Championship Sunday focus: Norwich City

Leave a comment

Story so far…  Norwich’s Achilles heel all season has been scoring goals and they knew that going into this campaign. Expensive new signings Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper failed to do the business and now the Canaries are heading back to the Championship after being relegated, barring a freak combination of results on the final day of the season. In all honesty it has been a drab season at Carrow Road and they have failed to punch about their weight with the same vigor as previous seasons. Just 28 goals all season, a PL low, tells the whole story.

MORE: Head here for all things Championship Sunday

Their star player has been Robert Snodgrass, as the Scotsman has been consistent and a pest on the right wing. Getting rid of manager Chris Hughton was a shock move from the Canaries board and their horrendous run-in always meant the Norfolk club would be in trouble.

Who do they play and where can I watch it: On the final day of the season Norwich host Arsenal live on MSNBC at 10 a.m. ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra. The Gunners will rest plenty of their stars ahead of the FA Cup final vs. Hull City, while Norwich’s players owe it to their fans to go down fighting.

Form guide: Norwich were beaten 4-1 by Arsenal at the Emirates and the Canaries have been leaking so many goals of late. They have lost five of their last six, conceding 12 and scoring just twice. Their horror run in cost them dear as games against Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have proved too much to handle at the end of a grueling season.

March 29 – at Swansea, L 0-3
April 5 – vs. West Brom, L 0-1
April 12 – at Fulham, L 0-1
April 20 – vs. Liverpool, L 2-3
April 26 – at Manchester United, L 0-4
May 4 – at Chelsea, D 0-0

What’s at stake: They are almost certain to finish in 18th position baring a miracle. Norwich last suffered relegation from the PL in 2005 and their three-year stay in the top-flight has almost come to an end as they have that sinking feeling.

When the final whistle blows: They need a 17 goal swing in order to stay up, meaning West Brom must lost by eight against Stoke and the Canaries must beat Arsenal by eight. Yeah… Norwich are down and will finish in 18th.

NFL’s 49ers purchase minority stake in Leeds United

Getty Images
Leave a comment

One of England’s most famous clubs is receiving investment and strategic business connections from one of the NFL’s most famous brands.

Leeds United and the San Francisco 49ers announced Thursday that 49ers Enterprises, an investment arm of the 49ers ownership, has purchased a minority stake in the Championship club. Multiple reports state that the 49ers now own 10-15 percent of the club, but current Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani remains the majority owner.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

As part of the deal, 49ers President Paraag Marathe gets a seat on the Leeds United board of directors. Per Leeds, the money invested will stay with the club and be used for the first team, as Leeds looks again to make its way back to the Premier League in next season’s campaign.

An American ownership group investing in England is nothing new, but to identify and purchase a stake in a club with history and a decent chance at making it to the Premier League is impressive. In addition, the York Family, who owns the 49ers, has a net worth in the billions, which could help fund Leeds’ push back into the Premier League.

For the 49ers, this is also a savvy business decision. By investing low in a club in the Championship, they hope that they can experience the financial windfall of playing in the Premier League. This season, clubs made a combined $3.2 billion (with a capital B) thanks to revenue sharing, international and domestic TV rights, and other sponsorship deals.

With even the relegated sides taking home nine figures in revenues from the league, who wouldn’t want to invest and take a cut of that?

Now, only time will tell how long it is before the 49ers influence helps – or hinders, based on the 49ers current state of affairs in the U.S. – Leeds reach the pinnacle of English football.

Iniesta joins Japanese club Vissel Kobe

Getty Images
Leave a comment

TOKYO (AP) Former Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta was introduced as the newest member of Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Thursday, a poorly kept secret that’s been rumored for weeks.

Iniesta appeared before a packed news conference at a central Tokyo hotel on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner, Hiroshi Mikitani.

[READ: Earnie Stewart being considered for U.S. Soccer post]

“I’m pleased to announce,” Mikitani said, “that Andres Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona.”

Iniesta signed his contract as Mikitani watched, and then spoke through an interpreter.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but Japanese media are reporting he will earn $30 million annually on a three-year deal.

“For me this is a very special day,” the Spaniard said. “This is an important challenge for me. My family is excited to come to Japan and we are very pleased. There were many offers. Other clubs showed interest. But I decided to sign with Vissel Kobe because the project presented to me was impressive.”

Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.

Iniesta held up the team’s red shirt with his famous No. 8 on the back, and his name written across the bottom.

Iniesta previously had said he would probably retire from international soccer after Spain plays at this year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 34-year-old Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. He also was a key part of Spain’s two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

He announced last month he would leave Barcelona after 16 seasons. His last match for the Spanish club was on Sunday against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Vissel Kobe is in sixth place after 15 games in the J-League. It signed Lukas Podolski last year, but the German striker is out until the end of June with an injured calf.

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfielder unleashes Open Cup laser

@USSoccer
Leave a comment

Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.