Month: April 2014

CHELSEA v ATLETICO MADRID: Predicting the Starting Lineups

Diego Simeone and Jose Mourinho have kept quiet about their starting lineups leading up to their Champions League semi-final match, while both managers know their magic lineups they both must wait on last minute fitness tests to key players.

For Atletico Madrid they await to hear whether Turan is fit to play, while Chelsea await word on talisman midfielder Eden Hazard, who faces a fitness battle after picking up an injury against Paris St-Germain in their quarterfinal clash.

Chelsea Starting XI

Expect a bit of a shuffle at the back as much maligned left-back Ashley Cole gets a rare start as Cesar Azpilicueta shifts to the right to cover for suspended Ivanovic.

While I fully expect Ramires to be dropped to the bench due to poor form and Luis/Lampard partner in the midfield. With Eden Hazard expected to miss the match, Andre Schurrle gets the nod in the starting lineup.

Up front it’s an easy choice to take Eto’o, despite Ba’s recent hot-streak, it is the Cameroonian striker who has led the line well for Chelsea, creating chances and finishing them off. Don’t be surprised if Ba comes off the bench, while Torres might get some action with a nod to his Atletico past.

 

Atletico Madrid Starting XIScreen Shot 2014-04-21 at 7.13.40 PM

Diego Simeone was worried all week about the health of star Diego Costa, but the coveted striker recovers from a nasty incident with the post to lead the line for Los Rojiblancos.

Costa wasn’t Atletico’s only worry, with influential winger Arda Turan battling a groin injury and missing Friday’s match – he’s expected to make the bench, but don’t expect him to be starting Tuesday. A handful of players can fill his role with Adrian and Garcia the likely few, but with Adrian playing well as of late expect him to get the nod.

The last fear for Simeone was for that of his starting keeper, but with UEFA deciding that Thibaut Courtois is cleared to play Atletico knows they can trust the man between the posts.

 

Henry writes about his two passions the Beautiful Game and the Brutal Game – whether you’re a die hard Soccer fan or passionate hockey fan, he’s got you covered. 

You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

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MOYES OUT: Where do Manchester United turn next?

hqdefaultDavid Moyes Out?

Apparently the Chosen one is out, or rather soon will be unchosen. Reports coming through media today are that Manchester United’s billionaire owners have finally given up on the David Moyes adventure – looking to sack the Scot in the coming weeks.

Fergie’s chosen one has a woeful 52% winning percentage since taking over at United, winning just 27 games through his first 51 – unacceptable to the Glazers and United Chief Ed Woodward.

David Moyes signed Fellaini in the summer and added Spaniard Juan Mata in the January window, but still has been unable to pull off the results needed and the 2 – 0 loss against Everton this weekend has apparently sealed his fate.

Everyone from Jurgen Klopp to Carlo Ancelotti are linked to the team, maybe even flavour of the month Diego Simeone could be the answer to United’s woes – heck, even some fans are floating the idea of Ryan Giggs stepping away from the field and into the technical area.

Here are my three picks to succeed the unsuccessful successor to Ferguson;

Pep GuardiolaPep-Guardiola

Slim to none chance that the former Barcalona boss gives up on the German dream, on pace for Champions League glory, for non-Champions League football with United. That said, Pep would be a dream signing for United, someone who could inspire a lacklustre lineup and bring a big name behind the bench. Heck, the story lines are already writing themselves when you put the Spaniard up against former rival Mourinho.

What he’s won? La Liga  (3), Copa Del Rey (2), Bundesliga (1), UEFA Super Cup (3), Champions League (2), FIFA Club World Cup (2)

Former Clubs: Barcelona, Bayern Munich

Louis van Gaal LouisvanGaal_210183a

The Dutch coach has been long rumoured to replace Tim Sherwood at much maligned Tottenham, but a tempting move to United may be enough to hijack the Spurs replacement. This is a man who has won and excelled all over the world and could be a perfect manager to right the ship and balance things out before a long-term successor to Ferguson is found. He is the kind of manager United should have looked to in the Summer, someone who can guide the team through a transition.

What he’s won? Eredivisie (4), Champions League (1), La Liga (2), Bundesliga (1), UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup (2), Intercontinental Cup, Copa Del Ray

Former Clubs: Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands

Jurgen KloppScreen Shot 2014-04-21 at 9.50.25 AM

Last year’s flavour of the month, Klopp saw his stock rise dramatically last season with Borussia Dortmund’s Cinderella run to the Champions League final and while his side has seen less success this season, he’s seen as an astute tactician. With Bayern’s dominance in the League, I wouldn’t be surprised if he cashes in on a move to England and a chance to prove himself in a league that’s shown (A la Liverpool), that the right manager can turn a mid table side into a Champion.

What he’s won? Bundesliga (2), Champions League Runner Up (1)

Former Clubs: FSV Mainz 05, Borussia Dortmund

For me? Bring in Louis van Gaal for two to three years and transition, then take the time to line up the perfect long-term solution whether it be Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Roberto Martinez or whomever.

Whichever way the hammer falls for Manchester United, David Moyes is running borrowed time and it appears he’s no longer the Chosen One.

Henry writes about his two passions the Beautiful Game and the Brutal Game – whether you’re a die hard Soccer fan or passionate hockey fan, he’s got you covered. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

We’re back!

Slightly drunk, slightly awkward but what a party.

Slightly drunk, slightly awkward but what a party.

A year, it’s been a whole year since I last posted here on The Ignorant Sports Fan.

Last year I was living in Halifax, breaking the Dalhousie Tigers Women’s Hockey hazing scandal and enjoying some love from Deadspin and others – fast forward a year and i’m living in Ontario, writing for Radio and watching it snow in April. Yeah, April.

Oh and somewhere in between I was in the Top 24 for Drafted, celebrated the Halifax Mooseheads win the Memorial Cup, got addicted to board games and went to Jamaica.

Well, i’m back and finally on the horse to get some articles pumping out plus i’m finally launching a podcast, which will be up on itunes shortly.

Here’s to bigger and better things moving forward!

– H

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Henry is a former  writer for Sportstream.ca  and Host of the The Sports Show on 88.1 in Halifax. Now residing in Ontario, You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

The Battle for the Cup: First Round Predictions

SCF2014Well, it’s that time of the year again – 16 teams get ready to battle for the ultimate prize in hockey, the Stanley Cup.

Things have returned to normal with a Maple Leafs epic collapse, the Flyers making a crazy signing (Andrew MacDonald six years, $30m? What the hell?) and Canada clinging to slim hopes of the Cup returning North of the border.

So without further adieu, here’s my look at the first round of the playoffs:

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings

Detroit switched over to the East, still makes the playoffs for a 23rd time – should provide a tough matchup for the Bruins? Not a chance. The Red Wings were plagued by injuries, sure they made the playoffs, but not sure Babcock can wizard up a series win against a championship calibre Bruins team.

bruinsIf there is an upset in the first round, it could be in this series – Detroit know how to win against the odds and they managed to do it all season missing key players (Read: Zetterburg, Datsyuk).

Prediction: Bruins win in 6

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Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens

It all starts at the back for the lightning and without Ben Bishop in the lineup, it’s going to be all up-hill against the Canadiens. Jon Cooper says the Bolts could have him back sometime in the series, but how much truth is in that? Price got the monkey off his back in Sochii, showing he can handle the pressure, he’s the difference maker in this series.

canadiensHeck, maybe it’s my blatant patriotism (Yes, Quebec is still part of Canada Folks), but i’m pulling for the Habs to knock back the bolts and head into the second round, after that all bets are off.

Prediction: Habs win in 7

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Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets

One Word: Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Actually, if we’re honest, it’s a five game series because Fleury is due to throw up at least one duck in this series. Fedor Tyutin and James Wisniewski will have their hands full with the talent of the top six of Pittsburgh, while Sergei Bobrovsky would need to steal four games for the Blue Jackets to win this series.

penguinsBut it’s not all doom and gloom for Columbus, a team that is heavy on young talent and will look to take the most out of this post season experience.

Prediction: Penguins in 5

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New York v Philadelphia

So many story lines in this series from Alain Vigneault, to Brad Richards, to Vincent Lecavalier – where to start? This series could be a bloodbath and home ice advantage could be the edge as the Rangers have owned the Flyers at Madison Square Gardens. For Brad Richards it can’t possibly be worse than last year’s post season, right? Who ended the playoffs firmly scratched from the lineup. 

rangersSteve Mason is the biggest question mark for me, can he stand tall between the Flyers pipes, or will he get a master class from his opposing number in Henrik Lundqvist?

Prediction: Rangers in 7

 

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks v Dallas Stars

Speed will be the straw that breaks the camels back in this series, with the camel being the Stars. The duo of Getzlaf and Perry tore up the Stars, while this is the final chance for Selanne to win the Cup, providing a dynamic catalyst for the Ducks this post-season.

I’ve always liked Bruce Boudreau’s shit-kicker attitude and this could be a fun team to watch in a very strong Western Conference (What else is new?). I just don’t see a way for the DucksStars to hang with the big boys in this one, they’ll be lucky to steal a game.

Prediction: Ducks in 5

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San Jose Sharks v LA Kings

Last year the Sharks and Kings battled it out in one of the most exciting playoff series’ (We’re not talking about that team from Toronto today), with Jonathan Quick being stellar and home ice being the winner after it was all said and done.

A physical massacre, everything left on the ice and a hobbled team moving forward for whoever wins, a shame really, with these two championship teams, that someone has to go sharkshome so early. The Sharks have been so close, so many years to really making a splash – for me – this is their year. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logon Couture and Joe Pavelski provide a high-powered offence, that hopefully Antti Niemi can hide behind.


Prediction:
Sharks win in 7.

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Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild

There’s no secret that i’m a big fan of Nathan MacKinnon – but the Avs have struggled for consistency up front – and the rookie will need to step up in the playoffs alongside Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly, especially without offence catalyst Matt Duchene.

Bryzgalov has filled in nicely for Harding and will be expected to stand on his head to snuff out the Avs, but the Wild have offence if they can start firing – let’s not forget they have avalancheZach Parise, Matt Moulson, Mikko Koivu and veteran Jason Pominville tucked away in Minnesota. All that without mentioning Ryan Suter and Erik Johnson on the backend.

Prediction: Avs sneak this one in 6

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St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks

With Ryan Miller in net, more offensive power than last season and the highest wins in Franchise history, the Blues are hoping they can overcome injuries to get past the Blackhawks. TJ Oshie, Vladamir Sobotka, Brenden Morrow, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes have all been hurt as of late and that doesn’t bode well for the Blues.

The Blackhawks will need their top two to set up, with Kane/Toews not having their usual standout seasons, but the defending Champions have kept their core together and are hawkslooking to repeat. Their biggest question mark remains between the pipes, will Corey Crawford return to his playoff form from last year?

Prediction: Blackhawks in 5.

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Henry is a former  writer for Sportstream.ca  and Host of the The Sports Show on 88.1 in Halifax. Now residing in Ontario, You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.