The Oz Blog View about stuff while living in the Land of Oz

31Aug/11Off

EPL Contenders at the International Break

   The Barclays Premier League has reached the first International break of the season. The season to this point has been very interesting. Manchester City has being playing outstanding to start the season to my surprise. Manchester United has played very well also to start this season. Liverpool and Chelsea have not played well, but at the same time they have not played bad. Arsenal on the other hand has played terrible to start the season. There are suppose to be five teams competing for the title, but at this point I would say that at there are only four.

   This past weekend was a match that should have been exciting and taking all 90 minutes to decide the outcome. Yet, for the first time since 1896 Arsenal allowed eight goals in a match. Manchester United came out with a point to prove and put a hurting on the Gunners. The only downside of the match for Man U was the injury to Danny Welbeck. Welbeck is expect to miss around a month with the injury he suffered early in the first half. Although, the Red Devils have just gotten Chicharito back from injury to take Welbeck's place in the starting 11. So Welbeck is being replaced by a player most consider to be better than he is.

    The City of Manchester is at the Top of the Premier League. Manchester United is in first place with nine points and a goal differential of ten, Manchester City is in second place with nine points and a goal differential of nine. Liverpool is in third place with seven points and a goal differential of four. Chelsea is in fourth place with four place and a goal differential of three. The surprise team near the top of the table is Wolverhampton Wanderers. Wolves is in fifth place with seven points and a goal differential of three.

    Wolves were in a relegation fight at the end of the season last year. The club did not secure their place in the EPL until the last game of the season. Wolves has played very well to begin the season and reminds me of Wigan Athletic's beginning of last season. How long can Wolves keep up this great start? I think that Wolves will be inside the Top 10 until around the January transfer window.

     I hope that everyone enjoys the week off from watching the EPL and watches the US National team on 06 Sept against Costa Rica. The EPL games start back up on 10 Sept with Sunderland playing host to Chelsea live on ESPN2/ESPN3.com at 1000am ET. Manchester City will play Wigan Athletic, Stoke City will play Liverpool, and Bolton Wanderers will play Manchester United.

Red Beards

*To the Ends of the Earth*

21Aug/11Off

Two and Two: Chelsea – Stoke

2-2-chelsea-stoke

I am just now getting this post up, and normally after it already having been a week after the game begin played I would probably just skip it, but I felt it important for me to still get my practice in for my writing skills or possibly the lack there of. Regardless I want to work on it, so here is my Week 1 thoughts on Chelsea vs Stoke.

CHELSEA
-Seemed to be off for the first half. Had some pushes but nothing really too great. The only person that seemed to do well in the first half was Peter Cech, stopping several shots from Stoke. With the squad that Chelsea is putting out there each week and with subs they should probably start scoring a lot more goals.

-Came out second half realizing that they should be doing better and put forth the effort to at least push towards the goal and attempt scoring a goal. Chelsea is a club with a lot of history so if they go into half time with a 0-0 tie they are going to come out that they obviously need to score and they did just that, but by that point is was probably a little too late and Stoke seemed content on sticking with a draw, so they did what they could to at least walk away with 1 point, instead of going for 3. Which is probably a smart move by Stoke.

STOKE
-Defense looked really good in the first half stopping Chelsea early, further up the field, and often Seemed like the defense of stoke came into this game trying to prove something and that they did. Completely blanking Chelsea and helping there GK keep a clean sheet, which is not an easy feat against a team like Chelsea with the amount of attackers that they have.

-Seemed to be content after the start of the second half to just try and get a tie. Seemed to have few drives at the goal in the second half. Despite Stokes possibly impressive defense and ability to completely keep a team slated to finish in the top 3 of the EPL they completely lacked in attacking ability, having hardly any drives towards goal.

Again this was just one of the many games from the very first week of this season long EPL season, but Chelsea really need to get off the snide and start scoring goals by the bunch. Teams like Stoke can really benefit from early struggles like this against elite teams and this 0-0 draw is one of those games. Everybody completely expected Chelsea to roll Stoke, but Stoke showed up to play for this game.

19Aug/11Off

EPL Week 2 Preview

Here is my take on the key match-ups during the second weakend of the Barclays Premier League (EPL). The games that I will be discussing are: Arsenal v Liverpool (Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com @7:45amET), Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion, Bolton Wanderers v Manchester City, and Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspurs (Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com @3:00pmET).

The first key game of the weekend too watch is Arsenal v Liverpool. Both of these clubs have top five aspirations, if not league title dreams for this season. The first week for both Arsenal and Liverpool were less than stellar. Arsenal's offseason has been less than acceptable for the clubs standards. The club has lost one key player and is about too lose another. Plus, the first game of the season the club look dis-organized and dis-functional on the pitch. Getting 5 yellow cards and 1 red was not the start to the season that most Gunners fan did not have in mind. Although, getting one point out of the game was a good thing.
On the other hand Liverpool, had a great offseason by bringing in some great players. But Liverpool forgot one key point to soccer, defense. The club forgot to address their need for help with the back four. The proof showed itself in the first game of the season. Liverpool jumped out to an early lead, but was not able to keep a clean sheet. Thus, was only able to get a single point out of their first game. Liverpool fans will not be happy with the first game of the season.
This first big match up between big clubs will be a test for both clubs. How is Arsenal handling all of the internal problems will their star players wanting out of the club? How will Liverpool fix their defense will all of those midfield players? I feel that Liverpool has too much offense for Arsenal in this match-up. Even though Arsenal is at home, being at home did not help Arsenal last week. The score will be Liverpool 2 - Arsenal 1.

Next up is Chelsea hosting West Brom in the Saturday afternoon game at Stamford Bridge. Andre Villas-Boas in week 1 started Torres over Drogba at forward, but Chelsea was not able to score. Although, Chelsea was playing the best defense in the EPL last season in Stoke City. I think that Villas-Boas needs to bring Torres off the bench and start Drogba. But then why did Chelsea pay all that money last year for Torres to sit on the bench? Chelsea should have no problem handling West Brom in London. Chelsea will win 1-0 and move closer to the top of the table.

Manchester City will be on the road in week two and matched up with the other team on top of the table, Bolton Wanderers. Both City and Bolton, won their opening weekend games 4-0 and against new comers to the EPL. City played Swansea, and Bolton played Queens Park Rangers. City looks to be in great form early in the season already. City's new transfer Sergio Aguero had an outstanding opening game. City is also making news by reportedly being close to signing Samir Nasri. City will improve to 2-0-0 on the season will at least a 2-0 win, my apologies Bolton fans.

Finally, Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspurs on Monday in Old Trafford. The Theatre of Dreams was the best place for the Red Devils to play last years, as the team had 18-win, 1- draw, and 0-loses, in the stadium. Although, the injuries are already mounting for United this year. Rafael da Silva is out 10 weeks following shoulder surgery, Rio Ferdinand is out 2-4 weeks with a hamstring injury, and Captain Nemanja Vidic is our 4-5 weeks with a calf injury. Sir Alex is very glad to have signed Phil Jones during the transfer window. United will have their hands full with Tottenham.
Tottenham played very well in their Europa league game on Wednesday in Edinburgh against Hearts. Tottenham's first game of the season against Everton was postponed due to the riots in London. Tottenham will hope to keep their star player healthy this year, Gareth Bale. Bale missed a lot of last year with a back injury. Tottenham has spent the transfer window dealing with Chelsea trying to convince Luka Modric to leave. Although, Modric's weekly salary seems to be the only thing blocking the deal at this point. Tottenham are trying a move of their own for Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City. Adebayor is a great striker who was loaned out to Real Madrid for the second half of last year.
I think that this will be a very good match too watch. This is the first real test for Manchester United. Tottenham will test the back four of United, but at the same time United will test the most of Tottenham's starting 11. In the Theatre of Dreams the Red Devils are hard to defeat and I do not see this Tottenham team being the team to go in there and get a win. United will win the match-up 3-1.

Red Beards
*To the Ends of the Earth*

17Aug/11Off

EPL Week 1 Update

The official opening weekend of the Barclays Premier League was an exciting one. Well the weekend was exciting unless you are a fan of Tottenham or Everton, because their game was postponed due to the riots. All other games were played as scheduled on the weekend. Here is a review of the team that are expected to compete for the league title and the three new teams to the league.

First up is the Liverpool v Sunderland match on Saturday. I have picked Liverpool to finish in the top three this season. Liverpool came out in the first half of the match playing great. Their outstanding signing from last year Luis Suarez missed a penalty kick in the 7th minute, but redeemed himself in the 12th minute with a goal. Liverpool's season looked like it was off to a great start. But Liverpool couldn't muster much offense after that and Sunderland was able to even the match in the 57th minute with a goal by Sebastian Larsson. A draw is not a statisfactory start to the season for Liverpool.

Next up is Newcastle United v Arsenal in the featured match on Saturday night. This match was filled with trouble as there was eight yellow cards (3- Newcastle, 5-Arsenal) and one red card (Arsenal- Gervinho). Although, Joey Barton should have been show a red card for bad acting and his part to play in getting Gervinho a red card. Earlier in the match Barton was stomped on by an Arsenal play who should have been shown a red card. But the fourth official claimed to not have seen the stomp, so there was not even a foul called. Arsenal did not look very good in the game and was not able to do a whole lot on the pitch. For Arsenal to get a point out of that game was a good thing.

On Sunday, Stoke City played host to Chelsea for the first game on Sunday. Stoke City had the best defense in the league last year, so this was a great test for Villas-Boas and his Chelsea squad right out of the gate. Villas-Boas choose to start Toores at forward instead of Drogba. Chelsea was not able to score on the tough defense that Stoke plays. Although, Stoke's lack of offense allowed Chelsea to finish the game with a point. This is a disappointing start to the season for the second place team from last year.

The afternoon game on Sunday was West Bromwich Ablion v Manchester United. The defending Champions opened on the road this season, but last season United was not a very good road team. United won only five matches all of last season on the road, while drawing ten and losing four. United opened up the scoring in the 13th minute with a Rooney goal.  But shaky keeping by new signing David de Gea allow a goal by Shane Long of West Brom. This is the second week in a row that De Gea has looked uncomfortable in the goal while wearing the United uniform. Although, De Gea is only 20 years old and will develop as the season goes on. United was given the win by an own goal by Steven Reid in the 81 minute. The three points is great and the road win is even better for the defending Champs.

The last game for the top teams was Manchester City v Swansea. This match features one of the projected top teams and one of the new comers to the Barclays Premier League. Well, City gave Swansea a welcome to the club beating at the hands of summer transfer Sergio Aguero. Aguero had two goals in the game and an assist on another goal that was scored by David Silva. City's first goal of the game was scored by Edin Dzeko. City played outstanding in their first game of the season and looks to be in top forum early in the season. On the other hand, Swansea was given a rough welcome to the Premier league. There will be better weeks ahead for Swansea though.

Queens Park Rangers (QPR), and Norwich, both played on Saturday in early morning games. QPR had the pleasure of playing Bolton Wanderers, but the score line was not a pleasure. Bolton score four goals, while QPR did not score a single goal. QPR enjoyed a lot of success in the Npower Championship last year, but how will they handle this first set-back? Meanwhile , Norwich played Wigan Athletic to open their season in the Premier league. Norwich gave up a first half goal, but was able to score in the second half to secure a point on their opening weekend. Norwich played the best of the new teams, but time will tell who is the best of the newcomer.

Red Beards

*To the Ends of the Earth*

12Aug/11Off

FA Community Shield Manchester City v Mancester United

The Community Shield was a Manchester Derby for the first time in 55 years and the game did not disappoint! Even though the game was suppose to be a friendly and each team was allowed six substitutes, the teams were playing for the win. The tackles were hard and the yellow cards were flashing. This was an outstanding game to open the season of the Barclays Premier League. I just hope that the punks in England don't cause too many games to get missed due to damage or threat of damage.

Now back to the Community Shield game, Man City came out with a great sense of focus in the first half. The team was playing great and moving the ball around the pitch. The clubs was playing very physical with Man U during the first half which left to several yellow card and free-kicks for Man U. Although, Man U was not able to convert any of the free-kicks. However, Man City was able to convert a free-kick in the 37th minuted and score a goal to take the 1-0 lead. Man City also added a second goal in first half stoppage time to take a 2-0 halftime lead.

The first half of the game Man U looked to be playing on the back foot. Man City was more aggressive in tackles, shots, and overall play in the first half. The score line proved that Man City was the better team in the first half of the match. And the Man City fans were letting the Man U fans know about. They were living up to their billing as the 'Noisy Neighbors!'

Shortly after the second half started Man U was able to convert a free-kick, making the score 2-1. The game changed from that point on, Man U played the rest of the game on the front foot and Man City played the rest of the game on the back foot. Within 12 minutes of the start of the second half Man U had tied the score at 2-2. Man City did well to hold Man U for the rest of regular time, but then a key mistake in stoppage time cost Man City the game. Man U scored a goal in the third minute of stoppage time and made the score 3-2.

The rules for the Community Shield do not allow the game to go into extra time after the end of regulation. After the 90 minutes and stoppage time, if the match is tied the game goes to penalties. Man City was three minutes into four minutes of stoppage time. This was a bitter way to lose to their cross town rivals. Although, Man City showed the quality and talent of their club today, by giving Man U such a tough game. The win makes Man U back to back winners of the Community Shield. Man U last season seemed to find a way to win in the second half of a lot of games and are off to the same kind of start. It will be interesting to see if Man U has the same kind of season this year.

Red Beards

*To the Ends of the Earth*

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4Aug/11Off

2011/2012 Season Preview

The Barclay's Premier League is just around the corner! August 7th we get to watch the beginning of the season as the Community Shield is played between Manchester United and Manchester City. Nothing like a Manchester derby to begin the season. All 3 of the derby games that were played last year were terrific soccer too watch. Manchester United is missing some key players from last season, but Manchester City will play the game without Captain Carlos Tevez. So the game should be very exciting to watch and the match will be close to call.

Of course every year the English Premier League (EPL) looks different because of the relegation fight that occurs. Last year the losers of the fight were West Ham United, Blackpool, and Birmingham. The new teams to the league are Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers (QPR), and Swansea City. Swansea City is the only team that is not in the country of England. Swansea is actually located in Wales. QPR won the Npower Championship in 10/11, while Norwich  and Swansea qualified through the Npower Championship playoffs. Time will tell if any of these teams can make a stay in the EPL for more than one year.

The EPL table in 10/11 finished 1-Manchester United, 2-Chelsea, 3-Manchester City,4-Arsenal, 5-Tottenham Hotspurs,6-Liverpool. All of these teams are in play this year for top 5 finishes. Most of the teams have undergone signifigant changes which will make the playing field even. The end of the season was pressure packed every week with movement in the top 6, look for every week of this season to be the same way.

The summer transfer window is still open and has 27 days left for teams  to make a deal. Here are the players that the top 6 teams have acquired so far during the transfer window: Arsenal- Gervinho from Lille, Carl Jenkinson from Charlton Atheltic; Chelsea- Oriol Romeu from Barcelona; Liverpool- Stewart Downing from Aston Villa, Alexander Doni from Roma, Charlie Adam from Blackpool, Jordan Henderson from Sunderland; Manchester City- Sergio Aguero from Atletico Madrid, Stefan Savic from FK Partizan, Gael Clichy from Arsenal; Manchester United- David De Gea from Atletico Madrid, Ashely Young from Aston Villa, Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers; Tottenham Hotspurs- Brad Friedel from Aston Filla.

Arsenal is still a great team from last season to this season with great players. The team is having trouble keeping some of their players happy or satisfied with the club. Arsene Wenger is having trouble with Barcelona and some of the top club in the EPL. I think that Arsenal will once again finish in the top 5 and compete for a Champions League qualifying spot.

Chelsea has a very straight forward owner that is focused on winning the Champions League at almost any cost. Chelsea will a new manager this year, 33 year old Andre Villas-Boas from Porto. Chelsea are still the aging team that they were at the end of the season last year and have only addressed that issue with one new addition. Yet, that does not mean that Chelsea is not full of quality players that are fully capable of winning the EPL. Although, Chelsea has to  hope that Fernando Torres finds his shot and starts scoring again.

Liverpool was the best looking team at the end of last season. With the signing of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez almost scoring goals at will for the team. The signing of Kenny Dalglish as manager was a brilliant move. Bringing Dalglish back to Anfield brought a spark and passion to the team/fan base, which lead to an end of the season push to finish 5th in the league. Liverpool has been very busy during the transfer window bring in one of my favorite players Charlie Adam. Adam was outstanding for a Blackpool side last year on which he was the only truly talented player and he almost keep Blackpool in the EPL for a second season. Stewart Downing is another great player that Liverpool has acquired during the transfer window. Given the end of the season play and the summer transfer pickups, I think that Liverpool will finish in the top 3 of the EPL this season and make a serious push for the title.

Manchester City is going to have a very different type of season than the club is use too. For the first time in many ever the club qualified for the Champions League, which means that the club with have a high level of competition both on the weekends and during the week. The club is once again having trouble with superstar Captain Carlos Tevez. Tevez wants to return to Argentina and spend more time with his family or get paid more money for playing soccer, it is one of the two. City has a great squad of players and the owners are never shy about spreading money during the transfer window. Yet, the manger Roberto Mancini is always having to micro manage the playing time of his superstars on the field. I think that City will struggle this year, but will manage on talent to finish inside the top 10.

Manchester United has undergone some serious changes since last years unimpressive title win. The United squad from last year was able to win the title with the fewest points in several years. The club struggled away from Old Trafford, but was unbeatable inside the safety of the Stretford End. Manchester United has been very active in the transfer window by bringing De Gea, Young, and Jones, as well as the call up of several player from loan. United is trying to reload for another run at the title, but the club has yet to solve the problems that the team suffered from last year. Plus, the EPL will probably not be as easy this season as it was last season. I will say that you are the Champion until someone defeat you though. I think United will finish inside the top 5.

Tottenham Hotspurs had a wonderful season last year without the services of Gareth Bale for most of the season. Bale suffered a back injury in the middle of the season and was unavailable for long periods of time. Yet, the Spurs were able to finish 5th in the EPL with their best player on the bench most of the time. The Spurs should make another run this season and the team always plays great in the stadium of Light. The only problem the Spurs could have is if Chelsea is able to buy Luka Modric away. Modric is a dynamic player that is key to the Spurs success this season. With Modric the Spurs will compete for another top 5 finish.

The first Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, of games is August 13,14, and 15. Here are openig games of the weekend.

Saturday, August 13

Blackburn Rovers v Wolverhampton Wanders

Fulham v Aston Villa

Liverpool v Sunderland

QPR v Bolton Wanders

Tottenham Hotspurs v Everton

Wigan Athletic v Norwich City

Newcastle United v Arsenal

Sunday, August 14

Stoke City v Chelsea

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United

Monday, August 15

Manchester City v Swansea City

Red Beards

*To the End of the Earth*