Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Cane Peterson and Eric Perkins/Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. Dana is our weekly guest here at the blog, and enjoys spreading his Premier League expertise around. Dana?
If last week’s matches were the Fourth of July fireworks, then this week is the Fifth of July hangover, with one big exception: Top of the table vs third in the table. London vs London. Chelsea vs Arsenal. It is a big one. One of the bigger ones of the year. The rest of the schedule is about as compelling for neutrals as the lecture Ben Stein’s character gave in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off", but with only seven matches to go and the title and relegation spots very much up for grabs, supporters will be nervously pacing around this weekend while watching their club. (If they are like me, will change jerseys at halftime because of superstition.)
Now onto the matches! I apologize for non-Chelsea/Arsenal fans, but I got very wordy in the preview for the big match on Saturday. Scroll past it if you must, I totally understand.
No. 1: Chelsea vs Arsenal at Stamford Bridge
When: Saturday at 7:45AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Chelsea beat Arsenal at the Bridge last January by a 2-1 tally. Lampard had one from the spot and Mata had the eventual winner. Walcott got one in the 58th minute but an equalizer wasn’t in the cards for the Gunners.
Go Chelsea! (Editor's note: Go Arsenal!)
No. 2: Cardiff vs Liverpool at Cardiff City Stadium
When: Saturday at 10:00AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Cardiff hasn’t been in the EPL for a while so these two teams didn’t meet at Cardiff City last year. They did play earlier this season at Anfield, where Liverpool took all three points by a 3-1 tally.
Now gather around and let Nuclear Wessel give you a history lesson. The last time these two teams met at Cardiff City was 1953. Here are some facts about what was happening in the world the last time these two teams played in Cardiff.
Man! How far we have come! Anyway, where were we?
Oh, yeah, Liverpool/Cardiff. You’ll be watching basketball anyway. Liverpool roll by multiple goals.
No. 1: West Ham vs Manchester United at Boleyn Ground
When: Saturday at 12:30PM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: The eventual champions only managed a point at West Ham a year ago in a 2-2 draw. Robin van Persie got the equalizer in the 77th minute. Not exactly kicking myself for missing this one last season.
What a week for United! Everything is all fine and dandy at Old Trafford! Newborn babies are being named Moyes! What a comeback in Champions League! Onto the quarterfinals!
Ahhhhh, not so much. I don’t mean to be the one to rain on United’s parade... Wait, yes I do. Let’s rain on some parades!
United's comeback from 3-0 down against Olympiakos was a glorious comeback ,and easily the most fascinating match of an otherwise dull Round of 16 in the Champions League. But how do you put yourself in that position to begin with? It was Olympiakos, not Barcelona. And van Persie gets the accolades, but if David de Gea doesn’t make those two saves on the goalline in the waning moments of the first half, then United is the laughingstock of football and David Moyes is filing for unemployment.
The win didn’t do anything but give Moyes, supporters and the United board a sigh of relief.. United got the worst possible draw today for the quarterfinals when they got paired with Bayern Munich, but it didn’t matter; they would have been underdogs to anyone they would have faced.
The saddest (or depending on your perspective, funniest) thing about United was the news earlier this week that they may be playing midweek friendlies next year to recoup the cash they will be losing from missing out on European play. That's one of the biggest clubs in the world, flying to Japan or the US on a Wednesday to make some cash. What’s next? A garage sale? Will they be charging for autographs at the team store? Maybe Rooney will wash cars outside Old Trafford over the summer.
Regardless, they’ll try to keep the good cheer going this weekend at West Ham. They can still definitely catch Spurs and Everton for the Europa Consolation Prize, which might mean club friendlies but no garage sales next year. And, as a supporter of Chelsea, I can’t crap on an underdog’s chances in Champions League. (For the non-Chelsea historians among you, Chelsea finished sixth in the league, but won the Champions League.) United have a chance against Bayern in the same way that I have a chance of marrying Shakira: since we are both human beings on the same planet and are both currently alive, it technically could happen, but let's not kid ourselves.
The overall point: while I'm sure Wednesday felt great, it was only one feel-good moment. It wasn’t a magic potion that makes Moyes into Sir Alex Ferguson, or makes his players care again. It was just another small victory in a season full of failures.
Has the parade officially been rained out? Awesome.
Enjoy the weekend! Don’t forget about the El Clasico, on Sunday at 3 o’clock or something. (I dunno. I don’t really care. Most overrated match in all of soccer. Watch MLS instead.)
Keep your oranges sliced and your juice boxes on ice. Talk next week.
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