I think the official term is “so-so”.
GAME Result Prediction
Man Utd V Newcastle 0-1 2-1
Crystal Palace V Cardiff 2-0 1-0
Liverpool V West Ham 4-1 3-1
Southampton V Man City 1-1 1-3
Stoke V Chelsea 3-2 0-4
West Brom V Norwich 0-2 1-1
Sunderland V Spurs 1-2 1-2
So, one perfect prediction, and two other correct results. Averaging just under 50% then, still a better than David Moyes’ win record at United in the last month.
DISCLAIMER: I take no blame if following my predictions leads to a failed accumulator…and all the credit if they turn out to be correct.
MAN UTD v NEWCASTLE UNITED
So many classic games between these two down the years. Who can forget Philip Albert (proud owner of one of football’s greatest ever moustaches) deftly lobbing a forlorn Peter Schmiechal at St James’ as the Toon Army ran out 5-0 winners in ‘96, or a pubescent Wayne Rooney casually cutting short a rant at the referee to smash home a volley from 30 yards back in 2005. And this could be another cracker. United are in a post-Fergie downward spiral of despair/ haven’t won in 3, while Newcastle are the proud holders of both the Manager of the Month and Player of the Month Awards – even after a humbling 3-0 defeat to Swansea.
CRYSTAL PALACE v CARDIFF
Tony Pulis gained his first victory as manager of Palace last weekend against West Ham and will be hoping home form will be the key to saving the London side from what has so far looked like an almost certain relegation. Coming up against a Cardiff side, who despite claiming notable results against Man Utd and Man City this season, find themselves on a run of one win in eight, Palace will be confident they can snatch a second consecutive three points. Palace have had three clean sheets in the past four games, and with this game pitting the two lowest scorers in the division against each other, goals could be at a premium. But then again when Marouane Chamakh is around…oh nevermind.
LIVERPOOL v WEST HAM
With the news England will face Uruguay in next summer’s world cup announced today we could all be forgiven for hoping Luis Suarez gets back to biting people rather than scoring ridiculous goals. Three of his four against Norwich were worthy of goal of the month and Sam Allardyce will be going ultra defensive in this one in an attempt to stifle the Uruguayans threat. Although with the Hammers having played several games this season without a recognised striker, I’m not sure how much more defensive they can get. West Ham have conceded 10 goals since they last scored and with Liverpool having won six from seven at Anfield it looks like a home banker.
SOUTHAMPTON v MAN CITY
A difficult one to call. Southampton have been impressive so far this season, with the likes of Lallana and Lambert playing ahead of an imperious defence (imperious until they conceded three to Villa mid week). Even though Saints midfielder Steven Davis completed more passes (109) than the entire Villa side combined (96) on Wednesday night, the 3-2 defeat means three losses in a row. Man City on the other hand finally got a victory on the road against West Brom last time out. City are scoring goals for fun but if Southampton can regain their defensive stability it could be close.
STOKE v CHELSEA
Stoke do not win against Chelsea. They have never beaten them in the Premier League era and have only scored three goals in ten meetings in that time. And with Mark Hughes’ side stuttering along so far this season you would be hard pushed to find people backing the home side in this one. Having said that Chelsea did concede three on route to victory against bottom of the table Sunderland mid-week and haven’t looked like a classic Mourinho side so far this season. Edin Hazard was unplayable at the Stadium of Light and if he is on form again it could be a long afternoon for Stoke.
WEST BROM v NORWICH CITY
Both teams are firmly established in the “too good to go down but not good enough to challenge for Europe” camp. Although Norwich need to start putting the ball in the back of the net, and stop having to pick it out of their own soon if they are to avoid being dragged into a prolonged relegation battle. West Brom haven’t won in over a month but have been unlucky in draws against Chelsea and Aston Villa in that time.
SUNDERLAND v SPURS
Gus Poyet has at least got Sunderland putting up some sort of fight in recent games and pushing Chelsea all the way in their last outing at least suggests some of the signings Di Canio made can have a positive impact. But close defeats do not save you from relegation and the Black Cats really need to start picking up points soon. Spurs, and Villas Boas in particular, are also desperate for points at the minute as they seek to kick start their season. The smooth talking Portuguese boss has watched his side struggle to score in the post-Bale era, and with Sunderland having already shocked Man City at home this season, will be fearful defeat here will see him collecting his P45.
Hmm, quite a lot of goals it seems tomorrow. Will make for an interesting MOTD if it pans out anyway.
With 12 groups in total, just comprehending the size of the Europa League requires you to have paid close attention during those Sesame Street episodes as a youth. L is for Ludicrous.
As someone who likes to think of himself as fairly knowledgeable on football in general I have to admit I have paid little to no attention to Europe’s second competition this season and it all just seems a little over complicated for me.
With one eye on Forest’s attempts to climb the Championship table and the other on the more traditional fair of top flight football and Champions League action, games such as Dnipro V Pandurii, and Kuban Krasnodar V St. Gallen have unfortunately slipped me by.
The suits at Uefa, led by Mousier Plattini, have cobbled together the competition out of the ashes of the Cup Winners cup and the Uefa cup format and created a monster.
With big teams fielding weakened sides and blaming their involvement for lapses in league form, and other teams struggling to see the economic value of flying half way across the world to battle out for a 0-0 draw to secure third place in the group, the tournament continues to pail into insignificance. Ever increasingly in the shadows of its much more successful and better looking sibling, the Champions League, teams such as Swansea are seeing the harsh reality of having to play on a Thursday night somewhere in the midst of Europe affecting their league form so far this season.
Another issue. The teams that fail in the Champions league should not be allowed to enter the next stage of the Europa league. Like poor quality hand me down’s these teams shouldn’t be automatically sent to the Europa League for a second chance in the sun. All this does is clog up an already congested system. Plus many of those teams don’t really want to be in the Europa League anyway.
Take Chelsea for instance. Even as they were on their way to winning the competition a couple of seasons ago, they didn’t want to be there. There fans didn’t want to be there. Abramovich didn’t want to be there. And their players certainly didn’t want to be there. With Chelsea about to take part in the showpiece final against Benfica, Jon Obi Mikel came out and lamented the fact he had to “play on Thursday nights in front of Channel 5 cameras”. And bless his little heart, he didn’t know the Europa League song and missed the “prime time” of Champions League football.
While having an AC Milan or Chelsea in the draw might look good on paper, in reality these teams only serve to dilute the respectability of the competition and with 48 teams already making up the group stages it is counter-productive to then add a further 8 at a later stage.
Undoubtedly having a second European competition is key in order to prevent the chasm between Europe’s elite clubs and the rest growing even further but I can’t help but feel a simpler version which keeps itself to itself without accepting cast off’s and winners of fair play tables would be more rewarding; both for the teams taking part and for those of us seeking a competitive enjoyable tournament.
Because at the minute all the Europa League seems good for is giving Jermaine Defoe a run out.
Another look at sports people posing for the cameras during the past week…
Since his off field antics came to light Tiger Woods has failed to find the form that made him the king of golf and this shot has got to go down as out of bounds. Woods was actually attempting to become the first person to hit a golf ball from Europe into Asia (Finally! We’ve all been waiting for that moment I know) as he hit the drive on Bosphorus Bridge in Turkey. I’m not sure local commuters will have been quite so happy with Woods taking over half the bridge to complete the feat mind.
Fiorente won the Melbourne Cup horse race this week leaving the trainer and family visibly delighted as he passed the finishing post. Although by the looks of things the guy at the back might have gone a little overboard – much to the shock/delight of the lady in purple and green. With the prize money standing at over $6.2 million (Aussie dollars) you can understand them getting a little over excited I suppose.
The current international teams played out a tight Autumn test on Saturday which saw England come out on top. But as you can probably tell this isn’t a picture from that game. It is nearly 10 years since Jonny Wilkinson slotted that drop goal through the posts to seal victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final against Australia in their own back yard and in honour of that occasion some of the band got back together to take each other on for charity last week. The highlight of the game was undoubtedly hooker Steve Thompson’s 80 metre sprint/waddle to the line which was quickly followed by a pint.
On Sunday afternoon Cardiff City overcame their fierce rivals, Swansea City, 1-0 in torrential rain to secure the bragging rights over their Welsh neighbours. With police on high alert and potential for trouble always likely this fan resorted to old school playground tactics to mock the travelling Swansea supporters. You see you don’t need flares (the pyrotechnic not the trousers popular in the 1970’s) or missiles to intimidate your opponents, all you need is a pasty white beer belly and your thumb up your nose.
The NBA got under way last month and the New York Knicks’ Iman Shumpert has clearly spent the off season developing some new defensive tactics. That or he just really wanted a game of leap-frog with the Milwauke Bucks’ Caron Butler. I have to admit I have no idea what happened in the seconds after this image but I’m going to predict at least one of these three ended up on the floor.
Back by popular demand / I haven’t had time to get a new post up in a while. But here are the latest images from the past week in the sporting world.
Sunderland’s first win of the season also happened to be the first Tyne-Weir derby since their infamous 3-0 victory last April against Newcastle which led to one Geordie punching a horse in the face (passion can do strange things to people). We cannot confirm or deny that this is the same horse in question but Sunderland fans were keen to remind their north-east neighbours of the event on Sunday afternoon. Winning the game 2-1 also ensured they have the bragging rights for a few months at least.
You can see it all going through his mind; “Where has the ball gone?”, “Why am I jumping so high?”, “Where can I go on holiday next summer?”. Joe Hart’s error allowed Fernando Torres in to score an injury-time winner in the big Chelsea-City game at the weekend. The England no.1 is definitely going through some dodgy form but as of yet he hasn’t quite reached the heights of Rob Green v USA or Paul Robinson v Croatia and from a purely selfish point of view, as long as he carries on doing it for City and not England it’s ok with me.
We have all seen Ian Poulter’s deathly competitive stare in recent Ryder Cup matches and no doubt Phil Mickelson has been on the end of a few of them in his time too. But I doubt he has ever been faced with Poulter complete with massive sword before. Fair play to Mickelson, he snagged himself a pretty fancy looking weapon of his own at the recent HSBC Shaghai golf event, but judging by the American’s look of concern he isn’t going to be asking for that trophy any time soon. And maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty sure traditional Chinese warriors did not wear sponsor-laden visors as part of their uniform.
While most people were hiding indoors in the UK and across Europe as the St. Jude storm hit the classic foolhardy surfer instinct kicked in for others. Here you can just about make out through the rain Brazilian Carlos Burle taking on what in official surfing terms is called “an absolutely massive wave” off the coast of Portugal. Not technically professional sport but it’s dedication if nothing else.
Oh wait hold on I forgot this was only supposed to be sporting images. Next.
Rugby League players are not known to be the sharpest tools in the box and Sonny Bill Williams did little to help that image during New Zealand’s victory over Samoa in the Rugby League World Cup. The man who can’t make his mind up whether to play League or Union (or occasionally box) also seemingly struggles to remember where the try zone ends. After sauntering past the Samoan tackles all he had to do was put the ball down. Unfortunately that proved a step too far. Luckily for him New Zealand were already 36-24 up and went on to win the game 42-24. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/rugby-league/24704332)
The ordinary made extraordinary. A photo taken a few years ago while in Cape Town of some construction boards with a twist. The image of Mandella and the South African flag is made up of hundreds of individual different coloured hand prints.
Another round up of some people photographed playing sport.
Floyd “Money” Mayweather continued his dominance of the boxing world as he defeated Mexican Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on points in Las Vegas last night/early this morning. I have to admit I didn’t have the dedication to make it to the bell at 4am UK time so can’t really comment on the fight itself but by all accounts Mayweather had it under control. This image certainly suggest Alvarez was dazed enough to take a swing at the referee. Mayweather’s unbeaten record now stretches to 45 fights and having pocketed $45million for last night’s bout alone its not a bad way to make a living.
The grimace on James Milner’s face epitomises England’s performance away at Ukraine this week and was most likely replicated by most England fans during the 0-0 bore draw. Highlights included the full time whistle and managing to change the channel just in time to avoid having to listen to Adrian Chiles fumble his way through some analysis. To be fair an away point keeps England at the top of the group and just two home victories away from sealing their place in next year’s world cup but it wasn’t exactly pretty.
Great work in Serie A this week. Caught deep behind enemy lines Genoa coach Luca De Pra was discovered in full commando gear in the hills above local rivals Sampdoria’s training ground. Attempting to get some info ahead of the derby game this weekend De Pra was seen hiding in the bushes along with another colleague who managed to escape. Fortunately for De Pra Sampdoria saw the funny side and their website confirmed that after being caught “the opposing side’s soldier was let free to return to base”. Good effort but needs to learn from Mourinho’s laundry basket espionage techniques.
The usual raw emotion (and what looks like gleeful skipping) accompanied Rafael Nadal’s victory over Novak Djokovic in the 2013 US Open Final at Flushing Meadows. Both players pushed themselves to the limits with some rallies going beyond the 50 stroke mark before Nadal won out in four sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. For Nadal it is his 13th grand slam title. just four behind Federer’s record 17, and I’m sure the Spaniard hopes he can eclipse the Swiss master before his biscuit knees cave in once and for all.
Former “most expensive player in the world” Cristiano Ronaldo welcomes new “most expensive player in the world” Gareth Bale to Real Madrid with a friendly two footed lunge in training. And by the grin on defender/professional arse Pepe’s face it seems like it was perfectly executed. Bale survived the session to make his début in last night’s 2-2 draw against Valencia and managed to get himself on the score sheet in the process; a move that angered Ronaldo so much that he immediately signed a new contract today reinstating him as the club’s highest paid player just to keep Bale in his place.
This weeks sporting events as caught by the camera…
You have to feel sorry for the reporters sent out by Sky Sports News to stand in club car parks waiting to report back to HQ on transfer deadline day. While one reporter at West Brom was welcomed with sausage and chips, this reporter, the man given the honour of revealing to the world that Arsene Wenger had finally spent some money, was caught in a stampede of Arsenal supporters attempting to confirm via autoque that they hadn’t misheard. Dragged back to the Emirates sadly this reporter has not been seen since.
Fans on the other side of the Atlantic this time. In a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore
Oreos Orioles last week a foul ball was sent up toward the crowd and this image perfectly captures the total chaos caused. Some, such as the two older women at the bottom of the picture, recoil in horror. Others, like the sporty blonde in the centre, welcome the chance of glory. And then there are the two grey gentlemen on the peripheries. One, almost superman-like looks to “save the women and children” while the other is simply left wide eyed and frozen with terror.
Andy Murray gave up the defence of his US Open title at the quarter final stage on Thursday. Losing in straight sets to Stan Wawrinka the current Wimbledon and Olympic champion was clearly not happy with how things were going and took it out on his poor defenceless racket. They do say a bad workman blames his tools but you can’t really argue with the Scots performance over the past year.
Continuing on from his début goal against Scotland Rickie Lambert made it two from two as he scored England’s second goal in a comfortable 4-0 victory against Moldova at Wembley last night. *Insert cliché about him having risen from the bottom of the football pyramid in true “Roy of the Rovers style”*. Fair play to him he hasn’t looked out of place so far although playing against a Moldovan defence is probably a lot more similar to his early career days than the Premier league opponents he now faces.
Slight bias on this one. The college football season got under way last week in the US and having attended LSU for year in 2011 it was good to see them get of to a winning start this year. Defeating Texas Christian University 37-27 in front of over 80,000 fans in the ‘Cowboy Classic’ held at the AT&T stadium in Texas this is about as far removed from university level sport in this country as is possible. Plus the number 90 you see in that picture, Anthony Johnson, is 20 years old and weighs 21 stone; someone has got to be checking these birth certificates!
Dan Evans became the most talked about British tennis player for a few hours at least as he defeated Japanese number 11 seed Kei Nishikori in the first round of the US Open. For a man who in April admitted “I am obviously pretty bad at my job” after struggling to keep to the regimented schedule of professional tennis it wasn’t a bad few hours work.
Jamie Forrest scores a 92nd minute winner for Celtic against Shakhter Karagandy to secure Neil Lennon’s side a place in the Champions league group stages having started the game with a 0-2 deficit after the first leg. If only Karagandy had been able to sacrifice a lamb before the match as they usually do maybe the result would have been different?
All Celtic’s hard work means glamour ties against Barcelona, AC Milan, and Ajax rather than the masterfully dull and money-sapping Europa League. All in all Man Utd and Chelsea have the easier of the draw while Arsenal will have to work hard to qualify from a group containing last years runners up Dortmund. Bayern v City also looks interesting.
These guys make it too easy…
The finale of the ashes came around in typically exhilarating fashion on Sunday as, with England needing just 21 runs with just 24 balls remaining, those in charge saw fit to end the days play, and thus the series, due to bad light. I’m not sure if you can make them out through the darkness but the picture shows the umpires and Michael Clarke either searching for mobile phone signal or using one of the many technological advances offered in cricket, “light checker-out-erer” I think its called.
Final results: England 3, Australia 0, Weather 2
Sam Tomkins secures the 2013 Challenge cup for Wigan Warriors with a last minute try to seal a 16-0 victory. A record 19th final victory took place in near torrential rain (take note cricket) at Wembley and was the first time since Wigan beat St Helens in 1989 that a team had managed to achieve a clean sheet.