This week in: English Football – All Tied At the Top

United's Berbatov now has four goals in 2 games

Manchester United drew level on points with their local rivals, City, on Boxing Day, as they recorded their second consecutive 5-0 win.  This time the victims were Wigan, who can feel hard done by as they were reduced to 10 men before half-time when their striker, Conor Sammon, was adjudged to have elbowed Michael Carrick in the face – instant replays suggested a booking would have more than sufficed and the red card has since been rescinded by the FA.  The visitors were already a goal down by that point, but a subsequent hat-trick by Dimitar Berbatov and another from Valencia gave United another convincing victory.  Meanwhile, City dropped two points as they were held to a goalless draw in their game at West Bromwich Albion.  Despite Mancini’s side having 62% of the possession and having 18 attempts on goal, they were unable to find a breakthrough and left the Midlands with their lead over United having been reduced down to just goal difference.

In the chasing pack, Chelsea were held to a draw in their game against Fulham, while Arsenal were also able to only pick up a solitary match in their home match with Wolves – the visitors survived a barrage of attacks from the Gunners and managed to gain a share in the spoils despite playing the final 15 minutes with 10 men after Milijas was sent off for a foul on Arteta.  The other team from North London, Tottenham, picked up all three points away to Norwich, who were unable to deal with the pace and skill of Gareth Bale – the Welsh winger scored both of the goals in a 2-0 victory for Spurs.  Tottenham now have 38 points through 17 games, which would have put them top at this stage last season but they still trail the Manchester clubs by 7 points, albeit with the game in hand against Everton still to be played.

Liverpool were held to a draw at home to bottom-of-the table Blackburn, and the games between Stoke and Aston Villa; Swansea and QPR; and Sunderland and Everton also ended up with honours even.  Newcastle returned to winning ways in their game away at Bolton, leaving Owen Coyle’s men deep in the relegation zone, already 4 points away from safety.

There are 20 games spread out over the next 6 days, with every Premiership team facing 2 games in that span of time – this is really a time where teams can make up ground on their rivals, or slip out of contention/further into danger at either end of the table.  It also gives me a chance to improve my overall scores in my weekly predictions – or at the same time I could fall even further away from averaging .500…

Predictions

Last week, 5-5; Season 66-83 

Friday December 30th, 2011

Liverpool vs Newcastle – Home win

Saturday December 31st, 2011

Manchester United vs Blackburn – Home win

Arsenal vs QPR – Home win

Bolton vs Wolves – Draw

Chelsea vs Aston Villa – Home win

Norwich vs Fulham – Away win

Stoke vs Wigan – Draw

Swansea vs Tottenham – Away win

Sunday January 1st, 2012

West Brom vs Everton – Home win

Sunderland vs Manchester City – Away win

Monday January 2nd, 2012

Aston Villa vs Swansea – Draw

Blackburn vs Stoke – Away win

QPR vs Norwich – Draw

Wolves vs Chelsea – Away win

Fulham vs Arsenal – Home win

Tuesday January 3rd, 2012

Tottenham vs West Brom – Home win

Wigan vs Sunderland – Away win

Manchester City vs Liverpool – Home win

Wednesday January 4th, 2012

Everton vs Bolton – Home win

Newcastle vs Manchester United – Away win

 

My Top 5 Sporting Moments of 2011

Messi gives Barcelona a 2-1 lead

5. Barcelona’s Champions League Final win

May 28th, 2011

Too often in major finals, teams are cagey and their performances are but a shadow of the standards they can reach when the stakes are not so high.  At Wembley in May, Barcelona put on a display that was an antidote to that frustrating phenomenon in their 3-1 Champions League final victory over Manchester United.  The final score did not give full credit to the dominance the Catalan side had in the game: 19 attempts on goal to United’s 4; 67% possession; 667 passes completed to the English side’s 301.

All four goals in the games were gems – Xavi’s pass for the opener cut through the United defence and gave Pedro nothing else to do than slot the ball in the back of Van der Saar’s net.  Manchester United responded well and managed to draw level before half-time thanks to a great strike from their talisman, Wayne Rooney.  In the second half though, their resistance subsided and both Lionel Messi and David Villa punished Sir Alex Ferguson’s men for gifting them too much space on the edge of the box.

This game was the antithesis of the World Cup Final from 11 months earlier, when Spain beat the Netherlands in extra-time, but with little of the attacking flair and flamboyance they had produced prior to the tournament.  Barcelona won the Champions League by playing with style, confidence and authority, and their destruction of Manchester United was the highlight of another incredible season for them. Continue reading

Next week in: English Football – Boxing Day Games

With the Premiership fixtures coming and going faster than the frontrunners in the GOP Presidential Nominee race, time for a quick recap of the midweek games and a preview of the matches scheduled for the two days after Christmas.

Steve Kean's prays for a Christmas miracle at Blackburn

On Tuesday, Bolton ensured that their Lancashire rivals, Blackburn Rovers, would be consigned to the bottom of the Premier League on Christmas Day, as they won 2-1 at Ewood Park – a game in which the home crowd spent much of the time calling for the sacking of their team’s manager, Steve Kean, rather than trying to get behind their players.  That same evening, Wolves and Norwich played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Molineux, a result which kept the home team just above the relegation zone.

The next night, it was business as usual for both Manchesters City and United – who won 3-0 at home to Stoke and 5-0 at Fulham respectively.  Arsenal maintained their impressive run of form with 2-1 win away to Aston Villa, thanks to a late strike by Benayoun; Everton kept Swansea winless in England by beating them 1-0 at Goodison Park; Newcastle’s injury-plagued defence helped West Brom earn a 3-2 away win against United; Sunderland won by the same margin against Queens Park Rangers in South-West London; and Wigan held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at the DW Stadium.  Before the game, the Liverpool players saw fit to wear t-shirts in support of their striker, Luis Suarez, who has been found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and is facing an eight game suspension – not exactly the worthiest of causes.

In similar news, John Terry found out he was going to face criminal charges over his alleged racist abuse of Anton Ferdinand in Chelsea’s match with QPR in October – his teammates did not wear t-shirts in support of their captain, but he did put in a fantastic defensive performance in his side’s 1-1 draw away at Tottenham.  Spurs had dominated the opening exchanges in that game and were deservedly 1-0 ahead after Bale’s great work on the left-wing set up Adebayor for the opening goal – but their defence went to sleep for Sturridge’s equaliser and the second half was dominated by the away team.  Both teams had excellent chances to win it – Ramires had a free header six yards out for Chelsea, but (thankfully) directed it wide of Friedel’s goal – and in the end the draw ensured Tottenham are London’s top club at Christmas for the first time since the city was called Londinium and being sacked by Queen Boudica and the Iceni.

On Monday, neighbours Chelsea and Fulham meet at Stamford Bridge; Bolton host Newcastle; Liverpool will try to add to Steve Kean’s woes as they take on Blackburn at Anfield; Manchester United have an easy home fixture against Wigan; Manchester City travel to West Brom; Stoke play Aston Villa; and Sunderland take on Everton at the Stadium of Light.  The Tuesday games see all three promoted sides in action: Swansea and QPR meet in Wales; while Norwich host Tottenham in what promises to be an entertaining fixture, with both teams always looking for goals.  Also on that day, Arsenal will continue their push for a top four spot when they take on Wolves at the Emirates – the Gunners are now just a single point behind Chelsea in the race for a Champions League place next year.

Predictions

Last week, 2-8; Season, 61-78 – Oh dear…

MONDAY

Chelsea vs Fulham – Draw

Bolton vs Newcastle – Home win

Liverpool vs Blackburn – Home win

Manchester United vs Wigan – Home win

Sunderland vs Everton – Draw

West Brom vs Manchester City – Away win

Stoke vs Aston Villa – Home win

TUESDAY

Arsenal vs Wolves – Home win

Swansea vs QPR – Draw

Norwich vs Tottenham – Away win

 

This week in: American Football – Week 16

Dan Orlovsky led the Colts to their first win of the season and his first career win as a starting QB

Last week was the round of fixtures that proved that nobody can really predict what will happen on any given Sunday in the NFL.  Green Bay lost unexpectedly in Kansas City against the Chiefs, ending their shot at a perfect season.  Indianapolis spoiled their own record by actually winning a game, against playoff hunting Tennessee.  The Giants, coming off their win over Dallas the week before, were considered huge favourites for their home game against the Redskins, but lost heavily.  With Baltimore and Pittsburgh both losing – the latter mainly due to their Quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, having restricted movement from a leg injury he had picked up the week before – the AFC North race remained tied between the two going in to the final two weeks of the regular season.  The Patriots, who won in Denver and ended Tim Tebow’s winning streak, are now the favourites to win the top seed in the AFC and therefore ensure home-field advantage through to the Super Bowl.

This week sees a matchup of the two New York teams as the Jets and Giants meet at MetLife Stadium – New Jersey; the Packers will lock up the number 1 seed if they beat the Bears on Christmas Day, or if the 49ers lose in Seattle on Saturday; New Orleans will win the NFC South if they beat Divisional rivals the Falcons on Monday Night Football; and the Cowboys can put the final nail in the coffin of the Eagles season.

Predictions

Last week, 12-4; Season, 124-100

Home teams in bold

Texans -5.5 over Colts – The Colts won’t want to mess up their chances of getting the number one pick in the draft and are not risking the ignominy of an 0-16 season.

Broncos -3.5 over Bills – Denver’s defence looked terrible against the Patriots, but Fitzpatrick is not playing at the same level as Tom Brady is right now.

Cardinals +4.5 over Bengals – Arizona have been quietly been putting together an impressive run of games and are still in the hunt for a Wild Card spot – though a win for Atlanta and Detroit in either of their last two games would eliminate them.

Ravens -13.5 over Browns – This is Cleveland’s Superbowl – playing the team that moved away from their city in 1996 to Baltimore, but the Ravens need to show they are a legitimate contender after last week’s thrashing by San Diego.

Titans -7.5 over Jaguars – Tennessee played really badly in their loss to the Colts last Sunday, but the Jaguars were even worse in their thrashing to the Falcons.

Raiders +0.5 over Chiefs – Kansas City still has an outside shot at winning the AFC West, but they would need help from Buffalo and Detroit as well as winning out their last two games.  Last week’s win over the Packers was an impressive performance, but I think it will be a one-off for the Chiefs.

Rams +15.5 over Steelers – Picking St. Louis on the assumption that Roethlisberger either a) doesn’t play or b) does and is bad as he was against the 49ers.

Patriots -10.5 over Dolphins – Miami often causes New England problems, but the Patriots have the Number 1 seeds in their sights and will take care of business at home.

Redskins -6.5 over Vikings – Washington’s win over the Giants was impressive and completed a season sweep for the Redskins over their divisional rival.  While they are trying to pick up momentum for next season, Minnesota still has an outside shot at getting the number 1 pick in the draft and will not be especially motivated for this game.

Giants +2.5 over Jets – The battle of Snoopy Stadium – both teams really need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, neither looked like a team heading for the post-season last week in their losses to the Redskins (Giants) and Eagles (Jets).  Taking the Giants and the points just because I have no idea which version of Eli Manning or Mark Sanchez will show up.

Panthers -7.5 over Buccaneers – Tampa Bay has been awful, hard to believe they were 10-6 last season.  Meanwhile Carolina’s Quarterback, Cam Newton, looks like a lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Chargers +2.5 over Lions – San Diego’s usual late season charge for the playoffs continues – it seems bizarre that they never look like a good team until the calendar turns to December – but last week’s demolition of Baltimore showed they are a force to be reckoned with in the last two weeks.  Detroit needs just a win here or in the Week 17 matchup against Green Bay – when the Packers will be resting their starters for the playoffs if they have the top seed in the NFC locked up – to earn their first playoff berth since 1999.

Cowboys -2.5 over Eagles – Dallas are back in the driving seat in the NFC East and could lock up the division if they win here, and the Jets prevail over the Giants.  If New York, the Cowboys and Philadelphia all ended up 8-8, the Eagles would win the tie-breaker and win the division – but I do not see them winning this game and they will finally be eliminated from contention.

Seahawks +2.5 over 49ers – A division that was last year won by a 7-9 team, the NFC West could have 2 playoff teams this time around as both Seattle and Arizona could get a Wild Card spot.  The 49ers are still in the mix for a first round bye and took advantage of a depleted Steelers lineup to win on Monday Night, but the short turnaround for them, and a potentially raucous home crowd in Seattle could be their undoing this week.

Bears +12.5 over Packers – This is a pick based on my opinion on the 49ers game – I think Seattle will win that, thus the Packers will have clinched the number 1 seed in the NFC before they take the field on Christmas Day and thus will rest players.

Saints -6.5 over Falcons – No team in the league is playing better than the New Orleans Saints right now, and Drew Brees has made the MVP debate an actual discussion, when a few weeks ago it seemed Aaron Rodgers was a runaway favourite (though I would of course, still give it to the Packers’ QB).  Atlanta normally plays New Orleans close, but I think they will lose by more than a touchdown this time around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week in: English Football – Christmas Time is Here

It’s the most wonderful time of the football year – over the Christmas and New Year period, there are so many fixtures that the games comes thick and fast for fans.  This is great for the spectator – there are matches scheduled for December 20th, 21st, 22nd, 26th, 27th, 30th, 31st; January 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th – then FA Cup Third Round weekend is upon us (AKA the best two days in the English football year).  All the clichés come out for the festive season: the title can be lost, but not won, during the deluge of fixtures; the team that was bottom on Christmas Day has only avoided relegation once in the Premier League era – West Bromwich Albion in the 2004/5 season.  That latter statistic gives added significance to tonight’s game between Bolton and Blackburn, since the loser will find themselves anchored in 20th place when Santa Claus makes his rounds.

At the weekend, Manchester City bounced back from their defeat to Chelsea to overcome a previously rejuvenated Arsenal side – although the Gunners losing by just a single goal marked an improvement from their last trip to that city,when United beat them 8-2.  Last minute goals earned West Brom a win away at Blackburn and Wigan a draw at home to Chelsea; Everton also scored late on to share the points with Norwich in their game at Goodison Park; and Newcastle and Swansea played out a goalless draw in the North-East.  Tottenham earned a routine home win over Sunderland; Fulham beat Bolton 2-0 at Craven Cottage, and Manchester United and Liverpool both matched that scoreline in their away victories over QPR and Aston Villa respectively.

Predictions

Last week, 3-7; season 59-70

Tuesday

Wolves vs Norwich – The last time these two sides met in the league at Molineux, it ended up 3-3 – but that was back 2008/9 and in the Championship.  Norwich are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this season, but they have also only failed to score in two games – so goals can be expected.  Wolves, who narrowly escaped relegation last year, sit precariously just above the bottom three and have lost their last two matches – they need to start picking up points and their next fixture is away to Arsenal, making this game all the more vital for them to return to winning ways. Prediction – Home win

Blackburn vs Bolton – The Lancashire derby that will, as mentioned above, determine who will be bottom of the Premier League on Christmas Day.  With managers Steve Kean and Owen Coyle both at risk of losing their jobs before the calendar hits 2012, both sides will be eager to get one over on their local rivals.  The combined record of these two teams: Played 32; Won  5; Drawn 4; Lost 23 – is there any chance both teams could lose this one?  Prediction – Draw (Bolton’s first of the season)

Wednesday

Aston Villa vs Arsenal – The last time Villa beat Arsenal at home in the league, their scorers were Julian Joachim and Dion Dublin – a massive thirteen years ago.  Having won their previous three away games, the Gunners succumbed to a single goal defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.  They will be confident of getting back to winning ways as Aston Villa will be without their main striker, Darren Bent, due to a thigh strain and will also be without Emile Heskey.  Arsenal’s Dutch striker, Robin Van Persie, has scored 33 league goals this calendar year and has Shearer’s record of 36, set in 1995, in his sights. Prediction – Away win

Manchester City vs Stoke – A repeat of May’s F.A. Cup Final, this is a game between two in-form sides.  Mancini’s men have won all eight of their home games in the Premiership this season, while Stoke have beaten Wolves, Tottenham, Everton and Blackburn in their last four league matches.  Tony Pulis gives opposition managers something completely different to prepare for and I can see his side getting something out of this game. Prediction – Draw

Newcastle vs West Brom – When I heaped praise on the job Alan Pardew had done with Newcastle, it was inevitable that his side would suffer a prolonged slump.  A team that was unbeaten in their first eleven games, they have now failed to win any of the last five and have picked up just two points during that time.  United’s defence has been depleted by injuries and they will consider themselves lucky to be facing the third lowest scorers in the division in West Brom, who have managed just a goal per game in their 16 matches.   Roy Hodgson’s team picked up their third away win of the season against Blackburn on Saturday – but I do not think they will get anything at St. James’ Park. Prediction – Home win

Everton vs Swansea – Both sides picked up a point in their respective fixtures at the weekend and will be looking for a win to push themselves further away from the relegation zone.  Swansea are yet to win a game in England this season – all of their victories have come at home in Wales.  On their travels they have also leaked goals, 18 in 8 games – compared with just 2 allowed in 8 matches at the Liberty Stadium.  Everton are just four points above the bottom three and will hope to continue their record of never having lost to Swansea – though it has been nearly 30 years since the two clubs last met in a league game. Prediction – Draw

Fulham vs Manchester United – During his time at Spurs, Martin Jol never managed to lead us to a win over Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea.  Oftentimes a promising first-half would be undone by negative tactics after the break as he would try to defend a lead – something that played out again this season when his Fulham team lost their lead against Arsenal and could only manage a draw.  United have not won in any of their last three league games at Craven Cottage, but seem to be finding their form again since their Champions League exit.  Ferguson’s men are still unbeaten away and he has put pressure on them to overtake Manchester City during this Christmas period.  Alex Ferguson + Pressuring his Players = Success for Manchester United. Prediction – Away win

QPR vs Sunderland – Queens Park Rangers have only got one win at home all season – against their local rivals, Chelsea – while Sunderland have managed to pick up just five points in eight games away from the Stadium of Light.  The Black Cats will be a different proposition with Martin O’Neill in charge rather than Steve Bruce, but it will take him time to mold his squad to fit his vision – that opportunity will come in the January transfer window and for now, he has to make do with what he has.  With both sides having won just one of their last seven games, a draw seems a likely outcome. Prediction – Draw

Wigan vs Liverpool – Wigan have managed to push themselves off the bottom of the league having won 2, drawn 2 and lost 1 of their last five league games.  Having beaten West Brom the previous week, earning a point with a last-minute equaliser at home to Chelsea on Saturday must have felt like a victory to Roberto Martinez’s men.  Liverpool have been in good form of late and have pushed themselves up to be just three points behind fourth place Chelsea in the race for a Champions League berth next season.  Just like in their glory days of the 1980’s, Dalglish’s side is built around a solid defence – Liverpool have the meanest back line in the Premiership this season, having conceded just 13 goals in their 16 games thus far.  Prediction – Away win

Thursday

Tottenham vs Chelsea – If I proved anything with last week’s predictions, it’s that being a pessimist works for us Spurs fans.  When Tottenham beat Chelsea on November 5th, 2006 – it was the first league win over their London rivals since February 1990.  That match, which I consider to be the best game I have ever attended in person, opened the floodgates for Spurs and in the nine Premiership matches with Chelsea since then, they have won a massive…two.  If they were to prevail this time around, Tottenham would sit five points above the Blues in third, still with a game in hand.  However, without the speed on the wings of Bale and Lennon, both likely to miss out through injury, it will be difficult for Redknapp’s side to break down Chelsea’s defence – who might have the added bonus of being without John Terry who was injured in training.  Having said that, it would not be the first time the second-rate defender (and twentieth rate human-being) made a surprise come back after initially being doubtful for a game.  He is like the Ben Rothlisberger of English Football – both in his hero complex returns from injury and his likeability. Prediction – Away win – because I’m still a pessimist.

My Top 10 TV Shows of 2011

It’s the time of year when everyone is putting together their “Best of” lists for 2011…so why should I be any different?! Here are my (spoiler free) top 10 TV shows from the past 12 months:

The Erosion of the Sixth Amendment

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

When President Obama signed into law the Defense Authorization Bill earlier this month, the legislation that funds the military, it also made legal the indefinite detention – without trial – of American citizens suspected of terrorist activity.  This special power contradicts the Sixth Amendment (see above) and thus erodes one of the liberties provided by the Bill of Rights.  Rather than being a sudden change in policy, this instead codifies a practice that has been carried out for the past ten years and is now legally extended to include American citizens as well as foreign nationals.

Consider the text of the 6th amendment – it states that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused have the right to trial by an impartial jury in the locality the crime was committed.  Since Guantanamo Bay was used as a detention centre in 2002, 779 people have been taken there.  Of those, 6 have been convicted by military commission, 1 has been prosecuted in a federal court, and 38 were ruled to having been held unlawfully (all numbers from Human Rights First Factsheet ). Five times as many suspects have been ruled as having been held illegally at Guantanamo Bay than have been convicted of a crime and a further 600 of the detainees have been released without ever facing a charge against them.  Consider this:

  • Percentage of Guantanamo detainees convicted of a crime: 0.9% (7 out of 779)
  • Percentage of last 8 Governors of Illinois to end up in prison: 50% (4 out of 8)
Thus, statistically someone is more likely to end up as a convicted felon if they were in residence at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield, Il, than if they were a detainee at Guantanamo Bay.

A couple of weeks ago, The Daily Show had a section about this Defense Authorisation Bill, pointing out how “un-American” this law would be.  While that piece itself was on point, it did remind me of how the show – and the media in general –  handled the assassination of Osama Bin Laden earlier in the year.  The legality of the mission was not questioned, only a celebration at the death of a man who had become a symbol of terrorism, rather than a direct and present threat to the United States himself.  Let me just say, the death of an evil man who plotted atrocities in the United States and all over the world is not something I shed any tears over.  However, the manner in which the execution was carried out is of great concern – he was unarmed and had not been convicted of any crime.  There was never any attempt to capture Bin Laden alive and bring him to justice in a court of law – something that could have led to his being put to death through legal means (though I still oppose the death penalty, as discussed here, at least it would have followed due process).  Osama Bin Laden was on the FBI’s most wanted list since the bombings of the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 – with the reward of $25 million offered for his apprehension or conviction.  In the end, it was never a case of  being wanted “Dead or Alive” – it was only in the former state the US Government wanted him.

While the world is undoubtably a better place without Bin Laden in it, the erosion of the principles the United States is perturbing.  Just five months after the death of the leader of Al-Qaeda, a targeted drone strike in Yemen killed the American born Anwar al-Awlaki.  Dubbed the “Bin Laden of the Internet” by the press, there was no sustainable evidence presented against al-Awlaki, merely conjecture of his involvement in the planning of terrorist plots – including a failed attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day, 2009.

While I am confident in both cases the US Intelligence services had credible, irrefutable evidence of the culpability of both Bin Laden and al-Awlaki, this was never cited in a court of law nor subjected to cross-examination.  The Founding Fathers deliberately designed the framework of this country to ensure a balance of power – if the Executive Branch circumvents the authority of the Judicial Branch, then it leaves the nation susceptible to a tyrannical leader having complete control.  While it is hard to argue for the rights of people who advocate terrorism, the principles upon which America was founded are deontological not teleological.  The right to trial by jury is not relinquished for those we assume are guilty.  Being held without charge is not acceptable, if there is enough evidence for someone to be detained, that should be presented in a court of law.  The last thing anyone wants to see is another attack against the United States, or anywhere else (remember the bombings by Al Qaeda in London, Madrid, Istanbul, Bali,  Casablanca and several other places took place after 9/11), but the prevention of terrorism cannot come at the cost of the basic rights laid out in the constitution.  Though it could be argued that Bin Laden was not a US citizen and therefore not protected by its Bill of Rights,  al-Awlaki was – and so might be countless numbers of people who can be detained without charge under the provisions of the Defense Authorisation Bill.  It may be cliché, but if we cannot uphold out principles and liberties, then the terrorists really do win.

This week in: English Football – Life of a Spurs Fan

As a Tottenham fan, you get used to the beats of the season – the hope, the promise, the fall, the frustration.  Each year, conversations between supporters take on a variance of the following:

Preseason

Optimist: “You know, this year we really have a squad to compete – I’m not saying we’ll win the league, but we could be up there and maybe win a trophy” 

Pessimist: “We didn’t invest enough in the squad/not bringing through enough young players/should have sold players/should not have sold players…we’ll be lucky to be in the top half”

Note – just like Tyler Durden, the optimist and the pessimist may well be the same person, such is the internal conflict created by being a Spurs fan.

After a few good results:

Optimist: “We can really push on from here – look at our next four games, that should be 12 points”

Pessimist: “Soon as we lose one game this will all come crashing down”

After a defeat that ends an unbeaten run (Note, this has been this week)

Optimist: “Well at least the pressure is off now and we can focus on winning games” (Yes, I realise this makes no sense, just believe me – I have had this conversation many times.

Pessimist: “That’s it now, we’re going to lose next week too – why are we playing Van der Vaart over Harry Kane?  He’s rubbish”

When Spurs inevitably lose the next game

Optimist: No such thing as an optimistic Tottenham fan at this point

Pessimist: “I knew it – sack the manager, get rid of the players, bring on next season”.

After last week’s loss to Stoke – one where Tottenham’s lacklustre performance in the first 45 minutes was ignored due to some bad refereeing decisions in the second half – this week sees Sunderland visit the Lane.  If this game was being played a month ago, Spurs would be heavy favourites to pick up a win, but since then the Black Cats have sacked Steve Bruce and appointed Martin O’Neill as manager – a savvy tactician who will have his team well prepared for this game.  With a match against a rejuvenated Chelsea side coming up in the week, Redknapp needs to ensure that his side get back to winning ways – but that would not be the Tottenham way.  A 1-0 defeat, followed by a good performance but loss to Chelsea, are the inevitable outcomes of the next two games (yes, I’m the pessimistic Spurs fan).

Manchester City also saw their unbeaten run come to an end last week, as they suffered their first loss of the season, away to Chelsea.  Their neighbours, United, closed the gap at the top of the league to just two points with a 4-1 demolition of Wolves.  Arsenal continued their impressive run of form with a home win over Everton; Bolton’s woes show no sign of abating as a loss against Aston Villa at the Reebok Stadium sent to the bottom of the table, replacing Wigan who earned a win at West Brom; Liverpool had a routine 1-0 win over QPR at Anfield; Sunderland came from behind to beat Blackburn in Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge; and Norwich took advantage of Newcastle’s injury problems by putting four past them at Carrow Road. 

This weekend’s biggest fixture sees Manchester City take on their feeder club (just kidding, Arsenal fans, just kidding) as Nasri, Clichy, Toure and Van Perise face their former employers.  Oops, sorry, the Dutchman is still at Arsenal, so will be taking on his future paymasters (not kidding, Arsenal fans, not kidding…).  Elsewhere, Wigan try to keep the score down against Chelsea, who last season beat them 6-0 at the JJB DW Stadium; QPR play host to Manchester United, in a game that reminds those of us with ridiculously long sporting memories of an encounter at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day in 1992, which the visitors won 4-1; and Liverpool travel to Birmingham to play Aston Villa. 

Predictions

Last week, 4-6; season 56-63

Blackburn vs West Brom – Home win

Everton vs Norwich – Draw

Fulham vs Bolton – Home win

Newcastle vs Swansea – Away win

Wolves vs Stoke – Home win

Wigan vs Chelsea – Away win

QPR vs Manchester United – Away win

Aston Villa vs Liverpool – Draw

Tottenham vs Sunderland – Draw

Manchester City vs Arsenal – Away win (see Arsenal fans, I can be nice sometimes)

This week in: American Football – Week 15

With just three weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff picture is starting to become clearer in the NFL.  This is how things stand:

NFC

In: Packers, 49ers

Almost in: Saints

Fighting for the East: Cowboys/Giants

Wild Card:  Two from Falcons/Lions/Bears/Team that does not win the East

AFC

In: Texans

Almost in: Patriots, Ravens/Steelers (one as Wild Card)

Fighting for the West: Denver Tebows/Raiders

Wild Card: One from Jets/Titans/Bengals

This weekend should go someway to settling some of the outstanding issues: Green Bay can lock up the number 1 seed in the NFC with a win in Kansas City; New Orleans can clinch their division by defeating Minnesota; and the Giants can ensure that a last day win over the Cowboys will win them the NFC East, if they are victorious at home against the Redskins.  Tim Tebow, 7-1 as a starter, faces his biggest challenge so far with a visit of Tom Brady and the Patriots to play the Broncos; the Lions and Raiders will try to keep up their battle for Wild Card spots in their matchup in Oakland, and the Colts will try to gain their first win of the season, for the fourteenth time, when they take on the Titans in Indianapolis. 

Predictions

Last week, 7-9; Season, 112-96

Home teams in bold

Jaguars +11.5 over Falcons

Cowboys -6.5 over Buccanners

Dolphins +0.5 over Bills

Seahawks +4.5 over Bears

Bengals -4.5 over Rams

Packers -13.5 over Chiefs

Colts +6.5 over Titans

Saints -7.5 over Vikings

Giants -7.5 over Redskins

Panthers +6.5 over Texans

Raiders +1.5 over Lions

Cardinals -6.5 over Browns

Patriots -6.5 over Broncos

Eagles -2.5 over Jets

Chargers +2.5 over Ravens

49ers -1.5 over Steelers