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Week One Sets the Stage in the Premiership

While I’m grateful for the return of the league, it was one of those weeks where almost every result was a poke to the heart.

Man United barely looked bothered and showed absolutely no problems up front after sticking 5 (well 6, actually) into the net against a hapless Fulham. Good-bye Chris Coleman, it was nice knowing ye. Even Christiano and Wayne seemed delighted to be playing in the same sandbox. It was so bad, Rio Ferdinand felt obliged to knock one in for the visitors in an apparent attempt to keep the Cottagers hopes up enough to stay on the pitch until the final whistle.

Chelsea looked all-world against a struggling Man City, thrashing them 3-0. This is the sort of match Roman’s millionaires would have slept through and won 1-0 last year. I’m praying they get bored quickly and go back to that tactic. I won’t be able to stand seeing them playing up to their sizable abilities. It’ll make for a long season.

I was so over-confident that I broke my promise and watched the Tottenham match. As could be expected, they looked horrible and went down to Bolton 2-0. So the curse remains intact. They are incapable of winning any match I see. Big Sam looks to be just ticking off the days until he can find a decent way to exit a Bolton side he has strengthened into a solid Premierhip team, but they’re just not capapble of rising to the next level. Sooner or later, it all comes down to money. Allardyce has done the best with what he was given.

One of my other favorite teams, Charlton, looked absolutely awful. Their relegation battle began Saturday, and they’ll be in that battle all year.

Liverpool were given a very dodgy penalty late in the match to rescue a point from lowly Sheffield United. That was 2 points dropped. They can’t draw with minnows and have a prayer of challenging for the title. Week One or not. Those were important points left on the pitch.

Arsenal also dropped 2 as Randy Lerner’s (or soon to be) Aston Villa nearly stole the opening match in the Gunner’s sparkling new stadium. Martin O’Neill will be enough to keep Villa in the middle of the pack. If Lerner can add some quality, they’ll rise from the ashes and surprise many teams this season.

In the believe it or not catagory, new boys Reading came back after going down 2-0 to beat Boro 3-2. That match was just a pleasure to watch. Reading’s only mode is full forward and attack. They won’t be able to hold a lead and don’t bother trying. They just continue to try to add to one. That’ll result in some lopsided losses against the better teams, but more power to them. I’d be happy to watch them play every week.

In the Coca Cola Championship match that matterd, the glorious Ipswich Town finally earned point number one in four attempts after a snooze 0-0 match against Hull. Mid-table obscurity and safety look to be completely out of reach for now.

On a scale of 1 to 10, this week’s results have been off the scale for me, personally. Wouldn’t have been good to get my hopes up early anyway. I hate when I do that–at least I think I would.

Quick Look at the Premier League

After a dismal stretch after the World Cup, the Premier League finally kicks-off Saturday. Time for football to move back into its rightful place in the list of priorities. While I’m thinking of lists, it seems to be a good time to think about some hopes and expectations for the upcoming season.

Chelski will struggle to gel despite the roster of superstars and they’ll get pipped for the title, shocking the world, and sending Abramovich scurrying back to the bank for even more fodder to stuff an already overstuffed squad. They’ll be distracted running for the one bit of silverware they’re lacking, the Champions League. They won’t be having that either, and joy and happiness will reign throughout the land.

So, somebody has to win the title out of the rest of the usual suspects. It can really only be one club. Liverpool are coming together as a team and strengthened the side even further in the off season. They’re strong everywhere except for up front. They’ve just added Dirk Kuyt, but I can see him being a bust in England. Crouch remains more of a freak show than a big-time striker. All that said, I still think they’ll somehow find the net often enough to give the most storied team in England its first Premiership title.

Tottenham can sneak into the third spot, but the pack of 5 or 6 teams should be fairly tight in spots 3 through 8. I love Martin Jol. Of the quality teams near the top of the table, Spurs were one of the very few teams that actually improved their lot over the summer. They generally find ways to shoot themselves in the foot, but I think Tony Soprono, I mean Jol, will have them gunning at the others for a change.

Arsenal are bleeding quality players at the moment. Fortunately for them they can afford to bleed some. Other than managing to hold on to Thierry Henry, nothing positive has happened for the Gunners. The new stadium won’t be a help, at least not in the standings. They’ll be near the top all year, but won’t ever pose a serious threat.

I really don’t think Manchester United are going to be in as much trouble as many seem to fear. It’s just that for one of the first times in eons, they aren’t real threats for the title. A lot depends on their start. If they start poorly, it could be a disasterous year. The Glazers could be run out of town. Sir Alex could finally be sacked. Ronaldo and Roonaldo could kill each other. Well, Christiano will just pretend to be dying. It could all end in tears for the most famous club in the world. But probably not. They’ll be okay, but even that’s unacceptable in Manchester.

For the stragglers at the other end of the table, Watford is headed right back down. They haven’t a prayer. Wigan will find it much tougher going this year. Fulham have problems and Coleman could be the next coach looking for work. Randy Lerner has rescued an abyssmal Aston Villa and he and Martin O’Neill will keep them up somehow. ‘Arry Redknapp will find a way to keep Portsmouth going. Despite now having the most colorful manager in the league, Sheffield United will probably be back playing Ipswich next year. Reading shocked with the ease with which they won the Coca Cola Championship last year–it won’t be so easy now. They’ll stick for another year, though.

The rest will be mired in so-called mid-table obscurity. Good enough to draw against one another, beat the minnows, and get thrashed by the big clubs. I look for Newcastle to plummet. Charlton to struggle at the end as usual, and not start much better. Sam Allerdyce will want out of Bolton very soon. Going the other way, Psycho will have Manchester City continuing to improve.

I’m looking forward to a great year. Even if Chelsea does the expected and wins the title by September, the rest of the league seems to be tightening up. It’s still the best league going, and I can’t wait for it to start.

Back Amongst the Living

I’ve finally crawled from the deathbed and am easing myself back away from the light. I thought my pain wracked state was brought on by mighty Ipswich Town’s dismal start to the season (nary a point in 3 stabs). The medicos say that had nothing to do with it, but it wasn’t helping things. In my near death condition I couldn’t even discern between the two Milan’s. Luckily the miraculous recovery has occurred just in time for the Premiership to kick things off.

Browns owner Randy Lerner has finally sprung for Aston Villa after much wrangling (pending a quirky waiting period that’s required by British law). Most Villa supporters seem to be pleased, but some are concerned that the Browns have been so poor. They should have no worries about that–the Browns are poor mainly because that’s the American football team I support, of course. He won’t be handicapped by a salary cap in England, and he gives his football people free rein. They’ve already landed the most sought after unemployed coach in the country in Martin O’Neill. They’ve gone from a team that was looking at sure relegation this year to solid mid-table status, and even brighter things should be on the horizon.

I was also pleased to see that the next coach to be fired from England’s national team, showed who was running things for now by dropping a nearly useless David Beckham from the squad. ‘Second choice’ Steve, as the sooner than not to be sacked coach has been dubbed, has actually seemed to right most of the wrongs made by Sven as far as squad selection goes. The next coach should appreciate his efforts.

With the Premiership season getting under way at the end of the week, I’ll attempt to shake out the rest of cobwebs and sort out what I really think about the season ahead in a day or so. Even off the medication now, I still think Chelski will surprise the world and finish second best.

Champions League Kicks Off

The Champions League gets things kicked off today. So the wait is coming to an end finally. These early qualifying matches aren’t anything very interesting and are very unlikely to produce any surprises. They’re never meant to. At least we can finally begin to watch matches that count for something again.

Arsenal faces Dinamo Zagreb today. Liverpool will get Maccabi Haifa tomorrow–this leg is in England, so there’s no danger of Hezbolla disrupting things yet. Both England sides should take comfortable leads into the second legs. That goes for AC Milan as well. The undisputed powerhouses of the disreputable Serie A shouldn’t need to break a sweat against Crvena Zvezda on Wednesday. They may even be able to give Chelsea reject, Hernan Crespo, a decent run-out.

Unless you have access to Setanta Sports Channel, though, you’ll have to follow the results on the internet. Satanta is usually only available on the Dish Network or in pubs. They also have snapped up many of the Premier League games for this season along with the Champions League, The Championship, and various other leagues and tournaments. They are the channel you need if you want to follow football live.

Unfortunately, Setanta remains a little difficult to get. No major cable outlets offer them. I’ve heard there is something called IPTV which is supposed to let you get it without a dish for about $14/month. I’ve been trying to look into that in time for the season, but there’s not a lot of information on it yet. The Fox Soccer Channel is slipping under this stiff competition, so an early (and lengthy) trip to the pub will practically be a necessity for most Americans wanting to follow European football.

I should mention Ipswich will also be going for loss number 2 against Wolves today. The good guys look even worse than I feared–even through cringing eyes.

The Community Shield match between Chelsea and Liverpool will give us a taste of the Premiership a week early on Sunday. A match that will be carried by the Soccer Channel. Liverpool is picked by many to be the main competition for Chelski this year. I may be alone in this, but I think Chelsea will get nipped at the post for the title this year–and that’s not just wishful thinking.

Even the Rumor Mill is Boring

It has been a very quiet and uneventful off-season. Not even the rumors have been very interesting lately.

Tottenham look to spend some of the buckets of money Man Utd. gifted them for Carrick on Boro’s Stuart Downing and Wigan’s Pascal Chimbonda. They look to be a team headed in the right direction, finally. I’ll still try not to watch many matches until they get their footing. Apparently, my television being tuned to their matches disrupts the delicate cosmic energy and throws the team into disarray.

Other than maybe Liverpool, none of the other big guns in the Prem seem to be improving much. Most are treading water. ‘Arry will have Portsmouth playing better again, especially if he lands Sol Campbell. The two happened to be spotted in a north London pub together.

Villa, without a big influx of cash from a possible take-over, have to be one of the relegation favorites. The ship is sinking–only the rats are still aboard. Despite their amazing good showing last year, Wigan will probably be right down their with them this time around. I think they’re pretty much neck and neck with all the just promoted teams. They remain a nice story, though. I, for one, will be rooting for their survival

I expected Fulham to struggle last year–more than they did. I’m thinking the same way again. If they start off slowly, I think Chris Coleman could be the first sacked manager. There are more than a couple big names floating about, and Mo Fayed should start thinking about someone to try to take them to the next level.

So bring on the season already before we all die of the boredom. Ipswich and the rest of the Championship begin this weekend. They’ve signed exactly nobody this off-season. Their struggle to stay up begins against Crystal Palace on Saturday. Mid-table obscurity is about as much as can be hoped for this year.

UEFA did do a little tweaking to their rules that might improve things. Slightly harsher penalties on any racism incidents, but even better–a two match ban now for anyone whistled for diving. What is Christiano to do? His Plan A was continuous step-overs until everyone hypnotically fell asleep–didn’t work. Plan B was flopping–now that’s being taken away. Hopefully, Plan C is actually attempting to play the game he’s supposed to be pretty good at.