Champions League matches

I was eagerly looking forward to the Champions League matches this week. Even more than usual. Champions League is the best competition in the football world–that includes the World Cup and Ipswich/Norwich derbies.

Other than maybe the Celtic match this week, though, it was a pretty bland affair.

Liverpool continue to limp around completely unimpressively. Despite all the high hopes at the beginning of the year, if they don’t beat ManU this weekend they can start planning for next year–or start concentrating on the FA Cup, maybe. Their problems rest solely at the soles of Rafa Benitez. They have the the talent, but they remain a disjointed mess. Not as easy as Mourinho makes it all look, eh Rafa?

Speaking of the ever-whinging Jose, they are back to doing just enough to get by. The Barcelona match should have been interesting on a number of fronts, but turned out to be a routine 1-0 to the Chelski. Hilario, back-up to every back-up keeper on the squad, did well enough for his clean sheet. Barca looked like they were content to sleep through this group stage match and were already thinking about Real Madrid this weekend.

That ends the distractions for a couple weeks. No more Internationals. No Champions League. It’s time for the early questions to be answered in the domestic leagues. Will Aston Villa ever lose? Will Roeder or Pardew be the first sacked? Will Inter not choke this gift of a season away? Do Real finally have things together, or will the hot streak only last until the boredom sets in again?

Alright Chelsea, Quit the Whining

No one in the world feels the least bit sorry for you, Chelski, so enough already. Yes, it was a bit unfortunate that both of your top keepers got injured. It happens, though. There was no conspiracy.

The whole world does hate you. No mistake there. But the entire world knows Roman will just plunk down yet more Russian wonga and supply you with the best keeper that money can buy. There’s no such thing as bad luck for you lot. You just drop more money and the problem is solved.

That’s why you’re hated.

Among several other reasons.

The only dispicable occurance in this situation was when the ref incomprehensibly made the dying Petr Cech crawl off the pitch to be treated. That was a poor sight even for the biggest Chelsea bashers. It must be said, it was bound to happen eventually. The players, with all the overly dramatic diving, make it impossible to discern between a serious injury and an attempt to win a card. Everything comes with a price in the end.

But don’t worry Chelsea frontrunners, Abramovich will pick-up the tab.

What’s the Point, Exactly, MLS?

After a long trip back to the barren lifestyle of the 18th century, the blog is back. Sitting by candelight in the cave night after night without access to the modern necessities, save a bottle opener, offered the opportunity to think about life’s many problems without all the usual distractions getting in the way. Didn’t take that opportunity, though, as usual.

Instead, my thoughts turned to the MLS. Odd, because that almost never happens. Why should it? Is there a more useless league in the world?

It’s play-off time in American soccer. The teams have just played a whole season of virtual friendlies against one another. Not a single game the whole year meant a thing. Almost every team makes the play-offs anyway. Just avoid being Among the bottom four or so, and you’re in. The whole thing is completely backwards. An entire season is played, not to determine the best team, but just to determine the worst.

The rest get into the play-offs where any team can suddenly find some combination of luck or a hot streak for a couple of matches and be crowned Champions. Nothing that played out over the entire summer means a whit. It’s a system that almost guarantees a lesser team will take the title.

Why should anyone be remotely interested in this sham?

The pointless season means there’s not going to be any emotion in the matches then. The play-offs are a quick crap-shoot that any team can win. There is no way any for any fan fervor to build up for this inane product.

The rest of the world does football right. Leave it to the Americans to think they know best. They clearly don’t in this instance. The belief that Americans are ‘used to’ a play-off system in their sports and won’t accept anything else, is just ignorant. On top of that, the league feels it has to coddle the clubs until enough interest is raised in the league to support itself. How can this method possibly raise any interest? I should be their target audience and I couldn’t be less bothered about it. A completely meaningless season followed by a little tournament to name a more or less arbitrary champion. What a great idea. Makes you long for next season already, doesn’t it?

The MLS made fatally bad decisions and the long-term future of the league has to be considered shaky at best.

Luckily, the rest of the world is back in action after the international break, and I’m back with enough technology to follow them. At least now I can get my daily dose of The Fiver again. A little blog put out by The Guardian that now numbers among my addictions. It’s almost always the funniest thing I encounter all day, and they’ll fire it out to you in your email at noon everyday if you ask them. Go to The Fiver to read today’s and sign up.

As the Agents Ruin Things…

The shocking news story of the week was the disclosure that some Premier League managers might actually be taking bungs–that is, taking money for themselves from agents to make transfer deals. This nothing story shouldn’t surprise anyone, except for the lack of any real bombshells. For me, they’re going after the wrong side anyway. It’s the agents that are the evil bastards and need to be stopped–the more painfully the better. They are right on the cusp of doing serious damage to the game. Especially with these new companies owning the rights to players. Agents already have entirely too much power in football and the weight needs to be shifted back. Quickly. It’s going to get very ugly very soon, and it’ll be too late to ever make it right again.

With that backdrop, the season rolls merrily along with a week of coming routs. Most of the big guns have easy matches and they’ll make quick work of their hapless opponents. Sheffield Utd, Fulham, Reading–better luck next week. The match to watch this weekend is Liverpool/Tottenham. Unfortunately, I can’t owing to my vow not to contribute to the Spurs demise by personally witnessing it. Although, it’s beginning to be apparent that they struggle whether I watch them or not. Defoe must play. They miss Carrick. Keane is overrated. But, that team is too good to be as spotty as they’ve been. Liverpool is only slightly less spotty due to Tinker Benitez constantly fiddling with the line-up. Should be an interesting match. Things will start to look very serious for the loser.

But, that’s the great thing about the Premier League. Every match means something. Even the Wigan/Watford match is worth a look.

Ipswich gets to take on Roy Keane’s Sunderland in the Championship. The novelty of that might be better than the match. A match I will be forced to miss due to uncontrollable convolutions of the universe. Good luck Town–I’ll be thinking about you.

Skip Saturday and Wait For Sunday?

There are the two huge matches the whole world has been waiting for this weekend. At least the whole world following Premiership football. Both are being played on Sunday, though. Arsenal/ManU and Chelski/Liverpool kick off a day late making Saturday a relatively uninteresting day for neutrals.

There’s the sense that Arsenal have to get things going right now if they’re going to hope to contend at all this season. Manchester has been slapping the weak teams, but with their soft, and getting softer, midfield, they seemed to be ripe for a wake-up call. Now, Arsenal look to be without van Persie and Thierry Henry. It’s often argued that Henry hardly shows up for any big games anyway, but for a team that has struggled mightily for goals, it can’t do much for their psyche heading in. Who will score now? Probably no one. United could well get by in a 1-0 bore, which will send their fair weather fans into delirious ecstasy.

Liverpool, with Rafa’s inane rotations, can’t find any rhythm. Chelsea will be pounding the drum Sunday. The coaches will probably end up being the main talking point of this match. Jose says he won’t even shake the hand of the nonsense talking Benitez. Or is it vice versa? Either way, that little soap opera threatens to overshadow what could turn out to be an otherwise quiet match.

I’m afraid both matches look better on paper than they’re going to look on the television screen.

Randy Lerner has apparently told Martin O’Neill he can have something like 20 million quid to spend when the transfer window opens back up. Aston Villa could suddenly be pressing for a European spot. What a difference a year makes. Or rather, a decent chairman with deep pockets, and a great coach. Just goes to show, it could happen to anyone–keep the chin up. Unless you’re Leeds–sorry, no hope there.

Glorious Ipswich, riding a 3 game winning streak, will be tested by the other Birmingham team (the one called Birmingham) Saturday. A draw would be nice. Another win is just too much to hope for. Nevermind. Just keep putting it out there. Eventually, Town must catch the eye of some other rich Russian or Yank looking to squander billions to knock Abramovich back in his place. My mother always said there was someone for everyone. Shouldn’t Bill Gates be bored by now and in search of his Cinderalla? Her initials are ITFC, Bill. Forget about solving all the world’s problems and just give her the shoe.

The schedule makers must have tabbed this weekend to be the first really big showcase to get the season well and truly started. I’ll be very surprised if the matches actually live up to the billing. Think I’ll plan on catching as many of the Saturday matches as possible and just catch z’s through the borefests slotted for Sunday.