The Lead

Happy Easter! The time to celebrate renewal, rebirth, and the start of a something new, and wonderful. Save for the football world of course, both in the Premier League and Major League Soccer at least for Toronto FC.

This was the year Manchester City were supposed to dethrone their fierce derby rivals. They had stormed out of the gate in the early months, were five points ahead at the end of the November, two points ahead at the end of February. Now they languish behind Manchester United by eight points with Man City in full circus freak meltdown after an inept 1-0 loss against Arsenal. The Old World Order brought to you by Nike and Sir Alex Ferguson’s “Never Say Die Attitude” (offside, dive, red card, penalty) was fully operational when April arrived. The Premier League will celebrate its twentieth anniversary by crowning the same club Champion for the thirteenth time.

This, we’re told, is because Roberto Mancini is far too laissez-faire with his players (Alan Hansen did a Premier League column madlibs and said City need “Sir Alex Ferguson” to win, nice one, slow applause there Alan), or because Mario Balotelli is a prat. In any case, the prospect of a compelling title race is gone two weekends into April.

Also seemingly gone is Toronto FC’s hopes for a playoff season. The club lost to Montreal 2-1 in the 401 Derby, humiliating because Montreal had been 0-1-3 and were an expansion team, and because they’re supposed to be our rivals. Aron Winter’s side is now 0-4 in the league and have a puny two goals to their credit. The case many made last year that TFC’s 2011 MLS season was the mere scaffolding for this year’s triumph looks pretty hollow. As in the case with City, some commenters have laid the blame at the feet of a single player in Julian De Guzman, or because the players don’t get Winter’s “vision.”

Perhaps there’s an Oakland A’s style streak ahead, but the reality is likely that Toronto FC have managed to be consistently bad in a league that is notoriously inconsistent. That is quite a feat.

So Toronto FC goes 0-4 to start, and Paul Scholes helps fire United to another Best in the World triumph. It’s 2012, but it could be 2007.

The Premier League Podcast will be up later today at around 6:00 PM EST so we can discuss today’s full slate of Premier League fixtures.

Canada

Nigel Reed says Toronto FC are very limited.

Duncan Fletcher underlines the familiarity of TFC’s woes.

Daniel Squizzato admirably looks on the bright side.

Prepare your pitchforks!

Okay enough whinging! Montreal soccer has something big to celebrate!

Vancouver Whitecaps lose to San Jose.

England

Mario Balotelli may have played his last game as a City player, according to Mancini, though the player’s agent begs to differ.

Branislav Ivanovic could face FA charge for punching Wigan’s Shaun Maloney.

Kenny Dalglish admits he’s out of excuses.

Norwich’s Grant Holt could be in line for an England call-up.

Clint Dempsey to Arsenal?

Italy

Allegri still confident despite AC Milan’s shock loss to Fiorentina which put Juventus top of the table. And no, he’s not worried about his job, either.

Andrea Pirlo says “thank you very much” to his former club for losing.

Paolo Bandini on how Amauri finally delivered for the Old Lady.

Germany

Schalke move up to third place.

Borussia Dortmund v. Bayern Munich the biggest match of the Bundesliga season?

Spain

Real draw with Valencia 0-0.

Sid Lowe on Rayo Vallecano’s fight for top flight safety.

El Clasico moved up allowing Barcelona to focus on Champions League tie with Chelsea.

Bits and bobs

Tim Vickery on Santos’ growing global rep.

Sporting KC perfect against LA Galaxy.

Pepe kicks Arbeloa.

And that, give or take, is the story so far…