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gazbo
The gazebo in the car park of live football.

I’ll level with you. I’m writing this with half an eye on Sky Sports Transfer Deadline Day.

So far I know that Radamel Falcao is/might be in and around a plane to Manchester airport, Harry Redknapp is at QPR’s training ground (presumably testing car windows for speed of descent and comfort) and self-awareness (like Falcao) is a foreign concept to array of anchormen and women pointing and poking at incongruously large electronic screens.

yellow

If they had even a jot of the stuff, they wouldn’t still be finding humour in Adam Leventhal’s yellow socks as they move into their fourth hour of broadcasting.

I’m not. And neither is Gary Cotterill.

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The Most Envied League In The World™

Even Pardew, a known abuser of the elderly, knows better than to approach Warnock.

It’s as you were in the Premier League, with Manchester United drawing against supposedly inferior opposition, Diego Costa scoring, Arsenal paying the price for want of an experienced goal scorer and mayhem breaking out in the vicinity of Neil Warnock.

balo

Mario Balotelli had a debut to forget, but Liverpool showed their mettle anyway, beating Spurs 3-0 and leaving Mauricio Pochettino with some work to do. Last week’s 4-0 win over QPR offered Spurs fans hope that the former Southampton manager had turned alchemist and found a way to make £100m worth of football talent work together on a pitch, but it looks as though a little more time with the Bunsen burner might be required if they’re going to trouble the top four.

Chelsea are top after three wins out of three, while Swansea City are breathing down their necks on goal difference alone. Two draws and a heavy defeat to the aforementioned Swans put West Brom in the bottom three alongside Crystal Palace and Burnley.

Everywhere Else

schalke

Schalke picked up a handy point against all-conquering talent beasts Bayern Munich at the weekend, but despite the presence of new signing Xabi Alonso, the most excitement was to be had off the pitch.

The German club, whose nickname is The Miners due to their historical links with the local mining community, have transformed their tunnel into what is effectively a mine entrance. This is a lovely idea unless you’re a local miner, in which case the stadium tour you booked a few weeks ago is going to be very disappointing indeed.

Pretty stunning for the rest of us, though. Amazing what a bit of imagination can do to brighten up a subterranean journey , eh London Underground?

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Real Madrid’s insistence that pink is the colour of fear took a blow last night as Real Sociedad came back from two goals down to beat the Champions League winners 4-2.

francis

Like Gerry Francis’ hair, Madrid are absolutely terrifying at the front with innumerable options available, but the back has suffered through a chronic lack of attention over the years.

Madrid were two up within fifteen minutes, Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale scoring early, but Sociedad were on terms by half time after goals from Inigo Martinez and David Zurutuza. Zurutuza put them ahead on ‘65 before Arsenal Hall of Famer Carlos Vela secured the win with a roofer.

Not a chip, sadly.

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By Kelly Welles

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H/T @IdleandWild

Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Crystal Palace, Real Sociedad, Schalke, Neil Warnock

xabi

Xabi Alonso was in Munich for approximately fifteen seconds before he was manhandled into a cupboard, forced into a pair of lederhosen, had a beer glass stuffed into his sweaty little hand and was thrust into a throng of excitable footballers for a photo session.

bantz 2

The shoot for Bayern Munich sponsors Paulaner was far removed from the demure GQ ads the midfielder was used to in his role as cultured midfield maestro for Real Madrid, but he appeared to cope well with the lad bants that beer, shorts, checked shirts & the involvement that Bastian Schweinsteiger invariably bring.

bantz

And while Bayern only managed a 1-1 draw with Schalke in the second game of the Bundesliga season, we anticipate that given time, he’ll find his feet (currently clad in traditional Bavarian Haferl shoes) and take the young ‘uns under his wing.

gotze

Y’see? Like a ginger bearded, unfeasibly hot duck to water.

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By Kelly Welles

Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Xabi Alonso

orange

Quote:

“Everyone can see, make their own judgements, the people in the world of football are intelligent. It would be a very interesting question for him. I cannot be honest about it.”

“If I said everything that I think, I would be in prison.”

                                          Cristiano Ronaldo on his rivalry with Lionel Messi.

Is he TRYING to force someone into staging an intervention? Seriously?

Although, to be fair, that colour really does bring out his eyes.

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By Kelly Welles

Real Madrid, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo

 
It’s a trope of motoring show Top Gear that James May never beats anyone or wins anything.

His nickname is Captain Slow, he’s famously cautious when it comes to vehicle selection (where rules allow, he will always select a Volvo for challenges) and notoriously awful at utilising the allure afforded to him by fame and proximity to Jeremy Clarkson.

 
On every measurable scale, Karim Benzema should thrash James May.

But as you can see from the above clip, the Real Madrid forward made a rookie mistake when arriving at training in his black and chrome Bugatti Veyron. One hand on the steering wheel, the other probing his expensive teeth, he wanted to appear as though he couldn’t have cared less whether he was driving £2m worth of supercar or a milkfloat.

You’ve just shilled that much money on a car engineered, crafted and designed to be the most powerful, beautiful means of transport on this planet and you don’t care?

 
You’re a prat, Benzema. May might be jiggling around in an orange jumpsuit, but at least he’s getting something from the experience.

Take some tips from the newly crowned Captain Cool. You could use them.

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By Kelly Welles

Real Madrid, James May, Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear, Karim Benzema

moti

Our stringent editorial policy wouldnt usually allow for two stories on the same subject on the same day, but those standards drop like Mirko Vucinic’s shorts when goalkeepers are involved.

 
If you weren’t watching last night’s Champions League qualifier between Ludogorets Razgrad and Steaua Bucharest, you won’t know that Razgrad’s keeper, Vladislav Stoyanov, was sent off in the final minute of extra time.

Seconds before the game, then 1-1 on aggregate, went to penalties.

In a coincidence that sent all experienced Ramblers into paroxysms of joy, all three substitutions had been made and Razgrad centreback Cosmin Moti was forced to don the jersey.

After coolly knocking in the first penalty.

He saved two penalties, propelling his side into the Champions League proper and prompting us to question why his childhood dreams should be fulfilled and not ours.

The cheery dancing git.

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By Kelly Welles

gigi becali, Cosmin Moti, Steaua Bucharest, Ludogorets Razgrad

 
They’re used to blokes getting overexcited and trying to plant things in inappropriate places at Fenerbahçe, but eyebrows were still raised on Monday when goalkeeper Volkan Demirel launched his crotch at hapless pelanty taker Felipe Melo after he skied the decisive strike in the Turkish Supercup.

After initially making a dart to his left post, Demirel took a decent run up and smashed Melo with his hips. It’s unclear quite what he was trying to do, but we can confirm that Melo’s face bore none of the hesitation marks the centre circle of the Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium did after Souness and his infamous insertion.

beard

Former Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder Raul Meireles celebrated Fener’s win in a much more respectful manner. By posting a picture of his ruddy great beard next to the trophy.

Better.

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By Kelly Welles

Galatasaray, Volkan Demirel, Fenerbahçe, Turkish Supercup, Graeme Souness, Felipe Melo, Raul Meireles

moyes

It depends on your perspective really.

If Manchester United have been the bane of your life since you became aware of football, it’s tough not to revel in their sudden collapse. If you’re a United fan who knows nothing but success, it’s virtually impossible not to question the entire fabric of your existence.

If you’re David Moyes, your currency in the job market rises with every conceded goal, mistimed pass and manager signing autographs after a 4-0 hammering by a League One side. If you’re Louis van Gaal, the exact opposite is true.

di maria

If you’re Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera or Luke Shaw, it’s difficult to figure out how the luxury liner you just stepped aboard turned into a leaky, rudderless rowing boat while you were having your medical.

But whatever category you happen to fall into, don’t get comfortable. As we all know, Manchester United have been in decline for sometime. Fans have been complaining about the lack of investment in their club since before Ferguson retired, and while the Glazers have been keeping a fairly low profile recently, the amount of fundage they are eking out of the club in the form of interest payments, share issues and all manner of complex financial finagling continues to rise.

green

But while a resurgence of the green and gold protest movement is virtually a certainty, United’s form over the next few months is not.

Yes, the club responsible for some of the most awe-inspiring (if thoroughly bloody irritating) moments in recent football history currently look as though they’ve just been introduced to one another and the concept of kicking a ball in anger, but shortly after his appointment, Louis van Gaal said it would take at least three months to sort the team out and given his track record, it isn’t entirely implausible that he could do so.

He may as well not have bothered saying it, of course. Big clubs don’t get time to perform structural repairs in English football, and even if the press acknowledge a ‘transitional phase’, a manager better be smart enough to make the necessary adjustments while retaining some sort of form. We all know the drill.

The press scent blood in the water (and the opportunity to assert their ‘influence’ on the game), the pressure mounts as results fail to improve, the board are cornered in shallow water and forced to sacrifice an appendage. The manager is sacked, the press is temporarily sated and the whole cycle starts again.

buccs

Which is precisely why the Glazer family, whose lack of interest in club affairs is frequently cited by fans as the reason why they’re in this predicament in the first place, may turn out to be Manchester United’s saving grace. They’re unlikely to be as vulnerable to the whims of the English press from their Florida base, particularly since they’re currently copping a ton of heat about their handling of their other sporting franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Where another club might bow to the pressure, they might just ignore the calls for van Gaal’s head and afford him that rarest of football commodities. Time to implement his philosophy.

Of course, he might fail. He might be out before Christmas. And that may well be in the interest of neutrals who spent last night rolling around on the living room carpet as the goals piled up at Stadium MK. You might think it was bad before, but can you imagine (with all the love in the world, United fans, you know it’s ruddy true) what they’ll be like if van Gaal does engineer some sort of miracle? 

It doesn’t bear thinking about.

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By Kelly Welles

Manchester United, Louis van Gaal

pete

If this is a terrible round-up of the weekend’s action, just bear in mind that I didn’t set the standard.

That was Pete Donaldson, who, when asked to sign a t-shirt for a gentleman’s birthday pressie, drew a penis.

Do you see?

Saturday 23rd August 2014, Goodison Park, 7.15pm

Despite a horrible collapse at the end of last season, an FA Cup triumph and a bright performance in the Community Shield gave Arsenal fans reason for optimism.

Apparently, they were so disconcerted by this, the club immediately took steps to restore the more familiar climate of fear & loathing at the Emirates; first by failing to augment their strike force, then swerving perilously close to losing their opening league matches.

Saturday 23rd August 2014, Goodison Park, 7.17pm

The resulting mess ensures that the welcoming committee for Besiktas on Wednesday will include one broken Frenchman, an unconvincing youngster with a hamstring strain, a Chilean who, while incredible, has yet to feel his way into the team and Lukas Podolski, assuming he’s not out assaulting the elderly again.

Everyone is happier for it, though. The press can compile a list of players Arsene should have bought, the club are under huge pressure to sign someone before Jim White draws the transfer curtains and they have a proper fixture with Manchester City coming up soon.

The perpetual fear is like a warm, comforting duvet now, isn’t it?

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spurs

Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs sit comfortably astride the top of the Premier League table after handing former manager Harry Redknapp’s QPR an undignified battering upon his return to White Hart Lane.

But while Redders Snr headed home for a plate of pasta and a chat with Sandra, fans of other teams challenging for Champions League places were left pondering the horrifying (to them) possibility that Spurs might actually get their shiz together this season.

boas

It’s a little early to be casting judgement on a team’s sustainability, but lest we forget, the club made some significant purchases before Andre Villas Boas’ knees finally buckled and if, as it would appear from their first two performances, Pochettino is capable of teasing a bit of form from them, Spurs could be a force to be reckoned with.

A rare yet unifying joy for Manchester United and Arsenal fans there.

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di maria

Shut your noise! Facking old caaant!”

Meanwhile, over in La Liga, Angel Di Maria wished coach Carlo Ancelotti a hearty farewell before jumping on a plane to negotiate the inordinately large paycheck digging Manchester United out of trouble will require.

Will Madrid miss him? It’s hard to say, but fans might have been a little disappointed by the 2-0 scoreline, given that opponents Cordoba were promoted after finishing seventh in the Segunda division last season.

Perhaps Cristiano Ronaldo was distracted by the fact he did not win his own personal ‘Most Handsome Man on the Pitch’ contest for the 276th consecutive match.

havenaar

That honour goes to former Vitesse and current Japan/Cordoba striker Mike Havenaar, whose cheekbones are enough to send even the most heterosexual of men running for their secret stash of Niko Kranjcar ‘research’ photos.

JUST LOOK AT HIS FACE!

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barca

In Barcelona, Lionel Messi scored twice and a black cat strayed onto the pitch. We can only assume the Ghanaian witch doctor that tried to nobble Ronaldo is involved and would urge everyone to keep a watchful eye on Lionel Messi’s fitness.

And Luis Suarez’s gob.

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Speaking of biting satire (sorry), spare a thought for Bari’s Giuseppe De Luca, who was both bitten by an opponent and sent off at the weekend. Apparently the striker was mildly perturbed by Gianmario Comi’s friendly nuzzle and failed to remain calm was explaining what had happened to the ref.

He was red carded and had to watch Comi score an equaliser and his team, Avellino, go on and win the tie.

That may come up in the ref’s review.

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By Kelly Welles

Barcelona, Arsenal, Manchester City, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Mike Havenaar, Bari, Avellino

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This section is edited by Kelly Welles, to contact her please send her an email.


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