Month: May 2010

EPL Final Weekend Preview!

After thirty-seven weeks, more than 66,600 minutes and 1,011 goals scored it is time for the English Premier League season to come to a close.

This season has been full of ups and downs, heroes and heartbreak and week thirty-eight promises to continue this trend.

As we enter the final weekend of football the Title has yet to be decided and even third place is up for grabs. Below I break down the major storylines of the final week in the English Football season from Champions to relegation and everything in between:

Fight For Third PlaceTottenham pulled off a big win over Manchester City on Wednesday, a match that clinched them a place in the top four and guaranteed Champions League action next year.  Harry Redknapp refused to discuss taking third place from Arsenal but they do sit just 2 points back of the Gunners heading into this weekend. Arsenal holds their fate in their hands, where just one point against Fulham will wrap up third place, while Tottenham take on relegated Burnley who need to win there and hope for a Fulham win to snatch third place. Arsenal will be missing super Captain Cesc Fabregas but have Robin Van Persie back who was the hero last time these two met.

Champions To Be Named – The pressure is all on Chelsea as they take on Wigan Athletic, where a win will see them be named Champions for the first time since they fired the Special One three seasons ago. It must be noted that Wigan beat Chelsea 3-1 when they met earlier this season, and the London team must remain focused to take a trophy that has become a resident in Manchester.  Manchester United takes on Stoke City, which should be a guaranteed win, as the Potters have not scored against the Champions since they were promoted two seasons ago. However, even if Manchester United score they must hope that Chelsea does not win to be named Champions.

Relegation Battle – The relegation battle is all but technically over, with Portsmouth dropped weeks ago and Burnley dropped last week. Hull City sits in 18th, but will want to win for the cash bonus involved as Burnley can overtake them if they win on Sunday.

Who has the Golden Boot – England striker Wayne Rooney and Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba sit tied on 26 goals scored a piece, and Sunderland striker Darren Bent sits on 24 goals.  Drogba has just one goal in his last four games, where as Rooney has played a full ninety minutes in his last six matches and has not scored a goal since March 21st.  Bent has scored a number of goals in recent weeks and faces a Wolves squad that has little to play for; the advantage may be his if he can hit a rich vein of form. However, I’m going to give the edge to Drogba who will explode this weekend with three goals.

Injuries Stay Away – With all this action taking place there is one man in England who is more nervous than any other, Fabio Capello saw midfielder Gareth Barry go down with an ankle injury that will have him out for a month and the Italian will be crossing his fingers and praying that no other international goes down with an injury this weekend. With the World Cup just a month away any injury could knock a player out of contention and seriously hurt England’s chances in South Africa

Check back next week for my Premier League wrap up and my Season Ending awards.

Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.

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Shark Tank?

After beating the Colorado Avalanche in the first round and blowing past a hot Craig Anderson, it appears as if the San Jose Sharks are making quick work of a veteran filled Detroit Redwing’s who stuttered in the regular season and squeaked by Phoenix in the first round.

However, if there is one thing that is more constant than being confused after an episode of Lost, it’s that the San Jose Sharks always choke when it counts. If it is a guarantee that Liverpool will never win the Premier League or that the Toronto Bluejays won’t get past the Red Sox and Yankees into the playoffs, then its 100000% certain the Sharks will find a way to lose this series.

That being said, here`s their recent choking playoff history:

2009 Lost to Anaheim Ducks West Quarters Finals – After winning the Presidents Trophy in the regular season, they promptly went their opening two home games. They won game 5 in OT to push the series to a sixth game, but were crushed 4-1 as they fell to the 8th seed.

2008 Lost to Dallas Stars in the West Semi-Finals – They squeezed by the Calgary flames after winning game seven but then promptly lost their first three games against Dallas. They managed to pull back two before being beaten in the Fourth overtime of Game 6.

2007 – Lost to Detroit Redwings in the West Semi-Finals – Beat Nashville in 5 games and looked dominant. However, never really managed to get going in this series and got shut out in Game 6.

2006Lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the West Semi-Finals – Easily dealt with Nashville in 5 games and then went full tilt at the Oilers. They won the first three, but couldn’t close out and let in 17 goals in the final four games as they were dumped out of the playoffs.

So Redwing fans and Hockey fans alike don’t worry! The Sharks will probably choke and all will be right in the world. Heck, even if they do win the series, it just means they’re saving their best choke yet for when they face the Vancouver Canucks in the West Finals.

Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.

How the Habs can beat the Pens

With the Montreal Canadien Bandwagon in full effect and fans believing that they can make it past the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and their superstars, it’s time to look at the five possible ways that the Canadiens could possibly beat the Pens.

–          In a wild twist Jacques Martin reveals that his sensation Jaroslav Halak is actually a cyborg built by the team to fill the gap left between the pipes from the Patrick Roy trade. In a further twist, he says they tried to do this when he was in Ottawa, but alas, they accidently programmed their robot to play like Patrick LaLime.

 –          In an attempt to stop the offence of the Penguins, defencemen Hal Gill lies down along the blue line, essentially making it impossible to skate into the Montreal zone past the 15ft tall defencemen. After, Pundits laud this move and point out it’s the fastest he’s looked in years!

–          Habs fans create a “What If Moment” video of Sidney Crosby’s golden goal, leaving a copy under the superstar’s door. Sid spends the rest of the series in his hotel room, stroking his ego and telling himself how amazing he is. He ends up missing the rest of the series.

–          The Quebec government makes it law that all French Canadience players must play for the Canadiens; Marc-Andre Fleury, Maxime Talbot, Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang dress for the Habs.

 –          Former owner and fan, George Gillette organizes the Penguins to be in a Gillette commercial; The Pens shave, and are subject to the worst losing streak since the Red Sox broke the Curse Of The Bambino, going 100 years until their next cup win.

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Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.

Top 10 Goalkeeping Blunders

Top Ten Goalkeeping Blunders

The key to any Football team is the Goalkeeper. Look at teams that have dominated year in and year out, and there is usually a big name Goalkeeper between the woodworks. Whether it was Petr Cech for Chelsea in the Mourinho years, Peter Schmeichel for Manchester United or Oliver Kahn in the Bayern Munich net, these teams conceded few goals and won many titles.

Here are Football’s Top Ten Goalkeeping Blunders:

10 – Andy Divil, Barnsley vs Nottingham Forest
Andy Divil was playing for Barnsley in a game against Nottingham Forest when a simple throw out turned into a disaster for the goalkeeper. As he held the ball in one hand to kick it out he failed to notice the Nottingham player. As he protested the striker placed the ball into an open net. As the rules state that a goalkeeper must have both hands on the ball at all times, Mr Divil had no-one to blame but himself and his lack of peripheral vision.

9 – Gianluigi Buffon, Unknown

The man regarded as the greatest goalkeeper in the world isn’t himself immune to the concentration lacking moments that define this list, while its not the worst mistake ever to be made, it’s a mistake that someone as good as him should be above, a reminder that we’re all human.

8 – Massimo Taibi, Manchester United vs Southampton

When legend Peter Schmeichel left Manchester United, the team underwent an expensive and prolonged search for a replacement. The first of the new goalkeepers was to be Massimo. Unfortunately, the Italian stopper had his first game  against Liverpool, where he flapped at a free kick allowing future Liverpool captain Sami Hyypia to score. This however, was not to be his biggest mistake. During his next game against Southampton, Taibi decided to prove to Sir Alex that he was to be the first of many flops. When a simple long range shot from Matt LeTissier went straight through his hands and out his arse. He was given one more chance but after a 5 – 0 drubbing from Chelsea,  he was shut out from the team and packed off to Reggina.

7 – Robert Green, Norwich City vs MK Dons

Future England goalkeeper + mistake = same old story. Back in the days Norwich City were a team looking for promotion and they had been getting rave reviews about a number of their players, no less deserving was their goalkeeper, Robert Green . Who even earned a call up to the England Team after a superb season, but as most people do, even great keepers are prone to mistakes. A simple lack of looking both ways before placing the ball on the grass, allowed MK Dons striker David Johnson to strip the ball off him and into the back of the next.

6 – Oliver Kahn, Unknown

Football’s law states that only the goalkeeper is allowed to use his hands, so long as he his in the area, but what if said goalkeeper is in the other area? German No.1 Kahn decides to test this theory.

5 – Unknown J-League Player, Unknown

Goalkeeping is a specialised position; as such they normally don’t have excellent ball control. But really, it’s much easier for me to show you and let you laugh, this is one of the funniest goals you’ll ever see:

4 – Jens Lehman, Unknown

If you’ve heard his name, you know that we could make endless Top Ten posts about his mistakes and horrific displays of what he calls ‘goal-keeping’. He definitely shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a football pitch. In this one clip, from one game; He pushes over a player, he goes to ground looking for any kind of card on the opposition and then acts like he’s been shot, only to jump right up when the call doesn’t go his way.

3 – Roy Carroll, Manchester United vs Tottenham

Number 13, unlucky for some. Definitely for Roy. Anyone who is familiar with English football remembers this one and we’re here to show everyone else! In a fairly mundane game against Tottenham, Pedro Mendes tries an audacious shot. Cue Manchester United 5th expensive replacement flop: Northern Ireland ‘keeper Roy Carroll. In one play, he makes the biggest blunder we’ve ever seen and then makes a ridiculously big recovery to keep the ball out of the net. We’ll just ignored the fact the ball is cleaaaarly across the line.

2 – Peter Enkleman, Birmingham vs Aston Villa

In a footballer’s career there are few matches bigger than a local Derby, in the UK when the two Birmingham clubs meet, it’s a big deal. You would think that this would be a game where you concentrate thoroughly on the task at hand. As a seemingly harmless throw-in back to the keeper turned into a nightmare as the ball rolled over his foot and into the net, leaving the Birmingham fans with a 2 – 0 win with which they can boast to their rivals to this day.

1 – Jose Higuita, Various Colombian teams

José René Higuita Zapata is a Colombian football goalkeeper who is famous for inventing the “scorpion kick”; a clearance where the keeper jumps forward, arching his legs over his head and in doing so, kicks the ball away with his heels. This save earned him notoriety when he pulled it off in a friendly game against England in September, 1995, blocking a mistaken cross by Jamie Redknapp.

It it was a mistake by him that knocked Colombia out of the 1990 World Cup, where he seemingly dithered with the ball at his feet 35 yards from goal and cost his their place in the tournament. Mistakes like this earned him the nickname “El Loco” by media and fans alike.

He sports a dirty moustache, a big hairstyle and still thinks he’ll break into the Colombian National side. Here’s your top blunder and some of his highlights rolled into one convenient video:

Tom Dobbyne throw’s his own spin on current sports affairs and offers satirical commentary on current events. Follow him @TomDobbyne or on Facebook as English Tom.

The Beginning of The End

Part Two: Time for the Silverware…

Now on to the boring stuff, winning trophies!

 After Norwich managed to secure the League One title last week all eyes were on Leeds, watching if they were able to secure second place and promotion to the Championship. Effectively ending the downward spiral Leeds have been on since 2003, all they had to do was go to fourth placed Charlton and win; Charlton meanwhile were in a hunt of there own, if they could beat Leeds they would be within two points of second place themselves and take the fight for automatic promotion to the wire.

 However because there’s no excitement on seeing a teams win before the last day Charlton managed to pull of a late goal 1 – 0 win to give themselves,  Millwall, Swindon a lovely grandstand finish for second place.

 The Premier League is a little more exciting this year than in previous years, with the trophy still undecided, and the real excitement is to whether Liverpool can do the unthinkable, beat Chelsea, without Torres and in so doing send the title effectively to Old Trafford for not just the fourth year in a row but for the 19th time overall meaning that Manchester United, their oldest and fiercest rivals.

 This will allow Sir Alex Ferguson to succeed in his mission of “Knocking Liverpool off their !@#$#  perch” and become the most successful English club of all time. However, if the Scousers fail to beat Chelsea then they risk not only losing the last champions league place, a position surely needed by the American owners in order to sell the club, the manager, in order to not only stay and keep his best players but attract them too.                                                                                                                    

Elsewhere in the battle for fourth place,  Manchester City (Citeh!), Tottenham and Aston Villa all played today with Citeh beating Villa and Tottenham securing a nervy win over Bolton to put them to within touching distance of the line. They still need to win or hope Citeh lose next week or else it will be the blue half of Manchester with a huge bargaining chip along with all that money which will make the best players in the world take notice.

 Either way it looks to be a great day of football in store, check back later to see my reaction to the day’s events! And check my twitter for a live feed update (as best as my heart will do!)

 Thanks for reading my first post I know it was a long one but keep an eye out for my next few including my World Cup preview coming in the next few weeks!

 Tom Dobbyne throw’s his own spin on current sports affairs and offers satirical commentary on current events. Follow him @TomDobbyne or on Facebook as English Tom.

The Beginning of the End

Part One: The Promotion Battle

 English Tom here, and for my first post we’ll be breaking down the final weeks of the English Football League, from top of the top to the lowest of the low.

 With two weeks of the Football season remaining, many things in English football have yet to be decided;

 In English League Two, who would join newly promoted Nott’s County? Below in League, would One it be Leeds to join Norwich in the Championship after 3 years of league one hell? The Championship Playoffs last spot is still up for grabs with Blackpool and Swansea fighting tooth and nail.

 All of that is before we even bring up the Top Flight. I the Premier League, three-time Manchester United and Chelsea are so close that a slip-up from either side will take the trophy from the Manchester chamber of honour.

 Meanwhile there is the small matter of who is going to have to endure the hardship of relegation. In the Premier League, everything is confirmed Portsmouth (Henry wipe that smile off), Burnley and Hull will be playing the likes of Bristol City  in the Championship next year. Portsmouth’s money problems will  have hopefully have been resolved over the summer or they will head the way of Leeds United and other great clubs and be lost to the depths of the English league system. (Can someone please stop Henry’s smiling?)

 Burnley and Hull, should both be strong enough to mount and will challenge next year so long as they managed to hold onto there key players, Burnley will have to improve defensively whilst Hull will need to solve there goal-scoring crisis, namely by signing someone who can put the ball in the goal, anyone will be an improvement. To be honest, I’m sure there’s a Hull fan out there somewhere that will be willing to show the others some passion.

 The Championship relegation battle is all but over. Peterborough and Plymouth are done, and it’ll take a huge turn around for Sheffield Wednesday to survive the drop but the fate of the draw and the beauty of football lives on in the fact that they play there relegation rivals Crystal Palace today and whoever comes out with a win will be celebrating survival whilst the other …… relegation. Needless to say this game is huge, (so it’ll be a bore – draw then.)

 In League One, Wycombe joined a desperately poor Stockport in relegation, and will be in League 2 next year. I expect Southend to join them, and then a three way tie between Gillingham, Tranmere and Exeter to be decided next week, however a excellent result for the Gills today against Southampton (told you to stop smiling Henry) and Tranmere finding an excellent display against Millwall to win 2 – 0 and Exeter only managing a draw the last relegation spot looks likely to be the 3 game scenario (for those unaware of this rule allow me – find yourself a bar with three TV’s put each game on a different telly and you have yourself the best moment in sport, three teams who each know how the others are doing fighting for survival – great stuff).

 In League Two, we have the fight between Grimsby and Barnet for joining Darlington in the Blue Square Premier League. Saturday morning Grimsby were on 41 points to Barnet’s 45, Barnet were in control of there own destiny as a win for them would have sealed Grimsby’s demise and as the football Gods would have it they decided to pit the two clubs together on this the penultimate day! Needless to say Barnet messed up and Grimsby managed a 2 – 0 win to take their fight to the last day.

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 Tom Dobbyne throw’s his own spin on current sports affairs and offers satirical commentary on current events. Follow him @TomDobbyne or on Facebook as English Tom.