Soccer Saturday: Your Running Commentary

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City and James McCarthy of Wigan Athletic

Photo by Matt West/ISIPhotos.com

By JUSTIN FERGUSON

Although there are fewer matches today than most Saturdays, league titles, domestic cups and Champions League places will be up for grabs.

One piece of silverware will definitely be awarded on Saturday as Manchester City and Wigan Athletic square off at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup. Wigan will take a break from their treacherous relegation battle this weekend and look to pull of a major upset in their first ever shot at the famous trophy. Even though they were not able to repeat as Premier League champions and their Champions League campaign went poorly, Man City enter Wembley as heavy favorites for their second FA Cup in three years.

The day will kick off with an important Premier League match at Villa Park. Aston Villa are five points ahead of the drop zone and want to secure their safety as soon as possible. Chelsea are less than a week away from a Europa League Final and one win away from a spot in next season’s Champions League. Blues manager Rafa Benitez has hinted that he may be resting some of his starters before next week’s meeting with Benfica in Amsterdam, but Champions League qualification is first priority around Stamford Bridge.

Speaking of Benfica, the Portuguese club leads bitter rival Porto by two points heading into Saturday’s edition of O Classico. The two Portuguese Liga giants have dominated the title landscape in the last decade, and this season’s trophy could be won in Porto. Benfica could live with a draw in this battle for Portuguese supremacy, but the hosts will most likely need all three points in order to repeat as league champions.

Barcelona fans will have their eyes on neighbors Espanyol later in the day as they face second-place Real Madrid. If Los Blancos fail to secure all three points in their Saturday road match, Barcelona will have the Spanish league title before their Sunday meeting with Atletico Madrid.

The day’s action will wrap up with Clausura quarterfinal action in Liga MX. Second-seed Club America return to the Azteca with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg at Pumas UNAM. Meanwhile, top-seeded Tigres UANL need to overcome a 1-0 deficit from their first leg loss at CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey.

If you will be watching today’s action, please feel free to share your thoughts, opinions and some play-by-play in the comments section below.

Enjoy the action (Today’s TV schedule is after the jump):

7:45am – ESPN2 – Aston Villa vs. Chelsea

9:30am – GolTV – Bayern Munich vs. Augsburg

10am – beIN Sport en Español – Athletic Club vs. Mallorca

12pm – beIN Sport – Juventus vs. Cagliari

12:15pm – FOX – Manchester City vs. Wigan Athletic (FA Cup Final)

1:30pm – NBC Sports Network – Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union

2pm – MLS Direct Kick – Montreal Impact vs. Real Salt Lake

2pm – Univision Deportes – Ajaccio vs. Troyes

3:30pm – ESPN3.com – Porto vs. Benfica

4pm – Univision Deportes – Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes

4pm – beIN Sport – Espanyol vs. Real Madrid

6pm – Univision – América vs. Pumas UNAM

7pm – MLS Direct Kick – Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

7:30pm – MLS Direct Kick – New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls

8pm – UniMás – Tigres UANL vs. Monterrey

8:30pm – MLS Direct Kick – FC Dallas vs. DC United

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64 Responses to Soccer Saturday: Your Running Commentary

  1. Nate Dollars says:

    lichaj starting for aston villa. someone suspended from last game?

  2. Jon says:

    Welcome back, Lichaj. Now deal with Hazard and Cole running at you…oof.

  3. Mig says:

    That was a sophisticated move by Benteke. Cahill got back and the little pace change gave him the space to shoot. He is the real deal.

  4. Jon says:

    Lichaj just lost Ba completely, but Guzan was quick and bailed him out.

    • Mig says:

      Both Lichaj and the CB got beat by Ba’s run but largely it was the midfield having too much time on the ball to make the pass.

      Guzan was very sharp.

  5. Mig says:

    Well, I guess we’ve answered whether Villa would let down. They ain’t. And Chelsea look horrible. 67th game this season and it is showing; this is a tired side.

  6. Mig says:

    Well, that makes a mess of things. Thanks Lee Mason for missing that call brutally.

    • Nate Dollars says:

      what happened? bad time to lose the feed.

    • Nate Dollars says:

      just saw it. yeah, if you’re going to send him off, you’d better make sure he actually fouled someone.

      is this ref new? looked like a rookie out there.

  7. Byrdman says:

    Soft second yellow to Ramires, no contact. But twice within 3 seconds he lifted a boot to within inches of a face. So he put himself in a bad position and was punished for it.

  8. sly says:

    Iv. Seen a few Villa games dodon’t remember them being this good. Benteke ofcourse but Westwood Wieman and Delp

    • Mig says:

      the last four weeks they have been utterly transformed. Westwood and Delp in particular look fantastic. Two weeks ago, Wieman was a force of nature too.

      • sly says:

        Is there a reason now that they don’t put in bent now. I can’t remember last time I saw him play.

        • Mig says:

          I think he played as a sub last week but Lambert apparently doesn’t like him much because you are right, he has not played much at all

  9. Mig says:

    This is one of the most bizarre games I’ve seen in a long time.

  10. Mig says:

    And why does Benitez fail as a coach? Because bringing Ivanovic on instead of moving David Luis back to CB and bringing on Oscar is so totally wrong. A draw does NOT help Chelsea all that much since they will still need a win in the last week.

    Failure, Rafa. Failure.

  11. Mig says:

    Super Frank

    • MidWest Ref says:

      how can Chelsea think of letting him go? He is just class on the field every game.

  12. Nate Dollars says:

    crazy game. fitting that lampard wins it for them. just heard the commentator say that he’s scored 10+ goals in each of the last 10 seasons? that’s, um, pretty unbelievable.

  13. Nate Dollars says:

    also, our americans acquitted themselves well. guzan was good as usual, and lichaj did not have a shocker, as i fully expected him to.

    • GW says:

      Nate,

      The Americans acquitted themselves well? I doubt Villa fans look at it that way.

      It sounds like you are saying” don’t blame us we did our part”.
      Not a great team attitude.

      The team came into the game looking good recently and now has lost a great chance to secure safety and may yet get relegated.

      • Nate Dollars says:

        you’re right, it’s a terrible team attitude. but i’m not on the team, and i really couldn’t care less about aston villa apart from the americans on the team.

        it’s entirely possible for two players to have decent games, and for their team to still lose (basically guzan’s whole season). and i don’t think lichaj was lights out or anything, but he did a decent job against a top team desperate for all 3 points.

        • GW says:

          Nate,

          Yeah but then what you bring to the USMNT are two guys are used to losing, who think losing is the norm .

          Guzan is a keeper and a proven winner that sort of thing is less of an issue but Lichaj? That’s different.
          As a USMNT fan that should concern you.

          • beachbum says:

            ripping on Lichay GW? after today’s game? come on man

            and your point about being on winners or losers…seriously, that’s now another negative to justify Eric’s non-opportunity??? reaching now you are

            • GW says:

              Bbum,

              I was discussing Nate Dollar’s take on the issue.

              Lichaj’s performance doesn’t need any comment.

              • beachbum says:

                yet you left one of course

                and neglected to address mine; I get that you were responding to Nate’s post GW

                really calling out Lichay because his team has lost a lot? you mean like Hoffenhein, and even Nurnberg?

              • GW says:

                Beachbum,

                It’s kind of ironic. Many contend that Lichaj’s lack of actual PT should not hamper him in being considered for the USMNT. After all he has been in training with EPL level guys right? And that should beat actually playing in MLS for instance right?

                But then he gets excused for a lukewarm performance in a Villa loss, a very important loss because well, what can you expect from someone who hasn’t played that much? You can’t have it both ways.

                I mean the team is doing well then they put Lichaj in and they lose a very, very big game? He is not the only reason but it looks bad on him. Here Lichaj has a rare opportunity to prove people like me wrong. No he did not stink out the place. But it also did not look like he had been waiting for an opportunity to show he was readier than ready to take advantage of this opportunity to send a signal to JK.

                What is happening with Hoffenheim and Nurmberg should be cause for alarm as well but in Fabian’s case, unlike the case with Eric, do you have a better player than him available?

                No you don’t.

                So as long as he’s playing regularly he plays for the USMNT. Danny Williams is another case and of course Chandler is hurt.

          • Nate Dollars says:

            usually i find myself agreeing with you GW, but i’ve got to say, you’re really stretching to portray my positive comments on individual efforts as a threat to our national team’s performance.

            never mind that you’re pretty much doing the same thing as me when you call guzan a proven winner (he’s great, but how many clean sheets has he kept?); i just don’t see a direct correlation between someone’s club team record (not individual performance) and their performance with the national team.

            in fact, we have a couple cases where usmnt performance doesn’t seem to have any connection at all to clubs (michael bradley and freddy adu).

            • GW says:

              Nate,

              There is a connection. Let me see if I can make a case for you.

              Why do you want a good keeper for the USMNT?

              Because a good one can do the kind of things Guzan just won his Aston Villa POY award for. Guzan is a proven winner because he has won a number of important games for the USMNT most notably the 2009 Egypt game in the Confederations Cup when he HAD to keep a clean sheet and, of course, the recent CR win in Denver and the draw in Azteca.

              Clean sheets are what I expect in a hotel room. For me, they are less important than wins when evaluating a keeper. Guzan seems to be doing well enough for Villa to have been named their player of the year so I will take their word for it.

              Why do you want MB90 for the USMNT?

              Because you want him to boss the midfield.

              I would argue MB90 just barely did the job in the games when he played for the USMNT during his Villa holiday. By that I mean he was probably just as good as whoever they could have played in his place. But that is a very subjective thing and I wouldn’t have been opposed to leaving him out then.

              Why do you want Freddy Adu for the USMNT?

              Because he is supposed to be the one guy who can make the US attack go.
              .
              “in fact, we have a couple cases where usmnt performance doesn’t seem to have any connection at all to clubs (michael bradley and freddy adu).”

              I hear that a lot. It does not fit the facts, at least in the case of Fredinho which is a little clearer. Adu’s record with the USMNT:

              Year Apps Goals
              2006 1 0
              2007 2 0
              2008 9 1
              2009 3 1
              2011 2 0
              Total 17 2

              Adu has played in 7 friendlies and 10 competitive ( WC qualifiers or Gold Cup) games.

              In the friendlies the US has 2 wins, 2 losses, 3 ties.

              In the competitive games the US has 8 wins and 2 losses.

              Of the competitive wins I would say only the 1-0 Panama game in the 2011 Gold Cup and the 2-1 TNT game in 2008 WC qualifying were close, the others being games like Grenada 4-0, Barbados 8-0, Cuba, 6-1.etc. People here discount EJ’s goals against such weak opposition so it is reasonable to assume a similar stance about wins against those guys when Freddy was on the field.

              The point is in 2008, the 9 caps tell you that BB was giving Adu a test run in the team.

              The cap drop in 2009 correlates with Freddy continuing to not get much PT or making much noise with Monaco that season. Still, BB must have seen something he liked in 2008 so he put Adu on the Confederations Cup roster and also on the Gold Cup roster. My guess is BB was trying to knock the rust off of him and get him going.

              This is a bit unusual but then JK is doing something similar with Holden. Hopefully it works out better in Stu’s case.

              Adu basically did nothing that year. He did not show well enough in training to get on the field in South Africa and he looked rusty in his Gold Cup B team games.

              BB then put him on the back burner until 2011.

              He recalls Freddy for the 2011 Gold Cup, but ONLY after Freddy has had an impressive late season run with Rizespor, his Turkish club. Freddy rewards him with a nifty assist in the Panama semifinal game and, in the final against Mexico, a nice corner kick for Mikey’s goal and a nice pass to Dempsey on LD’s goal. After that he does nothing.

              Just to be clear:
              • Freddy does nothing with Monaco in 2009. Freddy does nothing with USMNT in Confederations Cup and scores one goal against Grenada in the B team 2009 Gold Cup. Pretty lame.

              • Freddy finally figures it out and tears it up with his Turkish team ( look up what he did for them that year) . BB notices and Freddy then comes back in the Gold Cup and actually puts in real contributions in competitive games when it matters.

              If Freddy starts doing the business with Bahia and helps them do well then maybe the US will look at him. Otherwise he’ll need a ticket to get into USMNT games in Brazil, if they get there.

  14. yahtzee says:

    Steve Cherundolo broke Hannover’s record today. Now their record holder for most appearances in the Bundesliga with 299. Next weekend he’ll have 300 matches.

  15. louis z says:

    You want to pull for Lichaj he is such a hard worker but making those tiny little mistakes has been his downfall. Whenever you see two defenders guard the same player…something bad is going to happen to make them pay.

    • Nate Dollars says:

      i know what you’re saying, but it’s all relative.

      the usmnt doesn’t have world-cla$$ fullbacks, and playing flawlessly against someone like hazard (on form) takes a world-cla$$ fullback.

      the usmnt does have lichaj, so i’ll keep pulling for him, and not expecting too much when we play a team like belgium.

      for what he was asked to do, i thought lichaj handled it pretty well.

      • GW says:

        The last time the US played Belgium Chandler shut Hazard down cold.

        • TomG says:

          Good points by all IMO. Lichaj is a talented guy and still young enough to be be become a very valuable player for USMNT though there are some younger guys in the system that have more raw talent.

        • bryan says:

          either way, both appear ready to miss the rematch. unfortunately.

        • Nate Dollars says:

          lol, that’s a good point. forgot about that.

        • biff says:

          yeah, GW. And the last game for Nurnberg before Chandler was (cough, cough) injured he warmed a cold bench because the coach had finally gaven up on him after a string of lousy performances. And are you really going to compare Hazard’s performance in a meaningless friendly for the national team with a must win game to assure participation in next season’s Champion’s League? I don’t think think so.

  16. yahtzee says:

    hat trick for Jozy tomorrow?

  17. RK says:

    Cup Final in HD on regular tv? Thank you.

  18. Travis says:

    Not sure why Kompany is all upset about that second yellow for Zabaleta, stupid challenge and he made contact. Clear card

  19. Smacking says:

    I didn’t watch the game, but just saw a replay of the Cup winner. I have to say, I liked Gus’ call. He exploded, as he should for a late winner in a big game. He didn’t try to over analyze or give a radio style moment by moment account as he often gets himself into trouble trying to do. He was quick to name the player and inform us that he was “off the bench”. He doesn’t yet have the ability to explain it, but he knew it was a big moment and he reacted within his range of knowledge to convey it. He’s still a work in progress, but I count this as progress.

  20. beachbum says:

    Leveron…hack SOB