SoccerLens Archives for January 2010

Barca’s youth products for the future

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The word is that the Catalan giants Barcelona might lose four of their best young players. They are: Spanish striker Jeffren Suarez, Mexican midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, Israeli forward Gai Assulin and Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara. They are all reportedly on the radar of English clubs as Barca has time and time again produced players who have achieved excellence in their career.

Assessment of the Big THREE in the Premier League

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Three different leaders in the space of a few weeks; Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United have all topped the table and they are all going to face each other in the near future. Of course, Arsenal play United this weekend.

Good time to assess the big three. Yes, the big three. We are leaving Spurs out.

Hearts sack Laszlo, can Celtic keep up with Rangers?

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Csaba Laszlo has been sacked from Hearts by chairman Vladimir Romanov. Laszlo spent 18 months in the hotseat under the eye of controversial Lithuanian Romanov. The Hungarian boss has been at war with Romanov over the past due to the lack of investment for new signings.

Laszlo departs Hearts

Hearts were 7 games unbeaten of late and the staff at Hearts have been called to Tynecastle for a private meeting at 7pm.

Transfer Rumors (29 Jan 2010): Arsenal pass on Nice’s Remy, Birmingham eye prolific Boselli, Bolton loan Gunners starlet Wilshere, and more

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No Remy Move For Arsenal

Arsenal are passing on making a move for Nice forward Loic Remy due to the French club's staying firm over a £13m price tag for the highly-touted 23-year-old. (Daily Mail)

Analysis: On one hand, you say 'sure, why not?

Like Soccerlens? Vote for us on Facebook!

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The FA Cup has a poll going on Facebook with its fans voting on their favourite football blog. Naturally Soccerlens is on the list, although with a few big names missing from the list I'm thinking they just Googled us, which is great news.

Just being on the poll isn't enough to win though, and given that we tend to .

New Juventus Manager, Alberto Zaccheroni: “I’m Not Rusty, You Will See.”

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On Friday, Alberto Zaccheroni was named manager of Juventus FC. Ciro Ferrarra had been a dead man walking for weeks.

After elimination by Inter Milan in the Italian Cup on Thursday evening, Mr. Ferrara's fate was sealed. Efforts to lure Guus Hiddink away from the Russian bench failed.

The Renaissance of Ronaldinho Gaucho: “I feel loved at Milan.”

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Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, better known as Ronaldinho Gaucho, has been thrilling Serie A fans with his excellent form. He leads the league in assists, and after a tripletta against Siena, has 9 goals.

Last year, he was heavily criticized for his seeming lack of interest, poor form, and partying ways.

Why are Manchester City strikers obsessed with past clubs?

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Scott over at Republik of Mancunia has an excellent comparative analysis of Adebayor (ex-Arsenal) and Tevez (ex-Manchester United) and their actions since joining Manchester City.

As Scott rightly points out, many players have less than pleasant exits from their clubs, but if the departed player makes it a point to taunt / talk about his old club again and again and again, then that player's head is not screwed on right.

Is this the end of the Golden Age of English Football?

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As Manchester United's rout of Wigan signalled the end of the 2009 and the start of a yet unnamed new decade, the signs on the horizon raise questions as to the future of English football over the next 10 years? Can the growth and success of the noughties be replicated or do a plethora of social, political and financial factors mean that English football has reached its pinnacle?

Transfer Rumors (19 Jan 2010): No Flamini loan for Man City, Man United rebuff Tottenham’s Foster interest, Birmingham in third bid for Liverpool’s Babel, a

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City To Loan Flamini?

After being linked with a loan move to Tottenham last week, it's now looking like former Arsenal man Mathieu Flamini could be on his way to Manchester City on a similar deal, as Manchester City are reportedly close to landing the versatile Frenchman on loan from AC Milan.

Now hail Wenger for prudence

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Amidst all the talk of football and finance over the past week or so, it's been interesting to hear the outrage of fans and pundits alike at the state and prognosis of football clubs in England.

One man who could be forgiven for a wry smile and a shrug of the shoulders is Arsene Wenger a manager who has run the club he works for like a burgeoning enterprise.

Liverpool need to put a win under the table

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Six of the best quotes of the week from (one of the five nominees for the funniest football site of 2009 award).

1. Phil Neville always does his best to give his utmost:

"Today we played to our capabilities. That's what this team is capable of.

Where will Gold and Sullivan take West Ham?

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West Ham have had more than their share of problems off the field as a football club and the news today that David Gold and David Sullivan had completed a 50% takeover of the London club will be welcomed by the fans.

Any Premier League takeover these days is accompanied by a set of promises and criticisms, and West Ham's is no different.

Soccerlens TV: Arsenal’s title challenge, Valencia vs Villareal and Real Madrid’s debt

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Join celebrated football pundit, author, radio show host and DJ Andy Brassell every Monday on the Soccerlens Show.

In Episode 12, Andy Brassell kicks the show off with Arsenal's match against Bolton and their chances in the Premier League currently and how they are now just three points behind the leaders, Chelsea.

Report: Manchester United 3-0 Burnley

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Another typically ‘ok, but not great' performance by the Champions saw us defeat a gutsy Burnley side 3-0, with Berbs, Rooney and new boy Diouf finding the net on a routinely humble afternoon at OT.

As usual, we made it difficult for ourselves, especially as the away side threatened surprisingly well and had a few decent efforts that could have, and probably should have, punished us for our lack of concentration.

Calciopoli: The Scandal Returns

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It's been four years since the fateful days when Juventus's world exploded. Relegated to the Serie B, fined, stripped of their titles and of their star players, La Vecchia Signora had to start from scratch. But now information is emerging. Information that suggests a completely different reality.

Patchwork Bari knit better together than Inter

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Giampiero Ventura doesn't take kindly to being called the grandfather of Serie A, but having just turned 62 the journeyman Bari manager has to go that little bit further in proving himself otherwise. Speaking ahead of Inter's visit to the San Nicola on Saturday, Ventura offered a veritable master class in machismo.

Three key battles ahead for Liverpool

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Rafael Benitez must have been feeling that perhaps he was not destined to take Liverpool to their first trophy win since 2006 when Robert Huth poked in a last-gasp equaliser for Stoke on Saturday. Lucas had already had a possible penalty shout denied in the first half and was booked for his troubles, and Dirk Kuyt went on to hit the post in the 95th minute.

Transfer Rumors (17 Jan 2010): Chelsea eye Boro’s Johnson, Arsenal target Croatian star Mandzukic, Liverpool and AC Milan battle for Jovanovic, and more

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Chelsea In For Johnson

Chelsea are one of a number of clubs tracking Middlesbrough star Adam Johnson. The only concrete offer thus far, however, has been from Wolves, but their £6.5m bid is significantly lower than Boro's £10m valuation. (Daily Mail)

Analysis: No matter how you shake it, £6.

Sheer embarrassment as harmony returns to the Bridge

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Two weeks ago I went to see Chelsea vs Fulham at Stamford Bridge.

As a Chelsea fan I was horrified by what I had encountered. Chelsea had conceded in the first few minutes and stayed behind until the 78th; swinging in average crosses, and failing to string together more than three passes.

SPL Weekend Preview – Rangers, Hibs, Celtic and Hearts to win

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The weekend's televised lunchtime kick-off at New Douglas Park between Hamilton and Rangers is set to be an absolute cracker after the 3-3 draw between the two sides in the Scottish Cup last Sunday.

Rangers manager Walter Smith has major selection problems ahead of the game tomorrow with several first-team players out injured.

SPL Review: Bairns Hang On To Vital Point At Celtic

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Falkirk manager Eddie May was delighted after his sides 1-1 draw at Celtic Park. Tony Mowbray's side huffed and puffed and played some nice football but yet again the finishing of their attackers let them down. The Celtic fans arrived in anticipation over the debut of highly-rated midfielder Ki-Sung Yong who had a decent game overall in midfield showing some great technique for Celtic but that will be the last thing on their minds tonight.

Benitez’ failing a social one

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Rafael Benitez signed a 5 year contract at Liverpool in the summer, and this is probably the only thing saving him from the proverbial noose. Its often cited his transfer policy is to blame, that he has been unlucky with injuries, and that his team is over-reliant on two players, but in truth, his failing is a social one.

Transfer Rumors (14 Jan 2010): Everton eye Arsenal’s Senderos, Real Madrid join queue for Palace star Moses, McClaren wants wonderkid Wilshere at FC Twente, a

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Today's early transfer rumors roundup almost feels like a blast from the past for me, not only because these are yesterday's headlines, but because it features a few names who have been prominently featured in a number of roundups in past transfer windows.

Perhaps a taste of deja vu or what have you isn't such a bad thing for you, but it'd be nice if these guys, you know, move already.

Putting United’s debt and bond issue into perspective

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Every Manchester United fan I've spoken to in the last week has said one of two things:

  • United are in deep, deep trouble. No money, players leaving, etc etc.
  • The press have an agenda against United and have found a golden opportunity to stick their boot in.

Like the sensationalist propaganda that's passed for journalism in the English press this week, there's some truth to the two points of view, but mostly it's hyperbole, a lot of IFs and an acute failure to see both sides of the story.

It is Unfair That Footballers Are Punished More Severely For Taking Recreational Drugs

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In starting this debate I would like to make it very clear that I do not condone the taking of illegal drugs. The aim of this editorial is to show how the system that punishes drug users in football is flawed, and unfairly punishes those who abuse recreational substances such as cocaine.

First of all, compare the differences in retribution between the below sets of cases.

Ivory Coast v Ghana – African Nations Cup Preview

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Ivory Coast v Ghana
African Cup of Nations 2010
Friday, January 15 2010
Kick-off: 18:30 (GMT)
Chimandela, Cabinda

Do Or Die Mission For Elephants

After failing to seize three points against Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast know that their destiny in Angola is at stake and any false move in their second group match could prove to be fatal.

Fernando Torres Pepsi Ad – What the Fizzle!

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Just so you know, 'what the fizzle!' is not the tag-line or something for the ad. It's something totally else. It is indeed one of the weirdest ads I've seen.

You must have noticed how you can't guess what some of the adverts are about until they finally tell you what it is about but this is something on a whole another level.

Bundesliga Set For Unpredictable Climax

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With the second half of the Bundesliga season kicking off this weekend no less than seven teams could legitimately claim to be title contenders. Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Schalke are the obvious choices, but behind the front runners are some very good teams, and they are all within touching distance.

Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim Preview

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Bayern Munich v TSG Hoffenheim
Friday, 15 January 2010
Kickoff: 20:30 CET

Friday night sees the return of the Bundesliga after the winter break, and we couldn't have asked for a more mouth-watering clash. Bayern will go top of the table if they win, but it won't be that simple.

Arsenal’s Philippe Senderos About To Sign Pre-Contract Agreement With Serie A Club

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Arsenal centre-back Philippe Senderos is close to signing a pre-contract agreement with an Italian top flight club, according to a report from Sky Sports News.

The Swiss international revealed this week that he was desperate to move away from the Emirates this season in order to find first team football ahead of the World Cup.

Week-Night Wins For Buddies And Arabs

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St Mirren and Dundee United picked up victories in their re-arranged SPL matches during the week.

At St Mirren Park on Tuesday, Aberdeen made the long-trip from the Granite City down to Paisley and manager Mark McGhee left a disappointed man after the 1-0 defeat to Gus McPherson's St Mirren.

Should Manchester City Sign Mauro Zarate?

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Manchester City have emerged as the front runners in the race to sign Lazio striker Mauro Zarate, according to a report from Sky Sports News.

The 22-year-old has been linked with Arsenal and Chelsea as well as City in recent days, with his agent confirming earlier today that there was definite interest from the Premier League.

Chelsea to pay £3.5m to £6.5m to Manchester City for Daniel Sturridge

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Chelsea will pay Manchester City an initial £3.5 million for Daniel Sturridge. That figure could subsequently rise to around £6.5m based upon appearances.

"Chelsea FC will pay an initial fee of £3.5million with additional payments of £500,000 after each of 10, 20, 30 and 40 first-team competitive appearances," Professional Football Compensation Committee statement read, according to Press Association Sport.

Podcast: Arsenal have Sol, Liverpool don’t and Manchester United could be sold

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The second Soccerlens Podcast of the new decade sees Adrian Clarke and Iain Spragg hit the spot with more topical football banter and debate.Â

As well as dissecting all the hottest topics in football, the duo nominate some of their own favourite writers, experts and websites in light of the upcoming Soccerlens Awards.

Two Princes, Goodbye Benitez and Lady Luck

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Whilst Reading arguably equalled Leeds feat in triumphing over one of the ‘top four' bigger sides some serious questions have been raised regarding Liverpool football club, both on and off the pitch, and fingers are being pointed at Rafael Benitez.

Rumours have been recklessly slung around about how Liverpool's potential failure to secure a top four finish could lead to a financial crisis in which they would need to sell their top players.

Batting for Rafa and Liverpool

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From King of Liverpool to the laughing stock of England Rafael Benitez has fallen from his high perch and now the sheer disappointment (not hatred, this is not Manchester United after all) of fans and pundits alike means that Rafa is under more pressure performances-wise than at any other time of his managerial career at Anfield.

Real Madrid Fans Prefer Karim Benzema To Raul

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The injury that will keep Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain out for three weeks has re-opened the debate over Real Madrid's attacking options, with Karim Benzema and Raul fighting for a starting spot. Los Blancos coach Manuel Pellegrini must decide between the French youngster and the Spanish legend Raul ahead of this weekend's clash with Athletic Bilbao.

Hereide backs Diouf for success (but not goals) at Manchester United

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Manchester United is the perfect place for Mame Biram Diouf to develop into a star, according to Viking FK manager Age Hereide.

Hereide is a former Manchester City defender and was coach at FK Molde when a certain Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was maturing and learning his trade.

Heriede oversaw the sale of Solksjaer to United and feels that Sir Alex Ferguson has another potential star on his hands in Diouf.

Real Madrid’s Book Of Ezequiel

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Every defence has its deputy. While it takes four to construct and coordinate a back line, there is inevitably a linchpin, a player who directs his team's defensive formation and ensures that the door to goal is kept well and truly shut.

For Barcelona, that skipper is Carles Puyol, the aging but foot-perfect rock called upon to extinguish danger when all other remedies have failed.

Rafa for Life? It’s more like a life sentence for Liverpool

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Football writing is more often than not locked in the present, the now. There's no perspective, and while this helps sells more newspaper copies (and gets more pageviews), it also means that readers are told a pack of half-truths and absolute lies every day of the week.

So when Liverpool went on a rampage in the second half of last season, pilfering 4 goals a game against the top European sides for fun, it was easy to sell the public the idea that Liverpool, under the guidance of Rafael Benitez and lead by the admirable duo of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, had turned an important corner in their recent history.

Transfer Rumors (13 Jan 2010): Chamakh to choose Liverpool, Tottenham target ex-Arsenal star Flamini, former Man United target lands in Italy, and more

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If you happened to miss anything from yesterday's transfer news headlines, we're here to catch you up on what passed you by (or you intentionally overlooked).

We'll have a nice hot batch of today's transfer tidbits a little later in the evening, but in this batch, we've got the latest on Birmingham's quest to find a striker willing to play for them, Tottenham's pursuit of more midfielders, and a few names for the future that you should keep in the memory bank, along with a few other bits.

Serie A’s Four Day Football Week

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Milan vice president Adriano Galliani has subscribed to the idea of having Serie A fixtures spread over a four-day week.

Reports around the peninsula on Wednesday claimed the Lega Calcio are planning to revise the Calcio calendar from next season, with designs to stage fixtures on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.

Are Zenit ready to pay for Tottenham flop?

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Roman Pavlyuchenko's move from Tottenham Hotspur to Zenit St Petersburg is in serious danger of stalling, according to a report from The Daily Mail.

The striker's agent has apparently denied any knowledge of the reported £10.2 million bid for the player from the Russian club, and it is understood that Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti is in dispute with the club's board over whether to push the move through or not.

Angola v Malawi – African Nations Cup Preview

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Angola v Malawi Thursday, January 14. Kick-off: 20:30 CET Malawi are already dreaming of a place in the quarter-finals of the African Nations Cup as they meet tournament hosts Angola. A 3-0 victory over World Cup-bound Algeria in their opening match sent the Flames to the top of Group A, with a two-point cushion over their nearest challengers.

Juventus Want Ribery Too

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Juventus are ready to scupper Real Madrid's plans for Franck Ribery by making a summer swoop for him, according to reports in Italy.

The Galacticos have been tipped to land the Frenchman as president Florentino Perez provides another golden goose in the transfer market.

But that move doesn't appear straightforward, as Leggo.

Hamburg Want Love

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Ambitious Bundesliga side Hamburger SV have turned their attentions to on-loan Palmeiras forward Vagner Love in their search for attacking reinforcements, according to a report in Hamburger Morgenpost.

The Rothosen are in the market for a new attacker due to the lengthy injury absence of Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero and head coach Bruno Labbadia seemingly sees Vagner Love as the perfect candidate.

The Top 15 Leagues in Europe

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Mirror, Mirror on the wall...Who is the fairest of them all? Â Well in terms of football in Europe it comes as no surprise that at the halfway point in the season, Germany leads the way in terms of attendances. Â

A country that scoffs at the idea of ripping off the fans and consequently charges an average of 26 Euros to watch a top level game.

The worst supported league in Europe?

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Currently there are 53 countries affiliated to UEFA. Â These are countries who are allowed to play in tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup and of course the European Championships. Â But there are only 52 which actually have a league of their own as Liechtenstein do not organise a league, preferring to play in the Swiss leagues.

Is the end near for Anfield?

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After a crazy first half of the season for Liverpool, it looks like not just the team is in a bad shape. The administration of the club has considered selling the naming rights to their new Stanley Park stadium to the highest bidder. So yes, it seems like the end of the legacy of Anfield is near.

Sol v Torres, where’s the real Jones and what are we paying clubs for?

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With the January transfer window in full flow new signings have been surprisingly limited to the Premiership.

Amidst the fringe sales of Gary Caldwell's deal at Wigan and Tomas Pekhart's exit from White Hart Lane, the arrival of Sol Cambell at Arsenal has come as a surprise to many.

Considering Wengers reluctance to play any player over the age of 22, why would he buy the man who struggled to find his way into a Notts County side?

Football in 1979

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I am a difficult person to buy things for at Christmas. Â And to make matters worse my birthday is just 12 days later. Â But this year I had a few nice surprises, one of which was a selection of England programmes from yesteryear. Â So let me take you back to October 1979 for England's European Championships qualifier against Denmark at Wembley, and what everyone was talking about.

Sol Campbell back at Arsenal

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There has been a lot of speculation surrounding Sol Campbell with him being linked to Newcastle, Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion and even a return to Tottenham. He has being getting back to full fitness by taking advantage of the amazing training facilities at Arsenal FC.

The former Portsmouth captain's contract ran out in May, playing his last Premier League game against Wigan and since then, has made his widely publicized transfer to Notts County.

Spain’s Conveyor Belt of Talent Shows No Signs of Stopping

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Perhaps the most prolific and finest exporter of footballing talent in the world will always be Brazil. No country that has managed to remain a bastion for footballing excellence for over 50 years deserves to be considered anything less.

Yet, if Brazil have the tradition to deserve such an accolade, make no mistake that at the moment the quality of talent being produced from the academies of Spain deserve to push them mighty close, as they continue to produce prodigious talents and at a quite prolific rate.

Kilmarnock Line Up Men to Replace Jefferies

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After parting company with long-serving manager Jim Jefferies, Kilmarnock now face the task of selecting their new manager to guarantee their safety in the Scottish Premier League. The Musselburgh-born 59 year old spent 8 years in Ayrshire with a shoe-string budget for so long. In his time at Rugby Park, Jefferies led Kilmarnock to 3 top-six finishes, finishing fourth in his first year in charge.

Transfer Rumors (12 Jan 2010): Barca and Real want £70m Rooney, Chelsea eye Wolfsburg star Dzeko, Man United track Fiorentina #1 Frey, and more

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It was a relatively slow day in transfer news and rumors on Tuesday, and when such a day comes about, you're bound to get an outlandish story or two for the sake of filler.

Along with The Sun's delivering of such a space filler and time killer, there were actually a few more believable transfer tidbits from here, there, and everywhere on Tuesday, including the latest on Chelsea's hunt for a new striker and Manchester United's hunt for a future #1 goalkeeper.

Berbatov, Tevez, and Sir Alex Ferguson

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If Sir Alex Ferguson was watching the game tonight, there is one thing which will have occupied his thoughts Carlos Tevez' role as attacking fulcrum at Manchester City.

Tevez' hat-trick tonight made it 14 goals at City this season, which, when compared with Dimitar Berbatov's 6 really shines the light on Ferguson's decision to buy Berbatov in the first place.

Rangers Injury Woes Ahead of Accies Clash

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Rangers will be without a number of key players for their trip to New Douglas Park for their Saturday lunchtime kick-off with Hamilton.

The SPL Champions will be without strikers Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller with Boyd being ruled out for up to 4 weeks with a hernia and Miller is suspended after his red-card against Dundee United.

Portsmouth favourites for first Premier League club failure

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Portsmouth are the heavy odds on favourites to be the first Premier League club to go to the wall, reports bookie Paddy Power.

Following former Birmingham owner David Sullivan's comments that it is "probably odds on" that one Premier League club will collapse this year the bookie has installed the South coast club at just 1/5 to be the first club to go.

Transfer Rumors (11 Jan 2010): Liverpool to swap Babel for Sunderland’s Jones?, Pompey want £14m for Man City target Kaboul, Fulham close on Roma striker, an

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It's a new week, and in case you were in need of your fill of transfer news and rumors after a weekend that was light on the football (no thanks to the weather), we're here to help stuff you to the brim with a big batch of Monday transfer tidbits.

From a possible swap deal to kill two birds with one stone for Liverpool, to Portsmouth trying to once again succeed with their buy low, sell high method of business, to a Scottish swoop into the Swedish league, you won't have any reason to be hungry for more after you're done with today's transfer roundup.

Sergio Canales scores against Sevilla

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Quick, someone sign this kid:

"Sergio Canales scores against Sevilla" was originally published at - Football News.

Soccerlens TV: Juve lose at home to Milan, Mutu and Benzema

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Join celebrated football pundit, author, radio show host and DJ Andy Brassell every Monday on the Soccerlens Show.

In Episode 11, Andy Brassell looks at the best of the action from Europe and concentrates on AC Milan's 3-0 win over Juventus at Turin. Andy also briefly discusses Ronaldinho's current form and then he takes a look at Juve and what possible managerial changes are in store for them.

England’s World Cup Chances: 23 into 11 Doesn’t Go

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For the mathematicians out there you'll instantly recognise the numbers 11 and 23 as 'prime numbers', meaning of course that they are only divisible by themselves and 1.

For the football fans out there you will recognise 11 as the number of players you can have on the pitch at any one time and 23 as the number of players included in a World Cup squad.

Match Report: Birmingham City 1-1 Manchester United

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Birmingham City v Manchester United
English Premier League
St Andrews
Saturday, 09 January 2010
Kickoff: 17:30 GMT

I had a feeling the match wouldn't turn out well from the offset; lets just say my choice of location to watch the encounter at the St Andrew's could have been planned out slightly better.

Mancini brings Patrick Vieira to Eastlands for influence

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New Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini did not seem to think twice about bringing French midfielder Patrick Vieira back to the Premier League to help his new Sky Blues side gain Champions League qualification or perhaps even more in a move that makes the mind think back to Man City's neighbours Manchester United, and their capture of Vieira's former international team-mate Laurent Blanc back in 2001.

Inter on track for title with dramatic late win

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The last time Jose Mourinho lost a home league game, Christian Vieri was leading Inter's striking force. Mourinho was in charge at FC Porto as they lost 3-2 at home to Beira-Mar on February 22, 2002 and  he has not lost since. Mourinho didn't lose a single home league game at Chelsea and is yet to do so as Inter boss.

Milan’s forgotten heroes give Juve nightmares

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Two players supposedly very close to hanging up their boots in the summer helped put Italy's Old Lady in a retirement home last night. Alessandro Nesta, the 33-year-old with the bad back, and Ronaldinho, the two-time former World Player of the Year said to be now well past his best, were simply inspirational in Milan's 3-0 win over Juventus that effectively ended the Bianconeri's already slim chances of winning the Scudetto.

Ronaldinho: Milan Can Win Scudetto & Champions League

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Milan playmaker Ronaldinho believes he is enjoying life more in Italy compared to times at Barcelona as he aims for Scudetto and Champions League glory.

After a shaky first season last year, the Brazilian has seized the opportunity this term and has continued to impress. Slowly, but surely he has been getting back to his best form and he reckons it will help deliver major trophies this season.

Togo, Angola, and the World Cup

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Get a map of Africa and study the west coast of the continent. You'll notice that between Angola and South Africa is the country of Namibia. Squint a bit closer and look further up the map and you'll notice, between The Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo is a small area of land labelled as 'Angola enclave'.

Arsenal v Everton Preview

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Free £20 Bet on Arsenal v Everton for Soccerlens readers 5/1 for an exact 2-0 score, Arshavin 9/2 to score first.

Arsenal v Everton
English Premier League
Saturday, 09 January 2010
Kickoff: 15:00 GMT

The bad weather may have put the freeze on Arsenal's title charge, but the Gunners will be confident of keeping the pressure on leaders Chelsea by taking maximum points against Everton on Saturday.

Birmingham City v Manchester United Preview

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Free £20 Bet on Birmingham City v Manchester United for Soccerlens readers 7/1 for a Manchester United win, 11/2 for an exact 1-1 score.

Birmingham City v Manchester United
English Premier League
St Andrews
Saturday, 09 January 2010
Kickoff: 17:30 GMT

Blues boss Alex McLeish could name an unchanged line-up for the ninth successive league match while Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is set to ring the changes after the FA Cup exit to Leeds.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Portugal can win the 2010 World Cup

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Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo has declared that he expects next summer's World Cup in South Africa to be the best ever finals tournament and he also believes his team has what it takes to go all the way to glory.

The Real Madrid forward insisted that Portugal improved as a side as the qualification campaign evolved and he feels that they have the maturity and the experience to be world champions, but may need a little good fortune to help them on their way.

Podcast: Mancini’s magic, Fergie’s claims and transfer gossip

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Adrian Clarke and Iain Spragg return with their first podcast of the new decade and it's not one to miss.Â

The duo debate the start made by Manchester City's new gaffer, Fergie's observation that the Premier League is getting better and go in depth on the likely comings and goings during this month's transfer window.

Revolution Time For The SPL

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Only a few months ago, the Scottish Premier League appointed Neil Doncaster as the Chief Executive to replace Lex Gold who was a long-serving member.

With numerous call-offs in the last few weeks and a dire standard of football in Scotland's top flight, Doncaster has come in for tough criticism by journalists and managers that are eager to see the SPL and its clubs become more respected in World Football.

Angola 2010 Preview

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The 27th edition of African Cup of Nations will kick off on Sunday in Angola with the hosts taking on Mali. Ivory Coast are under enormous pressure to finally deliver the trophy to the nation, while Egypt will be aiming for a historic third consecutive title. Here's a closer look at all the teams involved and their chances in the continent's most prestigious tournament.

Transfer Rumors (08 Jan 2010): Man City sign Vieira, Arsenal linked with old boy Campbell, Liverpool close to Maxi move, and more

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Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell were two key parts of Arsenal's successes in the early part of the 2000s, and after both moved on to other pastures (Vieira's was greener, Campbell's was not), it looks like we could see both coming to a Premier League stadium near you again soon, as today's transfer roundup indicates.

Togo football team bus shot in Angola, players injured

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Gunmen opened fire with machine guns on a bus carrying Togo's football team to the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, wounding several players.

Officials say the shooting occurred in the Angolan oil-rich territory of Cabinda, where rebels have been fighting for independence. The Angolan government called the incident an "act of terrorism".

Serie A’s return full of Panto villainy

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Much like one of the festive season's now ubiquitous pantomimes, Serie A's return from a winter break had everything; villains, heroes, a dose of magic, the absurd and some inexplicable stupidity doled out by the usual suspects.

Set on the public holiday that is the Epiphany when a mystical broom-wielding witch known as La Befana does her rounds of the peninsula, leaving a piece of candy that looks suspiciously like coal in every household, it didn't take long for millions of Italian football fans to discover who had been good or bad over the last 17 days.

Oman beat 12-man Indonesian side

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This is the first time that Indonesia failed to qualify for the final round of the Asian Cup since 1992. And it is not going too well with the Indonesian football fans.

An Indonesian fan, Hendri Mulyadi, ran out to the pitch, picked up the ball from Oman's half, went on a run down the wing, dribbling and entering the 18 yard area and took a shot at goal which was successfully stopped by the goalkeeper.

Transfer Rumors (5 Jan 2010): Liverpool turn down Babel bid, no Man City move for Veron, Spain return in cards for Arsenal’s Merida, and more

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Even though the January transfer window sees far less action than the summer transfer window, that doesn't mean that this month will be without plenty of headlines involving big clubs and big-name stars.

This afternoon's roundup of transfer news tidbits includes bits from England, Spain, Italy, France, and Scotland, and though there aren't any big done deals to speak of just yet, it's looking like a few could be in the cards in the near future.

Football or the weather? Nemanja Vidic and priorities

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Nemanja Vidic's postion at Manchester United would seem to be in jeopardy. Like Ronaldo, and even Alonso at Liverpool, this is one of those media stories that has appeared and reappeared across both tabloid and broad sheets alike, and simply refuses to go away. Which may mean bad news for Manchester United fans – particularly when taking into acount Sir Alex Ferguson's reluctance so far to talk about the subject.

Captain Fantastic back for Arsenal

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Paddy Power has offered Soccerlens readers a free £20 bet for simply opening an account and placing a bet with them. Go ahead, claim your free £20 bet.

Arsenal fans will have to wait until 4pm on Sunday to see their team, by that time they'll know all the other results and will be hoping that the team can keep the pressure on the leaders.

The Bundesliga so far

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Even the most ambitious of Bayern Munich fans wouldn't have expected their team to still be in the hunt for the title, given their start to the season.

Munich had a terrible start, and didn't look like making a title challenge until a couple of weeks before the winter break. Bayern had several players out through injury including Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, but their turnaround came from an unlikely source.

Arsenal Getting the Gestalt – could 2010 be their year?

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Arsenal really do look like they are getting the gestalt. Last year, the line on them was that they lacked the reinforced steel behind Cesc Fabregas in midfield. Mathieu Flamini shortsighted decision to leave for AC Milan meant that, although a cliche for so long ,when it came to describing them, the phrase 'a soft touch' was condign.

Leed’s utterly United in Manchester

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"Well I didn't expect that, I must admit..."

So what did you expect, Sir Alex? A performance full of determination and grit to convincingly see off our lowly yet despised rivals in a passionate FA Cup tie?

Well I think, given the circumstances, that is was more than fair assumption.

The funny side of football in 2009

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2009 has been a year like none before.

Barcelona hit the 'sextuple', Cristiano Ronaldo was sold for around 80m, some big nations struggled to qualify for the World Cup, Theirry Henry's 'hand of the French god' sparked arguments and England felt that the Irish were cheated, etc.

And not just in football; 2009 changed the whole world forever.

Arsenal Getting the Gestalt – 2010 could be their year.

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Arsenal really do look like they are getting the gestalt. Last year, the line on them was that they lacked the reinforced steel behind Cesc Fabregas in midfield. Mathieu Flamini shortsighted decision to leave for AC Milan meant that, although a cliche for so long ,when it came to describing them, the phrase 'a soft touch' was condign.

Barca drop points in race for La Liga

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Barcelona endured a frustrating return to action in La Liga as they were held at Camp Nou by Villareal yesterday evening. The hosts enjoyed a wonderful 2009, culminating in Leo Messi's extra-time winner in Abu Dhabi which disposed of Estudiantes and secured the World Club Championship, but their first match of 2010 was muted by comparison.

Manchester United v Leeds: Crossing the Great Divide

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One of the greatest rivalries in English football is revived this weekend after several years in the wilderness, as a Leeds team, flying high at the top of League 1, travel to Old Trafford in the FA Cup 3rd round.....reigniting a rivalry as bitter as any in English football.

It's hard to better the Man U/Liverpool rivalry but, having been there in the 70's and 80's, there's always been an extra edge.

Have Chelsea Got The Winter Blues?

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"Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York" (Shakespeare- Richard III)

Yes, I know a bit of culture is always welcomed by the Soccerlens readers and who better than The Bard himself to open this piece? Of course Will actually meant that the time of discontent was waning (in it's 'winter'), while I borrow the great man's phrase to suggest that down Stamford Bridge way the words winter and discontent are becoming synonymous in recent seasons.

The Best Transfers of Summer 2009

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Who was the best signing of summer 2009? With price tags like 80m for Cristiano Ronaldo, 50-odd million for Kaka, 35m for Benzema and of course, 40m + Eto'o for Ibrahimovic, it becomes difficult to measure the effectiveness of a transfer just in terms of the team's performances. Ronaldo does far more for Real Madrid than score goals, and buying Ibra gave Barcelona the bonus of getting rid of Eto'o.