Posted by hiphopmama on January 1, 2009
It’s a brand new year, which means it is also officially mercato time. Now is the hour for ridiculous and absurd speculation to spill forth from every news source, reputable or not, about the never-ending rumors concerning players’ futures with their clubs. This is the first January I’ve really paid attention to it, so I’m hella excited for what will transpire. Here are a few of my hopes, in more or less vaguery:
- Mikel Arteta to Arsenal. Good ol’ Arseblogger has been calling for this one, and I am all in favor. I have been a fan of the Everton midfielder since I saw him drill one of the goals of the season in ’05-’06, and with Fabregas out for essentially the rest of the year, he would be a wonderful candidate to fill in for him. He is a seasoned player with plenty of Premier League experience who is great on free kicks. Unlike so many in the Arsenal squad, he would be ready to make an immediate impact, and he seems well suited to the Wenger style of play. Please make this happen, guys.
- Some kind of defensive help at Real Madrid. They’ve already inked Diarra (the second) and Huntelaar, but neither will directly solve the defensive woes that have proven so costly this season. To be fair, they played remarkably well in their match-up with Barcelona, holding them scoreless for 80+ minutes with a limited squad, but Canna and Salgado are old, Pepe is iffy, Marcelo can’t be bothered to defend, and Heinze is shit. That leaves the always stellar Sergio Ramos and a rejuvenated Metzelder as the only working cogs on the Madrid back line, which doesn’t bode well entering the second half of the season. I would also like to see a legitimate goal-scoring partner for Higuain up front, but I believe the offense will sort itself out if the defense can do its job at even a marginally functional level. It hasn’t been doing that so far, and you’ve seen the results.
- Anyone non-primadonna under 30 for AC Milan. This squad is ridiculously stacked with big names that cannot or will not get the job done. Ronaldinho is an enormously talented player, but the money they shelled out for him could have been better spent elsewhere, as this season has made clear. What’s done is done, but they need to avoid sinking money into hopeless products that can’t deliver on their promise. Names like Shevchenko and Emerson sound nice, but they are well past their prime and far from productive with this team. Not that anyone wants them, but they, along with others like Dida, should be off-loaded to free up room (and money) for some younger players with less notoriety who might be persuaded to play within the team concept to achieve better results. With Kaka, Dinho, Pirlo, etc., there’s no reason some talented youngsters couldn’t shore up the side.
- A new mentality for Chelsea. While thinking about this little wish list, I was easily able to come up with desirables for the other teams I root for, but I got stuck at Chelsea. There is clearly something amiss lately, despite the fact that they’re just 3 points back of league leaders Liverpool, but it’s not because of any major holes in the team. Essien’s injury has been the most costly, but Mikel has been a wonder as his replacement. Carvalho’s absence was painful as well, and if Scolari would have played Ivanovic in his stead more than Alex, the damage might have been more limited. Anyway, Ricky’s already making his way back into the lineup, so that’s a non-issue. (If Terry can keep his ass on the pitch, that is.) With a healthy Drogba and a surging Anelka, the strike partnership has all the makings of greatness, although recent (and not-so-recent) grumblings suggest the Ivorian may be on his way out. Bosingwa has been a revelation at right back, emerging as one of the team’s most consistent performers, and with Lampard leading the midfield there aren’t many gaps to fill. I suppose you could wish for better than Malouda on the left and perhaps find someone better to partner Anelka up front – especially if Drogba continues the histrionics – but the team’s biggest deficiency is psychological. It’s cliche at this point, but some of the old Mourinho toughness needs to come back. They were playing pretty football at the beginning of the season, building up an insane goal differential, but teams have adjusted and now they can’t pull out close victories either at home or on the road. Terry’s red card exploits surely cost them, but it’s hard to imagine them conceding the kind of painful late goal that hurt them against Fulham in years past. I’m not smart enough to know how something like this gets fixed, but if you’re being paid the big bucks to steer the ship, you better be able to figure something out, and fast. Oh, and stop playing Deco so damn much. Almost everyone else can see that he’s worthless out there. Joe Cole has no business fighting for playing time with him. Barça didn’t want him, and neither should you after this display.
Like I said, not much in the way of specifics there aside from Arteta, but that’s all I’ve got. For serious transfer rumors, I’m sure you’re consulting a much more reputable source anyway. However you slice it, Arsenal and Real Madrid are two of the big name clubs that desperately need some reinforcements and I hope they get them. Especially the Gunners, because they are a treat to watch when firing on all cylinders, and injuries have absolutely ravaged them this season. The same is true for Madrid, but I feel less sympathy over their plight seeing as they’ve won the last two Primera Liga titles and are generally a detestable bunch. Why I continue to root for them, I have no idea, but at this point it is what it is. Best of luck to all parties in the transfer market and the rest of the season.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: ac milan, anelka, arsenal, bosingwa, cannavaro, carvalho, chelsea, deco, diarra, dida, drogba, emerson, epl, fabregas, heinze, higuain, huntelaar, joe cole, john terry, jose mourinho, kaka, malouda, marcelo, metzelder, michel salgado, mikel, mikel arteta, pirlo, primera liga, real madrid, ronaldinho, sergio ramos, serie a, shevchenko | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on December 27, 2008
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…
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.
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.
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!
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?
Posted in nfl, soccer | Tagged: ac milan, ambrosini, arsenal, aston villa, barcelona, bears, broncos, buccaneers, catania, chargers, chelsea, cowboys, david beckham, david silva, dolphins, eagles, epl, fiorentina, genoa, huntelaar, inter, jose mourinho, juande ramos, juventus, kaka, lassana diarra, lazio, liverpool, manchester united, napoli, new york giants, nfl, nfl playoffs, patriots, pirlo, primera liga, real madrid, ronaldinho, serie a, sevilla, valencia, vikings | 1 Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on December 7, 2008
Barcelona 4-0 Valencia
- 1-0 Thierry Henry, 20′
- 2-0 Thierry Henry, 28′
- 3-0 Dani Alves, 46′
- 4-0 Thierry Henry, 79′
The title of this post doesn’t just refer to their place in La Liga, which is nothing new; it’s about Barcelona’s utter superiority to every other team in Europe at the moment. I suppose there is a case to be made for Inter and even Chelsea until a few weeks ago, but I don’t think either of those teams or any other can hold a candle to what Barcelona is doing. They haven’t lost a game since August, and since then they have 17 wins and just 3 draws, including some mind-blowingly good showings against a range of opposition. There was the 6-1 pounding of Sporting Gijon, 6-1 over Atletico Madrid, 5-0 over Almeria, 4-1 over Malaga, and 6-0 over Valladolid. Their most impressive victories, however, have been the last two, when they absolutely dismantled a pair of top five teams in Primera Liga play. Last week, they demoralized a surging Sevilla side 4-0 on the road, and just this weekend they spanked Valencia 4-0 at home. While the goal totals have been impressive, even more notable is the number of clean sheets the team has kept. Sevilla isn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse but they do have some serious attacking threats, including Kanoute and Luis Fabiano, who had just netted a hat trick for Brazil in international play. They got under Fabiano’s skin so much – not a difficult task – that he earned himself a red card and an early exit. The Valencia scoreline was even more surprising for the way they kept one of the hottest strikers on the planet, David Villa, off the score sheet. Villa undoubtedly misses his attacking partner David Silva who has been out injured for a while, but that hadn’t prevented him from scoring 12 goals in 13 league games coming into the Barcelona match-up. Yet the Barcelona defense held firm and stubbornly denied Villa and his teammates so much as a consolation goal.
The element that makes Barça stand out from the pack the most is their complete play as a team. In top flight European football, everyone has a stacked line-up. Barcelona’s is no different, with Eto’o, Henry, Messi, and Bojan up front; Xavi, Iniesta (currently injured), Hleb, Yaya, and Keita fortifying the midfield; and Puyol, Marquez, Alves, Abidal, Pique, and Milito (also injured) manning the back line; plus Valdes between the sticks, just to name a few. The all-star squad doesn’t capture or explain their dominance, though. The complete cohesion does, and new coach Pep Guardiola has to be credited for that. With such an array of talent at his disposal, it’s quite a feat to successfully manage the egos involved and know how and when to shuffle the deck to get the best performance out of your team. Guardiola has done that almost to perfection this year, involving everyone to an extent and picking the right squads to get the job done week in and week out. His substitutions have been equally flawless, although the number of blowouts Barça has inflicted has made it unnecessary for him to perform much magic from the sidelines.
For all their attacking prowess, the strength of the midfield and back line has been their anchor this year, allowing the wing players to storm forward and facilitate the offense. Xavi has once again been masterful in his role as the team’s ultimate orchestrator, pulling every string at precisely the right moment. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to Yaya, who has been a rock in midfield, winning a gazillion tackles and completing damn near every pass he attempts. His immaculate play has been absolutely central to the team’s success, and they would be foolish to leave him out of their plans, either by allowing him to languish on the bench amidst so much talent or by letting him make his way out of Barcelona. He has been repeatedly linked to his brother’s team of Arsenal – a scenario I thoroughly endorse as a Gunners fan – but I don’t see that coming to fruition. He fits with the Blaugrana and deserves to have his place with them cemented, at least for the rest of this season.
If it sounds like I’m gushing, I am. When I first started paying attention to the Primera Liga, I was a Real Madrid fan, largely because Barcelona’s performances were generally uninspiring with an uncommitted Ronaldinho leading the way and a failure to achieve what they could have. With all the typical strong-arm wrangling going on in Madrid and the ever obnoxious Ramon Calderon making his team difficult to like (to put it mildly), I have seen my allegiances shift somewhat. I’m not an out and out Barcelona fan – in fact, I’m not a committed ANYBODY fan really, since I have only been seriously watching for a few years. Instead, I just enjoy watching great football and I appreciate the teams whose style and ethic fit in with my own. Arsenal has emerged as my favorite side in English football, but I have been more equivocal in rooting for teams from Spain and Italy. This season has made my allegiances even more tenuous, and Barcelona’s team mentality and outstanding play make it difficult not to pull for them. If they keep up with this pace, I might be the latest in what is assuredly a large group of converts.
Posted in general, soccer | Tagged: abidal, arsenal, barcelona, bojan, dani alves, eto'o, gabi milito, hleb, iniesta, keita, messi, pep guardiola, pique, primera liga, puyol, rafael marquez, real madrid, ronaldinho, thierry henry, xavi, yaya toure | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 11, 2008
Even without seeing Arsenal beat Man Utd (*tear*), I still got to watch a trio of fun matches this weekend, all of which hung in the balance until rather late. Without further ado…
Inter Milan 1-0 Udinese
This was a match-up of two top-of-the-table teams, with Mourinho’s boys looking to prove that they were the real deal after an embarrassing Champions League draw midweek against Anorthosis. They were also looking to stay ahead of AC Milan, who both were and are breathing down their necks. Being an AC Milan fan, I was obviously pulling for Udinese to hold them off, which they appeared to have done rather well until substitute Julio Cruz nabbed the header that secured three points for the home team in stoppage time. And I couldn’t even be mad at them in the end because it was such an exciting finish.
Lecce 1-1 AC Milan
- 0-1 Ronaldinho, 79′
- 1-1 Esposito, 90′
On the other hand, this game was frustrating. AC Milan dominated the match with over 70% possession and 21 shots, all but 3 of which were woefully off target. They had so many good chances I couldn’t even begin to list them all, although one of the most memorable saw Kaka send a one-on-one chance wide of the post after receiving a through header and beating the defender to the ball. Borriello missed his share as well too. After screaming for it to happen, they eventually brought on Pato in exchange for Flamini, and with his first touch of the ball he secured it and sent in a perfect cross which Ronaldinho nailed into the back of the net. After all the tantric teasing leading up to the goal, it was sweet satisfaction, but it didn’t last. Once again in stoppage time, a free kick to the left of the area was whipped in by Zanchetta and sent home by Esposito. Painful all around, but they’re still within one point of Inter and in second place overall.
Real Madrid 4-3 Malaga
- 0-1 Eliseu, 6
- 1-1 Higuain, 8
- 1-2 Baha, 18
- 2-2 Higuain (pen), 37
- 2-3 Apono (pen), 70′
- 3-3 Higuain, 71′
- 4-3 Higuain, 78′
This game was pure insanity. Higuain with four goals, Sergio Ramos sent off in the first half, Malaga thrice claiming the lead only to eventually lose the game off a rebound from a missed penalty. Wow. I’m not even going to try to give a run-down of all the goals (see the highlights below). They were nice but none was truly superb, except maybe Higuain’s third. What was amazing was how it all went down, with each team one-upping the other over and over again. To sum up: Guti was the architect of much of what occurred; Ramos was an idiot for nonchalantly stepping on Eliseu; Duda is a beast; Heinze is a liability; Marcelo is a bit of both; and that last penalty was pretty debatable. And of course Higuain. Like I said, he wasn’t exactly scorching them out there, except by repeatedly finding the back of the net. Sort of like Van Nistelrooy, he was always in the right place at the right time and took advantage of his opportunities. The defense looks shaky as ever, but three points is three points, as they say, and they were desperately needed.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: ac milan, apono, baha, borriello, duda, eliseu, esposito, gabriel heinze, guti, highlights, higuain, inter, julio cruz, kaka, lecce, malaga, marcelo, pato, primera liga, real madrid, ronaldinho, scores, sergio ramos, serie a, udinese, zanchetta | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on September 29, 2008
Inter made it interesting down the stretch, but AC Milan won this one through and through. The only goal came in the first half courtesy of Ronaldinho, who sent home a stinging header off a perfect cross from Kaka in the 36th minute. The two Brazilians linked up beautifully the whole game, almost connecting for a goal a few minutes prior to the eventual winning score. Milan generally dominated possession in a first half which saw a few good chances but was otherwise pretty straightforward. The second half, on the other hand, was about as contentious as expected between these two rivals. The refereeing was inconsistent at best, with Inter picking up four yellow cards and two reds in the second half after receiving none in the first. There were definitely a few questionable calls in there, including one stretch in which it appeared that every single Inter challenge resulted in a card. Burdisso was sent off late on a deserved yellow card, although his first yellow was more dubious. Materazzi also received a red card from the bench for complaining about a non-call in the penalty area when Milan’s Flamini hit Adriano upside the head, preventing a prime goal scoring opportunity for Inter. It was the third straight win for Milan after losing their first two, and it was Mourinho’s first loss since taking over at Inter.
The three Brazilians up front for AC Milan – Kaka, Ronaldinho, and Pato – played well together, creating opportunities and playing tenaciously. Inter’s strikers were considerably less effective despite having a number of good chances. Ibrahimovic looked less than his stellar best, and Mancini, in contrast to his recent good form with the team, was relatively timid as well. Maicon was a bright spot, as usual, but Quaresma did little to bolster the attack. Adriano and Julio Cruz came on in the 59th minute (for Mancini and Materazzi), and Inter’s offensive play picked up considerably upon their entrance. Adriano especially found himself in the right place at the right time, but he handled them disappointingly (noticing a theme here?), especially when he blew a header that could have tied the game. Abbiati played flawlessly in goal for Milan, stifling opportunities and grabbing the ball definitively in dangerous situations. It was Ronaldinho’s first goal for Milan, and it was pretty. =)
p.s. Am I the only one who wishes GolTV still had Serie A? I miss Ray Hudson screaming orgasmically about these games…
Posted in soccer | Tagged: ac milan, inter, jose mourinho, kaka, ronaldinho, serie a | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on September 15, 2008
What a debut for Robinho! Except that Man City lost, 1-3, to the clearly superior (if momentarily less wealthy) Chelsea. After a questionable foul call on Carvalho just outside the box, Robinho stepped up and blazed in a direct kick that took a deflection and sailed past Cech. Unfortunately for City, Carvalho scored the equalizer just three minutes later, and Chelsea handled it from there, with a nifty goal from Lampard in the 53rd minute and a hard-earned touch home from Anelka off a Joe Cole pass. It went pretty much according to plan for Chelsea, except that John Terry was shown a red card for reaching out to stop Jo in what referee Mark Halsey dubbed “serious foul play.” It was clearly a card, but it looked more like a yellow to me. Terry will now miss three games, including next Sunday’s match against Man U.
And dammit, can AC Milan get their act together? Kaka’s not in shape yet and maybe they’re still incorporating all the new recruits, but they can’t do better than a 2-0 loss to Genoa with Kaka, Ronaldinho, and Shevchenko up front? Not to mention the interminable list of other big names that fill their roster. Tough times for Carlo Ancelotti, for sure.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: ac milan, carlo ancelotti, carvalho, cech, chelsea, frank lampard, genoa, john terry, kaka, manchester city, mark halsey, nicolas anelka, robinho, ronaldinho, shevchenko | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on September 4, 2008
How can it be that Real Madrid, Barcelona, and AC Milan all lost their opening matches? This after Barcelona and Milan retooled significantly during the off-season. Seriously, how many players did AC Milan poach from other big name teams this summer? The list is ridiculous: Ronaldinho, Zambrotta, Shevchenko, Flamini, and now Senderos, to name a few. For me, the Flamini pick-up will be the most meaningful non-Ronaldinho acquisition. He’s a solid player who has always seemed to come up big at the right times for Arsenal in recent years, and I expect more of the same in Milan. How Shevchenko fares in his return is a complete mystery to me. It seems doubtful he could ever reclaim his pre-Chelsea status, especially with Ronaldinho and Kaka as the team’s centerpieces, but maybe he could actually be worth something back in Italy, which is more than you could say for his stint in England.
At least all is right with the world in the EPL. It’s so American of me, but these elite teams stealing, I mean ACQUIRING, smaller market teams’ players with impunity still gets under my skin. It’s great if you’re a Yankees (or Chelsea or Man U) fan, but it sucks for everyone else. And dammit, I liked Berbatov! Why did he have to go to Manchester fucking United?? My husband has a huge man crush on him. He will be so crushed.
Also, sorry if I’m not buying into Robinho and Man City’s plan to become “the world’s biggest club,” but I just don’t see it. It should make for some interesting matches in the Premier League, but I don’t see much coming of it beyond that. I’ll still be pulling for them against their crosstown rivals, though.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: ac milan, barcelona, berbatov, chelsea, epl, flamini, kaka, manchester city, manchester united, primera liga, real madrid, robinho, ronaldinho, senderos, serie a, shevchenko, zambrotta | 1 Comment »