Tuesday, January 20, 2009

News, results from the weekend

Some big stories coming out of England in the last few days. First, Kaka is staying at Milan after Milan rejected a 91-million pound offer. Tough to get exactly what happened, but that's the more likely story as opposed to Milan wanting the move and Kaka himself rejecting it. It's also possible that Robinho has reacted badly towards the news, but he says his walkout is just to take care of family matters in Brazil.

The other big news was Rafa Benitez rejecting a contract offer from Liverpool, claiming he wants more control over the academy and possibly transfers. Benitez, fresh off his rant against Sir Alex Ferguson, has also seen his side blow the lead in the English Premier League. Manchester United and Liverpool are now tied on points with Man U. holding a game in hand. Pressure is mounting on Benitez.

The struggles of Atletico Madrid continued in La Liga as it managed only a 1-1 draw with15th-place Almeria on Sunday. The Champions League knockout round side is sixth in La Liga, leading Malaga only on goal differential. Atletico has also been recently knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Barcelona. Mexican manager Javier Aguirre is under pressure to turn results around soon.

In Serie A, Juventus had a chance to cut Inter Milan's lead to just one point after Inter lost 3-1 at Atalanta on Saturday. But the Old Lady managed only a 1-1 draw at Lazio and are now three points behind Inter.

Things remained tight in Ligue 1 as Lyon and Bordeaux both won to maintain Lyon's 1-point advantage. Marseille moved into third place with its win and a Rennes loss, meaning at this point in the season the same three clubs as last year would advance to the Champions League.

Domestic cups take center state in mid-week in Spain and Italy. England has cup games all week, including the weekend, which means the Premier League is off. Here are some big league games around Europe on the weekend.

Saturday, Jan. 24
Italy's Serie A (3rd best league in Europe)
Juventus vs. Fiorentina - Juventus could join Inter on 43 points at the top for the time being with a win. Fiorentina, sixth place, managed a 1-1 draw earlier in the year at home in Florence.

Portuguese Liga (8th best league in Europe)
Nacional vs. Sporting CP - Sporting can go top of the table with a win over fifth-place Nacional, which is home and holding on to the final Europa League spot.

Braga vs. Porto - Porto -defending champions - enter the weekend a point behind Sporting and Benefica atop the table. Braga is just a point behind Nacional for the final Europa League spot.

Dutch Eredivisie (9th best league in Europe)
PSV vs. NAC Breda - The Eredivisie holds a playoff for the fifth-eighth place teams for the final European spot, and both of these teams are in that area now. Breda beat PSV 2-1 at home in the first go-around.

Scottish Premier League (10th best league in Europe)
Aberdeen vs. Rangers - Rangers and Celtic have won every Scottish top division title since 1984-'85 when Aberdeen, managed by one Sir Alex Ferguson, took the title. This year Celtic and Rangers again sit first and second, with Rangers leading Aberdeen by 13 points for second. Aberdeen actually has fewer losses than Rangers.

Turkish Super Lig (11th best league in Europe)
Sivasspor vs. Galatasaray - Galatasaray - defending champions - and Fenerbahce are the two more popular clubs in Turkey, but they find themselves in third and fourth behind first-place Sivasspor and Trabzonspor. In fact, Sivasspor, which has already beaten Fenerbahce this year, have only most recently gained promotion to the Super Lig at the end of 2004-2005 season by winning the Second League.

Sunday, January 25
Spanish La Liga (2nd best league in Europe)
Malaga vs. Atletico - These two clubs are both on 31 points, with Atletico holding the goal differential edge for the sixth spot - which comes with a Europa League spot. Agguire needs a win badly.

Italy's Serie A (3rd best league in Europe)
Napoli vs. AS Roma - Roma has been fighting an uphill battle in the league all season, but could now reach the European qualification zone with a win. Napoli sits fifth, just two points behind Genoa for the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Turkish Super Liga (11th best league in Europe)
Fenerbahce vs. Trabzonspor - On Saturday it's 1 vs. 3 in the Super Lig, here it's 4 vs. 2. The difference here is that Fenerbahce is home, and also that Trabzonspor, as a former league champions is a more established name in Turkish football than Sivasspor. Either way, two great games for Turkish fans this weekend.

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