Leicester City One Step Closer to Immortality: Leicester City drew 1-1 at Man United Sunday, bringing the Foxes to the brink of the Premier League championship. Tottenham must beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday to keep their hopes alive, something Spurs hasn't done in 24 straight matches. Bookmakers offered 5,000-to-1 odds before the season on Leicester City winning the title, which will cost them $14 million if it happens. One of the people who made that bet is the actor Tom Hanks, who bet £100 pounds and stands to win £500,000 ($730,000).
The Fall: It's ostensibly about diving, but that's like saying Moby Dick is about the whale. A great read about how football has changed and is still changing.
Rebecca Lowe Leaving NBCSN Premier League Desk for a While: The face of Premier League soccer in the U.S. is taking a leave of absence during a season that could make history. Rebecca Lowe would rather give birth to her first child than see whether Leicester City can shock the world or Tottenham take its first title since 1961. "Of all the seasons in the Premier League, it's typical that this is arguably been the best one and I won't be there for the end," said Lowe, who is eight and a half months pregnant. Her last game is Sunday's Manchester derby.
Bayer Leverkusen's game descended into chaos after coach Roger Schmidt refused to be sent to the stands: And sure enough, Schmidt is under investigation, as is his boss Rudy Voller. I was actually watching this and, thanks to Fox Deportes not having English SAP, had no idea what was happening until after the game; a very surreal experience.
U.S. Soccer Lawsuit Reveals Home Addresses of USWNT Players: When U.S. Soccer filed suit Wednesday against the player's union representing the U.S. women's national team, the court filing included the home addresses and personal email addresses of many of those players. "It’s very unsettling," said Megan Rapinoe. "To know that someone could show up at your door? That’s extremely unsettling, and it’s something that you can’t get back."
Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 23: The Premiership kicks off with an early Saturday match taking Norwich to Liverpool. Hillbilly F.C. wins the week to retake the lead from Liquid Football in SportsFilter's contest by a razor-thin margin of six points. Top pickups: Newcastle midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (7.0), Man City forward Sergio Aguero (13.3) and defender Bacary Sagna (5.7).
James Fallows Learns Something about British Soccer and Sarcasm: James Fallows, a writer for The Atlantic, didn't get the message that British soccer matches are broadcast on NBC sometimes on Saturday mornings. When he encountered one on his tele-visual apparatus, his shock led him to post this sarcastic joke on Twitter: "We are having English pro soccer on a mainstream US TV network on Sat afternoon? Maybe Cruz/Trump are right. Give us back 'our' America." Guess how it went over.
Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 21: The Premier League returns Tuesday with three games, followed by seven more a day later. Liquid Football holds on to first place by 10 points over Maplewood Town. Players get two free transfers this week. The most popular adds are midfielders Willian of Chelsea, Bamidele Alli of Tottenham and Marko Arnautovic of Stoke City.
Rafael Benítez sacked by Real Madrid with Zinedine Zidane taking over: Florentino Perez, soccer clown extraordinaire, knifed Benitez in the back after just seven months (Okay, Rafa Benítez was not the solution for Real Madrid – he never had been, but still!). Can Zidane manage the superstar egos? Gab Marcotti and Graham Hunter have doubts.
Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 17: The Premier League weekend begins Saturday with six games at 10 a.m. Eastern, including Chelsea's first game without Jose Mourinho at the helm. Our league has a new leader: Liquid Football scores a week-best 78 to claim first and Hillbilly F.C. falls to third. The biggest pickup this week is Newcastle midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (£7.0m) and the biggest drop Man U defender Chris Smalling (£6.9m).
Chelsea Sacks Jose Mourinho: Only 16 games after winning the Premier League, Jose Mourinho has been fired as manager of Chelsea. The Blues lost nine of those games, including a Sunday defeat to Leicester City that prompted Mourinho to say afterwards, "One of my best qualities is to read the game for my players and I feel like my work was betrayed." Mourinho won three title in two stints leading the club and also won the FA Cup and League Cup. In August, club owner Roman Abramovich gave Mourinho a new four year, $19 million a year deal.
U.S. Women's Soccer Wants a Level Playing Field: The World Cup-champion U.S. Women's National Team has been fighting to stop being asked to play on artificial turf -- something that never happens to the men's team. They cancelled a friendly in Honolulu shortly after player Megan Rapinoe tore her ACL on a terrible practice field when they discovered the playing surface was abysmal. The team wrote in an open letter, "We have become so accustomed to playing on whatever surface is put in front of us. But we need to realize that our protection -- our safety -- is priority No. 1. At the end of the day, we expect to be treated equally as our male counterparts. And we hope that, in the future, our fields and our venues will be chosen and inspected at the standard of an international match whether it's men or women playing on the field."
Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 16: Norwich at Everton opens the Premier League weekend early Saturday. In our league, Hillbilly F.C. stays on top for a fourth week, ahead of Liquid Football by 8. Maplewood Town scored a week's best 86 and is in third, 10 points down. Football Fan Cast offers three little-owned differential players for fantasy owners: Everton defender Leighton Baines (£6.1, 2.5% owned), Spurs midfielder Erik Lamela (£6.8m, 0.9%) and Manchester City midfielder David Silva (£10.0, 5.7%).
Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 15: The Premiership begins with an early Saturday match sending Stoke to Man City. In the Spofiship, Hillbilly F.C.'s lead grows to 14 over Liquid Football. Michael Benson of TalkSport radio offers 10 tips on roster moves this week. Benson likes picking up Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld (£5.5m) and Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho (£8.4m) -- though the latter is only 25% likely to play this weekend due to a hamstring issue. He also suggests a Liverpudlian forward swap of Christian Benteke (£8.3m) for Daniel Sturridge (£10.1m). He writes, "Everybody knows what Sturridge can do; it's just a question of how long he can do it for until he next gets injured!"
Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 14: The Premier League weekend kicks off with five games today at 10 a.m. Eastern. In our contest, Hillbilly F.C. holds a nine-point lead over Liquid Football. Last week's best score was Merseyside Ziggurat's 80, which featured a captain-doubled 38 from Everton midfielder Ross Barkley (£7.0m) and 13 from Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho (£8.4m). The week's biggest acquisition target is Everton forward Romelu Lukaku (£8.9m), who has scored 34 points in the past three weeks.
Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 13: The Premier League weekend begins early Saturday when Watford visit those lovable upstarts Manchester United. Hillbilly F.C. keeps first place, leading Liquid Football by 11. But that story's importance is second to the news that my F.C. Conestoga had a week-best 67 points. I did not curse Jamie Vardy by adding him, as I feared would happen. The Leicester unstoppable goal machine's captain-doubled 18 and Man U midfielder Juan Mata's 9 led the squad. For this week, Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil is most-added and West Ham midfielder Dimitri Payet most-dropped. Good luck to all, but primarily me.
Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 12: The Premier League weekend opens early Saturday with Bournemouth at Newcastle. In SportsFilter's Fantasy Premier League Hillbilly F.C. retakes the lead from Polo XI. The week's best score comes from bottom-of-table Garland Bombers, whose 97 points were led by Everton forward Arouna Koné's captain-doubled 40 and Leicester midfielder Riyad Mahrez's 15. The Bombers began the season a week late and are creeping up on Outlaws FC.
U.S. TV viewers for the Premier League broken out by club: Not surprising to see Man United at #1, but Swansea atop City is.
Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 11: Premier League play begins early Saturday with Chelsea at Liverpool. In the SportsFilter league PoloXI holds onto first place for a third week, 12 points ahead of Hillbilly F.C. Hagfish scores a week-best 72 with nine of the starting 11 scoring 5 or more. Top pickups this week: Spurs forward Harry Kane, Leicester forward Jamie Vardy and West Ham midfielder Dimitri Payet. I just picked up Vardy, which is a bad omen for his future success.
Sepp Blatter: Russia 2018 World Cup 'agreed before vote': The suspended FIFA chief continues to crash and burn on his way out, to the extent that I wonder if he will force the destruction/replacement of FIFA by the Feb. 26 vote for his replacement; Marina Hyde calls for exactly that today. Meanwhile, here are your seven
muppets candidates to replace Blatter.
U.S. Will Host 2016 Copa America Centenario: The United States will host the centennial 2016 Copa America, soccer's governing bodies for the Americas announced Friday afternoon. The tournament from June 3-26, 2016 will feature the 10 nations in South America's CONMEBOL along with invitees U.S. and Mexico. This is the first time the U.S. has ever hosted the event.
Fantasy Premier League, Gameweek 10: This week's Premiership has no early Saturday game, so five games kicking off at 10 a.m. Eastern begin the festivities. In our league PoloXI stays in first, increasing his lead over Hillbilly F.C. from 6 to 19 points. Dover Divers scores a week-best 79 because of Arsenal midfielders Alexis Sanchez (a captain-doubled 20) and Mesut Ozil (12) and Leicester forward Jamie Vardy (13). The London tabloid Metro found somebody who had Newcastle midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum as vice captain and Daniel Sturridge as captain on a triple captain week. Sturridge sat and Wijnaldum scored 25 with four goals (20), 90 minutes (2) and a bonus -- so the lucky bastich nets 75 points.
Howard Kendall, the former Everton player and manager, died last week. : This isn't just about him, though. Some of these stories shared by Guardian readers have a way of getting in and warming your soul.
Fantasy Premier League, Week Seven: The Premier League returns from international break Saturday with an early match taking Spurs to face the new heavy metal Liverpool at Anfield in manager Jurgen Klopp's debut. In the SportsFilter league, PoloXI takes first place for the first time with an 110-point week, lifted by captain-doubled Sergio Aguero's 50 points (5 goals!). Hillbilly F.C. stays close in second with 104 points led by captain Kevin De Bruyne's 30 (1 goal, 2 assists). Man City might be good at the soccer.
Fifa Suspends Blatter and Platini: Fifa has provisionally suspended its president Sepp Blatter, secretary general Jerome Valcke and vice-president Michel Platini for 90 days.
Liverpool part ways with Brendan Rogers: In a move that was either four months too late or six months early, another lackluster 1-1 result was the end of a 3+ season tenure for Rogers. Jurgen Klopp, rested after a four month break, is rumored to be first choice to take over after receiving a positive report on LFC from the team's German former midfielder Didi Hamann.
Coke, Bud, McDonald's and Visa Demand Sepp Blatter Quit Immediately: Four of international soccer's major sponsors -- Coca Cola, Budweiser, McDonald's and Visa -- have demanded that FIFA President Sepp Blatter step down immediately, following the news he's under investigation for corruption in Switzerland. "Every day that passes, the image and reputation of FIFA continues to tarnish," Coca-Cola said in a statement. "FIFA needs comprehensive and urgent reform, and that can only be accomplished through a truly independent approach." Blatter has announced his plan to leave when a successor is named in February and his lawyer says he won't resign.
Fantasy Premier League, Week Seven: The Premier League begins early Saturday with seventh-place Crystal Palace visiting West Brom. FC Gallifrey's back atop the Spofiship with a 75-point week, topped only by an 87-point explosion by new second place team EAV FC that should be remembered in song. This feat was accomplished by having Alexis Sanchez (11.1m) as captain on a week he scored 20 points (3 goals, 90 minutes, 3 bonus) and a front line of Olivier Giroud (8.8m), Graziano Pelle (8.0m) and Jamie Vardy (6.6m) who put up 25. There's a lot of carnage on the injury front, with Vincent Kompany (6.3m), Yaya Toure (8.9m) and Callum Wilson (5.8m) all out and Christian Benteke (8.3m) doubtful -- and that's just my team. Sigh.
Fifa scandal: Jack Warner banned for life by FIFA: More than four years after quitting football, the governing body’s ethics committee today announced the outcome of an investigation into Sepp Blatter’s disgraced former vice-president, who is also facing criminal charges in the United States over an alleged £100 million fraud. Warner’s ban begins at the same time as Fifa’s ethics committee examines evidence that could lead to the suspension of Blatter and Michel Platini over a £1.3m suspected criminal payment to the Uefa president.
Fantasy Premier League, Week Six: Spurs visits Man City early Saturday to open the Premier League weekend. Hillbilly F.C. takes first place back from FC Gallifrey. Maplewood Town rockets into third with a 72-point total that's the best in the league for a third straight week (damn!). Man United forward Anthony Martial (£8.3m) has scored 18 points in his first two weeks, inspiring 660,000 owners to pick him up this week. Diego Costa's (£11.0m) three-game ban for persistent douchery put him off 144,000 rosters. The FPL Scout likes Man U midfielder Juan Mata (£8.7m) as a pickup this week. He faces lowly Sunderland at home and has a goal or assist in four of six matches.
Blatter faces criminal investigation: Totally unexpected, eh? Amusingly, one of the indicated counts involves a $2M "disloyal payment" to Michel Platini; Platini said the money was legit and "relates to work which I carried out under a contract with Fifa" and he had clarified matters with the authorities. Of course.
Fantasy Premier League, Week Six: Premier League play begins early Saturday with Chelsea vs. Arsenal. FC Gallifrey holds on to the lead for a second week, seven points ahead of Hillbilly F.C. Maplewood Town and Liquid Football tie for the week's best score at 56 points, led by Leicester midfielder Riyad Mahrez's 11 points -- 22 for Liquid Football in a well-chosen captain double. Mahrez ranks in the top 3 pickups this week alongside Man City defender Aleksandar Kolarov and Everton midfielder Ross Barkley. Top drop: Man U defender Luke Shaw after his broken leg.
Luke Shaw of Man U Suffers Broken Leg in Champions League Match: Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw suffered a don't click this broken leg from a tackle during a Champions League match today against PSV Eindhoven. Hector Moreno caught the leg of the 20-year-old while making what The Telegraph called a "full-blooded tackle."
Fantasy Premier League, Week Five: The international break is over. The Premiership kicks off at 7:45 a.m. Eastern Saturday and roster moves are due an hour earlier. FC Gallifrey takes over first place with a second-best 57-point week led by Man City defender Bacary Sagna (12 points) and Everton keeper Tim Howard (11). Mid-table Maplewood Town had the best week with 59 because of Sagna, Southampton forward Graziano Pelle (9) and Leicester forward Jamie Vardy (8). Not-so-fun fact: My strikers Christian Benteke of Liverpool and Harry Kane of Tottenham are two of the five most dropped players for the gameweek.
Fantasy Premier League, Week Four: Hillbilly F.C. jumps into first place with 155 points, leading PoloXI at 153 and FC Gallifrey at 150. Week 3's dream team was led by Bournemouth forward Callum Wilson, who scored a hat trick and had a 17-point week (owned by 2% a week ago and 13% now). The most popular acquisition is Leicester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez, who already has 35 points (£6.0m cost). Roster moves must be in by 6:45 a.m. Saturday, an hour before Newcastle/Arsenal kicks off the early game.
Fantasy Premier League, Week Three: The Translucent holds on to first place in the SportsFilter Fantasy Premier League, scoring 54 in week 2 for a total of 103. Hillbilly F.C. is close behind at 99. It was a good week to have Everton players, with Romelu Lukaku scoring 13 and both Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman 11. Player selections and transfers are due Saturday morning before Manchester United plays Newcastle at 7:45 a.m. to open the weekend's games.
Welcome to Manchester United, Memphis Just Memphis: The 21-year-old footballer formerly known as Memphis Depay scored his first two goals for Manchester United, turning a 1-0 early deficit to Club Brugge in a Champions League playoff Tuesday into a crucial lead for the home side. Man U won 3-1 and will be sitting pretty in Bruges next week. Memphis could've had a third after being set up at point blank range by a sublime back-heel from Wayne Rooney, but he sent the shot skyward.
Fantasy Premier League, Week Two: The Translucent sit atop SportsFilter's Fantasy Premier League after week 1 with a 57-point performance led by Vincent Kompany (14), Philippe Coutinho (10) and captain Wayne Rooney (10). The deadline for picking your roster this week is Friday at 1:45 Eastern because Manchester United is playing Aston Villa on Friday night, a scheduling move that's a sign of things to come in the Premier League. Starting next season, 10 games a season will play on Fridays.
NBC Lands Premier League for Another 6 Years: NBC and England's Premier League have agreed to a six-year deal that will keep the league on the network's channels through the 2021-22 season. Terms of the deal haven't been announced, but one analyst predicted it would double the $250 million, three-year amount NBC paid to begin broadcasting the Premiership two years ago. NBC and NBCSN averaged 479,000 viewers on league matches last season, which is close to the 491,000 average viewership it pulls for NHL games. That league's TV deal is $2 billion for 10 years.