New York Red Bulls: Gregory Coupet to NY?

Don’t think about it too hard. Take it all with a grain of salt. The 35-year old French international recently signed a contract with Lyon until 2010. That would make him 37 if he were to come over on a free transfer. “It’s a desire Greg has”…meaning, at least it’s not forced on him by his American wife…(that was a reference to Sheva, not Coupet – who doesn’t have an American wife).

He has been with Lyon for over 10 years and is still considered the number one goalkeeper for France heading into this summer’s European Championship. We’ll monitor this, but I can’t see it happening…

One thing it would do is piss Jon Conway off. Let’s hope Conway plays well enough to warrant his starting spot…

EPL Daily 1.29: Woody with Spurs, Sissoko, Baros, Guzan, coming down to the wire

JONATHAN WOODGATE: The former Real Madrid central defender has been stuck in the mediocrity of Middlesbrough. After a transfer bidding war between Newcastle and Tottenham, the Spurs have come out on top – addressing a big issue within their line-up. Michael Dawson can’t be trusted and who knows when Ledley King is ever going to be fully fit again. Only Pascal Chimbonda can say he’s doing anything worthwhile. Woodgate went to Real Madrid as a young 24 year old, but with one major problem, huge injury issues. He solidified himself as a first team central defender but then the injuries hit, limiting him to 9 games over 3 seasons. Tottenham apparently picked Woody up for $16 million, but guess what? – a hamstring injury should keep him from joining their starting line-up for another 2-3 weeks. The Hotspur also look to finish up a deal for Scottish international and Rangers fullback Alan Hutton soon. The figure seems to be around $18 million. Clearly, Juande Ramos is addressing their major weaknesses and not afraid to spend the cash for true talent…less so potential.

MO SISSOKO: The Mali international got his wish and hell of a wish come true at that. 22-year old Sissoko was pissed at not getting the chances he deserved at Anfield and wanted more playing time. Can’t really blame the kid as he was asked to wait behind the likes of Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, and Xabi Alonso. His time looks to increase two-fold at Juve with an aging Pavel Nedved, Cristiano Zanetti, and inexperienced Antonio Nocerino leading the way. Juventus’ midfield has provided only 7 of the 46 goals scored this year. Sissoko is generally considered a defensive midfielder but don’t count out the possibility of him getting a little more free reign at the Delle Alpi. The proceeds from Sissoko’s transfer looks to be the money Liverpool needs to pay for a permanent capture of Javier Mascherano.

MILAN BAROS: …………..is back!! The underperforming former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker has returned to the EPL from French juggernauts Olympique Lyonnais and this time with his scoring touch, hopefully, intact. This one flew under the radar as Baros will be moving on loan. His reasoning? What else but lack of playing time. Milan – if you scored more and bitched less, you’d be starting in Lyon. Regardless, he will get the playing time needed at Pompey under Redknapp cause they’re dealing with Kanu and Utaka gone at the AFC and David Nugent just picking up an injury. We’ll give him props for at least a year over at Stade de Gerland.

BRAD GUZAN: No need to recap this. You all read it on Soccer by ives.

RUMORS: Barcelona’s Eidur Gudjohnsen back to the EPL, this time with Bolton (still need that Anelka replacement); Afonso Alves to Middlesbrough is still in the works, getting closer apparently; Joleon Lescott to either Manchester United or Arsenal

OTHER COMPLETED MOVES: Dennis Wise (head coach at Leeds United) to Newcastle in the position of Executive Director (whatever that means); Aston Villa’s Olof Mellberg to Juventus (Bosman ruling, Summer 2008); Manchester City’s Giorgios Samaras to Celtic on loan; Racing Lens’ Jimmy Kebe to Reading

French Ligue One: Lille and Lens making changes; Lyon hunts down a striker

LILLE: Signed Pierre-Alain Frau from Paris St-Germain to a 3 and 1/2 year deal. Frau – formerly of Lyon, Sochaux, and Lens – cited a starting role as his reason for moving. Lille is a good place to be Frau as they are a good team, under-performing at the moment (17th) but with a young core to move along with.

LENS: It is also a striker for Racing Lens who sit third from the bottom. They opted for Toifilou Maoulida of Auxerre as they look to turn around a season in which many never had, but now do, characterize them as ‘strugglers’. The deal is also for three-and-a-half years.

BORDEAUX: Les Girondins have off-loaded Colombian Edixon Perea to Gremio in Brazil. Perea had high expectations of him coming over, but the success of Fernando Cavenaghi and his subsequent relegation to the bench kept him from ever achieving his potential. Gremio paid $1.25 million for the striker. Perea is 23, however, and talented enough to make a concerted effort at a comeback.

NEW COACHES: Grenoble boss Yvon Pouliquen has taken over the reins at FC Metz following the recent departure of Francis de Taddeo, this past Sunday. Metz sits at the bottom of Ligue One with one win in 14 matches. Sochaux who isn’t in much better of a position (second to last) will rely on the services of former Lens coach Francis Gillot to pull them out of the gutter. Sochaux has been without a coach since early December.

LYON: Brazilian striker Fred Chaves could be set to leave during this transfer window as he has been kept to only three appearances so far this season. Fred says he’s happy to stay and fight for his chances at least until his contract runs out in 2009, but that he won’t do that if it hurts his chances to play for Brazil (which it has). Both PSG and Fluminense of Brazil want the young striker and the decision gets even easier for Lyon officials with the possibility of a fantastic signing in Cesar ‘Chelito’ Delgado from Cruz Azul. Delgado averages over 20 goals a year in the Mexican leagues, but his move hasn’t been confirmed as of January 2nd.

ROUND-UP: At the half-way mark, Lyon sits in front with only a 4 point lead over upstarts Nancy. Some other surprises mark the top five – Caen and Le Mans the two that jump out to many. Bordeaux – though inconsistent – are capable of making a run at Lyon as they sit only 6 points out in third place, but it is Nancy who boasts the best defensive record in the league holding opponents to only 11  goals in 19 matches. Former Manchester United man David Bellion is the key figure for Bordeaux as he tries to match Lyon’s youngster Karim Benzema goal-for-goal. Benzema has 12, Bellion has 10.  

UCL Game 5’s: Rangers hang on – Beasley severely injured

Group E

Barcelona 2, Lyon 2

Barca clinched even without the services of Thierry Henry.  Could have won if it wasn’t for Brazilian veteran Juninho Pernambucano who snuck in a brace. His performance was overshadowed by the antics of Barca coach Frank Rijkaard (soon to be punished) and the penalty conversion of Leo Messi which put Barca in the lead 2-1. Juninho, however, should have had three and had that happened, the spotlight would have been all his.

VfB Stuttgart 3, Rangers 2

Beasley started and caused a bit of trouble but had to be stretchered off in the 50th minute. This came only 15 minutes after Lee McCulloch had to leave the game as well due to injury. Still the Rangers fought back to a 2-2 deadlock only to see their salvo go to waste after a Ciprian Marica 85th minute strike. There is no definite diagnosis on Beasley’s injury after his collision with the Stuttgart keeper Rafael Schafer, but manager Walter Smith has called it ‘serious’ and that doesn’t bode well. Without Beasley, it was fellow CONCACAF man Pavel Pardo who stole the show – scoring a goal and assisting on another.

Group F

AS Roma 4, Dynamo Kiev 1

It was the Mirko Vucinic show in the Ukraine as his double added with Panucci and Giuly strikes broke wide open an otherwise somewhat even game. Vucinic made his mark about 40 minutes in after captain Francesco Totti had to leave the game with injury. Kiev’s loss highlighted a pretty dismal day for Eastern European teams.

Manchester United 2, Sporting Lisbon 1

Maximum points. That’s about all you can ask from a Wayne Rooney-less team. It certainly wasn’t easy though as the Devils had to rely on Cristiano Ronaldo’s heroics again. The Portuguese midfielder scored on a free kick 25-yards out in injury time against his own former club. Not bad for the dramatics.

Group G

Inter Milan 3, Fenerbahce 0

Three late goals from Julio Cruz, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Luis Jimenez sufficiently dispatched the Turkish champions. A quick start for the Turks has been all but wiped away as PSV sits only a point adrift and CSKA Moscow (Fenerbahce’s next opponent) are due for a win.

PSV Eindhoven 1, CSKA Moscow 0

A Jefferson Farfan strike in the 39th minute allowed PSV to continue fighting for a spot in the knockout rounds. They were helped by Fenerbahce’s dismantling at the hands of Inter Milan but the only problem is…..PSV has Inter Milan last. CSKA Moscow is close to ending a pretty miserable UCL run and this result was the perfect example as the Russians outshot PSV 15-4.

Group H

FC Sevilla 3, Arsenal 1

Both are through but FC Sevilla gained the momentum. That happens when you shut down a potent Gunner squad that hadn’t lost since April 2007. You could even say that Sevilla dominated – out-shooting and out-possessing Arsene Wenger’s boys. All that didn’t matter much though as Arsenal was already through to the knockout rounds.

Slavia Prague 1, Steaua Bucharest 1 

An Eastern European battle with a spot in the UEFA Cup knockout rounds on the line. Prague came in with the upper-hand and left with it intact. It took until the 78th minute to ensure that spot though.  Young Marek Suchy and center midfielder Michel Svec drove the game and provided some decency in an otherwise ugly game for the Czechs.

UEFA Champions League: Turkish Delight

Group standings. 

Group A

FC Porto 1, Liverpool 1

Jermaine Pennant was sent off with 30 minutes to go, but Liverpool survived finding the equalizer well before Pennant’s ejection and hanging on from there. Lucho Gonzalez converted an 8th minute penalty to put Porto up early.

Marseille 2, Besiktas 0

Having trouble finding domestic success again, but Les Bleus found a way past Besiktas with two late goals from trusty Julien Rodriguez and Liverpool outcast Djibril Cisse.

Group B

Chelsea 1, Rosenborg 1

Mourinho’s last game was a dud and the real question of the day was did he know he was walking out before the game or was his exit brought on by the result? Abrahamovich’s man Sheva saved the Blues’ tail by scoring on a header in the 53rd minute.

Valencia 1, Schalke 04 0

Not a great overall week for Bundesliga clubs, but it was David Villa’s class in the 63rd minute that propelled Los Ches by the blue-clad Germans. Otherwise, it looked like everybody else was content to settle for a draw.

Group C

Olympiakos 1, Lazio 1

Luciano Galletti put the Greek champions up 10 minutes into the second half and Lazio struggled to find someone to do their bidding as both Rocchi and Pandev were being shut down. With 10 minutes to, Luciano Zauri found the equalizer and Lazio accepted a tie – but the real question is, was he offside?

Real Madrid 2, Werder Bremen 1

There is still long way to go before we can fully evaluate this year’s Madrid squad, but they have shown more heart and dominance then in recent season’s past. Raul scored in the 16th minute but Boubacar Sanogo cancelled that out a minute later. We all know, however, that if you’re going to shut down Real – you must not give Ruud van Nistelrooy ANY – and I mean ANY – room. Well, Bremen did. Ruud replied – scoring with 15 minutes to go.

Group D

AC Milan 2, Benfica 1

Benfica never really threatened and for us American fans, all we really want to know is why no Freddy Adu? Anywhere? Andrea Pirlo exercised his ‘I’m better than you’ card and put Milan up within 10 minutes of the start. Pippo Inzaghi caught the bug and scored not long after effectively digging Benfica a nice grave to lay down in.

Shakhtar Donetsk 2, Celtic 0

I don’t get it. Rangers can rally against the likes of VfB Stuttgart while Celtic gets out-classed by Shakhtar, but when it comes to domestic play, Rangers loses 4-2 to Hearts of Midlothian while Celtic goes their first 5 unbeaten. Hmmm. A real nice crop of Brazilians have come out of Shakhtar (Elano to Manchester City, Matuzalem, etc.) and Brandao will surely be the next one to grab Western Europe’s eye. Especially after his performance against Celtic, scoring in the 6th minute. Claudio Lucarelli added his own 2 minutes later. The Brazilians really dominated this game, however, with Brandao, Fernandinho, and Jadson all having respectable games.

Group E

Barcelona 3, Lyon 0

Thierry Henry opened his account with Barca, while Lyon fought themselves mostly for the first 20 minutes but when Barca’s class kicked in – there was no fighting. Lionel Messi and Henry scored within the last 10 minutes of the game to put it out of reach.

Rangers 2, VfB Stuttgart 1

Stuttgart struck early thanks to the revelation of last year’s Bundesliga champion, Mario Gomez. Rangers evened it up not long after through the efforts of Charlie Adam, who since his terrible play against FK Zeta has seen little time. Adam came through, but Fernando Meira silver-plattered the lead with a foul on Alan Hutton. Hutton scored making it 2-1, giving the Gers 3 vital points, and taking the unofficial MVP of the match as he had his hand in both goals.

Group F

Manchester United 1, Sporting Lisbon 0

Cristiano Ronaldo’s homecoming was a good one – except for the whole destroying the lives and dreams of every Sporting Lisbon fan out there sort of thing. Okay, a little excessive – as it’s just the first match of the group round but Ronaldo scored the goal (on a diving header no less) that gave the Devils the win.

Roma 2, Dynamo Kiev 0

An out-classing – much of which had to do with the goalscorers Simone Perrotta and Francesco Totti. Trying to rack up points and goal difference before they meet Manchester United for a revenge-filled rematch?

Group G

Fenerbahce 1, Inter Milan 0

Brazilian Deivid supplied the goal just before the half-time whistle and Inter couldn’t respond at all. Could it really be that the presence of Roberto Carlos could push a team over the top? Either way, the key to the Turkish Champion’s victory was the efficient shut-down of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as he saw very little in the way of chances.

PSV Eindhoven 2, CSKA Moscow 1

Vagner Love’s late 89th minute goal couldn’t counter the firepower of Danko Lazovic and former AZ/Ajax striker Kenneth Perez who struck in the 59th and 80th minute respectively.

Group H

Arsenal 3, FC Sevilla 0

Yikes. Arsene Wenger has created a monster or else a little bit of confidence goes a long way. Cesc and Van Persie put the game out of reach but Eduardo grabbed another goal in injury time to drive the point home. The Gunners have started strong in both their Premiership and European campaigns, but are they pacing themselves?

Slavia Prague 2, Steaua Bucharest 1

An entertaining Eastern European battle that involved a showcasing of some burgeoning talent that you could see in the EPL/La Liga/Bundesliga/etc. sometime real soon. Marek Suchy showed why he’s considered one of the brightest prospects since Niko Kranjcar. Goals were scored for Slavia by Zdenek Senkerik and Tijani Belaid and for Bucharest, Dorin Goian.

French Ligue One: Lyon keeps grabbing the headlines with Benzema in the spotlight

Lyon used three unanswered goals in less than 10 minutes to overcome a 2-0 Le Mans lead. The goals were provided by Sidney Govou (71st min), Karim Benzema (74th), and Liverpool/Aston Villa castaway Milan Baros (78th) respectively as OL looks less than dominant this year. Le Mans opened the scoring thanks to Stephane Sessengon as he closed the first half with one and then opened the second half with another. The fact that Lyon looks resilient is dangerous if they decide to become their regular dominant selves again. Benzema looks poised to become the next Ligue One go-to striker and for that, he’s CHI’s player of the week.

Bordeaux kept their upper-table form with a 2-1 win over an upstart Monaco. Monaco barely made a noise and could not withstand a second-half double salvo from Moroccan Marouane Chamakh and Brazilian Wendel.

Nancy keeps winning and they’re not limiting themselves to beating lower table sides. This time the victim was Saint-Etienne, 2-0 with goals from Marc-Antoine Fortune and Carlos Kim. Kim gave them the lead in the 11th minute and Fortune put it away in the 85th. Nancy is proving tough to beat. As they sit clear above the rest by 2 points, with a game in tow.

Rennes and Lille fought it out to a 2-2 draw as Etienne Didot had a great game for Stade Rennais and the wanted Michel Bastos provided the 76th minute equalizer for Lille. Strasbourg and Lorient played to a 0-0 tie, while Valenciennes and Metz did the same.

Toulouse rebounded from a nasty loss to Liverpool in the midweek Champions League qualifiers to push Auxerre even closer to the bottom. Johan Elmander and Moussa Sissoko did the damage late in the game as Auxerre sat helpless, absorbing another loss and boasting a -13 goal difference.

On Sunday, Marseille and Paris St-Germain played to a 1-1 draw with all of the scoring being done within 20 minutes. Djibril Cisse scored his first Ligue One goal of the year but Pegguy Luyindula replied no more than 10 minutes later. Despite inconsistent form to start the season, Lyon is still ahead of those originally predicted to be their biggest competitors this season. If Marseille and PSG don’t get it together, Lyon could lift their 7th.

Also on Sunday, Nice needed just one from Baky Kone to beat Racing Lens, who are off to a winless start in 5 games, 1-0.

Standings

Your UEFA Champions League Group Stage Qualifiers are set…

Except for one. The winner of Sevilla and AEK Athens will move on. That game will be played September 3rd. Here they are by seed – the draw will be held today, early afternoon EST.

Pot 1/#1 Seeds
AC Milan (Cup Holders)
Barcelona
Liverpool
Inter Milan
Arsenal
Real Madrid
Chelsea
Manchester United

Pot 2/#2 Seeds

Valencia
Lyon
Porto
Sevilla/AEK Athens
PSV Eindhoven
AS Roma
Benfica
Werder Bremen

Pot 3/#3 Seeds
Celtic
Schalke 04
VfB Stuttgart
Steaua Bucharest (ROM)
CSKA Moscow (RUS)
Sporting Club de Portugal
Lazio
Marseille

Pot 4/#4 Seeds
Rangers (SCO)
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
Besiktas (TUR)
Olympiakos (GRE)
Dynamo Kiev (UKR)
Fenerbahce (TUR)
Slavia Prague (CZE)
Rosenborg (NOR)

French Ligue One: Midweek action yields win for Lyon

Lyon overcame a Valter Birsa PK conversion by sandwiching the Sochaux player’s strike with two of their own. Karim Benzema struck again and is fast becoming a staple in the starting line-up while offseason purchase and former Lille leader Mathieu Bodmer provided the winner early in the second half as Lyon survived 2-1.

Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, and Saint-Etienne all registered shutout wins. Monaco needed the early strike from former Vert Frederic Piquionne to over come Lille 1-0, while PSG and Saint-Etienne had slightly more comfortable wins. Amara Diane and Sylvain Armand did the dirty work for PSG and Saint-Etienne’s needed an Ilan penalty kick to beat a faltering Strasbourg. It’s the best start for Monaco [4-1-1] in a long time, while PSG underperforms again [1-4-1]. Les Verts opt for mediocrity in the tables and pure balance [2-2-2].

Olympique Marseille was the odd man out, the only giant to lose in the midweek. Les Bleus lost to a reeling Nice squad led by the production of Vincent Hognon and Belgian David Hellebuyck. Not even Samir Nasri can jumpstart this team as they desperately missing the presence of Ribery on the wing. Benoit Cheyrou does not compare…the game, however, saw most of the chances go Marseille’s way.

Rennes buried the hapless Auxerre even further in their relegation ditch as 2/3 of their concrete scoring chances were put away. Transfer target Jimmy Briand had the clincher as Auxerre never threatened and instead fell to 1-5-0 on the season.

Former Lyon player Alou Diarra hit for the only goal of the game as Bordeaux won a close contest with Metz, 1-0. Bordeaux sits pretty at 4th in the standings.

Tuesday’s match-up saw Valenciennes dominate yet another Ligue One squad. This time the victim was Lorient, losing 3-1 as Valenciennes depended on the brace of Gregory Pujol. To add a bit of a buffer zone, Sebastien Roudet added a goal in the waning minutes. Valenciennes sits proudly tied for first with an admirable 4-1-1 record.

French Ligue One: Monaco, Lyon, Marseille all win, but PSG falls off pace…again

Lyon scraped by Saint Etienne in the battle of the local rivals – young’un Karim Benzema provided the lone strike in the 53rd minute. A win at home but they still don’t look like themselves – if it weren’t for the good play of back-up keeper Remy Vercoutre, Lyon could have been looking at an unfamiliar spot in the standings. Both Freddy Guarin (a second-half sub) and new signing Blaise Matuidi (on Domenech’s rader for Les Bleus) kept up good form for Les Verts.

Paris Saint-Germain is held yet again to a tie, this time a 1-1 draw with Lille. Cameroonian Jean Makoun (a long-time PSG, Lyon transfer target) put Lille up first in early in the second half. Pauleta – the normally prolific Portuguese striker who has lost his touch this season – had a chance to equalize on a PK in the 71st minute when Amara Diane was taken down in the box. Pauleta was saved by the heroics of Pierre-Alain Frau – who found the net three minutes later. Both sides were gifted several opportunities in a game that lacked any finishing prowess.

Strasbourg defeated Lens 2-1 as Wason Renteria – young Colombian striker, just recently signed – was the star of the show. Renteria put Strasbourg up early in the second half to beat a quality Racing Lens squad.

Olympique Marseille took care of their business in Caen with a 2-1 win in an attempt to keep early-season tabs on Lyon. Mamadou Niang and Julien Rodriguez struck to ensure the victory. Caen’s goal was a last gasp strike as Marseille dictated the pace and play of most of the game.

Monaco got a win as well by scoring three unanswered goals after Daisuke Matsui’s opening strike for to put Le Mans in the lead 1-0. Frederic Piquionne (diva), Jeremy Menez, and Leandro Cufre did the damage as Monaco now sits in third (light years away from where they were last year).

Olivier Thomert played the role of hero in Rennes 2-0 win over Metz, scoring both goals. One in each half. His performance earned him CHI’s Player of the Week to join Johann Audel and Rafik Saifi in that category.

Olivier Thomert

David Bellion had the chance for an easy hat-trick but wasted his penalty strike as Les Girondins des Bordeaux could only manage a 2-2 tie against Lorient. I guess if you look on the bright side, Bellion (the former Man Utd youth star) did strike for two. Lorient’s resilience makes them the surprise 2nd place team in the standings.

Nancy kept first place in Ligue One by using four different scorers to pace a 4-1 win over Auxerre, who has started off this season pitifully.

Valenciennes beat Sochaux 3-1 as they continue to prove that they deserve to be in Ligue One as they were last year’s Reading of the Ligue One. Last year’s leading goalscorer Steve Savidan capped the win with his strike in the 75th minute.

Nice and Toulouse played to a 1-1 draw as Toulouse’s minds were clearly looking forward to the Champions League clash at midweek against Liverpool.

French Ligue One Standings

Lyon starts confidently, Marseille with a whimper

New coach Alain Perrin has got to be happy with the 2-0 shutout win over Auxerre, a top half contender. The victory bodes well for the club as it seemed they had lost more quality than they had brought in, but new signings: Fabio Grosso (nice to see a high-profile Italian over in France), Kader Keita (from Lille), Their losses, which now loom a little less, could still prove costly as it’s hard to replace an Eric Abidal (to Barcelona), Gerard Houllier, Florent Malouda (to Chelsea), Gregory Coupet (to injury, out 4 months, and Tiago (to Juventus).

Olympique Lyonnais

Milan Baros and young’un Karim Benzema put away their chances as Lyon seemingly breezed through their first match on the busy road towards a 7th consecutive title.

Main competitors Marseille found it much more difficult, despite significantly strengthening their squad, tying 0-0 against a scraptastic, Ligue One newcomers Strasbourg . The loss of tireless midfielder Franck Ribery to Bayern Munich proved obvious and a bit discerning as even the ‘next Zidane’ Samir Nasri couldn’t help the Marseille cause. New signings Karim Ziani and former Red Bolo Zenden couldn’t help break the deadlock, but made their competitive debuts.

Paris St-Germain and Monaco both tied their opening matches as well. PSG 0-0 against Sochaux and Monaco 1-1 against a tough Frederic Piquoinne-less Saint Etienne side.

CHI’s Ligue One Man of the Week: Johan Audel who had a hat-trick in his new squad, Valenciennes’ first match of the season versus Toulouse. Score ended up 3-1 as Valenciennes, newcomers last season, look to make their Ligue One status permanent. A good signing for the club, the 24-year old Audel should provide the offensive support necessary for Steve Savidan (who graced the top of the scoring charts last season) and to keep this team ready to produce week in and week out.

Johan Audel