Video Replay Time???

I think it is fair to say that there have been an upswing in missed calls lately by the officials and this brings me to the question of the day. Should we have video replay?  I think that the answer is becoming more and more obvious that video replay would be a great help to the officials, and give them some assistance as the game grows in speed and complexity.  The big incident this weekend was Raheem Sterling and the pull in the box.  Raheem was impeded and it should have been a penalty, but the ref did not see it and Raheem did not go down.  I do not want to go into the should he or shouldn’t he have gone down aspect of this incident because the answer seems obvious that he should have since he did not get the penalty kick despite the opportunity to score being taken away from him.  However, if the ref had access to video replay, he could have seen the pull and then awarded the penalty.  The next big question is how do you implement this.  For me it is simple, have an official on the sidelines with access to the feed and if they see something that is missed by the officials then they can communicate with the official on the field and either show something to the him quickly or tell him what he saw.  This is being implemented in Germany next season in four different situations.

1. Irregularities in the case of a goal decision (a foul, handball and offside)

2. In penalty box situations where the referee unjustifiably awarded a penalty or not

3. For offences that should lead or should have led to a red card

4. In cases of mistaken identity over a yellow or red card.

It should be interesting to see how this plays out and I am sure the rest of the world will be watching.

African Cup of Nations Update

Oh my has the African Cup of Nations been interesting.  Gabon, the hosts, are out after drawing three straight games.  Burkina Faso and Cameroon have advanced out of group A.  Senegal and Tunisia advanced from Group B and that means that Algeria is going home early.  Group C shocked the world as the Ivory Coast failed to win a game as DR Congo and Morocco advanced.  Ghana and Egypt have advanced from Group D.  The quarterfinals start on Saturday. 

Cup Games This Week

EFL Cup – The second leg of the semifinals is this week.  Southampton booked their ticket in the finals and they are the first team since 1982 to reach the Cup final without conceding a goal.  Manchester United travels to Hull tomorrow.  United has a 2-0 lead going into the second leg.

Copa del Rey – The second leg of the quarterfinals is this week.  Real Madrid earned a 2-2 draw today at Celta Vigo but they did not advance since they lost the first leg 2-1.  This is a major shock.  Atletico Madrid also booked their ticket in the semifinals with a 2-2 draw at Eibar. Alaves has already advanced thanks to their 2-0 win over Alcorcon.  Barcelona host Sociedad with 1-0 lead. 

Coppa Italia – This week is the quarterfinals in the Coppa Italia.  Napoli advanced to the semifinals this week thanks to their win over Fiorentina.  Juventus defeated Milan today.  The other quarterfinals are next week.

Coupe de la Ligue – PSG are already in the finals thanks to a massive 4-1 win over Bordeaux.  Today either Monaco or Nancy can advance to try and take a trophy away from the Parisians.

 

A Headline From Each League

Premier League … It is OVER! Chelsea will win the title as they are now 8 points clear at the top.

Primera Division … It is a 3 horse race and Atletico are not one of those 3.  The top three all won this weekend and Atletico drew 2-2 with Bilbao meaning they are now 6 points behind Barcelona, 7 behind Sevilla, and 8 behind Real Madrid.

Bundesliga …Hoffenheim are still unbeaten?!?! Yes they are after their 2-0 win over Augsburg this weekend.  They have won 7, drawn 10 and lost 0 so far.

Serie A … The top 3 all won but this is now a two horse race as Roma is a point behind Juventus. 

Ligue 1…The Nice bubble seems to have burst as they have drawn 3 games in a row and are now in 2nd place.

Two Games to Watch This Weekend

Werder Bremen vs. Bayern Munich – Munich look to be set to win the title this year but could have a difficult time against Bremen this weekend.

Paris Saint-Germain vs. AS Monaco – This is top vs. third as PSG looks to move closer to Monaco this weekend.  A win for PSG would give them a lot of hope going forward. 

Chinese $$$$

Is Chinese money going to steal all the best players in the world away from Europe?  Should these players go to China for the money? This seems like the hot topic right now as the January transfer window is open and many players are being speculated with big money moves.  Last year we saw Jackson Martinez (Atletico Madrid), Ramires (Chelsea), Paulinho (Tottenham), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), and Alex Teixeira (Shakhtar) all leave for massive amounts of money.  This year we have already seen Oscar leave Chelsea and Hulk leave Zenit for a lot of money.  Now it seems that every player is linked with a move over to China.  Yaya Toure and Diego Costa are now rumored to leave this January.  This has a lot of people shaking their heads wondering why are these players seemingly at the top of their games are leaving.  The answer is simple, money.  These players are being offered salaries that right now the major European leagues cannot offer these players.  This money is having a big impact on the game.  As fans, we hope that every player that pulls on the shirt is loyal to our club, but we must realize that they are their own brand and have families and friends to worry about just like we do.  We must realize that they are going to go for this kind of money because let’s be honest, so would you.  800,000 Euros a week is a crazy sum of money and means that Carlos Tevez’s kids’ kids’ kids will be financially stable.  The Chinese FA did put some new rules in place this past week that limits the number of foreign players on each team.  This should curb some of the spending this January but might mean that we just see 1 or 2 players leave for big money instead of the mass exits that we are seeing now.  This has been interesting to watch and I am sure we will continue to see more and more names rumored with moves to China.  One day the Chinese League could be one of the most competitive in the world, especially if they continue to recruit players in their primes.

Two Games to Watch This Weekend

Saturday – Manchester City vs. Tottenham in the Premier League.  A win for Tottenham would almost eliminate City from the title race and give Pep a large headache.  A win for City and they are right back in the title race and things could turn around.

Sunday – Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid in La Liga.  Two teams that have been struggling this season with both hoping to be closer to the top of the table.  Athletic need to win to stay in the race for the top 4.  Atletico need a win to draw closer to the top 3 and keep their distance from the chasing pack.

What is happening this week…

1.       The second round of the group stage of the African Cup of Nations is this week.  Watch for Algeria to try and get a massive three points.

2.       The Copa del Rey takes place this week as well.  Real Sociedad hosts Barcelona in the headline matchup.  Real Madrid suffered their second straight defeat as they lost 2-1 against Celta Vigo.

3.       The Coppa Italia is in the round of 16 now with the final half of those games taking place.  Roma host Sampdoria tomorrow.

4.       FA Cup replays take place tonight.  Liverpool defeated Plymouth Argyle, Southampton defeated Norwich City, and Newcastle defeated Birmingham.

A Headline from Last Weekend for Each League

Premier League – Manchester City suffer worst defeat of Pep’s career in 4-0 loss to Everton.

Primera Division – Real Madrid see unbeaten run end in final 5 minutes against Sevilla thanks to an own goal from Ramos and beautiful strike from new signing Jovetic.

Serie A – Fiorentina open up title race with massive win over Juventus as the rest of top 4 all won.

Ligue 1 – Monaco is now top thanks to their 4-1 win over Marseille and Nice drawing 0-0 with Metz.

Bundesliga – Still in hibernation but they return this weekend.

United host Liverpool African Cup of Nations

This weekend is a blockbuster in the Premier League as Manchester United hosts Liverpool.  The two most winning clubs in English history meet in Manchester.  This is a big game as both teams have aspirations of being in the top 4 this season, and a win this weekend will go a long way towards this.  Liverpool enter the weekend in 2nd place.  They have struggled lately but should have Coutinho back for this game.  United have won 9 straight in the league but are stuck in 6th place.  Mourinho seems to have found his best team and they are playing some great football right now.  A win this weekend could pull them up out of 6th place.  A win for Liverpool could keep them in the title race if Chelsea slip up in the next couple weeks.  Elsewhere, Chelsea travel to the defending champions Leicester City.  Tottenham hosts West Bromwich Albion in the first game of the weekend.  Swansea City hosts Arsenal this weekend and Manchester City travels to Everton.  Will Chelsea slip up and open the title race, or will Manchester United get into the title race with a massive win over their rivals Liverpool?  I know many people feel that the Manchester Derby has become bigger than the United vs. Liverpool game, but for those of us who appreciate history this is the game of the season in the Premier League.

The big game in Spain also takes place on Sunday as 2nd place Sevilla host 1st place Real Madrid.  Real Madrid have just set the record for longest unbeaten run following their great comeback against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey.  Now they will look to make a statement in the league.  They are 5 points clear of Barcelona and 4 ahead of Sevilla with a game in hand.  Elsewhere, Barcelona will look to get back to winning ways as they host Las Palmas.  Atletico Madrid hosts Real Betis in a winnable game as they look to remain in the Champions League places. 

In France, the Ligue 1 returns this weekend.  The title race is very much on in France and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.  Nice is on top of the table with only 1 loss this season.  Monaco sits 2 points behind Nice in second place.  PSG are in third place, 5 points behind Nice.  Will we see a new champion this season?  PSG are the first to play this weekend as they travel to Stade Rennais.  Rennes sit in 7th place right now.  On Sunday, Nice plays first as they host 19th place Metz.  In the final game of the weekend, Monaco travel to Marseille in what might be the most interesting game this weekend.  The bottom of the table is quite tight as the bottom 6 teams are separated by 4 points.  This weekend could have some separation at the bottom.

In Serie A this weekend, the leaders Juventus travel to Fiorentina.  They will look to build on their lead at the top.  They have a 4 point lead on Roma and a 8 point lead Napoli.  Roma travel to Udinese this weekend hoping to cut into the lead as they play before Juventus on Sunday.  On the bottom end of the table, Palermo travels to Sassuolo.  If Palermo is able to win then they will gain a vital 3 points that could go a long way towards their survival. 

This weekend also marks the start of the African Cup of Nations.  This should be a very interesting tournament and provide us with an opportunity to watch some players play together that we do not normally see.  Here is a quick look at the groups in the African Cup of Nations.  Over half of the teams in the field have won the tournament in the past. 

Group A – Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon

Gabon might be the lowest ranked team in the tournament but they are the hosts and have arguably the most exciting player in the field in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.  Cameroon are the favorites in this group but after that they might struggle.  Bertrand Traore is a player to watch from Burkina.

Group B – Algeria, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Senegal

Algeria has a talented team and could be a team that wins the tournament if the results fall their way.  Sadio Mane will hope to bring the first ever title for Senegal this winter.  Tunisia should finish second in the group if they can get a result against Algeria.  Zimbabwe are massive underdogs.

Group C – Ivory Coast, Togo, DR Congo, Morocco

Ivory Coast are the defending Champions from 2015 but they do not have the Toure borthers, Didier Zokora or Didier Drogba.  They should still win this group however.  DR Congo always surprises people so keep an eye on them, especially Bakambu.  Monaco will expect to get out to the group.  Emanuel Adebayor is playing for Togo and they are hoping he is the difference.

Group D – Ghana, Uganda, Mali, Egypt

Ghana will hope that they can finally lift the trophy again as it has been 35 years since they last won the trophy.  Uganda will struggle to advance from the group.  Egypt will be favorites in the group and should get to the quarterfinals.  Mali will be hopeful that they can get enough results to advance from the group.

This should be a fun tournament with some very exciting football.

Welcome Back!!!!

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back. The Holiday period is over, as are many of the winter breaks. The English Premier League played a ton of the break but the rest of the leagues are slowly coming back. In Spain, we had the round of 16 first leg in the Copa del Rey this week and a round of the Primera Division this weekend. In Italy, the Serie A resumes this weekend. In France, the Coupe de France takes place this weekend. The Germans are still off until January 20th.

Premier League Holiday Recap

Chelsea saw their unbeaten run end as Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-0. Chelsea are still top of the table with a 5 point lead over Liverpool. Liverpool had a great holiday period as they defeated Manchester City at home, but dropped what could be two vital points against Sunderland. Tottenham have moved into 3rd place, 2 points behind Liverpool, following their 2-0 defeat of Chelsea. This is in big part due to three straight braces from Dele Alli. Manchester City had a rocky period but remains in the top four and are level on points with Tottenham. Arsenal are a point back and outside of the top 4. Manchester United have won 6 games in a row and are unbeaten in their last 11 games, but they still sit in 6th place, 3 points behind City and Tottenham. At the bottom of the table, Hull decided it was time for a new manager and hired Paul Clement but they sit at the bottom, 3 points from safety. Swansea hired Bob Bradley and then fired him after some poor results. They are now a point from safety. Sunderland have stuck with David Moyes as they sit in 18th place. Sunderland are a point from safety.

Copa del Rey Recap

Real Madrid got the year off to a great start as they defeated Sevilla 3-0 without Bale, Benzema, or Ronaldo. Barcelona struggled as they gave up 2 quick goals in the first half but did come back and get 1 back but lost 2-1 in Bilbao. Celta Vigo shocked Valencia winning 4-1 in Valencia. Real Sociedad defeated Villarreal 3-1. Alcorcon and Cordoba drew 0-0 in Alcorcon. Deportivo La Coruna was able to come back and earn a 2-2 draw after falling behind 2-0 against Deportivo Alaves. Eibar got a nice road win as they defeated Osasuna 3-0. Finally, Atletico Madrid got their year off to a good start with a 2-0 win on the Canary Islands.

La Liga Preview

Real Madrid will look to extend their lead at the top back to 7 as they host second from bottom Granada this Saturday. They currently have a 3 point lead over Barcelona and a game in hand. Real Madrid will look to make it 16 unbeaten in a row. Barcelona have a tough game this weekend as they travel to Villarreal. Villarreal are in the hunt for the top four right now but also suffered a defeat this week in the Copa del Rey. There is another top 5 battle as Real Sociedad hosts Sevilla. We will either see a tightening of the top of the table, or a real gap could start to open up.

Serie A Preview

Juventus looks to have Serie A wrapped up as they have a 4 point lead on Roma after they defeated them towards the end of 2016 and Juve has a game in hand. Napoli are in third, but they are 7 points back and have also played 1 more game than Juventus. This weekend Juventus hosts Bologna. Bologna is in the bottom half of the table and this should be an easy three points for Juve. Roma travels to Genoa this weekend and Napoli hosts Sampdoria. The race for the third Champions League spot could be a good one as Lazio, Milan, and Atalanta are all within 3 points of Napoli. If Napoli slips up in the next couple weeks, then that could be something to watch.

FA Cup Preview

The Third Round of the FA Cup is this weekend. This is when the Premier League teams join the competition and can make their mark. Chelsea takes on Petersborough from the third tier. Liverpool hosts Plymouth Argyle from the 4th tier of English football. This is the weekend where we can see some Giant Killers. Who will it be? We also have some top flight matchups like Manchester City traveling to West Ham, Sunderland hosting Burnley, and Everton hosting Leicester. The defending champions Manchester United host Reading. Will we see a big upset this weekend?

Coupe de France Preview

The Coupe de France is in the round of 32 this weekend. Some interesting matches to check on are: Lorient hosting Nice, Lyon hosting Montpellier, Toulouse hosting Marseille, and PSG hosting Bastia. Can someone else win a trophy in France this year?