Archive for the ‘Best of Sports’ Category

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 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. 

Title Races Galore

April 27, 2007

Results from last night’s UEFA Cup semis:  Osasuna beat holders Sevilla 1-0 and Espanyol shocked Werder Bremen 3-0.  Return legs are next Thursday. 

Before looking at this weekend’s big domestic matches, let’s salute those fine footballing teams who have already clinched titles.  Congrats to French Ligue 1 champs Olmpique Lyon (a swank 6th consecutive title), Scottish Premiership champs Celtic (who else?) and Italian Serie A champs Inter Milan who thrived in a waterdowned league.  While Inter certainly played brilliantly in the Serie A this year and finally won some silverware, remember Juventus was trolling in Serie B and AC Milan docked points for their roles in a corruption scandal.  Aah, those backhanded swipes at Italian football felt good.  Kind of cathartic, like a stiff headbutt to the chest.  Now to the games of meaning. 

Sunday is the last day in the Dutch Eredivisie and upstarts AZ Alkmaar are prepared to party like its 1981.  AZ, PSV Eindhoven (who’ve blown an 11 point lead) and AFC Ajax all have 72 points, but Alkmaar has a significant lead in goal differential meaning a win versus Excelsior gives AZ the title.  Since 1965, AZ is the only team besides the big 3 of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord to have won the Eredivisie (in 1981 ahaha).   The Dutch football authorities are taking no chances, bringing replicas of the Kampioenschaal (whew!) trophy to all the pertinent venues on Sunday.  But TTL doesn’t see the need as AZ should win and be able to showcase their fun, attacking style of play in the Champions League next year. 

In the German Bundesliga there are 4 games remaining and here’s the table.  Schalke 04  are favorites to win it, especially considering 3 out of their 4 games are against bottom tier clubs.  But those games can be tricky, especially since those lower teams are battling like mad to avoid relegation.  Bremen has the team to put pressure on Schalke unless last night’s 3-0 loss in the UEFA semis has dented Bremen’s confidence.  Also of note, Bayern Munich lies in 4th place 5 points adrift of Stuggart.  Only the top 3 sides qualify for the Champions League, so Bayern is in real danger of missing out for the 1st time in 11 years.  No tears here, as always like to see new teams get a chance. 

To sunny Spain, where in keeping with the laid-back Mediterranean attitude the Primera Division still has a cool 7 games remaining.  The title race is scintillating.  Barcelona hosts struggling Levante this weekend while Real Madrid travels to relegation threatened Athletic.  Sevilla hosts Espanyol in a possible UEFA Cup Final preview.  The real moving and shaking should come next game (May 6th) when Real Madrid battles Sevilla. 

Now to the best league in Europe (in TTL’s humble opinion), the English Premiership.  Commiserations to Watford who were relegated last week.  Great coach and a decent squad but they were not up to the Premiership grind on a weekly basis.  They should contend next season in the Championship and possibly get promoted back up.  To the top of the table where Man United have a 4 point lead over Chelsea with 4 games to play.  Tricky games this weekend as Chelsea hosts Bolton while Man U travel to Everton.  TTL predicts Chelsea squeaks out a home win while Man U escapes with a draw.  But circle Wednesday, May 9th on your calendar as Chelsea welcomes Man U to Stamford Bridge in the game that will decide it.  

Since it is Friday, it is time for the Best of Sports #3.  This clip is dedicated to Sri Lanka and Australia who do battle on Sunday in the Cricket World Cup Final.  Its an amazing strike from Ruud Van Nistlerooy that capped a team move where 9 Real Madrid players touched the ball (including Ruud on 2 different occasions) with 13 one-touch passes involved. Unfortunately, can’t find the whole build-up but the finish and the Spanish announcing is fantastic. 

Have a good weekend and enjoy the games. 

Musings on sports & Best of Sports(2)

April 6, 2007

Quick recap of the UEFA Cup quarterfinals from last night with the 2nd legs being played next Thursday night.

AZ Alkmaar 0 Werder Bremen 0.   Strange that neither of these high-scoring squads hit the mark.  Bremen slight favorites to advance at home next week. 

Bayer 04 Leverkusen 0  Osasuna 3.  Spanish side shocks Leverkusen in Germany and looks a lock to go through with 3 away goals. 

Sevilla 2  Tottenham 1.  Sevilla were down a goal but came back to win.  Still give the edge to Tottenham to knockout the defending champs next week, especially if central defender Ledley King is healthy and returns to the lineup.  He is one impressive defender. 

Espaynol 3 Benefica 2.  Espanyol led 3-0 before Benefica notched 2 vital away goals in 2 minutes.   Momentum and the away goals are with the Portuguese side as Espanyol has to be a bit stunned they let Benefica off the hook. 

Some random thoughts as TTL surveys the sporting landscape from across the pond. 

Yes, Dice-K was impressive yesterday (10ks, 1ER, 1 walk in 7 innings) in a 4-1 Red Sox victory over the Royals.   Can the media please turn down the hype machine for a few months though?  This was the freakin’ Double Royals featuring no one.  If you are gonna spend a billion on a pitcher, he better beat the Royals.

Speaking of spending gazillions, TTL’s beloved Cubbies (Cubs when they win, Cubbies when they lose) lost 5-2 in Cincy yesterday.  And it has been mandated by the god of storylines that every article written about the Cubs this year reference their off-season spending, Lou Pinella and the impending sale.  Done and done. 

The Masters teed off and look at the high scores.  Mother Nature cooperated (ironic that she would after Hootie stepped down) with some hot, dry conditions and Augusta is playing tough.  Love it if on the back nine on Sunday a whole gaggle of golfers were vying for the Green Jacket.  Always makes for compelling theater. 

Not a huge hockey fan but Toronto v Montreal on Saturday night will be a good one.  Winner gets in playoffs and loser goes home.  Slightly huge game north of the border between two heated rivals. 

The MLS kicks off its 11th season this weekend.  Big year for the league with a new expansion club, the Toronoto FC, and the arrival of some English dude on August 5th.  Head to the always superb Thats On Point for a witty season preview.   

Well, its Friday, so its time for the Best of Sports.  As the quest for the Stanley Cup begins here’s a clip from this year’s fabulous Ottawa-Buffalo game won 6-5 by the Sabres in a shootout.  Its gets a Best of Sports nod because its an all-out brawl featuring the always entertaining goalie fight. Its 8 minutes long but worth watching especially with the hysterical announcing. 

TTL is off traveling for 2 weeks.  This blog will be guest edited by fellow sports junkie PM. There’ll be plenty of posts going up, so have a good weekend and enjoy whatever sports you’re watching. 

  

Euro 2008 Roundup and Best of Sports

March 30, 2007

Lost a post yesterday, so here is a quick recap of Euro 2008 qualifiers from Wednesday.  Northern Ireland shocked Sweden 2-1 behind goal-scoring phenom David Healy to propel N. Ireland to the top of Group F.  Healy has scored 9 goals in 6 qualifying games including a hat trick in the victory over Spain.  N. Ireland has qualified for 3 World Cups but never for a European Championship.  They will have to continue to punch above their weight to beat out Sweden and Spain but what a glorious week for the oft-troubled country. 

England beat the part-timers from Andorra 3-0 behind two 2nd half goals from Steven Gerrard.  English manager Steve McClaren was unmercifully taunted by the 12,000 “fans” who traveled to Barcelona to hurl abuse at the underwhelming English side.   Only the English can enjoy chanting phrases like “You’re a wanker” at the top of their lungs.  To all those “supporters,” TTL simply replies Pot. Kettle. Black. 

Keeping with the British theme, Wales beat San Marino (tiny republic in Italy) 3-0 to give their qualifying campaign a faint pulse.  Scotland fell 2-0 in Italy as Luca Toni netted 2 goals for the fired-up Italians.  Scotland is in 2nd place in Group B, but the heavy breathing behind them belongs to France and Italy.  The Scots have given themselves a chance at qualification with some impressive performances but they probably don’t have enough to emerge from this tough group.   

Congrats to Azerbaijan who achieved their first competitive victory in 4 years with a 1-0 over Finland.  And the party will continue well into the weekend in tiny Liechtenstein as they defeated Latvia 1-0 with Mario Frick providing the winner.  It was only the 2nd win in UEFA European Championship football for the tiny country who just survived an invasion by those “neutral” Swiss.  All hail Liechtenstein. 

Here are the tables at roughly the halfway point.  And just for fun here are TTL’s predictions. 

Group A:  Poland & Portugal  Sorry to Serbia who’ll finish agonizily close 3rd.

Group B:  France & Italy        Sorry to the Scots who’ll fight to the finish.

Group C:  Turkey & Greece     Sorry to Norway.  Just doesn’t have enough quality overall.

Group D:  Germany & Czech Republic   Sorry to Ireland but did lose 5-2 to Cyprus

Group E:  Croatia & Russia       Sorry (but not really) to England

Group F:  Sweden & Spain       Sorry to upstart N. Ireland

Group G:  Netherlands & Romania (sleeper TEAM)   Sorry to Bulgaria

Have to check back on those predictions after the next round of qualifiers which take place during the 1st week of June.  

Now to start a new Friday feature with the Best of Sports.   These are clips or stories or comments or anything that highlight what is great about sports.  The first in this series comes from the Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean.  The catch is great in itself, but the commentary is priceless.  Enjoy.