Tuesday, May 29, 2012

France avoid big freeze against Iceland

A late turnaround for France on Sunday evening saw Laurent Blanc's side's blushes spared as they saw off Iceland 3-2 on hometurf.
Les Bleus trailed their Scandinavian opponents 2-0 at the break, with both Birkir Bjarnason and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson exposing the wayward Patrice Evra down the visitors' right flank.

Yet, second-half goals from Mathieu Debuchy, Franck Ribery and Adil Rami - the latter two coming in the final 10 minutes of the game - ensured that France stretched their unbeaten run to 19 games...
 

Europe's giants take an unlikely beating

Saturday saw shock results all over the continent as some of Europe's best and brightest were brought down to Earth by the smaller nations.

Netherlands lost 2-1 at home to Bulgaria, Germany were blown away by Switzerland in an extraordinary 5-3, while Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal could only draw 0-0 with lowly Macedonia.
It was a day in which the Davids of European football delivered some unexpected beatings to the much-fancied Goliaths, putting preconceptions into doubt ahead of Euro 2012...
 

Pep rides off into the Spanish sunset

Pep Guardiola's glorious reign as Barcelona's manager came to an end on Friday with a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final.

Two goals from Pedro and Lionel Messi's 73rd strike of an unbelievable season made it 14 trophies in Guardiola's four-year spell in charge of the Catalans.
The 41-year-old former Barcelona player announced last month that would be stepping down and it was a fitting end to the club's most successful-ever period.

Guardiola will be sorely missed by players and supporters alike as he takes a year-long sabbatical from the game - despite continued rumours of an approach from Chelsea....
 

Kagawa's sun rising at Manchester United

The news broke on Tuesday that Manchester United have launched a bid for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa.

The 23-year-old has scored 39 goals in 71 appearances for Jurgen Klopp's men as they have won back-to-back Bundesliga titles.
No wonder then that Sir Alex Ferguson is keen to do all he can to snag the Japan international ...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hulk eyes Chelsea move

After being long linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge, Porto striker Hulk has once again begun to make eyes at Chelsea as he looks to seal a big-money move this summer.
With the Blues hoping to build on last weekend's Champions League success by further revamping their squad - as well as seeking to replace Didier Drogba - a move for the Brazilian could be on the cards.

However, the £83 million fee needed to acquire Hulk's services may prove a stumbling block, even if his agent suggests the forward has outgrown life in Portugal.
 

Chelsea's Drogba love story comes to an end

Didier Drogba confirmed on Tuesday that he will leave Chelsea this summer after an eight-year spell in west London in which he has cemented his place as a club legend.
The Ivorian's last kick for the Blues came in Saturday's Champions League final victory, with his penalty sealing a dramtic win for Roberto Di Matteo's side and also his very own fairytale swansong.

While John Terry made a last ditch attempt to persuade Drogba to stay during Sunday's open-top bus parade, Chelsea have no choice but to accept the 34-year-old's decision, handing Fernando Torres the opportunity to take up his mantle in the side.

John W. Henry left scratching his head

They must have thought it would be easy to fill the void left by the recently-sacked Kenny Dalglish in the Anfield dugout, yet so far Liverpool's managerial targets have been dropping like flies.
Ajax boss Frank de Boer has become the latest boss to rule himself out of a switch to the Reds, joining Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Brendan Rodgers in saying 'thanks, but no thanks' to club owner's FSG.

Now, John W. Henry is set to choose between Roberto Martinez and Andre Villas-Boas to take the hotseat, or opt for a blast from the past with Rafa Benitez.
 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Arrivederci Del Piero

Sunday's Coppa Italia final marked the end of Alessandro Del Piero's 19-year stay with Italian giants Juventus.

The 37-year-old bowed out following his side's 2-0 loss to Napoli, a defeat which will do little to mar a remarkable career with the Old Lady and the Italian national team.
Six Serie A titles, one Champions League victory and a World Cup win mean that Del Piero will always enjoy the respect of his peers, whatever his next move.

Unhappy Torres

Torres uncertain over Chelsea future after 'disappointment' of missing out on Champions League final start

Chelsea victory written in the stars

As Chelsea lifted the Champions League trophy on Saturday night following an unlikely victory over Bayern Munich, it was hard not to feel that fate had played a large part.
The turnaround against Napoli, a backs-to-the-wall performance against Barcelona and, finally, shoot-out success in Bayern's own stadium all capped a campaign which seemed destined for success against the odds.

When ex-Chelsea winger Arjen Robben missed an extra-time penalty, it felt as though Roberto Di Matteo's side would continue to be bestowed with luck until they actually lifted the trophy.

Didier Drogba, a man who played such a large part in the Blues' presence in Munich, scored the crucial equaliser and winning penalty said it all...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Climbing the Champions League ladder

Having overcome the odds to knock out Champions League big guns Real Madrid and Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea go head to head in the final of the competition on Saturday night.
The Bavarian giants, on home turf for the final, are in search of their fifth triumph in European football's elite club competition and their first since 2001, while the Blues are yet to win the trophy owner Roman Abramovich craves the most.

With the showpiece final now almost upon us, and with Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola already seen off, will Jupp Heynckes or Roberto Di Matteo reach the top of the Champions League ladder?

Show me the Moneyball

Roberto Martinez has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Kenny Dalglish as the new Liverpool manager.
The Reds have asked Wigan for permission to speak to their boss and the Spanish tacticican will be travelling to Boston for an interview with FSG early next week.

So now Martinez will be going through his final preparations ahead of his talks as he tries to impress the club's American owners with his knowledge of their own interests, as well as finalising his own plans for Liverpool should he get the job.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Old man Ferdinand left behind as Terry & Co. board Roy’s Euro 2012 plane

There were always likely to be a few high-profile names missing from Roy Hodgson's England squad for Euro 2012, but not many predicted it would be Rio Ferdinand who was absent.
The Manchester United defender was apparently left behind due to "footballing reasons", and he confirmed via his Twitter account that he was "gutted" not to be involved, and realistically may not get another call-up in his career.

So now the veteran centre-back is left grounded as John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Hodgson jet off the Poland and Ukraine.
 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kenny walks alone

Not even his legendary status at Liverpool could save Kenny Dalglish from the axe on Wednesday as Fenway Sports Group decided that enough was enough.

The Scot paid the price for his side's disastrous Premier League form despite triumph in the League Cup, finishing below rivals Everton for the first time since 2004-05 and winning only six league games at Anfield.
So now 'King Kenny' must leave his crown behind as he sings a slightly different tune to that old Kop favourite...

Dream Catcher

Moneybags Mancini hijacks Van Persie contract talks

With Robin van Persie set to meet Arsene Wenger on Wednesday to discuss his future at Arsenal, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini will, no doubt, be keeping an ear to the ground for the latest developments.
The Dutch striker hardly filled Gunners fans with confidence by refusing to publicly commit himself to the club on Sunday: "I'll always love Arsenal whatever happens."

Yeah, thanks Robin. Mancini will be licking his lips...and holding up a huge bag of cash.
 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ruud decides to hang up his boots

A whole heap of defenders enjoyed a particularly comfortable night's sleep on Monday after the news came through that Ruud van Nistelrooy has decided to call time on his playing career.

The Malaga striker, who terrorised both the Eredivisie with PSV and the Premier League in a Manchester United shirt before initially coming to Spain with Real Madrid, happily declared that "I couldn't have a better send-off than this" as he stopped to reflect on a sparkling career...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

All of England was a stage and all the players merely, erm, players, but it was Roberto Mancini's Manchester City side who proved the star performers in the Premier League's most stunning piece of drama yet.
Their stoppage-time triumph to come from behind to beat QPR 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium was straight out of a brilliant script and made for astonishing theatre as Manchester United, winners at Sunderland, had the trophy snatched away at the last second.

Wenger cooks up another stomach-churning final day for Spurs

North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham are battling alongside Newcastle for a third-place finish in the Premier League, which would secure automatic qualification to the Champions League.
The dramatic last-day chase for a spot in Europe's elite club competition brings back memories of the 2005-06 campaign, when a dodgy lasagna ruled out a number of Spurs players for their final match against West Ham - which they subsquently lost - allowing the Gunners to take advantage and claim qualification.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Calm before Sunday's Premier League title storm

We're approaching the final day of the Premier League season and Manchester City are poised to snatch the title from rivals Manchester United.
Roberto Mancini's men host QPR in the knowledge that a win would secure the championship, while Manchester United travel to Sunderland, hoping a victory and a City slip be will be the outcome which will see them retain their crown.
 

Alessandro flying the Nesta from AC Milan to the MLS

After 223 appearances and 10 titles with AC Milan, Alessandro Nesta has called an end to his time in Serie A.
The 36-year-old, who will depart San Siro at the end of the season, claimed the pace of European football was too fast for him but revealed he is likely to continue his career in the MLS.

Falcao leaves Bilbao's kids in tears

Atletico Madrid secured Europa League success with a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday evening and Radamel Falcao was instrumental in his side's shpwpiece triumph.
The Colombian opened the scoring with a superb curled effort before completing his double 11 minutes from half-time with a sharp turn and finish from close range.

Falcao has enjoyed an extremely positive first season with the Spanish club following his arrival from Porto in the summer, notching 35 goals in all competitions - and now he has brought the Europa League trophy with him.

Rashidi Yekini's hearty celebration

It came as rude shock when the news was announced that Nigeria's record goals scorer Rashidi Yekini had died on Friday, May 4.

The man who almost single-handedly qualified the Super Eagles for their maiden World Cup in 1994 had died in ignominy, away from the klieg lights that heralded his playing days. The 1993 African footballer of the year led the Super Eagles to win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia where he scored five goals.
Perhaps the most memorable of all his record 37 international goals is that which he scored in Nigeria's first game at the World Cup, USA '94. It was a just reward that Yekini would score the country's first ever goal on the biggest stage of all and he celebrated by running into the goals, grabbed the net and screamed into the Dallas air.

The powerful man was all heart...
 

Hazard is tailor-made for Manchester

Eden Hazard is set to be one of the hottest properties in the transfer window this summer but the Lille ace remained coy on his future when questioned on Monday evening.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Roberto Mancini and Harry Redknapp have all personally scouted the forward, while Chelsea and Arsenal also remain in the hunt for the Belgium international, who has admitted he will leave Lille for the bright lights of the Premier League at the end of the season.

But when asked whether he prefers red or blue, Hazard told Canal+: "I like both. They're both nice colours. I think they both suit me."

Where will he end up?

Suarez has Terry tied up in knots

Chelsea may have lifted the FA Cup on Saturday but Liverpool had the last seasonal laugh as Kenny Dalglish's men ran out 4-1 winners over Roberto Di Matteo's charges in the Premier League on Tuesday evening.
Even more concerning for the Champions League finalists however, will be the performance of their captain John Terry, who was subjected to multiple nutmegs and an overall humbling by Luis Suarez at Anfield.
 

Juventus emerge from dark days of 2006

Juventus finally secured the Serie A title on Sunday with a victory over Cagliari, as AC Milan stuttered to defeat against rivals Inter.
The championship is the Turin side's first since their demotion to Serie B in 2006, owing to their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal.

It has been a long road back for the Old Lady, who can finally claim to be among Italy's finest once again, if they manage to avoid defeat in their final game of the season, they will have gone the entire league season unbeaten.

Chelsea pensioners enjoy FA Cup

Goals from Ramires and Didier Drogba helped Chelsea to a 2-1 FA Cup final victory over Liverpool on Saturday.
The Wembley win is a concrete sign of the turnaround in fortunes at the club since Andre Villas-Boas' departure in March, with interim boss Roberto Di Matteo leading the west Londoners to silverware and a Champions League final later this month.

Now, with the Blues securing their fourth win in the competition in six years, it seems the Chelsea pensioners are enjoying the comfort of the FA Cup...
 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Van Persie claims two trophies but Wenger is still dusting off the cobwebs

Robin van Persie was the toast of English football on Thursday night as the Arsenal striker accepted his Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award.

It was the second accolade of the season for the Netherlands international, who was also named the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year just a few weeks ago.
But Arsenal and Arsene Wenger remain empty-handed for another season, leaving the Frenchman to dust the cobwebs out of the trophy cabinet for another season. 

Ronaldo strikes again to put Mourinho in a league of his own

Real Madrid secured their 32nd La Liga title on Wednesday night with a 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 44th league goal of the season in just 35 starts, while Mesut Ozil and Gonzalo Higuain were also on target.

The victory meant Ronaldo - and his manager, Jose Mourinho - finally bowled over Barcelona, ending their dominance in Spain after three consecutive league championships.
 

Hodgson takes England hot seat

 The Football Association confirmed the appointment of Roy Hodgson as the new England manager on Tuesday, giving the West Brom boss a few short weeks to assess and assemble a squad ahead of Euro 2012.
Hodgson gave the impression of a man undaunted by the task of winning over England fans and players, despite not being the favourite for the job prior to his appointment.

But plenty of coaches - popular or otherwise - have been burned by the England hot seat in the past. Will the former Fulham man still be relishing the role after a while on the throne?
 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Noisy neighbours

It had been billed as the biggest Premier League fixture of all time, and whilst there may not have been the drama and incident to match the hype, Roberto Mancini's men's 1-0 victory over Manchester United signalled another turning of the tide in the title race.
Vincent Kompany's first-half header set City on their way to a vital three points at the Etihad Stadium, and while tensions flared between Sir Alex Ferguson and his Italian counterpart, the Scotsman was unable to inspire his side.

Instead, the Red Devils were left to return to Old Trafford with their tails between their legs and their noisy neighbours are starting to become defeaning.
 

Roy Hodgson sneaks up on Redknapp

The FA shocked the football world on Sunday evening when they moved to appoint West Brom boss Roy Hodgson as England manager.
The news came as a surprise, and probably none more so than to Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp, who has been touted as heavy favourite for the role since Fabio Capello's departure.

Now, with the former West Ham manager having spent the past month suggesting half the Spurs squad will leave White Hart Lane in the summer, he finds himself in a right pickle, with the 65-year-old having his dream move snatched away from him by Roy.