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Football '11-'12

Posted: 25th July 2011 14:10

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I can't think of a better way to start the year's thread about football than by mocking Mario Balotelli and the insanity that is Manchester City. Did you guys see the friendly last night against Los Angeles? Two things to point out here: one, we're talking about a game that went to kicks, despite one team being "worth" well over a hundred million pounds and the other being, well, face it, an American franchise; two, this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8HKSXSU148

I haven't had much love for Citeh since they (wisely) dropped DaMarcus Beasley, but come on. I get that this is a friendly, and I get that the English teams come in here and have no real reason to respect anything related to American football, but Balotelli got everything he deserved with this. He looked like a moron and got benched, and were I Mancini, it would be a while before he was even dressing again.

In other news, my home team, Sporting Kansas City, picked up the Brazilian Jeferson on loan from Vasco De Gama for the rest of the summer. If he can play in every match like he did against Toronto last Saturday night, we should make it into the MLS Cup playoffs, for sure. As much as I hate to admit that an uncapped Brazilian is good enough to make a difference in MLS, he just brutalized Toronto the other night, assisting two of KC's four goals and just looking dangerous every time he was on the ball.

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Posted: 25th July 2011 16:44

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To be fair to City they all looked exasperated with him. I still think that clip is one of the funniest things I've seen this summer. I must admit I like Balotelli now after a season of success in online Fifa with Man City, the team where 5 defenders cannot be outmuscled or outran. I didn't get the impression that City were purposefully insulting the Americans, they just weren't giving it everything because it was a friendly, most of the time they don't want to get too tired or pick up an injury. Villareal played Aberdeen here in Scotland, beat them 1-0 and hardly played much and just wanted to pass the ball. I don't mind it that's just what happens in friendly games. It's like a holiday kickabout. Mancini definitely did the right thing though, Balotelli was just taking the piss with that.

Which reminds me, I don't suppose anyone saw the story about how Balotelli confronted a fan's school bullies? Here's the link. That fan will wake up one morning and say to his wife: "ahh! I just had that dream again... it was me, my old bullies, the headmaster, and Mario Balotelli... all sitting in a room talking about stuff."

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Posted: 25th July 2011 17:03

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Yeah, I didn't mean to give the impression that they were intentionally being insulting, it was just Balotelli. But it's clear that in some of these friendlies, you don't want to listen to the fans. I mean, United supporters certainly did a lot of mouthing off when they thrashed Seattle last week - maybe those were just American "fans" that I saw, but still. It's tacky. I've seen City supporters on ESPN's forums in the States defending Balotelli on this, too, and it's just obnoxious.

I had heard about that bully story, and thought it was pretty cool at the time, but on balance, Balotelli is still a massive wanker. smile.gif

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Posted: 25th July 2011 19:19

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Quote (Rangers51 @ 25th July 2011 18:03)
Balotelli is still a massive wanker. smile.gif

Sums my opinion up pretty accurately.

Balotelli's behaviour was appalling - I was glad to see Mancini bench him. The boy really needs to grow up - his record on and off the pitch last season just screamed "immature".

That said, I'm afraid I'm one of those English football fans who has never really considered MLS as anything other than the elephant's graveyard of football.

I fully admit that that is a pretty ignorant position to hold. So I'll keep reading this thread and try to enlighten myself!

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Posted: 25th July 2011 20:13

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Quote (Stiltzkin @ 25th July 2011 20:19)
That said, I'm afraid I'm one of those English football fans who has never really considered MLS as anything other than the elephant's graveyard of football.

I fully admit that that is a pretty ignorant position to hold. So I'll keep reading this thread and try to enlighten myself!

Don't worry, you wouldn't be English/British if you didn't look down on absolutely everything, including yourself. smile.gif

The thing about Balotelli is he must be totally in his own little world. His actions follow no set pattern, and there's no way of predicting what's going to happen next. It makes for some spectacular entertainment if anything. Watching any Man City game could result in the next Mario Balotelli incident. And then when you think he's failed, he's a bad transfer, he scores a hat-trick in the next game. It's unbelievable. I just feel sorry for Mancini more than anything. Every day must be a guessing exercise in which Balotelli is going to turn up.

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Posted: 26th July 2011 13:52

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Quote (Stiltzkin @ 25th July 2011 14:19)
That said, I'm afraid I'm one of those English football fans who has never really considered MLS as anything other than the elephant's graveyard of football.

I fully admit that that is a pretty ignorant position to hold. So I'll keep reading this thread and try to enlighten myself!

Honestly, I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong. Soccer's still fighting an uphill battle here for relevancy, though, I did hear recently that attendance at MLS games is now higher than that of NHL games in terms of attendance to stadium capacity ratio. Not sure how accurate that is, but it seems theoretically reasonable - NHL had its most recent heyday here in the US around the time that MLS was getting started.

There are three reasons that MLS doesn't get much respect, in my opinion.

1) Foreign fans look down on a league that has been around only fifteen years. For that reason, many American "fans" of foreign teams do the same.
2) Soccer remains smaller here, largely because even when a big international event happens, the national teams usually let the fans down and that curtails the building of a larger fan base. The men's national team is constantly guilty of this, though the WNT didn't help by collapsing in the WWC final a couple weeks back.
3) The biggest players in the league remain either aging foreign stars like Beckham or Henry, or are middle-tier players in their home countries before coming here. My home team has internationals on the roster, for instance, but they're from countries like Honduras and Sierra Leone, not Germany or England.

The league is in a Catch-22. We need bigger players to make the league more viable, but if we keep homegrown players here, the national team will suffer from the lack of top-notch competition for those players at club level. We can't bring in more top-notch players from overseas because the league can't afford it, either, without forcing teams to be either wealthy, large-market haves or destitute have-nots, and that will also hamper long term growth in the league.

They're finally starting to go the right way, though. Teams are required now to either play in soccer-specific stadiums, or file for an exemption. About a third of the teams now have legitimate youth academies. The league collapsed a couple of the lower performing teams and gave franchise rights to some cities that have booming soccer fanbases instead, like Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver. The league is also continuing to expand, with Portland and Vancouver having joined this year, and Montreal coming in next.

I won't say that the MLS will ever be a league on par with Serie A or the BPL, though anything's possible. I would say that it's no longer more than five years away from being able to send a club to the Club World Cup or having a CONCACAF Champion's League winner, though, and that's not bad for being a league that wouldn't even be old enough to legally drive in its own country.

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Posted: 1st August 2011 18:05

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If anyone out there is a kit fan like I am, I found a blog post that is collecting photos of all of this year's new BPL kits:

http://maofootball.wordpress.com/201112-premier-league-kits/

My favorites from cruising through are Liverpool's away (of course), Newcastle's away, and Spurs' third. The worst are Everton's 'keeper shirt, Man United's away, and Man City's away, if you ask me.

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Posted: 1st August 2011 18:30

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I'm quite liking that Man City away shirt actually. I've always liked AC Milan's so there you go. Not sure how much their fans will like wearing red. Man U away looks horrible. Best badge goes to Swansea. It looks like a thirteenth Zodiac or something. And I noticed Wigan don't have any players left to wear the shirt.

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Posted: 1st August 2011 18:55

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The new Arsenal logo is godawful, imo.

I think Fulham is simple yet effective and I also have a soft spot for the Norwich shirt.

I gotta say, the Liverpool away shirt is awesome. Not so bothered about the first strip though!

Man City does look pretty plain and boring, and I agree the United away is poor, but the new home shirt I really like. Bit of a classic retro look to it.

And I can't decide whtether chelsea away is awesomely cool, or just a bit naff!

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Posted: 13th August 2011 18:15

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The are some dickheads in Football, but Joey barton has got to be the worst scum I've ever seen in the game. He shouldn't be allowed to play, he has about as much class as the rioters all over England.
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Posted: 13th August 2011 19:12

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Quote (Cefca @ 13th August 2011 13:15)
The are some dickheads in Football, but Joey barton has got to be the worst scum I've ever seen in the game. He shouldn't be allowed to play, he has about as much class as the rioters all over England.

I only caught the very end of that game, as I was watching my DVR'd video of the second half of Liverpool's continued poor defensive abilities (baby didn't want to watch the second half live, so we napped instead). I heard the commentators talk about Barton deserving a sending off, but I have yet to see it. Will try to catch a replay tonight.

Agreed with the overall tone of your post, though, even with no knowledge of this particular incident.

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Posted: 13th August 2011 21:15

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Joey Barton's weird. He's a thug, a great player, a criminal, a fighter, has half a brain on him, and is probably one of the more hated and loved players out there. He'll punch someone in one game then be absolutely mortified afterwards. He's either got a serious anger problem or he's a good liar. His Twitter's an interesting place to go: best quotes here.

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Posted: 14th August 2011 23:15

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Quote (Rangers51 @ 26th July 2011 13:52)
Honestly, I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong. Soccer's still fighting an uphill battle here for relevancy, though, I did hear recently that attendance at MLS games is now higher than that of NHL games in terms of attendance to stadium capacity ratio. Not sure how accurate that is, but it seems theoretically reasonable - NHL had its most recent heyday here in the US around the time that MLS was getting started.

There are three reasons that MLS doesn't get much respect, in my opinion.

1) Foreign fans look down on a league that has been around only fifteen years. For that reason, many American "fans" of foreign teams do the same.
2) Soccer remains smaller here, largely because even when a big international event happens, the national teams usually let the fans down and that curtails the building of a larger fan base. The men's national team is constantly guilty of this, though the WNT didn't help by collapsing in the WWC final a couple weeks back.
3) The biggest players in the league remain either aging foreign stars like Beckham or Henry, or are middle-tier players in their home countries before coming here. My home team has internationals on the roster, for instance, but they're from countries like Honduras and Sierra Leone, not Germany or England.

I don't claim to know a lot about soccer, but i do know this from being in the Philly area (which recently added the Philadelphia Union 2-3 years ago): the MLS has a growing fanbase here. It won't ever be comparable to American Football or Baseball for Americans since most people think they don't score enough points, not as exciting, just not used to it, etc. Or it's just not as apple pie as the aforementioned sports.

However, I am aware of a core group of fans in my school who are apart of the "Sons of Ben", the hardcore season ticket holders. And they're not the only ones in there! It's really cool to see soccer fans finally having their day in Philadelphia. Also, I tried to go to the Red Bulls game last night, and it was sold out! The surprising thing was, it was against the Chicago Fire, a team with no big foreign players like Henri or Beckham.

In fairness to the Women's National team, they did have a World Cup run that managed to get people excited. That was a positive thing, even though the loss against Japan is still a sensitive subject for me sad.gif Also, they won the gold at the last Olympics, and won the World cup in '99 and I think the very first cup. They will always be a force; it's the men's team that needs to get its act together.

The recruitment of foreign players will only hurt the development of a national team. There of plenty of foreign players in the MLB and the NHL, what's the big deal?

(I just want to point out that hockey has an 80-something game season that has intense games. The reason why it may not sell as well as other sports is that it isn't as short a season as a crazy sport like football, and while it is a longer season like baseball, it isn't as relaxed or family-oriented. Or it doesn't take place in the summer, like the MLS league.)

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Posted: 18th August 2011 20:53

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Owch.

Well, there's the lesson. Europa qualifiers in the EPL slaughter teams that present themselves as the third team in Scotland. Of course, Hearts are possibly the worst example of Scottish football there is right now (Apart from Rangers it seems) given their owner is batpoop insane and sacked the manager a few games in, and that honestly they fell apart and really should not have qualified for Europe last season.

But seriously, what a pasting.

This post has been edited by Del S on 18th August 2011 20:53

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Posted: 18th August 2011 22:13

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I remember a few seasons ago when Hearts were actually fighting for the title. Oh how they have fallen, mostly due to their (like you said) batcrap insane owner.
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Posted: 2nd November 2011 15:11

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Anyone else really enjoying this season? I think all the top clubs apart from City have been battered already.

I've come to realise I'll support anyone in England (or abroad) who looks like they might have a chance of beating Barcelona, so I've been very impressed with City and wish them all the best. It really is nothing but what happens when you put the money cheats on a football management game. I'd probably have quit after beating Man U 6-1 and started again.

Speaking of Barcelona I've just finished watching their most recent highlights. They're looking even better this season. They can rest 5 first-team players and still put out a team any club in the world would envy. I'm thinking if anyone's going to beat them in Europe it'll be Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Man U over two legs.

Top four in the EPL by the looks of things will once again be Arsenal, Man U, City and Chelsea. I'd like Newcastle (never ever going to happen this season), Liverpool or Spurs to get in ahead of someone just to shake things up and give Arsenal or Chelsea a chance to recuperate over a season in the same way Liverpool did. Again I'm just thinking who the hell can beat Barcelona here, and how are they going to do it.

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Posted: 2nd November 2011 17:32

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I don't think I can go so far as to say "anyone over Barca." I don't want to see City win the CL. I don't want to see Chelsea win it. I definitely don't want to see United win it. I'd be okay with Arsenal, I've never had anything against them. Now, if a Munich could do it? Great. Hey, why not APOEL? biggrin.gif

I, too, would like to see a top four different than what you are presuming, though I think that Arsenal might still have trouble coming out ahead of Spurs. I agree that Newcastle, brilliant as they've been so far, probably can't sustain their current form, but who knows? They could play in the Europa League if a few things go their way.

I think it's amusing that you would consider anything that Liverpool have done to be recuperation. Sure, the second half of last season was revelatory, but from what I've seen in the first few months of this year, they aren't likely to finish any higher in the table than they did last. They are almost utterly incapable of scoring, and it shouldn't be up to the back line to improve to compensate for Andy Carroll being shockingly useless. I think maybe giving Bellamy more time up front, weirdly, might be a better solution for them.

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Posted: 2nd November 2011 20:12

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Quote (Rangers51 @ 2nd November 2011 18:32)
I think it's amusing that you would consider anything that Liverpool have done to be recuperation.

I think they're playing a lot better this season after all their signings. They can attack much better than last year. It seems to be their defence that's now a little shaky. Once Suarez stops missing and Carroll comes into his own form they'll win more and draw less. In the Stoke game Carroll played a fair bit better, and Suarez scored an absolute peach. We'll see what happens I guess.

I'm surprised you aren't more happy with their form. I think I would be if I was a fan. But, well, I'm not, so I can't really say assume anything. Top four is an achievable target unlike last year.

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Posted: 2nd November 2011 22:49

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Yeah, I sound pretty bitter for a fan, I realize. That's a function not of poor performance, but of expecting better than average.

Neither of the losses the team has so far are particularly shocking, though the one to Spurs was embarrassing to say the least. For me, it's really the draws that chafe - against United, I saw that goal coming from the minute Gerrard scored, and against Norwich? Ugh. The team's form is acceptable, but not CL material, which is where it should be with the team that's there.

The thing is, about the defense, I knew they'd be bad. Carra's getting slower, and the rest of the defense aside from Skrtel is either ludicrously young or are defenders who are actually better at going forward than defending (I must say, though, that I love that Dalglish signed Enrique, who I think is a great left back). Knowing that the defense is bad, though, means that the team needs to score buckets of goals, and so far it's being left to Suarez. Brilliant as he is, everyone should have learned from Torres that putting a fantastic individual talent at the top of a 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1 is not enough. That's why I say Carroll needs to be stepping up right now, and he's just not doing it yet.

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Posted: 12th November 2011 09:47

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I think defending in general this season in the EPL has become poorer and poorer among the top teams. So many goals have been conceded in games, and it's kind of ridiculous.

Man City and Newcastle are the only team that seems to have a sound defense, but Newcastle has yet to face the top 4 teams, so we'll see the next few weeks whether or not they can maintain their undefeated status. They play Man City, Man U, and Chelsea in upcoming weeks, so it's hard to see them retaining their top place.
Still, it's only November and theres still 30 more games to be played.. so we'll see what happens.

This post has been edited by l)arkShadow on 12th November 2011 09:47
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Posted: 2nd December 2011 18:06

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Just watched the draw for Euro 2012 (for which we'll probably have a game like we did for Euro 2008 and WC2010, of course).

That group B is epic. Group D could be quite interesting, too. I feel bad for Ireland, who got a bit of a shaft and have virtually no chance to make it to the quarters.

Full draw: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/euro2012/draw

Too soon to call a winner? I think it might well come from Group B if they don't beat each other up too badly. I am not too keen on Spain's chances of winning three major tournaments in a row, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

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Posted: 2nd December 2011 18:13

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Wavey Marle!
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Group B is going to be awesome. It's almost a shame that four strong teams are in there because it's left other groups a little lacklustre and predictable, but this is a major tournament so we can't rule out an upset.

Ireland managing to make it out of their group would be nothing short of awesome, but I doubt that's the upset we'll see. sad.gif

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Posted: 3rd December 2011 03:25

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Holy Swordsman
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Ireland might not be completely without a hope. From what I've seen and heard Italy haven't really made a great improvement on their world cup performance. They're still not the team they once were. (France on the other hand have bounced right back up). I would think Ireland could hold Italy to a draw and beat Croatia, or the other way round. Both of those games would be legendary and it's a huge ask, but it's not impossible. Don't get me wrong I'm well aware that Croatia are a solid team. I don't think it's really as bad as it seems. They could be in Group B instead of Denmark.

I agree that Group B is a bit of a shame. Germany, Portugal and Holland seem to be the teams with a chance of beating Spain, and I generally like teams that have a chance of beating Spain. Having said that the first few games will be very good and I'm always happy for an underdog to have a better run without playing those three. I watched the draw live and one of the pundits said that Spain were the new Brazil, which made me think that France would be the standard team to knock them out.

I've got a feeling that Poland could make it through their group. The Czechs and Russia are nothing like the old days. Ukraine have a much harder job. I can't see them making it.

Quote (I)arkShadow)
Man City and Newcastle are the only team that seems to have a sound defense, but Newcastle has yet to face the top 4 teams, so we'll see the next few weeks whether or not they can maintain their undefeated status. They play Man City, Man U, and Chelsea in upcoming weeks, so it's hard to see them retaining their top place.

What do you make of Newcastle now? I'm very surprised with their results against Man Utd and Spurs. I think Chelsea will tip them for the win this weekend (ehhh in 7 hours!) but they could still claw their way back into the top four. You're right though their defence has really set the standard. After January I think we'll be able to say it's Alan Pardew and not Chris Hughton's team that's doing so well.

PS SO happy to see O'Neill is getting back into the EPL. I've missed that guy.

This post has been edited by sweetdude on 3rd December 2011 05:48

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Posted: 3rd December 2011 11:51

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Red Wing Pilot
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I'm looking forward to Spain-Italy, Italy actually managed to beat Spain in a friendly some time ago. But they generally don't do very well in the euro tournaments, so who knows... Sweden looks like they are in really big trouble, being between one of the hosts, England and France.
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Posted: 4th December 2011 13:14

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SOLDIER
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Quote (sweetdude @ 2nd December 2011 22:25)

What do you make of Newcastle now? I'm very surprised with their results against Man Utd and Spurs. I think Chelsea will tip them for the win this weekend (ehhh in 7 hours!) but they could still claw their way back into the top four. You're right though their defence has really set the standard. After January I think we'll be able to say it's Alan Pardew and not Chris Hughton's team that's doing so well.

Sure enough, Newcastle hasn't picked up a win in 3 games. Chelsea swept them aside this weekend, and Newcastle's tied in fourth place with Arsenal. Hopefully they can pick up a win against Norwich next weekend.

And sucks to be in group B. I think Netherlands and Germany will go through, but it's hard to put off Portugal given all their immense talent and ability.
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Posted: 7th December 2011 21:41

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Black Mage
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Possible spoilers: highlight to view
Wow. Just wow.

I expected City to go out (albeit, not after beating Bayern 2-0 but United going out courtesy of a 2-1 loss to Basle? Mental. Happy and not at the same time - happy because it's United and City but not because I'm hoping it doesn't mess up our UEFA coefficient too much.
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Posted: 10th December 2011 20:37

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Holy Swordsman
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Lol Man U what on Earth were they doing. Sometimes they play like superstars and other times like play like an amateur dads team.

This El Clasico is perhaps the game I've been looking forward to the most. I still expect Barca to walk all over them. General opinion seems to give Real a solid chance of winning, which is ridiculous. The only reason Real are top of the league is because Barca have shuffled their squad a little too frequently over the season, their first team is still miles ahead of Real (and every other team in the world). If Real win this it'll be some kind of 1-0 or 2-1 but I expect it to be 0-3 to Barca.

25 minutes to go, can't wait! 500 million viewers across the world apparently.

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Posted: 21st December 2011 14:58

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Black Mage
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What a mad 24 hours. First Luis Suarez is found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra and banned for 8 games (he was also fined 40,000 but that's nothing). Now John Terry is being prosecuted (so it's not even the FA doing it but actual courts) for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.

I do agree with the Suarez punishment if he had been racist towards Evra but I'm still not sure what actual evidence there was against him. It can't just have been Evra's word, surely? Although the fine part of the punishment was pointless.

I'm not sure what to think of an actual court dealing with Terry, think it should have been dealt with within the game. And I'm unsure about the evidence again. I know there was that TV footage where someone (Cole I think) walked in front of the camera at an inconvinient time.

I agree that there's no place for racism anywhere in the world, nevermind just football, but at least with Suarez, they seem to have just gone on someone's word but maybe I'm wrong.
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Posted: 21st December 2011 15:42

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Pretty Pretty Princess
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Quote (Cefca @ 21st December 2011 09:58)
I do agree with the Suarez punishment if he had been racist towards Evra but I'm still not sure what actual evidence there was against him. It can't just have been Evra's word, surely? Although the fine part of the punishment was pointless.

I'm actively trying not to talk too much about this, because it's hard to separate my fandom from the actual issue at hand, but it does seem like the FA are trying to make an example of Suarez despite not having conclusive evidence. He's a bit of an easy target, made more easy by his douchebaggery at Craven Cottage a couple weeks back, so this is an easy shot for the FA to take.

I feel that the only way this could really be resolved would be a public display of the evidence that led the FA to come to its judgement, but I also know that this too would be a bad precedent. For my part, though, I am thinking that the endgame of all of this is that the FA made the call to institute an eight-game ban knowing that Liverpool will appeal, and that this will allow the FA to back down to a three- or four-game ban. This will allow the FA to continue to say that they take a strong stand against racist epithets while not actually having to back up that their punishment was based on conclusive evidence.

That thinking obviously leads me to believe that the FA had a kangaroo court running here, but again, I can't back that up any more than either side involved can back up their claims conclusively. Just a gut feeling.

Getting the Metropolitan Police involved in the Terry allegation, though - wow. That's pretty hardcore. I hadn't had a chance to read about it yet, though I saw the headline on my Facebook feed earlier. I'll have to get around to that soon.

Edit
OK, and now the FA is saying if Suarez appeals, they could extend his ban, which means, if he appeals, they WILL extend his ban, if you ask me. I'm hoping that it no longer requires being a Liverpool fan to realize that he is being utterly railroaded, here, maybe?


This post has been edited by Rangers51 on 21st December 2011 18:57

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Posted: 11th January 2012 11:21

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Holy Swordsman
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Loving the fact that Suarez will almost surely be returning against Man Utd at Anfield. What a game that will be.

I'm a bit perplexed that Neil Warnock's been sacked. I think that's hugely unfair. Even if the owner has big ambitions for QPR they need to steady themselves in the league and Warnock would've been right for that. I understand the sense in bringing someone in for January so they can start to build their own team in the transfer window, but still I think Warnock could've edged them up the table with some new players. I really like the guy from his interviews and his column in the Independent, so it's a bit annoying for me that he's not in the league anymore.

On the flip side I'd trade 1000 Neil Warnocks for the return of Martin O'Neill. I have no idea what magic pixie fairy dust that man sprinkles but whatever he's doing is something incredible. Sunderland are nothing like the team they were two weeks before he joined. The next Newcastle v Sunderland derby should be really good to watch. I hope he gets them ahead of Villa before the end of the season. Lerner really screwed up when he lost him.

Who do we all think should replace Fabio Capello as England manager? At first the suggestion of Wenger was a bit silly, but I'm really warming to the idea. The whole England team plays in England and they'll all have universal respect for him, most of whom probably grew up with respect for him as kids. England have a lot of strength in their attack these days and will continue to do so with the likes of Jones, Wilshere, Carroll, Albrighton, Oxlade-Chamberlain and so on likely to be the future team. I think out of all the potential candidates Wenger is the right coach to get them playing the right kind of football. Whether he'd want to or not is a whole different story.

On a side-note, if anyone hasn't seen Paul Pogba playing yet you might want to look up some videos of him on YouTube. He's getting a lot of press recently and I can totally see why. He's like a cross between Yaya Toure and Christiano Ronaldo. Can't wait to see him in a first team somewhere. Man Utd would do very well to hold onto him.

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