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 (@DanaWessel) produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am, hosted by Mark Rider and Eric Perkins/Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. Dana is our resident Premier League expert, and has an enthusiasm that can’t be tamed, which is why we like to have him stop by on Fridays and tell us about the Premier League. Dana?
Happy Friday, Nuclear Warheads. And it’s not just any Friday - it’s the Friday that kicks off a three-day holiday weekend. There are few things better than a three-dayer. It’s like any other weekend...except longer. By 24 hours. It’s just enough to bring out the wide-eyed, child-like excitement that still lives inside all of us, no matter how jaded we’ve become. “The next 72 hours are mine! They will be filled with endless possibilities and wonderment! Anything can happen! By the time I go back to work on Tuesday, I’ll have BBQed, slept in three times and built a jetpack that runs on buffalo sauce!” It’s amazing.
One last thing about three-dayers, before I get to the actual topic Marth has me writing about. The calendar is cruel sometimes, and makes us go weeks and months between three-dayers. Occasionally, then, you need to just go ahead and create one yourself by repping out a vacation day. We all do it. When you do this, you always, and I mean ALWAYS, grease the Monday, not the Friday. It may seem nice to start a weekend a day early, but it isn’t worth it. Fridays at your average workplace are easy. Everyone is just running out the clock, like both teams in an NFL preseason game. The boss kicks out early. Plus, a Sunday with nothing to do is magical. In the summer, it means an extra day up north. In the fall and winter, it means an entire day of sitting on the couch, watching sports and ordering pizza from two different places for lunch and dinner because you don’t want to be embarrassed when the same delivery guy comes to your door a second time. Carefree Sundays without the Monday tidal wave filled with piranhas and dirty syringes pouring down on you are what keeps us sane. Remember that.
Okay! Let’s talk soccer! Manchester United gutted out a huge point at Sunderland. Chelsea took care of business against a second newly-promoted side. Arsenal scored two late goals to steal a point from Everton at Goodison. And Manchester City showed they are the early class of the league by manhandling Liverpool.
Another great slate this weekend. Let’s take a peek.
No. 1: Manchester City vs Stoke City at Etihad Stadium
When: Saturday at 9:00am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Yaya Toure scored this fixture’s only goal last February in the 70th minute. Sounds like it was a real party.
There’s no sense subjecting yourself to the 6:45am Manchester United/Burnley game, unless you are a die-hard fan of either side, or are still into watching United spill their chocolate milk all over themselves. Personally, I am kind of over it.
Their neighbors, however, are great to watch. They were toying with Liverpool last week, and toyed with them in style. This group has been playing together long enough now that they are getting that “I know what run he is making before he knows he is making that run” sort of sixth sense that all the dynasty (I hate that word but can’t think of another) teams have. I have said it before, but I really think Chelsea and Liverpool will forever regret not climbing through the wide open window last year. City are playing like the Bad Guy Team at the start of underdog sports movies, where they are just light-years above everybody else. Hopefully their rough Champions League draw will slow them down a bit this fall during European group play.
Stoke got shut out in a loss to Aston Villa (woof), and only managed a 1-1 draw at Hull City. So, ya know, expect City to score at will in this one. Also, for the USMNT fans, don’t expect Geoff Cameron Saturday - which sucks. He got subbed out in the 37th minute of their Carling Cup match this week with an abdominal strain* that will also likely keep him out of next week’s USMNT game in Prague. Klinsmann still put him on the roster, but he will likely just be there since he is already in Europe, and it gives the American trainers a chance to get a look at him.
*Wouldn’t it be fun to be in good enough shape to suffer an ab injury? It’s almost like he is bragging. “Hi, my name is Geoff! I spell my name funny and have such strong abs I can strain them!” Whatever. I’m just jealous.
No. 2: Everton vs Chelsea at Goodison Park
When: Saturday at 11:30 on Big Boy NBC.
Last year: Everton handed Jose Mourinho and Chelsea their first last of the season last September at Goodison. Steven Naismith scored in stoppage time of the first half, and Everton’s defense stifled every Chelsea opportunity.
Storylines! Get your storylines! We’ve got all striker-related storylines half-off! Everything must go!
Fair warning: if you watch the pre-match show on NBC, you will be beaten over the head with a pillowcase full of oranges about a pair of strikers facing their old team and the manager they don’t get along with.
Samuel Eto’o signed with Everton this week after playing last season at Stamford Bridge. He hates Jose Mourinho because he called him old (note: he is old). Everton also signed Romelu Lukaku this summer after Chelsea loaned him to Everton last season. He hates Jose Mourinho because Jose thought he had already gotten way too big of a head, compared to what he has accomplished (note: he hasn’t accomplished much) and he doesn’t think he is in the same league as Diego Costa (note: he isn’t).
So that’s what we’ve got! Two disgruntled strikers that had their feelings hurt by their former manager and want revenge on their old team! And they will probably get it. I don’t have a great feeling about these games and these types of things always seem to play out.
Making things even more intriguing is Diego Costa’s hamstring. Depending on who you believe, Diego Costa picked up a hamstring injury in training this week and:
A: is fine to play Saturday
B: is out four to six weeks
C: had his hamstring surgically removed by the British Government because it had spawned alien life-forms and Costa’s body will now be chopped up and he’ll never play soccer again.
You know how the rumor mill works these days. We won’t know until Mourinho meets with the press what the real story is. But even if Costa is a little hobbled, Mourinho will come under fire for selling Lukaku - which is ludicrous. The guy is a talent, but he thought he was bigger than a club that has won every major domestic and European trophy in the last five years, despite never scoring a goal in 10 appearances. You can’t have that in a big club filled with players who have actually lifted trophies and played in big games. When you can get 28 million pounds for someone like that, you do it. It’s just good business. Plus, he just isn’t that good. Or maybe I think that because he scored the goal that knocked the US out of the World Cup. It’s likely a combination of the two.
Anyway, this should be an exciting match. Look for Didier Drogba to make his first start of his Chelsea reunion tour. Look for Everton to be desperate to get their first win of the season after coughing up that 2-0 lead to another top four side in Arsenal last weekend.
No. 3: Spurs vs Liverpool at White Hart Lane
When: Sunday at 7:30am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Woof. Fans of both sides remember this one well. 5-0 to the visiting Liverpool. It was when whispers of ‘Could Liverpool really be a title contender?’ started being whispered.
Spurs are top of the table? Spurs are top of the table! How about that. A full six points and they haven’t given up a goal yet. Even more impressive is that they’ve already scored 5 goals in two games. They score 55 in 38 games last season.
But it is early. Boy is it ever early. Liverpool got a wakeup call earlier this week that they need to get their house in order, after Man City sent them back to Merseyside with their tails between their legs. It is tough for a team like Liverpool to hit the ground running after the summer they had. They’ll get it sorted and integrate their slightly-less-crazy-yet-still-thoroughly-unpredictable striker into the lineup. They just can’t fart around for too long; the title race waits around for nobody. And for that matter, the race for a spot in the top four, which is more competitive than ever this year, won’t wait around either.
This match will be a great early indicator to see exactly where both teams are at. Definitely worth getting up for - remember, it’s a 3-dayer! You have Monday to sleep until noon.
Alright, everyone. That’ll do it for this week. And next, for that matter. We already have an international break screwing up our weekend soccer. But in two weeks we get Manchester City/Arsenal. That’ll be worth the wait.
Until we meet again, may all your penalties be converted and all your goals be golden.
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