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Brisbane Roar – Last Season’s Chumps to This Season’s Champs

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rewind to this time last season for the Brisbane Roar FC.  The Ange Postecoglou revolution had just started and a faltering Brisbane Roar were already looking to build for next season. After the end of yet another disappointing season, the Roar finished a lowly ninth out a possible tenth on 30 points, two points below A-League debutants and rivals North Queensland Fury with many whom had predicted would end up with the wooden spoon.
 A tremulant end of, close and off season saw many players come and go, most notably the release of Former Socceroos Craig Moore and Danny Tiatto and the releases of Scottish international Charlie Miller who left mid-season to rivals Gold Coast United and goalkeeper Liam Reddy to Wellington Pheonix. The club also saw the talented trio of Michael Zullo, Adam Sorata and Tommy Oar transferred to Dutch club FC Utrecht, while talisman striker Serjio van Dijk switched sides and joined Adelaide United. Other players were also released, retired or had their contracts mutually terminated, so this in turn left a “skeleton squad” with a lot of work for Ange Postecoglou and his backroom staff to rejuvenate a squad that has in the past shown so much promise, yet failed to translate it into tangible results.
In what was the busiest off season for any of the A-League clubs (bar new boys Melbourne Heart FC and the North Queensland Fury v2.0), the club from Brisbane saw an introduction of 12 new faces including:

- Michael Theoklitos from Norwich City in England
- Shane Stefanutto from North Queensland Fury
- Erik Paartalu from Greenock Morton in Scotland
- Thomas Broich from 1. FC Nuremberg in Germany
- Jean Carlos Solórzano on loan from L.D. Alajuelense in Costa Rica

A great work ethic, fuelled by desire to rid their tag of the league’s perennial underachievers saw the Roar get season off to a blistering start, drawing against rivals Gold Coast United in the opening round before going undefeated until Round when losing 2 – 1 to Melbourne Victory.
  The Roar have (at the time of publishing) gone a remarkable A-League and Australian football record 23 games undefeated, beating the previous record of 21 set by APIA Leichhardt in 1987.

But what is the secret to their success? What is about this Roar side who have captivated audiences, pundits and naysayers alike with their very attractive brand of attacking football (no, the Barcelona FC comparison will not be alluded to) that have made them a shining example of Australian football? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but it can come down to a few reasons.

The first is the introduction of a coaching revolution. The 2009/2010 team was compounded with an aging squad, unsettled by divisions in the squad and the infamous Frank Farina incident. When Farina was released just over midway of the season, the Postecoglou revolution set about changing the dynamics of the squad by cutting out the deadwood and introducing young, hungry players as well as quality imports. Postecogolou has a tremendous track record of working with youth squads, being the Young Socceroos U-20’s coach for seven years (2000 – 2007) as well as coaching NSL powerhouse South Melbourne FC to two NSL titles. He is noted for identifying and developing young players and using them to their maximum capabilities, and haven’t the results payed dividends. Players like Mitch Nichols and Luke DeVere have really flourished under the Postecogolou revolution, proving how important it is to have an injection of youth in your first team squad.

The second is the addition of quality players, both Australian and overseas players. Who’d of known of German midfield dynamo Thomas Broich in Australia before he was signed by the Roar? Exactly… It’s the proper selection of finding imports (not just scouting them on DVDs and YouTube) that have added a much needed zest to the squad. Broich, working alongside fellow midfielder and team captain Matt MacKay have supplied the Brisbane attack with much needed service, while bagging a few themselves. Broich’s mastery of the ball from the centre of the park has played a great role in why the Roar are probably the most potent team in the league this season. On loan and in form striker Jean Carlos Solórzano got off to a slow start but has proved to be quite a handy signing, constantly challenging for golden boot honours. Partnered with the now departed Reinaldo, they formed a very attacking and lethal strike force which could punish any defence.
The return of Michael Theoklitos to the A-League from Norwich City has reaped massive rewards as his dynamics, marshalling of the defence and consistent upon consistent performances are a real reason why the Brisbane defence refuses to leak so many goals. With players like Erik Paartalu and Shane Stefanutto in front of him, the Roar defence has turned from last season’s chumps to (inevitably) this season’s champs.

So with the minor premiership basically all but wrapped up, the Brisbane Roar have proven that with the proper mentality, proper coaching and a balanced playing roster, a team can go from perennial underachievers to the envy of all clubs in the league. The challenge now  remains for the boys from Brisbane is to maintain their hot form well into the finals series.

By Marcel Abboud - Football Correspondant and Facebook follower

Spanish Premiera - Almeria vs Real Madrid - Review

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Real Madrid has suffered a setback in their title ambitions with a 1-1 draw against Almeria, who are currently bottom of the La Liga table. A stubborn Almeria side prevented Los Blancos from securing all three points, despite the away side having an abundance of opportunities to grab the winning goal. Esteban Granero’s equalizer for Madrid cancelled out Jose Ulloa’s opener, but the result could nonetheless prove to be costly for Mourinho’s men in their pursuit to regain the La Liga title.

The first half was undoubtedly a quiet affair, with Los Blancos controlling play but unable to break the deadlock. The best chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to Angel Di Maria; a brilliant low ball by Kaka found Ronaldo who nearly slotted the ball past Diego alves, only for the goalkeeper to make a stunning close-range save. When the ball fell to Di Maria, the Argentine failed to capitalize on this golden opportunity with a mis-kick. The somewhat dull first half included very few other chances, with Almeria attacking mainly on the counter-attack.

The second half began with Madrid far more enthusiastic and lively than Almeria, and a Xabi Alonso long range strike and Sergio Ramos’ header nearly gave the away side the lead. Not long after this Kaka made way for Karim Benzema, despite the Brazilian being much more effective on pitch than fellow midfielders Mesut Oezil and Angel Di Maria. However, it was not long before the hosts surprisingly grapped the opener, courtesy of a run from Pablo Piatti who stormed into the penalty box before the ball fell to Ulloa who calmly slotted home past Casillas.

A tactical substitution soon followed, with Ricardo Carvalho and Granero on for Raul Albiol and Marcelo respectively. Real Madrid’s attempts to find the equalizer began soon after, with Ronaldo looking to respond immediately with a low shot at Alves’ near post. The ball was then ultimately diverted wide of the post by the goalkeeper’s foot. However, Madrid were not the only attacking side and Almeria could have been two goals up when Vargas controlled a cross field ball well and turned past Carvalho, but the ball was trapped under his feet before he could find the chance to have a shot at Casillas.

While Madrid continued to venture forward, they never really tested the Almeria defence or Alves, with Benzema barely touching the ball.

Los Blancos then soon challenged for a penalty when Ronaldo was brought down by Juanma Ortiz from behind, but the referee ordered play to continue, much to the dismay of the Madrid supporters. The equaliser was coming though and when Benzema did well to hold off two defenders from outside the box, he flicked it to the onrushing Granero who hammered the ball into the back of the net above Alves’ head.

With both teams aiming to find the match winning goal, tensions were high in the Stadium de los Juegos Mediterráneos, but neither team seemed to be able to break the deadlock. It was not until the very end during injury time that Ronaldo had two free kicks in ideal positions, with the second attempt striking the cross bar. Xabi Alonso latched onto the rebound with an excellent strike, but when the ball was blocked it was all over. The conclusion of the game was a bitter affair, with Casillas and Fabian Vargas coming together and having a heated argument, only for their teammates to come to their defence in what was an unsavoury end to the match.

The result leaves Madrid trailing Barcelona by 4 points at the top of the Primera table. Jose Mourinho will undoubtedly hope that his side’s title ambitions have not been dented, although overhauling the points deficit will be no easy task for Los Blancos. Almeria, on the other hand, still remain rooted to the bottom of the table, two points from safety. This particular result will surely provide them with a much needed confidence boost ahead of this week’s Copa del Rey clash with Deportiva La Coruna.

Final Score: Almeria 1 - Real Madrid 1


By Alexander Novo - Spanish Correspondant


Friday, January 21, 2011

As you may have noticed Play the Advantage has not been able to update you with the latest football news. Our writers are currently on holiday and we would like to give them a well deserved break from both their work and their writing. We will be back up and running in the next few days. Thanks for all you support. Keep the articles flowing!


PTA Team

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Roque Santa Cruz loaned out to Blackburn Rovers

Monday, January 17, 2011

Manchester City reject Roque Santa Cruz has returned to the club that brought him to England on a loan deal. Santa Cruz has been unhappy at City, often left out of the squad in favour of Carlos Tevez, Baotelli and with recent signing Dzeko this looks to continue.

The Paraguayan will hope to get regular playing time at the club as he continues to try and re-discover the form that made him wanted across Europe.This is the second time Cruz has been at the club after signing from Bayern Munich before he went on to then join Manchester City.

He and Blackburn will want to make the deal permanant if Santa Cruz once again finds his prolific scoring form.

A-League Round 23 - Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory - Review

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Two of the some of the A-League’s biggest clubs met at the Sydney Football Stadium last night (15/1/2011) in what can be effectively called Sydney FC’s “do or die” match against their arch rivals Melbourne Victory for a chance to qualify for the finals series.

A very frenetic, sometimes physical match ended with both teams taking a share of the spoils in a pulsating 1 – 1 draw that surely left many Sydney FC fans with their hearts on their sleeves. For all the Sky Blues’ possession and domination in the first half, they were unable to break down a stubborn Melbourne Victory defence. A few reflex saves by Petkovic saved the blushes of what looked like a depleted Victory backline, missing the services of inspirational hardman Kevin Muscat (suspended) and young defender Adrian Leijer.

Great lead up work from Hirofumi Moriyasu saw his shot come back off the post while a great header from Brazilian Bruno Cazarine was saved by the boots of Petkovic, arguably the two best chances of the first half. Melbourne lacked vigour in the opening stages and at times couldn’t keep up and stop the quick feet and creative work of sometime Socceroo and man of the match Nicky Carle.

The second half was a completely different story and the Sky Blues were made to pay for their lack of a finishing touch as on the Victory came out blazing with Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick making a very attacking substitutions in the way of Mate Dugandzic and Matthew Foschini. Carlos Hernandez slipped through the ball for a quick Victory counter as Danny Allsopp made his return the Australian domestic football scene scoring a looping deflected effort past Sydney keeper Liam Reddy.

Melbourne then sparked into life and absolutely dominated the remaning proceedings, as Sydney FC’s touch seemed to have gone passed them. An absolute air-swing by youngster Dimitri Petratos in the final third of the game could have sealed it for the homeside, but it was not until the introduction of right back Shannon Cole that Sydney FC showed some determination to at least snatch a draw. His delightful lead up play and resulting shot just ended up wide of the Victory posts, a bright moment in what was a dull half for the reigning champions.

When it seemed the game was set to end in the Victory’s favour, Finnish import striker and fan favourite Juho “The Surgeon” Mäkelä excellently latched onto Nicky Carle’s shot-come-pass to slot it passed the Victory, grabbing a late equaliser in the first minute of extra time to send the crowd of over 11,000 into raptures.

The pre-game press was dominated by Sydney FC’s CEO Edwin Ludgt coming out and saying that his side will “smash” the victory, but yet even though the Sky Blues managed a late and dramatic draw, it was the Victory who really come out as victors here. They further cemented their top six aspirations and at the same time have crushed their rivals’ very slim chances of ever making the finals series.

So for Sydney was it one point gained or two points crushed? In retrospect, all signs definitely point to the latter.

By Marcel Abboud (Facebook Follower) and Football Correspondant

Cahill supports Queensland Flood Relief Appeal

As we've earlier reported Queensland has been hit by a flood of massive proportions. The widespread destruction has resulted in the loss of many lives, thousands of homeless, lost businesses and has even affected football in the area with Queensland's iconic Suncorp Stadium going under water.

Everton striker and Australian international Tim Cahill has shown his support in the relief appeal. Cahill's initiative invloves an Ebay auction for the "opportunity of a lifetime". Tim is offering a chance for two people to go and watch him play for Everton in the Premier league. His package includes two flights, accomodation, box seat tickets, Cahill's signed boots, team signed Everton jersey and a chance to attend a team training session. All proceeds from the raffle will obviously be donated the relief appeal.

Bidding has resembled rapid fire as the price of the experience moved past the 400000 Australian Dollar mark. Along with this football Australia has donated $100000 and pledged all ticket sales next week to the cause.

Cahill is currently in international duties with the Socceroos in the Asian Cup.

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Lukaku interest generates a £25.2 million price tag

Sensational 17 year old Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has been tipped to leave Anderlecht this January as he generates interest from the biggest clubs around Europe.

Clubs including Real Madrid, Chelsea and Liverpool have expressed their interest to sign the teenager. However Lukaku wishes to stay in Belgium until he completes his schooling and turns 18. This decision was welcomed by the club who have already turned down offers in the previous transfer windows.

Lukaku has indeed expressed his will to sign for Real Madrid in the past. However according to Anderlecht they believe that he would be better suited to the style of the Premier League.

Lukaku's tall figure makes him a defenders worst nightmare, his shooting ability and pace will certainly take him far into the future, where he may just be able to establish himself as one of the world's best players.

Alex Terra on Fire in the A-League

Brazillian import Alex Terra has prodcued a spectacualr goal in his sides 1-1 draw.

Check out the goal below.

Steven Pienaar transfer offer accepted

Saturday, January 15, 2011

According to Everton manager David Moyes midfielder Steven Pienaar may be on his way out this January after the club accepted a bid from a club agreeing to sell.

The club that the South African is destined for is still unknown however he is still yet to agree to individual terms. Moyes claimed that he was going to be moving only to a bigger club and that he will fit in well if the deal goes ahead.

The money recieved from the deal will be a much needed boost for Everton. The club rarely has money to splash out on the market with, so the selling of Pienaar may just see some new blood arrive.
Pienaar has been a star performer for the toffees since arriving from Borussia Dortmund a few years back.

The deal will be completed by the end of the January transfer window if all goes well.

Italian Serie A January transfer window roundup

We take a look at the clubs looking to make a move for a player, and those looking to offload those not performing very well.

Ac Milan: Milan have already made a move and have successfully signed Antonio Cassano from Sampdoria on a free loan deal. However with a lengthy injury to Silva, Milan may just sign a centre back to help fill in the ranks. Van Bommel has been at the top of Milan's wish list.

Inter Milan: Once again Inter look to spend little on the market. Although the defending Italian Champions are also in the hunt for Van Bommel. Inter continue to cultivate their youth and alot of young buys may be on the cards including Luc from Feyenoord. An audacious comment about bringing Ac Milan's Pato to the otherside of Milan look to have gone astray.

Juventus: The Turin giants have a string of injuries to deal with this season. Especially upfront where only two of their 6 strikers are fit. Juventus have been linked with a host of big forwards including Suarez and Benzema. They have also been in the hunt for a right back and that looks to almost be complete with the club confirming that they are in talks with Barzagli of Wolfsburg. It also looks like Juve will be offloading some under performers including Amauri and maybe Grosso.

Roma: Roma have loaned Cincinho to Villarreal just recently and will look to replace the Brazillian. Vucinic has also been tipped to leave the club. With growing German interest the right sum of money could see him leave Rome. Julio Baptista has left Roma so they to may be looking for some fire power upfront. Fiorentina hitman Alberto Gilardino has been tipped as a possible replacement.

Napoli: Napoli are trying to cement their position in the Serie A top four. Although interest in their stars Hamsik and Lavezzi may just prevent them from doing this. Interest from Juventus in the Slovakian and Premier League interest in the Argentinian may just see a large sum of money arrive at Napoli this January.

Palermo: Javier Pastore has been valued at 80 million by his club, nevertheless interest from Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona is still present. Pastore has guided Palermo to a strong league position. They are very keen on holding on to the young superstar.

There looks to be much movement in the Serie A this January and Play the Advantage will try and ensure that you hear about every move as it happens. If you are looking for news for smaller Italian clubs let us know and we will take a look deeper into the Transfer window.

News from La Liga in the coming days.

Premier League January transfer window roundup

We take a look at the clubs looking to make a move for a player, and those looking to offload those not performing very well.

Arsenal: Arsene Wenger came out after his sides' 1-0 loss to Ipswich claiming that he was looking at offloading "flops" as he labelled them. Players that look to be leaving the Emirates include Arshavin, Almunia, Bendtner and Denilson. Arsenal were in the hunt for a centre back, Liverpool's Daniel Agger was apparantly in talks with the club regarding a loan deal.

Chelsea: Creativity has been lacking upfront of recent and Chelsea will be looking to add some spark in the midfield. A big name looks to be arriving at Stamford Bridge, Kaka may just be the player Chelsea need to contest the title. Interest in Bosingwa from Italy may just see Chelsea looking for a wingback also.

Liverpool: Kenny Dalglish came out this week saying that he content with the squad at hand. Nevertheless Liverpool have been linked with a number of strikers to help bring some goals to the club. Amauri and Suarez have been reported to be of interest to the Reds. Torres may also be on the move after a poor season this year. Fullbacks Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger have been attracting attention from Juventus and Arsenal.

Manchester United: Alexis Sanchez has long been tipped to join the Red Devils and this January the deal might be set in stone. Per Mertesacker has been linked with United as a busy schedule will see Ferdinand and Vidic needing rests. Wes Brown has attracted the interest of Tottenham and may just leave by the time the window closes.

Manchester City: Eastlands has already seen Edin Dzeko arrive this window however, City will look to unload from their surplus of strikers. The first to go look to be Adebayor and Santa Cruz who have not been getting as much playing time as a player of their calibre deserves.

Tottenham: After a stellar start to the season Gareth Bale has attracted the interest of the biggest clubs around Europe. However Tottenham will not let their wing man go. Tottenham have been in the hunt for David Beckham of late and a move to the club looks unlikely, but Beckham desperately wants to return to England, so stay tuned.

Aston Villa: Lyon have confirmed talks that midfielder Jean Makoun is in talks with Villa. They were also linked with an audacious loan move for Real Madrid's Karim Benzema but Jose Mourinho has looked to quell the talks. Blackpool's star performer Charlie Adams has also gained the interest of Villa scouts.

There looks to be much movement in the EPL this January and Play the Advantage will try and ensure that you hear about every move as it happens. If you are looking for news for smaller EPL clubs let us know and we will take a look deeper into the Transfer window.

News to come from Serie A and La Liga in the coming days.

Coppa Italia - Juventus vs Catania - Review

Friday, January 14, 2011

Juventus have put a two loss streak to an end, by comprehensively accounting for Catania in their Coppa Italia round of 16 clash. The Bianconeri scored two goals through wingers Pepe and Krasic. Although another injury, this time to newly bought Luca Toni will dampen spirits. Catania offered little on the night, giving Buffon an easy return to Italian football.

Juventus looked good from the onset with Milos Krasic returning to his deadly form constantly causing trouble down the wing. Although it was Catania who would almost go ahead with Delvecchio not being able to finish from inside the box, then again from a header which sailed well over.

Juventus were under pressure again although this time Luca Toni went down injured, providing Del Neri with another attacker who would be missing through injury. It was Alberto Aquilani who came on for Toni .

The Old Lady put the injury behind them going on to take the lead through a well worked goal. Inspirational captain Alessandro Del Piero, jerked inside the box, turning away from his marker. The veteran then expertly set up a ball over the top to Krasic who finished on the volley with ease. It was almost Del Piero assisting another teamate just two minutes later as Marchisio was stopped trying to round the keeper.

Juventus went on to dominate possession for the remainder of the first half. They came out in the same form in the second. After winning a few consecutive corners Simone Pepe latched onto a Chiellini header to the back post to also volley the ball into the net, much the same as teamate Krasic.

Juventus saw out the remainder of the match, much the same way they went about gaining the lead. Dominating possession whilst ensuring that their passing was accurate and creative. Felip Melo muscled out the Catania midfield and Juventus looked to be a revived team after their loss to Napoli last week.

Juventus face Bari this weekend and will hope to turn the tides on a first matchday loss.

Final Score -       Juventus 2        Catania 0
                            Krasic 35
                            Pepe  54

Man of the Match - Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus)

Asian Cup 2011 - Australia vs South Korea - Preview

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In what should prove to be an exciting encounter for both fans on opposite ends (and the spectating neutral), Australia will come up against what is probably their hardest test thus yet in the group stages when they take on two time former Asian Cup champions South Korea. There’s a lot at stake for both teams as a win will secure either team’s passage into the knockout stages of the tournament, while the looser will have to see how results come to fruition with the group’s remaining  games.

Coming from a convincing 4 – 0 win over India in Group C’s, the Socceroos will have it all to do when the face a strong South Korean side who, with a win over the Socceroos, can secure their passage into the knockout stages of the Asian Cup. Although India showed a lot of courage, they were in reality a few classes below the “new found attack prowess” of the men in the Green and Gold. The combination of Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill leading the attack reaped great dividends, as the Australian midfield fed and supplied the back of the Indian net with an abundance of goals. While the Australian defence had next to nothing to do during their encounter with the Bhangra Boys, it can be said that they were found wanting when India did manage to produce a few counter attacking opportunities. This will be severely tested against the speed and agility of South Korea, who are known for the high work rate and their speed within the midfield. Though Australia possess the physical strength and height (thanks to players such as Sasa Ognenovski  and Tim Cahill) to out muscle their opponents, this proved to be the opposite as the last time these two sides met, South Korea came out as convincing 3 – 1 victors.

Although defeating fellow knockout stage hopefuls Bahrain 2 - 1, the Taeguek Warriors were given a run for their money as it turned out that the men from the Gulf were no easy beats. The South Koreans tasks will be made just that much harder as starting centre-back Kwak Tae-Hwi was shown a straight red and given his marching orders after conceding a late penalty. Many Manchester United fans and football enthusiasts will recognise a familiar face as inspirational leader and team captain Park Ji-Sung looks to further galvanise a strong midfield, all the while using fellow English Premier League player Lee Chung-Yong of Bolton Wanderers fame on the right wing. Known to be lightning quick on the break, Lee will be hard to shut down along with the rest of the Korean attack with the Socceroos needing to sure up their defences if they are to withstand the quick feet of the men from the East.


A great, attacking game should ensue with not only both sides having a lot riding on the outcome of this game, but the makeup of the entire Group C. A win will see the victor progress, while the looser will be sweating results elsewhere.

By Marcel Abboud - (Facebook Follower) - Football Correspondant

Arsenal fails to dominate in the Carling Cup, whilst Liverpool continue to slip in the Premier League.

Action from England saw a couple of fixtures take place overnight. The most prominant being Liverpool's league match with Blackpool and Arsenal's clash with Ipswich in the Carling Cup.

In Dalglish's first league game as the Red's manager Liverpool were looking to put the first half of their season behind them and begin a climb up the ladder. It looked to be a promising start for the away side as in the third minute, out of form striker and Spanish international Fernando Torres found the back of the net after just 3 minutes.
Although Liverpool failed to push forward after the goal, preferring to sit back and try and hold out for the rest of the match.

Blackpool on the otherhand looked very lively in attack. Gary Taylor-Fletcher equalised for the promoted side and the game looked to be turning in Blackpool's favour. The Liverpool defence looked non existant in Taylor-Fletcher's goal as a lazy midfield failed to track back, mixed with a bit of luck he easily slotted the ball past Reina.

Blackpool continued to dominate the match and almost went ahead just minutes after the halftime restart, online prevented from some excellent keeping from Reina. Although all the attack from Blackpool would pay dividends as later in the first half a long Blackpool pass was headed onto Campell who added to the score sheet with an unstoppable header. The goal proved to be the winner as Blackpool inflicted yet another loss on Liverpool. Liverpool stay on 25 points just four away from relegation.

The coaching change in Liverpool highlighted that the issue isn't with the quality of coaching, but maybe with the players.

Home advantage counted in Ipswich as Arsenal were defeated 1-0 by the home side in the Carling Cup. Arsenal have alot of work to do in the second leg tie as they were comprehensively dominated by the Suffolk side.

Hungarian striker Tamas Priskin was by far the best player on the pitch as a goal late in the second half saw the underdogs, defeat a fairly strong Arsenal side. Looking to win their first piece of silverware in five years Arsenal started with Arshavin and Fabregas to help bolster attack. Althpugh Ipswich went closest to scoring in the first half, with Arsenal's best opportunity coming from a freekick which resulted in nothing.

The scond half saw play open up as Ipswich stunned the Gunners by holding a majority of the possession. They were rewarded with a goal when a nicley played through ball found Priskin and he cooly slotted the ball home to stun the travelling fans and send the stadium into raptures.

Arsenal will most likely play a full strenght squad in the second leg to try and turn the tie in their favour and bring home a trophy to the emirates.

Football in Lebanon...Fair Play for None…

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It’s been well documented in the media that the A-League crowds for the 2010/2011 season are drastically lower than previous seasons, with fans not turning up to games for one reason or another. Many say its due to the league being “stale” or the level of play isn’t “exciting enough” or they blame it on the timing, weather and the lack of promotion. While football in Australia tends to fair not as well as an Australian football fan would like in comparison to other national leagues, it certainly has made an impact since the sport’s overhaul in 2005.

But while many tend to complain about the crowd numbers but yet lack the “proactiveness” to do anything about it, spare your thoughts for the Middle Eastern nation of Lebanon.

It’s certainly a country that loves its football, but in Lebanon the sport is in trouble, thanks largely to the politicisation of the game and fears for the security of spectators.

In this tiny nation of just over four million people, football is one of the most popular sports, and any game played could easily fill up any stadium. Unfortunately for the fans of the world game, due to the tense and sometimes violent political atmosphere, they are forced to either watch from nearby apartments, wait outside their stadium, or view proceedings on live television.

Introduced to the country in the late 1800’s by foreigners and made popular by the immigration of Armenians to Lebanon and while under the French Mandate, The first competition was played out in 1934 and in 1936 Lebanon joined football’s governing body, FIFA.
Football is played everywhere: from the parks to the streets, it’s not uncommon to see a game being played amongst friends and youth. But while the playing of the sport is widespread, its active support of its league is dwindling.

For more than three years now, the Lebanese Football Association (LFA) has imposed a ban on spectators out of fears that sectarian violence could break out. This decision was made in the aftermath of the 2006 Israeli war as the government concluded that large gatherings of football fans, many of whom are divided amongst religious and political affiliations, would be best avoided due to the prevailing tensions.

In Lebanon, where politics dominates life, many teams are backed by political parties or religious groups. For example, Al-Ahed is backed by the political party Hezbollah through their television station Al Manar; former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri supported both Al-Nejmeh and Al-Ansar; Shabab al Ghazieh is a Shia Muslim team from the south; Druze politicians support Safa Beirut while Christian majorities support both Club Sportif La Sagesse and Salam Zgharta. The lack of funding of the game has paved the way for such groups (whether for noble or other purposes) to step in and take control of the clubs.

“There are always political problems because every team belongs to politicians and the fan starts to hit each other with cans, sticks, guns or anything else,” says Badwi Al-Maarrawi, a Salam Zgharta fan in the northern town of Zgharta. “The soccer in Lebanon is going down, there is no advertising, no money and no government support.”

Many teams choose players not on their skill and ability, but on their political backing and religion. “There are a lot of good players [in Lebanon]. Some of them go to Germany to play in the Bundesliga, but here there is no support for teams, no budget…” explains Mr Al-Maarawi. Many parties use the teams as a form of political propaganda, with the stronger teams paying bribes to politically aligned teams to roll over and lose, a sign of the political tug-of-war in Lebanon. A victory against a rival team is a victory over a team’s political and religious foes.

For many, the only way to watch their teams play is either through live television, listening to it on radio or for the die-hard ones, sneaking past security to watch it live.

Violence has broken out in the past as gun incidents and fan troubles are common, with players and coaches sometimes targeted. In 2007, Hussein Dokmak and midfielder Hussein Neim (both of Al-Nejmeh), along with Serbian manager Nenand Stavric were all killed in a roadside bomb blast on their way back from training, the very same bomb that killed politician Walid Eido.

Information about the sport inside Lebanon is scarce on the internet. The LFA doesn’t have an operating website; the only official link to FIFA is the organisation’s webspace on the FIFA website. A Google search comes up with either out-dated match reports about various club exploits or of American football being played in Mt Lebanon in Pennsylvania, USA.

Any curious-minded individual would in their first instance turn to Wikipedia to satisfy their curiosity about the sport, but yet the information on some of the various clubs/players/seasons are horribly outdated (with some information still up from 2007) or are incomplete. Most websites that do provide weekly updates are (rightly so) in Arabic, but even some of the clubs websites like Al-Nejmeh haven’t been updated since 2007.

Even though the fan ban doesn’t extent to the national team, support is still not as strong as it could be. While football is a passion for many, the Lebanese team, currently ranked 154 with fellow minnow teams like Chinese Taipei and Myanmar further up the ratings ladder, suffers from lack of funds and lack of support from its own people. Teams like Brazil and Germany are followed passionately by the whole nation due to their international exploits, with towns littered in their colours and flags. Yet fewer than 800 turned up to see Lebanon face Uzbekistan in a qualifier for the FIFA World Cup at the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium in Beirut, which can fit just under 50,000 people.

“Many people follow teams like Brazil and Italy in Lebanon and whenever they play, it’s like a carnival atmosphere,” says Nicholas Toubia, an architectural student and a Lebanese football fan. “There are many flags put up on homes when they play, but when Lebanon plays many people either don’t know or don’t care. For many, Brazil is their national team.”

So as the war wounds in this tiny nation are slowly healing, its football continues to die a slow death. So next time the fans of Australian football berate each other for not turning up to games and conjuring up excuses for not turning up, just spare a thought for their Lebanese counterparts sitting on the fence trying to watch their team play.

By Marcel Abboud - (Facebook Follower) - Football Correspondant

Floods and Football

For our international readers around the globe, you may be unaware of the current disaster occuring in Australia. Play the Advantage is a football site based in Australia so it is only natural that we offer our support to the flood disaster, by generating awareness in the global community.

Queensland is often referred to as the sunshine state however over the past few weeks extensive rain has caused 75% of Queensland to flood. The disaster has cause much grief to residents and Australian's alike. Amongst the anguish Australia's A-League has also been affected by the rising water. The Football match scheduled to go ahead between the Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix was postponed for two reasons, including the fact that resident cannot access public roads as well as the issue of the pitch being under water.

Although the game is the least of the states worries and what will certainly be on the mind of the players is the welbeing of their friends and families. The devestation has caused much damage to the agriculture industry as well as businesses around the CBD. With Brisbane being under water Queensland has come to a halt, as people wait for the water to subside.

For those of you interested in helping out the flood victims we have provided the link to the Red Cross donation site.


Player of the First Half of the Season - Cristiano Ronaldo

After we tallied your votes (174 in all) Cristiano Ronaldo was voted best player of the first half of the season for 2010/2011. He came in ahead of Vidic and Messi although won the vote by a fair margin.

Ronaldo has simply been brilliant in La Liga this year. He leads the top scorers list by 5 goals ahead of nearest rival Messi. 23 times he has netted this season, out of the 46 times Madrid has scored, meaning that he has scored half of Madrid's goals in the League.

Madrid still lie second on the table only by two points. Ronaldo did not fire against Barcelona first time they me this seasons. Althoguh CR9 is inspired to lead Mourinho's team to a title and a good performance against Barcelona may just spark that.

Madrid are also hunting for glory in the Champions League, with a replay of the tie that saw them knocked out of Europe last year (against Lyon), Madrid will be hungry for revenge.

Play the Advantage would like to congratulate Ronaldo on his superb start to 2010/2011.

Asian Cup, first round wrap up.

The first round of the games in the Asian Cup has come to an end, some suprising results have come to light, while the "big guns" of the tournament also sent out a message to their opponents.

Group A: With Qatar sitting at the bottom of Group A we might just see a suprise qualifier from the group. Qatar subsequently lost Uzbekistan 2-0 in the opening match of the tournament and sit equal bottom with Kuwait who also experienced the same deficit again China. The next round will see Qatar take on China as the host nation tries to bidge the three point gap that exists. An Uzbekistan win against Kuwait could see the Uzbek's qualify for the knockout round.

Group B: Japan, who are percieved as one of the favourites to take out the title played out a 1-1 draw with little known footballing nation Jordan. Syria also caused an upset beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 to claim top spot in group B. A solid performance in their next game against Japan could see them unexpectedly qualify for the knockout round of the Cup.

Group C: No suprises in group C as favourites to qualify Australia and Korea Republic both won their opening matches proving that their intentions to win the Asian Cup are well and alive. Australia comprehensively accounted for India 4-0, whilst Korea escaped a close fought contest against Bahrain in a 2-1 game. The group favourites will face eachother in their next round and the winner of the match will surely qualify for the knockout round.

Group D: Defending Champions Iraq have been stunned by rivals Iran in a close fought contest. The Iranians fought back from 1-0 down to take all three points from the Iraqis in a final score of 2-1. North Korea when on to draw 0-0 against the United Arab Emirates. Iraq will hope to rebound and once again reign supreme in Asia.

Their were certainly a few suprises in the first round of the Cup. Stay tuned to Play the Advantage for all the new from the biggest International Competition in Asia.

A-League Round 23 - Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory - Preview

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This Saturday (15/1/2011) sees another exciting chapter in the interstate rivalry between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory. While Sydney FC are experiencing a “mini-revival” of sorts after notching two straight wins against Newcastle Jets and Gold Coast United, Melbourne Victory will be trying to restore some pride after being humiliated 4 – 1 at the hands of a ruthless Adelaide United.

The Sydney Football Stadium will prove to be the defining place for both these teams’ seasons. Anything but a win for the Sky Blues against their nemesis will see their “mathematical” chances of making the finals vanish, as will (perhaps) Vitezslav Lavicka’s position as coach. If Melbourne succumbs to a second loss in a row, Ernie Merrick and his team will be biting their nails as the likes Melbourne Heart and Wellington Phoenix will be breathing down their necks for the top sixth berth.

Entering the heat of the battle, nothing but best from each of these two team’s key players will be expected. Sydney’s creative force of sometimes Socceroo Nicky Carle will be crucial for the team’s chances as he provided the much needed creative spark that the Sky Blues so severely needed this season. While injury has hampered his chances of showing his true potential this season, a fully fit and fighting Carle could just be the remedy that the defending champions need to add some lustre in what is otherwise an immensely disappointing season for both club and fans.

Finnish import Juho Mäkelä will also look to add some firepower into a very limp Sydney attack. His extra time goal against the Gold Coast catapulted “the Surgeon” (as he is affectionately known by The Cove) into fan folklore and into the memories of fans alike, sealing a much needed win scoring the club’s 200th goal. Combined with Brazilian import Bruno Cazarine, perhaps this partnership is just what the Sky Blues need to save themselves from what is arguably the A-League’s worst title defence.

With charismatic leader and hardman Kevin Muscat suspended for this crucial meeting, defender Adrian Leijer out with a suspected groin injury and with Robbie Kruse out on Socceroos duty, the Victory will need to dig deep and muster a win to cement their position in the top six for the finals.

The Victory will once again turn to creative maestro Carlos Hernandez to launch the platform of a Melbourne assault at Moore Park. When the Costa Rican is at his best, everyone knows about it (particularly the score line). A mainstay to the Victory, “El Zorro” will need to dazzle his way through what has become a “stern” and “desperate” Sydney defence.

The return of Melbourne Victory’s favourite son Danny Allsopp has come at just the right time as an attacking front is exactly what the Victory are missing right now. If fed properly through the midfield, Allsopp can inflict great damage on any opponent and wouldn’t it be great to mark his return to the A-League with a goal in the Big City Derby?

So what will the next instalment of the Big City Derby bring? Who knows. Both teams are at a crucial stage in their seasons with a great importance riding on this game.

Nothing but a win for both sides will suffice.

By Marcel Abboud (Facebook Follower) A-League Correspondant

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Messi voted best player of 2010 - Ballon D'or

Lionel Messi has been voted footballer of the year yet again, making it two years in which he has consecutively won the award.
After a disappointing World Cup it was thought that Messi would not prove to be as prolific in Europe as he was in previous years. Although Messi sparked Barcelona once again and they once again sit on the top of the La Liga, with Real Madrid still trailing behind.

His teamates and fellow nominees Xavi and Iniesta were also worthy winners after their heroics in the World Cup, winning it with Spain. They have also been insturmental in many of Barcelona's victories. With Xavi at one stage putting together over 100 complete passes, showing that he indeed still dominates the centre of midfield.

Both Xavi and Iniesta were joyed at the news that their teamate was awared best player in football. Messi lies in second on the top scorers list in the La Liga behind rival Cristiano Ronaldo who is five goals ahead.

Barcelona still reign supreme in Spain and the fact that three of their players were nominated for player of the year solidifies this statement.

Getting crowds back to the A-League.....Advertise? Television?

Monday, January 10, 2011

The 2010/2011 Hyundai A-League season has seen some exciting and pulsating games, moments of brilliance and the unearthing and exposure of young talent being thrust unto the Australian sporting landscape. It’s also seen some humiliating lows and crushing defeats with clubs either facing financial uncertainty or not even being lifted off the ground (RIP Sydney Rovers FC, we hardly knew yee unfortunately).

The season’s headlines have been mostly dominated with record low crowds, despite the fact the quality of the game has significantly risen since the first season. To help bolster crowd numbers to the games, it’s agreed that something drastic needs to be done sooner rather than later. The naysayers to the A-League/football in Australia will make you believe that it’s is on life support and the plug needs to be pulled. Far from it.

There are many, many “remedies” that can be said to help bolster the A-League and the growth of the sport in Australia, but besides throwing millions upon millions of dollars at the problem/s in hope that it will fade away, here are two (of perhaps many) examples that the Football Federation Australia (FFA) and each individual A-League club could do to help generate crowd numbers.

Television: Currently, the A-League is only available on Foxtel through the Fox Sports network. Foxtel’s market penetration is over 30 per cent of the total Australian population and then you have to take into account how many subscriptions of that 30+ per cent actually have the sports package and how many of those watch the A-League. Suffice to say that one would imagine that it wouldn’t be a lot.

This means that an entire market (Free to Air television) goes without seeing a full game and is left with tid-bits of highlights from either SBS’ The World Game or OneHD’s World Football News. An ideal way for Foxtel to have the majority of the A-League cake while promoting the game would be to allow a Free To Air network to have a delayed “game of the week” and/or an extended highlights package of the round’s games. This allows for Foxtel to have live rights to the games (for those who want to watch the games live) and gives exposure to perhaps a “neglected” market for the game to grow.

Advertising: Remember those freestylers kicking paint covered footballs of the A-League’s first season? Or the “90 Minutes, 90 Emotions” advertising campaign in 2007/2008? Seems like a long time ago when one thinks about it retrospectively. Any advertising person will tell you that once you have a product that you want to sell, you have to advertise to get your target market’s attention. While it’s understandable that the FFA focused their attentions to the (now infamous) unsuccessful attempts to win the hosting rights of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, they seriously left the promotion of the game unchecked.

This is obvious in terms of dwindling crowd numbers across all A-League clubs. Better attention to the marketing of the game will pay massive results for the clubs and the game as a whole.
Society is rapidly evolving (communication wise) so why not utilise social networking tools like Twitter, YouTube and the ever popular Facebook to promote the game. Facebook has over 50 per
cent penetration of the online population in Australia with over nine-million users, so wouldn’t this be an effective platform to advertise the game? Harness the power of social media and its control over people to great effect and watch the results that will follow.

But the FFA is not solely to blame, the clubs themselves need to engage themselves with their local communities. The attitude of (for argument’s sake) Gold Coast United’s “build it and they will come” ethos has spectacularly crashed and burnt, with an Australian record low crowd of 1,714 fans coming to see their team fall 1 – 0 to North Queensland Fury.

This in turn prompted billionaire owner Clive Palmer to announce a free ticket day against the Central Coast Mariners which produced a record high crowd of over 11,000 people, but suffered the unfortunate fate of being cancelled before even half the game was played due to heavy rain. A-League clubs need to really connect with their local community and show a sense of loyalty and commitment to the promotion of the game through formal engagements with regional associations within their respective states/territories. Build that sense of wanting to come to the game and the love of the team.

If the FFA can combine the two “ingredients” together properly, who knows what results may come to fruition and while the results may not be instantaneous, the impact that it can have on the youth and the casual football of today will pay dividends in many seasons to come.

You can only reap what you sow.

By Marcel Abboud our A-League Correspondant (Facebook Follower)

Asian Cup 2011 - Australia vs India - Preview

After a disappointing 2010 Australian Football will look to recover by producing a successful Asian Cup campiagn. However little known footballing nation India will look to stand in their way. With the momentum of a nation behind them India may just prove to be a tough obstacle for the Socceroos.

Australian football has had a turbulent year, with a disappointing performance in the World Cup as well as a dismal bid for the 2022 World Cup bid, however a new coach in the form of Holger Osieck has seen major change in the Socceroos squad including the introduction of a new generation of Roos who will look to spark and inspired and agile performance.

Ranked 142nd in the FIFA International rankings India are not known for their footballing prowess, the euphoria surrounding the Asian Cup has boosted support for their footballing nation. Their participation in the Cup will certainly boost the support for football in their country.

Australian Team News: Australian come into the match at full strength. All their European stars are avaliable including Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell and Mark Schwazer. Captain Lucas Neil will also be avaliable to sure up defence, however his partners in the backline are still not known. Youngsters Tommy Oar and Robbie Kruse may get a chance to prove their worth for the national team.

India Team News: Indian sport headlines have been dominated by the news that their star footballer Bhaichung Bhutia may be out injured. But after a recovery during the week it is expected that he will start at least from the bench.

Australia's first match in the Asian Cup will prove to be little challenge for a side desperate to reign supreme in Asia

Prediction: Australia 4 - India 0 

Spanish Premiera Round 18 - Real Madrid vs Villarreal - Review

A Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick has helped Real Madrid reduce the gap once again to La Liga leaders Barcelona following an enthralling 4-2 victory against Villareal. Los Blancos came from behind on two separate occasions, with Portuguese playmaker Ronaldo scoring the equaliser each time. Kaka added to the Yellow Submarine’s misery with his first goal of the season after returning from injury last week.

Villareal had taken the lead early on courtesy of Cani, but a quick lapse in concentration allowed Mesut Oezil to slip the ball to Ronaldo who finished from close range. Marcos Ruben then put his side ahead, although Ronaldo equalised once more with a header shortly before half time. He added to his tally with a third goal, before Kaka scored on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The match began with Villareal eager to net the first goal; Santi Carzola had a brilliant opportunity in the second minute, but his shot was deflected wide by Spanish defender Sergio Ramos. The Yellow Submarine were soon awarded for their aggressive tactics when quick passing between Carzola and Rossi picked out Cani, who flicked the ball past Iker Casillas to give his team the lead in just the 7th minute. However, Madrid was soon on level terms when Ronaldo converted his side’s first attacking opportunity of the match. Karim Benzema, who now looks likely to stay with Madrid following Higuian’s injury, slotted the ball through the Villareal defence to Mesut Oezil, who in turn provided a clinical cross to Ronaldo before the former Manchester United star finished from close range.

A quick succession of shots, first from Madrid’s Lassana Diarra, and then from Marco Ruben, could have added to a highly entertaining first half. However, it was not long before Marcos Ruben grabbed his team’s second goal of the game after executing a brilliant lob over Casillas. Both teams then soon had an opportunity each when Cazorla and then Ronaldo’s goal were deemed to be offside. Los Blancos soon began to dominate; an equaliser seemed possible before the half time break and when Angel Di Maria was fouled outside the box, Xabi Alonso delivered a perfect cross to the unmarked Cristiano Ronaldo who drew his team level with a clinical header.

The second half began with Real Madrid applying full pressure on the away team. Ronaldo had a golden opportunity in the 64th minute when he was one-on-one with goalkeeper Diego Lopez, but the Portuguese star procrastinated on the ball and was forced to pass to Sergio Ramos, whose shot was off-target. Rossi and Benzema then each had another opportunity to find the winner for their respective teams, but were both denied by solid goalkeeping.

Ronaldo completed his hat-trick in the 79th minute after smashing the ball past Diego Lopez. Benzema’s shot was blocked by the goalkeeper following Kaka’s cross and it fell to the Portuguese playmaker who made no mistake in grabbing his 22nd goal of the campaign with a clever shot. Villareal coach Garrido protested the goal with claims that Ronaldo had been in an offside position. However, the 50 year old was instead sent to the grandstands for his troubles, along with Cani who received a red card for his complaints and for threatening to throw a water bottle at Jose Mournho from the bench.

Following this controversial third goal, anger and frustration was high on the Villareal bench. Kaka added to his team’s lead with his first goal of the season in the 82nd minute after Ronaldo provided a magnificent cross from the left that the Brazilian converted at the near post. The controversy continued when Mourinho began to celebrate directly in front of the opposition’s bench.

Los Blancos managed to hold on to their lead until full time and grabbed a crucial three points which sees them reduce the gap once again to leaders Barcelona, while Villareal remains in third place. Madrid undoubtedly dominated the second half, although Mourinho would certainly have been worried that his 9 year unbeaten home record may have been overrun during the first period of play. With the news that Mourinho will not be given funding to purchase another striker, Madrid must now ensure that each player is contributing to the team and injuries are minimal.


Final Score: Real Madrid 4         Villarreal 2
                     Ronaldo  10              Cani 7
                     Ronaldo  45              Ruben 18
                     Ronaldo  80
                     Kaka       82

Man of the Match: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

By Alexander "Real Madrid" Novo (Twitter and Facebook Follower) - Spanish Correspondant

A-League Round 22 - Central Coast Mariners vs Wellington Phoenix - Review

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It could have gone either way, but ultimately it was the Central Coast Mariners that came out 1-0 victor’s over the Wellington Phoenix in a tiring encounter. Both sides were desperate for a win, with Central Coast looking to close the gap on second placed A Adelaide United, and Wellington hoping to help earn one of the two remaining spots in the top six playoffs.

Both sides were missing key players, with Adam Kwasnik suspended for the Mariners, following a red card in the previous game. The Phoenix are still missing key striker Paul Ifill, and goalkeeper Mark Paston, both suffering season ending injuries in earlier matchups. Jade North was also missing at the back for the Wellington side, due to Socceroo’s duties in Qatar for the Asian Cup.

The Phoenix started the game strongly, with two golden opportunities in the opening five minutes. Dylan Macallister couldn’t avoid the picking out the Mariners keeper, Matthew Ryan, as he latched onto a cross from Marco Rojas, and Ben Sigmund couldn’t put his header from the resulting corner on target. The Phoenix were on top for the first 15 minutes of the game, until they let the Mariners start dictating the flow and tempo of the game.

The balance of the game swung to both sides continuously, with both keepers made to work on several occasions. Referee Matt Breeze failed to spot Mariners defender Patrick Zwaanswijk grab the shirt of Rojas and pull him down inside the box, but the majority of the refereeing decisions in the match were correct.

The Mariners made better use of their chances, having more shots on goal than the Phoenix in the first half. The score remained deadlocked at 0-0 until the 40th minute of play, when Central Coast midfielder Michael McGlinchey put the ball onto the back of the Phoenix net from a cross by Joshua Rose following a run through the midfield by Argentine playmaker Patricio Perez.

The Mariners came out on top at the start of the second half, creating a number of shots to work the Phoenix defense, but could not find the back of the net. When Wellington manager Ricki Herbert injected Leo Bertos and Daniel into the game in the 55th minute, for Rojas and Nick Ward respectively, the Phoenix lifted their game and managed to create several more chances, but lacked the final few touches to score an equaliser.

The best of these chances was a powerful free kick for Macallister, only to be denied by the keeper.
Up and coming Mariners player Mustafa Amini was given a run 10 minutes from time by coach Mustafa Amini, but couldn't help his side add to the scoreline.

Final Score - CCM 1                  Wellington 0
                      McGlinchey 41

Man of the Match: Patricio Perez (CCM)
Crowd Attendance - 6844 (Bluetounge Stadium)

By Patrick Barnes (Twitter Follower!/patrick478)

Ronaldinho to join Flamengo

Former Brazilian international and Barcelona superstar Ronaldinho is set to leave European football and head back to his home country of Brazil. The current Milan attacker has never fully re-captured his form that made him probably the best player in Europe a few years ago.

Ronaldinho has apparantly signed a contract with Brazilian side Flamengo, contrary to rumours he sign for the club he idolised as a young boy Gremio. The details, including payment aren't yet finalised, but the Milan man has agreed to a significant wage cut, to do like so many other Brazilians and reutrn home.

Ronaldinho will leave Milan by the end of the January transfer window.

Italian Serie A Round 19 - Napoli vs Juventus - Preview

Napoli and Juventus are both coming off losses in the last round, to Inter and Parma respectively. Both teams however have performed fairly well in the Serie A this season both sitting the in the top five on the League table. Having not yet faced each other this season the clash is expected to be one of the best this week in Italy.

Juventus were comprehensively decimated against Parma midweek. Lead by a Giovinco double Parma recorded four goals agains the Bianconeri, something which has not been done this season. During the week Juventus managed to sign Luca Toni who has been included in the squad to play Napoli.

After the midweek loss to Inter Napoli will want to rebound. Leonardo revitalised Inter with his arrival and Napoli were to bear the full force of his arrival. Napoli will want to prove why they are sitting in third place on the Serie A and will hope to do so infront of their home fans

Napoli Team News: Napoli will go into the clash without any injury concerns. Juventus' defence will have to be weary of their three pronged attack lead by prolific goalscorer Cavani, who is backed up by Lavezzi and Hamsik.

Juventus Team News: Juventus have once again a season marred by injuries, including the most recent to star striker Quagliarella, who is now out for the season. Along with this Felipe Melo is banned for three games as a result of kicing a player in the face midweek. Luca Toni however joins the squad after his free transfer deal. Juventus will also be without Buffon, Rinaudo, Martinez and De Ceglie.

The game will prove to be a key match in terms of deciding the top four going into the second half of the season. Napoli will come out wanting to win and cement their position, and may just be too strong for a decimated Juventus side.

Match Prediction: Napoli 1 - Juventus 0

Hodgson out Dalglish in, what are his chances at Anfield?

It was bound to happen, another coaching change at Liverpool. Bad form under Roy Hodgson has seen a mutual agreement take place, where both parties agreed upon the descision made by the former Fulham coach to leave Anfield.

Hodgson claimed that coaching at Liverpool was one of the hardest things he has done in his career to date and he wishes the club all the best in the coming future. Liverpool announced their thitd coach within a year would be indeed a former coach Kenny Dalglish. After leading Liverpool to Premier League success on a number of occassions Dalglish reutrns to a different Anfield to the one he is so used to being in control on.

Dalglish was also at the helm of Celtic and Blackburn, before laying off management positions for a while. Although Dalglish's managerial career has not been all glory. Whilst under the control of Celtic Dalglish made a number of descisions which would see the club endure a period of unrest within it's administrative areas. Nevertheless he still led the Scottish team to a League Cup.

Liverpool currently lie in 12th position in the Premier League. Still pushing for another European birth Dalglish will look to make anumber of significant player changes, including making a number of key signings to restore the Reds to their former glory.

Dalglish has experienced much success with Liverpool, but what they will first have to achieve is consistancy. After losing 3-1 midweek, Dalglish will look to boost morale before their clash with United in the FA Cup and then against Blackpool in the League.

Liverpool have began their search for a second half of the season surge with a coaching change, it is expected that a player overhaul is next.

Luca Toni joins Juventus after injury sidelines Iaquinta and Quagliarella

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Genoa striker and former Italian international Luca Toni has joined Juventus on a free transfer deal. the deal comes in the wake of the recent injuries to Fabio Quagliarella and Vincenzo Iaquinta

Toni has scored three goals thus far in the Serie A with Genoa. The former Bayern Munich man hasn't experienced the same form that made him one of the most feared target men in Europe.

The deal will see Toni stay at the club until the end of next season. Juventus will be hoping that Toni can revitalise a out of form Bianconeri squad, who have only managed a point out of their last two home matches, drawing with Chievo and losing to Parma

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A Beckham return to England, if Tottenham get their way

Tottenham Hotspurs have made a bid to loan out former England captain and Manchester United midfielder David Beckham from LA Galaxy this January. Beckham was keen on playing in England once more and may soon get the chance to do so.

The loan deal would see the superstar play with Tottenham for the rest of the season provided that he return to Galaxy at the conclusion of the contract. Although fans qre not to sure of the move considering that Beckham will be competing against the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon for a starting position. However with a busy schedule coming up for Tottenham including Champions League fixtures, Cup matches and League ties, fatigue may prove a challenge that they have to deal with.

Galaxy have already loaned Beckham to Ac Milan in previous seasons and would be willing to complete the Tottenham deal for the right sum of money.

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Juventus'chances of winning a Scudetto recieve a blow - Quagliarella out for the season.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Prolific Juventus striker and Napoli loanee Fabio Quagliarella's season is over, after it was revealed that the Italian had ruptured his crucial ligament.

Quagliarella was taken off the field just minutes into the Parma match after he collided awkwardly with a Parma defender. Juventus went on to lose 4-1, but the news that their current top scorer will be unavaliable for the rest of the campaign will overshadow the loss.

Juventus have been in the market for a big name forward and injuries to Iaquinta also will maybe see them spend big this January.

Italian Serie A Round 18 - Juventus vs Parma - Review

Juventus' long unbeaten run in all competitions has come to an end after a disasterous 4-1 loss to Parma in Turin. A haunting two goals from Juventus loanee Giovinco proved to be the start Parma needed to go on and dominate the 10 man Bianconeri.

Juventus went into the match knowing that a wind would see them temporarily leapfrog Napoli and Lazio into second place two points behind league leaders and fierce rivals, Ac Milan. However things did not look promising from the start with striker Fabio Quagliarella going off injured within the first five minutes.

The early change saw Amauri enter the fray. After holding much of the initial possession Juventus recieved a huge blow, after Brazillian midfielder Felipe Melo was sent off following a kick to the head of Paci. The moment of stupidity saw Juventus down to 10 men, which certainly put pressure on their defence.

Although it was Juventus who would come close to scoring, having a goal disallowed. Del Piero lined up a free kick sending it on target, to the despair of the Parma goalkeeper who fumbled the ball allowing Chiellini to tap it in. However officials disallowed the goal, claiming that the ball was kicked out of Mirante's hands, which indeed it was.

Juventus continued to dominate midfield play with Pepe coming on to sure it up, for Del Piero. Although with the man down the susceptible Bianconeri were prone to the counter attack. Parma did just that, and in the 40th minute it payed dividend as a ball in from Zaccardo was directed on goal by Gobbi, a fumbled Storari save fell to Giovinco who slotted the ball into the roof of the net, putting the away side up at the break, much to the dismay of the crowd.

The second half continued much the same way as the end of the first half as Parma came out and attacked Juventus. The reward was immediate as yet again Giovinco found the back of the net against his parent club. Valiani did exceptionally well to keep the ball in play and deliver and excellent cross to Giovinco, who controlled well with his right and knocked the ball in on the half volley with his left. The Juventus defence left rue their poor performance.

A Juventus freekick on the edge of the area just minutes later almost saw Juventus pull one back. A Pepe shot hit the post to the relief of Mirante who was stuck to the spot. Although Juventus recieved a subsequent corener which saw replacement defender Legrottaglie head the ball home, putting Juventus only one goal behind with half an hour remaining.

Although it was short lived as straight after the subsequent kickoff Parma broke the Juventus defence. A charge into the box by Crespo, saw Chiellini take the legs from under him. The captain protested his innocence but a penalty was awarded. Crespo stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner, which saw Storari beaten for the third time.

Juventus morale was down and Parma were dominating the Old Lady. A change by Del Neri saw Sissoko replace the youngster Sorensen. The change was to bring nothing as Juventus continued to fail in their push for another goal. Krasic was quiet down the wing and besides a claim for a penalty really had no impact on the match.

Giovinco was substitued late on, the Juventus loanee was met with appreciation from the Juventus fans who have taken a liking to the youngster. Giovinco out of respect did not celebrate either of his two goals, although he did prove a point to his parent club.

Juventus failed to bridge the gap between them and the league leaders and that was capped off by a late goal from Palladino - also a former Juve man. The goal was the final kick of the match. Juventus for the first time this season conceeded four goals in one match, also ending their 18 run unbeaten streak.

Parma climb away from the relgation zone into 10th temporarily. While Juventus slip away from the league leaders.

Final Score:   Juventus 1      -         Parma 4
                      Legrottaglie 60         Giovinco 41
                                                        Giovinco 48
                                                        Crespo (pen) 62
                                                        Palladino 90

Man of the Match - Sebastian Giovinco (Parma)