Friday, October 31, 2008

Premiership Lightning Frenzy Round

Usually the Premier League plays only one match a week, this week, for some reason, there was also a midweek round, then they played again the following weekend. So 3 games for each team in one week. I'm caught totally with my pants down. Just like Mike Singletary. So, instead of doing a game by game recap, we've got a team by team roundup. First, the Top 10, then the Bottom 10.

1. CHELSEA 8-1-2 +23 GD
A lot of good news/bad news stuff going on for Chelsea.

Bad News- They lost their big showdown at home against Liverpool, their first home loss since I think Def Leppard released "Pyromania".

Good News- They went into pissed off, sending a message mode after that, and thumped Hull City 3-0, and shredded Sunderland 5-0 right after that, getting 4 goals from Nicolas Anelka in those games and moving back into a share of the Premiership lead.

Bad News- They're in some serious financial difficulties right now. The club is in debt 736 million pounds, which is over a billion US dollars. To cut costs they fired most of their scouting staff this week.

2. LIVERPOOL 8-1-2 +8 GD
The Reds win the Ryan Dempster "It's Gonna Happen" Award for shooting their wad too early in the season. Last Saturday's 1-0 win over Chelsea was glorious. The first win by a visiting side against Chelsea in 86 matches. Then, they followed that up with a dismal 1-0 win on a penalty kick over Portsmouth, who were playing their first game under new management. So you're thinking, fine, that's the letdown game. They score in the third minute on Saturday against Tottenham and all is well, right? Wrong, they didn't score the rest of the game, and then gave up first an equaliser on an own goal, and in the 90th minute a goal to Roman Pavluychenko that sent Liverpool home with their first defeat of the Premier League season.

Cristiano Ronaldo woke up the Devils after they sleepwalked thru a 1-1 draw at Everton last Saturday. Ronaldo had a pair of goals in the first half to give United a 2-0 win against West Ham in their midweek match, then got 2 more from Ronaldo on Saturday as United got out to a 4-1 lead against Hull City and hung on to win by a goal. Alex Ferguson wasn't feeling very chipper after that near-disaster though, saying, "We should have won by 10 or 11 and we ended up scrambling for a victory." Should have won by 10 or 11? Who do you think you are, Bill Belichick?

4. ARSENAL 6-3-2 +11 GD
Things were looking good for the Gunners when they kicked off their 3 match week with a 2-0 win at West Ham, especially since they had matchups with bottom dwellers Tottenham and Stoke City up next. Then they let a 3-1 lead at home against last place Tottenham disintegrate into a 4-4 draw, and lost 2-1 at Stoke. As if that weren't enough, they got dissed by Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen afterwards, who said, ""When Chelsea came here, they matched us in the challenges, but Arsenal weren't quite there. That's the difference. They lack that bit of spine you need." Oh SNAP.

5. ASTON VILLA 6-3-2 +5 GD
A good start to the week for the Villains, but a bad finish. They went on the road to start the week and embarrassed Wigan 4-0, came home and handled Blackburn 3-2 at midweek. They couldn't complete the sweep though, which would have put them in third place in the league. They ended the week by dropping a 2-0 decision at putrid Newcastle, who got two goals from Obafemi Martins.

6. HULL CITY 6-3-2 -1 GD
They had Manchester United feeling all bad about themselves when they almost came back to tie after falling behind 4-1 at Old Trafford. The close but no cigar moral victory kind of softened the blow of a 3-0 pounding they took earlier in the week at Chelsea. The two losses kind of sobered things up a little for the Tigers,after a 3-0 win over West Brom at the beginning of the 3 match stretch actually had them tied for first in the league, which is a place nobody thought this team that is just up from the second tier of English football would ever be anywhere near.

7. EVERTON 4-4-3 -4 GD
A very productive week for the Toffees, who jumped 9 places in the standings. They began the week with a pleasing 1-1 draw at home against almighty Manchester United, ended it by getting their first home win of the year, 1-0 against Fulham, and sandwiched in between got a gritty 1-0 road win over Bolton. It was a badly needed 7 points for a team that had just 8 points entering the week.

Boro had a lot to answer for entering the week, coming off of a 5-0 squishing under Chelsea's boots. The healing began with a 1-1 draw at Blackburn, which came tantalizingly close to being a win before Rovers tied it in the 93rd minute. The match proved a springboard to a victory their next time out though, as they defeated all show and no go Man City 2-0 at home. Boro then closed the week with another 1-1 draw, this one at home against West Ham. A nice week's work for Boro, who find themselves in the top half of the table as the season's first act nears its close.

9. PORTSMOUTH 4-5-2 -6 GD
A tumultuous week for Pompey, as they sell their manager Harry Redknapp to Tottenham for 5 million pounds, and drop 8 out of 9 points, with only a 1-1 draw at home against Fulham to offset a 1-0 loss at Liverpool and a 2-1 loss at home to Wigan. The loss to Wigan was a tough one, with the game winner coming in stoppage time. New Pompey manager Tony Adams, in his own words, "kicked a few bottles and went berserk", in the locker room after the game. I'd like to see him and Mike Singletary square off in a "going berserk" contest. My love for you like ticking clock...BERSERKERRRRR.

A 3-0 win over Stoke City featuring a Robinho hat trick gave the impression that maybe this team was finally getting it together. That impression would be really wrong. City went on the road for its next two, and didn't get any goals from Robinho or anybody else for that matter as they suffered twin 2-0 shutouts against less than awesome Middlesbrough and Bolton squads. Says first year City skipper Mark Hughes, ""In the end, we've allowed balls into our box and paid the price." You always pay the price when you allow balls in your box.

And the rest...

West Ham had a dismal week, getting shut out against Arsenal and Man U and managing only a 1-1 draw against Boro. They sink into 11th place.

Stoke City has been red-hot of late. Three victories in their last 4 games has not only gotten them clear of the relegation zone but has them threatening to join fellow newcomers Hull City in the top half of the table.

Blackburn went the whole month of October without winning a match. They had a couple of winnable fixtures last week against Boro and West Brom, and could manage only draws in both of them. They came away from a visit to Aston Villa with a 3-2 loss, so 7 missed points out of 9 sends this side that had aspirations for UEFA Cup play next year plummeting in the standings.

Newcastle stirred from the depths this week to win 2 of their 3 matches, including an impressive 2-0 shutout of a strong Aston Villa side. The good times may not last long though, as rumors continue to persist that their star Michael Owen is soon going to be sold to Chelsea.

Sunderland had an ugly couple of matches following a a 2-1 home win over Newcastle. They got blanked at Stoke 1-0, then got pounded by Chelsea 5-0. Striker Michael Chopra, who is second on the team with 2 goals, has just been loaned to Championship (second division) club Cardiff, so that's another blow to a team that already struggles mightily to score goals.

Fulham held their own this week, thanks to some tight defense. They got a surprising draw at Portsmouth to start the week, thanks to a late goal by American Clint Dempsey. They got two goals from new acquisition Andy Johnson in a shutout win over Wigan, then dropped a closely contested 1-0 match at Everton.

Wigan finally broke a 4 match losing streak that has sent them dangerously close to the relegation zone. The Egyptian Magician Amr Zaki got a penalty kick goal right before half, and Emile Heskey scored in stoppage time to give Wigan a much needed 2-1 win at slumping Portsmouth.

Bolton, West Brom, and Tottenham are the clubs currently sitting in the relegation corner. Bolton may have saved manager Gary Megson's job for one more week with a 2-0 win over Man City, which salvaged 3 points out of the 9 point week. West Brom could manage only a 2-2 draw at home against Blackburn out of its 3 matches. Tottenham, although still in last place, looks revived under new manager Harry Redknapp. They picked up their first win of the season, 2-0 over Bolton, then got an unexpected point in a thrilling 4-4 draw at Arsenal, and closed the week with a memorable 2-1 win at home against Liverpool in a first vs. worst matchup.

1. Nicolas Anelka, Chelsea, 8
Amr Zaki, Wigan, 8
3. Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United 6
Robinho, Manchester City, 6
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa 6

La Liga
got off to a slow start, but they have been on a tear as of late. They lead La Liga on the strength of 7 straight victories, including a 6-1 stomping of a good Atletico Madrid club. Barca has scored the most goals in La Liga, and are led by Samuel Eto'o with 9 goals and Lionel Messi with 6. Villarreal is right on Barca's tail, trailing them by only a point, despite having scored 9 less goals. Real Madrid and Valencia trail the leaders by 2 points each, with Valencia boasting the league's top scorer, David Villa, who has 10 goals.

Serie A
Last time we looked in on Italy's top league, there were some unfamiliar teams near the top, and AC Milan was struggling in the middle of the table. Like Barca, though Milan has rebounded after a slow start. Not only are they 7-0-1 in their last 8 Serie A matches, they've given up only 3 goals during that time. You wouldn't expect a team that has Ronaldinho and Kaka in the lineup to be winning with defense while struggling to score, but that's been the case. Surprising Udinese continues to hover near the top, only one point behind, behind a balanced offense that leads Serie A in goals. Internazionale lurks one point behind their archrivals.


Hull City has been the big Cinderella story of the Premiership
, but Germany has an even more surprising team. TSG Hoffenheim is newly promoted this year, and they are not only competitve but they lead the league. They have mixed exciting offense, led by 13 goals from Bosnian Vedad Ibisevic, who 4 years ago was playing for Chicago Fire's reserve team. He may not have been good enough for MLS, but he's lighting up the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen is one point back, led by their new striker Patrick Helmes, who was acquired from Koln this offseason. The league's marquee club, Bayern Munich, is third, four points back. They've righted their ship with 3 straight wins, following a stretch where they had only 1 win in 4 matches.

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