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Feb 16, 2009

The last look at the weekend

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a five-star weekend.

Guus has a gander... at Watford

Forget about the opportunity to lead Chelsea to the Premier League title, run the rest of Europe to the wire in the Champions League, work with one of the finest and most expensive group of players in the world or triumph in the globe's best Cup competition because Guus Hiddink is essentially here for one reason and one reason only; as a favour to a mate.

Perched uncomfortably close to the great unwashed, Hiddink sat in the stands at that most illustrious of British venues - Vicarage Road - wondering whether this was a football ground or an archaic monument to brutalist architecture. He certainly looked bemused, probably thinking Roman was having him on when he called begging for help and waxing lyrical about the glitz and glamour in the English game.

As it was he did see a pretty good FA Cup tie, along with proof that Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka can play together perfectly well. What he thought of Michael Ballack and Salomon Kalou's performances, however, were probably similar to his feelings on deepest, darkest Hertfordshire.

Parched Pompey pinch the points

Freed from the temporary, and terrible, shackles of Tony Adams Portsmouth finally have a Premier League victory to shout about. It was their first win since Adams departed (exactly one game ago), and their first top flight triumph since November. Yes, November last year.

But while Adams' final assignment was to try and beat title-chasing Liverpool with chief executive Peter Storrie's pressing an ice cold revolver against his temple in the dug out, caretaker boss Paul Hart only had to negotiate his way past the enigma that is Manchester City.

It was a pitiful game. No-one seemed to care, cohesion was lacking, technical skill went missing and the ability to string a meaningful pass to a colleague seemed to have evaporated upon kick-off. And that was just City. Don't forget they won the reverse fixture 6-0 at Eastlands. And that was when Harry was still in charge and Pompey were half-decent.

How delighted Paul Hart must have been that his debut was a) at home and b) against the fair-weather lightweights of City. For all his post-match trumpeting, Hart ultimately knows Portsmouth triumphed largely thanks to his players being about 0.01% more up for it than Robinho, Elano et al.

Swansea's Spanish master

Unlike the manager he outwitted in the last round of the Cup (a certain Tony Adams) Roberto Martinez has little pedigree as a player, but my word he has taken to management like a duck to water. His uneventful playing can pretty much be summed up by this sentence; he failed to make Motherwell's first team. Are you with me? Good, then let's move swiftly on...

After leading Swansea to promotion from League Two as captain he returned two years later as manager, bagging three back-to-back manager of the month awards soon after. In his first full season he lead them to the League One title, and now his sights are firmly trained on the Premier League - they are currently only three points off the play-offs with a game in hand.

No wonder the fans love him. Martinez likes to play passing football and sets his team up to attack the opposition. On Saturday Fulham had little answer to their irrepressible style. Had winger Mark Gower had his shooting boots on he'd have put the Swans 2-0 up inside 24 minutes. Instead, despite all their pressure, possession and chances, it was a touch of magic from the prolific Jason Scotland that gives Martinez and his side another bite of the cherry next week.

Dancing to Moyes' tune

After Everton's breathless win over Aston Villa it's about time to salute that wiliest of Premier League gaffers, David Moyes. Rarely, if ever, this season has the Toffees boss had the pleasure of fielding his full strength team but whoever comes into his well-drilled side seems infected with the same spirit and determination as his fallen comrade.

Quite apart from the injuries to Yakubu, Louis Saha (shock horror) and James Vaughan, Moyes had to cope without Steven Pienaar, Marouane Fellaini and Leon Osman for the visit of Villa.

But when Moyes can engender the sort of confidence and willing in teenagers like Dan Gosling, who scored the winner against Liverpool in round four, and Jack Rodwell, who notched the opener at Goodison on Sunday, you have to salute the man. Perhaps his famous tactic of bedding new recruits in by forcing them to sing a karaoke tune to the rest of his squad is as inspired as his team talks.

The only criticism I'd have of Moyes is his pathetic goal celebration, a la Fergie. As soon as Everton score and he limply raises his fists into jiggling position its like his limbs instantly lock, meaning he's stuck on the touchline like a frozen, manic ginger thing. Not that I'd say it to his face mind.

The Newcastle United soap opera

They weren't even in action over the weekend but once again I am forced to write about the trials and tribulations on Tyneside after Newcastle United boss Joe Kinnear had a triple heart bypass.

Obviously, I wish JFK a speedy recovery but I couldn't help but raise a smile at him this week. Not because he has had to undergo life saving surgery of course, but because he came out and said he was fine and dandy just a few days before. We should have known this was a warning sign given JFK's past ramblings on Michael Owen (''I'm optimistic he's going to sign a new contract'') and Shay Given (''he's perfectly happy here'').

As well as Kinnear's op, Toon managing director Derek Llambias finally broke the deafening silence employed in the boardroom since Kevin Keegan left and, largely, did an unconvincing job of it. Then, just to confirm how clueless they are, they hand caretaker twins Chris Hughton and Colin Calderwood two matches to prove themselves rather than appointing their second interim manager of the season.

They seem to think they've time to squander and experiments to conduct despite the perilous predicament they are in. Lose those games, at home to Everton and away at Bolton, and they'll be back in the bottom three.

I don't want to write about them every week you understand, but they repeatedly leave me no choice

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