Back with our regular news roundup…
Shady Football Deals
The Guardian is going ape over copies of a prosecutor’s report from the initial investigation against MSI (for their Corinthians link) which allege that the MSI-Corinthians financial links were used for money laundering.
For now it’s a lot of speculation and bits and pieces of news stitched tenuously on a very thin thread of reasoning, but all that could change if just one concrete link was found.
SquareFootball (smart people, them) discuss how Manchester United are likely to be in the group of second seeds for the Champions League next year. Although you don’t expect Sir Alex Ferguson to bitch about their second seed status as much as Mourinho has for Chelsea, it caps off a frustrating 5 years for Manchester United in which they have seen their dominant status challenged and effectively usurped by Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. We’re not alone at the top anymore, and quite frankly, there are 3 sides too many alongside us.
For details on how the rankings work (Mr. Mourinho would do well to check them as well) make sure you read the article. Manchester United will have to match their performance of 5 years ago (a run to the semi-finals) to simply stay as the bottom-ranked team in the group of top seeds.
It gets worse for Manchester United, as Park Ji-Sung is rumored to be out for 2-3 months after an ankle injury and Giggs will be out for at least 2-3 weeks after his hamstring pull. That leaves us with only Richardson as the ‘official’ left-wing backup, although Ronaldo can play there as well (with Solskjaer covering on the right) and Evra could play there in a pinch too (although with his crossing he could a be liability). A chance for Smith or Jones to make a first-team appearance?
Capello blames ‘fitness levels’ for Real Madrid’s 2-0 Champions League defeat to Lyon. It’s a simplistic analysis and even if it is true, you have to wonder when it became acceptable for a club of Real Madrid’s stature to have poor fitness going into a season. Yes, Lyon have more league games under their belt, but that is too convenient an excuse, even if it is valid. Capello and Madrid would have anticipated this problem and should have taken steps to cope with it.
England go up to 4th in Fifa’s World Rankings – wins over Greece, Andorra and Macedonia have some benefit, at least.
It’s hard to see the early pretenders (Portsmouth, Everton, Aston Villa) win a game against the top four (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United) but Aston Villa came away with a point against Arsenal and Everton thumped Liverpool for 3. The real test for these teams will come against Manchester United and Chelsea, and those games might well mean the difference between Europe and mid-table obscurity.
Keano’s Sunderland win again – are you surprised? Simon Hattenstone joins in the praise for Keane, and while it’s getting a bit tiresome it’s all good while he’s winning – expect negativity when Sunderland start losing.
Manchester United take on Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday and with Liverpool travelling to Stamford Bridge the same day it is going to be a decisive weekend for the Premiership. If United win, Arsenal will be mired in a relegation battle 5 matches into the season and if Liverpool come away with at least a point, Chelsea will have conceded a lead of 5 points to their closest title rivals (United).
No points for guessing what result I’m hoping for. See you tomorrow.