Why Losing is Good for Manchester City

In March of this year, Manchester City, on top of the Premier League, was doing the impossible.  Inundated with talent, bolstered by wealthy owners, Manchester’s other club had turned rival Premier League juggernauts into sympathy cases.  Chelsea couldn’t outspend City, Arsenal had become its feeder club, Liverpool a punchline.  Even Alex Ferguson couldn’t come up with a solution, with comparably meager financial resources at his disposal.  City was unassailable, too talented, too deep.  The club’s financial advantage had reduced the Premier League Season to a coronation.  Fans of competitive balance in sports were resigned to the inevitable. [Read more…]

John Terry – Bulletproof

I’d love to sit in on one of John Terry’s pregame speeches.  See him at work on the practice field, in the locker room.  Because John Terry must be one inspiring son of a bitch.  If you played word association in English soccer, “captain” would immediately evoke an image of a pale, sneering John Terry.  He’s worn the armband for Chelsea since 2004; England for five of the last six years.  And his ongoing run as Chelsea’s captain is certainly a head scratcher. [Read more…]

TOG Field Trip – Camp Nou – Barcelona

I left for a recent trip to Barcelona with one specific priority for the week beyond the obligatory boozing – to visit Camp Nou, home of Futbol Club Barcelona.  Unfortunately the team itself wasn’t in town, as our trip was a couple weeks prior to the start of the new season.  The club was in Paris for a preseason match.  The next best thing to catching a game was to visit the stadium itself, the first major European soccer stadium I’ve ever seen.  Hell, the first major soccer stadium I’ve ever seen, anywhere.  Red Bull Arena and the various NFL stadiums that host friendlies up and down the East Coast of the United States don’t exactly rate internationally.  Fortunately, Camp Nou was a doozy, and the club has put together a nice “Experience” for fans who are passing through town and can’t catch an actual game.  [Read more…]

Chelsea defeats Bayern Munich to win the Champions League Final

Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich in the Champion League Final yesterday to win the club’s first-ever European Cup.  Didier Drogba scored the winner as Chelsea took the shootout 4-3 after extra-time concluded in a 1-1 draw.  The victory is an incredible accomplishment for a team that was in disarray in early March when manager Andre Villas-Boas was fired.  The club regained its footing under interim manager Roberto di Matteo, winning the FA Cup earlier this month and following up with their greatest ever achievement yesterday in Munich.  The Champions League was the only competition where success had eluded Chelsea since Roman Abramovich bought the team in 2003.  The game was a thrilling conclusion to a memorable European club season, and a perfect ending – on penalties – for Chelsea, making up for their disastrous loss in Moscow four years ago. [Read more…]

Weekend Wrap – Thrilling Finish to the Premier League Season, Red Bulls Keep Rolling

Words won’t suffice in describing the final day of the 2011-12 Premier League season.  If you weren’t tuned for the final forty-five minutes around the league Sunday, you missed a genuinely unique, utterly captivating sequence of events, a finale that will be referenced for decades to come.  That noted we have to say something about what occurred Sunday morning.  The final hour was so chaotic and unpredictable that it’s actually funny to glance at the final standings now and notice that nothing significant has changed from yesterday.  Manchester City is still on top by virtue of a +8 goal differential, but even on points with second place Manchester United.  Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle round out the top five.  Everton finished ahead of Liverpool.  Queens Park Rangers survived and Bolton is headed to the Championship next season.  The table was scattered throughout the morning, teams moving up and down minute by minute, go ahead goal here, an equalizer there.  All the pieces up in the air, shocking storylines coming together, then order restored suddenly just before the final whistle of the season, with each major piece falling back into its original place.  [Read more…]

Premier League Finale – Everything up for Grabs on the Final Day in England

The 2011-2012 Premier League season wraps up tomorrow morning, and fortunately for fans every significant position on the table is still in doubt.  When play kicks off at 10AM eastern time the league title will be on the line, as well as tickets to the Champions League, Europa League and one last ticket to the Championship via relegation.  Let’s take a look at what’s on the line in each segment of the table. [Read more…]

Weekend Wrap – FA Cup Final, Battle of Manchester and a New York Red Bulls Victory

It was a full weekend of soccer as the European club season winds down and Major League Soccer season ramps up.  The action began early on Saturday, Cinco de Mayo, with the FA Cup Final.  The weekend’s results allow us to start finalizing the story for England’s major clubs.  In England, it was a good weekend to be wearing Blue – Red, not so much.  Chelsea captured its first trophy of the 2011-12 campaign while Manchester City moved one step closer to its first ever Premier League Title.  Locally, the New York Red Bulls made the most of their first game without Thierry Henry, defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 in front of a capacity crowd at the Home Depot Center. [Read more…]

FA Cup Final – Liverpool v. Chelsea

Tomorrow’s FA Cup Final is a matchup of two prestigious English clubs not quite at the height of their powers.  Looking at the pairing on paper – Liverpool and Chelsea – we have two of the most famous clubs in the world, true giants of the English game.  But their respective reputations belie the reality for each club at the end of this 2011-2012 campaign.  Liverpool is in the final for the first time since winning in 2006, and must seize the opportunity to salvage some dignity from an otherwise disastrous season.  Chelsea, in the midst of its own disappointing domestic season, has considerably more leeway after advancing to the Champions League Final –though they’d likely feel a lot more relaxed making the trip to Germany with a Cup Title already in hand. [Read more…]

Manchester City (Probably) Wins the Premier League Title

Manchester City knocked off their dynastic neighbors 1-0 on Monday to pull ahead in the Premier League Title race with two weeks left.  Even on points with Manchester United, City holds the advantage of two wins head to head this season.  If Roberto Mancini’s side can win each of their remaining two games they’ll be crowned Champions of the 2011-2012 Premier League season – it will be their first championship in the top tier since the 1967-68 season.  [Read more…]

Game On! Manchester City Back in the Premier League Title Race

Manchester City’s defeat at the Emirates this past weekend appeared to mark the end of the 2011-12 Premier League Title race.  With 32 games played, Manchester United held a commanding eight-point lead over their local rivals.  Math aside, City looked incapable of recovering as recently as Wednesday morning – their combustible assortment of high priced talent seemed more likely to explode than rally.  Alex Ferguson’s squad – winners of eight straight league games, unbeaten in twelve – methodically chipped away at the Title, thriving in what he calls “squeaky bum time”.  On Wednesday night, however, United’s coronation was unexpectedly postponed for at least another couple weeks.  City recovered from their loss to Arsenal, defeating West Brom 4-0.  United lost 1-0 to bottom-feeding Wigan, and the first place cushion was reduced to five points with five to play. [Read more…]