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Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

Scottish Premier League Kick-Off 2013-14

The new Scottish Premier League season kicks off today with reigning champions Celtic unsurprisingly listed as strong bookies favourites at one hundred to one on with many bookmakers. They get their campaign under way on Saturday evening at home against Ross County. Last season’s runners-up Motherwell start away at Hibs on Sunday lunchtime and 2012-13 third placed side Inverness start at home to St. Mirren. Newly promoted Partick Thistle host the season’s curtain raiser this evening at Firhill against Dundee United. The full details of the opening round of fixtures are as follows:

Friday 2nd August 2013
19:45 – Partick Thistle v Dundee United
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Scotland name 29 man squad for England friendly

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has named a twenty nine man squad for his team’s friendly match against England at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday the 14th of August. The match is part of the English FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations and is a repeat of the first ever international fixture, first played on the 30th of November 1872 in Partick, which finished 0-0. It’s the first time the two countries have met on the football field this millennium, as their last encounter was the Euro 2000 Qualifying Play-off second leg at the old Wembley Stadium on the 17th of November 1999, which Scotland won 1-0 with a first-half goal from Don Hutchison but lost 2-1 on aggregate, having been beaten 2-0 four days earlier in Glasgow.

Celtic and Norwich City are the two best represented clubs in the squad, with three players each in the form of Charlie Mulgrew, Scott Brown and James Forrest from the Scottish champions and Russell Martin, Steven Whittaker and Robert Snodgrass from the English Premier League side. In total, there are twenty two English league based players in the squad, with twelve of them currently at Premier League clubs. Five players are from the Scottish Premier League, striker Kenny Miller is coming over from Vancouver Whitecaps in the Canada, who play in the MLS, and defender Andy Webster is currently a free agent after his Hearts contract expired. There is no place for Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher, who is still recovering from his ulcerative colitis.

The squad in full is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Matt Gilks (Blackpool), David Marshall (Cardiff City), Allan McGregor (Hull City)

Defenders: Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Grant Hanley (Blackburn Rovers), Gordon Greer (Brighton and Hove Albion), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Andy Webster (Free Agent), Steven Hammell (Motherwell), Russell Martin & Steven Whittaker (both Norwich City)

Midfielders: Barry Bannan (Aston Villa), Chris Burke (Birmingham City), Liam Bridcutt (Brighton and Hove Albion), Craig Conway (Cardiff City), James Forrest and Scott Brown (both Celtic), Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United), Steven Naismith (Everton), George Boyd (Hull City), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City), Charlie Adam (Stoke City), Graham Dorrans and James Morrison (both West Bromwich Albion), James McArthur (Wigan Athletic)

Forwards: Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn Rovers), Kenny Miller (Vancouver Whitecaps), Shaun Maloney (Wigan Athletic), Leigh Griffiths (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Scottish Historical Club Ranking updated following Celtic’s Cup Win

Glasgow Celtic completed a fairly routine 3-0 win over Hibernian in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park yesterday to round off the 2012-13 season in Scottish football and seal a double that narrows the gap to Rangers at the top of our all-time ranking of Scottish football clubs.

Hibernian actually started the 128th final the stronger of the two teams and threatened twice in the opening few minutes but it was the hoops who took the lead in only the eighth minute when Gary Hooper directed the ball into the net with a side foot volley at the far post. Hibernian had failed to adequately clear a ball across their box and Anthony Stokes collected it near the corner flag down the Celtic left to fire a perfect cross back past Williams in the Hibs goal to leave Hooper with a fairly straightforward finish.

The second goal came just after the half hour mark and it was made on the same production line with Stokes again crossing from the left and Hooper rising above his markers to fire a bullet header past Williams. Leigh Griffiths did have a good chance to pull one back for Hibs before the interval when he beat the offside trap and rounded Fraser Forster but the angle was too tight to get his shot on target. After that, Celtic never really looked in trouble and they completed the scoring through Joe Ledley with ten minutes remaining.

Celtic’s prior Champions League qualification means that Hibernian have the consolation of qualifying for the UEFA Europa League next season along with Motherwell and St Johnstone.

Celtic’s 36th Scottish Cup win came shortly after their 44th league championship, which ended last week with a 16 point winning margin over Motherwell in second place and St Johnstone a further seven points back in third. The League Cup was won by St Mirren this season for the first time in their history. Dundee were relegated from the Premier League and they will be replaced by Partick Thistle next season. The double means that Celtic have cut the gap to Rangers in our historical ranking of Scottish football clubs from 135 to 117 points this season, with Heart of Midlothian still a distant third.

The Final Stretch – European season reaches its climax

With most of the major European leagues now wrapped up, attention in most countries is turning towards the upcoming spate of cup finals across the continent. In England the FA Cup final is, of course, already done and dusted with Wigan Athletic having sensationally beaten Manchester City 1-0 at Wembley to win that venerable trophy for the first time in their history, and on Friday night in Madrid, Spain, Atletico stunned their neighbours Real Madrid in their own backyard at the Bernabeu to win the Copa del Rey. Atletico’s 2-1 extra time win was their first victory over Real in any competition for fourteen years.

The next ten days will see the cup winners decided in Scotland, Italy, Portugal, France and Germany, as well as the Champions League final and the English Championship Play-off final for a place in next season’s Premier League. This coming weekend is the big one, with five major finals over the extended Bank Holiday break (in the UK) for fans to enjoy and European club football’s showpiece event, the Champions League Final kicks it all off on Saturday night.

The Champions League Final – Saturday 25th May 2013, 19:45, Wembley Stadium, London

This year’s final is an all-German clash between Borussia Dortmund and strongly fancied Bayern Munich. Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern are the newly crowned Bundesliga champions, having dislodged Borussia from their perch, and have enjoyed perhaps the most spectacularly successful league season in their history. They won the Bundesliga at a canter by a massive twenty five points, scoring ninety eight goals in the process to end up with a staggering goal difference of plus eighty. They imperiously swept aside Barcelona in the semi finals 7-0 on aggregate to record the biggest semi final victory margin since 1960 and quite frankly they look unstoppable.

Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund have had an average season by their recent high standards and had to be content with a distant second spot having been champions two years running prior to this season. Their European form has been much better and they annihilated Real Madrid in the first leg of their semi final before holding on resolutely in the face at a late Real Madrid rally at the Bernabeu to book their spot at Wembley. Their success was dampened somewhat by the news that star man Mario Gotze will be jumping ship to Bayern this summer, putting a dent in their hopes of narrowing the gap next season, but they will be hopeful of a big performance on the night to create a small upset.

The two clubs have been regular opponents over the past twelve months with supremacy in head to head matches slowly shifting from Dortmund to the Bavarians. Dortmund had a crushing 5-2 win in the German Cup final last May but Bayern took their first chance for revenge in the Super Cup final in August, winning 2-1. The first league clash finished in a 1-1 stalemate in Munich in December but Bayern triumphed again, 1-0, in a cup quarter final in Munich in February and the return league fixture in Dortmund ended 1-1 earlier this month when the title was already sown up.

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Home defeat brings further misery for Rangers

At the end of a week in which they went into administration and were docked ten points to all but end their title hopes, Glasgow Rangers were desperately in need of a positive result to lighten the mood around Ibrox. However, there was no respite from their problems as they went down 1-0 to Kilmarnock in front of a capacity crowd. Former Hibs and Doncaster Rovers striker Dean Shiels got the only goal of the game, in the 12th minute and when Rangers’ Bosnian defender Sasa Papac was sent off just before half time there was no way back for Ally McCoist’s men. The result leaves Rangers a massive 14 points behind arch-rivals Celtic, having played a game more, with rumours of further details surrounding their financial plight expected to break in the Sunday papers.  It remains to be seen whether the new developments will signal light at the end of the tunnel or a greater than previously expected burden of debt.

Kilmarnock’s win lifted them into the top half of the table, above Dundee United, who could only draw 0-0 at home to St Mirren, and Aberdeen, who host St Johnstone at Sunday lunchtime. Elsewhere, Motherwell cemented their third place in the table with a comfortable 3-0 home win over nearest challengers Hearts, and bottom club Dunfirmline drew 1-1 with Inverness Caledonian Thistle at East End Park.

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