a transfer of €1 million to two estate agents and €1.4 million to a firm on the island of Madeira.

* Real Madrid were pretty in pink in midweek as they won 2-0 away to Schalke in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg. Cristiano Ronaldo broke his month-long duck to score in the 26th minute, meeting a Dani Carvajal cross with a well-timed diagonal run between the centre-backs to nod home.

And the Portuguese star was heavily involved in Real's clincher ten minutes from time, beating two markers before setting up Marcelo for a rifle into the top corner. Job done for Real, now it's the turn of Atletico and Barcelona this week.

In other CL ties, Spaniards had mixed results as Xabi Alonso was sent off in Bayern Munich's 0-0 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk, though fellow countryman Juan Bernat went the 90.

Chelsea's Spanish trio of Cesar Azpilicueta, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas came away pleased with their 1-1 draw at PSG.

Porto, managed by Spaniard Julien Lopetegui, had three Spanish starters in their 0-0 draw at Basel - Marcano, Tello and Oliver Torres.

* In the Europa League Round of 32, the three Spanish clubs had a pretty successful week; Sevilla won 1-0 at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach, Villareal won 2-1 at home to Salzburg and Athletic Bilbao drew 2-2 away to Torino. Roberto Martinez's Everton had a comfortable 4-1 away win at Young Boys of Berne.

* Domestically, Real are back in the driving seat as Barcelona slipped up at home, losing 1-0 to Malaga. Juanmi gobbled up an underhit back-pass by Daniel Alves in the seventh minute to score. His club, whose nickname is the Anchovies, then shut up shop and frustrated Barça, conceding 73% of possession.

Perhaps Catalan minds were on their upcoming return to the Champions League at Manchester City, who won 5-0 by comparison, although Jose Enrique rested only Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitic from his first eleven.

Barça's home hiccup allowed Atletico Madrid to close the gap between them to three points after a comfortable 3-0 home win over Almeria.

Real concluded proceedings with a 2-0 win at Elche on Sunday night to move four points clear at the top. Ronaldo put the seal on a positive week by notching Real's second goal and his 29th strike of the season.

Valencia are still fourth after a fifth win in six, 2-1 at Cordoba, while Sevilla sit five points behind, having conceded two late goals to lose 4-3 at Real Sociedad.

Celta Vigo won the Galician derby 2-0 away to Deportivo La Coruna.

* Iker Casillas played his 500th La Liga game on Sunday. The veteran Real goalkeeper has begun to move aside for Costa Rica's Keylor Navas at the Bernabeu, but aged 33 he still has a lot of playing time left. As it stands, the Madrid-born goalie is third in Real Madrid appearances and seventh in the list of La Liga.

Raul tops the Real ranks with 550 appearances and fellow goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta heads the all-time list with 629 between 1981 and 1998.

* 17 thugs have been banned by Real Madrid for singing abusive songs about Lionel Messi (calling him a retard) at the Bernabeu in December. The Spanish League has just clamped down on Barça fans singing 'Cristiano is a drunkard' but displaying a level of with normally associated with English supporters, the same fans retorted this week, 'Cristiano does not drink water'.

* While halting plans for a renovated stadium, the city of Madrid has approved a 23-storey block with a five-star hotel looking out over the Bernabeu. A room with a view indeed, or a sneaky way of selling executive boxes outside the ground...?


* In this week's transfer rumours, it was claimed Real Madrid are willing to let one of their central defenders, Pepe or Raphael Varane, leave at the end of the season, and UK tabloids filled in the gaps by claiming Chelsea and Manchester United are willing to swoop.

Barça's Brazilian full-back Dani Alves looks headed for the exit in the summer as the club has failed to make him a new offer. Alves' agent, who happens to be his ex-wife, told the press, "He is listening to offers...We are more sad than disappointed with Barça." Alves' cock-up in Saturday's defeat to Malaga seemed to all but confirm his P45.

David Moyes has made a solid start to his Spanish career with Real Sociedad but West Ham may offer him a quick return to the Premier League at the end of the season.

Sociedad flew Burnley striker Danny Ings over to Spain to discuss a summer move. The 22 year-old is out of contract then but FIFA rules would mean a fee of €200,000 if a deal is agreed now.

Barcelona and Spain attacker Pedro is said to be in the sights of Arsenal, Liverpool and Man. Utd., while Barça are sniffing around Bayer Leverkusen defensive midfielder Lars Bender.

Atletico Madrid, who have a recent history of recruiting top strikers like Sergio Aguero, Falcao, Diego Forlan, Fernando Torres and David Villa, are seeking to tie-up the signature of Colombian marksman Carlos Bacca from Sevilla.

Bacca has lived in the shadow of Falcao, Jackson Martinez and James Rodriguez for his country but the 28 year-old's stats are still impressive - 14 goals in 24 starts this season, the fourth-highest in La Primera.

* Barça have renamed their training ground after their former coach Tito Vilanova, who died of cancer last year aged 45.

* At a promotional event, Leo Messi was asked about Barcelona's style of play this season and replied that there had only been minor changes. "We have not lost the Barça philosophy," he said. "We have two things - direct play and one-touch football," adding that Barça had learnt to play better on the counter. Then they lost 1-0 at home to Malaga. These things take time.

* This week's top games; kick-off times GMT

Tue 24th Feb:
Champions League (19:45) Manchester City v Barcelona, Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen

Thu 26th Feb:
Europa League - Borussia Moenchengladbach v Sevilla, Salzburg v Villareal (1800), Athletic Bilbao v Torino (20:05)

Sat 28th Feb:
La Primera - Granada v Barcelona (15:00)

Sun 1st Mar:
La Primera - Valencia v Real Sociedad (11:00), Sevilla v Atletico Madrid (18:00), Real Madrid v Villareal (20:00)

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Saturday, February 21, 2015

George's Premiership Predictions February 21 2015

George's Premiership Predictions February 21 2015.
George's Premiership Predictions February 21 2015

There are two London derbies this weekend as Alan Pardew's Palace face Arsenal while in North London Spurs play Big Sam's West Ham fresh from a 4-0 FA Cup thrashing at West Brom last time out.

At the bottom Hull play QPR while Burnley have a difficult away game at Stamford Bridge though they can take heart from their impressive performance away to Manchester United. Elsewhere Aston Villa have a new man in charge and Tim Sherwood's team should take the points from a Stoke team who seem to have downed tools for the rest of the season. Southampton host Liverpool in an intriguing game in the battle for a Top Four finish.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Aston Villa 2 v Stoke 1
Chelsea 2 v Burnley 1
Crystal Palace 1 v Arsenal 2
Hull 3 v QPR 1
Sunderland 0 v West Brom 1
Swansea 1 v Man Utd 2
Man City 2 v Newcastle 0

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Tottenham 1 v West Ham 0
Everton 2 v Leicester 1
Southampton 1 v Liverpool 0

Ramsey's Rangers 20/1 For Five Or More Away Wins – How Many Points To Survive?

Chris Ramsey guided QPR to their first away win of the season at Sunderland last time out and ahead of their six-pointer trip to Hull on Saturday, the bookmakers are betting on how many points/wins they get on the road this season.

Bookmakers  still fancy a total in the low 30's could be enough to survive with the firm updating their 'Points Total of 18th Place' market. It's 6/4 for less than 33 and 33/1 for the side finishing in that position to reach 38 points or more.

Struggling Leicester City are 1/3 to be relegated, 6/4 to finish bottom with the odds' firms quoting 3/1 about Leicester, Burnley and QPR being the three for the drop.

2014/15 Premier League

To Be Relegated
Yes No
Leicester 1/3 12/5
Burnley 4/11 9/4
QPR 10/11 5/6
Aston Villa 6/4 8/15
Hull 2/1 2/5
Sunderland 4/1 2/11
West Brom 6/1 1/8

Relegated Teams

Burnley, Leics & QPR 3/1 Villa, Burnley & Leics 8/1 Burnley, Hull &Leics 9/1 Villa, Leics & QPR 14/1 Hull, Leics & QPR 14/1 Burnley, Leics & Sunderland 16/1 Burnley, Hull & QPR 16/1 Villa, Burnley & QPR 18/1 Villa, Hull & Leics 18/1 Burnley, QPR & Sunderland 20/1

To Finish Bottom

Leicester 6/4 Burnley 5/2 QPR 4/1
Villa 7/1 Hull 12/1 Sunderland 25/1

2014/15 Premier League Specials

Points Total Of 18th Place

Total QPR Away Points

3: 40/1 4-6: 3/1 7-9: 6/4 10+ 11/8
Total QPR Away Wins

1-2: 4/6 3-4: 11/8 5+ 20/1

Soccer - Allardyce happy to bide his time

Sam Allardyce is adamant that he is content at West Ham United as speculation about his future at the club intensifies. It has been suggested that the former Blackburn and Bolton boss will leave the Hammers at the end of this season when his contract expires. West Ham are on course to finish in mid-table this term but suffered a setback last weekend when they lost 4-0 to West Brom in the fifth round of the FA Cup. They will hope to bounce back when they face a Tottenham side this weekend that they completed the double over last season. Allardyce said: "It was the same when my contract ran out last time, I waited until the end of the season. We stayed in the Premier League then and it will be the same this time. We all understand the situation internally, which is the most important thing." West Ham are 15/4 to pick up three points at White Hart Lane on Sunday and can be backed at 9/2 to keep a clean sheet in the game.

Last time's predictions

© Soccerphile.com

Monday, February 16, 2015

Top two kick on, EPL deal shakes La Liga and farewell to Barça's stripes


* Spain dropped to tenth in this month's FIFA World Rankings, their lowest position since 2006. They are still reigning European champions, so summer 2016 is the earliest the golden age of La Roja can officially be said to have ended

* La Primera went back to being a two-horse race as Atletico Madrid surprisingly collapsed 2-0 at Celta Vigo on Sunday to fall six points behind Barcelona in third place. Coach Diego Simeone apologised to his fans and admitted he had picked the wrong team to travel to Galicia.

* City rivals Real resumed normal service a week after their Saturday from hell with a workmanlike 2-0 victory at home to Deportivo La Coruña. Isco and Karim Benzema were on target, Ronaldo assisted one goal and Gareth Bale still got booed by a fraction of the never-satisfied Bernabeu.

Read the Real-addicted press and there is always a crisis for the league leaders. This week it is Ronaldo's lack of goals in 2015 - only three versus Lionel Messi's 15. Then there is Carlo Ancelotti's favoured 4-3-3 formation, which 91% of Real fans said this week they would like to ditch in favour of 4-4-2.

New Berabeu
* A new Bernabeu stadium, planned since 2004, is once more on hold after Madrid's Supreme Court halted work. The rejigged stadium, 15 metres higher and 24 metres deeper than the present one to accommodate a hotel, shops and parking, will have to go back to the drawing board.

* Barça were more florid, hammering Levante 5-0 at the Camp Nou with Messi bagging yet another hat-trick. Neymar and Luis Suarez also scored, putting the finishing touches to a familiar tableau of a hapless victim being ravished by the mega-club of Catalonia and its global superstars.

Coach Luis Enrique, whose head Messi was apparently demanding only a few weeks ago, could not help eke out an "I told you so" gloat to the press in the light of an eleventh straight win which matched Pep Guardiola's tenure.

"We have the best positional attack in the world," he opined. "We are the best at attacking ten defenders," he added, before his now customary praise for his Argentine maestro.

Positionally, Enrique's Barça resemble Guardiola's in their use of tiki-taka as they approach enemy lines but then tend to differ by whipping the ball wide to set-up a cross, while Messi has become very fond of a chip over the back four for Neymar to latch onto.

* Real resume the three-pronged Spanish challenge for the Champions League this week with a midweek trip to Schalke. Los merengues are rated second by the bookmakers behind Bayern Munich with Barcelona third and Atletico fifth, behind Chelsea.

* Barça moved closer to the Copa del Rey with a bread and butter win over Villareal in their semi-final first leg. 3-1 should have been 4-1 had Neymar not fluffed a penalty. An all-Catalonia final is still on the cards after Espanyol drew 1-1 away to Athletic Bilbao.

* The fuss over Ronaldo's 30th birthday bash, which took place three hours after Real had lost humiliatingly 4-0 to Atletico, dominated the start of the week and trended as the top item on Spanish Twitter.

Videos released showed nothing more dangerous than karaoke, even if it did go on until 4 a.m. and cost €400,000, less than two weeks' wages for the World Player of the Year.

Sami Khedira insisted it was only a dinner, while Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes said his player arrived "shattered" and needed two hours to lighten up.

The blame for the leaked photos fell on Colombian singer Kevin Roldan, a friend of James Rodriguez, who said anyone invited to Ronaldo's 30th would have done the same. Interestingly, the 160 guests did not include Real elder statesmen Iker Casillas or Sergio Ramos.

The League's Anti-violence Committee is investigating after part of the Camp Nou sang, "Cristiano is a drunkard" yesterday in response to the media storm. Offensive chanting is facing a crack down in the light of the death of a Deportivo La Coruña fan earlier this season.

* The English Premier League's latest inflation busting contract drew gaps of breath here and shone another uncomfortable light on the inequitable distribution of Spanish TV money in La Liga.

Spain's annual income is €755 million, of which €280 million is hoovered up between Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Premier League has just inked a deal worth €2.3 billion per season however, rising to as much as €3.5 billion with foreign and replay rights. The Royal Navy has indeed fought off the Armada again.

The English language is an advantage when it comes to overseas sales, as is the British preference for watching football at home as opposed to in bars, as is the case in Spain.

Canal Plus, who have the pay TV broadcast rights, have only two million subscribers in Spain compared to the 13 million BT & Sky customers in the U.K.

But when the ration between the money earned by the top and bottom clubs of the first division is 7.7 to 1 in Spain and 1.5 to 1 in England, something surely is amiss.

Barça and Real roll out their superstar roadshow every weekend growing fat on the €140 million they receive every season, but at the other end, Elche and Rayo Vallecano have to compete on only €18 million.

Even Atletico, reigning La Liga champions and European Cup finalists, earn only €42 million per season, less than half that of Crystal Palace or Sunderland.

* In this week's transfer rumours, Real are still interested in prising Marco Reus from Borussia Dortmund, despite him signing a new contract. The club have also scouted Tottenham's Harry Kane three times but are wary of another drawn-out negotiation with Spurs, as happened with Luka Modric and Gareth Bale.

Tottenham themselves are preparing an all-Spanish strikers swap with Roberto Soldado moving to Juventus in exchange for Fernando Llorente.

Atletico meanwhile could bring Juan Mata back to the Manzanares from Manchester in the summer with central defender Miranda heading in the opposite direction.

David de Gea might be on the same flight to Madrid as the Spanish custodian is stalling on signing a new deal at Old Trafford. Liverpool meanwhile may sign veteran Alvaro Arbeloa in the close season on a free transfer from Real.

* Seung Woo Lee, Barcelona's 17 year-old Korean reserve, could swap the Camp Nou for the Bernabeu according to Mundo Deportivo.

* Sami Khedira looks set for the exit door this summer in the light of struggling to make Real's first XI and the signing of Brazilian Lucas Silva in his position. The World Cup winner is alleged to have already signed a 'pre-nup' with a Bundesliga club to begin this summer.

Barca shirt
Barca shirt
* Barcelona's famous blue and burgundy stripes will become hoops next summer as Nike unveiled their new FCB strip. After years of boasting of the purity of the blaugrana, the club made Qatar Airways its first commercial shirt sponsor in 2013. Now with the stripes history, all sanctity in the famous shirt has gone.

* Real Sociedad manager David Moyes is finding the Spain's drinking traditions a culture shock. He told British radio last week that Spanish managers do not want to sit down with him for a post-match hock as is the custom in England.

It might seem strange in a country with so many bars and wine as cheap as £1 a bottle, but there is not the umbilical connection between alcohol and football there is in England or Moyes' native Scotland.

Terry Venables also noted the contrast when in charge of Barcelona, expressing amazement that none of his players had touched the booze during a weekend together.

Salud (Cheers)!

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fifa World Rankings February 2015

Fifa World Rankings February 2015

FIFA World Fifa Rankings

Fifa's World Rankings for February 2015 2014 were published on Thursday at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.

2014 world cup champions Germany remain at the top of the Fifa rankings followed by Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Brazil, Portugal, France, Uruguay and Spain.

England are in 15th place, down two spots, due to good form in Euro 2016 qualifying, and a 3-1 win in Scotland in their latest friendly.

Algeria are the top African team still in 18th place.

New Asian Cup winners Australia are in 63rd spot behind finalists South Korea in 54th place while previous Asian Cup winners Japan are in 55th spot.

The USA are in 31st place. Scotland are in 38th position with Wales still in 34th. The Republic of Ireland are in 67th place, Northern Ireland are in 51st position after a decent start in Euro 2016 qualifying.

Ranking Team
1 Germany
2 Argentina
3 Colombia
4 Belgium
5 The Netherlands
6 Brazil
7 Portugal
7 France
9 Uruguay
10 Spain
11 Switzerland
12 Italy
13 Costa Rica
14 Chile
15 England
16 Romania
17 Czech Republic
18 Algeria
19 Croatia
20 Côte d'Ivoire

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Ranking

© Soccerphile.com

Monday, February 9, 2015

Real reel as Atletico advance Fred Pentland remembered

The Week in Spain 2nd - 8th Feb 2015

The title race got a lot more interesting as Atletico Madrid thrashed league leaders Real 4-0 in the capital's clasico on Saturday.

Diego Simeone's side won comprehensively, as the 'BBC' (Bale, Benzema & Cristiano) failed to register a single shot on target.

Barcelona tightened the screw with a vintage display at the San Mames the following night, running out 5-2 winners to shorten Real's lead to a point. Atletico in third trail Real by four points.

Real reel as Atletico advance Fred Pentland remembered.

Fatigue seemed to have got the better of Real, whose derby defeat came three days after a 2-1 win over Sevilla, where Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez succumbed to injury.

Ramos is out for three weeks with a torn hamstring but James' broken toe will see the Colombian skip the key clash with Barça on the 22nd of March as well as the Round of 16 and probable Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Champions League.

So Real are once more 'in crisis' according to the press, emboldened by Carlo Ancelotti throwing them the biscuit that this was his worst defeat as a manager.

Normal service should be resumed this weekend at home to Deportivo La Coruna, but their European tie away to Schalke on the 18th is the real test. Losing the versatile James is a blow, but a knight in shining armour in the form of Norwegian prodigy Martin Odegaard might get an unexpected chance to impress.

* Cristiano Ronaldo turned 30, though his birthday bash had the unfortunate timing of a few hours after the debacle at the Manzanares. After showing a lack of spirit on the field, he and his well-munerated colleagues had no trouble letting off steam at the party, which drew predictably mixed reactions from the Real faithful

* Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has a date in court next week to explain irregularities in his club's tax returns, specifically concerning the €57 million swoop for Neymar last summer.
Bartomeu implied Real fans were behind the probe, reminding the press that the Brazilian had picked the Camp Nou ahead of a bigger paycheck in Madrid.

If Bartomeu had anything to confess, he had Pope Francis for company on Friday as he visited the Vatican to discuss educational projects.

New Bernabeu
* Days after it emerged that Real's ground could be renamed the Abu Dhabi Bernabeu after redevelopment, Barca sponsors Qatar Airways hinted they might do the same to the Camp Nou. Only last week the club said the Gulf nation's "social issues" were affecting renewal deals, but FCB are also aiming to increase their annual agreement from €30 to €50 million.

* Football beat art last year as the Camp Nou stadium tour was Catalonia's most-visited museum with 1.5 million visitors. The Dali Museum in Figueres came second and Barcelona's Picasso Museum third.

* The Spanish Football Institute of Research, History and Statistics published its survey on the greatest coaches who have plied their trade in the country.

Argentine Helenio Herrera, best-known for forging 'Il Grande Inter' in Serie A, was rated the best manager of all time in Spain, for his spell in charge of five clubs between 1948 and 1960, bagging two titles for both Atletico and Barcelona.

Miguel Munoz, who won nine titles and two European Cups for Real in the '60s, came second ahead of the little-known Englishman Fred Pentland, who coached Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Racing Santander and Real Oviedo in the late 1920 and '30s.

Spanish football
Statue of Fred Pentland
Pentland (1883-1962) was born in Wolverhampton and played for Blackpool, Blackburn, Middlesbrough, QPR and Stoke, and five times for England.

As coach of Atheltic Bilbao, he won two titles and five Copa del Reys and gave the Basques a 12-1 win over Barcelona in 1931, the Blaugrana's record reverse.

Pentland coached Spain to a 4-3 win over England in 1929 which was the first overseas defeat for his homeland and guided France to an Olympic semi-final in 1920. Six years earlier he travelled to Berlin expecting to be named their Olympic coach, only to find himself interned for the duration of World War One in a prison camp, where he carried on his football, organising a flourishing league.

Pep Guardiola came 9th in the list, Johan Cruyff 13th and Jose Mourinho 14th, although Guardiola and Mourinho lead the statistics in terms of matches won (76%). Luis Aragones is the longest-serving coach with 753 games over 25 seasons.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Saturday, February 7, 2015

George's Premiership Predictions February 7 2015

George's Premiership Predictions February 7 2015

This weekend is a tale of two derbies as Spurs face Arsenal in the North London derby while Liverpool and Everton square off in the Merseyside derby. Most pundits will be playing it safe and going for the draw in both this games, though two narrow away wins are also on the cards.

At the bottom both Leicester, QPR and Burnley will be hoping home advantage counts against Crystal Palace, Southampton and WBA respectively. We have tipped Hull to make the drop and so expect the Tigers return empty handed from the Etihad.

George's Premiership Predictions February 7 2015

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Tottenham 2 v Arsenal 2
Aston Villa 0 v Chelsea 2
Leicester City 2 v Crystal Palace 1
Man City 3 v Hull 0
QPR 0 v Southampton 1
Swansea 2 v Sunderland 2
Everton 1 v Liverpool 1

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Burnley 1 v West Brom 2
Newcastle 2 v Stoke 1
West Ham 1 v Man Utd 2

Aston Nil-la 11/2 For Record Drought After 612 Mins Without A Goal - 14/1 To Score Less Than Derby

Aston Villa are over ten hours without a Premier League goal and bookmakers are 11/2 they go another 228 minutes and surpass the 839 minutes set by Crystal Palace in the 1994/95 season.

Paul Lambert's side have hit the back of the net just eleven times this season and the Lions are 14/1 to break another unwanted record - to score less than the 20 Derby County managed during 2007/8.

Steve Freeth: "The history books will point to Aston Villa once scoring a record total of 128 goals during a campaign but the Holte End would take 28 this season with a relegation battle looking very much on the cards."

2014/15 Premier League Specials

Aston Villa to score 19 or less PL goals during 2014/15 14/1

(Currently have 11)
Aston Villa to go 840 minutes or more without a PL goal 11/2

(Currently 612 - next 3 PL fixtures Chelsea (h), Hull (a) & Stoke (h)

Last time's predictions

© Soccerphile.com

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Week in Spain 26 January - 1 February

26th Jan - 1st Feb 2015

* With a game in hand, Real Madrid maintained their one point lead over Barcelona with a 4-1 home win over David Moyes' Real Sociedad. Barça twice fell behind to Villareal at the Camp Nou but ran out 3-2 winners. Atletico Madrid are three points behind them following a 3-1 win at Eibar.

Next weekend Atletico host real in the Madrid derby and a home win could really make the title a three-horse race. Barça visit Athletico Bilbao.

*Real could end up with a transfer ban similar to Barcelona's after FIFA probed the arrival of two 12 year-old Venezuelans in Madrid. Rules forbid signing under-18s from outside of Europe unless their parents have already emigrated for other reasons. Real deny any wrongdoing but a further 49 transfers are under the spotlight.

Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid could be renamed the Abu Dhabi Bernabeu.

*The Santiago Bernabeu stadium could be renamed the 'Abu Dhabi Bernabeu' according to AS newspaper. Real President Florentino Perez let slip last November that a corporate name change was in the offing based on the deal the club had signed with Spanish oil company IPIC, whose mother firm is from the Arab state.

It would be a sad day if the Bernabeu's hallowed name is tainted in this way because with the exception of Real Mallorca's Iberostar, Spanish football has so far declined to go down the English road of soulless and transient titles like The Emirates, Etihad or Ricoh Arena. In the NFL it is par for the course however, with 25 of its 31 grounds named after sponsors.

*Barcelona are set to ditch Qatar Airways as their shirt sponsor in 2016. Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said he was looking elsewhere to replace the €30 million a year deal, citing "social issues", presumably the Gulf state's kafala system of forced labour and an expected death toll of up to 4,000 migrant workers before the 2022 World Cup finals.

*World player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo was banned for two matches for his red mist kick and attempted punch last weekend against Cordoba. He will return for the Madrid derby with Atletico next weekend.

Gareth Bale dismissed British press rumours that he could be on his way to Man United.

*Gareth Bale dismissed British press rumours that he could be on his way to Manchester United but the some Real fans and Spanish papers are on his back for his apparent greediness on the pitch. With no Ronaldo, Bale had been expected to play a bigger role against Real Sociedad, and although he forged a goal for Karim Benzema, the Welshman failed to hit the target himself, snatching one chance from James Rodriguez, much to the Colombian's chagrin.

Cadena Ser radio station's interview with Bale got no more than a C+ for homework. Presenter Jose Ramon de la Morena asked him if Welshmen could play for England or if he had read any Ken Follett novels. No and no.

*Spain earned more in transfer fees last year than any other football nation. Its clubs garnered €588 million in transfer fees. England on the other hand was the biggest spender, shelling out over a billion Euros in 2014.

* The game of the week was one of high drama as Barcelona won 3-2 at Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the quarter-final of the Copa del Rey.

Fernando Torres netted in the first minute to cancel out Barça's first leg lead but a Neymar brace, an own goal by Atletico's Miranda and a red card for Gabi in the tunnel at half-time effectively killed the contest after 45 minutes.

Mario Suarez was also given his marching orders in the second half, leaving Atletico to see out the tie with nine men in front of a sell-out crowd of 53,800 in Madrid.

Ten players were booked including Arda Turan, who only saw yellow for launching one of his boots at a linesman.

* Next up in the Copa Barça play Villareal, while the other semi-final will see Espanyol play Athletic Bilbao, setting up the prospect of an all-Barcelona final.

* Angel Maria Villar, the Spanish Football Federation president who famously said "All the fish are sold" before Spain & Portugal's 2018 World Cup bid was beaten by Russia's, is in dispute with Miguel Cardenal, the country's sports minister. Cardenal is demanding FEF accounts are laid open for auditing, while Villar is reporting the government to FIFA for interference.

* Pep Guardiola is "a shit of a man but a great coach" according to Mino Raiola, agent of former Barça striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a footballer not known for keeping his counsel.

* The week's transfer rumours included Real losing Sergio Ramos to Chelsea and Chicharito to Lazio but the Madrid giants are in the hunt for Porto's 17 year-old prodigy Raul Neves.

Chelsea are hoping to buy Raphael Varane from Real in the summer while Arsenal are said to be keen to take Luis Suarez off Barca's hands after an indifferent first half of a season. The UK press are still saying Tottenham's Harry Kane is on Real's radar, but the Spanish press has yet to echo that.

* Spain's siesta culture, where business shuts down for three hours from 2-5pm and people stay up late, could be responsible for La Liga clubs' strong performances in the Champions League, according to a study by Birmingham University.

The gap between the body's daily peak and trough is as much as 26% in terms of performance, claims the study. Given that CL games kick off in the evening, Spanish-based players, who are more used to staying up late, could have the edge over those used to 3pm kick-offs.

La Liga start times vary, but typically begin at 6pm or 8pm, but several start at 9 or even 10 o'clock at night.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Socccerphile