CHI’s Best XI of February 2008: Toni, Heitinga, Howard, and Gerrard.

Luca Toni – Bayern Munich (FW)

lucatoniap_468x591.jpg

First Selection

Toni’s February had its’ ups and downs, but his goals came at the right moments. Four in all as Bayern overcame a crowded month and got the results they needed to stay within the UEFA Cup as well as the Bundesliga race. The tall Italian striker hit for a hat-trick against Hannover 96 mid-month, but his only other league goal in was a bit more decisive – the eventual game-winner versus a tough and more organized Hansa Rostock. He also found the time to strike for the first goal in a 3-1 win over Portugal for the Italian national team. Toni has found his niche in Munich, but none of that would be possible without the service of Ribery, Schweinsteiger, and Klose. Goals: (2/1) vs. Hansa Rostock, (2/6) vs. Portugal, 3 vs. Hannover 96 (2/17)

Fernando Cavenaghi – Bordeaux (FW)

First Selection

A relative unknown (unless of course you have played Football Manager at some point), Cavenaghi is back to his pre-Russia form. The Argentine stuck it out in the cold at Spartak Moscow until a Bordeaux forked over the cash for the striker. His start in Ligue One was slow, but he has since found sizzling form and February was an extension of that. Although Bordeaux crashed out of the UEFA Cup with a 3-2 aggregate loss to Anderlecht, their form within Ligue One has Lyon sweating bullets. Cavenaghi made sure of that by hitting for two important braces against Metz and Monaco (a 6-0 blitz). With 13 goals overall this season, Cavenaghi along with David Bellion have Bordeaux only three points away from the French giants. Goals: 2 vs. Metz (2/9), 2 goals vs. Monaco (2/17), 1 goal vs. Anderlecht (UEFA Cup, 2/21)

Marco Borriello – Genoa (FW)

0jozrq8a-346x212.jpg

First Selection

Genoa could not have had the February it did without the 5 goals an Borriello is the definition of Serie A’s journeyman, having been cast aside by AC Milan on many occasions in the form of loans to Triestina, Torino, etc. Genoa, in fact, co-owns Borriello and have really reaped the rewards of giving the AC Milan striker a shot as they now sit in 8th after being promoted just this season. He has hit for 16 league goals and sits at the top of the Serie A scoring charts. Marco’s February followed suit with his second hat-trick versus Udinese this season and a couple noteworthy penalty conversions. The abundance of goals comes from Borriello making up for lost time and it doesn’t look to stop any time soon.

Xavi – Barcelona (MF)

xavi.jpg

First Selection

Even a team of stars needs that overshadowed player to decide a game for them every once in a while. February was a month in which Barcelona needed Xavi most and he delivered with a couple timely goals as Barca tries to keep pace with Real Madrid. The first was an 88th minute strike that broke a frustrating deadlock versus Osasuna. His second came about a week later against Sevilla away from home Xavi overcame Diego Capel’s early strike in the 76th minute to give Barca a hard-earned point. He was also instrumental in Barca’s 5-1 romp over Levante adding a goal and having a hand in two others, but a lot of Xavi’s play goes unnoticed organizing the midfield, winning challenges, and breaking defenses. One thing is for sure, if there was no Xavi – Barca would be up to 4 points further behind Real at the top.

Marcelinho – VfL Wolfsburg (MF)

marcelinho_1_1024x768.jpg

First Selection

Between Marcelinho and Grafite creating up front and Alexander Madlung patrolling in the back, Wolfsburg could not have asked for a better February. Marcelinho was the driving force in pushing a sluggish Wolfsburg back into Bundesliga’s mid-table. The aging Brazilian regained his form that saw him called up several times for the Brazilian national team, providing several game-winning assists (to Grafite no less) and an important goal in the process. The most important being an extra-time winner versus Hamburg in the quarterfinals of the DfB Pokal.

Steven Gerrard – Liverpool (MF)

steven_gerrard_liver_38410a.jpg

First Selection

Okay, okay, okay…we all know that Barnsley upset Liverpool to push through in the FA Cup, but if there was one Red that wasn’t going to let that ruin their month it would be Gerrard. If you take a step back and look at it, Liverpool didn’t have that bad of a month. Save the loss to Barnsley, Liverpool blanked Inter Milan 2-0 in Champions League action, (with return leg tomorrow) deadlocked Chelsea, and beat both Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Gerrard was the foundation, along with Javier Mascherano. The midfielder also scored the crucial second goal against Inter, fed Fernando Torres on several of his February goals, and inspired his team to keep in the hunt for a Champions League spot next year.

Diego Capel – Sevilla (MF)

ucapel.jpg

First Selection

Anyone could have picked Luis Fabiano, but that’s only if they forgot Diego Capel’s early February performance (2/9) versus Barcelona. He turned on, twisted, and borderline embarrassed a normally organized Barca defense. The young Capel along with Luis Fabiano led a small resurgence of Sevilla within La Liga and their only real hiccup of the month was a 3-2 away loss to Fenerbahce in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. Capel’s play even prompted a personal acknowledgement to the media stating that he is happy to be Rojiblanco and agreed that he was, in fact, ‘on fire’. Between Dani Alves and the 20-year old Capel, they account for over half of Sevilla’s service. Therefore – Luis Fabiano? Kanoute? You now know who you have to thank…

Phil Jagielka – Everton (MF/DF)

2112296234-soccer-uefa-cup-round-32-everton-v-sk-brann-goodison.jpg

First Selection

David Moyes is quickly becoming a guru at picking up lower league talent and turning it into Premiership quality. Jagielka, formerly of Sheffield United, is one of those finds and has somehow found his way into the already crowded Everton midfield of Arteta, Carsley, Cahill, Fernandes, and Osman. He is versatile, can switch back to defense and can score goals on occasion. Toffees faithful enjoyed a better February than January and Jagielka owes that to their focus on defense in winning these EPL games. It’s always easy to say let’s just worry about defense when you know you have Yakubu and Andy Johnson up front. Regardless, Jagielka thrives as Everton pushes onward in the UEFA Cup and up the EPL tables. His game-winning goal against Reading didn’t hurt either.

Johnny Heitinga – Ajax Amsterdam (DF)

4899914.jpg

First Selection

The 24-year old Heitinga has had a career month for Ajax as they try and keep pace with a reeling PSV Eindhoven. A nine-point deficit is going to make that pretty difficult. Heitinga has kept them in it, straying from general expectations to do so. In other words, Ajax’s defense has been awful, so Heitinga has taken it upon himself to score. Two goals in a six goal romp over Sparta Rotterdam, the game-winner in a 3-2 victory over NAC Breda, and the first goal in a 3-0 shutout of rivals Feyenoord.

Jonathan Woodgate – Tottenham (DF)

woodgate2_682x400_426550a.jpg

First Selection

Pretty arguable selection but his haphazard goal – a Carling Cup winner versus Chelsea no less – and the resurgence of a Hotspur backline justifies his selection. A little more than a month ago, Woodgate was wallowing in the mediocrity of Middlesbrough (much like Stewart Downing just signed up to do for 4-5 more years). Fast forward a month and he’s playing for a much respected (unless you’re a Sevilla faithful) manager, on a team with a huge upside, and a Carling Cup champion. Plus, we now know what Tottenham looks like WITHOUT Jonathan Woodgate…see March 1st 4-1 beating at the hands of Birmingham.

Tim Howard – Everton (GK)

400x400_timhowardnew.jpg

First Selection (1 Bench Selection)

Howard could have been penciled in as Best XI goalkeeper for January but Iker Casillas got the nod last month instead. Howard continues to consistently turn out results for Everton pushing his team into Champions League contention for next year, a UEFA Cup Round of 16 appearance (so far), and a position for him at the top of EPL goalkeepers . Do you think Sir Alex Ferguson ever wishes he still had Howard or is that just wishful thinking? Howard is responsible for helping the Toffees to a 4-0-1 February with 4 of those 5 games clean sheets. Only goal scored against him was in Everton’s UEFA Cup rout of SK Brann. Shutouts: (4), 2/2 vs. Blackburn, 2/9 vs. Reading, 2/13 vs SK Brann, 2/25 vs. Manchester City

_____________________________________________________________________________________

BENCH: Brad Friedel (GK-Blackburn), Fernando Torres (FW-Liverpool), Joseph Yobo (DF-Everton), Kevin Kuranyi (FW-Schalke 04), Salvador Cabanas – (MF/FW-Club America), Roger (MF/FW-Gremio), Lionel Messi (MF-Barcelona), Dani Alves (DF-Sevilla), Mohamed Aboutraika (MF-Al Ahly), Grafite (FW-VfL Wolfsburg), Hakan Suker (FW-Galatasaray)

See who made the Best XI last month…

Advertisements

EPL Daily 2.12: Gerrard speaks; Agogo on the move?; Friedel takes on Arsenal alone

JUNIOR AGOGO: It looks like Portsmouth are going to be the first EPL club to table a bid for Ghanaian African Nations Cup and former MLS player Junior Agogo. I understand he had a good tournament and has been playing decently for Nottingham Forest, but is he an EPL caliber striker – especially for the likes of Portsmouth? I don’t think so, maybe. John Utaka was there for Nigeria, but did he have any sort of an impact? Nope. You could say the same about Kanu. Anyways, the bid could be for as much as $5 million.

RAFAEL VAN DER VAART: It’s a race for the Hamburg midfielder’s signature and it starts now, long before the summer transfer window even opens. Valued at $30 million, there’s a good chance you could see Van der Vaart in a Chelsea or another Big Four uniform. Italy seems a more likely destination for the former Ajax star.

STEVEN GERRARD: Has urged Liverpool faithful to forget about the EPL title. The Reds, according to Gerrard, need to concentrate on fourth and not getting trumped by Everton or Manchester City. The biggest tidbit to come out of a mass interrogation on Liverpool’s prospects came from former Liverpool midfielder who said to SkySports,

‘I don’t think Liverpool can win it under Rafa Benitez. I think they are further away than they have ever been before. They have got no chance. For Rafa Benitez, the kudos is winning the Champions League. That’s his priority, everything is geared to that. Liverpool under Rafa can beat anyone on their day. But over the course of a league season they struggle.’

Tell us what you really think. The rotation policy seems to not be working though – 1 win in the past 7 EPL games, a raw talent-disgruntled midfielder sent off to Juventus (Sissoko), and several on-the-edge members of the squad (Babel, Crouch) isn’t going to win you a title.

ARSENAL 2, Blackburn 0

Arsenal moved five points clear of second place Manchester United. Philippe Senderos started the scoring in the 4th minute by nodding an Eduardo corner past a sprawling Brad Friedel. The American keeper – who just recently signed a contract extension until 2010 – was the only reason Blackburn kept in this game for so long. It wasn’t until the waning minutes that Emmanuel Adebayor (you had to figure that was coming sooner or later) struck for his 20th EPL goal of the season, 23rd overall. Standings now look like this.

EPL Daily 1.16: Capello to be probed?, Diarra finds a home, and Avram Grant makes his second signing (plus FA Cup replay round-ups!)

FABIO CAPELLO: The new coach of the Three Lions has had to assure people that he will not be joining Joey Barton behinds bars due to tax issues. The claims of a full-scale investigation into Capello’s tax history are coming out of Italy and regarding his time as manager of AS Roma and Juventus. Capello assures his tax affairs are in order.

LASSANA DIARRA: 22-years old and he’s already been to two world-class clubs. In order to get proper playing time, Diarra has now moved on – in a reported $10 million move – to Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth. Kind of seems Diarra’s request for more playing time will come with much competition still as Pompey’s midfield is pretty damn good. Niko Kranjcar, Papa Bouba Diop, and Sully Ali Muntari man the middle – he’s got a chance to Redknapp he deserves it though as both Diop and Muntari are at the African Nation’s Cup.

BIG TRANSFERS: Lyon’s Fred looks to be on his way to White Hart Lane to play for the Hotspur; former Chelsea midfielder Maniche got picked up on loan by Inter Milan;  in some sort of a transfer coup 20-year old Argentinian starlet Mauro Zarate – playing with Al-Sadd in Qatar – could be on his way to rescue Birmingham from the Blues; Chelsea have joined in on the Eastern European fun, by signing their own version of Man Utd success story Nemanja Vidic – this central defender, Branko Ivanovic of Lokomotiv Moscow, is also a Serb, already with a work permit, and worth about $20 million. We’ll see if THAT pans out.

FA Cup Round 3 Replays

Bury 2, Norwich 1

The League Two side sparkled against Championship side Norwich. Dion Dublin found the net for the green and yellow, but it was purely consolation. Bury had already ‘buried’ two – Ben Futcher in the 18th and Andy Bishop in the 61st. A whopping 67% scoring percentage.

Tottenham 1, Reading 0

Robbie Keane the hero – again – although it’s been Berbatov’s name on the scoring charts as of late. Tottenham’s newest signing Chris Gunter got the start and did well, while Bobby Convey played all 90 minutes for the Royals making life difficult for Chimbonda on the right. Hahnemann was given the night off along with some other key players and the Royals still were dangerous, but it was the Hotspur who converted their chances and all it took was one.

Millwall 2, Walsall 1
Zak Whitbread’s squad went on and won with out the American back.

Liverpool 5, Luton Town 0

The first half Reds were silent, but once half-time broke, it was all class. Ryan Babel started things off right. Steven Gerrard then promptly stole the show, unleashing his inner frustrations on the Luton Town defense, scoring three over the course of the second half. Only Sami Hyypia could take the spotlight off of Gerrard for more than a minute when he hit home in the 57th minute, confirming the rout was on. Jamie Carragher played in his 500th game for the Reds.

West Brom 2, Charlton 2 (W.B.A. wins 4-3 in penalties)

The Baggies recovered, after giving up a two goal lead, and won 4-3 in penalties. Darren Ambrose and Chris Dickson led the come back charge for Charlton, only to see their FA Cup hopes dashed after Zheng Zhi’s spot-kick was saved by W.B.A.’s Dean Kiely.

Today’s Games
Havant and Waterlooville vs. Swansea
Tranmere vs. Hereford
Newcastle vs. Stoke (save face Magpies, save face)
Manchester City vs. West Ham United

EPL Daily 12.12: Maurice Edu abroad!?; Capello done…; Gerrard burgled

Fabio Capello – England’s next skipper. Eurosport says it’s as close as you can get to done. BBC Sport is saying the talks are just beginning. Even Ruud Gullit has thrown in his two cents, saying that the Italian could really make a big impact on English football as long as you don’t expect “sexy football”. The English playing “sexy football”, Ruud? HAH!

No real proof as of yet, but the Maurice Edu to Aston Villa rumors are back!! First, the Daily Mirror (crap). Second, Vital Football. It’s picking up steam, but Martin O’Neill has yet to confirm.

Steven Gerrard joins the list of 6 other Liverpool footballers that have been burgled in the past 18 months. His house was hit while he was in France destroying Marseille. Others? Crouch, Dudek, Agger, Kuyt, Reina. Scary part is, Gerrard’s wife was home at the time – first time someone has been in the house. Lucky no confrontation was involved.

Aston Villa defensive stalwart Olaf Mellberg is ready to snub Martin O’Neill and join Juventus. His contract is up in the summer and pre-contract talks can happen in the January transfer window. His thoughts? “Juventus? I can’t deny it.” Well put. Mellberg’s loss could present some sort of mass defensive exodus as Wilfried Bouma, keeper Thomas Sorensen, and Martin Laursen all are awaiting contract talks but could certainly opt for other opportunities as many will be in line to snatch them up.

Gerrard hits boy with car er…boy hits car.

With all this controversy and ill-will towards our keynote speaker Jeff (by the way, I still love you), why not get a small laugh (only small because someone did get hurt) at the misfortune (i.e. bad driving) of Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard.

The Anfield star was driving “very slowly” through Birkdale, Merseyside when a “young boy ran out and hit the side of his car”. First off, the way this is phrased by Gerrard’s spokesperson really stimulates the imagination. Was it a boy sent to do Chelsea’s dirty work by running head-first into Gerrard’s car? Who knows, but how slow is “very slowly”? Better yet, who cares?

No word as to whether or not the little boy – mercenary or not – is going to get front row seats to Liverpool’s Champions League match-up against Marseille this Wednesday.