Cold weather affected Europe strongly in the first two weeks of 2010, impinging fixtures from Germany to Spain, but the action is back with the resurgent Atletico Madrid, Milan and Manchester City enjoying positive campaigns in the New Year. While the Argentine Primera is on vacation, the African Cup of Nations has taken center stage, unfortunately also for reasons beyond the sport. With many players away at the African Cup of Nations, the Premiership is set for an unusual jostle at the top of the table. In Italy, Inter remains on course despite its many detractors, but Milan has replaced a descending Juventus in the rearview mirror. Barcelona and Madrid appear to be at equal strength, at least for the moment, but Sevilla let slip away a realistic chance to challenge the giants for the Spanish crown.

In Angola, a tournament marked for increasingly global attention has gotten off to a difficult start on the pitch and downright tragic off the pitch. Sparse crowds and unremarkable performances have hampered the energy, although the tie between the host team Angola and Mali displayed everything African football has to offer and nothing short of a miracle. With Angola winning 4-0 in the 78th minute and 4-1 in the 88th minute, Mali pressed its chances to the end and managed to complete an incredible comeback with two injury time goals that left Angolans astonished.

click to view Incredible Game Highlights: Angola – Mali 4-4

Essien is yet to arrive at the tournament, but should make it on time for Friday’s mega clash with Ivory Coast, the tournament favorite, a spectacular squad profoundly affected by the attacks on the Togo team bus. The Togolese have been officially disqualified from the tournament after being recalled to Lome to mourn the officials killed in the attack. This complicates the group further, with Ivory Coast and Essien’s Chelsea team-mate Didier Drogba facing elimination with a loss against Ghana on Friday. All in all the groups are balanced and the action will heat up, despite security remaining a grave concern for all participants.


In England Manchester City is enjoying a very good run of form under new manager Roberto Mancini, a run that should continue with a light schedule ahead, while Manchester United is showing signs of wear and tear. With Chelsea seemingly not invincible, Arsenal is playing great and is now well positioned to challenge for the Premiership for the first time in many years. At Liverpool the situation remains precarious, but 2009 ended on an up note and with a long rest period benefitting key players, the club should be able to battle Spurs, Villa and Man City for a Champions League place.

Turning to La Liga, Atletico Madrid made a couple of good moves thus far, securing young Argentine talent Eduardo Salvio from Lanus and unloading the ineffective Sinama Pongolle for a respectable fee. More changes on tap should propel the club further, with winnable matches on the schedule. Barcelona is on the verge of elimination from Copa del Rey after suffering a rare home defeat against Sevilla – tomorrow’s second leg should be fantastic. In the meantime Real Madrid is going better than ever, with the club jelling and the confidence level rising. Valencia is in the mix at the top, while Zaragoza is in trouble.

Milan started the 2009-2010 season atrociously, with little identifiable character and aging former stalwarts. Yet on January 11, 2010, Milan is a mere eight points behind the leader Inter, with a game in hand. The two sides meet on January 24th in a clash with many implications, not the least of which will be avenging the 4-0 humiliation suffered by Milan in their earlier meeting. Juventus, after a promising win at Parma to start the year, is now well off the Scudetto pace. The 3-0 home loss to Milan – capping three losses in its last four matches – has left the club searching for solutions. Had Guus Hiddink taken over the club, as speculated, Juve would have challenged for the top spot. With Ferrara, Juve will be lucky to finish fourth, behind the two Milan teams and either Roma, who has climbed steadily, or Napoli an exciting club in excellent form under the guidance of Walter Mazzari with an 11 match unbeaten streak. Like the Premiership, Serie A should provide an exciting spring with several teams in contention.