Sunday, November 30, 2008

a very expected draw to Bologna

As per the match preview, as expected Bologna’s new manager Siniša Mihajlović lead his side in a brilliant tactical plan as they fought to a 1-1 draw, ending Genoa’s dominance at Stadio Luigi Ferraris. In truth this was likely the first match of the campaign that tactically Genoa underestimated their opposition and tactically erred. Certainly the heavy rainfall had an impact upon the match and Gian Piero Gasperini’s side failed to recognize the need to adjust style of play if not tactics. This was not the day to be expecting long flourishing runs and many of Genoa’s efforts failed to get even near the finishing stage because of this.

The visiting Bologna side showed a great deal of patience before the break, allowed significant space to Genoa knowing full well that most of their passing would need to be either very short or get slowed considerably in sloppy pitch. It was the appropriate defensive approach and allowed them to either prey upon unforced errors or counter-attack on over commitment. The match went to the break scoreless but the handwriting was on the wall and Gian Piero Gasperini brought in Andrea Gasbarroni for Raffaele Palladino for the restart. Ten minutes after the break Andrea's cross to Giuseppe Sculli in the area was headed crisply to the back of the goal. With the goal advantage on a dreadfully problematic pitch, I expected a formation changed and the introduction of ex-Crvena zvezda man Boško Janković with a greater emphasis of tying up the midfield but it wasn't to come and Genoa paid for the tactical miscue. Eight minutes later a clearly more aggressive Bologna side found the leveling goal as ex Genoa men reacquainted themselves with their former club as Adaílton's cross to Marco Di Vaio was redirected into the net. Both clubs came close as the match wound down but without success and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Genoa's returns to Seria A action next week in an exciting derby against Sampdoria.

Injury crisis at striker as Yakubu out for season

Everton's victory over Tottenham today came at the heftiest of prices as Nigerian striker Yakubu ruptured his Achilles tendon and is out for season. The injury came eleven minutes into the match and in a further troublesome event, Louis Saha came in for him and left the match with nineteen minutes remaining with a torn hamstring. Along with the James Vaughan injury, Everton's strike force is reduced to Victor Anichebe and the club is obviously in dire need of a striker.

David Moyes spoke of the situation:

"We've had no luck injury-wise. But I'm hopeful that the group will work hard and respond to the challenge, especially Anichebe who, whilst only young, has real quality. It is well documented that we don't have great amounts of cash here and getting involved in January certainly wouldn't have been our ideal plan. But the chairman has always backed me and clearly we can't go through the rest of the season if we only have one fit striker. We'll see where we are and what we can do when the time comes in the new year."

VfB out performs Schalke winning 2-0

It is as clear as day that the arrival of Markus Babbel has brought a new found toughness to the squad as die Roten handed Schalke a 2-0 defeat. If you're going to pick out a hero of the day, start first with Jens Lehmann who after Arthur Boka was adjudged to fouling Kevin Kurányi in the area, the thirty-nine year old 'keeper calmly dispatched Jefferson Farfán's effort and consistently pushed the forces forward yet both sides had a series of opportunities but lacked the finishing touch and the match remained scoreless till the final third. However with twenty-seven minutes remaining Jan Šimák was called upon and the Czech international did not disappoint. At the seventy-ninth minute Khalid Boulahrouz sent a long ball to Šimák, who then left-footed chipped the ball over on-rushing Schalke 'keeper Manuel Neuer. With seven minutes remaining, German international Mario Gómez closed the match off as he capitalized on loose ball after a odd mash-up between Jermaine Jones and Sami Khedira. Schalke attempted to draw one back but their best effort by Kevin Kurányi was headed wide and VfB had a great victory!

David Moyes 300th match in-charge ends with style

The surging run the Harry Redknapp-led Tottenham met its match today as Everton, in the three-hundredth match with David Moyes in-charge, defeated the Spurs 1-0 at White Hart Lane. As mentioned the way to defeat Tottenham’s powerful attack was to lock them down in the physical match and apply a tad of bulldog grit. To perfection, David Moyes approach worked perfectly as the Toffees handed Harry his first defeat at home in North London. Everton packed the midfield with Nigerian international Aiyegbeni Yakubu as the lone striker and strangled off the Spurs attack that included Aaron Lennon, English international Darren Bent and former Spartak Moscow hitman Roman Pavlyuchenko. Possibly the best scoring opportunity before the break was Aussie Timmy Cahill’s cross that was headed on by Louis Saha to Spurs goalkeeper Gomes. However heroics for the day were saved for Steven Pienaar as six minutes after the break his took a welcomed deflection off Vedran Corluka and into the net. While the South African looked to double the score, Tottenham came close as the match wound down with Tim Howard robbing Pavlyuchenko in close and both of Gareth Bale and Fraizer Campbell efforts blocked by the hearty Everton defenders.

Leeds fall to Histon in FA Cup

Straight to the point, Leeds fell to Blue Square Premier side Histon 1-0 today. The non-league side scored six minutes before the break as Matthew Langston, a postal worker by-trade (who yes, can now say he “delivers”), headed-in Gareth Gwillim’s cross. Leeds were provided a number of opportunities to score but were unable to do so and lost a glorious chance to advance in the FA Cup. Histon will now face Swansea in the third round.

Leeds return to the task of promotion from League One against Tranmere next Saturday.

Twente scores late to beat ADO

Twente squeeze by a tough ADO side 2-1 with Marko Arnautović scoring the deciding goal with ten minutes remaining. Flashbacks of last weeks 6-0 destruction of Heerenveen came quickly as Theo Janssen continued his scoring prowess against ADO as he made it 1-0 only nine minutes into the match on his free-kick that took at opportunistic deflection. De Tukkers should have made it 2-0 as Kenneth Perez picked up where he left off last week but couldn't find the route to get another ball past Robert Zwinkels before the break. ADO came out inspired after the break and showed a greater defensive resolve before shocking the home crowd with the equalizer with fourteen minutes remaining as Leroy Resodihardjo jumped on a loose ball in-close from Pascal Bosschaart's free-kick. However it wasn't long till Steve McClaren's side found the winner as with ten minutes remaining Kenneth Perez fed the twenty-one year old Austrian international Arnautović, in the area and he struck the ball to the back of the net.

De Tukkers are now fourth in the table, two points behind second-place Ajax, five behind first place AZ. The club now turns its attention to a critical UEFA Cup match against Schalke on Wednesday.

Heerenveen collapse to give PSV a draw

The question of “can Trond Sollied survive the PSV match?” may have been answered late as despite controlling the overwhelming majority of the match, the Heerenveen defense collapsed and allowed two late goals to bring to a 2-2 conclusion. With Abe Lenstra Stadion going from complete jubilation to utter shock, it is unclear how upper management will react but quite obviously the club is in desperate need of reviewing defensive play as the final ten minutes were a nightmare.

The overall review of the match is definitely two separate parts as Heerenveen looked to be in complete control of the match, opening the scoring sixteen minutes in as Roy Beerens, fought off a very physical challenge by Jérémie Bréchet to put the ball behind PSV ‘keeper Andreas Isaksson. This might have been a hint of things to come because PSV’s “fight” definitely had an impact in their comeback. Heerenveen had a number of chances to add to the margin but couldn’t break through till the sixty-fifth minute when Paulo Henrique took the PSV back line to school and swept a cross in-close to Beerens which he tucked into the goal for the second of the night. Slowly the match took on a more physical tone and with nine minutes left Reimond Manco, who had just entered, crossed to Danny Koevermans, who then headed in from approximately eight meters. Marking on the Netherlands veteran was dreadful and brought concern the flood gates were about to open. A minute later Balázs Dzsudzsák drew a yellow card for violent conduct, a few seemingly harmless shoves but it had me thinking whether it was a statement that the defending champions weren’t going to back down. Two minutes later, Heerenveen made another tactical defensive error converging on the ball, leading Serb Danko Lazović to send a through-ball to Stef Nijland who lifted the ball over a diving Kenny Steppe and to the back of the net.

“We’ll be ready for everything”

With todays tough match-up against VFB, Fred Rutten is expecting a tough challenge noting that because of the change of manager the opposition will have an extra push. However he confirms, “We’ll be ready for everything.”

Die Königsblauen must put this weeks loss to Manchester City in the UEFA Cup and return to the form that saw them upend ‘Gladbach. Fred Rutten said of last weekends match: “We created chances during that game and turned them into goals - I was satisfied with that. We also managed to keep things tight at the back. It’s proof that things are headed in the right direction but there is a way to go.”

Fred Rutten will be without Levan Kenia, Peter Lovenkrands, Albert Streit and Zé Roberto with Serbian international Mladen Krstajić in doubt. VFB are missing Matthieu Delpierre, Ludovic Magnin, Sebastian Rudy and Turkish international Yildiray Bastürk but do have Sami Khedira and Martin Lanig back. Look for a very physical match with VFB taking on the form of their new manager Markus Babbel.

last minute concerns before Wolfsburg match

Just a final word regarding the match which is roughly one hour away now.

As stated premiously The injury report for Jürgen Klopp will need to plan to use the same lineup as the Karlsruhe match with the one exception being the return of Robert Kovač from suspension. BVB is missing Nelson Valdez, Diego Klimowicz and skipper Sebastian Kehl all too injury while Wolfsburg is missing the Brazilian striker Grafite. However their Bosnia and Herzegovina international combination of Zvjezdan Misimović and Edin Džeko have quickly emerged as one of the most deadly and reliable combinations in the Bundesliga. These two hold the balance of power in the match as they must be marked closely or it’ll be a long afternoon. Wolfsburg has been tinkering a great deal with their lineup using 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 and a 5-3-2 away from home. This naturally will make for an interesting tactical match-up depending on their formation

I think that's what they call a "good response"

After a series of miserable performances and the ongoing denial of a "crisis", the Green Whites responded with a shocking 5-0 victory over a injury depleted Eintracht Frankfurt. A capacity crowd at Weserstadion saw the home side control the ball in the attack with Christian Vander undisturbed with any noteworthy chance. Claudio Pizarro start the scoring off at the eleventh minute with his first of three goals on a beautiful link up with Hugo Almeida passing off to him after Torsten Frings played a perfectly weight through ball to him. Only nine minutes later Pizza struck again with Torsten Frings again the provider with the Peruvian international. The match was killed off effectively just before the half as Diego converted on a penalty as Habib Bellaïd was adjudged to fouling Aaron Hunt in the area. The match slowed slightly right after the re-start or at least die Adler didn't appear confident they could get back into it and two minutes after the hour mark, Serbian international Duško Tošić swung in a cross to Claudio Pizarro who received the ball back from Hugo Almeida and added his third of the night to bring the match to 4-0. With fifteen minutes remaining Aaron Hunt made a solid highlight clip run and finished with pounding the ball to the back of the net to bring the match to its final 5-0 margin. This will obviously be a good "confidence builder" and while I hate to (well just a little) slow down the celebration, the injury situation at Eintracht Frankfurt is so deep they're at the point of basically playing with virtually none of their regulars.

Everton faces a surging Tottenham

Everton travels to White Hart Lane today to face Harry Redknapp's surging Tottenham side. Since taking over, Harry has worked magic with the Spurs winning seven matches out of nine. The Spurs will have Ledley King and Jermaine Jenas available as well as a well-rested Roman Pavlyuchenko and Vedran Corluka who were cup-tied for their match against NEC Nijmegen. In his three-hundredth match in-charge (where did the time go?), David Moyes efforts will be further challenged as he will be without Victor Anichebe, James Vaughan, Steven Pienaar and Louis Saha. The Spurs possess a wealth of talent, pace and attacking flourish with Russian international Pavlyuchenko starting to fill the nets. For the Toffees to defeat Tottenham, they need to embody the determined grit and physical play that has suited them well with extremely tight marking. Without a doubt Everton must improve from recent performances if they are to leave North London with points.

I will report on the match as it concludes.

"take charge and show that we want to win the game"

Looking ahead to todays match against Schalke, Markus Babbel said emphatically:

"Everyone needs to take on responsibility against Schalke and have belief in themselves. The important thing for us against Schalke is that we take charge and show that we want to win the game. Every individual must give his all over the complete 90 minutes if we are going to take all three points."

VFB receives a major boost as Sami Khedira and Martin Lanig return although unfortunately Yildiray Bastürk, Matthieu Delpierre, Ludovic Magnin and Sebastian Rudy are out. Schalke, who are coming off a tough loss in the UEFA Cup will be missing Peter Lovenkrands and Levan Kenia but have Serbian national Mladen Krstajić back.

Enjoy the match and if you want to comment during it, please do as I'll be online.

PSG v Stade Rennais match preview

With both PSG and Stade Rennais tied at twenty-six points, only two behind second-place Nice, the result of todays match is of critical importance on the table. While some might point out in the drama in the backdrop of this match is a possible revenge of Rennes manager Guy Lacombe, who was let go by PSG in January 2007 after over two years of service but that is of-course pure nonsense. This match will be decided on the pitch and without a doubt PSG has prioritized this match as Claude Makélélé, Ludovic Giuly, Guillaume Hoarau and Stéphane Sessegnon were left out of the Racing Santander UEFA Cup match for the most part. Both clubs are fully fit with the exception of longer terms injuries although it is quite possible that the major influence of the match will be the weather. Given the horrible conditions of the Olympique Lyonnais - Valenciennes FC match, it is quite possible that the league will direct officiating crews to use better judgment in abandoning matches in such situations.

I will report on the match as it concludes.

Histon FA Cup match preview

Leeds travel to face Blue Square Premier League leaders Histon in the FA Cup second round Sunday afternoon. Prior to the match Gary McAllister said:

"It's a classic FA Cup tie."

"It's an early round and it's Conference versus a Division One side, but we're looking forward to it. It's the FA cup which I love. Bring it on...

"We're going to go and enjoy it. We know it will be a tough game. They are flying high in the Conference. I've watched them, I've seen DVDs and they are getting good results and are a confident side."

"But my concern is Leeds United not Histon. We're playing some good stuff. Our results could be better, but we're looking forward to Sunday. I want to go there and play at a good tempo."

Leeds will have Rui Marques and Alan Sheehan available for the match whilst Jermaine Beckford and Malcolm Christie are both injured.

I will report on the match once it concludes.

PSV squeeze out draw against Heerenveen

Put simply, PSV looked to be heading straight towards defeat, were thoroughly out-played for eighty minutes by Heerenveen but scored twice in the last ten minutes to earn a point in a 2-2 draw. Trond Sollied's side took the lead sixteen minutes after the start with Croatian international Danijel Pranjić providing Roy Beerens the ball, with the veteran finishing without hesitation. Andreas Isaksson held Heerenveen out till twenty minutes after the restart when nineteen year-old Paulo Henrique made the PSV defenders look horribly inadequate and sweeping into the left of the goal, crossed perfectly to Roy Beerens for the second of the night. With the PSV goal under seige, Andreas Isaksson made a number of saves to keep them in the match. With nineteen minutes remaining Reimond Manco entered the match for Francisco Rodríguez and immediately served-up a cross to Danny Koevermans who headed the ball to the back of the net. Five minutes later troubled Serbian international Danko Lazović sent a perfect through-ball to Stijn Wuytens who neatly chipped the ball over Heerenveen 'keeper Kenny Steppe who dove towards the ball and into the goal. A remarkable ending to a match that PSV is very lucky to have escaped with a point.

PSV returns to action next Saturday against FC Groningen

Wolfburg v Borussia Dortmund match preview

Thirsting to stay abreast of the upper tier of the Bundesliga table, Felix Magath's Wolfsburg travels to Dortmund to face BVB. While the club is buoyed by the come from behind victory against SC Braga in the UEFA Cup they are in desperate need of their first away victory of the campaign. Oddly they have be heading into the perfect situation against BVB as the Dortmund side as been nothing short of abysmal at home, only winning winning twice in seven matches with the balance draws.

Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp heads into the match without the services of Sebastian Kehl and Nelson Valdez. Wolfsburg will need to tread carefully as BVB possesses an extremely enterprising attack that includes Jakub Blaszczykowski, Alexander Frei, Egyptian international Mohamed Zidan and the always dangerous Tamás Hajnal.

Wolfsburg is still without Grafite but otherwise fully-fit. Ashkan Dejagah will step-in for the injured Brazilian alongside Edin Džeko and as per the Braga match, fit in perfectly with the attack led by Zvjezdan Misimović.

I will report upon the match as it concludes.

Genoa v Bologna match preview

As Genoa continue to tempt the upper reaches of Serie A, there will be obvious challenges from the elite clubs but equally those matches considered as ones where they can't afford to drop points. With Bologna visiting Stadio Luigi Ferraris, this is not only one of "those" matches where points can't be dropped but additionally one that could provide a series of problems.

Amongst the backdrop of historic Bologna, the club has been languishing at the bottom of the Serie A table after being promoted last year. Yet with little fanfare, earlier this month the management of the club made one of best tactical moves of the year bringing in Siniša Mihajlović from Inter. With a career that started with legendary clubs FK Vojvodina and Crvena zvezda Mr. Mihajlović is a managerial up and comer in the sport and the perfect man to drive Bologna out of the relegation zone. Incredibly over the last three matches the club seems to have already channeled his gritty demeanor and squeezed out 1-1 draws to Roma, Siena and Palermo.

With this in-mind, Genoa needs to scrap all scouting reports pre his arrival and realize Stadio Luigi Ferraris is the setting for a battle. For those who appreciate the finer aspects of the beautiful game, such as hard-tackling and every blade of grass fought-for, this will be your match to watch on Sunday. While I am more than aware Gian Piero Gasperini's side have yet to drop points at home, this match must be treated with special care if they are to keep that streak alive.

On the injury front Genoa will be without the services of Giandomenico Mesto, Francesco Modesto, Matteo Paro and Marcel Román for the match whilst Siniša Mihajlović's forces are missing Massimo Marazzina, Gabriele Paonessa and Sergio Volpi.

Bologna will go forward in a 4-4-1-1 formation with the following possible lineup:

Francesco Antonioli
Cristian Zenoni,Claudio Terzi, Vangelis Moras,Salvatore Lanna
Coelho, Nicola Mingazzini, Gaby Mudingayi, Francesco Valiani
Davide Marchini
Marco Di Vaio

Recommended formation for Genoa would
Sokratis Papastathopoulos,Matteo Ferrari,Giuseppe Biava/Salvatore Bocchetti
Marco Rossi,Omar Milanetto,Ivan Jurić,Anthony Vanden Borre/Boško Janković
Giuseppe Sculli,Diego Milito, Raffaele Palladino/Andrea Gasbarroni/Boško Janković

The final decision on the lineup must equally be based upon weather conditions as heavy rain could slow play considerably.

I will report on the match as it concludes

Obafemi Martins shows professionals pride

Through the balance of Newcastle's match against Middlesbrough, Obafemi Martins was unquestionably the major attacking threat including his left-footed drive that beat 'Boro keeper Ross Turnbull but clanged off the the cross-bar. However twenty-minutes after the break thirty-three year-old veteran Mark Viduka was brought on for him. Naturally there was a series of rationale reasons why the Aussie hit-man was brought on, not only to re-unite him upfront with Michael Owen, possibly serve up a scoring strike against his old club as well as an overall boost to the troubled year to date, however it can't be overlooked that Obafemi provided the Magpies their attacking pulse. Unfortunately he didn't appreciate being substituted and immediately made his way down the tunnel as opposed to joining his teammates.

This will naturally be the subject of much debate and will need to be dealt with by Joe Kinnear. While Obafemi treated the situation incorrectly and should have made his way to the bench, it also needs to said that club needs to deal with a problem dealing with playing time. While in the past the Nigerian international has often been described for this pace and raw athleticism, over the last year his game has sharpened to a fine point and he should be a regular from start to finish. This is a perplexing problem with the leadership of Michael Owen and Mark Viduka incredibly important for the club during the tough stretch run but it is also impossible to deny Obafemi's game is on the rise with considerable more upside. As you throw in the possibility of Michael Owen moving elsewhere with his contract set to expire shortly, this situation needs to be dealt with efficiently and with an eye towards the future.

When asked of the situation Newcastle coach Chris Hughton said:

"It's not an issue, you always want players to be disappointed when they're substituted. Oba didn't want to come off and that's a good thing."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

stubborn Magpies hold Middlesbrough to scoreless draw

The Tyne-Tees derby ended in a scoreless draw at a fog-embraced Riverside Stadium. Whilst Gareth Southgate's 'Boro side controlled much of the play after the break, the Magpie's displayed a stubborn defensive side that would not allow the final touch. As per usual (or is it a "given") Republic of Ireland international Shay Given came to the rescue denying Justin Hoyte from point-blank range with sixteen minutes remaining and re-affirming this lofty status as one of best 'keepers in the game today. The match also saw the welcomed return of Mark Viduka and while it might cause a morsel of lineup problems and in my most tactful "festive" manner he is in-need of a bit more fitness work, it will definitely be a major addition to the club.

Obafemi Martins can come close to giving Newcastle the lead ten minutes before the break but his shot clanged off the bar to safety. Presumably Gareth Southgate rattled the war drums at the break as 'Boro came out on the attack and dictated much of the play. As expected, Turkish international Tuncay Şanlı was a typical whirlwind creating chances but his efforts went unanswered. Twenty minutes after re-start Mark Viduka was introduced as you might expect "warmly" received by the 'Boro fans where he spent three seasons before coming scooting up the A19. The Melbourne native immediately got himself into the mix and with roughly twenty minutes remaining he looked to be on the end of the scoring drive but his volley was blocked by Austrian international Emanuel Pogatetz. "Mad Dog" Pogatetz, in his normal warm, delightful manner, was all over the pitch today and thwarted a number of glorious Magpie opportunities. Heroics were in-store for Shay Given as he robbed Justin Hoyte with sixteen minutes remaining in what seemed destined to be the go-ahead goal. The final piece of drama was saved for the introduction of Mido into 'Boro's lineup and while the Egyptian international wasn't able to create the winning goal, he appeared to be confident and well on the way to full recovery.

If there was a drawback to the match it is the Obafemi Martins reaction of being substituted by Mark Vidulka as he immediately made his way to the dressing room, ignoring his teammates. Somewhat confidently, I expect Joe Kinnear to deal with the situation with all the charm and suave demeanor we've come to expect.

Newcastle returns action next Saturday as Stoke City visits St James' Park.

Hearts deny Rangers with 2-1 victory

Hearts dealt the Rangers a massive blow in their title aspirations as they handed the Gers a 2-1 defeat at Tynecastle.

The Rangers were empty of attacking flourish and I suspect Hearts 'keeper Jamie MacDonald might be feeling a bit spry this evening because he certainly won't be fatigued from the match. Hearts took the lead twenty minutes in as skipper Christophe Berra's header was saved by Allan McGregor but the rebound came to Marius Žaliūkas and the on-loan FBK Kauna-man snapped the ball into the net. Only three minutes later, another rebound off a Christophe Berra attempt, resulted in a goal as the hot-tempered Laryea Kingston headed-in the ball. A further three minutes later Rangers drew one back as a Kris Boyd header pinballed off the bar and Christos Karipidis into the net. With the score 2-1, Rangers were unable to launch a reasonable effort. With twenty-four minutes remaining, the Gers were gifted a man advantage as Lee Wallace was sent off with his second yellow but still they could not break-through and the match ended with Hearts winning 2-1.

After the match, Walter Smith said:

"Hearts did well but we made it easy for them and we didn't create an awful lot up front. That was surprising because we've made a lot of opportunities in previous matches but never came up with any of note many here. Hearts deserve credit. They had their players back in position and played very much in the manner we played in a number of games last season. They did very well. We spent the last hour of the game almost entirely in Hearts' half of the pitch but never really created any opportunities to score.""You're going to miss players of that quality but you're going to go through the season without some people and there are no excuses there.

"We're still good enough without them. I felt in the first 20 minutes or so that we struggled in a defensive sense by giving away too many fouls. That gave Hearts the opportunity to get the ball into our area and we ended up losing two goals from such situations. With the consistency Celtic have shown, any points that we drop are a blow to us and it certainly means the three Old Firm games left are ones where the pressure is on us. We deserve that because we didn't deal with set plays well today. Normally we defend well but against Dundee United we gave away two bad goals. Those little bits of inconsistency have plagued us in games and that has been costly for us."

The Rangers return to action next Saturday against the Hamilton Accies.

can Trond Sollied survive the PSV match?

Following the 6-0 loss to Twente, the situation for Trond Sollied at Heerenveen couldn't be worse. While you need to learn from the countless errors in that match a deft manager will distract the clubs direction from endless rehashing of the match to avoid a loss in confidence. This is without a doubt an even greater issue for the free-flowing attack of Heerenveen as a lack of confidence will have them back on their heels and start a heavy cascade downward. It also should be said this is a time for true supporters to back the club and not jump on every error. Unfortunately that isn't shared by club management and their lack of support might be the biggest undoing. Once again, as with supporters, if management doesn't back the coaching staff, success is unlikely. I can assure you from someone who has played in this type of situation stability and confidence is the key and must be reflected by club directors.

While a good showing against PSV might be the only way to save Trond Sollied's job he will be weighed-down with the loss of Mika Vayrynen to suspension and Michel Breuer, Michael Dingsdag, Bonaventure Kalou and Geert-Arend Roorda to injury. Thrown into the mixer with the other problems, the veteran Norwegian football manager, Sollied, has his work cut out for him.

However on the opposite end of the pitch is PSV and with respect, the great champions are not playing like great champions. At times they barely resemble last years side, lack discipline, intensity and defending resolve. Their noted manager Hubb Stevens looks to be pulling his hair out as he continuously questions his players desire and with good reason. Yet the big problem might be the classy organization is beset with internal squabbling seen with outbursts from Danko Lazović, Edison Méndez and a benching of Carlos Salcido, explained due to a language barrier. While the problems related to Lazović and Méndez have been dealt with behind closed doors, the situation regarding Salcido isn't just troubling for the club but disgusting at the sport level. Given that on any pitch you'll hear at least six languages at any one-time and we all learn to communicate, to bench a player because he has a tough time grasping the domestic language definitely doesn't come from other players and makes you question what precisely is going on in Eindhoven. Returning to the pitch, their defensive lapses have been endless this year and Heerenveen must be confident and assertive as they push forward. PSV will be without Ibrahim Afellay, Nordin Amrabat, Erik Peters, Dirk Marcellis and Jan Kromkamp for the match.

BVB injury report for Wolfsburg match

The injury report for BVB against Wolfsburg is a tough one as they will be without Nelson Valdez, Diego Klimowicz and skipper Sebastian Kehl. Effectively this makes the only change in lineup from the Karlsruhe match is the return of Robert Kovač from suspension.

Jürgen Klopp said of the Karlsruhe lineup”

“Although it was almost the same team as in Hamburg, the match in Karlsruhe was clearly a step forward. We were very present especially in the first half.”

Full preview to follow.

a tough act to follow

After last weekends shocking 6-0 outpouring over Heerenveen, Steve McClaren and company have a tough act to follow in Den Haag against ADO. André Wetzel’s side are having a tough ride since being promoted in the Eredivisie this year and in the midst of a six-match losing streak, including last weeks 3-1 loss to Feyenoord. Despite the problems Wetzel is confident that if they can weather the storm and stay positive, “it will come out right in the end.” They have Ahmed Ammi back from serving suspension but will miss Wesley Verhoek,Gino Coutinho and Robin Faber.

For Twente, they are in the odd position of trying to put aside last weekends match and not let it get them over-confident. They have an important mid-week UEFA Cup match against Schalke 04 coming up on Wednesday and will need to have veterans Blaise Kufo and Kenneth Perez fully recovered so it is likely to influence the lineup. Steve McClaren gave no indication of changes in his pre-match press-conference and merely noted the competitive nature of matches between ADO and Twente. Although historically this has been a very tough match with a opportunity to advance in the UEFA Cup riding on a victory over Schalke, I expect a few key lineup changes with veteran Romano Denneboom playing a greater role.

Werder Bremen v Eintracht Frankfurt match preview

As the Green Whites left the pitch following their draw to Anorthosis Famagusta the club seemed bathed in a pall of disappointment. Whether you use the term "crisis" or just "disappointment", the situation is far from acceptable in Bremen.

Interestingly enough the club has been notably quieter with the media and presumably they are looking at this strictly in business terms. With only three matches remaining for the long winter break, Werder is ninth in the table a full eleven points off Hoffenheim and showing little signs they can make up for lost ground.

Thomas Schaaf will be handicapped with the loss of Tim Wiese and Petri Pasanen, both injured in practice as well as Mesut Özil, Daniel Jensenand Martin Harnik. In addition to this the club is grappling with physical fatigue but most worrisome, rumours of internal leadership battles. Eintracht Frankfurt is equally having its problems and given their injury list are doing quite well at twelfth position. Their injury list is remarkable as they are without a near full-side including Bosnia and Herzegovina international Zlatan Bajramović, Ümit Korkmaz, Christoph Spycher, Christoph Preuß, Alexander Meier, Oka Nikolov, Chris, Krešo Ljubičić and their captain, Greek capped Ioannis Amanatidis.

It will be critical to get off to a good start and bring the home fans off their seat in support or this will become a trying test.

two clubs in need of a victory

PSV's visit of Abe Lenstra Stadion to face Heerenveen can easily be summarized as a battle of two clubs in need of a confidence builder. Heerenveen are an exciting, youthful side with endless promise who came completely undone last week falling 6-0 to Twente. While it is impossible to ignore such a result, it is likely best termed as "one off" and you can expect Trond Sollied to go back on the attack without a second thought. Without a doubt, for the defensive blunder plagued PSV, Heerenveen will be a significant test. Unfortunately PSV efforts will be challenged as they will be without the services of Ibrahim Afellay and Dirk Marcellis is doubtful.

Prior to the match Hubb Stevens commented:

“I don’t believe it will be hard to put the Champions League defeat against Atlético Madrid behind us. We will face a new challenge when we take on sc Heerenveen on Saturday night and we will do our utmost to get a good result. I just hope Heerenveen will be in the same form as last week, but actually I’m afraid they will aim to bounce back from their humiliating 6-0 thrashing at the hands of FC Twente.”

I'm not sure if there was a joke intended with that but I would not expect Heerenveen to lay-down at all and in-fact will look to respond in-front of their great fans.

Hubb Stevens continued to discuss PSV's issues:

“This squad needs to be really focused all the time in every single game. The coaching staff should see to it that PSV will be sharp and show fighting spirit tomorrow night.”

With that comment I completely agree. PSV needs to address their own motivation and resolve.

I will report on the match as it concludes.

Rangers v Hearts preview

Rangers face Hearts later today at Tynecastle with the Gers needing to maintain pace with Celtic who have a solid four point lead. With Celtic nearly perfect on league level, Walter Smith's club cannot afford to drop points but Hearts are a particularly challenging squad and looking to enact revenge for their 2-0 loss to the Gers at Ibrox in the second week of the campaign. Hearts are however a particularly challenging squad at home and have won four straight since dropping to Celtic at the start of November. The Rangers defeated Hearts 2-0 at Ibrox in the second match of the season in a very close match.

On the injury front Hearts will be boosted with the return of Laryea Kingston and Deividas Česnauskis but missing Mike Tullberg and Saulius Mikoliūnas to injury with Michael Stewart in the sin-bin. The Rangers have Saša Papac and Madjid Bougherra back but still are without Steven Davis and Kenny Miller.

I will report on the match as it concludes.

Tyne-Tees derby match preview

The fifteenth week of the season has Newcastle off to tangle with Middlesbrough at Riverside in the 120th Tyne-Tees derby. With the Magpies third from the bottom of the table, every match is of critical importance and why this might seem peculiar to say given the clubs position in the table, there is reason for considerable optimism. Last weeks scoreless draw at Stamford Bridge reaffirmed a gritty, never-surrender attitude that defines the club and proof of the clubs positive response to Joe Kinnear. Todays decision to reward him with a full extension of his contract will provide the stability the club need and continue to bond the team.

Standing in the way of success this afternoon is the Gareth Southgate led-Middlesbrough. There is no conceivable reason why Mr. Southgate isn't lauded on a daily basis for his explempary work but incredibly after a stellar playing career, he picked-up in the managerial world with similar abilities and consistently have 'Boro ready to play with the best of the Premier League. While his club is coming off two sub-par performances, first a draw to Everton and last weekends dreadful loss to Bolton they will receive a major boost today as just-in-time for the match their great striker Mido returns from injury. Newcastle must pay particular care with the Egyptian striker as he is one of the most potent attacking options in the Premier League and coupled with Turkish international, Tuncay Şanlı, a fully-fit 'Boro is certainly capable of winning a sport in the new UEFA Europa League

On the injury front Newcastle's Damien Duff and Shola Ameobi are out but both Mark Viduka and Steven Taylor are available. While he shouldn't be expected to see a great amount of playing time, if at all, the impact of Mark Viduka will be enormous and a major emotional lift for the Magpies. As you would expect of this great derby, it will be a spirited affair without a blade of grass given-up easily.

I will report on it as it concludes.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"the kings of Manchester"

Man Utd's Wayne Rooney, who has "upped" his game of late be adding diving to it has stoked the fires a morsel before the derby:

"Sunday is a massive game. Yes, we owe the fans a derby win even though we did win two trophies last season. Losing both games was extremely disappointing. It is a massive game for the players, the fans and the club - especially after what has happened at City with the takeover."

The ex-Everton boy who once swore his loyalty, added:

"It will be nice to show them who are the kings of Manchester. I missed both derbies last season and that was really frustrating having to watch when you cannot do anything about it. I am looking forward to Sunday. It doesn't irritate us that City are getting all this publicity. If they were winning trophies it would irritate me but while they are still lingering in mid-table I am not really too bothered about it."

Gert Engels days numbered with Urawa Red Diamonds

Sports Nippon has reported that manager Gert Engels will be let go by the Urawa Red Diamonds at the conclusion of the season. The daily quoted Engels:

"I was told that I will have no contract for next season. I must just accept it because of the differences in how we think."

Urawa let go Holger Osieck in the spring of the year after leading them to the AFC Champions League title the year before. In keeping with the clubs preference of German managers, Volker Finke, formerly of SC Freiburg is rumoured to be meeting club president Mitsunori Fujiguchi following the Gamba Osaka match.

Damien Duff and Shola Ameobi doubtful for 'Boro

Heading into the weekend's match-up against Middlesbrough it appears that the Magpies will be without Damien Duff and Shola Ameobi who were both injured during practice yesterday.

Joe Kinnear said of the injuries:

"We'll have to wait and see, but both players are doubtful at the moment

"We don't know if they'll be fit enough but we'll know more on Saturday morning."

Sir Alex must be nervous

A mastermind in tactical play on and off the pitch, Man Utd leader Sir Alex Ferguson has definitely launched a shot across the bow heading into Sundays tilt. Clearly it is part of his standard pre-match joust but equally has more than a hint of concern of City's commitment to filling the trophy case:

Said the wily Scot:

“Where are they at the moment — excuse me!

“At this moment in time it is Chelsea and Liverpool who are sitting above us.

“What Sparky Hughes does with the money at City is for the future.”

While City readies to fill Eastlands with top-shelf talent and make a run for the top spot, Man Utd has quietly announced that FK Partizan virtuoso Zoran Tošić has been granted a work permit. Once settled the young Serbian international will have a tremendous impact on the clubs fortune with his tough as nails approach and attacking genius.

profits leading to Thorp Arch and Elland Road purchase

With club profits soaring to £4.5m for the 14-month period ending June 30th, per a club issued statement "the directors have identified that the re-purchase of both the Thorp Arch Training Facility and Elland Road as a priority within the next 12 months." This is a very solid development in the long term success of the club and not only allows for continued promotion efforts to the Championship but developing the Academy.

Miodrag Božović to lead FC Moscow

In a surprise move, Miodrag Božović, who lead Amkar Perm to a four place finish and a spot in the new UEFA Europa League, has left the club to head-up FC Moscow next year. After suffering through a disappointing ninth-place finish the Citizens fired manager Oleh Blokhin with their firm target being Mr. Božović. The forty-year old, whose own playing career included a stint with Crvena zvezda overhauled Amkar in a stunning turaround and brought them up from thirteenth spot to fourth.

defensive errors preyed upon by Deportivo de La Coruña

Feyenoord's UEFA Cup chances came to an end as La Liga's Deportivo de La Coruña dominated play and preyed upon defensive errors. With losses to Nancy Lorraine and CSKA Moscow already, Feyenoord final match against Lech Poznań is a mere formality and they will not be advancing.

Deportivo were clearly the aggressor and showed a great deal more confidence from the start of the match. Attacking at free will, Feyenoord responded by moving on their back-heels and at thirty minutes Atlas product Andrés Guardado's cross was redirected in by Alberto Lopo. Whether it is biased optimism or not, Feyenoord seemed to slowly level the overall play of the match and were able show a few modest scoring opportunities including Luigi Bruins powerful drive that was nicked just wide. However after the re-start things took a turn for the worse as the lead was doubled with Kevin Hofland the victim of an own goal. Down by two, confidence died fast and within the minute the match was 3-0 as Andrés Guardado found the back of the net with Cristian Hidalgo providing the chance. Feyenoord re-grouped and while they weren't able to get on the score-sheet they held Deportivo, who were definitely looking to add to the score, off.

For Het Legioen, it is an obvious disappointment with another loss but I want to remind you this is a club of the future, who respects bringing Footballers up through developmental programs. I am far too biased to be honest of this but I appreciate their commitment to the youth and believe in their future.

Injury woes continue for James Vaughan

James Vaughan's injury problems continue as the club revealed he will be out till early 2009 with a knee injury. Full of pace, the twenty year-old has been riddled with injuries and anchoring the promise of the U21 England capped striker.

Everton head physiotherapist Mick Rathbone commented on the injury:

"James twisted his right knee last Friday. He will be out until the new year. The only saving grace is that it is not the knee he has had so much trouble with in the past."

Unfortunately this is a rather "textbook" consequence of a player rushing back from injury as he had surgery on his left knee earlier this year. Independent sources confirmed to me that this was to soon and the clubs off-pitch training protocols that have been the question of many.

Joe Kinnear to lead

Official word out of St James’ Park is that Joe Kinnear has been handed the reigns for the season. Managing Director Derek Llambias said of the situation: “Joe has done an excellent job since coming to the Club and everyone is delighted that he has agreed to remain in charge for the rest of the season.”

In the official statement Joe Kinnear said:

“Ever since I came to Newcastle United I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“The players have been great to work with and the fans have made me feel at home since day one.

“We have a big challenge ahead of us for the rest of the season but together I’m confident we will make good progress.

“We have some very good players already at this club and hopefully we can further strengthen the squad in January and I will be working very closely with the directors to try to achieve that.”

Naturally during this extremely difficult time we all want the very best for the Magpies and hopeful of his success with the clubs. Truth be told this was likely the only opportunity for the club as few managers would be interested in the position. That is a difficult pill to swallow and one I would prefer not to say but sadly it is the truth. The problems of managing go far beyond common tactics on the pitch but relate to the lack of control of player personnel and the enormous financial constrictions. With the later many are aware that the club needs to maintain a positive balance in the transfer market as their will be no additional internal funding but this is further weighted with the financial burden of added costs of borrowing. Professionally speaking from a coaching perspective, I am very aware that the club’s internal structure has constricted considerably and lacks many services that should be a part of a Premier League club. Yet with all this in-mind, it is painfully obvious as much as there might be managers you prefer to lead the charge, Joe Kinnear might be the best man in-fact as he not only understands the unique problems but is ready to tackle them head-on.

Jermaine Beckford out with injury

Leeds revealed that Jermaine Beckford tore his hamstring against Northampton on Tuesday. While the club has yet to have an MRI, for some unknown reason, Gary McAllister said:

"They feel it might be a grade two which can be anything from two-to-six weeks but he's a fit lad and that's a big thing.

If it is grade two tear, he is best served to look at a six to eight week recovery period or this injury could potentially plague him not only throughout the balance of the season but his career as well. Besides being unfathomable why Leeds hasn't had an MRI performed at this time and there is no medical reason why not his rehabilitation cannot be rushed or it will create a series of problem including leaving him susceptible to related injuries.

die Königsblauen will be fresh for the weekend

It is wasn't so pathetic it might (I stress "it might") funny because Schalke put forth a shockingly bad effort as they lost to Manchester City 2-0 at Veltins-Arena. Die Königsblauen were lacking in virtually any offensive attack and both goals came off poor defending. This is particularly disconcerting as going into the match Man City manager seemed to be more inclined for a defensive approach and were without the services of star Robinho. If ever there was an better chance to beat the Premier League side, I am not aware of it but unfortunately Fred Rutten must now deal with the golden opportunity being missed. With the loss, Schalke must now defeat Eredivisie side, Twente to be guaranteed a spot in the next round.

While Jermaine Jones posed a few scoring attempts towards Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart, their was little to report on the attacking end thereafter. A full thirteen minutes before the break City was gifted the first goal with Benjani being handed an attempted defending clearance and easily driving the ball int. The comedy of errors continued after the break with Stephen Ireland scoring on a miserably played ball that should have easily been dealt with by Schalke's defenders. A sloppily played 1-2 between Benjani and Ireland bounded up in the air. Manuel Neuer rushed to defend and made a early academy error by leaping up early and Ireland drubbed a ball beneath him. With the score now 2-0 and the whistles filling the arena the match was effectively over. While UEFA's press outlet called Man City's performance "classy" I wasn't aware Footy was a formal occasion and I would simply say they out-played a team that played foul. This should have been an easy win and they turned it into a loss.

After the match Fred Rutten said:

"In the first half an hour the game was fairly even. We had one or two opportunities like the one for Jermaine Jones, for example."

"The first goal was a chain reaction of mistakes. Kevin Kuranyi lost possession, but they were still a long way from our goal. What followed was one individual error after another."

"We didn't perform well enough to win the game. In the final half an hour there was no belief that we could draw or even win the game. We had the occasional chance, but not the confidence to score."

"I feel we deserved to lose the game. We're very disappointed, even though we were up against a very good team. It hurts to lose, but we'll have no time to dwell on it because we have another important game in Stuttgart on Sunday."

A good leader delivers the information straight-up and without sugar coating. He's right, it was horrible and the 54,000 plus crowd and all the fans deserved better.

PSG draws to Racing Santander

With the build-up of the PSG - Racing Santander match, Paul Le Guen's guarded comments of not sacrificing the UEFA Cup but additionally that Ligue 1 was the priority, it was unclear how he'd truly approach the match. With Claude Makélélé, Ludovic Giuly, Guillaume Hoarau and Stéphane Sessegnon out of the lineup, I think it is safe to say the goal of this match was to put out a "fine effort" but not jeopardize the weekend affair against Stade Rennais. It's a debatable point at this time but it certainly appears that PSG cares little of being involved in the UEFA Cup and accepting of not making it through to the next round.

Mateja Kežman opened the scoring five minutes into the match as he capitalized on a loose ball just outside the area and slammed it into the back of the net. Péguy Luyindula doubled the margin two minutes after the half-hour mark, as a beneficiary of a Jérôme Rothen through-ball but with five minutes to the break Sammy Traoré was the unfortunate victim of an own goal. Ten minutes after the re-start Racing Santander's Gonzalo Colsa brought the match level driving the ball behind Mickaël Landreau from twenty-five meters out. In the final twenty minutes Guillaume Hoarau and Stéphane Sessegnon were brought-in as PSG hunted for the equalizer but it wasn't to come and match ended in a 2-2 draw.

For dedicated PSG followers, don't fret about this match because it is painfully obvious how it isn't truly considered important by Paul Le Guen or the executive branch. While I completely disagree with the approach, it doesn't appear that it will change.

PSG returns to action this weekend against Stade Rennais.

a tough point against Sampdori

VfB earned a tough point in Markus Babbel's debut as they played Sampdoria to a 1-1 draw. As the new coach said before the match, die Roten were going to need to play more rugged when needed, which is precisely what they did against the Seria A side. Ciprian Marica provided VfB the lead eight minutes after the start as the Romanian national jumped on a loose ball and sent it to the back of the goal. The lead would not last long as six minutes before the break as Paolo Sammarco re-directed Antonio Cassano's corner past Jens Lehmann. Chances to take the lead were virtually non-existent in the final forty-five with Jens handling all attempts. While the three points would have (obviously) been welcomed, VfB played with such intensity and venom, success is surely in the future with Markus Babbel in-charge.

Shakhtar Donetsk advances to UEFA Cup!

Shakhtar Donetsk won a place in the UEFA Cup with a stunning 5-0 triumph over Swiss squad FC Basel. Jádson gave Hirnyky the lead just past the half-hour mark as drove in a Ukraine national's Oleksiy Hai pass. Following the break Willian doubled the margin with Jádson scoring twice more and Evhen Seleznyov adding the fifth with fifteen minutes remaining. The great victory catapults Shakhtar Donetsk to UEFA Cup.

Spartak Moscow edges Dinamo Zagreb 1-0

Spartak Moscow edged Croatian powerhouse Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 at Maksimir Stadium with Russian international Ivan Saenko providing the winning strike at the seventy-fifth minute from the edge of the area. The match was extremely tight with near perfect defending and very few scoring opportunities. With the victory for Michael Laudrup's side leaps to third place of Group D, three points behind Udinese and Tottenham. Spartak returns to UEFA Cup against NEC Nijmegen on December 3.

Wolfsburg roars back to defeat Braga 3-2 in UEFA Cup

Wolfsburg came roaring back to defeat Braga 3-2 in the UEFA Cup with Zvjezdan Misimović scoring twice in the final seven minutes of the match. The match started in a odd fashion for Wolfsburg as Braga was the beneficiary of own goal with Andrea Barzagli's clearance striking Ricardo Costa and into the goal. Twenty-four minutes into the match Edin Džeko scooped up a rebound of Ashkan Dejagah's drive and pummeled the ball into the net. Braga fought back to take the lead two minutes after the re-start as Albert Meyong redirected Matheus' pass from five meters out to make in 2-1. As the match entered the closing twenty minutes, Braga was on the verge of closing the match off but good fortune fell Wolfsburg's way. With seven minutes remaining Edin Džeko was fouled in the area and after the spot was pointed to, Zvjezdan Misimović drew the match level. Fueled with the equalizer, Wolfsburg pressed for the winner and deep into added time the Bosnia and Herzegovina international added his second of the night as he picked up a close range rebound.

Wolfsburg returns to action next Sunday against Borussia Dortmund.

and now Steven Taylor?

It seems things are slowly falling in line for the Magpies as along with the return of Mark Viduka, Steven Taylor looks healthy and ready to go for this Saturdays match-up against Middlesbrough at Riverside. The U21 England captain has been out since injuring his groin in the Aston Villa match but may have a bit of a fight for his spot. Joe Kinnear talked of this back-line saying:

"We were up against some of the best players in Europe at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, yet we were well organised. In fact, it was the best I have seen Habib Beye perform since I came here. But really both he and Fabricio Coloccini have done well all season, and Sébastien Bassong showed what a good player he is when he is in his normal central defensive position. And I must say I thought José Enrique handled Joe Cole as well as I have seen anybody do."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

yeah but Joe meant that in a good way

Following Joe Kinnear's comments that official Martin Atkinson call in the November 9th match Fulham was "Mickey Mouse", the FA has charged with improper conduct.

Returning to the match, Joe Kinnear believed that a defender Claudio Cacapa was fouled by Andrew Johnson and said after the match:

"Cacapa was on the ball and Johnson completely pushes him out the way, nicks the ball and gets the penalty.

"We have got the Mickey Mouse referee doing nothing. He's made an error that cost us."

Well now, I can imagine like myself your ears are burning with such scandalous words. Excuse my horrible volley at humour but while it is fine when coaches launch into four-letter tirades, or athletes conduct themselves without consideration of the youth who look up to them, commentary of officiating being "Mickey Mouse" is where the FA decides line needs to be drawn? While I warrant respecting officiating is extremely important the FA needs to consider actions before they make such rulings.

While it might be of some surprise to find me defending Joe Kinnear given my detest for his public outburst, this is a joke, albeit an expected one from the FA. Possibly the worst management Football association in the major nations and certainly one with most "interesting" hidden agenda's of its business partners, if it decides to actually police public behaviour it ought to at least start with material issues.

CSKA Moscow triumphs over hearty Lech Poznań

CSKA Moscow advances to the next round on the UEFA Cup with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over visiting Polish giant Lech Poznań. The Polish side showed tremendous resolve in fighting back after falling 2-0 but could not overcome Valery Gazzaev's CSKA, which is looking more and more like a team of destiny.

In their final match of the year in-front of their faithful supporters at Luzhniki, CSKA displayed a passion for the attack all-the-while holding strong to rock-solid defending. Just past the half-hour mark, teen sensation Alan Dzagoev opened the scoring off a perfect feed from Vágner Love. Russian international Yuri Zhirkov continued his stunning year as he volleyed in Anton Grigoryev's pass in added-time to double the margin. After the break Franciszek Smuda's side dug-in and fought back into the match with Bosnia and Herzegovina international Semir Štilić perfect free-kick past Igor Akinfeev six minutes past the hour mark to bring the match within one. The visitors continued to apply pressure but could not break through again and CSKA took the 2-1 victory.

PSG - Racing Santander opening lineup

Clearly the biggest component of the PSG - Racing Santander UEFA Cup match is what importance Paul Le Guen will place upon the match. While certainly a surprise at the time, PSG treated the Schalke 04 match as a "run-out" and lucky only to lose 3-1 with a lineup certainly below par. Although Paul Le Guen noted this week that he would not "sacrifice" the UEFA Cup he equally reaffirmed that league-play was a priority. Although there has been no public commentary of whether regulatory bodies questioned PSG's approach for the match, it is unlikely for them to "call" another match in.

With that said the opening lineup has been just posted and it certainly appears that the Stade Rennais match on the weekend is still the priority. The lineup for Racing Santander is:

Mickaël Landreau
Ceará, Sammy Traoré,Mamadou Sakho, Sylvain Armand
Younousse Sankharé, Grégory Bourillon, Jérôme Rothen
Fabrice Pancrate, Mateja Kežman, Péguy Luyindula

I will report on the match as it concludes.

Spartak Moscow v Dinamo Zagreb match preview

Without hesitation once the UEFA Cup draw was completed, this was one of the highlight matches that are a "must-see." After defeating N.E.C. Nijmegen 3-2, Dinamo Zagreb fell to London's Tottenham 4-0 but will look to return to glory this evening against Spartak Moscow. No match at Maksimir in Zagreb can be taken for granted and Myaso must expect a "special welcome" from the Croatian supporters. The match will be bathed in tension with Dinamo now in the controls of Marijan Vlak as the club and Branko Ivanković felt it best that he resign his post as well as Spartak's 'keeper Stipe Pletikosa formerly played with Dinamo rivals HNK Hajduk Split. Michael Laudrup's Spartak side were showing great promise and then after their great victory over CSKA Moscow, they fell apart with losses to Lokomotiv, Zenit and a draw to Luch-Energiya Vladivostok. Particularly maddening to supporters was effort against Zenit Saint Petersburg in which they looked to show little spirit or intent. For Spartak to be successful in Zagreb they will need to show the same passion and resolve as they did against CSKA or Dinamo will overwhelm them.

I will report on the match as it concludes.

Metalist Kharkiv with tough test against Galatasaray

Metalist Kharkiv face legendary Turkish side Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup today. Galatasaray have dominated Group B and possess six points after two matches. A victory today in-front of their home supporters at Ali Sami Yen Stadium will guarantee their advancement as possibly an advantageous position in the draw where they wouldn't face a club falling out of the Champions League. They will be without menacing defender and Turkish national Servet Çetin as well as Hasan Şaş and Uğur Uçar with additional questions about the services of Mehmet Topal, Lincoln and Tobias Linderoth. While that is a substantial grouping losses, they possess a brilliant array of talent including Czech standout Milan Baroš, Harry Kewell, Sabri Sarıoğlu, Arda Turan, Ayhan Akman and great veteran Emre Aşık. The Zhovto-Syni will need to be at their best to defeat the Turkish side and control their troublesome attack and require the most of Ukraine nationals Valentyn Slyusar, Serhiy Valyayev and Marko Dević.

empty effort in empty stadium against Atlético Madrid

PSV's chances to advance to the final sixteen of the Champions League ended with a 2-1 loss to Atlético Madrid. With everything on the line, PSV's effort was completely unacceptable and the best that can be said of it was that is was before a closed Vicente Calderón Stadium. Tied at three points with Olympique Marseille, PSV's ability to advance to the UEFA Cup will be contingent upon success against Liverpool with Atlético Madrid facing Marseille.

Simão gave Atlético Madrid the lead fourteen minutes into the match when Carlos Salcido's clearing effort proved dismally inadequate and lead to the 1-0 lead. While the home side had no support in the cavernous stadium they were in complete control of the match and could have easily doubled if it wasn't for the work of 'keeper Andreas Isaksson. However two minutes before the half-hour mark as Simão's corner struck Francisco Rodríguez in his mid-section and came to Maxi Rodríguez, who neatly struck the ball to the back of the net. With a two goal lead, the benefit of miserable defending blunders, PSV decided to start to play some Footy and were able to draw one back with Danny Koevermans poaching on a loose ball in-close two minutes after the break. PSV fought hard back but couldn't break through and once again, the lesson that defense will win championship is shown.

PSV will returns to Eredivisie action on Saturday to face Heerenveen.

"it will be a difficult game for us"

With Robinho, Pablo Zabaleta, Gelson Fernandes all out and now joined with Elano whose wife is experiencing complications with her pregnancy, Man City is facing a challenging task against Schalke 04 today.

Referring directly to the absence of Robinho, Mark Hughes said:

"Learning to play without him is something we have to do because we may have to rest him at times during the season. He's played every game since he came here and we need to look after him, but ideally we want him to get over his injury first."

Tactically Sparky gave clue that City would be satisfied with a draw:

"A draw would not be a bad result, if we win both homes games but pick something up away then you are in a good position to go through. Schalke will obviously be looking to get a positive result, but if we can get some points here and win at home then maybe seven points will be enough.

"Having to travel to Europe between big games is what the big clubs have to deal with, and that's what we are aspiring to.

"It will be a full house, with 60-odd thousand people, it should be a great occasion. We have to be ready because it will be a difficult game for us."

"We are missing three key players, so the option of resting players has been taken away from me to an extent. We had a positive result at the weekend, so we are looking to build on that leading into the derby.

Lech Poznań v CSKA Moscow UEFA Cup

Poland's Lech Poznań travel to Luzhniki Stadium to face CSKA Moscow in a UEFA Cup later today that could see Koni's hopes for advancing to the next stage secured.

After guaranteeing a Champions League spot for next season Valery Gazzaev's forces are gearing up for a major run at continuing Russia's hold on the UEFA Cup. CSKA presently sits at the top of Group H after easily dispatching Feyenoord and Deportivo de La Coruña in prior matches, notable for Vágner Love offensive flourish and the typical hard-line defensive stance. Earlier this month Lech Poznań played Ligue 1 Nancy Lorraine to a peculiar 2-2 draw that featured a number of defending errors and is in desperate need of points if they are to advance.

This match will be impacted by the chill of late autumn in Moscow with temperatures slightly above freezing. The pitch at Luzhniki, which has seen extensive play on it this fall is in fine condition and should not be an issue. Vágner Love certainly has made a point to dispel the notion that Brazilian Footballers have problems in cold weather conditions and has been on fire of late. While they lost their final match of the year against now-relegated Shinnik Yaroslav, the match had no impact upon standings and as Russian international Aleksei Berezutskiy stated "we were not motivated" and "we could not forget that this match did not decide anything."

While a draw will see Koni through, Valery Gazzaev wants to win their group without a blemish and will be ruthless against the Polish side. CSKA is well rested and given that this the final match of the year and the last time they play before their legion of fans, a resounding victory is the only acceptable outcome.

Enjoy the match and I will report on it as it concludes. For those looking for updates during the match, please comment.

Markus Babbel leads VfB to UEFA Cup

In a statement that will surely have you standing in-line as a supporter of Markus Babbel he said of the UEFA Cup match against Serie A Sampdoria.

"This is a UEFA Cup match. I don't want a team of goody two-shoes out there on the pitch. There will be times when rugged tackling is called for. Not the stupid kind, that damages our own prospects but our opponents must be made aware that they are up against a side that can hold their own."

"Commitment and willpower are the ingredients that will decide this one. It's time for us to show the colours. The great thing about football is that every week you have the opportunity to take things down a more positive path. We have to make a start with that on Thursday."

Die Roten have a number of injury concerns with the biggest issue being Jens Lehmann who is will and will be a match time decision with Alexander Stolz waiting in the wings. Yıldıray Baştürk is nearing match fitness and when ready the Turkish international will provide a significant boost however he is out along with Matthieu Delpierre, Sami Khedira and Sebastian Rudy.

Of the opposition Markus Babbel said:

"They have a good team and an exceptional player in Antonio Cassano. We can't allow the Italians to get a grip on the game and we need to constantly press forward to create chances of our own. Thomas Hitzlsperger will remain my captain. He is an experienced player and as such he must fly the flag for the team."

Het Legioen travels to A Coruña

After opening losses to Nancy Lorraine and CSKA Moscow, Feyenoord is in a "must-win" situation against La Liga's Deportivo de La Coruña. The Spanish side in their only group stage match were rough off the pitch by CSKA 3-0 and will be anxious to find the win column in-front of their home fans. The irony of this match cuts deep as veteran Roy Makaay has fond memories of his days in A Coruña.

He recalled:
"Obviously I'm looking forward to this match. I played here for four years, four beautiful years. My son was born there, we won everything there was to win at domestic level in Spain. We celebrated winning the Spanish title, we won the Spanish Cup, and did that in Madrid on the day Real celebrated their centenary. We won two Super Cups and in my final year I was the top scorer in Europe. I'm looking forward to going back there for the first time in almost six years. My return brings back emotions, both for me and the people here. Just going out on the pitch at the Riazor for training on Wednesday evening was very special to me. That was the moment to let all the memories and emotions take over. For me it is beautiful we drew Deportivo away, but for sporting reasons for Feyenoord it would have been better to play at home. From my own experience I know how hard it is to win here, but we will have to if we want to stay in the race."

Following this past weekends crowd pleasing 3-1 victory over ADO, Feyenoord is unbeaten in three matches and taking solid steps as their young guns continue to grow with confidence and prowl for victories.

Injuries are the concern as Gertjan Verbeek will not only be without Jonathan de Guzmán but Diego Biseswar, Serginho Greene, Denny Landzaat, Jon Dahl Tomasson and Ron Vlaar. The Spanish side is dealing with a number of injuries including Rodolfo Bodipo and Julian de Guzmán will need to meet his brother after the match as both are injured.

Enjoy the match and let me hear from Het Legioen

Werder’s hope die with miserable performance

With a golden opportunity before them, the Green Whites Champions League hopes ended with a 2-2 draw to Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta. Still winless in five matches, Werder sits at the bottom of their group with four points, one behind Anorthosis. While they were the beneficiary of being drawn into what most will consider the weakest of groups, they will need to defeat Inter in Milan to have any chance of finishing third and earning a UEFA Cup spot. While I am “jumping the gun” with this pronouncement, it can only be considered a horrible disappointment for the club and they will need to reconsider the style of Football they wish to play and obviously their squad.

Werder started with extremely strong intent and were clearly the aggressor but for all the pace and intent, they lack the final punch in the final third of the pitch. Seventeen minutes after the break Nikos Nikolaou scored for the hosts off a Sávio corner where he was left unmarked in a highly unprofessional manner. The goal definitely picked up the spirits of the Cypriot side and six minutes later as Sávio benefited from poor defending and pilfered an easy goal off a rebound. Down by two, Werder showed resolve and benefited Nikos Nikolaou adjudged to pulling Aaron Hunt in the area. With the spot pointed-to, Diego easily converted to draw one back. Werder attacked endlessly and with three minutes remaining Hugo Almeida rocketed an opportunistic drive to the back of the net to bring the match even. Almeida was gifted another chance at time wound down but the Anorthosis ‘keeper came up with a match saving stop and the match ended 2-2.

Roma dominates Cluj 3-1

CFR Cluj fell far short of their goals as Roma dominated the defending Liga 1 champions 3-1. Matteo Brighi's star shone brightly in the chill of the Cluj evening as he scored only eleven minutes after the match commenced as he collected Simone Perrotta's cross for a straight-forward conversion. Cluj came back confidently and nearly leveled but Eugen Trică missed on the door-step. Twelve minutes after the opening strike, great Italian striker Francesco Totti riveted a free-kick to the back of the net to make it 2-0. The back and forth pace continued at on the half hour, Yssouf Koné brought the match to within one as he headed-in a loose rebound. While Cluj pressured for the draw, Matteo Brighi put an end to their hopes with twenty-six minutes remaining as he accepted Rodrigo Taddei's pass and drilled it into the net to make it 3-1 for Roma.

Steaua Bucureşti falls to Bayern München

Steaua Bucureşti's Champions League hopes ended in sorrow with a 3-0 loss to Bayern München of the Bundesliga. For forty-five minutes Steaua Bucureşti held Bayern Munich off the scoresheet but after the twelve minutes after the re-start Miroslav Klose broke the floodgates open with the first goal of the evening as he finished off a Massimo Oddo cross that had been advanced by Franck Ribéry. Only four minutes later the Germans doubled the margin with striker Luca Toni heading-in the second goal with Klose providing the opportunity. Klose capped his evening with his third goal of the night with nineteen minutes remaining . Bănel Nicoliţă and Mirel Rădoi created a number of worthwhile chances but the ability to finish escaped them and Roş-Albaştrii hopes perished with a 3-0 loss. Hopes of advancing to the UEFA Cup now require a victory over Fiorentina when they visit Bucureşti on December 10.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Schalke 04 UEFA Cup match preview

Mark Hughes leads his Manchester City in a tough UEFA Cup match against Bundesliga's Schalke 04 at their home grounds, Veltins-Arena. The home side comes into the match knowing full-well that three points would see them through to the next round with seven points, long before heading off to the extremely long winter break in the Bundesliga.

Schalke manager Fred Rutten will be without the services of Albert Streit and Serbian international Mladen Krstajić while Man City has a heavy injury list for the match including Robinho, Pablo Zabaleta and Gelson Fernandes. In addition to this concern Mark Hughes must balance the demands of this match with the high-priority derby against Man Utd this weekend.

Sparky's comments, "Ideally we would like to get qualification in the bag as quickly as possible. If you pick up a point somewhere on your travels and win your home games then it is often good enough to get you through to the knockout stages", lends you to believe that City will likely play with a heartier defensive minded approach.

Schalke enters the match with a roster boastful of brilliant talent including an attacking trident of Kevin Kurányi, Jefferson Farfán and Turkish international Halil Altıntop. While they have been under-performing at this stage they have the ability score with a flourish and to not give a blade of grass up in defense.

I will report on the match as it concludes.

all systems go in the UEFA Cup

In his pre-match press-conference Paul Le Guen answered questions regarding PSG's >extremely lethargic performance against Schalke 04 and of-course how this impacts tomorrows UEFA Cup match against Racing Santander.

While noting the match on the weekend against Stade Rennais and all Ligue 1 competition, he stressed that the UEFA Cup would not be "sacrificed." Stressing that there he will use the same eighteen players as with Olympique Lyonnais, he did not that "however there will be some rotations." Noting that the Schalke match was different because of the Olympique Marseille match on the following weekend, he suggested the the Racing Santander affair would be different because it is at Parc des Princes.

Questioned about priority of domestic or European competition he reiterated that whilst not sacrificing the UEFA Cup the basic competition is Ligue 1 and while Sunday's match against Rennes if of greater importance, "it is not question of neglecting UEFA Cup."

Emphasizing his appreciation of European competition he added, "I always made good runs in Europe (competition) and considered it very exciting to play in but it is necessary to take into account our total position.”

Sparky's tricky plan

With a delicate scheduling issue of Schalke 04 in the UEFA Cup on Thursday and the derby against Man Utd on Sunday, Mark Hughes is dealing with a number of complex problems. The derby is unquestionably a priority for City but with long-term plans of building a trophy room, Mark Hughes knows that a draw will go a long way in qualifying for the next round. With the club firmly intent on airlifting in a number of new top-flight players with the January transfer window, this makes tomorrows match intriguing from a tactical perspective.

With the trip to Germany, Mark Hughes noted:

"Ideally we would like to get qualification in the bag as quickly as possible. If you pick up a point somewhere on your travels and win your home games then it is often good enough to get you through to the knockout stages.

"We will go to Germany looking for a positive result and that is how we approach every game. There is no reason why we cannot go to Schalke and cause them problems.

"We had a perfect start to a big week with the win over Arsenal but what we have to guard against is tomorrow night's game impacting negatively at the weekend.

"I have had experience of that before but the good thing is that there is not a great deal of travelling, we will have two full days training and will be in good shape for the derby."

Cluj must defeat Roma

As Maurizio Trombetta's Cluj enters their Champions League match against Roma, they sit at the bottom of Group 1, two points behind Roma and Bordeaux who are tied. If Cluj are to advance they need a victory and must go against some of their typical defending tactics.

While Cluj upset Roma 2-1 at Stadio Olimpico earlier, both clubs have been going through quite a few things. Domestically Cluj is showing signs of exhaustion with sixteen matches in the last two months including this weekends 2-1 loss to Pandurii Târgu Jiu. Roma seems to be well on the road to recovery as they stampeded Lecce 3-0 this weekend.

Maurizio Trombetta said of Roma's recovery:

"I would say that things have settled down," adding "Roma were struggling to integrate new players back then and had injury problems. Now they are playing well, second in the group."

Cluj is hampered with the possible loss of Gabriel Mureşan and Juan Culio with each being decided just before the match-time. Tony and Didi are both out for extended periods and will not be back this year.

Cluj will continue to play its tight defensive plan in a 4-5-1 formation and try to lock out Francesco Totti and coming with scoring coming from a Yssouf Koné counter attack. If Cluj comes with a victory, it will need to come through strong play from Ciprian Deac in the mid-field who has been playing extremely well of late.

Grafite out against UEFA Cup match against SC Braga

Going forward to Thursdays UEFA Cup match against SC Braga, Wolfsburg will be without Grafite. The Brazilian scoring sensation collided with team mate Sascha Riether in practice and after damaged a bone in his ear. With Grafite out Ashkan Dejagah or Mahir Sağlık will most likely to step-up to team with Bosnian super-striker Edin Džeko

Felix Magath named the following side for the battle in Portugal:

Rodrigo Alvim, Andrea Barzagli, Diego Benaglio, Caiuby, Ricardo Costa, Ashkan Dejagah, Edin Džeko, Gentner, Makoto Hasebe, Josué, Jacek Krzynówek, André Lenz, Alexander Madlung, Zvjezdan Misimović, Riether, Mahir Sağlık, Marcel Schäfer, Jan Šimůnek, Cristian Zaccardo

waiting for Kolo Touré

With Arsenal stumbling its way down the table, word has leaked out this week that Mark Hughes is preparing a bid on Kolo Touré. With the deck ready to be shuffled extensively at Eastlands the Côte d'Ivoire international would provide a perfect balance to the beleaguered back-line of Richard Dunne and company.

For City supporters there are extensive changes to come with forays at many top-shelf players being considered as part of the "new" Man City.

"We've got to be up for these battles"

"We've got to be up for these battles" said Leeds manager Gary McAllister on the BBC following the pathetic 2-1 loss to Northampton.

He added:

"When we're going away to grounds - I don't watch Northampton week-in week-out, but the effort used by them, is that the same every week here? If it was, they'd maybe be up in the similar position as us in the league."

"We knew it would be different from the cup tie."

"They made it very difficult, they got in our faces and in the first half we never got going at all.

"In the second half we responded well and got on the front foot, but two bad goals again."

"We go in at half-time and I'm looking for a response again and I did get that - it was like night and day.

"I'm not looking for excuses for the first half but Northampton came and pressed and pressed and we were a little bit naive I felt - still trying to play too many passes when it might have been a night for knocking it a little bit longer.

"Second half we did knock it a little bit longer and got up behind it and looked a better team."

While it is true Leeds might not have played with the fight needed, it should be noted it would be difficult to see it because they continue with tactics that minimize their strengths and effectively allow the opposition to regroup with slower paced play. With Robert Snodgrass and Jonny Howson rooted on the bench, Leeds is a highly predictable smash and grab attack. If Leeds does not change their approach I dare say I will be blogging next year in League One with Leeds once more.

Heavy injury list for Schalke UEFA Cup match

The injury list for the Schalke UEFA Cup tie is a challenging one with both Robinho and Pablo Zabaleta in question and Gelson Fernandes definitely out for the next three weeks.

As it relates to Robinho, Sparky commented:

“The medical staff will have to have another look at Robinho again. If his ankle is still as sore as it was yesterday he definitely won’t travel. His ankle is swollen after he twisted it during the Arsenal game on Saturday."

On Pablo Zabaleta he added:

“Zabaleta has a sore thigh. He didn’t train yesterday and they are not yet sure if he will make it in time. He is another that they will need to have to look at in the morning.”

Gelson Fernandes will definitely be out for the next three-plus weeks with a pulled hamstring.

Mark Viduka back!!!

Yes its true, the Aussie hit-man might be a part of the squad that will face Middlesbrough at Riverside Stadium this Saturday. With the Magpie's teetering in the dreaded final relegation spot the return of Mark Viduka will have an enormous impact. Joe Kinnear said of his possible return:

"He's not far off it, I can tell you. Obviously he hasn't had games but you might find that he's on the bench on Saturday."

"What we decided to do with Mark was to ask him to try and come back into training."

"We didn't want to hurry him up because we don't want to risk him breaking down again but if he felt like he could come back into the sessions then we were happy for him to do that.

"It was a matter of bringing him back gradually and seeing what he could manage but he's surprised us all.

"He's got better and better as the days have gone on and some of the things he's been doing have been excellent. We'll see how he goes now but there is a chance of him being involved."

"He's a good personality and another one of the leaders that I've got in the squad."

"He's a terrific player to have back in and around the team."

Now or never

It is now or never for the Green Whites as they face Anorthosis Famagusta in Cyprus. The Cypriot powerhouse has been one of the bright stories of the Champions League and on the verge of qualifying for the knockout stage as they are in second place of Group B. Conversely and it is impossible to deny, Werder is one of the tournaments great disappointments floundering like a fish out of water, with a lowly three points in four matches. Overall play has been so poor in the Champions League and in Bundesliga action that Klaus Allofs and Thomas Schaaf spending much of their time downplaying talk of "crisis."

While I am obviously guilty of finding the silver lining, the club does appear to have turned the corner in the last three matches and actually playing some defense. The weaknesses of poor work ethic, caused by questionable levels of fitness have made a measurable improvement recent, evidenced in the nil draw to VfL Bochum, the 3-1 victory over FC Köln and the 2-1 loss to Hamburg in the Nord derby. Although there is much left to be desired, it is a start in the right direction.

In the opening match against Anorthosis Famagusta, Werder was was humbled at home with the Cypriot squad playing to a nil draw. The high energy attack that the Green Whites boast was a trickle, were shot after shot were off target and their opposition followed a point-by-point plan on the way to the draw. While obvious, to be victorious in Cyprus, Werder must not only continue their return to defending but find the ability to finish, which equally has been a problem.

Werder heads into the match with Sebastian Boenisch and Clemens Fritz confidently able to play but both decisions will likely be wait till the last minute. Mesut Özil, who is suspended domestically suspended will be able. Anorthosis Famagusta will be boosted with the return of Arian Beqaj but Traianos Dellas and Cedric Bardon are questionable.

Show some support of our Green Whites today!

Porto advances in Champions League

Jesualdo Ferreira's Dragões will advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 2-1 victory over Fenerbahçe at Istanbul’s Sükrü Saraçoglu in a score-line that was flattering to the hosts. Fenerbahçe never looked prepared to compete in the match as Lisandro López struck at the eighteen and twenty eight minutes to give Porto a shocking two goal lead before the half hour mark. While the legendary Sükrü Saraçoglu has been a fortress in the past, the Dragões cared little of the extraordinary home support and run roughshod over the pitch. Turkish capped 'keeper Volkan Demirel saved Fenerbahçe's day on numerous occasions to ensure the score-line wasn't worse. The hosts lone spark was Kâzım Kâzım who luckily for Porto was left out of the starting the lineup and didn't enter till the re-start. The young whirlwind contributed with a stunning work-rate and three minutes past the hour mark he created Fenerbahçe's lone goal as his drive richocheted off Bruno Alves and into the net. However all efforts were thwarted thereafter and Porto took the 2-1 victory.

Zenit Saint Petersburg falls short to Juventus

Zenit Saint Petersburg's dreams of advancing to the Champions League knockout stage came crashing down as they played to a scoreless draw against Serie A giants Juventus. With their typical brilliant fan support as the backdrop of Petrovsky Stadium, Zenit played a superb attacking match but with each advance Juventus' defensive play were the perfect chess move. Each squad had its chances but 'keepers Viacheslav Malafeev and Alex Manninger were up to every challenge. Ukraine international Anatoliy Tymoschuk looked to have given Zenit the lead eight minutes before the break but the Juventus' Austrian capped 'keeper stretched-out to deny the save. Zenit's final close encounter came six minutes past the hour mark Russian marksmen Pavel Pogrebniak looked to have the winner but his drive slammed off the post and gradually the match wound down to nil draw.

Leeds suffers excruciating loss

Leeds suffered an excruciating 2-1 loss at Sixfields against Northhampton in League One action that was a by-product of both over-confidence and the lack of urgency in the attack. Being quite honest, the moment I saw midfield lineup with Jonny Howson and Robert Snodgrass on the bench with the club in a dowdy 4-4-2, the loss was a lock. Leeds lacked punch and came in with a puffed-up ego clattering about how they put up five goals against Northhampton and that they were shooting for six. Well, they fell five short of six goals and with three minutes remaining Nicholas Bignall headed-in Danny Jackman's corner to the back of the net to give Northhampton the victory. Leeds controlled most of the play but Liam Davis gave the home side the lead two minutes before the half-hour mark. Leeds was unable to draw the match level until Jermaine Beckford struck with twenty-one minutes remaining. Leeds fate was however sealed with Nicholas Bignall's goal and so went another three points towards promotion hopes. While redundant this is horrible loss for Leeds and Gary McAllister needs to accept that tactically massive errors are being made and this loss rests firmly on his shoulders. A club of this ability should be ten points clear of Leicester City but instead they are in seventh, six points behind.

Leeds returns to action this Saturday against Histon in the FA Cup.