The ten most important matches to follow for us – the newish American fans of the global game.
Quirkly little slogan for the Track, the backbone feature of this project. What does it mean, what is Noob?
The goal is to give starter-level preview several times a week on the most important matches for newer fans to follow. Nothing taxing, yet informative on what’s going on in America, North America, England and beyond. Local first, never local only.
And it’s all done with hopefully enough weirdness to bring something to even more seasoned fans. The Quest for Number B. Sandwich Reviewoobs. Scorning “real” named teams that aren’t deserving. Isle of Sodor Premier League coverage. Hopefully soon a Stolen Mailbag feature soon.
Saturdays are a little less weirdness, a little more footyball. Dig in!
Boca Juniors vs. River Plate – Copa Libertadores
South America’s Champions League has reached its Final! This is the first match of the two-legged, home and away tie. Not that either will be travelling far. Both are based in Buenos Aires.
This is one of the fiercest rivalries in sports anywhere in the world. The fact that the teams are only in 8th and 10th, respectively, in the Argentine Premier so far means nothing here and now. These are two historical powers in the country and on the continent.
They’re only about ten matches into the league season. River Plate will climb. The offense might not be quite everything it could be, but the defense is #1 in the league. Juniors have gone the other way so far – top four-offense, struggling on D.
Two quick Fun Facts about this matchup. A year ago, it couldn’t have even happened as a Final. Previously, if two teams from the same country reached the Semis, they had to face one another. The goal was to try and ensure the Finals were a multi-nation affair, help the ratings. That rule was just removed.
Also, both teams were formed in Boca, the same barrio of Buenos Aires. River Plate are now based in Belgrano, a northern barrio. (3:00 PM EST, Fox Deportes)
RESULT: suspended due to rain; now slated for 2:00 PM EST tomorrow on Deportes
B. Persepolis vs. Kashima Antlers – AFC Champions League Final
Another Final! And this time, the trophy’s being handed out. Japan’s 2016-17 J1 League runners-up Kashima won the first leg 0-2.
Today, they try and finish things off against the defending Iranian domestic league champions. By Elo rating, Kashima is the better team. But the difference is small enough that Persepolis should be considered the favorite at home. But by two goals? Not likely.
RESULT: 0-0 Kudos to the champs! Kashima takes the title
Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Sir Topham Hatt Hotspur – English Premier League
Three clubs remain undefeated in England. Hotspur is not one of them, but rather right behind them in 4th. If they can maintain a position at least that high in the table, they’ll qualify for next year’s Champions League. Palace are down in 14th.
They’re on a three-match win streak across all competitions, but haven’t kept a clean sheet in five. That’s rather the opposite of their league season to date. The defense has been quite solid, but the offense isn’t what the truer title contenders have shown.
Tenured Noobites know how Noob feels about Hotspur. The club is named for historical multi-king traitor Harry Percy. Rather than spew my usual bile and vitriol over this fact, I’ll use this as an opportunity to preview a hopefully-upcoming feature. Noob is working on an interview with Will Rivard, creator of website Tottenham Hotspur World (Twitter: @WorldHotspur).
I hope it will be a chance at a slightly deeper dive than Noob gives for individual clubs, the sort of site to which newer fans graduate from Noob. Perhaps a little club history, news on the current state of the team and where it’s headed, maybe even an explanation on why it’s named for such a cretinous yahoo as Harry “Hotspur” Percy.
Whoops. I said no bile and vitriol. Just look for it soon, Noobites. It should be a treat.
RESULT: Hotspur 1-0
Wow, Sir Topham Hatt looks something other than cross for once!
Tigres UANL vs. Puebla – Liga MX
Two matches left for these two in the Apertura (first half-season). The top half of the league (eight clubs) will qualify for the Liguilla (postseason tournament).
Puebla are in 11th place. They’re just three points behind 8th-place Pachuca. Still, they likely need to win both they’re remaining matches to leapfrog the necessary clubs and climb three steps in the table. Trouble is, they’ve allowed 2+ goals in seven consecutive matches. They’ve been bottom-four defensively to date.
Tigres are in 7th. They just broke a three-match non-winning streak with a road W over midtable Morelia. Before that clean sheet, they’d allowed 11 goals over their last four matches. (8:00 PM, ESPN Deportes)
RESULT: Tigres 6-1
Metropolitan Police vs. Newport County – England FA Cup
Yesterday, Noob featured a Minnow Watch and here we get another! This is the first round of the “Competition Proper”, where teams as high as the third-tier of English football enter the tournament. Previously, teams from the lower divisions have been battling to get to this point.
Metropolitan Police are one of three seventh-tier teams to have survived those qualifying rounds. They are out of the Southern League Premier Division South, based in Surrey. They’re just midtable there, and playing dreadful defense.
Newport Town come calling today, from level four of the English football pyramid. They’re tied for 5th in League Two, though it’s hard to see how. They make their host’s defense look divine.
Too just look at stats in their respective leagues, this could be a shootout. Or given the gap in pyramid level, Newport may just come in and crush them.
RESULT: Newport 0-2
Higher-league teams could take a lesson from the fine crest-work.
FC Porto vs. Braga – Portugual Primeira Liga
Braga are the lone undefeated team remaining here in UEFA’s #7-ranked league. Tied with them – FC Porto. Both lead the rest of the league on both offense and defense. Top two finishers make the Champions League next year.
A draw would leave both vulnerable to fellow powerhouse Sporting CP just behind. A win for either gives them a real leg up in the title race, even here early in the season.
RESULT: Porto 1-0
Connah’s Quay vs. Barry Town – Welsh Premier
The Welsh top flite may be one of Europe’s weakest, but Noob’s always down for more tied-for-1st place action!
Connah’s Quay is no surprise. They finished 3rd last year, about as low as Noob’s seen in my brief time closely following the footsball.
Barry Town? Yeah, they were in 7th last year. They’ve won seven of eight matches running, though every win but one by a single goal. Soccer may not be a high-scoring affair typically, but that’s unusual even in this sport. They’re not strong enough up front to keep this up all season long, will drop to midtable.
Audax Italiano vs. Palestino – Copa Chile
What an odd Final. With a Copa Libertadores berth going to the FA Cup winner, one would think the best teams would be getting here. Audax and Palestino are well down the Premier League table in Chile, 11th and 13th, respectively.
Heck, Palestino is only two spots clear of the Relegation Zone! Noob wonders if a team has ever qualified for the CL and been Demoted in the same season.
This is the first leg of the two-legged, home and away Final. Between the higher table position and actually having a positive goal differential, Noob supposed Audax has to be the favorite.
RESULT: Palestino 0-1
Mediterranean Chickpea Chili
C’mon, that’s odd chili.
*sigh* Who’s running images here with Dan the Intern-o Inferno gone?
Zrinjski Mostar vs. FK Sarajevo – Bosnia and Herzegovina Premier
We return to Europe for a #B-#1 matchup. The league is only ranked #40 (of 55) by UEFA, yet that only rachets up the drama. Only one club can earn a Champions League invite.
Sarajevo made a late push to finish even 3rd last season. Now, they lead the pack by five points. They’ve averaged over two goals per match, which is astounding. More so, because they’re among the league leaders at goal-stopping, too.
This isn’t must-win for Mostar, as the season is only halfway done. Yet falling behind by eight points should they take the L at home today would have them in a bad way. They’re the #B offense in the league, but by a lot. It will be curious to see if they try pushing the pace at home, or take some of the air out of the ball. Noob thinks if they make the game wide-open, they’re going to go down.
Newcastle Jets vs. Sydney FC – Australia A-League
We finish the Saturday track down under in a top-ten Asian League. Yes, Noob knows they’re their own continent. They left the OFC for the AFC some years ago.
The season is so young Down under that we’re better served looking at last year’s table. it was a weird one. Sydney FC blew everyone out. Even so, Newcastle had no close competition for runners-up position.
Three matches in this year, Sydney have yet to lose. Newcastle sits in dead last. They’ve only scored twice. Maybe they should try wresting Usain Bolt away from Central Coast Mariners since he hasn’t yet completed a contract with them. (Yes, that Usain Bolt. He’s been training with CCM for a while now.)
RESULT: 1-1 Jets’ Nicholas Cowburn equalizes at 87′
So long from Newcastle!
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