28 February 2007

In other news, the earth is round

Beckhams' move to L.A. to be reality show.

Really, is anyone surprised by this? That said, I'm totally going to watch it -- I have a fairly large soft spot for the Beckhams, and their pre-World Cup special on the BBC was unexpectedly charming. As long as they don't convert to Scientology, I'm totally supportive of this show. Everyone needs a little fluff in their TV schedule, and there's no Top Model in the summer. Perfect.

20 February 2007

Today in piracy

In preparation for Wednesday's game against Porto, Andriy Shevchenko would like to remind you that while he may not be able to score, he can certainly swash the hell out of your buckle. And he will, too.

18 February 2007

Champions League round of 16

Oh, Champions League, I have missed you. Really, it's been far too long since Liverpool got ignominiously knocked out of a cup competition. And with Barcelona coming up on Wednesday, I can't really see this going any other way, honestly. I know Barca have had some dressing room turmoil recently, but nothing on the level of attacking your teammate with a golf club, I don't think. Seriously, boys? Now is not the time. (Not that there's ever really a time to attack your teammate with a golf club, I suppose.) I'd like to discount this, but the club's not denying it, so I'm inclined to think it's true. Which, what the hell? I can think of very few things worth attempting to break a person's legs, and "refusal to perform karaoke" sure as hell isn't on the list.

Anyway. The Champions League returns this week with the round of 16, and for some reason, I feel the need to predict the winners. Mostly because it's distracting me from my ridiculous amounts of reading. So, without further ado:

Tuesday's games

  • Celtic-Milan: Say whatever you want about Milan having a bad year (and it's probably true). Celtic can't win away in Europe, and they've had some trouble scoring at home against quality opposition. UEFA.com is saying Inzaghi is out for Milan, but I don't see that making much of a difference, honestly. Celtic's been lucky to get this far, and I think this is where their lack of experience will show. Milan.

  • PSV-Arsenal: This one's hard to call for me. PSV aren't anywhere as solid as they've been in the past; Liverpool drew them away and beat them pretty handily at home, and I think in the past they would have struggled there. PSV have been struggling a bit since Hiddink left, but my god, Arsenal have been incredibly inconsistent all season, and unable to score when they really need to. That CSKA game comes to mind, as does the FA Cup match against Rovers this weekend. I think they'll be able to pull it out, though, especially since they actually care about this competition. Arsenal.

  • Lille-Manchester United: Man, I never want to hear Man U fans complain about a difficult draw again. Lille are improving, but Man U is worlds better than they were when they finished fourth in their group last year. As much as I'd like to call this as an upset, I just can't. Man U.

  • Real Madrid-Bayern Munich: Hm, this is two traditional powerhouses, both in all kinds of trouble this season. Well, where all kinds of trouble is defined as still being in the top four in their domestic leagues. But they're both having managerial issues, with Capello not being the cure-all Real had hoped, and Munich firing their manager. Considering Bayern topped a more difficult group, and Real got swept by Lyon, I'm going with Bayern.

Wednesday's games
  • Roma-Lyon: Um, two teams from leagues I don't really follow. Lyon have been good in the Champions League the past few years, but they've struggled in their domestic league recently (though they're still about 500 points clear of everyone else). This is Roma's first trip to the Round of 16 in a few years, but they've been a lot stronger domestically in the past few weeks than Lyon have. I have no idea how to call this one, so I'm going with who has the better uniforms. Since there's no brown in theirs, that means Lyon.

  • Barcelona-Liverpool: Liverpool's coming off a disappointing loss to Newcastle, an extremely distant third in the Premiership, and they're apparently choosing to spend training beating each other up over karaoke. Barcelona are having a little bit of difficulty over Eto'o's return and Ronaldinho's morale, but most of that seems to be resolved now. Oh, and also they're top of La Liga and looking to defend their double. As much as I'd love to believe Liverpool will win this, I just can't. Sorry, boys. Barca.

  • Porto-Chelsea: Meh. This is another one I'd like to call as an upset, but as great as that would be, I don't think it'll happen. Porto way overpeformed when they won in 2004, and their squad has been really weakened since then. Oh, and also, Mourinho's now at Chelsea, as y'all may have heard. Chelsea's having an off-season for them, and their two big buys haven't really paid off. But you don't really need Shevchenko to be firing on all cylinders when Drogba's scoring enough for two strikers, which he has been recently. This is an easy call, as much as I hate it. Chelsea.

  • Inter-Valencia: Inter's running all over (a weakened) Serie A. Valencia's struggling in La Liga. Inter's got a gigantic squad, with a lot of quality acquired by picking over Juve's team. Valencia has some good players, but they're in a bit of difficulty recently, too. While this could be tough, I'm saying Inter.

You may notice that I didn't mention the FA Cup. This is because I am pretending it doesn't exist. Unless Reading manage to beat Man U, in which case I will be cheering for them all the way.

13 February 2007

The future of Italian football

Can the Italian leagues be saved? They have had a hell of a year, to be fair -- scandal, scandal, relegation, appeal, World Cup win, scandal, and now this whole situation with the riots at the games. I'm not sure that the entire league is irredeemable, but I do think they need to make some serious changes. I think resuming play the week after was way too soon. Even if you're not letting people into the most dangerous stadia, it doesn't seem like there's been any real attempt at meaningful reform. I know this is a problem in most European leagues -- hell, I'm a Liverpool fan, of course I know that. But it does seem difference in Italian culture, and it'll probably take a lot more than making a few quick changes to the stadia to make any real difference in things. I almost want to see the Italian clubs barred from Europe for this; it took a sanction like that to make the English FA get serious about changing that fan culture. I think that Italian football can be saved, but I'm not sure that the Italian FA is willing to make the changes necessary to do so. They already have declining attendance, but this could be the end of things unless there's some long-term changes made. Beyond, you know, only allowing in season ticket holders.

06 February 2007

In re takeover: Hm.

Well, the takeover is done. I was watching the press conference while I was getting ready for classes this morning, and I have to say, it's weird to hear someone with a Texas accent answering questions at Anfield. But they said a couple of things that were good to hear -- especially that they're not carrying any debt into their purchase of the club, and that they're planning to break ground fairly soon on the new stadium. I was less happy to hear that selling naming rights is a possibility, but that's not entirely surprising, considering that the Dallas Stars play at the American Airlines Center and the Rangers at Ameriquest Field. (To say nothing of the Reebok and the Emirates in the Premiership.) I'd like to see whatever new stadium still be called Anfield, though, mostly because I'm a big sap about things like that. But really, as long as it's not "the Stadium in Liverpool," I'll be okay with it.

All in all, it's really still too soon to tell about things like this, I think. Everyone was predicting disaster when the Glazers bought Manchester United a few seasons ago, and they seem to be doing pretty well these days. So, I'm cautiously optimistic, and I'm happy that they've said the priority is going to be getting a new stadium and better players. But yeah, definitely taking a wait-and-see approach here. (And trying to figure out whether the Fiver is going to start calling them the Liverpool Stars, the Liverpool Canadiens, or the Liverpool Rangers. Either way, it's better than the MU Soccerball Rowdies, I think.)

05 February 2007

Liverpool, Texas?

Yeah, things have happened since I've been gone. Things worth talking about, unlike the transfer window. And some of them were even Liverpool-related! Actually, all of them today, which I think is unusual. But, you know, when there aren't any sex tapes released, what can you do? Today's theme: being confronted with harsh reality. And also, people paying a lot of money for Liverpool.

  1. First, another frustrating Merseyside derby. Now, I was out in the woods with no Internet access, so I have yet to see this game live (believe me, I didn't pick the date to go away). Nevertheless, all the chances in the world don't do you any good if you can't convert them, and there went our best chance at getting a shot at second. Chelsea will probably be a lot harder to beat now that Terry's back fit, and now they're six points clear. So, yeah. Yay for keeping another clean sheet and keeping League Fortress Anfield secured, but I'd be a lot happier about this if they'd been able to get a goal off. Crouch and Bellamy, I'm looking at you.

  2. Related to that: Everton gets offended if you call them "a small club." While that wasn't the nicest or the most politic thing for Rafa to say, honestly? The truth hurts. I'll be the first to admit that Liverpool has some problems, like not winning the league for 15 years. But as the Fiver said today:
    Liverpool are the only club in the top four not to have won the league in the last 15 years, so their status as a big club is as questionable as the award a [sic] Labour peerage, but when Everton chief executive Keith Wyness issued a statement saying that Rafa "was in a minority of one in believing Everton, is in any respect, a small football club", it sounded like the Liverpool boss had struck a nerve as raw as a rookie marine in downtown Da Nang, circa 1972. And with Liverpool having outshone their Merseyside rivals for most of the last 20 years, it sounds like the Toffees doth protest a little too much.
    Oh, and also? The year they finished fourth, Liverpool won the Champions League. Just saying. (Also, Toffees? Weirdest nickname ever. Except maybe Cottagers.)

  3. And it looks like the American takeover of Liverpool is gonna go through. This is kind of a weird deal; Tom Hicks is the second Texan I've ever heard of that's interested in soccer. But if they're willing to fund a new stadium and better transfers, I'm all for it. I mean, it's not any weirder than an Icelandic biscuit magnate taking over a team doomed to relegation, so why not? I'm willing to see how this goes. (Also? I'm American. I can't really get all high and mighty about other Americans investing in my team.)

  4. Finally tonight, Steven Gerrard is captaining England Wednesday. Yay! I'd be a little happier if he didn't sound quite as much in love with Xabi Alonso, though -- I mean, I totally understand being in love with Xabi Alonso, but I'm not playing against him in two days. It is good to see that not everyone's as pissed at Joey Barton as Frank Lampard is. I mean, everything Barton said is true -- England did play like shit, and Lampard and Gerrard still have not figured out how to play together. Once more, the truth hurts.