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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Scolari Escape FA Action because what he said is spot-on And Rafa Urge Liverpool To Show Title Credentials !

World Club Rankings

1. Liverpool (Eng) – Liverpool moves to the top without the benefit of a league match; however, Chelsea’s loss to Arsenal does give Liverpool more points per match than Chelsea and puts them in unofficial lead of the Premier League. Liverpool did manage to beat Marseille 1-0 in the Champions League, so there was an official victory to go with its move to the top. This Week: Later today, Liverpool will host West Ham United in an attempt to make its unofficial lead in the Premiership official. Next weekend, Liverpool will try to extend that new official lead, provided they attain it this afternoon, against the Blackburn Rovers.

2. Barcelona (Esp) – The tough portion of the Primera Division schedule for Barcelona began this week and Barca didn’t miss a beat. After crushing Sporting CP 5-2 in Champions League play, Barcelona continued in the crushing mode with a 3-0 defeat of Sevilla. This Week: Now that the difficult portion of the schedule has begun, it will continue for a while. Next up for Barcelona will be a weekend visit from Valencia.

3. Inter Milan (Ita) (3) – Internazionale fell 0-1 to Panathinaikos, but managed to qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League. If nothing else, it makes Inter’s group very interesting. I’m growing a soft spot for Anorthosis. Domestically, Inter fared better, defeating Napoli 2-1. This Week: Inter goes from one barely ranked club to another this weekend when Jose and the boys head to Rome to take on Lazio.

4. Chelsea (Eng) (1) – Not a very good week for Chelsea in any respect. After managing only a draw in France against Bordeaux, Chelsea couldn’t even manage that at home against Arsenal, losing 1-2. This Week: Chelsea will have to bounce back against the Bolton Wanderers if it wants to keep up with Liverpool.

5. TSG Hoffenheim (Ger) (5) – I think it’s safe to say that Hoffenheim has proven that its success is not a fluke. This week, TSG defeated Arminia Bielefeld 3-0. This Week: The day of reckoning for TSG is coming soon. Friday, to be specific. That is the day that Hoffenheim travels to Munich for a date with Bayern.

6. Juventus (ita) (12) – Juve has been one of the hottest clubs in the world as of late and this weekend was no different. Juventus drew 0-0 in Russia against Zenit St. Petersburg, but did better in completely dismantling Reggina 4-0 in Serie A. This Week: Juventus will take on Lecce in Serie A action this weekend.

7. Manchester United (Eng) (6) – After playing in a scoreless draw against Villarreal in Champions League play, United won the Manchester derby with a 1-0 victory over City, despite losing Cristiano Ronaldo midway through the second half. This Week: United faces a pair of the weaker Premiership clubs this week. First, Manchester United hosts Blackburn in the next round of the Carling Cup. In Premiership action, Manyoo will host Sudnerland on Saturday.

8. AZ Alkmaar (Ned) (9) – AZ moves up a notch after handily defeating FC Groningen 2-0 on Friday. This Week: After spending a seemingly unprecedented two consecutive weeks atop the Eredivisie, AZ will try to continue its success this weekend against Heracles Almelo.

9. Bayern Munich (Ger) (15) – The climb continued this week for Bayern as it defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 to move into second-place in the Bundesliga. That’s not even to mention, though I’m mentioning it now, Bayern’s 3-0 victory over Steaua Bucuresti in the Champions League. This Week: The match of the week in Europe this week will take place in Munich when the battle for the Bundesliga lead will take place as TSG Hoffenheim comes to town.

10. Sao Paulo (Bra) (11) – Sao Paulo just needed a victory over Fluminense to clinch another Brasileiro Serie A title. Instead, Sao Paulo scored a 1-1 draw and will have to wait another week to clinch. (In another week, it has to clinch if it’s going to do so because it’s the end of the season.) This Week: Sao Paulo will finish off its Serie A season this weekend against Goias. A draw or win will secure another title for Sao Paulo.

11. Villarreal (Esp) (17) – Villarreal held Manchester United scoreless in their goalless Champions League match. In the Primera Division, Villarreal moved passed Real Madrid with a 2-1 victory over Recreativo de Huelva. This Week: The Yellow Submarine ends it’s easy part of the first half of the season this weekend when it takes on Getafe.

12. Valencia (Esp) (16) – Like Villarreal, Valencia took advantage of Real Madrid’s stumble with a 3-2 victory over Real Betis. This victory followed Valencia’s 4-0 victory over Rosenborg in UEFA Cup group play. This Week: Valencia has another UEFA Cup match this week against Club Brugge, but it gets tougher after that. How tough? How about a road trip to Barcelona?

13. AC Milan (Ita) (8) – It looked as if all hope was lost against Portsmouth, but then two late goals allowed Milan to draw 2-2 in the end. It also looked as if all hope was lost against Palermo. It was. Milan lost 1-3 and dropped to third in Serie A. This Week: At midweek, Milan host Lazio in a Coppa Italia match. Over the weekend, AC Milan will host Catania.

14. Celtic (Sco) (13) – Even though they one match remaining, Celtic, and now the entire Scottish Premier League, has been eliminated from European competition. Celtic did beat one of the many SPL minnows, for what it’s worth, scoring a 1-0 victory over Inverness. This Week: The Scottish Fish of the Week on Celtic’s menu this weekend is Hibernian.

15. Lyon (Fra) (14) – Lyon defeated Fiorentina 2-1 in Champions League play. It didn’t do as well in Ligue Un, scoring a 0-0 draw with Valenciennes. Fortunately for Lyon, nobody in France can win a match once it moves into second place. This Week: Lyon will take on Nantes in domestic action over the weekend.

16. Arsenal (Eng) (23) – What a Jeckyl and Hyde club. It appears that you have to be one of the best clubs in the world for Arsenal to be interested enough to play well against you. Or Dynamo Kyiv, who Arsenal beat 1-0 in the Champions League. The big match, of course, was the Gunners’ 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the Premiership. This Week: Maybe the Gunners will be able to maintain its recent form against Burnley in the Carling Cup and Wigan Athletic in the Premiership.

17. Real Madrid (Esp) (7) – The good news is that Real Madrid did score a 1-0 victory over BATE Barisov in the Champions League. The rest of the news is less good. Specifically, Real Madrid fell 1-3 to Getafe and dropped to fourth-place in the Primera Division. This Week: Like Barcelona last week, Real Madrid’s schedule takes a giant leap forward this week, when it will host Sevilla in Primera Division action.

18. Gremio (Bra) (21) – Gremio beat up on the last place club in the Brasileiro Serie A, scoring a 4-1 victory over Ipatinga to keep its Serie A title hopes alive, if only on life support. Next Week: To have any shot at a title, Gremio will have to beat Atletico Belo Horizonte on Sunday.

19. Benfica (Por) (BU) – How exactly did Benfica move up when it only played one match, and it lost that one 1-5 to Olympiakos? Well, with Leixoes stumbling in the Liga Sagres, Benfica moved to the top (effectively – kinda sorta like Liverpool did in England) and the extra points gets the club a ranking. This Week: Can Benfica take advantage of the position? We’ll see soon because Benfica takes on Vitoria Setubal later today. Next weekend, it will take on Maritimo domestically.

20. Bayer Leverkusen (Ger) (10) – Big drop for Leverkusen after losing 0-2 to Bayern Munich and falling to fourth place in the Bundesliga. Next Week: It’s time for Leverkusen to work its way back up the rankings and that trip will begin over the weekend against Borussia Monchengladbach.

21. Ajax (Ned) (BU) – The club from Amsterdam scored a nice 1-0 victory over a club from Hamburg in the UEFA Cup. In the Eredivisie, the best that Ajax could do was a 1-1 draw with Utrecht. This Week: Ajax will take on Volendam as it tries to catch AZ.

22. Rangers (Sco) (29) – It was bad enough when Rangers couldn’t beat clubs from other parts of Europe, but now it’s even having problems with Scottish clubs, losing 1-2 to Hearts this weekend. This Week: Rangers will take on Hamilton Academy as it tries to keep from falling any further away from Celtic in the table.

23. Napoli (Ita) (22) – It put up a good fight, but Napoli fell down quickly to Inter Milan and could only crawl back to a 1-2 defeat. This Week: Next up for Napoli will be a home match against Siena.

24. Aston Villa (Eng) (18) – Villa is almost as inconsistent as Arsenal this season, managing only a scoreless draw this weekend at home against Everton. This Week: MSK Zilina will come to Villa Park for a UEFA Cup match at midweek. In domestic play, Aston Villa heads to Goodison Park to take on Everton.

25. Lazio (Ita) (25) – Lazio remains in fifth place in Serie A despite falling 0-3 to Atalanta this weekend. This Week: It’s an all-Milano coming week for Lazio, taking on AC Milan on Wednesday in the Coppa Italia and Inter Milan on Saturday in Serie A.

Thomas Cook has signed a four-year sponsorship deal with Chelsea Football Club.

The deal, reportedly worth around £1.5 million a year, extends the original 2006 arrangement which made the tour operator the club's official travel partner.

Thomas Cook, shirt sponsors of Manchester City, will be a “platinum partner” of Chelsea and continue to arrange all travel for the team and its officials in the UK and abroad.

The tour operator, through its Thomas Cook Sport division, will also provide travel packages to domestic and European games for the club’s supporters.

Manny Fontenla-Novoa, chief executive of Thomas Cook, says: “Re-signing with Chelsea takes our relationship to a whole new level.

“We've enjoyed a fantastic partnership with the club so far, and this announcement will ensure that we provide an unrivalled service to the club and its supporters for years to come.”

The extension of the 2006 deal, which was worth £1 million a year, comes amid concerns that the credit crunch is having an impact on sports sponsorship.

The collapse of XL Leisure Group in September has left West Ham United in need of a sponsor while Premier League rivals West Brom are currently without a shirt sponsor after the club's contract with T-Mobile expired at the end of last season.

Chelsea has a number of other “platinum partners” including shirt sponsors Samsung, kit markers Adidas and Abu Dhabi airline Etihad. Thomas Cook Sport is also the official travel partner of Arsenal, Liverpool and Celtic.

Blues and Lyn reach Mikel agreement

Chelsea have reached an agreement with Norwegian club Lyn Oslo in their dispute over the transfer of John Mikel Obi in 2006.

The Premier League club issued a High Court claim against Lyn and their former chief executive Morgan Andersen in October in an effort to recoup the £16million transfer fee they paid for the Nigerian.

Chelsea claimed the transfer was based on the "fraudulent misrepresentation that Mikel had an employment contract with Lyn".

A short statement on the club's website on Monday night confirmed the matter relating to Lyn had been resolved out of court but figures were not revealed.

It read: "Chelsea Football Club and FC Lyn Oslo have resolved all matters between the two clubs with regard to John Mikel Obi.

"The terms of the agreement will remain confidential. There will be no further comment."

Scolari let-off: FA confirm no action to be taken against Chelsea boss for blast at ref

The Football Association will not be taking any action against Luiz Felipe Scolari over the Chelsea manager's comments about referee Mike Dean this weekend.

Scolari called for the official to apologise after claiming he made mistakes during yesterday's 2-1 Barclays Premier League defeat by Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

Dean allowed a Robin van Persie equaliser to stand despite suspicions of offside.

The Football Association believe Scolari qualified his remarks and that he had not questioned the integrity of the referee.

A spokesman said: 'We have studied the remarks of Luiz Felipe Scolari and will not be taking any further action.'

Rafael Benitez urges Liverpool players to show title credentials

Rafael Benítez, the Liverpool manager, has urged his team to rise above the dismissive comments of Michael Ballack and others who have questioned their title-winning credentials. The Chelsea midfield player wrote off Liverpool’s chances when he said that his team were the only challengers to Manchester United’s crown, but Benítez has told his team to make their point on the pitch, where they face West Ham United at Anfield this evening.

Asked about Ballack’s comments, with the Chelsea player describing Liverpool as “a club for the Champions League”, Benítez said: “It doesn’t matter what people say. At the end of the day, it depends on the players and the team. We are at the top end of the table and we know that if we beat West Ham we will be at the top of the table for another week. I am not worried by what they say.

“My message to the players is the same. We have to concentrate on our own team and on our own games. I cannot change what people think. I can only give my players the right message. The thing for me is that the team is doing well, but it can also improve.”

Liverpool will have to make do without Fernando Torres, who has been ruled out for three weeks with a hamstring injury, but Benítez maintains that he has the players to cope without the Spain forward. “We have enough people up front with [Dirk] Kuyt, [David] Ngog, [Robbie] Keane and [Ryan] Babel,” he said. “Torres is an important player for us, so it will be different, but we have to think about solutions.”

West Ham have not won at Anfield since September 1963, but Gianfranco Zola, their manager, has urged his players to draw inspiration from their surroundings. “It’s a tough place to play, but it’s also a fantastic place to play and the crowd is magnificent,” he said. “As a player, it’s one of those matches you want to play all the time, so I hope my players feel the same.”

Liverpool (possible; 4-4-2): J M Reina — Á Arbeloa, J Carragher, D Agger, A Dossena — Y Benayoun, S Gerrard, X Alonso, A Riera — D Kuyt, R Keane.

West Ham United (probable; 4-4-2): R Green — L Neill, J Collins, M Upson, H Ilunga — J Faubert, L Bowyer, S Parker, V Behrami — C Bellamy, C Cole.

Referee: P Walton.