Monthly Archives: December 2010

Bound for Bhoys? Don’t ask TFC

Sign this or I'll sign for Celtic!

Besides the fact that Tottenham can apparently defend as well with 10 men as they can with 11, the strangest story in football this week has to be Dwayne De Rosario’s dalliance with Celtic, and how little Toronto FC claim to know about it. As surprise announcements go, it’s a saga with far more grips, twists and turns than Newcastle’s Jose Enrique’s taking to the Twitterverse to spread news of an injury.

DeRo, who you might remember from his “show me the money” cheque-signing celebration after a superb goal this season, also caught his team off guard, or so they’d have us think, when news broke that he was to have a one-week trial with the Glaswegians. TFC first denied the story, but having their player get off a plane in Scotland made that look foolish, so they claimed it was news to them, too.

De Rosario is under contract for two more years, but his brother insists TFC was aware of the move, and happily made it sound as though the Scarborough-born Canadian international could make a long-term move to the SPL.  “If it’s long-term for a loan or he comes back has yet to be determined,” Mark De Rosario told the Toronto Star. “If it works out, fine, we’ll work on the particulars (between TFC and Celtic) later.”

Someone is full of shit here, maybe both sides, and it stinks pretty bad. Expect this one to get weirder before it makes sense. It’s hard to blame De Rosario for wanting to bail on the rudderless ship that is Toronto FC, still listing along without a coach or full-time GM. But while fans may wish the somewhat mercurial DeRo the best, they should be sharpening their knives for the stuffed-shirt stooges who run the team.

Ian Harrison

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Filed under MLS, Premier League, Scottish Premier

Fergie’s Fantasy: The Hectic Holidays

WAGS. Keeping players fit during the holidays since 1886....

You think you are busy now. Buying presents, stuffing turkeys, hanging lights etc. But your busy holiday season is only just starting.

First, put off that shopping and wrapping. You need to set your line-up for the full slate of boxing day games! Trust me, act now, don’t let it depend on the dial-up at your grandmother’s house on Christmas night. Don’t pick your team under the influence of an egg nog hangover. Do it now.

Just like the Premier League itself, fantasy leagues can be won or lost over the holiday season. Don’t believe me? You can count four game weeks between now and January 5th. Hope you took some time off to peruse stats and agonize over transfers. If not, here’s a few players that would look nice in any lineup.
 

For Your Consideration

Cahill may bring you some Xmas cheer

Tim Cahill – At a cost of 9.2, he’s expensive but it’s becoming costly to fantasy teams that don’t have him. In a week where snow cancelled almost all the games, the average team scored 14 points, while Cahill scored 13 himself.  I am suspicious of anyone who seems to only score with his head, but the Aussie is showing enough consistency this year that he’s a force to be reckoned in Everton’s midfield… as long as he stays healthy . Did I mention in his past six games, he has four goals and two assists?

Paul Robinson – At a cost of 4.5 he’s great value . I know you are thinking that Blackburn aren’t exactly keeping a ton of clean sheets, but he makes a lot of saves and doesn’t concede as many as you might think. In fact, the former England keeper is the fourth-highest scoring goalkeeper in the league after Joe Hart, Ben Foster, and Peter Cech. While Foster is the only one of that trio who is as affordable as Robinson, Blackburn have a less daunting schedule than Birmingham over the next three weeks. No game is easy in the Premier League but Robinson will be at home to Stoke City this week, away to West Brom and Sunderland after that. Birmingham face Everton, Man Utd, and Arsenal.

Danny Welbeck – Speaking of Sunderland, when did they become a team with some of the best strikers in the league? Yes, Darren Bent has been scoring consistently in the past few seasons. But with the addition of Asamoah Gyan and the recent form of Danny Welbeck, the team is starting to look deadly around the net. Welbeck has five goals in his past six games and is finally living up to his potential in the Premier League. Welbeck also gets the edge right now over Bent or Gyan because of his low price at only 5.1.

Nani – It’s been a while since I’ve sent you a Nani reminder so here it is again. The Portuguese midfielder has steadily improved under Sir Alex Ferguson, and with the early-season injuries to Valencia and Rooney, he has become the focal point of Manchester United’s offense with both the ability to score and set up others. He’s also stopped somersaulting after scoring, which should cut down on injuries (Real injuries that is. I’m sure he’ll keep up the fake injuries in the hopes of having his opponents yellow carded). Oh, and did you know Nani is tied with Andrew Carroll as the league leader for the most fantasy points by any player this season?

Have a great Christmas and a happy holiday season! Hopefully the snow won’t cancel any more games!
Scott Ferguson

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CL draw: Spurs get San Siro return

When Tottenham was drawn against Young Boys of Bern in Champions League qualifying back in August, it was a dream draw for the North London’s debutantes, the easiest opponent Spurs could have faced at the final hurdle before the group stages of the competition.

And although they nearly bolloxed things up by falling behind 3-0 in the opening 30 minutes of the first leg, Spurs recovered to sweep past the Swiss side and move on to the tournament proper, where their only slip-up in six matches was a 4-3 defeat to Inter at Milan’s San Siro. A 3-1 triumph in the return leg at White Hart Lane put Tottenham on top of Group A to stay, meaning they’d avoid some of Europe’s heaviest hitters in this morning’s draw for the Round of 16.

This time, there was no dream draw, and Tottenham must go back to their house of first-half horrors to face Inter’s crosstown rivals AC Milan in February. The best scenario this time, if it could be considered as such, was probably FC Copenhagen, the first Danish side to reach the last 16. But even as a group winner, Tottenham still faced the prospect of many problematic opponents. And in the Rossoneri, current Serie A leaders, Tottenham have drawn one of the toughest. Sure, Marseille, Lyon and Valencia wouldn’t have been cakewalks, either, but this promises to be a stern, serious test.

Spurs, who will hope to be healthier in 10 weeks time, will be coming home for the second leg, of course. And our man ’Arry isn’t afraid of the big, bad boys from Northern Italy, saying he’s happy to keep measuring his squad against the best.

Of course, as North London squads go, Tottenham’s draw looks far better than neighbourhood rivals Arsenal, who face the daunting task of a battle with Barcelona, the same team that knocked them out of the tournament last year, and beat the Gooners in the 2006 final. Good luck with that one, lads.

Rather than Spurs, it was West London’s Chelsea who got the great Dane draw against Copenhagen, while Manchester United will meet Marseille. Inter got Bayern Munich in a rematch of last year’s final. Will the embattled Rafa Benitez still be in charge by then?

Meanwhile, the scabby Europa League teams also learned their fate today, with Man. Citeh drawn against Greece’s Aris Salonika, the team that knocked title holders Atletico Madrid out of the tournament. Obi Woy’s Liverpool get Sparta Prague, and Tottenham’s old adversary Young Boys, still alive in this competition, get Zenit St. Petersburg, who were UEFA Cup winners in 2008.

Finally, speaking of Swiss men and young boys, FIFA head of corruption president Sepp Blattter has apologized for his recent remarks urging homosexual fans to refrain from gay sex in Qatar. I give old Joseph a piece of my mind in my weekly Toro Magazine column today.

Ian Harrison

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Filed under Champions League, Premier League, Serie A, World Cup

Fergie’s Fantasy: Predicting the Unpredictable

Our Ferg has a less-hardy constitution than the Ol' Gaffer here...

At The Rails would like to welcome fantasy football columnist Scott Ferguson back to the fold after a prolonged hiatus.  Pneumonia? Really, Ferg?!? Pfffffttttt…

In what has been an unpredictable season in the English Premier League,  one has to open one’s mind to new ideas.

For example, can you really fathom that Newcastle’s Andrew Carroll is the highest- scoring striker in the league in terms of fantasy points? Or that Chelsea defenders, who one carried a justifiable high price… now haven’t kept a clean sheet in five weeks? Or that high priced talent like Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney would both miss penalty kicks on the same weekend?

When you can’t rely on the reliable, it’s time to think out of the box and then pray it will all work out. Here’s four players to consider who may not normally be on your radar…

For Your Consideration

Yaya shakes up fantasy pools...

Yaya Toure – He’s always been a consistently solid player,  but now Yaya is showing his offensive side with two goals and two assists in his last four games. As a midfielder he also picks up a bonus point for every Manchester City clean sheet… of which there are many. His low price makes him worth a look even if he’s more slow and steady than exciting and explosive.

Ji-Sung Park – Yes that goal that beat Arsenal was skill and not luck. Okay maybe a bit of both. Okay… maybe it was lucky. But everyone’s favourite South Korean player is really standing out for Manchester United this season. He’s started every Premier League game since Oct. 30th, so he’s becoming a safer purchase despite his low price. Since becoming a regular starter seven games ago, he has four goals, an assist… and United had five clean sheets… in case you have any doubts.

Nedum Onuoha – Sunderland are defending better than usual, racking up two clean sheets in their last two games. Not only did defender Onuoha pick up the clean sheet points and the playing time points, he also received two bonus points in each game. He’s becoming a key part of their back four though he’s only owned by 7% of fantasy managers. I guess the question is whether any of us think Sunderland can keep this up!

Joe Hart – Okay so he probably is on your radar. But only 30% of fantasy managers have picked him up… likely because he’s pricey. But in my opinion, he’s worth it. No one else is keeping clean sheets like Manchester City so pay the money and just start him every week.

Proceed with Caution
There are a few key questions that need answering. For example, with the Tevez transfer controversy, will his head be in the game or thinking about the future? Also, what about Florent Malouda? He was on fire to begin the season but has turned very cold. Does the return of Frank Lampard to the Chelsea lineup mean less time on the ball for Malouda? Or less time on the pitch even? He has a high price so it could be time to sell.

Talk to you next week, and even though it’s getting cold out there, in the paraphrased words of my presumed distant relative Sir Alex, don’t be caught in public wearing a snood. 

Scott Ferguson

 (Ed. Note: Look for several United players to suddenly develop pneumonia…)

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Filed under Premier League, Uncategorized

Il Sud Rises Again

Very Neapolitan: An Uruguayan and an Argentine, playing in Italy.

Ask most Italian football fans about their favourite teams, and the usual suspects are mentioned: Juventus, Roma, Lazio, AC Milan, or Inter Milan. These have been, without question, the top dogs of Serie A for the last two decades. All of these teams have one thing in common: they are based in the wealthier northern or central regions of the country. In recent times, southern Italy was considered the wasteland of Italian football.  Until now that is.

Not since the days of Diego Maradona has southern Italy fielded a competitive team for the Champions League, and maybe even the Scudetto. For the first time in ages there are two such teams in the south, both with a real shot at fourth place or higher.

Naples is once again full of optimism as Napoli currently sit tied for third and Sicily is equally thrilled now that Palermo are tied for fifth with Sampdoria, Roma, and mighty Inter. Napoli look to have developed quite a strike force, with Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi popping in a combined 13 goals this season. Add in the sublimely talented midfielder Marek Hamsik (who has 6 goals himself), and the pizza capital of the world looks to have a team that has come of age.

A Sicilian kiss-off would cost 70 million Euros...

Palermo’s rise can be attributed to the wonderful play of Javier Pastore, who is perhaps the most sought after young player in Serie A. Rumours are awash that both Barcleona and Real Madrid are very interested in the young Argentine (with a price tag rumoured to be around 70 million euros), who has scored seven goals already this season and is being hailed as the next world superstar.

One thing is for certain; no matter where Napoli and Palermo finish this season, they have once again restored the pride of southern Italian football.

Hadi Zogheib

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Filed under Serie A

Redknapp: England Outgunned

Rule Titannia, er, Britannia... or not...

God Bless ‘Arry Redknapp and his unbridled patriotism.  He believes that only an Englishman should lead England’s national squad — preferably him.  He thinks that foreign players shouldn’t come over to the Premier if they don’t speak the English too good.

And now At The Rails’ favourite quote machine says the England’s World Cup Bid committee might as well sent famous, um, model (?) Jordan to Switzerland, for all the good it would have done Albion’s bid.

Jordan?!? Really, ‘Arry? There’s a word to describe her in the UK that rhymes with the Clapper.  Perhaps you should look closer to home… i.e. your daughter-in-law.  Better yet, you could have asked your two strikers to talk to their WAGs… I’m looking at you Crouch and Van Der Vaart.  Well, actually I’m looking at your misses!!! Here and here….

It’s funny because they’re goooooood lookin’!

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At The Rails on the Telly

These boys have nothing on Our Ian...

At The Rails’ Ian Harrison gives us his break-down of the winning World Cup bids on Canadian Television’s News Channel.

Ooh, ‘e’s an ‘andsome lad…

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Filed under World Cup