Scoring Leaders Update: Who’s on form out there?

Austrian Bundesliga
1) Alexander Zickler (Red Bull Salzburg) 12
2) Mario Haas (Sturm Graz) 11
3) Carsten Jancker (Mattersburg SV) 9
4) Ivica Vastiè (LASK Linz) 8
    Hamdi Salihi (SV Ried) 8

Dutch Eredivisie
1) Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax) 23
2) Blaise N’Kufo (Twente Enschede) 18
3) Robin Nelisse (FC Utrecht) 13
     Roy Makaay (Feyenoord) 13
     Michael Bradley (Heerenveen) 13
6) Danny Koevermans (PSV Eindhoven) 12
7) Geert Den Ouden (Excelsior) 11
    Afonso Alves (Heerenveen/Middlesbrough) 11
    Marcus Berg (FC Groningen) 11
    Luis Suarez (Ajax) 11

English Championship
1) Kevin Phillips (West Brom) 16
2) Ricardo Fuller (Stoke) 14
     Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (Wolverhampton) 14
4) Clinton Morrison (Crystal Palace) 13
     James Beattie (Sheff Utd) 13
6) Marlon King (Watford/Wigan) 11
     Stern John (Southampton) 11
     Andy Gray (Charlton) 11
    Jonathan Walters (Ipswich) 11

English Premiership
1) Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) 19
    Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd) 19
3) Benjani Mwaruwari (Man City/Portsmouth) 13
4) Robbie Keane (Tottenham) 12
     Fernando Torres (Liverpool) 12
6) Nicolas Anelka (Bolton/Chelsea) 11
     Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn) 11
     Carlos Tevez (Man Utd) 11
9) Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham) 10

French Ligue One
1) Karim Benzema (Lyon) 16
2) David Bellion (Bordeaux) 11
    Mamadou Niang (Marseille) 11
4) Johan Elmander (Toulouse) 10
    Tulio De Melo (Le Mans) 10
6) Djibril Cisse (Marseille) 9
7) Rafik Saïfi (Lorient) 8
    Steve Savidan (Valenciennes) 8
    Daniel Niculae (Auxerre) 8
    Bakari Koné (Nice) 8

German Bundesliga
1) Rafael Van der Vaart (Hamburg SV) 10
    Luca Toni (Bayern Munich) 10
    Diego (Werder Bremen) 10

4) Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich) 9
     Marko Pantelic (Hertha Berlin) 9
     Mladen Petric (Borussia Dortmund) 9
     Stanislav Sestak (VfL Bochum) 9

Greek SuperLeague
1) Darko Kovasevic (Olympiakos) 15
2) Ismael Blanco (AEK Athens) 13
3) Tomasz Radzinski (Xanthi) 11
     Rafik Djeabbour (Panionios) 11
     Dimtris Salpigidis (Panathinaikos) 11
6) Lucio Filomeno (Asteras Tripolis) 8
    Nikos Liberopoulos (AEK Athens) 8

Italian Serie A
1) David Trezeguet (Juventus) 15
2) Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter Milan) 14
3) Adrian Mutu (Fiorentina) 13
4) Marco Borriello (Genoa) 12
5) Francesco Totti (AS Roma) 10
     Julio Cruz (Inter Milan) 10
     Francesco Tavano (Livorno) 10
8) Amauri (Palermo) 9
     Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus) 9
     Claudio Bellucci (Sampdoria) 9

Portuguese Liga
1) Lisandro Lopez (FC Porto) 13
2) Roland Linz (Braga) 9
3) Joao Paulo Uniao (Leiria) 8
4) Ariza Makukula (Maritimo/Benfica) 7
     Oscar Cardozo (Benfica) 7
6) Nuno Gomes (Benfica) 6
     Edinho (Vitoria Setubal/AEK Athens) 6
     Marcelinho (Naval) 6

Scottish Premiership
1) Scott McDonald (Celtic) 17
2) Barry Robson Dundee United) 11
     Noel Hunt (Dundee United) 11
     Andrius Velicka (Hearts) 11
5) Kris Boyd (Rangers) 9
     David Clarkson (Motherwell) 9
     Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (Celtic) 9

Spanish La Liga
1) Luis Fabiano (FC Sevilla) 16
2) Diego Milito (Real Zaragoza) 14
3) Ruud van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid) 12
4) Raul (Real Madrid) 11
    Guiza (Mallorca) 11
    Nihat (Villarreal) 11
7) Raul Tamudo (Espanyol) 10
    Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal) 10
    Joseba Llorente (Valladolid) 10

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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.

CHI’s Best XI of January 2008: Eto’o, Lescott, Casillas, etc.

Well I wanted a new feature this year and, after a long thought process (about a minute or so) I opted for the one that would cause me to get laughed at/yelled at/argued with the most (and guess what? that’s the point). So tell me who I missed, who I should watch out for, and ways to make this more efficient. There is a bit of bias involved and understandably a Thierry Henry could go on there, but let’s just say this is heavily based on statistics for the current month. Winter breaks in Italy/Germany make for a rather England/Spain-centric presence in this month’s rankings.

Samuel Eto’o – Barcelona/Cameroon (F)

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No one can argue against Eto’o as the Barca star made his club and country extremely happy in January. Three goals for the club as he fought to stay a couple days longer in Barcelona so as not to lose more ground to La Liga leaders Real Madrid. In doing so, Eto’o contributed three goals in 2 La Liga wins as Barca managed to close the gap marginally. He then reported for international duty and in the opening (and jarring) loss to Egypt, Eto’o provided a consolation brace. The Indomitable Lions then recovered and dispatched of Zambia (5-1) and the Sudan (3-0), with Eto’o providing three more goals and securing the African Nations Cup All-Time Leading Goalscorer title.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United (F)

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NINE goals for the 22-year old. It’s hard to believe that only a year and a half ago Ronaldo was almost on his way out of Manchester after a World Cup spat with Wayne Rooney. Not to mention, Ronaldo over the past several years has been oft-criticized for his over-exaggerated play, diving, you name it – he’s been scrutinized for it. January 2008 proved to be the world’s acknowledgment that between him and Kaka there is no one better right now. And 27 goals in 28 games this season proves that…many of them in clutch circumstances. His main victim? Who else but Newcastle…a hat-trick spelled the end for Big Sam but Kevin Keegan hasn’t had much luck either. Goals – 1/5, 1/12 (3), 1/19, 1/27 (2), 1/30 (2)

Emmanuel Adebayor – Arsenal (F)

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The powerful Arsenal striker has had one hell of a January (and a lot of it has do with the fact that he has Cesc and Hleb in the midfield feeding him). Eight goals in total – 5 in EPL play and 3 in the domestic cups. Adebayor’s victim of the month was Newcastle. In the span of three days, Adebayor has scored three times against the down and out Magpies, eliminating them from the FA Cup and pushing them further down the EPL table. Arsenal now sits at the top of the standings and look poised to do more damage as long as the Togan’s form continues. Goals: 1/1, 1/12, 1/19 (2), 1/22, 1/26 (2), 1/29

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Can anyone stop Adebayor? Fulham sputters…

1. Newcastle’s defense certainly couldn’t – they almost looked like they needed Oguchi Onyewu who played pretty poorly on loan with them about a year ago.

2. Not even his own teammates can stop him – and as you saw, Nicklas Bendtner tried.

What many people forget is that Adebayor was not a high-profile signing. Sure he helped Monaco reach the Champions League final in 2004, but it wasn’t scoring goals at the rate he is right now. The Gunners dispatched Kevin Keegan’s pet project Newcastle in yet another 3-0 romp. Adebayor started off the scoring – his 9th in his last 7 appearances and 19th overall. All that he’s done has prompted Cesc Fabregas to go all man-love on him with Arsene Wenger unleashing the praise as well. Mathieu Flamini and Cesc himself scored the other two goals.

In other action…

Sunderland 2, Birmingham 0

New signing Rade Prica made the difference for Roy Keane. Put in for a struggling Dwight Yorke, Prica pounced on a chance with 30 minutes to go, effectively putting a come-back out of the reaches of the Blues. Daryl Murphy started off the scoring, however, as the Black Cats move 3 points out of relegation. 20-year old Argentinian Mauro Zarate got his first minutes for the Blues, coming on for Cameron Jerome in the 66th minute.

Fulham 0, Bolton 0

The Cottagers had a prime chance to grab three much-needed points. Eddie Johnson was not eligible as paperwork is still being processed, but Clint Dempsey was there and Carlos Bocanegra came on late for new signing Leon Andreasen. It was even through the first half, but with about thirty minutes to go it became Bolton’s game. Fulham’s new defensive hires Andreasen and Brede Hangeland held their own though – helping to stave off a last second defensive lapse (which has been the Fulham trademark this season). Dempsey hasn’t hit the back of the net in over a month. Hopefully the added extra American influence can pick his game back up.

Middlesbrough 1, Wigan 0

An early goal from Jeremie Aliadiere (who doesn’t score much to begin with) proved to be the decider as Boro held off relegation battlers Wigan. I’m sure many were expecting a severely depleted back four with the loss of Jonathan Woodgate to Tottenham, but it held remarkably well (for now). That is certainly not saying that Wigan didn’t have their chances. Marlon King found himself free a couple times with Emile Heskey doing his best to resurrect his productive days. Ultimately, if Boro is going to keep surviving – Afonso Alves is needed up front with Tuncay and they need to make Stewart Downing happy (which isn’t going to happen, to Tottenham maybe?). I have lost interest in Wigan’s relegation fight; their demotion is foregone conclusion to me.

EPL Daily 1.2.08: SAF Lashes Out; Eddie Johnson where?; Rumors; and a New Year’s Run-Down

I’ll have a quick breakdown of readers’ allegiances and what not coming up either later today or tomorrow…for now, however, let the January transfer window commence as the EPL starts to heat up. I will post every significant transaction along with analysis as they arise. EPL match capsules below…

SAF: Sir Alex Ferguson lashed out at Manchester United’s supporters for Glazer-bashing and the fact that Old Trafford sounded like a ‘funeral’ during Man Utd’s 1-0 win over Birmingham yesterday. Carlos Tevez provided something to cheer about, but the atmosphere didn’t last for long. Maybe we should ask for competitive parity in the EPL before we require that supporter’s groups actually get excited to play a Birmingham City! Ferguson also slammed supporters on the topic of Glazer-bashing.

EDDIE JOHNSON: The Times Online UK has listed the suitors for Kansas City Wizards forward Eddie Johnson while the Daily Mirror has thrown one into the mix at well. A combined list includes Fulham, Manchester City, Reading, Derby County again, Middlesbrough, and Benfica. Johnson’s addition to Fulham would give the Cottagers an American army consisting of Keller, Bocanegra, Dempsey, and McBride. It seems Fulham will only make the move if their attempt to sign Liverpool’s wantaway Harry Kewell.

STEVEN PIENAAR: The South African winger for Everton is a rising stock in the EPL and his club loyalty confirms that. Pienaar has asked for special leniency to delay his African Nations Cup call-up in order to play in the Carling Cup semifinal against Chelsea on January 8th. The first match of the  African Nations Cup is January 23rd, but South African national team players are expected to report January 5th in order to prepare. He should find out either today or tomorrow.

TRANSFER RUMORS: David Villa to Chelsea, David Bentley to Chelsea or Atletico Madrid, Emmanuel Villa from UAG Tecos to Derby County, Dean Ashton to a number of clubs, but it was Liverpool midfielder throwing out the ultimatum – saying Liverpool either signs him soon or he’s out and it wouldn’t be very hard for him to find a home. I bet Mohamed Sissoko would like that…

New Year’s Day Matches

Chelsea 2, Fulham 1

A Hodgson-led Fulham side looked much more engaged and ready to play, but the Cottagers – thanks to a botched PK call on Michael Ballack – still took the loss. Danny Murphy put away Fulham’s PK chance in the 10th minute, but it was Salomon Kalou who has become a fixture in Chelsea’s first team who powered home a close-range header to start a 10-minute double salvo that pushed Fulham deeper into the relegation zone. Both Americans – Dempsey and Bocanegra – played all 90-minutes, while Brian McBride is apparently on the hot trail to return by the end of the month.

Arsenal 2, West Ham United 0

First twenty minutes and the game was already put away as the rising duo of Adebayor and Eduardo da Silva each grabbed a goal to ensure Arsenal’s first place position. Both goals were equally ‘magical’ – to quote Ray Hudson. Adebayor’s was put away at the most acute angle possible and Eduardo’s was a half volley with a feint of sorts that threw Robert Green off his mark. Carlton Cole made Manuel Almunia’s life on the pitch a miserable and deceivingly tough one, but the Spanish goalkeeper prevailed. The win over Man Utd put a noticeable fatigue on West Ham’s midfield but it was the early goal that took the wind out of their sails.

Manchester United 1, Birmingham 0

United kept pace with the Gunners and the scoreline looks tighter than it probably should have been. The Devils wasted several chances – especially a three-yard miss from Cristiano Ronaldo that could put away the game. Carlos Tevez scored the game’s only goal early on though and Carlos Quieroz kept them attacking, but nothing would go in. Sir Alex Ferguson’s discontent was somewhat visible as he sat in the crowd serving the second of his two-game sideline suspension. Park Ji-Sung – though regaining match fitness – showed glimpses of his old self, while Michael Carrick had his worst day in a while – bad first touch, terrible vision, etc. Overall, it was clear the West Ham loss took a bit out of the Devils. Tevez paid for his goal as it looks like the forward will miss the FA-Cup match against Aston Villa coming up with severe brusing in the ankle.

Portsmouth 2, Reading 0

This game marked a great day for Marcus Hahnemann – despite the loss and two goals conceded. The American keeper triggered a clause in his deal that guaranteed him a new deal if he played in 20 EPL games on the season. Mission accomplished and Hahnemann stays a Royal. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that Pompey unravelled the Royals led by Sol Campbell. Reading didn’t do much for themselves though as three minutes in Ibrahima Sonko was sent off after levelling Benjani in the box. Niko Kranjcar missed the attempt, however. John Utaka added the clincher in the 66th minute as Reading fought against a potent offense that never once let up. For those of you worried about Bobby Convey leaving in the 7th minute, it was merely a tactical decision made by Coppell in reaction to Sonko’s ejection.

Everton 2, Middlesbrough 0

Finishing and a man known as Tim Howard set the tone for Everton’s 2-0 shutout of Middlesbrough. Howard made some remarkable saves allowing Everton’s offense the time to finally put one home. It took until the 67th minute but Andrew Johnson found net and opened the door for James McFadden to add another 5 minutes later. Other than that, the rainy day made it a scrappy affair but Everton corrected their form and seem ready to resume their challenge for Europe.

Aston Villa 2, Tottenham 1

A pair of defenders were the difference on both sides of the field as Villa shut down Berbatov and company. Heading into January, Juande Ramos’ biggest concern his holding onto the Bulgarian striker with Darren Bent most likely on his way out too. Olaf Mellberg powered home a header early on only for it to be snuffed out by Jermain Defoe’s late strike in the 79th minute. Martin Laursen – another central defender – albeit one with 5 goals! – put one home in the 82nd minute off yet another set piece. Michael Dawson was made to look like a lost little puppy by the defenders who scraped and clawed their way to freedom in the penalty box. At least, in post-game interviews, it was reiterated that Berbatov will, in fact, stay at White Hart Lane.

EPL Weekend 9.23: Adebayor earns his trick; Man Utd bests a hurting Chelski squad

Saturday

Arsenal 5, Derby County 0

The Gunners solidified their position as ‘best in show’ at the top of the EPL. Emmanuel Adebayor has dramatically improved since last year and bagged a hat-trick to prove it. It was young’un Vassiriki Diaby who grabbed his first EPL goal though and opened the scoring clinic in the 10th minute. Derby – as you can imagine – just laid down and took it. Eddie Lewis played all 90 while Benny Feilhaber came on and worked the last 35 minutes.

Fulham 3, Manchester City 3

Clint Dempsey took a week off, playing all 90 minutes rather passively in this shootout. Both teams have had recent trouble finding scoring help and today, they found it. The Cottagers started the scoring first as Welshman Simon Davies struck early in the 13th minute. The middle 45 minutes featured 5 goals in a kind of back and forth motion. Martin Petrov had an effective game, scoring twice, while Hamuer Bouazza bagged his first for Fulham (the right-winger who Dempsey had originally replaced after a separated shoulder). Fulham hung in there with this and got the point.

Liverpool 0, Birmingham 0

Sometimes things don’t click, especially when you’re playing a frustratingly scrappy Birmingham side. 16 shots and nothing from it as the Blues’ defensive overload worked – only 4 of Liverpool’s shots were on net. Nothing too serious but Jermaine Pennant left late in the game with a hamstring probably.

Sunderland 2, Middlesbrough 2

The Black Cats have seemingly inherited Roy Keane’s intestinal fortitude as they scrapped it out and came back, thanks to Liam Miller goal, to equalize in the 89th minute. Young Grant Leadbitter had put Keane’s squad up quickly in the 2nd minute, but Julio Arca and Stewart Downing put M’Boro back ahead.  How is Downing still on Middlesbrough?  I’m surprised a Liverpool/Everton hasn’t come calling yet.

Reading 2, Wigan 1

The Royals showed a hint of their former (last year’s surprise squad) selves as they try and work they way slowly back up the standings. Speaking of comebacks, Bobby Convey also seemed to channel his former self as he was the most important part of the Royals’ last 30 minute push. It was James Harper – who rarely ever scores – that finished a Dave Kitson cross and gave the Royals an improbable win. Marcus Hahnemann had one hell of a game yet again.

Sunday

Manchester United 2, Chelsea 0

The hole gets a bit deeper and to add to the unrest at Stamford Bridge, Avram Grant is now formally being discussed in terms of his qualifications and ability to run the star-studded squad. Either way, the Red Devils got their first EPL goal from Carlos Tevez and Louis Saha added a 90th minute PK conversion to win the derby. Nothing to complain about here – oh, except for the 32nd minute ejection of Jon Obi Mikel that forced the Blues to play with 10 for 2/3s of the game. Grant looks to have a long haul this season as within 20 minutes of the game’s start Chelsea fans were chanting ‘Mourinho’.

Newcastle 3, West Ham United 1
Mark Viduka scored a brace to prove that injuries wouldn’t again ruin the Magpies season. Michael Owen made his way off the pitch in the 51st minute after asking to be replaced. Dean Ashton scored for the Hammers and Jonathan Spector played the last 10 minutes for West Ham. It was Charles N’Zogbia – whose stock is rapidly rising – that put the game away in the 76th minute.

Portsmouth 1, Blackburn 0

When it rains it pours. The Rovers’ mid-week UEFA Cup loss to Larissa ended a 15-game unbeaten streak carrying over from last season. The trend – in one game – seemed firmly established as Blackburn didn’t look the team that had originally started this season. Kanu scored the lone goal for Pompey as their play barely improved, but it was enough to overcome a Blackburn side hoping to rebound.

Aston Villa 2, Everton 0

Yup, Tim Howard is THAT important. Gabriel Agbonlahor and John Carew did the damage for the Villans and Wilfred Bouma captained the back to a 2-0 shutout of the Toffees. Agbonlahor has established himself as a Toffee-killer, but just like the Blackburn Rovers, it was Everton’s midweek UEFA Cup loss that really hurt their momentum. Stefan Wessels manned the net again.

Bolton 1, Tottenham 1

Things aren’t getting much better for the Hotspur and somehow, Martin Jol still survives.  Robbie Keane and Ivan Campo traded goals less than 5 minutes apart as the game had a small tint of disinterest in it. I know it’s early, but both these teams are underperforming and neither looked particularly effective.