Monday, March 17, 2008

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

This is my semi-regular trip around the football blogosphere:

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Rumor Mill: Champions Draw Rigged?

For you conspiracy theorists, this Bud's for you. The Champions League draw was posted at a Liverpool message board hours before the draw took place. Lucky guess? It's your call:

Read all about it:

Mike Whalley WorldofSport
JCP Election
Top of the 18

UEFA Cup Draw: Quarterfinals Ready

Sporting Lisbon's 1-0 win over Bolton yesterday capped off the round of 16 and eliminated the remaining English team from the UEFA Cup. Tottenham has been eliminated on Wednesday by PSV and Everton by Fiorentina--both by penalty kicks (why can't the English make a PK when it counts?).

This morning, the quarterfinal draw rendered some spicy matchups, namely Sporting-Rangers and PSV-Fiorentina. Rangers lead the Scottish Premier League, while Sporting is still alive in the Portuguese Cup and is looking to return to the UEFA Cup final as it did in 2005. PSV, meanwhile, leads in the Netherlands while Fiorentina is fighting for a Champions League spot in Italy.

Favorites Bayern Munich take on Getafe, which upended Benfica. Bayern leads in Germany, while Getafe is middle of the table. Coached by former Danish star Michael Laudrup, Getafe has a bunch of Real Madrid loans on its roster and could be a challenge for Bayern.

The final matchup pits Bayer Leverkeusen and Zenit St. Petersburg. Bayer is fourth in Germany nine points behind Bayern. Of note here: Should Bayer and Bayern win, you'd have an all-German semifinal and guarantee one spot in the final for the Bundesliga.

Champions League Draw: Arsenal-Liverpool Overload

Any major tournament draw is always met with the same levels of excitement and cynicism. Today, for instance, we have the quarterfinal and semifinal pairings for the Champions League, and with four English teams, there were bound to be eye-openers.

The spotlight pairing clearly is Arsenal-Liverpool, but shockingly, Manchester United and Roma were paired. ManU and Roma were in the same group, and this has to be disappointing to both sides and their respective fans; surely they're tired of each other. This matchup is worthy of a final; both teams are in top form and it will be interesting to see who survives this one and what the winner has left going forward.

The other two matchups feature Barcelona meeting Schalke and Chelsea taking on Fenerbahce. It would seem the two glamour sides here got the better of this deal. Barca won't have Leo Messi when it takes on the upstarts from Germany who handled Portuguese leaders Porto. Chelsea, meanwhile, are real sleepers in the Premiership, in spite of the pressure on their coach Avram Grant.

Back to Arsenal-Liverpool for a second, not only does the guarantee one English side in the semis, but it sets up three matches between these two teams in a week's span: April 2, 5 and 8. WOW. Rafa and Arsene will certainly earn their money that week, not only strategy wise, but in human capital. Who sits, who plays and how often? These are three high-pressure matches and this could be advantage Liverpool. Arsenal would likely need the Premiership match much more than Liverpool, which could take advantage of its fourth- or fifth-place standing and sit some players for the domestic match and focus on Europe.

Cynical view: UEFA's out to get Arsene here (just kidding).

The semifinals, meanwhile, shake out this way:

Arsenal-Liverpool winner vs. Chelsea-Fenerbahce winner
ManU-Roma winner vs. Barca-Schalke winner

Spare us another Liverpool-Chelsea semi, but if that's the price to pay for a titanic ManU-Liverpool final, then so be it.

Oh You Beauty has more on the draw.
101 Great Goals has a brief reaction too.
Abeloa didn't get his wish; read Anfield Talk.
Champions League Talk has some early predictions.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Champions League Preview: Inter Milan vs. Liverpool

The Premiership may have failed to get one of the big four into the FA Cup semifinals for the first time since 1912, but that may be forgotten by tonight should Liverpool finish the job against Inter Milan in their second leg round-of-16 Champions League match at the San Siro (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m. ET).

A positive result for Liverpool today means that the entire big four of England are in the Champions League quarterfinals; and extraordinary achievement.

Of the four, Liverool was the least likely to make it this far considering its roller-coaster season domestically. But clearly, Rafa Benitez has built his team to win this tournament, and he's admitted that he's more suited for coaching life outside the EPL. Should Liverpool give up its 2-0 first-leg advantage and be bounced out, Rafa is likely to follow the Reds right out the door at Anfield.

This would only add to the anxiety surrounding the club, whose owners are at odds over selling their respective shares to a consortium from Dubai. This is truly an injustice to the fan. The front-office discord is unhealthy; the on-field inconsistency is maddening to watch and the tease that is a sixth European championship is seductive.

I've always been one to root for the good story, and clearly here, the better tale is Liverpool getting in and running the table. Not only would Liverpool fans get a title, but it would be near impossible to ditch Rafa.

All indications are that Liverpool should manage to get through. Behind the fabulous Fernando Torres, the Reds haven't lost in the Premiership since late January, and the only blemish on its record is its monumental 1-0 loss to Barnsley in the FA Cup. Liverpool has scored 15 goals in its last five matches and has won four in a row.

Oh You Beauty examines today's match from a technical viewpoint, concentrating on Rafa's 4-2-3-1 alignment.

EPL Talk, meanwhile, says Liverpool has a mountain to climb; we'll see.

Italian Soccer Serie A has the 19 Inter players called up for today's match.

101 Great Goals has a rundown from the English press
on the match.

Champions League The Offside has a preview as well.

Same goes for Great Red North.

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Interesting Poll Results

Some of you who stop by regularly may notice that I regularly put up a poll. It's usually a fun thing for me, and I can pretty much guess how it's going to turn out.

The last one has me flummoxed, however. I asked where you think Jose Mourinho may end up, and while this is hardly scientific or even remotely close to a worthy sample, four of the nine who voted said Liverpool.

Honestly, I would have expected Barcelona to be the runaway winner, and if there was going to be an underdog winner, I would have pinned my hopes on the Portuguese national team; but Liverpool?

I'll repost the results here since the poll will eventually disappear:

Liverpool 4 votes (44%)
Barcelona 2 votes (22%)
Portugal 1 vote (11%)
Benfica 1 vote (11%)
Porto 1 vote (11%)
AC Milan 0 votes (0%)
Other 0 votes (0%)


I'll speculate here that I have some loyal readers who are Liverpool diehards and those folks voted with their hearts. My head still tells me Barcelona or even AC Milan, which got ZERO votes in my informal survey.

But it would be interesting to see him land at Anfield; perhaps from there he could carry out his "kill Chelsea" promise.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Upset Alert: Manchester United Out of FA Cup

Portsmouth upsets Manchester United 1-0. Sulley Muntari's penalty kick in the final 15 minutes ends the Red Devils' treble dreams. Sir Alex started Tomasz Kuszczak in goal, but he was red-carded for taking down former Liverpool scorer Milan Baros.

See the highlights at Footballocks.
RedRants laments United's tough April schedule.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

It's been a gloriously busy week in football and here on my little space; furious traffic, lots of interest--would really love to see more comments, but hey, I cannot get greedy. Time to share some of the love with my semi-regular look at who's saying what in the football blogosphere. Click through often to these other guys, they've got great things to say.

  • JonnySaunders' blog has an insightful post on the decline in scoring in football and the impact the 4-5-1 formation has had on the game. Anyone seen a 4-3 game lately?
  • MySoccerBlog reports that Fabio Cappello will be in Dallas to watch the LA Galaxy-FC Dallas friendly on March 15, and that could be a barometer as to whether David Beckham gets the call for England's March 26 friendly against France, which would be Beckham's 100th cap. He also confirms the U.S. will host Argentina June 8 at Giants Stadium.
  • Wondering about the name of the new St. Louis franchise? Wonder no more: MLS Rumors has it. I won't give it away.
  • Liverpool diehard Oh You Beauty looks at the upcoming weekend in the Premier League. Gotta think he's anxious for next week's Champions League second leg against Inter. Will there be four English teams in the quarterfinals--a first for the tournament?
  • Talking to the Doll is in mourning today after Benfica's dreadful UEFA Cup performance at home yesterday, losing to Getafe 2-1. Benfica heads to Spain next Thursday in a big hole. Big picture here: Benfica is second in Portugal, Getafe 10th in Spain. Pretty big statement about the gap between the two leagues.
  • 101 Great Goals has a great mix of takes today--as usual--starting with the calamity that was Bremen keeper Tim Wiese yesterday, to a strange red card call in a Copa Libertadores match, to Sepp Blatter and the 39th game. Must-read stuff.
  • Kartik and US Soccerspot pits the Championship against MLS. Read on for the winner...
  • Finally, for a solid UEFA Cup roundup, check out The Offside.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

UEFA Cup: Bayern Munich Crushes Anderlecht

Bayern Munich is pouring it on Anderlect, 5-0, in the first leg of their round-of-16 matchup. Bayern has scored twice in the first half, and with five away goals, it has booked passage for the quarterfinals.

Five players have scored for the Germans.

Even scarier? Bayern is doing it minus four regulars: Oliver Kahn, Lucio, Ze Roberto and Marcell Jansen. This one's over, and so may be this tournament.

UEFA Cup Round of 16 First Leg Preview

For sheer intrigue, it's no secret I'm a fan of this year's UEFA Cup. I'm under no illusion that it's better than the Champions League, but I am willing to argue this tournament may be more competitive than the race for the big-eared cup.

Tottenham, already having won the Carling Cup this year, isn't settling for just one piece of silverware. Juande Ramos' magical touch has his players talking confidently about winning the UEFA Cup. Goalie Paul Robinson isn't fazed by PSV six point lead over Ajax in the Dutch league and says there's no reason Spurs cannot go all the way. Spurs are home in the first leg and need a quick start and cannot afford to go to Holland needing an away goal to advance.

As for the German clubs; not only do Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg keep it in-country with a spicy tie, but Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich have to travel to legendary Belgian club Anderlecht, which already has one of these shiny cups on its mantle. Werder Bremen, meanwhile, is the sleeping giant here only four back on Bayern for first place. It must go to Scotland and face Rangers. Bremen may be without two starters, Hugo Almeida and Ivan Klasnic. Both will be evaluated prior to the match. Rangers is four points up on Celtic in the Scottish Premier League and haven't lost since December when Lyon beat them in the Champions League and Hibernian domestically.

Sporting Lisbon, struggling to find its form at home, has had no such problems in the UEFA Cup after destroying Basel in the first knockout round. Sporting was put in a thankless group in the Champions League with Manchester United and Roma, and it held Roma to a 2-2 draw in the last match, beat Dyanamo Kiev twice and lost a pair of one-goal decisions to United. At Bolton today, Sporting runs into a team struggling to avoid relegation. The Wanderers have lost three straight in the Premier League, yet managed a 1-0 win and a scoreless draw against Atletico Madrid to stay alive in the UEFA Cup.

Benfica is the other Portuguese team alive. Ironically, Benfica and Sporting tied 1-1 over the weekend. Benfica needed a miracle to escape the first knockout round against Nuremburg. It travels to Getafe of Spain. Benfica is second to F.C. Porto domestically, while Getafe is middle of the table and has two wins and four draws in its last seven matches.

Fiorentina-Everton pairs two fourth-place Champions League contenders; Fiorentina coming off a 3-2 win over Juventus over the weekend, while Everton has won five straight and is undefeated in seven straight.

Marseille and Zenit St. Petersburg clash again; the Russian side eliminated Marseille a year ago.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Live Blogging: Champions League -- Chelsea-Olympiacos

Random thoughts while watching Chelsea-Olympiacos:

  • Cudicini starting in place of the injured Cech; he's yet to give up a goal in two appearances in the tournament.
  • Joe Cole barely offside as Drogba shreds the Greek defense
  • Olympiacos' fullbacks apparently are still on the bus from the hotel. Sloppy, risky tactics nearly gave one up on Ashley Cole's cross, now they were sleeping on Lampard's cross and Ballack heads it into the goal, 1-0 Chelsea; anyone else smell an ugly rout?
  • Is it possible to get four English teams into the Champions League quarterfinals
  • Ashley Cole continues to be a terror from the back.
  • Defensively, Paulo Ferreira has looked a little shaky on the other side of the field from Cole.
  • Chelsea goes up 2-0, and it's essentially over. Ballack thumps a big shot off the Greek keeper, but Lampard is downright lonely in front of the goal and finishing it into the empty net.

Champions League: Chelsea-Olympiacos: Grant's Moment of Truth?

Chelsea hosts Olympiacos in the return leg of its round-of-16 tie with Olympiacos today (2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2 live). The teams drew 0-0 in Greece, putting the visitors at a slight advantage today (see AC Milan-Arsenal) because of the away-goal rule.

For all the criticism heaped on Avram Grant, Chelsea has been in pretty fair form for the better part of three months. Losing the Carling Cup final was a big hiccup, but one has to wonder how much of a priority it was for the Blues since they're still very much alive in the Champions League and FA Cup, and still have a prayer in the Premiership.

Since losing Dec. 16 1-0 to Arsenal, Chelsea has lost only once--to Tottenham in the Carling Cup--and tied three other matches. It has won 13 times during that stretch, including nine in a row before tying Portsmouth Feb. 2. Only Arsenal's hot start and United's tremendous form have kept Chelsea at bay in the Premiership. Chelsea has 58 points, seven back of Arsenal.

At home today, Chelsea certainly has momentum in its favor; it even got a reversal on Frank Lampard's red card, meaning he won't be missing from the team due to suspension.

Yet for all these positives, Grant is still under the spotlight. His starting eleven is the biggest concern. Will Joe Cole play? What is Anelka's role? Is John Terry at top form? When will he finally pair up Drogba with Anelka?

Chelsea The Offside speaks from the heart when he says today that failure is not an option for Grant--a 4-1-2-1-2 with Drogba and Anelka?

CL The Offside points out that for the first time in a long time Chelsea is healthy, and with a wealth of superstars available--27 he says--that the Blues should sweep into the quarterfinals 2-0. They also offer predictions on the rest of today's matches.

The Times Online blog, meanwhile, has an interesting read on Chelsea's untouchables. Ignoring the just awkward, awful prose for a second, he lists Makelele, Essien, Lampard, Ballack, Terry, Carvalho, Drogba, Cech and Ashley Cole as the original list of irreplaceable players. If anyone finds the point to this blog posting, please let me know, but I think the point's he's desperately trying to make is that Essien and Drogba are keepers, the rest, well, aren't, I guess?

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Today's Champions League TV Listings

If you're in the U.S., ESPN, as usual, is the only destination available. If you're a Derek Rae-Tommy Onionbags aficianado, then the top listing is for you!

Chelsea-Olympiacos, 2:45 p.m.ET
(replay at 7 p.m. ET on Deportes)

ESPN Deportes
Real Madrid-Roma, 2:45 p.m. ET
F.C. Porto-Schalke 04, 4:45 p.m. ET

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

UPDATE: Live Blogging: Champions League, AC Milan--Arsenal--Gunners Lead 1-0

Random thoughts while watching the second half of Milan-Arsenal.

  • We've now entered that period when neither teams wants to make a horrible mistake
  • Kaka has been Milan's only serious threat; four guys on him and he gets a shot off just wide. Very little support however
  • It will be a shame if Arsenal is eliminated. And Milan is pressing more, but of little quality.
  • This isn't just a throwaway line: Is the referee willing to make a crucial call against Milan in its home stadium? And vice-versa?
  • Inzaghi comes out of the game
  • Eboue comes out for Arsenal
  • Justice Served! Fabregas with a bomb from outside the box ends Milan's reign. An unstoppable one-hop to the back of the net in the only spot he could score. Fabregas has been Arsenal's best player today; he's called for the ball all game, he's been the only one willing to take shots on goal, he's justly the one to score!
  • UPDATE: Adebayor doubles the lead and the shame for the reigning champs. What a result, coming to Milan and winning 2-0. Truly a watershed moment for Milan.

Live Blogging: Champions League, AC Milan--Arsenal--Halftime

Random thoughts while watching today's Champions League second-leg round-of-16 match between AC Milan and Arsenal

At 20 minutes:
  • How desperate will Wenger get? Will Van Persie play?
  • Milan snared twice in Arsenal's offside trap. Will it ultimately fail?
  • Wow, Adebayor with the first legitimate Arsenal chance; tipped over by Kalac
  • Arsenal's forwards are doing an excellent job of denying Milan escape from its own end. Every short and long ball is challenged, many blocked
  • Fabregas is the only Arsenal player consistently calling for the ball and willing to shoot.
  • How do the Milan supporters whistle for that long? This is agonizingly patient offense from Arsenal
  • Kleb colored yellow for a dive. Should have been a foul, at worst outside the box.
  • Fabregas hits the bar; a matter of time for Arsenal. This has been a good 10 minutes of pressure.
  • Is it me, or is Adebayor playing awfully wide today?
  • Give Arsenal credit; it's obligated to attack and that's just what it's done. It should be up at least 2-0 with Adebayor's near miss, Fabregas' ball off the bar.
  • It will be interesting if the Gunners score whether Milan can crank it up and score the two goals it would need.
  • Gotta love the ESPN leaps to conclusions that Milan is tired, and the Japan trip is to blame.
  • How does Milan adjust at the half? Who comes in?

Live Blogging: Champions League, AC Milan--Arsenal

Random thoughts while watching today's Champions League second-leg round-of-16 match between AC Milan and Arsenal

  • Looks like the biggest change from the first leg is that Arsenal will start Almunia in goal in place of Lehmans, who played well in the first match.
  • Clarence Seedorf is out injured; Inzaghi is in his place. Kaka is also in the Milan lineup
  • Milan testing the Arsenal back line early; Inzaghi called for an offside on a long ball over the top, but message sent.
  • Is ESPN's Derek Rae actually pretending he's in Italy? Don't insult our intelligence.
  • Quality tackle from Fabregas on Kaka
  • Kleb gets the first shot off, mile high and wide
  • Pato shows some flash in earning a corner; Fabregas saves Arsenal from going down early on the corner
  • Three corners in the first 10 minutes for Milan; is the goal a matter of time? Pirlo's corner services aren't of the best quality so far.
  • Adebayor settles a long ball and drops it for Diaby who wasn't accurate with a good opportunity. Would have liked to have seen him take the shot once he had the Milan fullback down.
  • Maldini's quality cross to Inzaghi is precious; Inzaghi gets nothing on his shot however.
  • Both teams coming hard for the first goal.
  • Is it me, or does Adebayor look a little sleepy?
  • Amazing exchange, starting with a great defensive stop, a 60-meter run and cross to Pato who shot weakly on goal for Milan.
  • Inzaghi is such a scorer, always in position to threaten. Senderos' pass was on boot, cleared nicely.

Starting Eleven: AC Milan-Arsenal

AC MilanArsenal
16 Zeljko Kalac (G) (G) Manuel Almunia 24
13 Alessandro Nesta (D) (D) William Gallas 10
3 Paolo Maldini (D) (D) P. Senderos 6
4 Kakha Kaladze (D) (D) Gaël Clichy 22
44 Massimo Oddo (D) (D) Bacary Sagna 3
8 I. Gattuso (M) (M) Alexander Hleb 13
21 Andrea Pirlo (M) (M) Emmanuel Eboue 27
23 M. Ambrosini (M) (M) F. Fabregas 4
22 Kaká (M) (M) Mathieu Flamini 16
9 Filippo Inzaghi (F) (M) V. Abou Diaby 2
7 Pato (F) (F) E. Adebayor 25

Champions League Round-of-16: Second Leg Predictions

Since I did so well with my first-leg predictions [where is that sarcasm font?], I'll give it another go with the second leg:


AC Milan 1, Arsenal 0 (0-0)
Barcelona 2, Celtic 0 (2-3)
Sevilla 1, Fenerbache 1 (2-3)
Manchester United 2, Lyon 0 (1-1)


FC Porto 2, Schalke 0 (0-1)
Real Madrid 1, Roma 1 (1-2)
Chelsea 2, Olympiacos 1 (0-0)


Inter 1, Liverpool 0 (0-2)

[First leg result in parenthesis]
[Advance to quarterfinals in bold]

Can Arsenal Recover In Time Beat Milan and Advance?

Priorities and ironies: that's the landscape decorating today's AC Milan-Arsenal Champions League match. San Siro in Milan is the literal setting, but figuratively it's a fascinating match.

Arsenal comes in leading the Premier League by one point, while Milan is fifth in Serie A, 18 points behind Inter Milan. Milan spent the first half of the season unable to win at home, and was quickly reduced to an afterthought in Serie A, despite its standing as reigning European champions. Arsenal, on the other hand, could not have begun this season any better, quickly overtaking Liverpool for the Premier lead, and as recently as early February, led the league by more than five points.

Yet today, should Arsenal advance, it would be a monumental achievement. The Gunners haven't won since Feb. 11, and since, have been upended by Man. U. in the FA Cup (4-0) and lost Eduard, one of its bright young stars, to a horrific leg injury. It could not score in the first leg of this round-of-16 tie with Milan and needs an away goal against the defense-happy Rossoneri.

This game is a shining example of what competitions clubs prioritize, and how that strategy can backfire.

Arsenal put out a less-than-stellar side against Man. U. in its FA Cup match and was smashed. The thinking was that the Gunners were resting players for the first leg against Milan a few days after the FA Cup match. Manager Arsene Wenger messed up his team's momentum and continuity, and Arsenal has not recovered since. He could not have anticipated the emotional impact of the Eduardo injury--not to mention the hole his absence leaves in the Arsenal lineup. Arsenal is reeling, and in what was thought to have been a potential treble season, Arsenal could be left without silverware by the time May 15 rolls around.

Milan on the other hand, conceded Serie A with a wink and a nod and inwardly said it would focus on a repeat championship in Europe. Milan's style and experience are built for this kind of tournament, and it shows in Milan's results. Milan breezed through its group, nicked only by Celtic and a 1-1 draw at Benfica. In the interim, it also won the World Club Championship and a down-time trip to Asia to win the world title.

It will be ironic later tonight if Arsenal is excused from the Champions League. But ultimately, if that's the case, it will have been a matter of priorities.

Gunner Blog has the right perspective: It's a chance for Arsenal to make history.
Reuters' soccer blog looks at the priorities issue.
101 Great Goals has a look at the English papers putting the heat on Cesc Fabregas.
Arsenal FC Blog says, surprise!, that no second-leg match lives up to Milan-Arsenal.
Soccer By Ives previews today's matches.
Arsenal List has a short preview.

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Champions League: Can Real Overtake Roma?

Real Madrid is seriously hobbled going into to morrow's second leg of its Champions League round-of-16 tie with Roma. About the only positive in Real's corner is that La Liga's leaders are home today--oh yeah, they get Robinho back too.

Roma edged Real in the first leg, 2-1, but today it won't have Ruud VanNistelrooy, nor Arjen Robben, both out with injuries.

Robinho returned over the weekend, and scored in Real's 3-2 win over Huelva. But the hotter team has to be Roma, which demolished Parma, 4-0, and now trails Inter Milan by six points in Serie A.

Roma is in great shape, and is a darkhorse to win the whole thing. It's all about timing when you get to knockout rounds; and aside from Manchester United, there may not be a hotter team in Europe than Roma.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Barcelona Abused by Atletico; Juventus Loses; Bayern Beats Schalke

A couple of hours ahead of the Lisbon derby between Sporting and Benfica, let's look at what shapes up to be another great race in Spain, the curious case of Barcelona, and a trip around Europe.

How does Barcelona get absolutely abused at Atletico Madrid, 4-2. This was a 4-1 game for a long time after Ronaldhino's spectacular bicycle kick goal to open the scoring. Real Madrid, meanwhile, wins 3-2 against Huelva.

Barca is five points back of Real, which inched closer to a second straight title, added more mud to Frank Rijkaard's future at Barcelona. Is Jose Mourinho packing yet? He should be.

Dropping three points a few weeks ahead of what would have been a decisive derby between Barca and Real is good enough for me if I'm president Juan Laporte.

Manchester United gained two points on Arsenal after its 3-0 win over Fulham, and Aston Villa's 1-1 draw at the Emirates. United is a point behind the Gunners for the Premiership lead.

The other spicy race in England is for fourth where Liverpool and cross-town rivals Everton are tooth-and-nail for the final Champions League spot.

Fiorentina upset Juventus this morning, 3-2. Inter Travels to Napoli in about a half hour. Milan continues to slide, tying with Lazio yesterday 1-1, while Roma beat up Parma, 4-0. Inter must win to keep its eight-point edge over Roma.

Bayern beat Schalke04 1-0 to put coach Mirko Slomka's tenure at Schalke in deep peril. A loss Wednesday to Porto and ouster from the Champions League is likely the final straw there. Bayern is four points up on Werder Bremen.