The Morning Kick: EPL weekend roundup

By Dean Jones (Flickr: Sturridge v Arsenal) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

- Europol: investigators identify 380 fixed football matches - A Champions League tie played in England is one of 380 matches across Europe investigators say was fixed. However, European police did not reveal the identity of the match they believe was corrupt in England. Speaking in The Hague, Europol said that they had uncovered an organised crime syndicate based in Asia that was co-ordinating the operation, with around 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals under suspicion… (The Guardian)

- Premier League: 10 talking points from this weekend’s action - ”We have a winning mentality,” said Patrice Evra. “This is the Manchester United spirit, the strength of the boss. It is what he instils in us every year.” All of which pretty much summed up the leaders’ victory on the banks of the Thames… (The Guardian)

- Recapping the key stats from the weekend’s biggest games - Steven Gerrard fired Liverpool into the lead with a 33-yard strike in the 73rd minute. Gerrard has scored on his last two league shots from 30+ yards, including his 34-yard goal against Norwich City on Jan. 19th. Gerrard hadn’t scored from his first 21 shots of 30+ yards in league play this season… (Five Aside – ESPN FC)

- Liverpool’s passing thwarted Man City - In his regular BBC Sport column on football tactics, Robbie Savage takes a closer look at the 2-2 draw between Manchester City and Liverpool: City’s gameplan was to press Liverpool high up the pitch because of the attractive football Liverpool play. But, at times, it didn’t matter how much City pressed… (BBC Sport)

- Defensive issues remain as Benteke batters Everton - This starts on a tangent but it is a necessary diversion. Witnessing Mike Jones’ officiating for the third time this season, he is simply not good enough. Earlier this season, Jones and company disallowed two legitimate goals against Newcastle. Against Norwich, a Norwich player threw Leighton Baines to the floor. The result? Norwich free kick… (ESPN FC)

- Winner reminds Rooney of Ronaldo - The England striker took his tally to ten goals in as many games with a 79th-minute strike to give the league leaders a 1-0 victory over Fulham. It was a goal that was reminiscent of Ronaldo’s decider at Craven Cottage in February 2007 when United went on to become champions… (ESPN FC)

- Cancelling each other out: QPR vs. Norwich - After Harry Redknapp furthered his reputation for frantic trading in transfer windows, he extended his record for overseeing uneventful games. The Queens Park Rangers manager’s various teams have had 62 Premier League stalemates, more than any other coach’s, and the latest was a clear case of two teams cancelling each other out… Tactics & Analysis - ESPN)

- Kebe keeps Royals rolling - In the past, clubs have been keen on selling half-season tickets to fans wanting to taste the drama of the run-in but perhaps Reading should think about a season ticket that lets you in for the last ten minutes, as once again a late goal sealed the points for Brian McDermott’s side… (The Tilehurst End)

- Newcastle’s Sissoko sinks Chelsea - Moussa Sissoko paid off a sizeable part of his transfer fee with a superb double to hand Newcastle a precious 3-2 victory over European champions Chelsea… (Fox Sports)

- An Arsenal with a bit more edge - I’m feeling vaguely human again after Saturday’s pre and post Stoke high jinks left me feeling somewhat delicate yesterday. And we go into a week in which the players will go away with their international teams for a round of friendlies which nobody needs and are more stupid than Tony Pulis when he talks about football. That said, as horrendous as I find listening to him, perhaps there’s some method to his madness… (Arseblog)

- Hammers get back to winning ways - It wasn’t always pretty and it got nervy towards the end, but West Ham deservedly snapped their winless streak against Swansea with the excellent Andy Carroll powering in a header from a corner on 77 minutes… (West Ham United Blog – ESPN)

- Defending David De Gea: 3 Reasons Why Manchester United Should Keep Him - The amount of hostility that David De Gea receives each week is somewhat bemusing to me. I know he’s made mistakes, but so have many other world class goalkeepers. In a way, it is part of the job, and especially so in the EPL where punishing mistakes is a big part of the game… (EPL Talk)

- Brek Shea finally joins Stoke City - Brek Shea’s Texas-sized grin said it all. During the coverage blitz that is the last day of the January transfer window, the American winger was stopped for a word by reporters outside of Stoke City’s training ground… (Soccer USA – ESPN)

- Who should the USMNT start vs. Honduras - Now that we know who has been called into U.S. Men’s National Team camp, it is time to start thinking about which 11 players Jurgen Klinsmann will call on to take the field in San Pedro Sula to face Honduras on Wednesday… (Soccer by Ives)

- (Video) Mario Balotelli with match-winning brace in his Milan debut, silently asks ‘Can you dig it?’ - After scoring just once in 14 Premier League appearances for Man City this season, Mario Balotelli scored both of Milan’s goals in his debut against Udinese… (Dirty Tackle)

- (Video) Lescott, Milner square off in Super Bowl crossbar challenge - As far as we can tell, it was something called the Super Bowl Sunday night, which Beyonce apparently won… (The Toe Poke)

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