Category Archives: Soccer
Spanish side Villarreal host Portuguese champions FC Porto at El Madrigal on Thursday night in the second leg of the Europa League semi finals, with the hosts needing a miracle to make it through to the final.
Porto put Villarreal to the sword in the first leg last week, winning 5-1, with star striker Radamel Falcao getting four goals. The Spaniards must now score at least four goals to qualify and if the away side hit the back of the net, the tie is all but over.
Villarreal have had a good season and are currently sitting in fourth place in La Liga, and will play Champions League football next season. Juan Carlos Garrido’s side have also been ruthless in their progression to the Europa League semi’s, and dispatched Bayer Leverkusen and Dutch Champions FC Twente in the previous knockout rounds. Despite this, the Yellow Submarine have been subject to capitualtion under pressure in the last month, with the debacle in Portugal compunded by a 5-0 defeat against Valencia at the Mestalla a fortnight before.
Andre Villas Boas’ Porto side have swept allcomers aside this season with an attacking and enterprising style of play. The Dragons are unbeaten in their domestic league and claimed the title a month ago by beating closest rivals Benfica 2-1 at the Estadio do Luz.
In Europe Porto have also knocked out some good sides, with Spartak Moscow, CSKA and Sevilla falling victim to the clubs ambitions in the knockout rounds. Colombian Falcao has struck up a fantastic strike partnership with Brazilian Hulk, with the pair scoring more than 60 goals in all competitions this season between them.
Villarreal are a good side and have the ability to win the match, but their drubbing in the first leg means this should be a bridge too far; my pick is a 2-1 win for Villarreal.
Real Madrid face an uphill struggle in their Champons League semi final second leg on Tuesday night, as they travel to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona, trailing 2-0 from the first leg.
A brace from Argentinian supremo Lionel Messi secured an invaluable victory for Barcelona in the first leg, with the game shrowded in controversy as Pepe and Jose Pinto were sent off, and there has been a war of words in the press between the two side’s coaches.
Barcelona outplayed Madrid in the first leg and their possession and ability to pass the ball was a masterclass. Despite this the Blaugrana lost 2-1 to Real Sociedad in the league at the weekend, but Pep Guardiola had fielded a predominantly second string side, and are still eight points clear at the top of La Liga table. The Catalan club will be without influential attacker Andres Iniesta, who is still injured, but have a side full of match winners that can punish any slack defending.
Jose Mourinho’s Madrid side have not given up the ghost yet and will look to overturn their first leg defeat with attacking intent, with keyman Cristiano Ronaldo at the pinnacle of their play. The Portuguese coach was not happy with the manner of Pepe’s dismisal last week, whilst the game was at 0-0, which means the player will be unavailable this week as he is suspended.
Los Blancos suffered a shock 3-2 home defeat to Real Zaragoza on Saturday in La Liga and missed a glorious opportunity to close the gap on their rivals, but similar to Barca had fielded mostly a second string side in anticipation of this game. The capital city side need to score a couple of goals to get back in the tie but must be careful not to conceed, especially early, as a Barcelona goal would all but kill off the tie as a competition.
The fourth El Clasico fixture in two weeks should be the most heated of all as there is everything at stake and tempers are at boiling point. If Madrid can score early it would put pressure on the home side, but they need to shackle talisman Lionel Messi to stay in the tie, which is no easy feat. My pick is a 2-2 draw, with Barcelona going through to the final on aggregate.
Manchester United host Schalke in the Champions League semi finals second leg on Wednesday night, with the English side in the driving seat after their 2-0 first leg victory away from home.
The Red Devils looked a class above their opponents at the Gelschenkirchen last week, with goals from Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs handing them an easy victory. Given the manner of their win in Germany Sir Alex Ferguson’s side will go into the game as solid favorites and already have one foot in the tournament final, where they would take on Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Domestically United dropped points at the weekend, as they lost 1-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, with Aaron Ramsey getting the winner in the second half. This result shortens United’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to three points, with second placed Chelsea travelling to Old Trafford to take on the Reds this weekend in a massive game that could decide the fate of the title.
Schalke will be disappointed with their performance in the defeat in the first leg, as they were overawed by the occasion and thoroughly outplayed by their opponents in a one sided match. It has been a tale of two sides for the German club this year, as they have been excellent in the Champions League but poor in the Bundesliga.
Die Rothosen have had a great run in the competition with victories over Valencia and reigning Champions Inter Milan in the knockout stages bringing acclaim to the side. Despite this the club have underperformed domestically, and currently sit in 10th place in the German league. Ralf Ragnick’s side suffered a 4-1 defeat the hands of Bayern Munich at the weekend which will not instil any further confidence in the side. Key players for the club are veteran Spanish striker Raul, and keeper and captain Manuel Neuer.
Schalke look like they have ran out of steam whilst United have been here and done it all before; my pick is a 2-1 win for United.
League leaders Manchester United travel down to London to take on Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, with the Premier League title hanging in the balance.
Arsenal have had a bad run of form of late and have lost and drew too many games over the last two months. Arsene Wenger’s men have been United’s closest rivals over the course of the season, but have now slipped down to third place due to poor results. Star Spainard Cesc Fabregas has this week stated that he has felt the weight of being club captain and looks set for a summer exit, with a move back to Barcelona in the offing. The Gunners suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bolton in their last game, and will want to dent the Manchester club’s march to the title on Sunday.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are three points clear of Chelsea with a game in hand after the Blues beat Spurs on Saturday, and the Scottish coach will know that the league title can be wrapped up with two more victories. United have been in excellent form of late, and complemented a 1-0 win over Everton last weekend with a 2-0 win against Schalke in the Champions League on Tuesday night. The Red Devils will be looking for a league and Europe double, and will have one hand on the Premier League trophy with a win on Sunday.
This fixture always produces a game of high quality with a rivalry that goes back through classic matches over the years; United are on the verge of Premier League glory whilst Arsenal are stumbling; my pick is a 2-0 win for United.
Arsenal and Liverpool meet at the Emirates on Sunday with the home side looking to keep pressure on league leaders Manchester United, and The Reds pushing for European football for next season.
Arsene Wenger’s men sit second in the table currently but are seven points behind leaders United. The Gunners beat Blackpool 3-1 last Sunday to end a run of inconsistent form, with goals from Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue and Robin van Persie giving the London club the victory. It is an important week for Wenger’s men; their game against Liverpool is followed by the North London derby against Tottenham on Tuesday.
Liverpool put a 2-1 defeat to West Brom behind them with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Manchester City at Anfield on Monday night, with Andy Carroll (2) and Dirk Kuyt getting the goals. Liverpool are currently in sixth place on 45 points before their trip to the Emirates, and Kenny Dalglish’s side will look to close the gap on Tottenham above them and keep Everton at bay, who are in seventh.
This is always an entertaining fixture and hopefully there will be plenty of goals; my pick is a 3-2 win for Arsenal.
Spain’s top two sides Real Madrid and Barcelona go head to head at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, with the La Liga title in the balance. The two sides will meet four times in the remainder of the season after they were drawn against each other in the Champions League semi-finals, and they will also contest the Copa del Rey final on Thursday of next week.
Real Madrid have had a good run in form of late that included a comprehensive 3-0 win over fifth placed Athletic Bilbao in their last league outing and the 5-0 aggregate win over Tottenham in the Champions League. Jose Mourinho’s side rely on the wizardry of Portuguese attacker Cristiano Ronaldo, who has had a great season and is looking back to full fitness after a knee injury. Los Blancos sit eight points behind Barca in second place in the standings, and know that they need to win the game in order to give them a chance of clawing back the deficit.
Barcelona have gone 26 matches unbeaten in La Liga and look on track to retain their title. The Blaugrana beat Shakhtar Donetsk 6-1 on aggregate in their Champions League quarter final, and defeat bottom side Almeria 3-1 in their last league fixture. Lionel Messi has proved this season why he is regarded as the best player in the world; his winning goal in Ukraine in midweek was his 48th goal in 46 appearances this season – a feat that makes him the Catalan club’s record scorer in a single season.
El Classico is always a great spectacle and some of the world’s best players will be on show; my pick is a 3-2 win to Madrid
Manchester rivals City and United take to centre stage to contest the first FA Cup semi final at Wembley on Saturday. City are looking to win the tournament for the first time since 1969 whilst United have the opportunity to do the treble.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are in ominous form and look destined to win the Premier League title as they sit seven points ahead of nearest rivals Arsenal. In Europe The Red Devils eliminated Chelsea from the Champions League quarter finals this week with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford, setting up a semi final with German side Schalke. Ferguson will be without star striker Wayne Rooney as the player is suspended, but Dimitar Berbatov should come into the side to partner on-form Javier Hernandez up front.
Roberto Mancini’s City side have been inconsistent over the last two months. They at times show brilliance, like in the 5-0 victory over Sunderland, but other times incompetency, like in their 3-0 defeat at Anfield against Liverpool omn Monday night. City currently sit in fourth place in the league and are chasing qualification to the Champions League, and have a battle on their hands against Spurs, who are three points behind them. Carlos Tevez picked up a hamstring injury against Liverpool and will not feature against his old club on Saturday.
This is always a fiery encounter with both sides looking to win the grudge match; my pick is a 3-1 win for United.
Liverpool host Manchester City at Anfield on Monday with both sides looking for a strong culmination to the season in order to finish in the European qualification places.
Kenny Dalglish’s side sit in sixth place on 45 points and can close the gap on Tottenham in fifth with a win. The Reds have seen a resurgence in form since Dalglish took over the reigns from Roy Hodgson, and will look to cement a Europa League finish this season. Influential midfielder Steven Gerrard is injured and will miss the remainder of the season, but Luis Suarez should partner Andy Carroll up front for the home side. The Kop will look to make amends for a disappointing 2-1 defeat at West Brom in their last league outing.
City sit three points ahead of Spurs in fourth place and will look to increase the gap between themselves and the London club with a result on Merseyside. Roberto Mancini’s side have looked weary of late, but put their Europa League exit to Dynamo Kiev and stuttering league form behind them with an emphatic 5-0 win over Sunderland in their last game. Mancini will be without suspended defeder Kolo Toure and injured duo Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng.
This should be an enthralling encounter with both clubs having much to play for; my pick for the game is a 3-1 win to Liverpool.
League leaders Manchester United take on Mark Hughes and Fulham at Old Trafford on Saturday, with Sir Alex Ferguson looking to take one step closer to the Premier League title.
The Red Devils are top of the pile and currently have a seven point cushion between themselves and Arsenal in second. United beat Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League quarter finals in midweek and the perennial strong finishers are starting to string some results together. United beat West Ham 4-2 in their last fixture in the league, but will be without star striker Wayne Rooney for the game against Fulham as he is suspended.
Fulham have a terrible record away from Craven Cottage and seem to have a hoodoo over them when they travel away, with only one win on their travels all season. Mark Hughes’s men beat Blackpool 3-0 in their last fixture and currently sit in mid-table security in 10th place.
In what should be a one sided fixture my pick is a 2-0 win for United
Aston Villa host Alan Pardew’s Newcastle side on Saturday with a real need to pick up Premier League points in order to avoid a nervy and relegation threatened end to the season.
The home side currently sit in 16th place on 34 points, two above the dropzone and Gerard Houiller has had a terrible first season in charge at Villa Park. Houiller’s men got a 2-2 draw in their last fixture away to Everton at Goodison Park, with England striker Darren Bent scoring both goals. Bent will be a key man for Villa in the last seven games of the season, and international wingers Ashley Young and Stewart Downing will need to create chances for him.
Newcastle have had a steady run of form since Alan Pardew took over as coach of the club, and recorded a strong 4-1 win over Wolves at St James Park last weekend. Pardew is short of attacking options as Leon Best is injured, but the Toon have managed to share the goalscoring burden beween their midfield and attack since Andy Carroll was sold in January. The Geordies sit in ninth place before kick-off, and have an outside chance of qualifying for the Europa League next year.
In what should be a tight encounter i am predicting a stalemate – 0-0.