Two Footie Stories
And a Doofus on a Fake Pony
There's not much to recap from Day One, which appears to be a photo of a constipated Irishman straining to defecate behind a piece of plywood with a hole in it. I can't match that, but I can preview an interesting week of red hot footie action.
The two stories are the divergent paths Manchester City are taking in the two most prominent competitions in which they are participating - the Premier League and the Champions League. In the Premier League, Man City has been pretty much unstoppable, having earned 38 of 42 possible points through fourteen matches. They have a 5 point lead over Manchester United, but a larger psychological lead after they destroyed Man U 6-1 at Old Trafford in October.
The team has an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent, with a deep arsenal of strikers (apologies for the lame pun) that has more than withstood the petulance of Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez (who pulled this nonsense earlier this fall). The team has a world class goalie in English national team keeper Joe Hart and top-notch midfielders in Frenchman Samir Nasri and Spaniard David Silva. Owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his $4.9 billion net worth seem to have an insatiable appetite for high-priced players, much like my appetite for Cheez Whiz. He's like the Daniel Snyder of the Middle East, but much much much much much much more successful.
The newest and most exciting of the team's strikers is 20 year-old Mario Balotelli, a Ghanian immigrant who is exceptionally gifted. And batshit crazy. Here's a picture of his girlfriend. She seems nice.
Below are two YouTube clips to present the man in full. But before you read those, read here to learn about the fireworks display he set off in his own bathroom that resulted in a call to the local fire department. You can also read a more heartwarming story here about the time he convinced a young boy to get into his Ferrari (much better than it sounds).
While the team appears to be cruising in the EPL, it is struggling mightily in the UEFA Champions League and is unlikely to escape the group stage of 32 this week and advance to the knockout stage. For a club that is one of the top five in the world (and may arguably be the second-best), to fall on their face this week is a major embarrassment, though one whose pain could be allayed by continued EPL success.
Man City plays in Group A against Italian squad Napoli (2-1-2, 7 pts), Spanish squad Villareal (0-5, 0 pts) and Bayern Munich (4-1 11 pts). Man City has a 2-2-1 record, which puts them in third place with 7 pts. They need to climb past an inferior Napoli this week. However, Napoli plays at pathetic Villareal, while Man City has to host Bayern Munich. Man City needs a miracle tie or win from the Spaniards, who have been outscored 12-2 in aggregate over their first five matches. They also need to beat a quality German side, although it is one that will not likely field their best side, as they have locked up the right to advance.
Many of the sixteen remaining Champions League games from the group stage will be broadcast on the Fox Soccer Channel tomorrow and Wednesday. The Group A matches air on Wednesday.
Bonus soccer news: Clint Dempsey scored the only goal on Monday as Fulham upset Liverpool. The win keeps Fulham ahead in the battle to avoid relegation. Dude continues to be a solid EPL player.
Bonus soccer blog recommendation: sign up to get Grantland Network's Men in Blazers podcast. Two guys talk weekly on the EPL, the Champions League and the US and English national teams. Both are Brits, although one has lived much of his life in the US. The guys are very knowledgeable and do not at all take themselves seriously. Extremely entertaining. Here is a link to their tumblr site, although I'll admit I don't know what a tumblr is. It appears to be missing an e.
Bonus Balotelli girlfriend photos: Here are two of an old flame, Melissa Castagnoli. She seems nice too.