Do we all love the villain almost more that we love the hero? In soccer, I think this is almost certainly true. Fans love to hate their rivals just as much as they love their team. Not only do they dislike other teams, but the villain on and off the field is a huge part of the narrative. Every year, there seems to be someone who no matter what they do, they are the bad guy. Some of them actually do bad things, and some just bend the rules of the game to favor them. The key to these villains is that their fans will defend them to the end. Ask a Chelsea or Manchester United fan about Luis Suarez. You will get a very different picture compared to what a Liverpool fan will say. Last year Luis Suarez was the villain of the EPL. He did not help his image in the World Cup, as he bite Chellini. Most big teams have their player that is a villain to every other team that plays them. Sergi Busquets for Barcelona, Pepe for Real Madrid. Chelsea have now found their new villain.
Diego Costa is one very hardworking and tough player. He gives his all for the team and is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Even if that means bending the rules of the game. In the Capitol One Cup semi-final against Liverpool, Costa played a big role in the major talking points of the game when he “stamped” Emre Can. Mourinho on Costa: “I don’t know what you mean by ‘stamp’…I think there is a campaign on TV by certain pundit saying ‘Diega Costa crimes”. I am not sure what Mourinho is talking about, but there was a clear stamp by Costa and maybe even a second one. Is he the new Suarez in the media? Probably. The English love their villains and need one. They lost their perfect victim in the summer but have found a new one now. You can judge for yourself with the vine on Twitter. Costa was judged to have stamped on Can and has received a 3 match ban for his troubles. Villains are important for the game and are a big part of the game.
The hosts are in the final! A 2-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates sends Australia to the Asian Cup final on Saturday. They will face South Korea, who beat Iraq 2-0. It should be a good final, as Australia looks to win their first Asian Cup in their second final appearance. South Korea look to add their 3rd title of their 6 appearances in the final. South Korea beat Australia in the group stage 1-0.
The quarter finals are set for the African Cup of Nations. Congo will face Congo DR, and Ivory Coast will face Algeria on one half of the bracket. On the other held we have Tunisia against the hosts Equatorial Guinea, and Ghana against Mali/Guinea. Mali and Guinea ended up level in all categories and was decided by picking a name out of a hat essentially.
In the Capitol One Cup, Chelsea advanced to the final following a 1-0 victory after extra time against Liverpool. Ivanovic headed in the winner in the 94th minute. The game was a good contest and played extremely tight. Tottenham took care of business in the other semi-final to set up an all London final in Wembley.
In the Copa del Rey, madness ensued when Atleti and Barca met. Torres opened the scoring in the first minute. Then there was a Messi to Suarez to Neymar goal. Atleti took another lead 2-1 before an own goal by Miranda. Barcelona took the lead in the 41st minute as Neymar scored his second. Gabi got a red card in the tunnel at half time, and the second half just saw a bunch of cards including a red for Mario Suarez. The game ended with 9 yellow cards, 2 red cards, and a Barcelona 3-2 victory. Villarreal won 1-0 to set up a semifinal against Barcelona. Athletic Club advanced following a 1-0 win over Malaga. Espanyol advanced on the strength of their 3-1 first leg victory, even though they lost 1-0 on the road.
In the EPL this weekend, the title showdown takes place Saturday afternoon here in the states, when Chelsea host Manchester City. This will be a big game for both teams, as the top of the table is separated by only 5 points. This will be a huge match. Chelsea could be missing quite a few pieces, as Costa is suspended and Fabregas could miss with an injury. Either way, this game will either make the title race a lot closer, or give Chelsea a comfortable lead at the top. Manchester United will look to avenge their loss at the King Power stadium as they host Leicester. Arsenal will look to jump into the top 4 when they host Aston Villa. The last game of the weekend sees Southampton, the hottest team in the country, hosting Swansea City as the Saints look to stay in the top 3.
Guess who’s back…Bayern Munich returns to play following their long winter break. The Bundesliga returns this weekend and Wolfsburg is Bayern’s first opponent. They are also Bayern’s closest rival. They currently sit 9 points behind Munich. They will face off today. Bayer Leverkusen sit in 3rd place and are 6 points behind Wolfsburg. They host Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. Dortmund currently sit in the bottom 3 and will need to string together a bunch of wins if they are to turn around their season.
In Serie A, Roma hosts Empoli as they look to get 3 points this weekend. Roma needs to start getting wins to try to close the gap on Juventus. Juve travel to Udinese on Sunday. Juve now sit 7 points ahead of Roma and will hope to extend that lead should Roma slip upon Saturday. The more interesting race in Italy is for the third and final Champions League spot. Naploi currently sit in third with 36 points, but Lazio and Sampdoria are just 2 points back. Fiorentina is 5 points back, but they are on the verge of selling their best player so they might not really be in the race. All of these 3 teams are on the road this week as Napoli plays Chievo, Lazio plays Cesena, and Sampdoria plays Torino.
In France, PSG can jump within 1 point of first place tonight. They host Rennes. On Saturday, Marseille can move within 1 point of first place when they host Evian Thonon Gaillard. Then on Sunday, Lyon will look to get a big 3 points when they host Monaco. These three teams will have a race to get as many points as possible for the next 16 games.
In Spain, David Moyes looks to take his second big scalp this weekend when his Real Sociedad travel to Real Madrid. Real Madrid will be without their star man, Cristiano Ronaldo, for the next 2 games. They will look to maintain their one point lead on Barcelona. Atletico de Madrid look to cut into the lead as they travel to Eibar. On Sunday, Barcelona will be hoping they can extend their winning streak to 8 games when they host Villarreal. This will be a preview of the Copa Del Rey Semi-final.
EPL Pick ‘Em
The score is now Buzz 153 to Me at 146.
This weeks picks:
Me – Hull 3-2, Burnley 1-1, Stoke 2-1, United 2-1, Palace 2-1, Pool 2-1, Spurs 1-1, City 2-1, Arsenal 3-0, Saints 2-0
Buzz – Hull 3-2, Burnley 1-1, Stoke 2-1, United 2-1, Palace 2-1, Pool 2-1, Spurs 1-1, City 2-1, Arsenal 3-0, Saints 2-0