AVB in a pickle

Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat in their Champions League last 16 game against Napoli has further weakened the position of their beleaguered manager, Andre Villas-Boas.

The decision to omit both Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard from the starting line-up attracted attention, not least given the incessant speculation about the mutinous behaviour of several senior players at Stamford Bridge. By contrast, the decision to omit Fernando Torres, barely raised an eyebrow.

Of the English duo’s exclusion, Villas-Boas confirmed that both were disappointed not to start, although he didn’t elaborate on claims that they, along with Michael Essien, had been left out because they had been openly critical of his methods before the game.

“I had a conversation with Ashley and Frank before the game,” Villas-Boas said.

“As normal, given the players they are and the experience they have, they felt they could have helped the team. That’s perfectly understandable. In the end, Ashley had the opportunity to come on for [José] Bosingwa with his injury [after 11 minutes with a pulled hamstring], and Lamps later on in the game. Of course they were disappointed but they were decisions they have to accept and move on.”

The result did little to justify Villas-Boas’ selection but in his defence, neither Cole nor Lampard, could claim they made a difference when they did come on.

Pitch imperfect

In a move that is unlikely to enhance its’ credibility, the inaugural edition of India’s Premier League Soccer (PLS), has been postponed because there was not enough time to prepare the pitches.

The six-team competition, modelled on the hugely successful Indian Premier League cricket tournament, was scheduled to start on March 24, but the organisers said they could not secure the stadiums owned by the state government on Punjab.

“Discussion is on with the state government but even if it is sorted out by the end of this week, we would need time to prepare the fields,” Dharamdutt Pandey, CEO of the event management company which conceived PLS, said.

The league is now looking at a mid-April start, although there are fears that it could go the way of IPL-style motor racing league which was forced to defer its start until next year because of logistic issues.

World Cup boost

Several places today carry an interesting and heartening piece detailing Brazil’s attempt to use the 2014 World Cup as a way of improving the lives of some of the country’s forgotten people.

As part of enlightened series of programmes intended to create a positive social legacy from the World Cup, those with limited opportunities, including 2200 prisoners, are being offered opportunities to improve their prospects. In contrast, London’s Olympic legacy appears to comprise a free football ground for West Ham United.

You can read full details of the Brazilian scheme here.

Players strike hits national team

The players’ strike in Peru which left the opening weekend of the first division championship in chaos has already hit the country’s national team, argues coach Sergio Markarian.

With a friendly against Tunisia scheduled for next week, the Uruguayan was forced to train without five San Martin players. Their absence was caused by the dissolution of the club whose board decided to withdraw from the league (ADFP) rather than accede to demands from the players’ union (SAPAF).

“San Martin’s withdrawal and everything that’s happened is lamentable. It’s been a kind of domino (effect) of bad decisions,” Markarian was quoted as saying by the El Comercio.

“I will face an international match with players who have not played for three months. We are giving (Tunisia) an advantage.”

Hotel named after Gerrard

A hotel in Indonesia has been named after Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard. The Stevie G hotel in Badnung was opened in 2011, with much of the building’s interior being Liverpool-related.

One room, the ‘This is Anfield‘ suite, is dedicated of the club’s players past and present and includes life size portraits of Kenny Dalglish, the current manager and former strikers, Michael Owen, Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and of the current crop, Uruguayan Luis Suarez. Guaranteed to give you nightmares.

Other football-themed hotels in the pipeline include the Fernando Torres: expensive and comes with an untouched (mosquito) net; the Mario Balotelli: experience fireworks in the bedroom, literally!; the Sir Alex Ferguson: you can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave; the Ronaldinho: seen better days, but the mini bar is five star.

In the money

Manchester United’s latest financial figures show that their revenues for the last six months of 2011 increased to £175m.

That figure represents an increase of £18.5m on the Old Trafford club’s income for the same period last year.

The Premier League club said debt was £439m at the end of 2011, less than the £508m reported 12 months previously.

So, while they are no longer able to compete at the highest level to sign the best players, at least they are having no trouble servicing the debt imposed upon them by the Glazers takeover.

Which will come as relief to their supporters when they sit down to watch their Europa League tie against Ajax on Channel 5 on Thursday.

Quote of the day

“I wish to apologise sincerely and unreservedly to everybody I have let down and to whom my actions over the last few months have caused offence. My wish is to concentrate on playing football for Manchester City.”

Five months after he refused to play against Bayern Munich and three months after his self-imposed exile in Argentina, Carlos Tevez finally makes his peace with Manchester City.

Goal of the day

Mauro Diaz scored a marvellous long range effort in Union Espanola’s 3-1 Libertadores Cup win over Bolivar.

What’s in a name?

Twelve MPs have appealed for Newcastle United to reconsider their decision to change the name of St James’ Park, calling it “corporate vandalism”.

The group signed a House of Commons motion, condemning the change of name in favour of the instantly forgettable and utterly insipid, Sports Direct Arena.

The removal of the old St James’ Park signage outside the ground sparked anger and one supporter responded by painting the traditional name, only for the club to whitewash the grafitti.

Newcastle say the decision to rename the stadium is just a temporary measure as they seek a longer, more lucrative deal over naming rights. Managing director Derek Llambias hopes the rebranding will generate up to £10m a year.

One suspects that the loss to the club’s reputation will be significantly greater.


The loneliness of the long distance fan. The distance between Recife, home of Santa Cruz to Porto Alegre, home of Gremio, is approximately 2300 miles, so it’s no great surprise that few away fans would make the trip.

One hardy soul was undeterred though: Santa Cruz fan Tiago Rech was the sole away fan at the Olimpico Monumental when the two sides met the other day.

“When I got in I realised it was just me and four police,” he said. “But it was worth it. When we scored I didn’t care I was alone. I screamed and went for it. That’s when I saw the journalists looking at me. On the radio later they talked of ‘the dance of the lone fan of Santa Cruz’. It was a great day.”

The clip comes courtesy of 101greatgoals.com