Club Focus – Newcastle – Magpies make light work of Swans

Newcastle United made light work of their potentially tricky match against in-form Swansea City with a three goal salvo in the first half hour. Two goals from Marlon Harewood and one from Peter Lovenkrands effectively killed off the game early on. The second half saw Newcastle take their foot off the gas as the Swans began to get on top but the defence stayed solid to keep yet another clean sheet. The win also means that the Magpies stay top of the table, despite another impressive performance from free-scoring West…

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Andrew Tuft’s Monday column – Cult of personality at the heart of Megson’s woes

Gary Megson will have been delighted with Bolton Wanderer’s away draw against Fulham, and not only because of the valuable point gained on the trip to the capital. Perhaps equally as satisfying for Megson personally will have been the chance to escape the taunts of his own fans. Seemingly under pressure from the moment he arrived at the Reebok Stadium, Megson has been showered with chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” as his team have won just once at home. Currently, the Trotters sit 18th, two points behind…

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News and Views from the Football League – All washed out

Controversy never seems to be too far away in our beautiful game. Whether Thierry Henry is breaking Irish hearts in Paris, or matches are being abandoned on the domestic front, there will always be room for debate in football. Whilst most of the Football League were doing battle in the FA Cup second round, it was business as usual in the Championship. Despite the appalling conditions across the country as wind and rain of biblical proportions swept in again, the entire Championship fixture list went ahead as planned. However, Plymouth…

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Aston Villa 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur – Dawson the saviour as Spurs climb to third

Tottenham Hotspur fought back at Villa Park this evening to claim a well deserved draw. The North Londoners replace rivals Arsenal in third place; if only for a night. Gabriel Agbonlahor opened the scoring early on in the first half and a brave fight back from Spurs then ensued leading to stand-in captain Michael Dawson stealing the show with a fine laced finish to secure the point for the Lilywhites. Spurs started brightly, and an early chance fell to Niko Kranjcar. The Croatian connected well but blasted straight at Brad…

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La Liga player profile – Karim Benzema

Age – 21 Club – Real Madrid Position – Forward Nationality – French Karim Benzema is the latest in a flurry of signings by the reinvigorated Spanish giants, Real Madrid. Benzema joins world class attacking players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, which in a sense makes his task to succeed at Madrid even more difficult. Born in Lyon in 1987, Benzema joined the Lyon Youth Academy at the age of nine. A quick rise led to Karim scoring 38 goals in a single season for the under-16 side. A…

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Mischa Wilmers’ Sunday Column – United put pressure on Chelsea with resounding win at Portsmouth

With Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea all competing today, yesterday’s spotlight at the top of the table was on Manchester United. The Champions faced bottom side Portsmouth – a fact which was reflected by the scoreline. Anything other than a win for the Red Devils against Portsmouth would have spelled catastrophe for Sir Alex Ferguson’s title ambitions. Fortunately for both the manager and fans the Reds won 4-1 and put their Premier League title challenge firmly back on course, albeit with a performance which was once again slightly shaky in parts.…

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La Liga News – Clash of the Titans

The majority of those who follow Spanish football are often quick to claim that La Primera Liga is more than just a two-horse race. But when the fixtures computer generated its precious list back in July, there was just one date that was the focus of the world’s attention. On Sunday November 29th, the biggest match in world football will take place at the Camp Nou. Ladies and gentlemen, this is El Cl

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Club Focus – Chelsea – Expectation ahead

Chelsea secured top spot in the Champions League group stage as they defeated Porto courtesy to a close range Nicolas Anelka header. The win continues the Blues impressive run, both in front of goal and protecting their own. Carlo Ancelotti’s men must now look forward to a super Sunday showdown with Arsenal. Returns for several first team players were in line against the infamous Portuguese side with top performers from last Saturdays 4-0 win dropped to the bench or rested entirely. Michael Ballack, Deco, Branislav Ivanovic, Ricardo Carvalho and Yury…

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Bundesliga Focus – Mainz enjoying the high life

The current season is just 13 weeks old but it has already been quite an eventful campaign for Bundesliga new boys Mainz. Promoted as 2.Bundesliga runners-up last term, Mainz have experienced both the highs and lows that come with top flight status, all before the winter break. The season started with a humiliating cup exit at the hands of fourth tier outfit Lubeck, which resulted in promotion winning Coach Jorn Andersen being sacked before the domestic season had even kicked off. Since then however, things couldn’t have been rosier with…

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Bundesliga player profile – Mesut Ozil, Werder Bremen

When Werder Bremen sold Diego to Juventus in the summer of 2009, there was an unusual sense of tranquillity amongst the supporters considering their club had just sold its star player. That air of calm around the terraces of the Weserstadion was due to the fact that most people felt that Bremen had a perfect replacement already within their current squad. The presence of young Mesut Ozil was enough to keep even the most hardcore of Werder fans minds at ease, given his meteoric rise in the 2008/09 season. The…

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Ligue 1 Focus – OM in hot water. Again

Olympique Marseille have this week received a sanction to play an upcoming Ligue 1 match behind closed doors. This follows the events during the meeting with Monaco at the Stade Velodrome in Week eight of the French season. A match behind closed doors is the final decision of the Disciplinary Commission for the incidents in the encounter between the two teams when over 20 missiles were thrown at players on the pitch, with around 49 reports of flares in the crowd. According to a LFP statement, it is the not…

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Club Focus – Manchester United – Youngsters struggle before key Premier League weekend

Looking back to the last time that Manchester United were on the wrong end of the score line at Old Trafford in the Champions League you have to go back as far as 2005. On the pitch that night was a 19-year-old Wayne Rooney and a 20-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo who carried the future hopes of the club on their backs. Both these players had experience of Champions League football – Ronaldo was involved in the competition for the second season for United and Rooney may have been in his debut…

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A Different Week – Change isn’t always for the best

Managers are always the first to take the flack for any hazardous circumstance that results in a poor run of form. Sometimes this blame is correctly rubber-stamped, and a club does indeed have the right to demand of the manager their minimum expectation of achievement. However more often, a board capitulates to popular pressure and finds a scapegoat for its own crimes. Take Paul Hart for example. Ostensibly this is a man who is taking over a club that has been knocking on the door to Europe for a couple…

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Club Focus – Manchester City – Citizens’ arresting form needs to improve

Two teams with contrasting form will be in action on Saturday as Manchester City host Hull City at Eastlands. But it is the visitors who find themselves with momentum, having gone unbeaten in November with wins over Stoke City and Everton and a draw with West Ham, whereas the Blues stumble from one draw to another and have not won since September. After taking a point from Anfield last weekend, Mark Hughes’ men need to get back to winning ways as soon as possible, lest their Champions League qualification hopes…

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Club Focus – Aston Villa – O’Neill’s call for improvement

Having already beaten Chelsea, Liverpool and drawn with Manchester City, Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham provide the next tough test for Martin O’Neill’s Villans. The Villa manager will want his team to respond after last weekend’s disappointing draw against Burnley, particularly in front of their home fans. The mentality in the Spurs dressing room, on the other hand, will be exuberant the moment as the players will still be on a high following their 9-1 thrashing of Wigan. Great excitement surrounds the clash, especially because both teams are identifying themselves as early…

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Club Focus – Portsmouth – All change on the south coast

There was an air of inevitability surrounding Paul Hart’s dismissal. His post match interviews were beginning to sound like a stuck record and his “we deserved more” line has become something of a catchphrase for the former Nottingham Forest boss. It must be said that Hart has served the club extremely well, as under the circumstances he did a steady job. With all the departures and money troubles, he managed to build a decent team who have shown some real promise. However, the facts don’t lie. Since taking over in…

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Club Focus – Liverpool – His name is Rafa

Now this writer’s name isn’t Earl, but he does know that if you do bad things in football, then bad things are likely to happen to you. Liverpool’s failure to hold onto good results against Lyon as they entered stoppage time both at Anfield and in eastern France is the reason why the Reds found themselves demoted to European football’s second tier on Tuesday night – Fiorentina’s 1-0 victory over the French side is not. The bad mistakes that Liverpool made during the group stage meant that they weren’t deserving…

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Club Focus – Tottenham – Woody focussed on club not country

Once rated as the future of England’s defence, Jonathan Woodgate has seen his international aspirations shattered by injuries over the years. Having worked hard to return from a string on physical woes, the 29-year-old is now focussed on establishing himself in the Tottenham team. Whilst he might allow himself the occasional dream of wearing a different white shirt in South Africa, he admits that his World Cup ambitions are as good as over. Fabio Capello has clearly taken note of Woodgate in the past, capping the former Real Madrid man…

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Club Focus – Arsenal – Standard performance

“What is important is that if you want to be petty in life you look at what others do. If you want to be big in life you look at your own performance.” The midweek result was exactly what the professor ordered as Arsenal cruised to victory, putting the weekend defeat firmly behind them. The Gunners sealed their place in the last 16 of the Champions League for the 10th successive season after a 2-0 victory over Standard Liege – a result indicative of the consummate ease with which they…

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Club Focus – Newcastle – Geordies in great team spirit

Newcastle defender Steven Taylor believes that Newcastle’s battling qualities have stemmed from a happy and content dressing room. Those qualities were evident in Monday night’s victory over Preston, as they were able to grind out a narrow victory, despite being unable to hit the heights they have reached at times this season. Over the last few seasons there has been a lack of spirit and cohesion about Newcastle, as players have been happy to come in on big wages but shown little appetite for the fight. The players who remain,…

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Club Focus – Fulham – Comfortable?

For 67 minutes, it didn’t feel so. The Whites were troubled far more in the win against Blackburn on Wednesday night than they were in defeat to Birmingham on Saturday. The scoreline however, disagrees with this statement. “Back to winning ways,” declared most newspapers yesterday morning, hidden amongst the array of Champions League results. True, it was the Cottagers first win in November however, Fulham will not play such an inferior first half all season without finding themselves behind at the break. If Franco Di Santo did not crumble under…

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Wigan refund – Thanks but no thanks

In the wake of their 9-1 destruction by Tottenham on Sunday, Wigan’s players decided to refund the fans who made the long trip to London. The gesture has received widespread approval and praise, serving as an antidote to those who argued players and clubs were losing touch with the common fan. The whole event throws up an intriguing question – should football fans encourage the cultivation of financially focused apologies from their clubs? If not, why not? Within 24 hours of the worst defeat in Wigan’s 31-year league history, embarrassed…

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Champions League Analysis – Can Chelsea win the Champions League?

With Match day five now submitted to memory, qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League is already assured for only a number of clubs. Bordeaux, Chelsea, Fiorentina, Lyon, Manchester United and Arsenal have passed difficult group tests to take their place in the business end of the competition with one match to spare. European footballing giants like last years finalists Real Madrid and Barcelona top their groups and are almost certain to go through but there is still a little work to be done yet. On the English…

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Champions League action round-up – Matchday 5 – November 24/25, 2009

The fifth match-day revealed the fate of the five British teams in this season’s competition. With Chelsea and Manchester United already through to the last 16, Arsenal, Liverpool and Rangers all had the opportunity to follow the Premier League champions and runners-up of the Champions League. However, Arsenal were the only team to qualify whilst Liverpool and Rangers crashed out at the first hurdle. Liverpool desperately needed a win away against Debrecen and when David Ngog opened the scoring just after four minutes, Rafa Benitez could not have been happier.…

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Match preview – Everton vs. Liverpool – Merseyside rivals hope for derby-day boost

These Merseyside giants lock horns once again on Sunday, with both having started the campaign in severely disappointing fashion. Liverpool’s failure to qualify for the knockout stages of the prestigious Champions League has left several fans reeling, whilst plunging the most successful English club into even more financial misery. Their Merseyside rivals Everton on the other hand sit in fourteenth position in the Premier League, a considerable ten places below where they aspire to be. The duo have been stung by a whole host of injuries to their squads, an…

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