Embarrassed. Appalled. Downtrodden. All feelings Los Blancos are feelings after Barcelona delivered an annihilation that Jose Mourinho could have never seen coming. Recovering from such a thumping will be tough but if anyone can handle the adversity, it’s Mourinho. I’m trying to think of which player in a Real Madrid jersey had a good game and it’s tough to come up with one. Surprisingly, Casillas had a decent game, thanks to a couple of great instinct saves. Even after all the madness, El Clasico is only one fixture in a long campaign and Real Madrid sit only two points behind the Blaugrana. Sure, the loss is perplexing to most fans of the game. Sergio Ramos and Ricardo Carvalho picked up suspensions so they won’t be available for the contest and Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo are both doubtful for upcoming match, so it’ll be interesting to see who gets the starting nod. Expect often-criticized to Benzema to navigate the lone striker position, which is a tough pill for Mourinho to swallow.
Valencia have had a solid start to the campaign but still sit 10 points off the lead. No one is expecting the team to contend for a league title, especially with the lost of their two talisman David Villa and David Silva in the summer. However, the strike force should be motivated to get a result at the Santiago Bernabéu with former “Blanco” Roberto Soldado returning to his old stomping grounds (4 goals in the last 2 games). Aritz Aduriz has also had a decent start to the season thus far, notching 4 goals in 11 appearances for the club. Juan Mata will also be eager to get back to his old stomping grounds, where he grew up in the Real Madrid youth ranks. Mata has been on fire as of late and is starting to turn into the team’s leader with his blinding pace and recent knack for getting a goal or two. It’s as good a time as any to get a win at the Bernabéu with Madrid potentially still reeling from the devastation at Camp Nou and the injuries and suspensions piling up for the fixture.
I’m seeing Madrid dropping points here, but not the full 3. The side still has too much quality to lose at home to any team but Barcelona.
Written by Chris Behrens, writer for SoccerProse.com
The time has finally come for Arsene Wenger to win a trophy again. With a victory over lowly Wigan Athletic with his young Gunners, Wenger and the crew advanced to the semi-finals of the long-forgotten and mostly inconsequential Carling Cup. Comfortable victories over Tottenham, Newcastle, and Wigan place have led Arsenal to a simple match against lowly Championship side Ipswich Town, who currently sit 17th in the league standings. To put it into further perspective, Ipswich have struggled mightily to get to this point in the cup, having to win in extra time or penalties against Exeter City (that’s a team I use in FIFA when I really want to challenge myself with the worst players in England) and Crewe Alexandra (this is a real team?). Ipswich Town have also knocked out tough competition in Milwall and Northampton Town. They actually did earn a somewhat respectable win last round against West Bromwich Albion. But let’s face it: if men in an Arsenal jersey can’t beat Ipswich in a home and home contest, they do not deserve to win silverware.
Yes, the Gunners would have to still go through West Ham or Birmingham City in the final. It’s time for these “young” Gunners to grow up and prove their worth. Fans have waited 5 long years since the last time they smelled a trophy. Not many people put worth in the Carling Cup. Wenger is even dismissing some of the allure of the cup win, at least publicly, claiming the team will focus on the league fixtures and a contest such as the Carling Cup will take a backseat in the fight for a league title. However, I think Wenger should be and is on the same page as midfielder Denilson. “If you win the Carling Cup, then after will come the FA Cup, then after the Premier League and the Champions League”, Denilson claimed. While I don’t think an EPL title or Champions League title is in the books this season, an FA Cup is a realistic goal. Using the Carling Cup as a springboard confidence booster may be just the thing this squad needs.
For as young as the team is, the Gunners have loads of experience. Wenger needs to stop using youth as an argument for failure. Even other managers are taking note of this. Jose Mourinho is absolutely right:
“He should especially explain to Arsenal supporters how he can’t win one single little trophy since 2005.
Instead of speaking about Real Madrid, Mr Wenger should speak about Arsenal and explain how he lost 2-0 against a team in the Champions League for the first time.
The history about the young kids is getting old now.
[Bacary] Sagna, [Gael] Clichy, [Theo] Walcott, [Cesc] Fabregas, [Alex] Song, [Samir] Nasri, [Robin] Van Persie, [Andrey] Arshavin are not kids. They are all top players.”
Mourinho is correct. The time is now, Mr. Wenger. Focus for three games and bring home a trophy for yourself, the squad, and Gunner nation. Time to validate yourself.
Just when I think FIFA can’t sink any lower in my estimation, they have found a way to shock me yet again by awarding World Cup bids to Russia and Qatar. Now I’ve got nothing against the Russian people, they seem a sad lot at first, cast in the mold of a cold wintry environment marked by economic stagnation, a failed empire, and decades of despotism. But just get to know them, and they become great company. Unfortunately, their national football culture is sorely lacking in involvement, and what stadiums they do have are falling down.
Russia, as a country is massive, but do its location near the top of the world most of the landmass is a unpopulated wasteland that more resembles the ice planet Hoth from Star Wars. Most of its stadiums were built during the “good old days” of the Soviet Union and haven’t really been upgraded since then. This also goes for the road network, rail network (what little there is), and the airports which outside of Moscow resemble something form a Mad Max film. The potholed runways are match only by the rickety planes that fly between them, which are also converted from the Soviet era. Overall, not a great prescription for fans travelling two and from events and I’d predict at least one plane crash.
Another concern in Russia is the fact that the government is completely corrupt and tied to the mafia. The recent leaks from Wikileaks on Vladimir Putin being complicit in organized crime along with his top deputies suggest that event will be marked by nepotism, along with any construction initiatives. FIFA may hope that by awarding the World Cup to Russia they will open a new market with new stadiums for themselves, but in reality all they will end up doing is further enriching the criminal syndicates that are the real power there, especially in the construction industry. And then there are the terrorism fears. It doesn’t get much press these days, but Russia is also fighting a war in the Caucasus and the militants there have attacked Moscow before.
As for Qatar, where to begin? The fact that FIFA, an organization dedicated to women’s soccer as well as men’s, has decided to host the World Cup in a country that is completely opposed to any form of equality for women is reprehensible. Furthermore the system of “sponsorship” for foreign workers in Qatar is akin to modern slavery. Essentially, these people move to Qatar for the promises of high paying jobs, but once they arrive find they have no rights what-so-ever and are forced to except low or no pay in exchange for housing, and if they refuse they are beaten. It should be interesting to see how FIFA get around the fact many of the stadium workers and the people how built the buildings themselves were neither payed and often beaten if they tried to quit.
Also, the sale of alcohol in Qatar is only allowed in side high priced hotels, and it remains illegal to be posses or be drunk in public. I can only imagine the problems this will cause during the competition. The heat also has to be a concern for the players coming to any competition held there. It may be possible to mitigate the effects of 120F weather with sideline hydration over the course of the game, it may not. The fact is no one has ever tried to play a world cup match in the middle of the desert, probably for good reason, and the health of the players and the fans in the stand may require all the games to be played in the cooler evenings or very late at night.
And then there’s the terrorism issue. It seems England’s bid likely went out in the first round due to David Cameron’s idiotic assertion that there was a better than 50% chance that any event would be attacked. Granted, there is probably a 100% chance someone will try to attack the world cup, that doesn’t mean they will succeed or even come close. But in Qatar, it seems so much easier too. The proximity to Iraq and Saudi Arabia makes it so close to trouble, you can literally see it across the border. Overall, I think both awards a are a disaster, both for FIFA and the international soccer community, and I hope they see the light before its too late to change things to another location.
Written by: Matthew Wall, editor, soccerprose.com
After bagging their first league victory in a month (an amazingly “ugly” 5-2 win over struggling Parma), the men in the Inter Milan jersey and manager Rafael Benitez are under more pressure than ever to earn a result against Lazio this week. Just six months removed from an amazing treble under “The Special One”, the team is in absolute shambles, sitting in 5th place already 7 points off of league leader’s AC Milan’s pace. Last campaign, Mourinho’s men were sitting pretty in 1st place.
The defense has been atrocious thus far, with Maicon virtually losing all motivation and respect for playing the game after being torn apart in the Champions League by Gareth Bale and company. Lucio has been equally as awful. The replacements for these men have been no better, as Marco Materazzi at center back and Ivan Cordoba manning the right side have yielded nothing of substance. The team is also starting to show its age up top, with Diego Milito looking far removed from a 22-goal campaign of a years past. On the other side of the coin, Lazio seem to be flourishing. The team currently sits in second in Serie A, only 3 points behind AC Milan. What a difference a year makes (a vast improvement over last season’s 12th place finish in the league). Lazio is really grinding out the results, strangely the trademark of the Mourinho-led Inter squad last season. The Biancazzurri have only notched 17 goals in 14 matches and conceding a respectable 11.
Despite Inter finally getting a win in league play, the side is still looking hapless. 3 of the 5 goals scored were off of deflections and the defense should have been punished by former Inter-man Hernan Crespo much more than they were, as he missed a couple of sitters. The match easily could have gone the other way, despite the score-line not looking that way. The defensive woes are too easily exploitable. I don’t see how this squad doesn’t get taken advantage of on at least a few occasions on in this fixture, as Lazio will be motivated and in front of their own fans. By Inter’s standards, Benitez should have been fired after the embarrassment at White Hart Lane. Now, he’s on a game-by-game evaluation and a Lazio victory will seal his fate. Benitez has changed the winning Inter tactics drastically since his arrival for no apparent reason. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Expect it to happen.
Lazio win 3-1 over Inter Milan. Rafa gets the nix.
I’ve previously reviewed the Adidas Bayern Munich home jersey with great delight (that’s right, delight), and the same goes for the Adidas AC Milan home jersey. In my humble opinion, Adidas nailed it this season with their jersey design. But first, let’s pause for a quick aside about AC Milan’s team—Oguchi Onyewu is on the roster. That’s a pretty prestigious squad to find an American on. I mean, sure he hasn’t necessarily played, which is more of a detriment to his international play, but eh, at least he can say he was on the squad, right?
Alright, now that I got that Onyewu business out of my system, let’s talk about AC Milan Jersey. In my Bayern review, the only drawback to the jersey was the gaudy sponsor logo—this is not the case with the Milan jersey. “Fly Emirates” is printed across the chest, but it doesn’t have a giant white rectangular background to it, so the text isn’t obnoxious in the least. It fits well in the jersey (“Fly” even fits neatly into one vertical stripe, oh my). As with every other professional jersey out there, the team crest is up on the left chest and the Adidas logo is on the right chest. Staying true to the AC Milan colors, the vertical stripes composing the shirt are alternating red and black. The sleeve pattern keeps in line with the other Adidas jerseys this season with the shoulder designed with the three Adidas stripes (red with a black background) which eventually give way to the stripe pattern prevalent on the rest of the jersey. Another sweet feature about this jersey is the side abdomen. This is basically what makes the stripe pattern work for the rest of the jersey. Two stitched gold borders stretch from both sides of the armpit and down to the hip, and they provide the border for a solid black area of the abdomen. It adds a touch of class and a touch of a fortitudinous image for any player rockin’ this jersey on the pitch. I’m glad the makers of the jersey chose to keep the gold elements limited, so the jersey doesn’t reach into the garish echelon. From my memory, which may or may not be faulty, AC Milan has always had this kind of jersey pattern with the vertical stripes, but it was missing something to make it stand out. I think Adidas changed that this year. The golden curves on either side of the abdomen really stick out as a finishing touch on the jersey. As opposed to the Bayern Munich jersey, the back of the AC Milan jersey is blank and continues the stripe pattern. I think that works because the colors are red and black; any other colors, and I think it gets a little obnoxious. Overall, this is definitely a solid jersey in design and execution. It’s also made of 100% polyester with Adidas CLIMACOOL technology, which is pretty much standard for Adidas jerseys. The $69.99 price tag is also pretty standard for an Adidas jersey, so I’ll say what I usually say in this situation: It’s worth it, especially if you’re a fan of AC Milan or know a fan and need a holiday gift idea!
Written by: Kris Dyer, soccerprose.com
In honor of the US World Cup bid for 2022, we celebrate and bask in the glory of Tony Meola’s wondrous and awesome mullet. The fact that this is not popular today is appalling. Let’s party like it’s 1994. We can only hope the stars of the 2022 World Cup use Meola as inspiration.
We’ve also got word from SoccerPro that they are having a 20-22% sale on all US gear, in honor of the 2022 US World Cup bid. Those clever people and their sales. Gotta love it.
A true shocker today as Manchester United were dumped out of the Carling Cup by an inspired West Ham side. Scenes of joyous pandemonium greeted any surprised fans who turned on the match at half time to see the reign kings of Manchester United chopped down to size by bottom of the table West Ham. Jonathan Spector, a player not normally associated with anything but mediocrity, slotted home two goals to give Hammers the lead the half. Before tonight, he had never scored in English football, and apparently hadn’t scene his shot hit the back of the net for thousands of minutes before that. He’s surely made a raucous introduction tonight and will have special place in the hearts of the Hammers faithful. If I were him, I’d have those boots bronzed, or never play in anything else.
The other story of the half was the inspired performance of Obinna in the midfield. United were simply unable to contain his combination of short passing and quick acceleration. His balls into Spector, combine with the confusion he wrought in the United defense allowed him to create the opportunities for both goals.
The Hammers made no changes for the second half, and the men in Manchester United jerseys only swapped Bebe for Macheda in the hopes of building something from the middle, or at least reigning in Obinna. There were a few scares for the Hammers right as the match got back under way, but in the end United never seemed able to get going once they were 2-0 down. Surely a worrying sign for Sir Alex. Fletcher had the best chance of the half for United, when Green was forced to make a save on the edge of his own box. Unfortunately, Fletcher skyed it over with all the grace of ogre.
Moments later, Obinna set up Cole who headed West Ham 3-0 in front, and it was all over. The similarities of the match with that of Barcelona’s annihilation of Real Madrid were striking, United looked a team of individuals who were unable to effectively co-ordinate there efforts. They gave the ball away, and sent hopeless balls forward. West Ham, through no small effort on the part of Obinna who seemed to channel his inner Messi, to create the inspiration need to put United to the Nike Superfly tipped sword. Overall, it was a case of one team versus a slew of individuals, and on this day, as yesterday, the team mentality won out. One thing is for sure, if Cristiano Ronaldo was watching, he’ll know who to call for a shoulder to cry on.
Written by: Matthew Wall, editor, soccerprose.com
I know, I know, it’s November and I’m talking about Adidas Adilette sandals. Obviously it’s not exactly sandal season in most places anymore, but they’re still worth discussing. The sandals have been around since 1972, so, yeah, I’d say they’re a pretty classic sandal. Though I haven’t been around since ’72, I can still remember seeing these sandals being around since I was a wee little kid. If I remember correctly, they’re even shown in the movie Dazed and Confused. Don’t quote me on that, though.
Anyway, I picked up a pair of these sandals about 2 months or so ago, and it was easily the best sandal purchase I’ve made. It’s absurd how comfortable these things are right from the start. I seriously think it took me about an hour to get them broken in. The footbed is wicked supportive and comfy, and what I especially love about it is the contour made for your toes. It fits right into the arch of your toes, so they stay put with every step. As a pigeon-toed (that’s right) dude, I often have problems finding a sandal that stays with my awkward way of walking, and I’m so happy I picked up a pair of Adilettes. They stay with my foot while I’m walking or jogging to beat the meter maid, but they are still super easy to slip on and off. I wear them pretty much every morning to put change in the meter and get coffee. The only “drawback” I found with the sandals is that the upper strap kind of digs into your foot for a day or so. It’s not painful or anything, but you can just feel the stiffness of the upper until you get it broken in. Like I said, breaking them in doesn’t take long, so the stiffness really isn’t an issue. These sandals aren’t necessarily the best at keeping your foot absolutely dry, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had a sandal that did well in that department. All in all, these sandals are a classic in style. I’ve received many a compliment from buddies of mine because they had no idea you could still get these sandals. Rest assured, guys (and girls), these sandals are very much alive. Oh, and as I said earlier, I know it’s not exactly sandal weather anymore in most places. Still, the sandals are totally affordable at $22.49 per pair, and I think they’ll make a great gift idea. I’ve only had mine a couple months, but they show no signs of falling apart on me. I’ve stubbed the front of them on the sidewalk so many times, yet they still remain sturdy and in form. Definitely worth the twenty bucks.
Oh, right, they also come in other colors than navy, if that happened to be your hang up!
Written by: Kristopher Dyer from soccerpro.com
Nike has created an affordable, intimidating cleat in the Nike Total 90 Shoot III that is both high performing and sexy (yes, I said sexy, deal with it). The younger brother of the Total 90 Laser Elite, the Shoot III is a surprisingly comfortable shoe (I’m normally an Adidas man myself), as it runs wider than most Nike shoes. If you have wider feet, fret not. The cleat fits on like a glove. Synthetic leather helps makes the shoe both durable and lightweight, a priority for most player in this day and age. Though not as lightweight as its older brother, the Shoot III has a superior touch over most other boots available today, thanks in large part to the “strike” material on the instep of the cleat.
The rubbery insole may feel like a cheap add-on to the similar styling of the rival Adidas Predator material, however, this could not be further from the truth. When testing the boot, I found the boot’s accuracy, power, and swerve to be quite comparable to that of an Adidas Predator style boot, if not better. Plus, the shoe runs for under $100, something that Adidas cannot brag about with its shoe. Other parts of the shoe are designed for performance as well. Strategically placed studs optimize traction and increase stability so you can cut with pinpoint accuracy and speed. The molded EVA sock-liner also increased comfort and reduces any pressure the studs may place on your foot. A contoured arch helps comfort and the shoe includes solid heel support for further comfort. Not only does the shoe perform well and feels extremely comfortable, but also the Shoot III looks fierce.
Coming from an Adidas shoe lover, the fact I’m giving the Shoot III a ton of credit for its looks should say a lot. The red color will make your feet pop on the pitch instantly. The grey/black color mixed with the challenge red and the black laces help make the entire shoe stand out even more. My one issue with the boot is the big T90 near the heel. It looks slightly gaudy to me, but is hardly noticeable and in reality, a ridiculous complaint. Overall, this shoe is a terrific value for all you get.