Club Focus – Aston Villa – Mixed feelings after derby draw

The Villans were only able to muster a 1-1 draw with Wolves on Saturday which was an anti-climactic follow-up to their victory over Chelsea the previous weekend. Lacking their usual attacking flair as well as their confident possession on the ball, Martin O’Neill’s men were unable to break down a resolute Wolves squad. In the end a draw was a fair result, but whereas it showed the Wanderers’ spirit to earn a respectable result against a top side, it also showed the contradictory nature of the Villa team. It is…

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Club Focus – Chelsea – Blues’ Lancashire lope

The Blues were rampant against Lancashire side Blackburn on Saturday, with natural flair and real attacking potency on display in a resounding 5-0 home win. A performance that will no doubt transfer fear across the country, with both the Manchester contenders dropping points as well as Arsenal and Liverpool already finding themselves in compromising positions, the challengers will be looking up apprehensively at the Blues. Chelsea’s performance has highlighted their capabilities which remained dormant against both Wigan and Aston Villa – raising concerns that their away form may resist the…

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Club Focus – Newcastle – Last gasp Nolan sends Magpies top

Newcastle brought an end to their winless run against Doncaster Rovers with a performance that was less than convincing. In a game lacking quality but high on drama a late goal from the free-scoring Kevin Nolan saw 10-men Newcastle just scrape home. The win also sees Newcastle return to the top of the table as West Brom again failed to secure all three points. A win was a must against opponents who have struggled on their travels all season and are one of the Championship’s great underdogs. But for long…

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Club Focus – Tottenham – Silverware lining after Stoke loss

The weekend’s defeat at home to Stoke came almost five years to the day after the death of Bill Nicholson. The great man, Tottenham’s all-time greatest manager, led the club to the league and cup double in 1960/61, and in doing so becoming the first team to achieve the feat in the 20th century. This season, some 49 years later, has seen the best start to a campaign by a Spurs side since. The loss to the Potters should be viewed as no more than a slight stumble, and Harry…

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Club Focus – Fulham – A striking issue

For a club with as bad a Premier League away record as Fulham, having gained ten points from the last five league outings to Manchester City is, frankly, remarkable. The City of Manchester stadium is the Whites’ happiest stomping ground outside of SW6, but when Martin Petrov fired home to make it 2-0 on the hour mark on Sunday, that looked set to change. But, showing exactly the kind of resilience Aaron Hughes before the game declared himself proud of, within eight minutes of the almost certain winner, Fulham were…

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Premier League Analysis – Week 10 – Battling Reds spare Benitez’ blushes

Apprehension, anxiety and pressure will have been the feelings for under-fire Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez as the hugely significant game with Manchester United approached this weekend. After four straight losses Benitez got Liverpool back on track with a tough, hard-fought win against their fierce north-west rivals. A last minute goal from Lyon in the Champions League group stage was enough previously to ensure that Liverpool were defeated for the fourth time in a row – Benitez’ worst run of form as Liverpool manager. Tactically Liverpool seemed deprived of energy and…

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West Ham 2-2 Arsenal – Hammers show resilience with strong fight-back

Arsenal threw away a two goal lead at Upton Park as West Ham managed to rescue a point from a match which looked to be over at half-time. Some inspired changes by West Ham manager, Gianfranco Zola, seemed to have the desired effect as the Hammers managed to salvage not only a very important point but some much-needed confidence too. The Gunners will be walking away from this match wondering how they failed to get the three points and where it all went wrong. After controlling the play for the…

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News and Views from the Football League – There is still magic in the old cup yet

The league tables are beginning to take shape as we progress through the season, so it will be interesting to see how the clubs of the football league perform this time around in the beautiful game’s oldest knock-out competition. Recent seasons have seen a monopoly develop on the FA Cup. Between Everton lifting the trophy in 1995 and Portsmouth’s victory in 2008, only teams from our so-called ‘Big Four’ have lifted the coveted silverware. Of course, this is not entirely surprising – at present these are the most successful sides…

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Burnley 1-3 Wigan – Clarets crash in Lancashire derby

Burnley slumped to their first home defeat of the season against an inspired Latics side who fought back to take all three points. The afternoon started brightly for Burnley, with Robbie Blake flying past Mario Melchiot before delivering a pin-point cross past Chris Kirkland, to land right in front of Steven Fletcher. The Claret’s top scorer was hardly going to miss from there and managed to get enough on the ball to send it crashing into the roof of the net after four minutes. Wigan responded in quick fashion. Captain…

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Wolves 1-1 Aston Villa – Sylvan Ebanks a point in tepid west Midlands derby

United beat City 4-3 in the Manchester derby. Blackburn beat Burnley 3-2 in the Lancashire equivalent. Now it was time for the west Midlands to have its say, and Wolves vs. Aston Villa had a lot to live up to. And as Gabriel Agbonlahor was sent free – by a Brad Friedel goal kick caught by the wind – inside the opening two minutes, you could have been forgiven for thinking these two sides would produce another scintillating local encounter. The England striker’s attempt was weak, however, and the rest…

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Bundesliga Focus – Pressure Mounting on Babbel

It has been a surprisingly rough ride so far this season for supporters of Stuttgart, but no-one is feeling the effects more than manager Markus Babbel. Following a week that saw two home defeats, the ex-Germany defender has had to fend off criticism of his leadership and will look to the weekend tie at Hannover to prove he is still the right man to help take Stuttgart forward. It is a sign of how quickly things can change in football, with Babbel being cast as the scapegoat for his team’s…

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Roy Keane – Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Hot off the heels of the last fiery debate, Should He Stay or Should He Go? returns to judge the dire situation at Ipswich Town and ask if Roy Keane’s time as manager is up. Down at Portman Road, there is a genuine worry that Ipswich is in deep trouble. They are rooted to the bottom of the Championship and have failed to register a win so far this season. Ipswich Town, historically at least, used to mix it with the big boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s.…

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Club Focus – Manchester United – Record equaled before biggest game of the season

The first task facing this Manchester United side this week was to come through the tough away trip to Moscow in the UEFA Champions League without defeat – one which was done in the style of true champions. Not only did United not lose, they came away with all three points and a clean sheet meaning that they have taken maximum points from their first three Champions League group games this season. With the benchmark for progression through the group usually set at around ten points, this good early start…

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The Championship – Week 13 review / week 14 preview

Week 13 – A 2-0 home win against Derby was not enough to save Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate his job. The former Boro and England defender was given the chop following the match, with Chairman Steve Gibson saying the decision was made weeks ago to swing the axe. On the pitch, Adam Johnson scored both goals – the first coming from the penalty spot – to end a run of three straight defeats at the Riverside. With results elsewhere going their way, Boro are now just one point from the…

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Club Focus – Tottenham – Big boys and even bigger boys

Tottenham are gunning for the big boys – so says Harry Redknapp. The so called big four are showing signs of weakness and Spurs are determined to be first in the queue for the reallocation of the top four spots this season. Whilst Manchester United and Chelsea seem to be still out of reach, at least if Spurs’ meetings with them so far this season are used as a guide, Liverpool are in a pickle and Arsenal still look lightweight. Redknapp’s charges have already dispatched the Reds on the opening…

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Match preview – Wolves vs. Aston Villa – Molineux faithful out for revenge

Wolves go into Saturday’s game against Aston Villa looking to register their first win against their Midlands rivals since 1980. Villa will be high on confidence after coming from behind to beat title contenders Chelsea 2-1 at the weekend. Wolves, in contrast, have not won in four and will be seeking to end that sequence in front of what promises to be a partisan Molineux crowd. These two sides have only met twice in the league in the past 25 years – both during Wolves’ ill fated top-flight sojourn in…

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Club Focus – Fulham – How many officials does it take to change a light bulb?

The answer is more than six, apparently. Although there was no bulb, only a red card to flourish, the fifth (or sixth, perhaps) official helped the referee to make an absolute mockery of the argument for having extra brains to help with difficult decisions. The decision in question was the sending off of Fulham right-back, Steven Kelly, or centre-back, Brede Hangeland. Forgetting for a moment that a red card in itself was a ludicrous decision, two trained professionals not knowing who actually gave away the (soft) penalty is inexcusable. It…

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Club Focus – Chelsea – Ivorian striker steals the show

And no, it was not the absence of Didier Drogba but his international colleague Salomon Kalou who will see his name in the limelight. The Chelsea player has found himself on the fringe of the first team for the previous four seasons but after securing the blues victory in Europe he may have submitted a significant case for a start at Blackburn this coming Saturday. The 24-year-old started with some questionable finishing, almost impossibly slotting wide after a well-paced ball from Michael Ballack. The Ivorian also interfered with play when…

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Europa League action round-up – Matchday 3 – October 22, 2009

Fulham came agonizingly close to pulling off a famous victory over Roma at Craven Cottage last night. They scored the opener after 24 minutes, when Brede Hangeland headed in from Bjorn Helge Riise’s corner. Roma brought on David Pizarro and Simone Perrotta at half-time and began to get a foothold in the game. The pressure finally told when deep in the second half Stephen Kelly felled John Arne Riise in the penalty area. The referee awarded the Romans a penalty and confusion followed when, astonishingly, he showed a red card…

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Club Focus – Portsmouth – Boateng and O’Hara key for Pompey in relegation six-pointer

It has been a relatively quiet week on the south coast as Portsmouth’s off the pitch problems begin to settle down. It has left Paul Hart and his men a clear week to focus on one of the biggest games of their season. Pompey visit relegation rivals Hull on Saturday knowing losing would leave them seven points off the Tigers – who are considered one of the favourites for the drop – while a win for the Blues would lift them off the foot of the table and leave them…

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Club Focus – Newcastle – Magpies need to halt winless win

Newcastle suffered their second defeat of the week as they extended their winless run to a worrying four games. A 2-1 reverse away to Scunthorpe was slightly unfair on the Magpies as they probably just shaded the game, especially in terms of chances created. However, some major lapses in defence and some great goalkeeping from Scunny ‘keeper Joe Murphy meant Newcastle went away pointless. On paper the two clubs are poles apart with Newcastle boasting Argentinian and England internationals in their ranks and a wage bill that must dwarf Scunthorpe’s…

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Club Focus – Liverpool – Anfield house of cards teeters on the brink

1987 was an odd year. The Firm spent two weeks at number one with the bizarre Star Trekkin’, a song only mildly more irritating than the year’s biggest selling single, Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, a motto that Great Britain seemed to have adopted with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who swept to her third successive election victory to groans of desperation nationwide. It was also the year that Liverpool FC last lost four matches in a row. Back then there wasn’t even a mention of the word…

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Club Focus – Aston Villa – Fringe players waiting for the nod from O’Neill

Aston Villa’s squad depth has no doubt been an integral part of their recent success in the Premier League. However, with a vast array of talent to choose from, it means that certain players will not get their desired amount of first team football. Martin O’Neill has the difficult job of keeping his fringe players happy with the likes of Emile Heskey, Nigel Reo-Coker, Fabian Delph, Craig Gardner Habib Beye and Nicky Shorey all waiting patiently for a real chance to prove their worth. O’Neill, however, understands the need for…

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A Different Week – Deflating times at Liverpool

It is not often that a beach ball is the most talked about item of a Premier League weekend but that was what happened this week. It was such a bizarre situation and one that would be extremely difficult to replicate if one was so inclined. It was revealed after the game that referee should have disallowed the goal and ordered a drop ball but in all honesty where is the fun in that? Another point to note was that it was a Liverpool fan who threw the ball onto…

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Real Madrid 2-3 Milan – Los Galacticos stunned by Milanese mettle

Real Madrid and Milan played out a five-goal thriller on Wednesday night as Leonardo’s Rossoneri came away with a vital three points in a night both goalkeepers will want to forget. The game was a cagey affair in the opening 45, but Real, led by Raul and former Milan hero Kaka in attack, did most of the early pressing and were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty for Gianluca Zambrotta’s late tackle on Karim Benzema in the box. However, they soon took the lead as Dida’s calamitous error on…

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