First “Super Sunday” of the Season on Setanta

Those who watch the Barclays Premier League are familiar with the term Super Sunday, used to describe a major double – or triple – header of soccer on a Sunday in the Premier League. This is the first of two in the next month. Here are the details of this Sunday’s coverage.

Setanta Sports will show Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City to kickoff their coverage on Sunday, with kickoff at 8:30am ET. Then at 11am ET Arsenal head to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. All four of these teams are playing in Europe this season, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal taking part in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Spurs will play in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League. Coverage will begin at 7:30am ET with pre-match buildup.

Also this weekend two teams that have surprised through two games to be near the top of the table, Wolves and Aston Villa, meet Saturday morning at 7am ET on TSN2. Saturday afternoon features Liverpool against Bolton Wanderers at 12:25pm ET on Sportsnet One.

La Liga also kicks off with coverage this weekend. Real Zaragoza plays Real Madrid at 1:55pm ET on Sunday, followed by Sevilla Malaga at 3:55pm ET. On Monday Barcelona plays Villarreal at 2:55pm ET in a battle of two Champions League clubs. All three games will air on GolTV Canada.

Premier League on Fox

In other news, Fox (as in the over-the-air channel) has announced that it will carry some Barclays Premier League games this season. They will show 3 games on tape delay this fall, and live coverage of a game in February. The 3 games this fall will complement their NFL coverage on Sunday afternoons. They are Manchester United vs. Chelsea on September 18, Spurs vs. Arsenal on October 2 and Chelsea vs. Liverpool on November 20. The games will air on weeks where Fox has a NFL singleheader. They will air at 2pm ET in markets that get an NFL game at 4pm ET; and at 4:30pm ET in markets that get an NFL game at 1pm ET.

Fox will also show the return leg of Chelsea vs. Manchester United on Super Bowl Sunday. Coverage of that game will begin at 10:30am ET. I have to say, I am very pleased to see the attention that soccer is getting in the US. It is finally catching up to Canada where the Premier League and Champions League have been on basic cable for 10+ years. Viewers in the US can now see many top Premier League, Champions League and La Liga with subscriptions to ESPN2, FSN and FX. More expensive channels like FSC, FS+ and GolTV are no longer necessary. It is a great way to bring in more fans south of the border.

Manchester City-Tottenham: Tomorrow on Setanta

Manchester City, currently 4th in the Barclays Premier League table, play host to 5th ranked Tottenham Hotspur in a midweek battle at City of Manchester Stadium tomorrow evening. With a victory, Manchester City will clinch fourth place and a spot in the 2011-2012 UEFA Champions League. Spurs need to win out, and get some help from Manchester City’s future opponents if they are to retain their Champions position gained last season. Coverage will be live on Setanta Sports Canada from 2:00pm ET, with kick-off around 2:45pm ET.

Also, just a reminder, today at 2:55pm ET (in just a few minutes) Fulham host Liverpool live on TSN2 from Craven Cottage. Liverpool also need a win to hold on to their slim hopes of a Champions League position next season.

CTV, Global Both Make Mistakes Last Night

Two weeks ago I came to the defense of CTV. After last night, I need to call them out on a mistake. The AFC Championship Game between the Steelers and Jets ended around 10pm ET. CTV went to commercial and then had Jay Onrait come on and end the broadcast, telling viewers to tune in two weeks from now to watch the Super Bowl. The mistake that CTV made was choosing to not show the Lamar Hunt Trophy presentation, which is a major part of the Conference Championship Game broadcasts. CBS aired the trophy presentation and post-game interviews for 15 minutes after CTV ended their broadcast, until about 10:15pm ET.

Now, you may be wondering, what was so important to CTV that they had to rush off-air at exactly 10pm ET? The answer is The Big Bang Theory repeats. Now, The Big Bang Theory is a fine show, probably my favourite sitcom, but the choice of airing repeats after a high rated broadcast has to be questioned in itself. The AFC Championship will be one of the highest rated primetime programs on CTV this year. They would have been well advised to show a new episode of a show, like maybe a new episode of Flashpoint for example. It would have generated interest in the show and given Flashpoint a boost in the ratings. If I was CTV, I’d air a new Flashpoint after the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl. Whoever makes these programming decisions at CTV needs to be replaced.

Amazingly, there was a decision in Canadian broadcasting last night that was worse than the decisions that CTV made. Global decided to air 15 minutes (that is half of an episode for those wondering) of a repeat of The Simpsons from 10 until 10:15pm ET last night. They did this to insure that they got to simulcast the all new episode of Hawaii 5-0 that aired after the football finished on CBS. There was absolutely no reason they had to wait for CBS, they just decided they would. As a  result of this horrendous decision local news got delayed in the east and only part of Bob’s Burgers was aired in the west. Nobody can say that Global really cares about local news after they delayed it because they wanted a few thousand more viewers for Hawaii 5-0. I don’t think that any other broadcaster anywhere in the world would do something like this.

I will usually stand up for the Canadian broadcasters, but both made some bad decisions last night, especially as far as public relations are concerned in Global’s case. I’m sure there were lots of angry 5-0 viewers who tuned into Global expecting the episode even though CBS was still airing football and even more angry viewers who wanted their local news at 11:00. The sad thing is, whatever viewers Global gained for 5-0, they probably lost for local news. Anyone who wanted news probably flipped over to CTV or simply turned the TV off and went to bed.

On the US side of things, CBS’s broadcast was absolutely first class, as usual. I don’t know what it is, but an NFL playoff game on CBS seems like a big event, while one on Fox just seems like another game. It could be the simple fact that Fox’s broadcast crew and production values aren’t as good as those of CBS. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are also probably my second favourite NFL commentary crew, only after NBC’s Al Michaels and Cris Collingsworth. They do a better job of conveying the atmosphere in the stadium than Fox’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikmen. Of course we will have to deal with Fox’s coverage of the Super Bowl this year, which is far worse than the Super Bowl coverage that NBC and CBS put out for many reasons.

Other News & Notes

  • Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys and pundit Andy Gray were caught saying sexist remarks on-air during Saturday’s Wolves-Liverpool match. The two agreed that female officials don’t know the offsides rule and there there would “be a big [mistake] today” as far as offsides are concerned. Keys and Gray believed that their microphones were off at the time of the incident, which doesn’t excuse it in any way. The ironic thing was that the official they were referring to, Sian Massey, made the correct call on a close play, saying that it wasn’t offside. This led to a Liverpool goal.  Keys and Gray are suspended for tonight’s Bolton-Chelsea match while Sky decides if there will be any further punishment. This is the second case of sexism by well known commentators this year. ESPN’s football commentator Ron Franklin has already been fired for sexist remarks directed at a sideline reporter during a production meeting. You can hear Keys’ response to the remarks here.
  • The TSN Curling Skins Game took place this past weekend. Unfortunately my favourite team, David Murdoch, couldn’t defend the title they won last year. Kevin Martin won the 2011 title. The skins game is one of the most exciting curling events to watch on TV. Last week I mentioned that Russ Howard is the best curling analyst ever. One thing he needs to do more often is be quiet when the curlers are discussing strategy. David Murdoch and Kevin Martin both see the game better than just about anyone else and they can tell us what’s going on just as well as Howard can.
  • I have to give credit to ESPN2 for airing much of the Milos Raonic match last night. Raonic is the first Canadian player to reach the round of 16 in the Open era at the Australian Open.  It’s too bad that Canadians have to rely on an American broadcaster (or the internet, TSN streamed the entire match at TSN.ca) to watch our top athletes, but at least ESPN gave us the opportunity to see him. I honestly don’t think that the ESPN commentators know that their coverage is aired in Canada though.
  • A funny moment happened at the Australian Open last week when former tennis player and  Channel 7 reporter Todd Woodbrige interviewed Kim Clijsters after a match at the Australian Open. Clijsters brought up a text that Woodbrige had sent to another former Aussie tennis player, Rennae Stubbs, saying that he thought Clijsters was pregnant because she looks grumpy and has bigger boobs. Needless to say it was one of the funniest sports related moments on TV this year. I have to give her some big time credit for taking it in stride and joking about it, some might have been really offended. That is why Clijsters is one of my favourite tennis players.

EPL & Serie A Midseason Reviews

Now that were are finished the busy Christmas period of Barclay’s Premier League fixtures and with an FA Cup break coming up on the weekend, I figured that today would be a good day to re-visit my preseason predictions. First you can see my EPL season preview here. Based on this, Chelsea and Liverpool have been among the many disappointing teams. Aston Villa have easily been the most disappointing, they are sitting in a relegation spot after Christmas play. Bolton and Newcastle have been among the surprises as they have finished the end of the Christmas break in the top half.

My prediction of Manchester United winning the league is looking good so far, they have yet to lose. Just like I predicted, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham are competing for the other three Champions League positions. Looking ahead, I think that only Arsenal and maybe Manchester City will be able to compete with Manchester United for the Premier League title. Chelsea have played their way out of contention over the last month, with it coming to a head yesterday with a loss to Wolves.

Speaking of Wolves, I had them, West Bromwich and Blackpool going back down to the Football League Championship. At the midway point, only Blackpool have done enough to convince me that they will survive to fight another season in the top flight of English football. They are sitting in 13th on 25 point even though they have had multiple home games postponed due to a frozen pitch. Many of those will be made up this month, which will give Blackpool a chance to climb back into the top half.

At the midway point my new predictions for European spots and relegation are

Champions League
1. Manchester United
2. Arsenal
3. Manchester City
4. Chelsea

Europa League
5. Tottenham Hotspur
6. Sunderland
7. Newcastle United

Relegated to FL Championship
18. Wolverhampton Wanderers
19. West Ham United
20. Wigan Athletic

Promotion to Premier League
1. Queen’s Park Rangers
2. Cardiff City
3. Leeds United

Serie A

Moving on to the Serie A now. My preseason Serie A predictions couldn’t be more wrong. I had one Milan team winning the league and one missing out on the Champions League, only problem is that I had them backwards. I had Inter winning the Scudetto again, with Milan finishing 5th and heading to the Europa League.

Starting at the top of the table, Lazio and Napoli have been surprises. I had both missing out on Europe, but at coming out of the Christmas break they are both sitting in Champions League positions. I think that Roma is the team to watch in the 2nd half of the season. Their second half form was well documented last season and they almost won the League because of it despite their horrible first half. I don’t see them winning this year either, but they look prime to get back into a Champions League spot.

Moving further down, it looks like Palermo should be able to wrap up a Europa League birth. Internazionale should be able to get the other one, but they will be challenged by a group of nine teams sitting within four points of them that is led by Sampdoria. Inter has more talent than any of the teams chasing them, so that should help them. I don’t see them getting into a Champions League spot regardless of what they do over the next 4 and a half months though.

Looking at the bottom of the table, Bari look certain to be relegated with just 2 wins from 17 games. Cesana, Brescia and Lecce will fight it out to stay alive as it looks like only one of them will be playing in the Serie A next season.

My predictions for European spots and relagation at the midway point of the Serie A season are

Champions League
1. Milan
2. Juventus
3. Napoli
4. Roma

Europa League
5. Lazio
6. Internazionale
7. Palermo

Relegated to Serie B
18. Brescia
19. Lecce
20. Bari

Promoted to Serie A
1. Novara
2. Siena
3. Atalanta