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On Saturday March 17th Nurnberg will host Wolfsburg. A month or two ago, Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath declared the goal for the season would be to qualify for Europa League football by finishing at least 7th in the league. Despite a thrilling 3-2 victory over Leverkusen in the last matchday, I can't see it happening. Long gone are the days of the magical trio of Misimovic, Grafite and Edin Dzeko, also gone from the 2009 championship winning side are Christian Gentner, now of Stuttgart and Sascha Reither, now of Koln. Now the team is slap bang in the middle of a transition period and a monumental re-building process.

I think Nurnberg can take advantage of Wolfsburg's disastrous away form and win. The game before Leverkusen, away at Kaiserslautern, the Bundesliga's rock bottom team the Wolves were lucky to get away with a 0-0. Nurnberg are a solid team, a unit that work together and function well, almost mechanical. They don't have the flair or pace of a team like Monchengladbach but their determination and team work breaks teams down. A testament to this is the fact that Nurnberg's goals are shared through out the team, spread through defenders to attackers, and that their top scorer, Tomas Pekhart, only has 5 goals himself.

Nurnberg are currently available at 2.1 on Betfair.



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As economics continues on its inexorable trajectory en route to becoming the new football, this seems an appropriate juncture at which to introduce a new measurement that it is hoped will take its place alongside other indices of repute, such as Gross Domestic Product or the Economist’s Big Mac Index: the European Transfer Ratio (‘ETR’). The theoretical underpinnings of this ratio will be explained in a future blog post, but suffice to say that the amount of money flying between football clubs within UEFA at a time when most sane Europeans are concentrating on the more mundane goal of keeping warm says much about the state of the economy in this continent, as does the manner in which the cash is splashed.



Arguably the most emblematic move of the 2011 January window – a transfer period which is lucidly recollected  in the March 2011 issue of World Soccer, pictured above – is that of Senijad Ibricic from Hajduk Split of Croatia to Lokomotiv Moscow; indeed, in years to come, this ETR may become informally known as the Ibricic Index. In years gone by, Ibricic, a chunky midfield genius who is also a key squad player for the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team, would in all likelihood have been snapped up by a club in Western Europe. But after years of plying his trade in the unglamorous HNL, the only really serious suitors were from Turkey and Russia – and after Hajduk turned down an offer of €6.5m from Istanbul aristocrats Galatasaray in the summer of 2010, Lokomotiv stepped in this winter with an offer of €5m + 20% of Ibricic’s next transfer fee; with the poor economic outlook in Europe continuing, the Adriatic port city club were in no position to refuse these overtures.

Several conclusions can be reached from the Ibricic case:

1. The primacy of state or oligarchic support. Lokomotiv Moscow, like many clubs in Russia and Ukraine, get huge backing from a state or oligarchic entity, in this case Rossiyskie zheleznye dorogi or Russian Railways (‘RZD’). Chelsea, who purchased Fernando Torres from Liverpool for £50m, are famously funded by oil magnate Roman Abramovich, while a company owned by a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi accounted for Manchester City’s £27m acquisition from Wolfsburg and a compatriot of Ibricic, Edin Dzeko;

2. The maxing out of Spanish credit. Real Madrid and Barcelona – as was reported  in this blog on 21st January 2011 – are drowning in debt and made just one transaction for which money changed hands between them, namely Barcelona’s signature of sumptuous Dutch midfielder Ibrahim Afellay from PSV Eindhoven for £2.5m. Conversely, Malaga – now in Qatari ownership – splurged over £7m on Diego Buonanotte, Julio Baptista and Ignacio Camacho from River Plate, Roma and Atletico Madrid respectively;

3. A shift in power to the east. Clubs in large countries located in Europe’s East – such as Russia, Ukraine and Turkey – are now serious players in Europe’s transfer market. Two Ukrainian clubs – Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Metalist Kharkiv – lavished a total of £27m on just four players, while Turkish outfit Besiktas signed no less than three current or former Portuguese internationals: Manuel Fernandes (Valencia, loan), Simao Sabrosa (Atletico Madrid) and Hugo Almeida (Werder Bremen).

This article was originally written by Mediolana.

http://mediolana.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/senijad-ibricic-to-lokomotiv-moscow-the-january-2011-transfer-window-and-the-european-economy/
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Wolfsburg vs Dortmund

29 Jan 11 05:44
Wolfsburg are generally good at home but have many injury problems to important 1st team players in this match. Steve McClaren speaking on the official Wolfsburg website said:

"Simon Kjaer and Grafite both have ankle problems, Mario Mandzukic has a toe injury, Sascha Riether has a knee issue and Tolga Cigerci is out with his foot. We still have a bit of time, so hopefully two or three of them will be fit by Saturday. Unfortunately, with the exception of Cigerci who is definitely out, the others are very doubtful. It’s really bitter that we now have so many injuries just as we were beginning to get things going, but we have to make the best of it."

Also add to that Hasabe who is at the Asian cup with Japan and you have a severely depleted Wolfsburg team. It wont be easy for Dortmund but their current price at 5/6 is worth taking.

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Sochaux vs Paris FC

21 Jan 11 14:13
The French cup always provides shock results, every year you see Ligue 1 teams crashing out to teams from the lower divisions because they fail to motivate themselves in what they see as a low key match. The lower league teams take advantage of this, they are well drilled, tactically effective and motivation levels are sky high so they can prove themselves. Last year little Quevilly from the north of France knocked out Rennes and Boulogne (who were then in Ligue 1) - and completely outplayed them both from kick off to the final whistle. They were eventually beaten by PSG 1-0 in a close encounter.

This year we have Paris FC, in the previous round playing Ligue 1 Toulouse off the field winning 2-1 away from home, now face Sochaux. Can an upset happen here? Who knows, but the odds certainly represent value for those who fancy a punt in the way of the underdog, you can currently lay Sochaux at 1.5.

Finally, Jean-Luc Vannuchi, Paris FC manager on his teams chances this Friday night (please excuse the dodgy translation!):

"After our exploits in Toulouse, they know what to expect, they will take us seriously. Afterwards, everyone knows the magic of the Cup ... If it stops at Sochaux, too bad, but once the play thoroughly. It has nothing to lose, everything to gain."

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Kaiserslautern vs FC Koln

16 Jan 11 10:36
Koln won their last Bundesliga game against Kaiserslautern on December 16th 1989 when they were managed by Christoph Daum. They have lost 18 times and been held to five draws since then. But that isn't important today. What is important is that aside from their poor form, Koln have had an outbreak of Swine flu within their squad and quite a few players will be missing today.

Lautern don't have any trouble scoring goals and you should remember the name Srđan Lakić, he isn't that young (27 years old) but a late grower and with a great talent for getting goals i'm sure everyone will be seeing him more in the future. The stadium will be full, hot like fire. I expect Kaiserslautern to win comfortably today @ 1.94.

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Cagliari vs Palermo

16 Jan 11 02:38
Cagliari unavailable: Lazzari

Palermo unavailable: Hernandez, Pinilla, Goian, Garcia, Miccoli;
Doubtful: Carrozzieri, Bovo.


Maccarone (mug) will play upfront for Palermo with Pastore behind in the attacking midfield role. Cagliari play on the island of Sardinia and are quite good at home and have some decent attacking options in the form of Nene, Matri and Acquafresca. They play 4-3-3 and will be going for the win against the depleted Rosenaro. 2.56 is a fair price for the home win and is worth a play.

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