All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘juventus’

Champions League Group Stage Draw

Posted by hiphopmama on August 27, 2009

Once you recover from the cleverness of the title of this post, continue on to find out the eight groups set up by today’s draw for the next phase of the UEFA Champions League, followed by my thoughts on them. Go on, treat yourself.

Group A
Bayern Munich
Juventus
Bordeaux
Maccabi Haifa

I can’t see Juventus having too many problems making their way through to the knock-out rounds in this group. No offense to either Bayern or Bordeaux, who will present tricky match-ups at the very least, but none of these teams has the same quality as Juve. Munich is the likely favorite to go through in the second spot, but look out for current Ligue 1 champions Bordeaux to challenge all parties.

Group B
Manchester United
CSKA Moscow
Besiktas
Wolfsburg

Sir Alex is sitting pretty after drawing this group, as Manchester United won’t face a single team from either Italy, Spain, or France, although they do have to contend with Bundesliga champs VFL Wolfsburg and Russian Premier League runners-up CSKA Moscow. Still, the Mancs should have little difficulty navigating this group, although I would love to see a shock results from the German upstart club.

Group C
AC Milan
Real Madrid
Marseille
Zurich

Humdinger of a match-up in this one, as Kaka makes his first return to the San Siro since moving to Real Madrid. Marseille are a very high-quality third team as well, so this one should be interesting till the end. It’s a tough group to predict in some ways, because we have little indication as to how the retooled teams of AC Milan and Real Madrid will perform this season. Milan’s opening day win over Siena was convincing enough, and Real Madrid’s preseason form was fairly encouraging, but real competitive play is another story altogether so we’ll have to see. Group C will definitely have some of the best storylines, though, no matter the outcome.

Group D
Chelsea
Porto
Atletico Madrid
APOEL Nicosia

This is one of just two groups that has three teams I could legitimately see getting through. You have to feel Chelsea are a lock, but both Porto and Atletico have equal claim on that second spot in my mind, at least for now. If Atletico’s strikers maintain the level of form they had last year, and if their back line can achieve some semblance of solidity, they should sneak through. But Porto are always tough at home and will be looking to secure their own place.

Group E
Liverpool
Lyon
Fiorentina
Debrecen

This is the other group with a three-way traffic jam at the top. Once again, the English team is the clear favorite, but Lyon and Fiorentina will really duke it out as well. Lyon will be playing to prove something after being knocked off the top spot in Ligue 1 by Bordeaux after seven straight years at number one, and finally breaking through in European play would help in that regard. I still expect the Viola to top them, though, and bolster the Italian presence in the quarterfinals.

Group F
Barcelona
Inter Milan
Rubin Kazan
Dynamo Kyiv

In case you needed any more Spain-Italy drama, you’ll get to see Eto’o and Ibrahimovic face each other after swapping teams as Barcelona and Inter face off in this easiest of groups to pick. Inter are the favorites to defend their Serie A crown, and Barça are favorites to win just about everything else, so unless they somehow cancel each other out, both will be waiting for the next draw for the knock-out stage.

Group G
Sevilla
Stuttgart
Rangers
Unirea Urziceni

This is the bland kind of grouping that convinces me that UEFA isn’t fixing these things, at least not at this early stage in the tournament. The lack of star power doesn’t mean a lack in quality, though, as Sevilla have a very solid team and Stuttgart have some big name players as well. Granted, most of them are cast-offs from bigger teams (Jens Lehman, Alexander Hleb), but the Germans will still have something to say about the outcome of this one. I’m happy to see Sevilla with a relatively clear path to the quarters here. They deserve it after all their workmanlike effort in La Liga, and more people need to see Jesus Navas. Wow.

Group H
Arsenal
AZ Alkmaar
Olympiacos
Standard Liege

As an Arsenal fan, I am more than pleased with the draw they got. As with ManU, they won’t have any competition from the biggest leagues (in Arsenal’s case, no Spain, Italy, France, or Germany). AZ Alkmaar and Standard Liege are the champs of their respective leagues, and Athens is always a tough place to play against Olympiacos, but with no Real Madrid, Inter, Juve, etc., you’ve got to think they got off easier. Hopefully they can lock up their spot relatively early and not have to bank on getting a result in Athens in that final game.

So that’s that. Barcelona-Inter and Real Madrid-AC Milan are the headliners of this group stage, which should mean some good head-to-head match-ups but with each team still making it through to the quarterfinals. I never completely understood how they set up the qualifying rounds, but it has indeed opened the way for some teams we wouldn’t normally see, a number of whom have a real shot to make it out of the group stage. Aside from pulling for Arsenal, I’m hoping for a good showing from the Spanish sides, because it’s about time La Liga started making a stronger showing outside of just the big two. Sevilla look poised to move on, and Atletico will like their chances as well, so we shall see. I don’t know how I’m going to wait till September 15th-16th to get this thing rolling.

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Champions League Tuesday

Posted by hiphopmama on March 11, 2009

Juventus 2-2 Chelsea (Agg: 2-3)

  • 1-0 Iaquinta, 19′
  • 1-1 Essien, 45′
  • 2-1 Del Piero (pen), 74′
  • 2-2 Drogba, 83′

Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid (Agg: 5-0)

  • 1-0 Torres, 16′
  • 2-0 Gerrard (pen), 28′
  • 3-0 Gerrard, 47′
  • 4-0 Dossena, 88′

I’m going with the good news first on this one. Chelsea’s 1-0 home victory in the first leg ended up playing a big role in their ability to stave off Juve’s attack, as the lack of that crucial away goal made it extremely difficult for the Old Lady to get past the Blues. Juventus was frankly unlucky not to have scored at Stamford Bridge, and they again played well in front of their home fans, opening the scoring early on a nice break-out goal by Iaquinta, who was put through by a lovely ball from David Trezeguet. The momentum looked to be moving away from Chelsea until a 44th minute free kick by Drogba appeared to cross the line. The ref didn’t see it that way, however, and play continued, until Michael Essien poked home the rebound off a long distance shot by Lampard just minutes later. That goal virtually assured the result as it gave Chelsea the tie-breaking away goal and required Juve to score two more to win. Things got even worse for the Italians when Chiellini was sent off for his second yellow card in the 70th minute, but the 10-man squad managed to win a free kick that led to a penalty when Juliano Belletti momentarily lost his mind and knocked the ball away with his hands inside the area. Del Piero converted the penalty to make it a match again, but ten minutes later Drogba sealed it by jabbing in a goal off a low cross by Belletti, beating Buffon and clinching Chelsea’s place in the quarterfinals.

Cech had a great game for Chelsea, and he couldn’t really be blamed for either goal. He was Chelsea’s most important player for much of the match, taking balls confidently and stopping good efforts from the Juve players. But Essien was the hero of the night. He seemed doubtful to start, just coming off the injury that has kept him out all season, but Hiddink rolled the dice and came out looking like a genius. Essien had to play out of position, on the right side of midfield, and he occasionally looked out of his element, but he never quit fighting out there and hustled his way to that first goal, following Lampard’s shot in and getting himself in position to score the rebound. He was understandably subbed in the 66th minute, although why it was for Juliano Belletti is anyone’s guess. That stupid handball that led to the penalty seemed more evidence against his inclusion, although he did redeem himself somewhat with the cross that set up Drogba’s goal. Oh well. Hiddink got everything else right.

As for that other match… Well, that one’s still painful to talk about. As much grief as it gives me, Real Madrid really are my number one team, and to see them crash and burn like that was pretty awful. It was the kind of performance that says to me that they won’t really be challenging for the La Liga title after all. Granted, they were probably never going to take it away from Barça, but it seemed likely that they could at least make it close. Now, after the draw with Atletico and this disgusting effort (if you can even call it that) against Liverpool, they don’t look likely to continue the outstanding form that got them back into the race in the first place. And anyway, Barcelona isn’t likely to continue this lull much longer, and once they recover their form they will be out of reach. Unless the fatigue of multiple tournaments continues and Real Madrid go absolutely insane all the stars align, this is probably the end of the road for the reigning champions. You just don’t recover from that kind of loss without some kind of serious soul searching, and unless Juande Ramos can channel Tony Robbins levels of inspiration, that will take some time. And now I’m going to cry.

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Sports Update

Posted by hiphopmama on December 27, 2008

Number 21 is tackling Jesus!!

Number 21 is tackling Jesus!!

With the NBA season picking up steam, this has essentially become a Lakers blog. Which is cool, but I had initially intended to use it as a forum to talk about all the sports I watched, and I’ve definitely fallen off in that respect. With that in mind, I’d like to recap all the sporting action I’ve been watching, with an eye toward what current results are likely to mean in the near future. Without further ado…

Premier League

Apparently no one wants to win the title this year, because every time one of the top teams slips up and presents an opening, the rest follow suit with disappointing performances to keep pace with the leaders. Arsenal are goners (not Gooners) at this point, but the remaining Big Three seem to win, lose, or draw together, as if they signed a mutual pact before the season stating that no one would run away with the title before the new year. Liverpool and Chelsea, in particular, have had their fates linked, with each team drawing games and losing points at the same time, and then both turning it around for a big win the following week. Friday’s games saw this happen again, as the top two squads gave dominating performances and secured three points apiece to stay logjammed at the top of the table (Liverpool currently sits one point ahead of Chelsea). It’s hard to figure Man Utd out at this point, since they’ve played two fewer games for the moment, but they’re certainly within striking distance, as are Aston Villa, the surprise upstarts of the season. They staged a miraculous comeback on Boxing Day – perhaps not so miraculous considering Arsenal’s form this year – surging from 2-0 down to tie the game with a stoppage time goal from Zat Knight. The draw kept Arsenal out of the top four for another week, three points adrift of Villa for the final Champions League spot. I had expected much more to be decided by the Christmas slate of games, but it appears we’ll be exactly where we started come January. How the teams approach the transfer market will thus likely have a big effect on the ultimate outcome.

La Liga

Pep Guardiola is right to point out that there’s a long way to go, but it’s increasingly looking like a foregone conclusion that Barça will win the title this year. Real Madrid is all but out of the race, currently sitting in fifth place and twelve points adrift of the leaders. No team has been as ravaged by injuries as Los Merengues, so an infusion of new blood will be necessary if they plan to make a late run to defend their title, or even to reclaim a top four spot. They’ve already locked up Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Lassana Diarra, but another defender and someone to play on the right wing would be a big help to Juande Ramos as he tries to extend his stay with the team. Valencia has stayed near the top longer than expected, especially considering the injury to David Silva, and Sevilla are the closest to Barcelona in second place. Mind you, they’re still ten points back of the Blaugrana, but they’re in a better spot than anyone else to overtake them. If they can hang onto their players, that is. 

Serie A

Inter continue their league dominance, entering the new year six points ahead of Juventus, their nearest competitors, with AC Milan nine points off the pace. While it pains me to say so, Jose Mourinho has done well with his boys, not allowing malaise to set in for extended periods and fielding good squads suited to the task at hand. Juventus have been picking up steam, though, and are poised to make life tough for Inter down the stretch. While I want to believe that AC Milan are still in it, I doubt they’ll be serious contenders come season’s end. Their aging squad has added another elder statesman in David Beckham, and the return of players like Pirlo and Ambrosini has helped prop the team up recently. Still, Kaka and Ronaldinho have yet to prove they can play effectively together and neither has been exactly scintillating so far. The middle third of the table is remarkably tight as well, with Napoli, Genoa, Lazio, and Catania all within striking distance of a top four spot. If Juve (and hoepfully Milan and Fiorentina) can give Inter a run for their money, it should be an entertaining sprint to the finish line. Anyone but Inter!

NFL

And now to the good stuff. The NFL is in its home stretch, with one more round of games to determine the lucky teams who will make the playoffs. While the Giants and Titans are essentially marking time until their second round match-ups, there are a number of battles yet to be played out. The Eagles still have a shot at a playoff spot if they can beat the Cowboys and get a little help from teams like the Bucs, Vikings, and/or Bears. The Dolphins have their fate in their own hands and can clinch the AFC East with a win this week, regardless of what the Patriots do. New England, on the other hand, has to win and then hope for a Miami loss (or tie). Come on, Dolphins. The best game of the week will be between the Chargers and Broncos for sole possession of the AFC West title, although I’ll have a hard time watching because I dislike both quarterbacks so much. Both seem like your prototypical QB jock brought up to believe their shit don’t stink. I hope they both crash and burn, but that the Chargers still win. This has the potential to be one of the more interesting playoffs in a while, with a surprising array of strong teams all with a chance to do some real damage. Just think about it. When was the last time the Colts were a five seed? The Vikings in the three spot? And the Dolphins in the playoffs at all?? Despite their stellar records, none of the top teams looks really unbeatable, so every game should be a slugfest with the potential of an upset. As long as the Patriots don’t make it, I really can’t lose this year.

So that’s that. My sports viewing in a nutshell. Does anyone really give a shit? Nope, just me, but I’ll always take the chance to prove my extensive knowledge and remind people that I know more about sports than they do AND I’m a girl. How about that X chromosome?

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Champions League Draw

Posted by hiphopmama on December 19, 2008

  • Atletico Madrid – Porto
  • Lyon – Barcelona
  • Arsenal – Roma
  • Inter – Manchester Utd
  • Real Madrid – Liverpool
  • Chelsea – Juventus
  • Villarreal – Panathinaikos
  • Sporting Lisbon – Bayern Munich

There are a few conspicuous things about these pairings. The first is the fact that the three Serie A teams drew Premier League opponents. Based on the performance of English teams in the Champions League in recent years, this wouldn’t seem to bode well for the Italians. However, looking at the match-ups individually paints a slightly better picture for the Serie A squads. Roma will take on an Arsenal team that has yet to really find its bearings this season. Unfortunately for Roma, the Gunners have played their best games against quality opponents, so that might be nullified. This has the potential to be one of the best match-ups because both teams play such open games. Juventus-Chelsea has the most back story to it, with Claudio Ranieri taking on his former team at Stamford Bridge, about which Ranieri said, “I can’t say I’m happy.” The biggest battle of all will be between Inter and Manchester United, two powerhouses currently playing well and expecting to go far in this competition. United are the reigning champions in Europe, but they are only just starting to hit their stride. Inter, on the other hand, came on like gangbusters only to slow down the slightest bit of late. This is an impossible one for me to watch because there is no one to root for. I am always looking for someone to upend Inter and their Special coach, but I cannot get myself to pull for Fergie and Ronaldo, so it will be Forza Inter in that one. 

The other noticeable thing in all this is the pairing of the non-biggies with each other. The match-ups of Atletico-Porto, Sporting-Bayern, and Villarreal-Panathinaikos all feature two teams who would be expected to fall by the wayside against the top-tier teams playing each other in the other ties. Because of how the draw came out, three of those teams will make it to the next round, while either Chelsea or Juventus, Inter or Man Utd, Real Madrid or Liverpool, Arsenal or Roma will be knocked out. It will make for a different look to the later rounds, that’s for sure.

Oh yeah, and Barcelona will play Lyon. It’s no disrespect to Lyon that it barely warrants a mention. Pretty much any opposition would elicit that reaction because of how incredible Barça have been playing. Let’s just say I don’t foresee any hicc-ups for the Catalans, although I’m sure Guardiola will convince them otherwise to ensure a good performance from his team.

As a fan of Arsenal (and secondarily Chelsea) in England and Real Madrid in Spain, I am at least satisfied with the draw. Liverpool is always a tough out in European play, but with a team that will hopefully be rejuvenated both through injury recoveries and new players, it’s a match-up Real can win. Roma is no push-over and they have been playing much better of late, but Arsenal could have faced much worse. As for Serie A, my team – AC Milan – didn’t even make it to the Champions League this year, so my only real interest there is seeing Inter lose. Except that I can’t root for Man Utd, so I’m really screwed there. In any case, it will be an incredible slate of games of which I’m sure I will only get sparing coverage. Gotta love that U.S. soccer coverage.

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What I’m Watching This Weekend

Posted by hiphopmama on December 12, 2008

As if you gave a damn. =) I’m looking forward to a good weekend of sports viewing, and I just had to share it all with you. Because I’m self-centered like that.

El Clasico: Barcelona v Real Madrid

This is numero uno on my schedule this weekend. As impossible as it sounds, I’m kind of indifferent to the outcome of this game, so I can just enjoy the intensity of it all without sweating the result. Barcelona is currently six points clear at the top of the table, while Real Madrid sits in fifth, nine points adrift of the Blaugrana. I expect it to be a hotly contested affair with lots of highlights, but I also expect that it won’t be particularly close in the end, with Barça winning it in their typical eye-popping style. As long as both teams come to play – as I fully expect – and not just to thwart the other team, it should live up to the hype. 

Tottenham v Manchester United

Dimitar Berbatov returns to White Hart Lane to take on a surging Spurs side that has remade its season under Harry Redknapp. The newly crowned Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo will be entertaining as always, even if only in his monstrously exaggerated attempts to get fouls calls on the opposing team. 

Chelsea v West Ham

Chelsea will hope to regain their form at the formerly formidable Stamford Bridge (I know, I know, excessive) in the London derby against the East End Hammers. Only trailing Liverpool by one point, Chelsea have a chance to overtake them at the top of the table depending on how it all shakes out. Drogba is finally back in action, so Scolari has the (un)enviable problem of deciding how to play his star-studded front line with both Didier and Anelka chomping at the bit. Anelka has been outstanding this year, but he has been less than stellar at the Bridge and Drogba is coming off a spectacular goal against Cluj in Champions League play this week. West Ham are looking to stop a horrendous slide in which they haven’t won a game since September. Good luck turning it around against Chelsea.

Juventus v AC Milan

These two teams will be duking it out for sole possession of second place in Serie A, behind only Inter in the standings. Milan have moved into prime position in the table despite some middling performances, while Juve have been on a bit of a tear. A win would be more of a statement for Milan at this point.

Buccaneers v Falcons

Atlanta is currently one game behind Tampa Bay, who sits one game behind Carolina in the shockingly good NFC South. With the Panthers facing a tough three games to close the season, this game could help propel either of these teams into the playoff mix.

Giants v Cowboys

Yet another crucial game in the always tough NFC East. Go Eli. That’s all I’m gonna say.

Timberwolves v Lakers

This SHOULDN’T be a good game, but with the Lakers you never know. As I just heard Stu Lantz say, this is the most misleading 18-3 (now 19-3) record you will see. Still, the Timberwolves shouldn’t be able to push us too hard. Right? I think I’m trying to convince myself.

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Inter 1 – 0 Juventus: Lesser of Two Evils?

Posted by hiphopmama on November 24, 2008

 

  • 1-0 Muntari, 72′

This match-up for me is like watching the Cowboys go at it with the Redskins. I detest the Cowboys with a passion, always have, for their general team attitude and the asshole-ish personalities that seem to be magnetically drawn to the squad. But I make it a political point to root against the Redskins for their disgusting name and its horrible legacy offensive behavior and genocidal ambitions. (Whatever happened to this thing not being political?) It’s impossible to root for either team, which makes it almost excruciating to watch. The best I can hope for is a close game that requires both teams to play their big guns the whole time, leading to as many players as possible knocking the shit out of each other and, hopefully, knocking them both out of contention.

In soccer, I can at least hope for a draw, but it’s still not fun to watch. I don’t like Inter for pretty clear cut reasons, the biggest being that I just don’t like a lot of their players. I don’t mind a bit of cockiness from a player, and I probably have a higher tolerance for it than most. But Ibra still strikes me as a pompous ass. On top of that, he doesn’t show up in the biggest games, so he has little to be so brash about. Adriano is just plain worthless and, despite utterly wasting most of his vast array of talents, he carries himself as if he is owed something. And finally, Materazzi is a dick. I don’t think that needs any more explanation. I can’t bring myself to root for Juve for more nebulous reasons. The year when I formed my main allegiances was 2006-07, when they happened to be serving a stint in Serie B for the match-fixing allegations that surfaced against so many Italian teams. Because of this, they were mostly off my radar. I’ll admit that the Calciopoli scandal still leaves a bad taste in my mouth in regards to Juve, although I’m sure many more teams than those involved have participated in similar stuff. Still, Juve’s ties to this mafioso business were pretty clear and seemed worse than most, which makes it hard to root for them. In all honesty, the taint of all that really hangs over a lot of Italian football, but Juve bears the brunt of it, for me as well as others. 

With these and other factors in mind, I eventually came down on the side of the Bianconeri. I guess I figured that personal vendettas weighed more than institutional ones – and that Inter was probably far from innocent anyway. Plus, I decided that seeing Mourinho lose to Ranieri, the man he replaced at Chelsea, would be a welcome site. 

Needless to say, I was mildly disappointed with the way things played out. Inter were the better side for most of the match, putting more pressure on Juve and creating more goal scoring chances. Ibra fittingly missed his one clear shot at scoring (after netting two beautiful goals last week against Palermo), and Adriano also saw a number of chances go wanting. The home team finally went ahead in the 72nd when Ibra’s “pass” fell to Muntari, who struck it home. Del Piero produced a few opportunities, but other than that Juve were unable to really threaten Inter, who finished the weekend 3 points clear of AC Milan and 6 clear of Juve and fourth place Napoli.

It was disheartening to see Inter win and move further ahead at the top of the table, but it was even more frustrating to see Juve put up so little of a fight, especially after they had seemed to own the Nerazzurri in recent games. It also pains me to see the Special One have more reason to be smug, although I suppose there is very little that would entirely erase this problem. Luckily, it was only Juve and not AC Milan who fell to Inter, because that would have been much more painful. Still, I can only hope Napoli make them pay when they come to the San Siro this week.

Muntari’s goal:

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