Archive for May, 2007

50 Million Reasons to Celebrate…

May 29, 2007

….for Derby County who beat West Bromich Albion 1-0 in the Coca-Cola Championship Play-off Final yesterday at Wembley.  Derby joins Championship League winners Sunderland, and 2nd-place finishers Birmingham, in promotion to the Premiership next season.  These 3 sides literally hit the jackpot this season, as with the new Premiership TV deal, each of these teams will receive approximately 50 million pounds in their suddenly richer coffers.  Let the summer transfer/signing period commence. 

Speaking of signings, Chelsea actually signed a bona fide Englishman last week (TTL was distracted by the CL Final which shall not be spoken of again).  The Ginger Assasion, Steve Sidwell, turned down a four-year deal with Reading, to join Chelsea.  Sidwell is a talented midfielder and should feature regularly in the Cheslea line-up.  Losing him is a big blow to Reading, who finished a remarkable 8th place this season.  Hope Reading can attract some talent this summer, as this is an exciting club to watch, and they feature 2 Americans in goalie Marcus Hahnemann and midfielder Bobby Convey. 

The actual summer signing period is from June 11th to September 3rd this year.  This is when contracted players can be sold from club to club for a transfer fee.  For example, Manchester United is paying Bayern Munich 17 million pounds for midfielder Owen Hargreaves and then signing Hargreaves to a new 5-year contract.  TTL will keep one abreast of the actual signings, as the rumor mill goes into hyperspeed during the transfer window.  It is not worth discussing all the gossip about which player is going to which club.  Just the signings, Mam. 

Kinda flying through the news here, so its worth mentioning that the Spanish La Liga race is totally caliente.  However, La Liga goes on hiatus until June 10th, as the next 10 days are given over to the international stage with friendlies and Euro 2008 qualifiers on June 2nd and June 6th.  TTL abhors most friendlies as they are often listless, disjointed games with no real point except to gauge fans of their money while they wave the national flag.   But England v Brazil on Friday at Wembley does pique the interest, not in the least part because he returns to the England squad.  Old Becks is reborn and leading Real Madrid by the scruff to a possible La Liga Title.  Sure that Becks will receive a thunderous reaction from the home fans.  He needs to play in 6 more international games to reach his 100th cap (appearance), a milestone that Becks openly covets.  But more importantly, England has a must win game at Estonia on June 6th.  Will be mighty interesting to see if Becks plays in that crucial game.    

TTL would like to give a Best of Sports #7 nod to former Wolverhampton owner Sir Jack Hayward.  In a unbelievingly classy move, Sir Jack sold his beloved Wolves for 10 pounds so the new owners would invest 30 million pounds in the club.  Hey, an owner that actually thinks of the fans and not of his own pockets.  TTL says knight him again.  Sir Sir Jack has nice ring to it.  No pictures or highlights today, just click on the link to read about a great sporting gesture.   And enjoy the games you play and watch.    

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A Loser’s Lament

May 24, 2007

Ah, football the beautiful cruel game.  Honestly thought Liverpool were the better team last night, but nonetheless, AC Milan won 2-1 (TTL agonizingly predicted a 2-0 Milan win).  Two goals from from the ghoulish Filippo Inzaghi were the difference as Milan avenged their historic loss in 2005.  Cannot stomach Inzaghi, an Italian’s Italian, but he does have a habit of scoring huge goals.  Really wanted Milan’s manager Carlo Ancelotti to start Gilardino instead of Inzaghi upfront, but alas Ancelotti proved wiser. 

As for LP’s Rafael Benitez, the Spanish tactician must have spent too long in the Athens sun/smog.  Rafa out-tinkered himself, playing not 1, but 2 ineffective wingers in Bolo Zenden and Jermaine Pennant.  Amazing that Zenden is important enough to warrant a starting place in the CL Final yet LP shows zero interest in re-signing him this summer.  Countless times in a 1st half that LP controlled, their attack petered out harmlessly when the ball was played out left to Zenden.  Yes, Zenden runs alot and works hard, but all that effort is rather futile when he can do nothing with the ball.  TTL will always be grateful to Zenden for his clutch penalty kick against Chelsea in the CL semis but his time in the LP shirt is over barring a major surprise.    

Pennant played o.k., but his threats down the right-side were more due to Milan leftback Marek Jankulovski’s startling ineptitude, than to Pennant’s own skills.  Also, never see the point of playing Pennant without Peter Crouch, as Pennant’s strength is crossing balls into the box.  It’s very difficult, even for a 6’7″ robotic freak like Crouch, to get his head on Pennant’s crosses from the substitutes’ bench.  Think Pennant will remain at Liverpool, as he’s an important player for the overall depth of the team.  Meaning he’s perfect to start against the lower-tier Premiership sides during the long grind of the season while (hopefully) better players are rested. 

Overall, it was not a good game just compelling drama because it was the Champions League Final.  Surprised that Milan started so poorly and struggled for ages to get going.  Their 1st goal, right at halftime, was just plain luck as Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick deflected off Inzaghi’s arm wrong-footing goalkeeper Pepe Reina.  Even from TTL’s completely biased point of view, not sure if was a deliberate handball, but the goal could have been disallowed.  That goal erased 45 minutes of LP control and gave the (correct) feeling that it was Milan’s night. 

Inzaghi’s 2nd goal in the 82nd minute effectively sealed the game.  Kaka played a smart through pass to Inzaghi who had perfectly timed his run to beat the offside trap.  Inzaghi coolly rounded Reina and snuck a shot into the far corner sending the Milan fans into ecstasy.  Ye Greek gods those 2 sentences hurt to write. 

The Dutch pornstar, Dirk Kuyt, pulled one back from LP in the 88th minute but no miraculous Istanbul comeback was on offer.  Kuyt’s goal was super-frustrating in that it came from a corner.  It was the only corner/free kick that LP whipped into the box all game as they continued their curious season-long habit of playing cute with set pieces.  Can’t quite fathom why they don’t put into the box and let Carragher, Gerrard, Agger, Crouch etc. try to get a head on it. 

Well, that is the 2006-2007 Champions League.  Won by a team that was lucky to be included after originally being booted out of the CL in the wake of last season’s Serie A corruption scandal.  Italy is truly the country of the moment in world football with Milan winning its 7th European crown and Italy the reigning World Cup Champs.  A begrudinging congrats to Milan but allow TTL to vent.  

This blog doesn’t enjoy Italian-style football.  Abhor the fake orgasms of pain from an allegely “injured” Italian player flailing about the pitch.  The slap on the wrist punishments for the corruption in the Serie A were a joke.  There is an alarming level of hooliganism/racism still present (let’s throw some flares and coins “fans”).  Italian fans are great front-runners but seem to enjoy trashing their teams more than supporting them.  The list can go on, but the point is made.  Would like to dedicate this rant to the super-annoying Milan supporter (and his teddy bear?!??) who was standing on the roof of his car singing along to “We are the Champions” outside Fatboy’s last night.  Taking in this display TTL’s wife succinctly commented, “I hope he falls off.” 

Tomorrow will scan some various topics and do The Best of Sports.  Enjoy the games you play and watch.    

Athenian Glory

May 23, 2007

The REMATCH kicks off tonight at 20:45 CET (2:00 EDT; actually a pre-game, er match, show on ESPN2!) in Athens.  The biggest game on the European Football schedule this season it is the Champions League Final of AC Milan v Liverpool.  Most people know the overriding storyline of how Liverpool overcame a 3-0 halftime deficit to beat Milan on penalties in the best Final of all-time in 2005.   Can tonight’s game live up to the legacy? 

TTL thinks not.  Liverpool will certainly start defensive-minded in hopes to off-set the expected quick start by Milan.  The key to this tactic is not to give the ball away too cheaply to Milan, thus letting them attack at will.  The midfield anchors of Xavi Alonso and Javier Masherano need to disrupt the Milan attack and also launch the LP counterattack.  The duo have to play their defensive midfield roles to perfection like Claude Makelele, the French mastermind of this position for Chelsea.  If LP does not control the midfield, then Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo and the bearded anklebiter Genaro Gattuso will cause huge problems, and allow Kaka the freedom to make his devastating offensive forays.

Milan looks to be the aggresor tonight, not in the least part because of revenge.  Despite what they say pubicly, the Rossoneri will field 7 players who lost in that 2005 Final.  Even their inspirational captain, Paolo Maldini (who’ll play in his 8th CL Final tonight!!!) says the lose in 2005 was the worst in his career.  And he’s lost the Euro 200o Final in injury time and the 1994 World Cup Final on penalties.  Yeah, Milan will be out for blood. 

Can LP sustain the aggressive pressure from hell-bent Milan?  The key is all in the midfield.  Whoever controls it should win.  If LP holds steady against the talented 4 of Milan and LP’s talisman Steven Gerrard delivers one of his courageous performances, then LP will take home the CL trophy for the 6th time equaling Milan.  The CL Final will be compelling drama, but not necessarily a good game.  TTL just has a nasty sneaking suspicion that Milan will win 2-0.  Hope to be oh, so wrong on this.  YNWA and Enjoy THE GAME. 

Athens on the Mind

May 22, 2007

Hi all.  Disappeared into the byways of Europe (Switzerland/Germany) with the folks on a whirlwind 5 day driving tour and just back.  Tying up some loose ends a mere 30 hours before AC Milan v Liverpool tomorrow night. 

Sevilla won the UEFA Cup on penalties after a 2-2 draw with valiant Espanyol.  Despite the pouring rain in Glasgow, the 2 Spanish sides played an entertaining back and forth game until Espanyol was reduced to 10 men with 25 minutes to play.  Espanyol held on to force extra-time but looked done when Frederic Kanoute scored to give Sevilla the lead.  However, Jonatas equalized with 5 minutes remaining for Espanyol to force penalties.   Then, goalkeeper Andres Palop became a legend in Sevilla by saving 3 shots allowing Sevilla to become only the 2nd team in history to successfully defend the UEFA Cup.  Sevilla has secured the 1st step in its attempt at a unique treble.  They trail Primera Liga leaders Real Madrid by 2 points with 4 games remaining and play Getafe in the Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) Final on June 23rd.  

Saturday’s “Dream” FA Cup Final was the exact opposite of the exciting UEFA Cup Final.  Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 in extra-time behind a goal by the deserving Didier Drogba.  Chelsea do the Domestic Cup double (they beat Arsenal 2-1 in the Carling Cup Final in February) while Man U have to be content with their Premiership Title.  To sum up this desultory affair, TTL while paraphrase the great BBC announcer John Motson who said during the telecast that “this first 20 minutes might have been the most boring part of the entire season” (emphasis added but entirely true).   

To speak of more exciting things, Stuttgart won the Bundesliga Title on Saturday by virtue of their come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Energie Cottbus.  The youngsters of Stuggart finished with 8 straight wins to nip hard-luck Schalke 04 (49 year title drought)  by 2 points setting off massive celebrations in Stuttgart.  Stuttgart goes for the double on Saturday when they play Nuremberg in the German Cup Final. 

As for the small matter of the Champions League Final on Wednesday, one can read an excellent preview of it at the always reliable Thatsonpoint.  TTL’s humble preview of the game can be encapsulated in two words:  GO LIVERPOOL!!!

Back tomorrow with a fresh post. ‘Til then enjoy the games you play and watch. 

TTL’s Global Sporting Event Calendar (for the next 2 weeks)

May 15, 2007

TTL knows the average sports fan’s plate is quite overflowing now with the NBA playoffs, baseball&Bonds, Stanley Cup playoffs, MLS (anyone watching?) and NFL mini-camps (feel the excitement!?!).  But looking over the global (non-USA as you TTLers all know the important dates) sporting calendar in the next few months, and some big events are on the way.  Let’s just throw a few out there that might grace the pages of this blog. 

May 16 UEFA Cup Final in Glasgow at 20:45 CET (2:45 pm EDT). 

Espanyol v Sevilla 

The all-Spanish Final should be a good game as Sevilla hopes to repeat while Espanyol hopes to claim some important silverware of its own.  Sevilla are the favorites and are chasing a distinct treble; the UEFA Cup, the Primera Division (currently 3rd but only 2 points off leaders Real Madrid/Barcelona) and the Copa del Rey (they play Getafe FC in this domestic cup final in late June). 

May 19 FA Cup Final at Wembley in London at 16:00 CET (10:00am EDT)

Chelsea v Manchester United

The “Dream” final to inaugurate the new Wembley stadium with the Premiership Champs taking on 2nd place finishers Chelsea.  TTL will have full preview of this later in the week but this game should be hot, feisty and compelling.

May 23 Champions League Final in Athens at 20:45 CET (2:45 EDT)

AC Milan v Liverpool

Just counting the days until the Cousin of All Rematches.  Will obviously discuss this game in greater detail a bit closer to the date but let’s GO LIVERPOOL. 

May 28-June 1o French Open at Roland Garros

Can Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal on clay to claim the one tennis Grand Slam he hasn’t won?  Federer is actually struggling a bit lately.  The Tiger Woods of tennis has not won in his last 4 tournaments, which ridiculously has not happened since 2004.   Nadal has simply won 77 straight matches on clay.  Every sport needs a good rivalry and Men’s tennis has it now with these two.  The Women’s side looks wide open but TTL likes the gritty Belgian Justin Henin to win.  Also, TTL will hopefully make the trip down to Paris to take in some live action and blog about it.

June 2 and June 6 Euro 2008 Qualifiers

These are important games but there are no great match-ups on these dates.  The most interesting of the fixtures is Estonia v England.  It is a must win game for England or else their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008 and manager Steve McClaren’s job will be in grave danger. 

Well, the calendar took on a very footballiferic nature but such is life.  Trying to expand the blog a bit and have received a few great suggestions from the TTLers.  If there is a topic one wants covered let TTL know.  It is always great to hear from you guys whether in the comments (please do) or personally.  This Best of Sports #6 is dedicated to the hardcore readers.  

This picture captures everything that is great about sports.  The Wigan manager, Paul Jewell, showing utter joy at the final whistle of his team’s 2-1 win over Sheffield United on Sunday.  Wigan had to win to stay in the Premiership and did (TTL wrongly predicted Wigan would be relegated).  This loss relegated Sheffield United and all the emotions of this fact:  disbelief, despair, jealousy, bewilderment etc. can be seen on Neil Warnock’s face.

jewellwarn_g.jpg

This is both faces of sports and can only happen when one lays it all out there.  Enjoy the games. 

And that’s a Wrap…

May 14, 2007

on the Premiership season.   Man United were the deserving champions holding off a resilent Chelsea.  The other 18 teams finished like this.  Liverpool and Arsenal finished 3rd and 4th, and will endure 1 round of qualifying in August for the Champions League. 

Tottenham won the “league within the league” i.e. finishing 5th behind the Top Four Clubs.  Good news for Spurs fans that the best signing of the year, the brilliant Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov indicates he’ll spurn offers from the Top Four and remain at Tottenham.  Click for highlights of Berbatov’s impressive season in throwback black&white fittingly set to some cool beats.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgH0OtJMYtU

Besides Tottenham, Everton and Bolton completed successful campaigns to qualify for the UEFA Cup next season.  TTL expects Tottenham and Everton to perform well in the UEFA Cup while it could be difficult for Bolton if they don’t bolster their roster.  While playing in Europe brings with it some lucrative money, clubs have to be careful not to overextend their players in too many games.  A club really needs at least 18 quality players to compete well in European competitions, their domestic cup and, most importantly, their domestic league.  That takes a big budget and not many teams have the financial resources to do this. 

Entertaining Reading just missed out on an UEFA Cup berth with their 8th place finish.  This is a solid club who could benefit from not playing in UEFA next season as they’ll have an interesting off-season deciding on the make-up of their club and could struggle to stay up in the Premiership next year.  No need to add European pressure to an already tough season ahead.   

Overlooking the logjam in the mid-table, 3 teams were dealt that harshest of fate:  Relegation.  Watford, Charlton and Sheffield United were all set back down to the Championship but this could be overturned via the courts.   West Ham were fined a record 5.5 million pounds for their shady signings of Argentians Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez.  Masherano moved on to Liverpool (and played fantastic) while Tevez was the hero during West Ham’s incredible escape from relegation, topped by scoring the goal in the Hammers 1-0 victory on Sunday at Man United.  At least 5 Premiership clubs are attempting to take West Ham and the Premiere League to court insisting that West Ham should be docked points for their 2 controversial signings and, therefore, relegated.  This could get ugly, English legal-style. 

As always the managerial carousal goes round at the end of the season.  Wigan coach Paul Jewell resigned for health reasons after leading Wigan out of relegation courtesy of Sunday’s nailbiting 2-1 win at Sheffield United.  He’ll be replaced by assistant Chris Hutchings.  Stuart Pearce was sacked at Manchester City following a disappointing 14th place finish courtesy of a woeful offense that scored only 29 goals including a paltry 10 at home.   He’ll most likely remain the coach of the England Under-21 side. 

Overall, it was a good season in the Premiership.  Man U held off Chelsea in a compelling title race.  3 clubs reached the semis of the Champions League while Man U flirted with a treble and Chelsea an unprecedented quadruple (Carling Cup as well).  And there are 2 big games left:  The “Dream” FA Cup Final on Saturday at the new Wembley of Man U-Chelsea and the Champions League Final on May 23rd of AC Milan-Liverpool. 

As promised, here is a Best of Sports #5 which features the Top 10 goals of the year in the Champions League.  Also provides a nice recap courtesy of ESPN2 of all networks.  TTL will toot a bit as goals #3 and #4 were featured in this little ‘ole blog. And here’s hoping the team responsible for the #1 goal as a few more left in them. Enjoy the games.

Weekend Preview

May 10, 2007

Chelsea and Man U played to a predictably boring 0-0 tie last night.  Chelsea did form an “honor guard” and clap Man U onto the pitch, but as it was Man U’s 2nd team it looked strange.  Don’t think Chris Eagles and Kieran Lee contributed greatly to Man U’s Premiership success this season.  Fortunately, these teams will tee it up 1 more time on May 19th at the new Wembley in the FA Cup “Dream” Final .

Moving forward, this is the final weekend of games in the Premiership.  Actually, all 10 games kick-off at 4:00pm CET (10am EDT) on Sunday.   First order of business is to say goodbye to Charlton, who was relegated on Monday after losing 2-0 to Tottenham.  Charlton has been in disarray all year, having 3 managers this season as compared to 1 for the past 15 years.  The club is lacking talent overall and will most likely lose both its strikers, the Bent boys, to Premiership teams.  Going to be a struggle for Charlton to return next season. 

The table shows most places are secure with some jockeying over places 5-7 which guarantees entry into the UEFA Cup (and much more money!) next season.  Everton has pretty much clinched a spot due to their goal differential.  TTL thinks a fatigued Tottenham, playing their 3rd game this week, should still muster up the point needed to qualify at home against Man City.  Reading, Bolton and Portsmouth are dueling for the final place and TTL thinks Bolton can eke out a home win versus Aston Villa to do it. 

At the bottom, Wigan needs to win against Sheffield United to escape relegation in what promises to be a take no prisoners affair as Sheffield sits on the brink as well.  West Ham travels to Old Trafford to try and crash Man U’s title party.  The Hammers need a point (tie) to complete their somewhat miraculous escape.  But a full-strength Man United await and TTL doesn’t think West Ham will do it.  However, think Sheffield will beat Wigan, thus sending Wigan down to the Championship. 

Bundesliga

Still very tight at the top with 2 games to play.  Leaders Schalke 04 travel to bitter rival Borussia Dortmund in a tantalizing derby.  These neighbors don’t like each other and Dortmund would love to damage Schalke’s title chances.  Fellow title contenders Stuggart (v Bochum) and Bremen (v Frankfurt) have much easier games.  At the very least the top 3 clubs have already qualified for the Champions League next season as 4th place Bayern Munich cannot catch-up and will miss out on the CL for 1st time in 10 years.  Drown your sorrows in an enormous beer mug. 

And hearty congrats to Getafe who overcame a 5-2 1st leg defeat to beat Barca 4-0 (6-5 on aggregate) last night to clinch a spot in the Copa del Rey Final against Sevilla.  The comeback of the season and always great when the minnows knock down the giant clubs a few pegs. 

Will run a Best of Sports with every post next week.  Have a good weekend and enjoy the games. 

PG Edition

May 9, 2007

Sorry for the no post yesterday but TTL is playing tour guide to the parents.  So let’s quickly plow through some of what’s happening in the world of sports. 

Manchester United has won the Premiership rendering tonight’s game at Chelsea moot.  Gotta suck to be a fan who paid big money for a game that only a week ago was going to decide the Premiership race.  Now the only suspense is whether Chelsea players will return the honor Man U gave them last year and clap the newly crowned United players onto the pitch.

Interesting scenes at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.  Jose Mourniho walked over to the Chelsea supporters section and told them to keep their chins up.  The supporters cheered wildly and several players tossed their jerseys into the adoring crowd.  Dislike Chelsea, but had to admit was a cool scene.  Also, Chelsea’s brave 2nd-half display coming back to tie Arsenal at 1-1 with only 10 men on the road was gutty.   As TTL’s favorite pundit on Match of the Day, the esteemed Alan Hansen put it, “Chelsea has lost the league but won themselves some more fans today.” 

Elsewhere in the Premiership the relegation battle will go down to the wire on Saturday (full preview in Friday’s TTL).  But baring a ridiculous mathematical scenario it looks as if Fulham will stay up due to their 1-0 over Liverpool on Saturday.  LP was certainly very wasteful and missed a couple of sure goals but Fulham capitalized on their chance as American Clint Dempsey scored a nice goal after a sweet give+go.  Dempsey has been impressive in his short stay at Fulham and TTL expects him to find a way into the starting 11 next season.  C’mon Fulham. 

Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder resigned on Sunday and immediately two big names surfaced for the job.  Recently resigned Bolton manager “Big” Sam Alladyce who is very well-regarded and the impassive Swede (and former England manager) Swen-Goran Eriksson.  While Newcastle was hampered by injuries all season, this is an underachieving club.  They have huge resources available to them but haven’t contended for many trophies lately.  This club has enormous potential and desperately needs someone to unleash it.   

In other realms of Europe, Real Madrid overcame a 1-0 deficit to defeat 3rd-place Sevilla on Sunday night to keep the pressure on leaders Barcelona.  Barca leads Real by 2 points with 5 to play.  Its good to see these Spanish giants in a close title race.  Hopefully this will produce some inspired football.   

That’s all for today.  Remember its only 2 weeks until AC Milan v Liverpool II.  Enjoy the games. 

Weekend Games and Best of Sports

May 4, 2007

Felicitaciones a Sevilla and Espanyol for reaching the UEFA Cup Final.  Sevilla defeated Osasuna 2-0 to win 2-1 on aggregate while Espanyol won 2-1 against Werder Bremen (5-1 on aggregate).  Should be a Spanorific Final in Glasgow on May 16th. 

Speaking of Glasgow, did promise a post on the Scottish Premiere League match TTL attended last Saturday but need to delay due to technical (picture problems) difficulties.  Be up next week.  And before turning the giant telescope to this weekend’s big football games, another correction.  As TTL’s better half points out, Australia clinched its 3rd consecutive Cricket World Cup last Saturday and not its 2nd as TTL mistakenly mentioned.   Mrs. TTL thinks of herself as something of noveau cricket guru and to that all one can say is leg before wicket (LBW) baby!!   To the games. 

Bundesliga

It is close at the top with 3 games to play.  Both front-runners Schalke and Bremen lost last weekend, opening the door for opportunistic Stuggart to climb into 2nd place.  None of these teams will play each other again so Schalke has a slight advantage.  If they win out the Bundesliga is in their Teutonic grasp.  The wildcard team here is Werder Bremen who lost in the UEFA semis on Thursday night and has to regroup to play in a big game at Hertha Berlin on Sunday.  Quite the demanding schedule. 

Primera Division

Still 6 games to go in Espana and its a bullfight at the top.  Leaders Barcelona travel to relegation-threatened Real Sociedad who are sure to put up a desperate fight.   But the big game is at the Bernabeu where 3rd place Real Madrid hosts 2nd place Sevilla on Sunday night.  Sevilla is coming off an emotional UEFA Cup semi win last night and now has to deal with a very dangerous-looking Real Madrid.  Big ask and TTL thinks Real will win this game. 

Premiership

Man U take a 5 point cushion into this weekend’s derby against Man City.  Chelsea travels to Arsenal in tough game.  With only 3 games to play the title is within sight for Man U and they could clinch this weekend with a win and a Chelsea lose.  But Sir Alex has to be licking his meaty chops knowing Man U could celebrate the title with a win Wednesday at Chelsea. 

Dropping the TTL gaze to the bottom of the table where the relegation battle is being fiercely contested.  All of the teams in danger (Charlton, West Ham, Wigan, Fulham and Sheffield United) have 2 games remaining.  Charlton faces a tough away test at Tottenham while West Ham hosts Bolton in another tough game.  Both Bolton and Tottenham are in a 5 team dogfight for places 5-7 which guarantees a UEFA Cup spot next season.  Sheffield United goes to Aston Villa where a tie will most likely keep Sheffield up in the Premiership next season.  Wigan hosts Middlesbrough in a winnable game.   And TTL’s favorite Fulham, (Craven Cottage USA) with 3 Americans receiving significant playing time, face a Liverpool side that will be resting several key players.  C’mon Fulham. 

As regards the Champions League Final, AC Milan announced they’ll be donning their all-white kit which they consider their lucky shirt.  This means Liverpool will be in their traditional Reds which is how it should be.  

Best of Sports 

A lot of talk about the GS Warriors pulling off the greatest upset in NBA history by beating Dallas 4-2 in the 1st round.  As discussed before in this blog, playoffs often boil down to match-ups and this one was favourable to GS.  Be more surprised and would consider it a bigger upset if the Warriors beat either the Rockets or Jazz in the next round.  But as upsets go, none was bigger than this.  Dare you to watch it without getting the chills.  Enjoy the games. 

We’ll always have Istanbul, err Athens

May 3, 2007

AC Milan whipped Manchester United 3-0 (TTL WRONGLY predicted a 2-2 draw) at the rain-drenched San Siro last night.  Their victory sets up the Mother of all rematches against Liverpool in the Champions League Final on May 23rd.   

Milan were masterful, almost notching the opening goal a mere minute into the game through the sublime Kaka.  He and the ageless Clarence Seedorf controlled the game and at times it seemed as if Milan were  the only team on the pitch.  As the disgruntled Man U fan at the bar kept uttering last night, “this is not United.  Where is Man U?” 

TTL didn’t think it could happen but Man U were shutout.  Only for about a 10 minute stretch in the 2nd half did they look like scoring and on the night were a far cry from the team who is in the FA Cup Final and on the cusp of winning the Premiership.  Sir Alex curiously left strikers Alan Smith, Luis Saha (2nd half sub) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the bench leaving Wayne Rooney solo upfront.  Ronaldo was contained by the relentless Gennaro Gattusso while old boys Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs played poorly.  Man U chose a terrible moment to play its worst game of the season. 

TTL was hoping against the 1st all-England CL Final and it is probably more interesting for casual fans to have teams from different countries.  Liverpool and AC Milan are steeped in European history with the teams having won the title a combined 11 times.  But they are best remembered for playing in the classic CL Final in 2005 when AC Milan blew a 3-0 halftime lead and lost on penalties to Liverpool.  TTL’s favorite night of football ever.  Below is a great 9 minute clip of all the madness.

Tonight brings the 2nd leg of the UEFA Cup semis:  Sevilla (0) v Osasuna (1) and Werder Bremen (0) v Espanyol (3).   Back tomorrow with a blog about TTL’s trip to Hibs-Rangers and the Best of Sports.  Enjoy the games.