Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Premiership Update

It's been a few weeks since we've done our Premier League Update. Work has just been nuts for me and I've barely had the time or wherewithal to cover the NFL, so our lads in short pants across the pond have gotten the short shrift. Today, I catch up, big time. Let's take a look at what's what.

1. CHELSEA 10-1-3 +28 GD
Recent Form- D v. Newcastle 0-0; W at West Brom 3-0; W at Blackburn 2-0
The Blues tied a 48 year old record by winning their 10th straight away match in England's top league when they beat West Brom 3-0. Nicolas Anelka lit things up with 2 goals apiece in a win over Rovers and the win over the Baggies. Then they came home and tossed in a scoreless clunker against Newcastle. Offensive help may be on the way though, as rumors continue to fly that Robinho may be flying the coop from Manchester City and headed to Stamford Bridge.

2. LIVERPOOL 10-1-3 +13 GD
Recent Form- D v. Fulham 0-0; W at Bolton 2-0; W v. West Brom 3-0
The form of the League's top 2 teams pretty much has mirrored one another recently. Both have not surrendered a goal in eons, but both had disappointing draws at home against weak clubs their last time out. Robbie Keane scored his first two EPL goals for Liverpool in their 3-0 win over West Brom, and the Reds followed up with a physical 2-0 win at Bolton that saw goals from Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard. They then missed an opportunity to vault into the League's top spot when they produced a humdrum scoreless draw at home against Fulham. They are now missing Gerrard, who has a torn groin. They hope to have Gerrard back for this week's Champions League match against Marseille.

Recent Form- D at Aston Villa 0-0; W v. Stoke 5-0; L at Arsenal 1-2
What was with all the big shots playing scoreless draws last weekend? Man U is 8 points back of 2 teams, and desperately needs to pick up some points when Chelsea and Liverpool fail to if they are going to have a hope of repeating as Premiership champs. They missed a golden opportunity to do that when they could only manage a scoreless draw at Villa. Wayne Rooney launched one over the crossbar from close range that could have been the winner. The draw came on the heels of a 5-0 blowout win over Stoke that saw 2 goals by Cristiano Ronaldo, and a 2-1 loss at an undermanned Arsenal side that was missing big guns Emanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie. Ronaldo continues to play thru a leg injury, which has slowed him and drawn taunts from opposing fans.

4. ASTON VILLA 7-4-3 +6
Recent Form D v. Man U 0-0; W at Arsenal 2-0; L v. Middlesbrough 1-2
Villa rebounded in a big way from a WTF 2-1 loss at home to Middlesbrough. Staring down the barrell of two matches against Big 4 members after that Boro loss, Villa came away with 4 out of an available 6 points, and they themselves vaulted into the top 4 in the League. They got a a huge win at Arsenal behind a pair of goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor (actually 1, the other was ruled an own goal), and then held firm for a 0-0 tie against Man U, ending a string of 14 consecutive matches against the Red Devils that had ended in defeat.

5. ARSENAL 7-5-2 +7

Recent Form- L at Man City 0-3; L v. Aston Villa 0-2; W v. Man U 2-1
Things seemed to be looking up for Arsenal when they beat Man U 2-1 on the strength of 2 goals from Samir Nasri. They're not anymore. Arsenal is in complete upheaval after following that win with back to back shutout losses, 2-0 at home to Villa, and an ugly 3-0 loss at Man City. They've stripped William Gallas of his captaincy (more on that in the current PNFM), who questioned his team's heart, and have been struggling to score without Emanuel Adebayor.

6. HULL CITY 6-4-4 -2
Recent Form- D at Portsmouth 2-2; D v. Man City 2-2; L v. Bolton 0-1
Everyone's favorite Cinderella Boys have cooled off a little, but are still managing to grind out points here and there. A 1-0 home defeat to Bolton was probably their most disappointing outing of the year. They bounced back, though, to get a 2-2 draw at home against Man City thanks to a goal by former MCFC man Marc Geovanni, who is the Tigers leading scorer this year. Hull then went on the road to Portsmouth and took advantage of Pompey missing its leading scorer, Jermain Defoe, and got a 2-2 draw on a late goal by Dean Windass. Windass. I bet he had a great-0 childhood.

7. EVERTON 5-5-4 -3

Recent Form- L at Wigan 0-1; D v. Boro 1-1; W at West Ham 3-1
Other than a 10 minute stretch late in a match at West Ham where they exploded for 3 goals, it's been a pretty uninspired November for Liverpool's other club. They managed a 1-1 draw at home against Middlesborough when Ayegbeni Yakubu equalised in the second half against his old club, then sleepwalked thru a 1-0 loss at Wigan, ending a 5 game unbeaten streak.

8. PORTSMOUTH 5-5-4 -5
Recent Form- D v. Hull 2-2; D at Portsmouth 0-0 D; W at Sunderland 2-1
Pompey's a team that continues to fight on after selling their manager, Harry Redknapp, to Tottenham for 5 million pounds, and thru losing their leading scorer, Jermain Defoe, who suffered a calf injury playing in a World Cup qualifier for England. They responded to a 2-1 home loss to Wigan with a 3 game unbeaten streak that has put them in the top half of the table.

9. FULHAM 5-5-3 +1
Recent Form- D at Liverpool 0-0; W v. Tottenham 2-1; W v. Newcastle 2-1
November has seen a surprising run by perennial relegation candidates Fulham that has seen them take 7 out of 9 points recently, including snagging a point at league co-leaders Liverpool. Prior to that draw, the Cottagers treated their fans to a pair of home wins. Danny Murphy's second half PK gave Fulham a 2-1 win over Newcastle. Fulham got its second home victory in as many weeks when they handed Tottenham their first defeat under new manager Harry Redknapp, 2-1.

Recent Form- L v. Bolton 1-3; D at Everton 1-1; W at Aston Villa 2-1
A pair of hard fought matches against upper half sides has put Boro, appropriately enough, right in the Middle of the table, which for them is pretty good. They got a big 2-1 road win against Villa with 2 goals from Turkish forward Tuncay Sanli, then got another road point with a 1-1 draw at Everton. A win in their homecoming against mediocre Bolton would have given them their sixth straight unbeaten and vaulted them to the dizzying heights of 7th place in the league, but they laid an egg and got pounded in front of their home fans 3-1.

It looks like there are going to be a lot of teams fighting the good fight to stay in the Premiership in teh second half of the season. Only 6 points separate 11th place Man City from last place West Brom. City has reason to feel good about themselves coming off a 3-0 thumping of Arsenal, but they continue to fend off rumors that their star Robinho is going to bolt to Chelsea. Bolton is on an impressive little run of wins in 3 out of 4 matches, which has gotten them clear of relegation. West Ham continues to struggle to find consistency, and continues to play below expectations. Stoke City got its signature win earlier in the month when they beat Arsenal, as a lot of teams seem to be doing lately. Since then, they've added 4 more points with a scoreless draw at Wigan and a 1-0 win at West Brom sandwiched around a 5-0 beating at the hands of Man U. Wigan has had an undefeated November, with a tie earned at Newcastle in the waning minutes, and a nice 1-0 home win over Everton taking some of the sting out of a stinkeroo scoreless draw at home against Stoke in a match you know they were counting on getting 3 points out of. Tottenham escaped the relegation zone they've been inhabiting all year when they beat a 10 man Blackburn side 1-0. Rovers have not won a match since Sept. 27 and have plummeted into the drop zone, and Paul Ince has challenged his players to "stand up and be counted.". Sunderland has also been sinking, although they are clear by a single point right now. Their only points out of their last 5 matches came in a win over scuffling Blackburn. Newcastle is still in the drop zone in 18th place, but they've been playing well of late, as evidenced by their getting a scoreless draw at Chelsea their last time out.

1. Nicolas Anelka- Chelsea 12 goals
2. Cristiano Ronaldo- Man U 8
Robinho- Man City 8
Amr Zaki- Wigan 8
5. Darren Bent- Tottenham 7
Gabriel Agbonlahor- Aston Villa 7

- Barcelona leads La Liga, and has just been destroying all comers of late. They've outscored their Spanish competition 37-9 this year, and Samuel Eto'o leads the league with 13 goals. Archrival Real Madrid is only 1 point behind, despite having some shaky outings lately and not being nearly as dominant as Barca have been this year. Real is led by the relatively anonymous Gonzalo Higuain with 9 goals. Villarreal, Valencia, and Sevilla lurk 4 or 5 points back of the perennial powers should one of them slip up. Valencia's David Villa ranks second to Eto'o in the league with 11 goals.

- Inter Milan, led by Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, leads the Italian league, and has surrendered only 7 goals in 13 matches. Their last match was a big 1-0 home win over third place Juventus that could have produced a tie atop the standings if the result went the other way. In second place 3 points back is AC Milan, the only side to beat Inter this year. Ronaldinho is finally starting to heat up for them with 3 goals in his last 4 league matches. A 2-2 draw in their last match, at Torino, is the kind of slip up though they cannot afford if they are going to win their first Scudetto since 2003/04.

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