Porto 0-1 Chelsea – Blues win to top Group D

Chelsea secured top spot in Group D after a second-half Nicolas Anelka header saw off Porto in a muted Estadio do Dragao. Many of the Porto fans elected to stay away due to both sides having already qualified for the next stage and were seemingly justified due to the drab nature of the encounter. http://www.flickr.com/photos/senaealbuquerque/378197041/ / CC BY 2.0 Both sides struggled to make an impact on the first half and were restricted to shots from range, with Chelsea proving the luckier following Fernando Belluschi’s crashing drive against Petr Cech’s…

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Match Preview – Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Saturday’s evening kick off between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur, currently separated by three points in 5th and 4th positions, is one of the biggest games of the season so far for both sides. Although the campaign is still young, victory for Spurs would be a massive blow to Villa’s bid for fourth place, while defeat would see the two sides go level on 25 points. Tottenham will go into the game high on confidence after their nine goal destruction of Wigan on Sunday, and boss Harry Redknapp will be…

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New and Views from the Football League – Harte sets for Suffolk

It seems that not everything always turns out the way we expect it to. Ipswich Town were one of the bookmakers’ pre-season favourites for a title challenge under the stewardship of former Republic of Ireland international Roy Keane. The outspoken manager had successfully turned the fortunes of Sunderland around during his time in the north east and led them storming back into the Premier League. Many saw his arrival at Portman Road as a sign that history would be about to repeat itself. Seventeen games into the season, it would…

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Hart-break at Portsmouth

Premier League management cannot be easy even under the best of circumstances. But when your club is under a transfer embargo, staff and players have gone unpaid and the ownership situation is murky at best, the job is made exponentially more difficult. Paul Hart faced exactly those conditions at Portsmouth, and with Pompey struggling at the foot of the table, it came as little surprise when Hart was relieved of his duties last night. Hart originally took over as caretaker manager of Portsmouth in February 2009 and was appointed to…

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England’s future stars – Fabian Delph

Fabian Delph is one of an increasing breed of young English stars that give the footballing nation hope of much international glory. Delph – Aston Villa’s 20-year-old midfielder – appears to have all the necessary skill and mental ability to follow in the footsteps of England’s finest central midfielders. When one watches Delph, they would be forgiven for thinking that he was a seasoned professional with hundreds of games behind him. He moves around the field like a dominant and experienced, tough-tackling midfielder. He possesses one of football’s great holy…

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Match preview – Arsenal vs. Chelsea

Arsene Wenger’s young stars will have their title credentials tested to the limit when Arsenal meet high flying local rivals Chelsea in what looks set to be a titanic clash at home this Sunday. The high flying youngsters will be looking to bounce back in style from last weekends 1-0 defeat at the hands of Sunderland, while in contrast Chelsea will look to continue their impressive form that saw them cruise past Wolves at the weekend despite a lengthy injury list. Arsenal will be confident of victory on Sunday with…

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La Liga action round-up – Week 10 – November 21/22, 2009

The fixture of the week took place at San Mames where Athletic Bilbao played host to league-leaders Barcelona. A depleted Barca side dominated the first half and should have been ahead when Lionel Messi broke through the Bilbao defence, but his shot was saved by the feet of Gorka Iraizoz. Messi then turned provider as he rounded Iraizoz and crossed the ball to the back post, only to see Xavi shoot high and wide. It was the home side, however, who spurned the best opportunity of the half. With the…

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The Championship – Week 17 review / Week 18 preview

Week 17 – There were some big upsets in the Championship, with three of the four teams in the playoff positions falling to defeat two teams from the bottom reaches of the table. The most surprising result was QPR losing at Doncaster. Donny had won just twice in their last 11 games whilst Rangers were on a run of four wins from six games and had been scoring freely. Both of the home team’s goals came in the second half, with Billy Sharp and Dean Shiels the scorers. Sharp now…

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Bundesliga action round-up – Week 13 – November 21/22, 2009

Bayer Leverkusen have maintained a narrow one point lead at the top of the Bundesliga following a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena against Bayern Munich. Munich went ahead after eight minutes through Mario Gomez, but the visitors equalized just six minutes later with Stefan Kiesling’s ninth goal of the campaign. Bayern Munich have only managed two wins in their last seven league games, and also risk dropping out of the Champions League. Manager Louis Van Gaal is coming under increasing pressure, and full-back Philipp Lahm launched an outspoken attack…

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Paul Hart leaves Portsmouth

The BBC has reported that Paul Hart has just parted company with Portsmouth F.C, bringing an end to his spell in charge that began as caretaker manager in February this year. The news will not come as too much of a surprise given a poor start to the season, and the news in October that Avram grant would become the Director of Football at the south coast club. More to follow shortly…

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Neville to miss derby day clash with Liverpool

Everton have confirmed that club captain Phil Neville will not be available for the tie against Liverpool, as the player requires surgery on his injured knee. Toffees manager David Moyes told the club website: “Phil Neville has had to go in for a minor operation on his knee and that’s put him back for a few weeks. He had a slight tear in his cartilage, which looks like it has got slightly bigger.” It was originally thought that the former Man Utd defender would not need surgery. “They’re (the surgeons)…

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Man Utd to go with youth for Besiktas tie

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is set to give his youngsters a chance to get Champions League experience on Wednesday night as Besiktas come to Old Trafford, with Darron Gibson, Rafael, Gabriel Obertan, Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda all set to start. Ferguson told Manutd.com: “Gibson will definitely play, and young Rafa as well. It’s a great challenge for these players. We’re also thinking of starting Gabriel Obertan to see how he does.” On the subject of Darron Gibson, the Man Utd boss gave the green light for more regular…

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France boss Domenech vows never to resign

Under pressure France boss Raymond Domenech has publicly declared that he will not resign from his post at any stage, no matter how unpopular he becomes with followers of les Bleus. The 57 year-old has been under-fire even more than usual this week, after the nations unconvincing performances in World cup qualification, culminating in the furore that followed the tie against the Republic of Ireland. In response, Domenech told French website l’express.fr – “I have never resigned, and I will never resign. The harder the pressure, the more I become…

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Club Focus – Aston Villa – Heskey salvages Villa a valuable point

Saturday’s early kick off saw Villa’s table rivals, Liverpool and Manchester City, finish 2-2 at Anfield. Martin O’Neill could not have hoped for a better result and it was all down to his players to take advantage of their dropped points. In truth, Villa started poorly and they did not seem to turn up until the second half. Emile Heskey, who has been under much criticism for his lack of goals, answered his critics with a priceless equaliser to guarantee a valuable point. Burnley took the lead after taking advantaging…

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Referee Wiley decides against suing Man Utd boss Ferguson

Alan Wiley has ended speculation in recent weeks that he could sue Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson for defamation, after comments made regarding the referees fitness after a 2-2 draw with Sunderland last month. Ferguson has already recieved a £20,000 fine for his suggestions that Wiley was not in the right condition to referee the tie effectively, saying “The pace of the game demanded a referee who was fit. He was not fit.” He has since apologised publicly for the comments, however was also given a four-game touchline ban. Wiley…

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Club Focus – Tottenham – Defoe show has Spurs on cloud nine

When writing a column like this, it can sometimes be hard to come up with a subject that can stretch to the word count. Other days, you get thrown something that makes you look up to the footballing heavens and say “thank you, footballing gods, thank you.” Tottenham’s match with Wigan definitely falls in to the latter category. Hands up who saw that one coming? After his heartbreaking midweek exploits in Paris, Robbie Keane was left on the bench to have a 90 minute breather. On this occasion, Spurs did…

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Club Focus – Newcastle – Clinical Nolan downs North End

Newcastle United returned to the top of the Championship on Monday night following a hard-fought win against Preston North End. In a tight, scrappy game in central Lancashire it was a moment of pure Premier League quality from Kevin Nolan that was enough to separate the two teams. From a tight angle inside the penalty area Nolan was able to conjure up a precision finish to ensure a crucial three points. Preston have made their Deepdale home one of the hardest places to visit in the Championship, but Newcastle became…

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Club Focus – Arsenal – A few firsts in the race for first

For the first time this season Arsenal showed traces of the fragility that has hamstrung their title challenges in recent seasons. The Gunners were looking to carry on where they left off prior to the international break – having been in seemingly imperious form – as they sought a maximum return from their trip north to keep the pressure firmly on Chelsea leading into next week’s crunch match. However, they succumbed to their third defeat of the season, but it is the first time that they genuinely have no grounds…

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Club Focus – Fulham – The sleepy Second City

Next time Fulham travel to Birmingham, it would be advisable for them not to allow the Sandman on the team coach. In the last season and a quarter, the Whites have travelled four times to the Second City, and have produced a staggering zero goals in those matches combined. Unsurprisingly, they have lost three of those encounters, with the only point coming in a 0-0 draw at Villa Park last season. That draw was the only match where Fulham actually played from whistle to whistle – the other three were…

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Premier League analysis – Week 13 – Can Spurs finally break the top four stranglehold?

The major talking point of the weekend came at White Hart Lane as Tottenham Hotspur ran riot against a hapless Wigan side. The question is can Spurs maintain this kind of form for the season as they aim to break the seemingly unbreakable quartet of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League? One of the fantastic strengths of Spurs this season is the incredible depth of their squad to focus on mounting a serious challenge against some of the top sides in the English…

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Club Focus – Liverpool – Drawing conclusions

Serial readers of these pages will be in desperate need of a welcome dose of positivity, so here it goes – Liverpool are now unbeaten in their last three games. That’s all you’re getting, however, as there isn’t much to smile about at Anfield right now, and it could be about to get worse. Saturday’s somewhat strangely subdued 2-2 draw with Manchester City was the Reds’ third straight tie, after also finishing on level terms with Lyon and Birmingham City. Before those games they hadn’t drawn a match in any…

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Club Focus – Portsmouth – Pompey pay the penalty

As Kevin-Prince Boateng saw his tamely struck spot-kick saved by Thomas Sorensen on seven minutes, there was only going to be one result. Paul Hart’s troops will be devastated as they can yet again feel hard done by – deserving of at least a point. In the lastClub Focus, this writer stated how a trip to the Britannia is “the ultimate Premier League challenge”, as the infamous aerial bombardment and relentless crosses serve as a huge test for any side. However, if you’d have told Hart his side would deal…

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Club Focus – Manchester United – Back on course for New Year target

Manchester United went into this weekend’s encounter with Everton knowing that nothing other than a win would suffice, following Chelsea’s thumping win against Wolves and Arsenal dropping points at the Stadium of Light. United not only did just that, they did it in style. Darren Fletcher has been the subject of rave reviews all season for his industrious displays, but what was produced on Saturday was much more on the sublime side. His first half strike was a lesson in technique. Managing to control a half-volley at the height it…

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Club Focus – Chelsea – All set to unveil young cavalry

Chelsea provided an assured performance against Wolverhampton, a day supplemented by a record breaking win with 10 successive clean sheets and 12 consecutive home victories. Even without an entourage of first team regulars, the blues dominated proceedings as Joe Cole and Michael Essien successfully occupied the roles left behind through the absence of Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Deco. With Essien adopting a more attacking role, Jon Obi Mikel was drawn into the starting XI after completing 90 minutes for Nigeria in mid-week. On his recovery from injury, the African…

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