Friday, 25 September 2015

Selected Weekend TV Preview 25 - 27 September 2015

One of the original graphics. Designed by Chris Oakley
Back in the days of football blogging where Some People and on the Pitch and the Football Fairground strode the Internet like titans, we did a thing called the Midweek and Weekend TV Preview.

This was a comprehensive guide to all the football games being transmitted on UK TV. The style of these previews was intended to be informative, brief and at time irreverent.  Some of us used them as a platform to espouse opinions that for one reason or another were not sufficiently developed or relevant to justify a full blog post.

At its peak their were four of us writing them and we covered every game that was on the telly.

Those days are over but today I and attempted to bring them back albeit in truncated form and only when I have time to do them.

So without further ado I bring the triumphant return of the Weekend TV Preview (selected).

(All kick off times UK)

Friday 25th September

FC Köln v FC Ingolstadt, Bundesliga, 19:30, BT Sport Europe

Seventh play eighth respectively. FCK are, possibly for the first time since the 1960s being run by a sensible management team who understand that clubs like Köln survive with conservative tactics and ambitions. Despite a defeat to a slowly resurgent Hertha, during the week, Cologne are set fair for another prosperous second season in the top flight.

Ingolstadt are a newly promoted teeny tiny club who are doing what another newly promoted teeny tiny club, Paderborn, did last season: surprise and embarrass a few clubs in the early rounds. If they can overcome resolute mid table clubs like Köln tonight and for the rest of the campaign they have a chance. Unless of course their patrons, Audi, get some disappointing results back from the lab.

Fulham v Queens Park Rangers, Football League Championship, 19:45, SKY Sports 1

London is not big enough for all its club to be in the Premier League (as I fear Crystal Palace will rediscover in due time) and west London really only has room for one, neither of with are Fulham or QPR. So both clubs may come to relish these derby games in the seasons to come and are well suited rivals. That is assuming one or both don't hit the rocks financially and end up in the Conference.

Fulham (16th) cannot boast much by way of a home record but they have score 11 goals so far this season and can claim to be on a run if they follow up their win against Blackburn with one tonight. QPR (8th) have had their moderately encouraging start back in the Championship curtailed by a couple of draws with Blackburn and Hull. Definitely a game for the atmosphere rather than the football.

Saturday 26th September 

Newcastle United v Chelsea, English Premier League, 17:30, SKY Sports 1

Oh the narrative. Steve McClaren's knack for hurling himself into red hot frying pans knows no bounds. Despite missing out on promotion, he'd assembled a Derby side to get behind. Even if he'd been given the boot he had surely restored his reputation. It's in severe jeopardy now after Newcastle's dismal start to the season and League Cup exit to a team from Sheffield.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it comes in the shape of the blighted doctor botherer, Jose Mourinho.  The Chelsea boss has only a Champions League win and a win against Arsenal in his recent plus column, neither of which count for much frankly. The Champions League is not much more than a preliminary round for the likes of Chelsea and they always beat Arsenal.

Oh yes I forgot about West Brom. Can't forget that.

Napoli v Juventus, Serie A, 19:45, BT Sport Europe

An antidote to the egg chasing (which I'll confess to enjoying). The champions Juve are struggling in 13th just a place behind their opponents. It could have been rosier for the Old Lady were it not for the pesky Leonardo Blanchard equalising for Frosinone in the final minutes, last Wednesday. Both teams may be struggling with the mid week fixtures and may welcome the forthcoming international break.

That said there is plenty of quality in this game and no little drive to kick start their seasons from both sets of players. A mid table game but which the heart of a top of the table clash.

Montreal Impact v DC United, MLS Eastern Conference, 22:00, SKY Sports 5

It's worth getting across the MLS now because there is about a month to go before the post season and the play off births are getting settled. DC are fourth in the Eastern Conference but haven't won in five. They have hitherto owned this fixture this season by playing Impact twice and winning both. Montreal are in the sixth and final play off place four points ahead of Orlando (or should that be "Kaka's Orlando"?).

Sunday 27th September

Middlesbrough v Leeds United, Football League Championship, 13:15, SKY Sports 1 and SKY Sports 5

A chance to get a good look at Aitor Karanka's team that probably should be in the Premier League by now. The return of Stewart Downing seems to have had the desired effect and it would be of no surprise if Boro were to disappear over the horizon this season. That being said, this home fixture against Leeds is the ideal litmus test. United are still a shadow of their former selves but are improving. A full house and a thundersome derby atmosphere is in store.

Watford v Crystal Palace, Premier League, 16:00, SKY Sports 1

Hardly a blue ribbon fixture but a tasty sort of London Derby twixt two teams that have surprised a few since their respective returns to the Premier League. Palace need to find the net in the league. Losing 1-0 to City and Tottenham is kind of understandable but the lack of goals could be a concern for Pardew.

Watford's impressive wins against Newcastle and Swansea make them favourites to win this, in my eyes. Although I hope that puts the kybosh on them.

Liverpool Ladies v Chelsea Ladies, FA WSL 1, 19:00, BT Sport 1

Two games left and Chelsea are two points clear of Manchester City. However City could be top by the time this game kicks off if they beat Bristol earlier in the day. But if City lose and Chelsea win then the title goes to the blues. All to play for as they say.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Bundesliga Diary - What if Josuha Guilavogui had scored? (Bayern Munich 5 Wolfsburg 1)

Part of Manuel Neuer's charm is the sneaking feeling that he is not quite the Best Keeper In The World that most say he is (myself included). This heretical view is from time to timebacked up bu the odd coals that he adds to the furnace with what appear to be mental aberrations and general brain fartery.

The latest nugget came during the Bayern Munich's 5-1 destruction of Wolfsburg on Tuesday (22 September). Neuer tried to make an intervention in his self appointed capacity as libero which went horribly wrong. With Neuer taking the meaning of stranded to strange new places, the ball fell to Joshua Guilavogui, an otherwise admirable defensive midfielder who having spotted the keeper of the line (by several furlongs) took a punt at the goals from super long range.

The ball shaved the outside of the post. Half a foot to the right and Wolfsburg wold have entered the dressing room with a 2-0 lead at the Allianz and would have left Bayern coach Pep Guardiola with a heap of problems.

Or would it?

Whether the Bavarians were 1 or 7 goals behind, Pep would have set them up exactly the same way for the second half. That was to step up the pressing and go on the attack. Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski would still have come off the bench and would still have scored those five goals in 9 minutes even if Guilavogui had doubled Wolfsburg's lead.

Or would he?

The mindset of players is the hardest to read for anyone watching the game. No one really knows if the extra goal deficit would somehow have adjusted the player's mental approach to the second half. Burdened by the two goal lead the Champions may have been a touch more rash and undisciplined, making just enough mistakes to prevent the 9 minute blood bath that ended with Lewandowski suddenly five goals better off this season and no doubt the holder of a few new records.

We'll never know, of course, but goals change the course of games and as Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking ponders the result on the long journey home he may allow himself to wonder what might have been had the loose ball fell to Draxler rather that Guilavogui.

Spare a thought also for Wolfsburg's Dante. The defender who, up until August, was a Bayern player had a decent game for the most part. As the goals rained in no one would have blamed the Brazilian for suffering flashbacks to Bela Horizonte and his debagging at the hands of the Germans in the 2014 World Cup.

At least, for Dante, it could have been worse.

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Sunday, 6 September 2015

Great Penalties: Peter Schmeichel saves against Dennis Bergkamp in the 1999 FA Cup semi final replay

The first of a very occasional series on great penalties features Dennis Bergkamp v Peter Schmeichel in the 1999 FA Cup semi final replay between Arsenal and Manchester United.


This match took place on 14 April 1999 and was televised live on Sky Sports. The commentator, Martin Tyler, made a barbed remark about the "European tail waging the domestic dog." He was referring to the fact that this match was to be the final FA Cup semi-final replay. From the following season all semis would be settled after one game, by penalties if required.

The reason for this was the Champions League which was putting the domestic fixtures under strain. Tyler's remark was a thinly veiled criticism of the decision. A few years later Sky would acquire the right to transmit the Champions League and stopped transmitting the FA Cup.

After a goalless draw the teams reconvened, again at Villa Park, to have another go. While the Reds were the dominant force in England in the 90s, Arsenal had won the Premier League and FA Cup double the season before.

There was a cigarette paper between the two teams in terms of quality and both were packed with quality outfield players including Giggs (who started this game from the bench), Roy Keane, David Beckham, Jaap Stam, Nicolas Anelka, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Viera and Emmanuel Petit.

That being said, United boss, Alex Ferguson, had rotated some players, mindful of their upcoming Champions League semi-final against Juventus. United would go on to win the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League by the end of the season.

The Match

The result was decided in extra time by a sensational goal by Ryan Giggs. But part of what made that goal so dramatic was what had gone before.

The game finished 1-1 with two goals that would now be described as "thunderbastards". Beckham and Teddy Sheringham combined for the former to curl a long range shot from 22 yards. It was the first goal Arsenal had conceded in 690 minutes.

Bergkamp scored the equaliser from more or less the same range. But the Dutchman's strike was helped by a wicked deflection off Jaap Stam. Anelka was convinced he'd won the tie after latching onto a through pass and scoring a second. But after a brief confab, the referee David Elleray backed up the linesman's decision and ruled the goal out as offside.

Then disaster struck for United when Roy Keane was sent off for two yellow cards. The first was for a foul on Bergkamp, the second for another on substitute Marc Overmars.

United tried to keep the Gunners at bay but just as the game was set for extra time, Phil Neville made a puzzling decision and brought down Ray Parlour in the area. As Neville rose to his feet, convinced he'd blown his club's chance of a domestic and European treble, Dennis Bergkamp prepared himself to settle the game and move on, to the Final.

The Penalty

Among his many virtues, the United 'keeper Schmeichel was excellent at "making himself big" to use 90s commentator parlance. He had the frame and positional sense to provide a significant obstacle when one on one with an attacking player. Also,  in the intense bear pit that was Villa park under the floodlights and with so much at stake, the ball probably looked twice its size.

The big Dane stood in the middle of the goals, his eyes fixed on Bergkamp in an attempt to anticipate the Dutchman's next move. He succeeded. Bergkamp's shot may have been the proverbial "nice height" for a 'keeper but Schmeichel dived the right way and came the ball away to safety.

Allowing himself a brief moment of celebration Schmeichel ordered his team mates back into their positions. Characteristically, David Beckham was the only player to defy him and give him a quick hug. Lord Beckham was often the first to be their for the big moments.

That moment effectively decided the game. Arsenal fell to pieces and allowed Giggs to cut them open and score the winner in spectacular fashion. In fact it was Viera's cross field ball that set Giggs off on his run. If the Welshman had tried the same thing in normal time he'd have never got near the penalty area let alone the goal.

This match is rightly remembered for Gigg's wonder goal but it would not have happened without Schmeicel's penalty save. It forced extra time and destroyed the opposition's spirit.