Any games on today?
Yep, Champions League Part Deux. Before I get into the particulars, this is when you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the group standings.
The early kick off (12:00 PM EST) is CSKA Moscow vs Bayern Munich, which is only important insofar as it will determine the first place finisher in Group D. Unless some crazy things happen.
Then at 2:45 PM EST we have Bayer Leverkusen vs. Man Utd, which is quite important for United’s European ambitions (and Bayer’s as well), particularly if Shakhtar manage to get a result against Real Sociedad.
Elsewhere Juventus is in desperate need of a result against Copenhagen as second place is very much up for grabs. Then PSG and Olimpiacos will tussle for points at the higher end of Group C. Neither will want a draw lest Benfica defeat Anderlecht.
Then there’s Man City vs Plzen. Tumble weeds unless the early game is interesting.
What’s the big story today?
Well there are a couple of stories about that rascal Mathieu Flamini cutting off his sleeves in the Champions League in defiance of a nonsensical club tradition in which the players must wear the same shirt as the captain, but that’s not QUITE as interesting as what the Guardian’s David Hytner dug up late last night:
André Villas-Boas is clinging to his job at Tottenham Hotspur after Sunday’s 6-0 hammering at Manchester City prompted the north London club’s hierarchy to question whether he remains the manager to establish them in the Premier League’s top four.
The Portuguese was cut to evens by bookmakers on Tuesday to be the league’s next managerial casualty, with the City result being considered not as an isolated blot but as the most worrying sign of a malaise.
Now, I’m a bit sensitive on the subject of Andre Villas-Boas, so permit me a short sermon. First, I think there may be some good, empirical evidence that AVB hasn’t taken full advantage of what should be one of the more exciting, dynamic midfields in the Premier League. It maybe something worth sacking him over. But there is something else behind the venom in some circles for Villas-Boas that goes beyond any mistakes in the technical area or the training ground.
I’ve heard recently that Villas-Boas is not the most, well, earnest manager in the business, and may even be a little duplicitous when dealing with the media and even those within his club. But there is a certain paper, let’s call it the Daily Mail, that has had a target on the Portuguese gaffer since his Chelsea days. Maybe it was anger at the man for being a self-serving bender of truth, but it may also have to do with their slavish dedication to the cult of ‘Arry, a much more charming megalomaniac at White Hart Lane than AVB, but a megalomaniac all the same. So I hope you’ll forgive me for dismissing almost everything Martin Samuel has to say on the man.
As for Hytner, who played his own small part in Gareth Bale’s eventual departure from Spurs in his columns for the Guardian, I understand he is in a difficult place with regard to his sources within the club. But there are aspects of the above story that verge on editorializing, and while yes, it’s just sport, the report has the air of public subterfuge on behalf of elements at WHL who don’t want their names made public–as was the case with the Bale columns.
For all of football’s largesse, it is a small sport in which the tail can wag the dog. Spurs are well within their rights to sack AVB, and on the evidence, they have a strong case. But there are aspects of this that are drifting toward something a little more ugly.
Any other news?
Zahir Belounis, the footballer “trapped” in Qatar, will finally be able to leave the country reports the BBC.
Joe Cole, cheesed at his early substitution at West Ham in their 3-0 loss to Chelsea on the weekend, may be looking for a way out.
Man United have a rough landing ahead of their Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen.
Defoe to Toronto FC is a thing that is happening apparently maybe we’ll see.
Jose Mourinho takes blame for Chelsea’s loss to Basel in the Champions League yesterday.
Any fun stuff?
Jack Wilshere has fun against Marseille last night:
Any good reads?
Well, ahead of the Champions League, Musa Okwonga is worth a read on Man United’s challenge against Bayer:
The question for Moyes is whether he retains faith in this combination or brings in Phil Jones, who is set to make a quicker-than-expected recovery from a groin injury, either as a replacement or an extra man in midfield. Jones and Cleverley played together in one of the team’s most impressive passages of play this season, the opening stages against Fulham in the Premier League when they took a three-goal lead in 22 minutes, and though Cleverley was outperformed by Fellaini on Sunday he is a far better complement for Jones’ disruptive talents. Rafael , who has declared himself fit for this match, could usefully return to the side. If he were selected, he would replace Chris Smalling, who has occupied that right-back role with no little diligence but also, it must be said, no little discomfort.