14 February 2007

Midweek Cup Nonsense

Back into Europe in the next couple of days, with UEFA Cup matches taking place today and tomorrow. The full line-up with US kickoff times and TV availability:

Bordeaux v Osasuna, 12:00pm
CSKA Moscow v Maccabi Haifa, 12:00pm
Shakhtar Donetsk v AS Nancy, 12:00pm
Bayer Leverkusen v Blackburn, 12:15pm, Setanta Sports
Fenerbahce v AZ Alkmaar, 1:00pm
Hapoel Tel-Aviv v Rangers, 2:05pm, Setanta PPV
Werder Bremen v Ajax, 2:30pm
AEK Athens v PSG, 2:45pm
Livorno v Espanyol, 2:45pm, Setanta Sports
Benfica v Dinamo Bucuresti, 3:00pm, Setanta PPV

Spartak Moscow v Celta Vigo, 11:00am
Steaua Bucuresti v Sevilla, 1:30pm
Braga v Parma, 2:00pm
Lens v Panathinaikos, 2:45pm, Setanta Sports
Zulte-Waregem v Newcastle, 2:45pm

The three ties involving British teams (Spurs have received a pass on to the next round after Feyenoord was thrown out of the tournament) all look tasty, and all three teams have bettered their league form in European competition. But none have an easy game this time around, and all are away from home in this leg, as all won their group in the last stage. And with all the English teams currently out of the European places for next season, it should add even more interest to the ties.

The other match that should be on the telly is Bremen v Ajax; 2nd place in the German league (above Bayern!) versus an Ajax team unbeaten in 7 games and improving with Edgar Davids back in the fold. On paper, easily the best looking match-up, although honestly, all of this round's matches should be decent, and it's a good looking year for the UEFA Cup.

In addition, the replay of the 4th round FA Cup tie between Bolton and Arsenal also kicks off today at 3pm, available on FSC here in the States.

I can’t decide who I’d like to see come away with that one. I’m still furious at Thierry Henry’s self-righteous showboating against Wigan, where despite their fortitude, I will still maintain that Arsenal were lucky to come away with any points, and Phil Dowd should be one of the first names on the Christmas cards list this year. No, I'm not easily letting this go...

But Arsenal’s exit from the FA Cup would allow them greater focus on the league, even though they are still in two other competitions. And a close or tough loss, even if they do rest a lot of senior players, as has been done in both the Carling and FA Cups so far, would probably spur them on even harder.

Not to mention I’ve never been the biggest fan on Fat Sam’s “style” of play.

It’s nice there’s a fair amount of football televised over the next couple of days; it’s been too long since Liverpool’s played, and we still have a week to go until Barca. Sigh.

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