Saturday, March 27, 2010

Big weekend in the Premier League

With two points separating Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal respectively, at the top of the table, every game takes on greater significance this time of year. This week Chelsea are hosting an Aston Villa squad who are trying to get through a handful of injuries, affecting their defense, midfield, and forward line. Chelsea can ill afford to drop any more points and will surely look to pounce on Villa early.

Manchester United head to Bolton having won their last four while the Wanderers are undefeated in their last six. The big story here is the fitness of Wayne Rooney. United should be heavy favorites regardless of whether he plays or not, but what manager Sir Alex Ferguson will do is anybody's guess. I think Rooney will get a rest ahead of the mid-week Champions League match against Bayern Munich.

Arsenal have won six straight in the Premier League and will likely have a chip on their shoulder as they take on Birmingham City. It was against City two years ago that Arsenal's Eduardo suffered a horendous broken ankle following a wayward tackle by Martin Taylor. Eduardo has yet to regain the form he had two years ago and this could be a chance for him to exorcise whatever demons may be lurking in the back of his mind. Birmingham have only lost twice at home this campaign, so Arsene Wenger's men can ill afford to look ahead to their highly anticipated match against Barcelona later this week in the Champions League.

My predictions:

Chelsea 2-0 Aston Villa

Manchester United 3-1 Bolton

Birmingham City 1-2 Arsenal

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm baaaaaaack!

I apologize for the blog lapse. This is a very busy time of year for me and this year has been the busiest in quite a while. I won't bore anyone with the details, I'll just get back to the blogging.


Fox Soccer Plus: Here's my fuss

We're coming up on the one month anniversary of the demise of Setanta U.S. and the birth of Fox Soccer Plus(FSC+). The initial reports suggested that other than losing the Scottish Premier League and some fringe programming like hurling and Gaelic football, the content would roughly remain the same as Setanta. And in fact, the English Premier League, Coca-Cola Championship, Magners League Rugby, and various rugby tournaments have made their way to FSC+. But what has also made it's way to FSC+ is much of the same content that is also being broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel, i.e. Sky Sports News, Serie A Weekly, Fox Soccer Report, UEFA Champions League(both matches and review shows), The Contenders, Premier League Archives, The Greatest, and others. If I wasn't paying $15 a month I wouldn't have a problem with it. Other sports networks such ESPN/ESPN2 do similar things...but they are not subscription channels.

Now Fox executives will tell you that FSC+ has no commercials and therefore a monthly fee is required to make ends meet. That sounds very similar to Steven Cohen and the World Football Daily bunch. They had a nice little daily football call-in show on Sirius Radio called World Soccer Daily. I won't get in to all the details, mainly because where the truth lies regarding the cancellation of the show is a bit of a mystery...a big he said/she said sort of affair. A few weeks later World Football Daily appeared on the scene. It was available by live web feed and podcast and commercials were no longer a part of the show, though they still had "breaks". Not long after the "re-launch", it was announced that in order to receive "premium content", which is roughly 75% of the show, a monthly fee was being introduced. Now this show was part of my daily routine for 5+ years, but I am not paying money for a podcast. I'm just not.

Ultimately my point is, I'll take the commercials over a monthly fee. There is still a break in programming regardless of whether it's a commercial or some sort of pre-produced product, and the filler material FSC+ uses between programming is very limited. I appreciate the history lesson the snippets provide, and friendly voice of Issy Clarke as narrator, but the variety numbers wise is severely lacking.

I also feel like for $15 I should be getting an HD quality signal. The quality of the picture during EPL games is ridiculously bad. Now in fairness, it wasn't any better on the Setanta feed. But now that Fox Soccer Channel is in HD, I'm hoping FSC+ won't be far behind.

Since FSC+ is only a month old, I'll give it some more time before I gripe anymore. And who knows, next season could hold a whole host of changes for the channel. Keep your fingers crossed.