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Week 11 - Premier League 11/12

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Saturday, 5 November 2011

Barclays Premier League

Newcastle v Everton, 12:45

Arsenal v West Brom, 15:00

Aston Villa v Norwich, 15:00

Blackburn v Chelsea, 15:00

Liverpool v Swansea, 15:00

Man Utd v Sunderland, 15:00

QPR v Man City, 17:30

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Barclays Premier League

Wolverhampton v Wigan, 13:30

Bolton v Stoke, 15:00

Fulham v Tottenham, 16:00

Npower Championship

Brighton v Barnsley, 15:00

Leicester v Leeds, 15:00

Reading v Birmingham, 15:00

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Guest Portuguese

Sick ball


I hope there is a lot of good football/goals across Europe this weekend

and Schalke lose

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Guest Portuguese

Midfield stars Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez and Uruguay captain Diego Lugano arrived at the Parc des Princes, along with former AC Milan and Inter Milan coach Leonardo as sporting director, while the prolific Kevin Gameiro was signed from Lorient shortly before the takeover.

Fernandez, who played for the capital club from 1978 to 1986 and won three trophies in two spells as their manager, admits he no longer recognises the club and claims they have become like basketball's all-star exhibition team, the Harlem Globetrotters.

"The Qataris bought the name of PSG, " Fernandez, who most recently managed Israel, told L'Equipe. "But a club, especially this one, is also a soul, an identity.

"I wore their jersey for eight years, I won trophies there so I think I can speak freely on PSG. And I hope I am wrong but I am a bit worried.

"I now call them the Harlem Globetrotters - but gathering individuals together like that is fragile. At any moment, it could blow up.

"I could no longer manage PSG. It's out of the question." :/

This the same c*nt who tried to destroy Ronaldinho's club career

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Guest Portuguese

Inter Milan's Serie A game at Genoa on Sunday has been postponed due to flash floods that have caused at least six deaths in the area.

The decision was made between Genoa city officials and the Italian football league on Friday, with a new date for the match yet to be announced.

The Luigi Ferraris stadium clash had been scheduled for lunch-time on Sunday.

The Marassi area around the stadium has been among the hardest hit zones of the city by the raging water, which has uprooted trees and swept cars and furniture through the streets.

With Inter hovering just one point above the relegation zone, the 2010 champions could drop into the bottom three by their next match.

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Aston Villa's crowds are falling and so is the stock of Alex McLeish

An unpopular manager and the harsh economic climate make a Villa ticket easy to give up

"Villa have amazing support. If you hung 11 Villa shirts on a washing line, five thousand fans would turn up to watch them." Those were the words of Tommy Docherty, who formed the impression during his brief spell in charge of Aston Villa that the club's fanbase was so loyal that their faith was almost blind. Fast forward 40 years or so and the swathes of empty seats at Villa Park paint a different picture.

The average league attendance at Villa this season is 32,448, almost 5,000 fewer than last term and close to 8,000 below the 40,000 barrier they broke through three years ago, when Randy Lerner's generous spending and Martin O'Neill's presence as manager fuelled hopes of qualification for the Champions League.

Although a number of other Premier League clubs have seen crowds drop this season – the gates at Blackburn Rovers, Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers (whose figures are a little distorted because of the redevelopment work at Molineux) are down by more than 5% – it is the fall in numbers at Villa Park that is the most alarming. Villa's average attendance in their first five league matches is down 12.8% on last season.

While some may point to unglamorous opponents at home – Blackburn, Wolves, Newcastle United, Wigan Athletic and West Bromwich Albion – two of the five matches have been derbies and when the games are compared like-for-like with the same opponents last season, there is an 11.7% drop, suggesting the decline in attendances is more deep-rooted.

So why is Villa Park three-quarters full? The bleak economic climate, with the West Midlands particularly hard hit, has probably played a part, although Villa's season tickets are among the cheapest in the Premier League. Other possible reasons include the way the team regressed under Gérard Houllier last season and the realisation that the emergence of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, allied to the departure of players such as Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, has forced ambitions to be scaled back. It appears Villa, firmly rooted in mid-table, are drifting along. "The club seems to have lost its purpose at the moment and we need a bit of direction," Dave Woodhall, editor of the Heroes & Villains fanzine, says.

Yet arguably the most significant factor behind the falling attendances has been the controversial decision to recruit Alex McLeish from Birmingham City in the summer. There were protests at the time and the consensus seems to be that a number of supporters have turned their back on Villa because of their disillusionment at the choice of manager.

"A lot of us have thought it's not going to drive us away and you've got to give Alex a chance," says Jonathan Fear, the editor of the Vital Villa fans website. "But there are a larger proportion this time, I've found, who are thinking: 'No, I'm not putting up with this any more because of Alex.' A lot of them protest that it isn't because he's a Bluenose and that it's because they don't like his style of play. But my suspicion is that it's because he's come from Blues and he had just taken them down."

Lerner and Paul Faulkner, the Villa chief executive, accepted that some fans would be sceptical about McLeish's arrival, yet they remain optimistic that attendances will improve, in particular over the next few months, which are traditionally better for getting people through the turnstiles.

Indeed, Villa are hopeful that Saturday's visit of Norwich will produce their biggest crowd of the season and, although the predicted figure of close to 35,000 will be swelled by 3,000 travelling supporters and an open-day at the Villa training ground that included the chance to buy tickets for £10, the club are taking encouragement from the increase in the number of tickets bought on general sale this week.

With about 20,000 season-ticket holders (down from the 26,000 peak of a few years ago), Villa now have a large number of floating supporters; the key is getting them to return on a regular basis. Attendances should certainly increase next month, when Villa host Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. That those three games are being offered as a special package will be seized upon by some as a further sign that tickets are difficult to sell, although it can also be interpreted as evidence of how hard the club are working to come up with ways to fill the stadium.

Villa are also considering other initiatives to put more bums on seats, although both the club and the supporters know that there is only one sure-fire way to get people back. "It's the obvious thing – results," Woodhall says. "You can cut the prices all you like, and I think Villa fans have been a bit spoilt in the past in that respect, because prices have been so cheap, but if a team's not winning, then people won't want to go and watch them. It's as simple as that."


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On match day in Makhachkala, armed police patrol outside the football stadium. This is one of the most dangerous parts of Russia.

In Dagestan, in the volatile North Caucasus, there are attacks by criminal gangs or Islamist insurgents nearly every day.

But the dangers haven't put off some of the world's top footballers from joining the local team.

Inside the cramped and run-down Soviet-era stadium, Anzhi Makhachkala's biggest star is introduced to the crowd.

"It's Number 99! It's Samuel Eto'o!" shouts an excited voice across the public address.

Cameroonian striker Eto'o has moved to Anzhi from Inter Milan, with a transfer fee almost as high as the Caucasus mountains.

He is estimated to be earning $560,000 (£350,000) a week here, making him the highest paid footballer on the planet.

Big names

Anzhi's billionaire owner Suleiman Kerimov hails from Dagestan

Anzhi, which plays in the Russian Premier League, has signed other stars, too. Like Mbark Boussoufa from Anderlecht, Yuri Zhirkov from Chelsea, and Roberto Carlos from Real Madrid.

But where is all the money coming from?

From a Dagestani billionaire. Suleiman Kerimov, one of Russia's richest men, has made a fortune from potash and gold.

Now he is bankrolling his local football club and giving soccer superstars the chance to cash in - in the Caucasus.

But aren't they scared to be here? Eto'o assures me he is not.

"So far I haven't had any problems in Dagestan," he says. "And I'm not expecting any. Trouble can happen anywhere, even in London, Paris or New York."

But there's more trouble in Dagestan than most places.

Continue reading the main story

Anzhi Makhachkala's international roster

Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o, 30, formerly of Inter Milan

World Cup-winning Brazilian Roberto Carlos, 38, formerly of Real Madrid

Morocco's Mbark Boussoufa, 27, an ex-Anderlecht player

Brazil's Diego Tardelli, 26, formerly of Atletico Mineiro

Hungarian Balazs Dzsudzsak, 24, a former PSV Eindhoven player

Last September two car bombs exploded close to Anzhi's stadium. One policeman was killed and more than 60 people wounded.

The street by the stadium was covered in shattered glass and twisted metal. Shop fronts were ripped to shreds.

For security reasons, the Anzhi players do not spend too much time in Dagestan. They actually live and train a thousand miles away outside Moscow.

The team only flies into Dagestan for its home games - then flies out again. For Carlos it is an unusual experience.

"It is a pity that the team is not based in Dagestan," Carlos says.

"It takes us between two and a half to three hours to travel to our home matches. But I'm getting used to the journey. And I think that our football is bringing joy to local people."

'A bigger project'

You can see that in the stands. When the match against CSKA Moscow gets under way, 15,000 Anzhi fans cheer on their team, waving a sea of green and yellow flags and scarfs.

In a part of Russia battered by high unemployment and daily violence, this club wants to change the dynamic, to give people here something to cheer about. Bringing soccer stars to Dagestan is part of that. But the club has other ideas too.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

I'd like to play with the best players. Then the situation in this region will improve”

Samuel Eto'o

Anzhi Makhachkala star

"The football team is just a part of a bigger project," Anzhi's chief executive German Chistyakov tells me.

"There will be new stadia, new infrastructure for the club, a new training ground, an academy for the kids. It will be a social lift for Dagestan. All these projects will change the lives of people in this region."

There are also likely to be more big money signings, with more top-flight foreign footballers - and possibly a foreign manager - joining Anzhi.

"Every day I get text messages from friends - fellow footballers - who ask me whether they too can come and play in Russia," reveals Eto'o.

"That's great. It means that Dagestan has given Russian football the chance to attract the best players. I hope they'll keep coming here, especially to Anzhi. Because I'd like to play with the best players. Then the situation in this region will improve. Football unites people. That is its greatest power."

Back at the stadium, the mood has changed. Anzhi's supporters are growing impatient and angry.

The fans are booing and throwing flags onto the pitch. That's because the home team is losing 3-5 to the visitors.

Which only goes to show - Anzhi may have earned itself the nickname the "Manchester City of Russian football", but money alone is no guarantee of success. These stars will need to start playing as a team if the dream of Champions League football is to come true.

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its a shame whats happened to villa tbh, they were an exciting team on the brink of good things a couple of years ago.

some really bad decisions made since then.

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