Archive for Soccer, Football, Futbol, Fussball, Calcio


Soccer Starts Again – La Liga, Spain, 2012-2013

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Soccer Starts Again – La Liga Spain, 2012-2013

August 27, 2012

Expert analysis by John Leahy (World’s Foremost Soccer Authority).

La Liga – 2012

Real Madrid dropped 5 points in their first two games, but they should start winning and Barca always drops a few points along the way with indolent ties on the road against the minnow teams. At the moment, Barca is playing like Barca and rolling along. Osasuna gave Barca a typically tough game at their home ground El Sadar in Pamplona, but Messi gave an equally typical performance in scoring two goals to render full points to Barcelona. La Liga is off and running with Barcelona already outpacing its chief rival by 5 huge points. Granted, Real’s German midfielder Mezut Ozil could have and should have provided the game tying goal when he skied a tap in over the bar from 10 feet out. Even so, Real would still be 4 points off the pace and still trying to answer the same questions – Why didn’t Real Madrid dominate the games and beat their opponents? Coach Mourinho was so angry after Sunday’s loss to Getafe that he refused to talk to the team and told the press that the players had played horribly.

Carles Puyols really yelled at fellow Barca central defender Gerard Pique over a defensive positioning miscue yesterday and Pique has seemed a bit off the last 6 months. Maybe too much Colombian Chiquita Shakira? Barca fans have to hope that Pique will maintain his high level of professional comportment, both on and off the field. With Puyols turning 34, Pique is the future in the center of Barelona’s defense, although the conversion of Mascherano from midfield to central D has been extremely successful and may become permanent. The stability of the Barca defense is especially critical with the fractured cheekbone suffered yesterday by Puyols, who lead by example and played the entire 90 minutes before going to the hospital for x-rays. Puyols is expected back in training Tuesday, despite the injury. That is typical of the Puyols warrior character.

The rest of La Liga – Who cares? Unless you are an aficionado of the Europa League, the other 18 teams in Spain are the foils of the top 2 and have no chance at all of winning the league title. Even the oil sheik riches of Malaga have not yet produced a valid competitor for the title.

OK, Athletico looks pretty good and Falcao is a great striker and Valencia is always a tough also ran. Look for them to run in 3 and 4 for possible Champions League spots. The Europa League slots should be a wide open dog fight between perennially strong Sevilla and rich Malaga, followed by Mallorca, Real Sociedad, Levante and Athletic Bilbao. Based on Athletic Bilbao’s form under coach Marcelo Bielsa last season, I would have put them higher and even challenging for Champion League spots, however losing key personnel such as Javi Martinez and Fernando Llorente make it appear that descent is more probable than ascent. That could possibly change if the reported 40 million Euros gained from selling Martinez to Bayern Munich provided means to bolster the squad. However, finding available talent that also happens to be ethnically Basque would be a challenge. Levante produced a surprisingly positive season last year and it will be interesting to see if they can match their 6th place finish. Mallorca and Real Sociedad both finished in solid middle table positions with respectable goal differentials, bearing in mind of coarse that this is Spain where every team has to take 4 games per year in the gut against Barca and Real Madrid.

Projected table

  1. Barcelona
  2. Real Madrid
  3. Athletico Madrid
  4. Valencia
  5. Sevilla
  6. Malaga
  7. Mallorca
  8. Real Sociedad
  9. Levante
  10. Athletic Bilbao
  11. Espanol
  12. Osasuna
  13. Rayo Vallecano
  14. Getafe
  15. Deportivo La Coruna
  16. Real Betis
  17. Real Zaragoza
  18. Celta Vigo
  19. Valladolid
  20. Granada
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Soccer Starts Again – Serie A 2012-2013

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Soccer Starts Again – Serie A 2012-2013

August 27, 2012

Expert analysis by John Leahy (World’s Foremost Soccer Authority)

Serie A begins and Milan loses first game. What do you expect after losing Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Cassano? Replacements Montolivo, Zapata and Pazzini are good players, but the team as a whole seems to have slid down a notch. Since Serie A is so competitive, this could mean sliding out of Europe altogether.

Roma tied and was criticized by new coach Zemen for pointless horizontal passing that slowed up approach and allowed D to set up. Also said Totti stayed too wide and didn’t go where he told him. Will Zemen clash with Totti? Never a good sign for a Roma coach. Roma has a slew of talented young players and are bolstered defensively with hard working (although bald) Michael Bradley, recovered from long term injury Burdisso, and newly acquired Balzaretti. Under Zemen and his emphasis on physical conditioning, Bradley should flourish, especially with the protection of De Rossi behind him. Together with the offensive skills of Lamela, Pjanic, Krkic and the sledgehammer striking of Oswaldo, Roma should be an exciting and successful club in 2012.

Inter cruised. So did post Lavezzi Napoli and defending champs Juve.

Inter looked strong against minnow Pescara and the attacking combination of Wesley Schneider, Diego Milito and Antonio Cassano looks potent. Inter have good attacking options in recently acquired Rodrigo Palacio and Coutinho and defensive grit in midfield with Cambiasso and Walter Gargano, acquired from Napoli. Zanetti – aka Superman – is back again at the young age of 39 and still setting the pace for the youngsters at defense and midfield. The flip side however, is that last year Inter ranked 15th in team defense and does not appear to have addressed this problem with their summer signings.

Napoli: No Lavezzi, no problem! Lavezzi has gone to oil sheik rich Paris St Germain, but the Napoli squad otherwise remains fairly intact from the team that finished 5th in Serie A in the last campaign. Napoli has a strong and cohesive defensive unit lead at the back by captain Paolo Cannavaro, Salvatore Aronica, and Christian Maggio and a deep midfield centered around Gokhsn Inler supporting the attack of Edison Cavani, Marek Hamsik and promising young star Lorenzo Insigne.


La Vecchia Signora has not changed significantly from the squad that remained undefeated and won the Scudetto last year. Juve won its first game this season and remains the team to be in Serie A.


Lazio gave a strong performance last year and finished 4th in Serie A and appears little changed this season. Miroslav Klose has returned for another year and Hernanes provides offensive cohesion. Floccari, Zarate, Ledesma and Mauri all contribute to a powerful attack. Lazio is solid at all areas of the pitch and will once again compete for the European spots in the table.


Last season’s third place finisher had a goal differential of 17 and was 3rd in the league with least goals given up. On offense, Udinese is heavily dependent on Antonio Di Natale who was tied for 3rd in goals scored in Serie A last season behind Ibrahimovic and Diego Milito.

Surprise team of the year? Could it be Fiorentina? Stevan Jovetic scored 2 goals in their first game a win over Udinese. Over the summer break, La Viola brought in a group of strong midfielders including Alberto Aquilani, Matias Fernandez, David Pizarro, and Borja Valero.

Leahy Institute Prediction

  1. Juventus
  2. Napoli
  3. Roma
  4. Inter
  5. Udinese
  6. Lazio
  7. AC Milan
  8. Fiorentina
  9. Sampdoria
  10. Torino
  11. Atalanta
  12. Parma
  13. Catania
  14. Bologna
  15. Cagliari
  16. Palermo
  17. Chievo Verona
  18. Genoa
  19. Siena
  20. Pescara
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Calcio Italia 2011-2012

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The Italian Football league is shaping up to be a dramatic race this season, with quite a few teams seeming to be potentially strong enough to take the prize and many certainly ready to fight for European positions. 


Napoli has come out of the gates looking strong despite a disappointing road loss to Chievo Verona. They have a solid squad lead by a dynamic, young trio up front in Cavani, Lavezzi and Hamsik. They are strong from goalie, defense and midfield and in addition picked up dangerous attacker Goran Pandev over the summer. Last season’s third place finisher got stronger. 

Napoli’s squad has an experienced veteran core with most of the starting midfield and defense in their prime years between 25 and 30 years of age. De Sanctis has been a reliable starter in goal for the last several years. The starting defense line features tough central defenders Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica with serviceable wide fullbacks Hugo Campagnaro and Andrea Dossena. The industrious and experienced midfield features Walter Gargano, Gokhan Inler, Christian Maggio, and Marco Donadel in addition to young starlet Marek Hamsik. 

Injuries could reveal a lack of depth for the long haul, but the team is strong and competitive against the traditional Italian powers as was demonstrated by Napoli’s 3 to 1 victory over AC Milan. 

Inter Milan 

Inter got off to a terrible start under complete failure coach Gasperini who came in to town with a system that had no room for his best player, Wesley Schneider. Why was Gasperini so blind as to try to force a system that may have produced results with second echelon Genoa, but obviously was not a good fit for the personnel at his disposal in a totally different level of club at Inter? Will his replacement Ranieri prove to yield better results? Well, they could hardly be worse and Inter is still Inter with a strong cast of players that could still turn things around and produce a winner. 

The central defense is strong with goalie Júlio César and central defenders Lucio and Samuel still one of the most rugged and efficient pairings in the world. The rest of the squad is strong both defensively and offensively with a star studded cast that should be capable of driving the team to compete for the Scudetto as well as deep into the Champions League. Maicon is still world class at right defense, Cambiasso, Zanetti, Thiago and Muntari form a robust defensive unit through midfield and Forlan, Milito, Pazzini, Schneider and Stankovic should provide plenty of offense as long as Ranieri doesn’t tinker them out of competition. One question mark will be whether talented Mauro Zarate will be a net addition or subtraction to the team as his offensive individual skill could be set off by his selfish play and inconsistent locker room personality. 

AC Milan, 

Who is going to create goals for this team now that Pirlo has been deemed replaceable? Milan’s display against Napoli was not convincing. The team is still studded with stars, but many are on the downward side of 30. Nesta still ran like a young colt so worries about aging stock may be more relevant to long term sustainable development than to this year’s push for the Scudetto. 

Strength in the central defense is still core with Abbiati in goal and Nesta and Silva in central defense bolstered by Mexes (potential long term replacement for Nesta), Bonera, and Yepes (who is probably in his final year at the top level). Wide fullbacks Abate, Zambrotta, and Antonini are serviceable, but not spectacular. Zambrotta is also in his latter days of top flight status. 

A physical midfield features old guard Gattuso, Van Bommel, and Ambrosini fortified by younger hard men Flamini and Boateng. Aquilani and Seedorf provide some ball control and creativity to support a strong front line of scorers like Ibrahimovic, Pato, Cassano, Robinho and maybe developing youngster Stephan El Shaarawi. 

A solid nucleus remains in this aging team of stars and this will keep Milan in the Scudetto race, but it remains to be seen if they will remain top of the class or are beginning a downward cycle. In addition to challenging for the Scudetto, Milan should get at least to the Champion League quarter finals. 


Juve fell short last year and finished 7th in Italy, but player and coaching acquisitions over the summer should strengthen the team greatly. New coach Antonio Conte has brought some fire and grit to the team and so far, it has helped. 

The central defense remains the same dependable quality with Gigi Buffon still in the nets and Chiellini, DeCeglie, and Bonucci in the central defense mix. Lichsteiner is expected to settle the instabilities at right fullback that have been an Achilles heel over the past couple of seasons. 

Andrea Pirlo brings his creative magic to the Juve midfield and is joined by a strong cast of Marchisio, Simone Pepe and Milos Krasic. Del Piero is back for yet another season up front and he has been reinforced during the off season by the talented Mirko Vucinic, acquired from Roma. Iaquinta and Quagliarella are strong scorers and if either Amauri or Luca Toni can regain some of their former flair, the Juve offense could be awesome. 

Will Juventus be strong enough to win the Scudetto? Possibly. The lack of European competition will keep the players stronger for domestic play. Juventus could easily challenge for top 3 in the Scudetto. 


Roma dipped in form last season but may have made changes over the summer that could put them back challenging once again for the Scudetto. Ne w coach Luis Enrique has the pedigree coming from the Barcelona system and he seems to have intelligent ideas and enough personnel charisma and strength as a former player himself to command some respect in an arena where Francesco Totti remains as the Emperor of Rome. Although there have been reports of initial squabbling, it appears that Totti has gotten in line behind his coach and is actively throwing his powerful weight in support of the Spaniard and is rallying the troops to the unifying cause. 

One of the key additions during the summer was the acquisition of Dutch national goal keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who should stabilize the goal. Danish youngster Simon Kjaer was brought in from Wolfsburg to replace Philip Mexes in the central defense after Mexes departed for the glories of AC Milan. Kjaer has impressed in both Serie A and the Bundesliga and should settle in at Roma for the next decade. Burdisso and Juan remain to plug up the central defense, Cassetti and Cicinho are still on the right flank and Gabriel Heinze arrived with his calm professionalism and committed fearless effort on the left to replace departing John Arne Riise. 

Long time Roma midfield stalwarts Perrotta, Taddei, De Rossi, Pizzaro and Simplicio have been joined by highly touted youngsters Miralem Pjanic (Bosnia) and Erik Lamela (Argentina) who came from clubs Lyon and River Plate. Up front, Francesco Totti still holds sway and still has the talent to score goals and with European competition already out of the picture, might be durable enough for an all domestic action season. Along with Totti, Marco Borriello has proved strong and productive enough to feature regularly for the giallorossi, but what will be interesting to see is how newcomers Bojan Krkic and Pablo Osvaldo fit into their new club and whether they fulfill their enormous potentials. 

The various ifs and Totti’s ability to remain injury free and supportive of the new skipper could make the difference between a serious Scudetto challenge or a mid table finish. 


Lazio has been consistently competitive and finishing in the upper part of the table over the past few seasons and it will be interesting to see if the additions of Miroslav Klose and Djibril Cisse to the front line will be enough to push them to the top. More likely than not, they will be part of the bottleneck fighting it out for a Europa League spot at the end of the season. 


Udinese lost two of its premier players in Alexis Sanchis and Gokhan Inler, but still have one of the top scorers in Italy in Antonio Di Natale. Top four will probably be out of reach this year, but Udinese could challenge for a Europa League spot. 


Palermo finished strong last season, but like Udinese, probably won’t finish as high as resurgent Juventus and Roma push teams out of the top part of the table. 

Fiorentino, Genoa and Parma should round out the fight for the last spots in the Europa League.

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Will Messi Lead Argentina to World Cup?

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– John Leahy

Lionel Messi has been in superb form for his club Barcelona this year. He has scored 31 goals in all competitions for Barca so far, just behind Wayne Rooney of Manchester United with 32. Barca is poised to possibly win both Champions League and La Liga again. Messi’s national team Argentina, on the other hand, qualified with difficulty for World Cup 2010. With Messi voted Footballer of the Year in 2009 and on track to be chosen again in 2010, is he capable of leading the talented but erratic Argentina national team to the ultimate glory?

Spain and Brazil have both impressed during the qualifiers and are the favorites coming into the tournament. The Netherlands, Germany, Italy and England all performed well in qualifying, but the competition level in South Africa will be sturdier than most of what they had to face in the preliminary rounds.

Diego Maradona has not convinced the world about his coaching acumen yet, having qualified by a disturbingly slim margin. He does have a talented team with a good mix of experience and youth and a tradition of being among the elite of the world. The question remains if Maradona can get Argentina on track through the short tournament to live up to their tremendous potential and battle it out with more consistent performers like Spain and Brazil.  With a gem like Messi on the squad, I would say Argentina has the potential to go all the way.

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Leave John Terry Alone

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– John Leahy

Enough tabloid scandal already! Another human being acted like a human being and got caught. If you had the chance to touch Vanessa Perroncel you would do it and then lie about it or put on a phony public mask about how moral you are. Let’s not worry so much about other people’s sex lives. It is a personal matter and this constant fascination with other people’s bedroom activities is pathetic. Let’s let John Terry deal with his own personal affairs and go to South Africa with the English National team to World Cup 2010 and wish him good luck.

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Landon Donovan Making It In English Premier League

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– John Leahy

I have never been a big fan of Landon Donovan, but I have to admit he has finally shown he has enough character to be successful on a larger stage than the MLS since his transfer to Everton in the English Premier League. By success, I don’t mean to imply that Donovan dominating or starring in England, but simply that he is demonstrating that he fits in and belongs at that level. That in itself is a success for American soccer players struggling to attain respect in world soccer. Hitherto, Donovan’s career has been marred by several attempts to crack into the starting formations at two big clubs in the German Bundesliga, Bayerleverkusen and Bayern Munich. His failures and subsequent returns to star in the MLS made him look like a big frog in a small pond. At least now he is demonstrating that he is good enough and mature enough to be where he is and play for a good team in one of the top leagues in the world. This is a positive step for the US National Team as it prepares for World Cup 2010.

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