Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This is Like the Apex of the Vortex....

...just not the apex of the vortex of joint technology. It's the apex of the vortex of the British soccer season for the Big Three clubs in the EPL. Heading into the last six weeks of the season, Manchester United and Chelsea (and, to a lesser extent, Arsenal) are embroiled in a tight race, with the top two teams separated by one point in the standings and Arsenal four back of the lead. Man U and Chelsea have battled each other for the lead all season, while Arsenal pulled off an improbable rally in February and March to climb back in the mix. After a scoreless tie against Aston Villa on January 27th, followed up with a crushing 3-1 loss to Man U on January 31st, Arsenal ripped off six consecutive wins to make up some ground while the other two clubs had minor stumbles. However, they had a poor showing last weekend in a 1-1 tie with Birmingham city and now will need a lot of help if they want to win the league title.

The fates of these three teams will be determined in large part by the events this Saturday. At 7:45 AM, you can point your rabbit ears over to ESPN2 to watch Man U host Chelsea at Old Trafford. A Man U win should make them almost impossible to beat, as they will have only five games left, most against weaker EPL opponents. A Chelsea win puts them in the driver's seat with a two-point lead, while a tie opens up the door for Arsenal, who should be able to dispatch a shaky Wolverhampton squad. In the event of a Man U-Chelsea tie and an Arsenal win, Man U would have 73 points, Chelsea would have 72 and Arsenal would have 71. In this event, look for the fourth-place Tottenham Hotspurs to be a spoiler. They play Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U in three consecutive weeks in mid-April.

But this weekend's slate of matches is merely a portion of the red hot footie action over the next eight days. In addition to EPL matches, Man U and Arsenal both remain active in Champions League play, although Chelsea spit the bit against Inter Milan early last week and was eliminated. We've got a flurry of big Champions League matches starting today. Man U starts a brutal eight-day stretch. The team travels to Germany to face Bayern Munich in the Champions League today, in the first of a two-match series. The team then returns home to Old Trafford for the Chelsea tilt in four days and remains at home to host Bayern Munich three days later. That's three very difficult matches in two countries in eight days. Not an easy task for any squad, let alone a veteran team.

There are three reasons for Red Devils fans to be optimistic. First, Bayern has lost two straight Bundesliga matches and has gone 1-2-1 in its last four to fall out of first place. Second, Man U was able to rest a lot of its firepower in last week's romp over the official team of The Teej, the (Michael) Bolton Wanderers, as Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Ji-Sung Park all sat out in the win. Third, last week's win saw the return of injured young striker Federico Macheda, who shows flashes of both Cristiano Ronaldo's artful footwork and John Terry's legendary libido. Macheda, pictured above, was born in August 1991. Commence feeling old now.

There are additional quarterfinal Champions League games today and tomorrow. The Bayern-Man U game is being shown on delay on Fox Soccer Channel tonight, but those of us with work colleagues on the road will be darting raindrops en route to a pub for the 2:45 PM ET start.

14 comments:

zoltan said...

We're really getting after it in the comments lately.

zoltan said...

It's raining hard today, and my 60-some-odd-year-old secretary and I were lamenting our soggy footwear when she asked "Don't you have any rubbers?" and I paused for a good 5 seconds before I could straight-facedly reply "I hate putting them on, it such a hassle" but then that seemed to only continue the double entendre and I had to stop myself there to avoid giggling, and she said "Oh, they can damage your shoes" and I answered "Yes, that's it" and she noted that it was raining sideways with such force that her underwear feels soggy even though she changed her pants when she got to the office, and all I could think to muster was "Oh, wow" and then I darted back into my office. I don't think I can set foot in the hallway until she goes home.

Dan said...

whenever i hear the word "rubbers" used as a sub for galoshes, i harken back to my prepubescent days. my old man was rounding a buddy of mine and myself up to go to a bball practice. it was pouring outside. i must have been about 10 or 11 and it was literally that day or maybe the day before we had learned the other meaning. two of my sisters were in the car waiting and my dad says - "come on guys, the girls are waiting....go put your rubbers on and let's go!" we couldn't stop laughing the rest of the night, or week for that matter.
i'm here for ya z-dawg even if no one else is.

TJ said...

Did you just use the word "galoshes"?

Dan said...

ummm....i guess i did didn't i? i'm hip.

Dan said...

i'm in the cleveland airport. that's my excuse.

Mark said...

Well, I'm as immature as anybody because I just laughed out loud in response to both Z and Dave's comments.

Dan said...

thanks matt. i think you're funny too.

Mark said...

Any time, Darius.

TR said...

Not a strong start for our Red Devils. Now have to act sober at work for the next couple minutes after 3 pints on a pretty empty stomach.

Dan said...

just read 30 minutes ago in a local milwaukee publication while eating dinner that scott weiland, 2 yrs ago or so, recorded a solo album. the title you ask? "Happy In Galoshes"
Weird.

Mark said...

Dan...Weiland is a big ND fan. You guys should get together and cop some smack.

rob said...

i like the lavin hire for the johnnies. in case you were wondering.

TR said...

I do too, but that's because I'm sporting the same hair helmet as Lavin these days.