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Baxter hoping Khune brings the magic

South Africa

Ronaldo caught up in magical warfare

This was the week in which Wilson Palacios fell foul of a Honduran military junta, that infamous beach ball kept bouncing back into the headlines, Cristiano Ronaldo got caught up in voodoo warfare and a Norwegian striker was auctioned off to football fans.

Palacios toes party line - Friday, October 16th

Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp was forced prepare for Saturday's Premier League clash with Portsmouth without Wilson Palacios after the Honduras international decided to stay and party in his homeland after qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1982.

Nothing strange about a partying South American returning late following international duty you may think, but the Tottenham star was ordered to stay and make merry by his country's ruling military junta. So while Spurs were running through training schemes, Palacios and his Honduras team-mates were attending a celebration party in the country's capital Tegucigalpa under pressure from the recently-installed government.

As it happens, Palacios returned to England in time to take his place on the bench for Tottenham's trip to Fratton Park and will have been celebrating for real after Spurs bagged a 2-1 away win to move them up to third in the Premier League.

Liverpool's nemesis up for sale - Saturday, October 17th

Shortly after starring at the Stadium of Light the beach ball that proved so costly for Liverpool at Sunderland made its way onto ebay to prove its real worth.

The inflatable assassin diverted Darren Bent's winning goal into the back of Pepe Reina's net and then appeared on the famous auction website along with a claim of authenticity from seller Simon_SAFC that read: "I got this ball as I work at the Stadium of Light and a steward gave it to me at full-time. I have arranged to get it signed by Darren Bent!"

The seller did indeed contact Sunderland to try and get his ball signed by the England striker but a club spokesman revealed that he had turned down the request. "I have had an email from someone called Simon_SAFC wanting a signature on a ball," the spokesman said. "But it is not something the club would do. It's not a charity request."

Meanwhile, Liverpool's club shop have sold out of beach balls since the incident and it's thought that Manchester United fans have snapped them all up ahead of their visit to Anfield on Sunday. Expect an inflatable pitch invasion.

Pires slur lost in translation - Sunday, October 18th

During my school days, a fellow pupil once escaped punishment for telling a friend to 'f*** off' by explaining to the teacher that had overheard his expletive that he'd actually said 'hook off' because the hook he used to hang up his coat had come off (I'm not making this up). I bring this up because Villarreal midfielder Robert Pires is attempting to pull off a Houdini escape act of similar ridiculousness after finding himself in trouble with the Spanish FA.

Following Villarreal's 2-1 defeat to lowly Xerez on Sunday, which left the Yellow Submarines bottom of La Liga and without a win this season, the Frenchman's frustration appeared to bubble over as the match referee Rubinos Perez reported the midfielder for calling him a "son of a whore" at the final whistle.

With a ban looming, Pires attempted to extricate himself from the suspension by insisting he did not call the official a hijo de puta (son of a whore) at all, but actually blurted out the French word putain which, despite carrying a similar meaning, is also used as an expression of frustration, an expletive version of damn!

"I told him [the referee] that I wanted to talk to him," Pires explained. "Without losing my temper, I asked him three times but he refused so then I lost my rag a bit and this made me shout out putain."

Beach ball comes bouncing back for more - Monday, October 19th

The beach ball related jokes, gifs and jpegs flooded into email inboxes up and down the country on Monday morning as everybody who wasn't a Liverpool fan, and maybe some that were, laughed at the Reds' misfortune at the start of their working day.

By mid-morning the Daily Mirror used one of these gags, in which the image of the ball throwing fan is replaced with a picture of Manchester United defender Gary Neville, to run a tongue in cheek 'exclusive' that claimed the Liverpool beach ball culprit was in fact a United fan.

And by Monday evening Leeds United used their League Two match against Norwich City at Elland Road to poke even more fun at the situation. Leeds goalkeeper Shane Higgs conducted his pre-match warm-up in front of a goal that had been blockaded by five giant inflatables. Pepe Reina should take note.

Domenech: Ireland are "England B side" - Tuesday, October 20

France were pitted against the Republic of Ireland following the World Cup play-off draw for the UEFA confederation and beleaguered Les Blues boss Raymond Domenech quickly blundered into familiar faux pas territory when he referred to his team's tricky opponents as the "England B team" in his post-draw comments.

If there is one country who find it incredibly irksome to be compared with England it's probably Ireland and Domenech's comments will surely be posted on the dressing room wall as motivation ahead of the first leg at Croke Park, a stadium so entrenched with Irish nationalism that it only hosted gaelic games until very recently.

"The advantage is that everyone knows them," Domenech said of Ireland. "They are a sort of England B side. They all play in the English league so all our players know them: some of our players play alongside them, while others against them. There will be no surprises. We know what to expect and we know what we have to do."

But Domenech's gaff does raise an interesting question: how many of the "England B side" could make it into Fabio Capello's team?

Ronaldo caught up in magical warfare - Wednesday, October 21

A few weeks backs we reported that a voodoo priest named Pepe had been hired to use his black-magic to injure £80 million Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now sidelined for a month with an ankle injury, and the crocked forward has now become the centre of a magical war.

A Portuguese wizard, named Fernando Nogueira, had a crack at healing his countryman last week but with Ronaldo still sidelined it seems he failed to dispel the magic of Pepe, who has since responded to Nogueira's challenge by saying he will cast a spell that will end the World Player of the Year's career.

But all is not lost for our hero as a group of Peruvian Shamans decided to ride to Ronaldo's rescue and gathered outside the Spanish Embassy in Lima this week to perform a cleansing ritual, involving a bizarre combination of swords and maracas, to lift the curse.

Goodness knows if any of it worked but following a clinical examination and MRI scan Real Madrid's medical report revealed that "the minimum estimated [recovery] time is three to four weeks".

Buy your own footballer - Thursday, October 22

Ever fancied buying a share in your favourite football player? Well you can't. But you can buy a share in a footballer you have never heard of who has trials at a number of La Liga clubs.

In much the same way that MyFootballClub offered fans the chance to buy a share of a real football club, Ebbsfleet United, Spanish based entity Myfootballplayer are offering the average fan the chance to buy a share in a number of promising footballers in a radical revamp of player ownership.

According to Spanish daily Marca, Norwegian striker Daniel Førlandsås will be the first player to run the gauntlet and a 5% share in the player will only set you back around €1000. If Førlandsås impresses during one of his trials and goes on to make it big, investors will get a share of the transfer fee and future signing-on fees.

Førlandsås has reassured potential investors that their money will be safe in him. The Norwegian said: "I'm very proud that the fans can be made part of my rights and want to put their trust in me. I'll take that as a responsibility and I have come to Spain to work hard and become an elite footballer."


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