The Croatian Juggernaut has let us all know that he’s not stopping anytime soon. Everton’s prized winter transfer, Nikica Jelavić, scored two more goals on Saturday in a 4-0 win over Fulham. The £5.5million man now has 10 goals in an Everton jersey from only 10 starts, and is heating up just in time for Croatian manager Slaven Bilić to insert Jelavić in his Euro 2012 starting XI.
Jelavić converted a penalty kick in the seventh minute of play after his free kick was handled in the box by a member of the Fulham wall. Jela later ran down a loose ball all the way to the end line in the 40th minute, gathered himself and struck towards net. The ball ‘nutmegged’ Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer and beat the near-post defender. When it’s going your way, it’s going your way.
The run of goals will surely see Jelavić in Croatia’s starting XI. But alongside who? Everton have three matches remaining in the Premiership season: @ Stoke City, @ Wolverhampton, vs. Newcastle. How much more damage can Jelavić do before Croatia’s first game vs. Ireland on June 10th?
Jelavić goals @ 0:16, 0:36
Tottenham Hotspur finally got back to their winning ways on Sunday with a promising 2-0 victory over relegation candidates Blackburn Rovers. The win was so dominant for Spurs that they did not allow one shot to Rovers throughout the match and only 29% ball possession. Luka Modrić played the full 90 minutes in midfield and had little to do besides his usual supreme passing to teammates. Modrić was given a ‘7-grade’ from Skysports.com for “some creative moments.” With the win, Spurs jump back into fourth place in the English table, however, some prayers must be answered for Spurs to clinch a Champions League berth next season.
UEFA rules state a maximum of four teams from one country can qualify for the Champions League and, as a result, the team who finish fourth in the table will not qualify for Europe’s top club competition if Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in next month’s final in Germany.
You heard that right. Even if Spurs finish fourth, there will be no Champions League for them next season if Chelsea win it all. Chelsea would automatically be qualified for group stage as defending champions, even though they didn’t finish in the top four in England. Let the Bayern Munich chants be heard from North London and the Luka Modrić transfer circus begin once again. Soccernet.com has reported that Spurs skipper Harry Redknapp is not convinced Modrić will stay with Spurs next season- Champions League or not.
Niko Kranjčar has been shut down for the rest of the season due to a knee injury. He is questionable for Euro 2012.
Ivan Klasnić came off the bench for Bolton in the 64th minute of play but could not find another golden game-winner as the match ended in a 2-2 draw with Sunderland. Klasnić finsihed with two shots, one on goal. Bolton remain on the cusp of relegation, tied with QPR on points with one game in hand.
Ivan Perišić got the nod on Saturday and played the full 90 minutes for 2011-12 Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund as they defeated relegated Kaiserslautern 5-2. Perišić assisted twice in the match before curling a right-footed shot past Red Devil keeper Tobias Sippel in the 76th minute. The 23 year-old Perišić has not been a regular starter for Dortmund this season but has made the best of his opportunities coming off the bench. Dortmund have one more meaningless Bundesliga match on Saturday vs. Freiburg to end the season before their German Cup Final encounter with Bayern Munich on May 12th from the Olympiastadion in Berlin.
Perišić is heating up at just the right time and has to be in Slaven Bilić’s plans for Euro 2012. With Niko Kranjčar still nursing a knee injury and Ivan Rakitić having a sub-par season in Spain, Perišić may have his chance to impress in front of Europe’s elite this summer.
Perišić assists @ 0:30, 0:53, Goal @ 1:03
Photo: Bayern Munich
Both Ivica Olić and Danijel Pranjić got the start for Bayern Munich on Saturday in a practical friendly match for the Bavarian giants as they defeated Stuttgart 2-0. Olić unselfishly assisted in injury time following a 3-on-1 counter attack, finding a wide open Thomas Muller across the box for an open shot on goal. Pranjić started on the wing in midfield and was ultimately subbed out in the 74′ for Arjen Robben. Bayern have one more ‘friendly’ match (they are locked in to finish in 2nd place) to close the season on May 5th at FC Cologne before battling Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup Final May 12th and Chelsea in the Champions League Final May 19th. The Bundesliga season finale vs. Cologne may be the last we see of Olić in a Bayern Munich uniform. The same can be said for Pranjić if he leaves in the summer.
Olić assist @ 1:25
Mario Mandžukić got the start for Wolfsburg and played the full 90 minutes in a 3-1 win over Werder Bremen on Saturday. Mandžukić managed seven shots (4 on goal) and assisted on Patrick Helmes’ second goal of the day in the 89th minute, taking the ball up field and dishing it to his wide open strike partner. Wolfsburg play their season finale on Saturday at Stuttgart. After that, Mandžukić will take a short break before gearing up for Euro, joining Croatia for two friendlies against Estonia and Norway, battling out Ivica Olić and Nikica Jelavić for a starting XI spot.
Mandžukić assist @ 3:47
After four memorable years at Nordbank Arena/Imtech Arena, Mladen Petrić played his last match in front of the Hamburg faithful in 0-0 draw versus Mainz. The draw assured that Hamburg will play first division football next season in Germany, however, it’s been known that it will be without the 31 year-old Petrić as Hamburg decided not to extend his contract. Petrić moved to Hamburg in the summer of 2008 from Borussia Dortmund and scored 38 Bundesliga goals during 98 appearances. It is not known where Petrić will place next season and it looks like he will not be part of Croatia’s Euro 2012 squad either. No matter where he goes, Petrić will forever be engrained in Croatian football history: Wembley 2007.
Petrić denies England Euro 2008
Two weeks after returning from injury, Vedran Ćorluka was subbed off in the 81st minute of Bayer Leverkusen’s 1-0 victory over Hannover on Saturday. The extent of the injury is unknown but no soccer media is reporting on it as of yet, which is good news for Croatian fans one month away from Euro 2012. With Croatia already thin in defense and Dejan Lovren questionable with an injury of his own this past Saturday, Ćorluka picking up a serious injury would be devastating. More news on the Ćorluka injury in the upcoming week.
Mato Jajalo (above) played the full match for Koln in a 4-1 defeat to Freiburg. The 23 year-old Jajalo managed two shots on goal but committed four fouls. Koln are currently two points up on Hertha Berlin in the relegation battle. One team will automatically be relegated into the Bundesliga II while the team with the most points will play the third place team from the second division in a relegation playoff. Koln will host Bayern Munich in the last game of the season in a meaningless match for the Bavarians while Berlin host Hoffenheim. Things aren’t quite done in Germany folks, stay tuned.
Photo: L’ Equipe
Dejan Lovren feared the worst on Saturday as he was carried off the field in just the 18th minute of play during Lyon’s 1-0 Coupe de France Final victory over third division side Quevilly. Goal.com has confirmed via Lyon manager Remi Garde that Lovren has not suffered a fracture but will still have CT scans taken of his right foot.
It was feared that Lovren would be lost for Euro 2012, but the most recent news indicates that he could be ready with a few weeks of rest. We will update Lovren’s condition and recovery time as it is released.
Lovren given Coupe de France, in tears as teammates celebrate with him
The Ukrainian Premier League took the weekend off as both Ukrainian Cup semifinals were played on Friday and Saturday. Darijo Srna played the full 90 minutes for Shakhtar Donetsk in a 4-3 victory over Volyn. Srna did not contribute to any of the fours goals but he was not at fault for any of the conceded goals either. With the semifinal win, Shakhtar will now play city rivals Metalurh Donetsk in the Ukrainian Cup final on May 6th. Shakhtar remain tied with Dynamo Kiev atop the domestic table with only two games remaining in the season.
News out of Donetsk is not good regarding Eduardo’s hamstring injury. He was originally supposed to return in April, but now is listed as questionable to play at Euro 2012. More news to come on Eduardo as it is released in the next two weeks.
Ivan Rakitić played the full match on Sunday as Real Madrid convincingly defeated Sevilla 3-0. Raki had a relatively quiet game, firing three shots off target. He also had a free kick that was notable for being one of the worst of the season, as one Prva Generacija member reported after watching the match. Sevilla are now in 9th place with only three games to play and will need to improve if they wish to qualify for Europa League.
Tomislav Dujmović did not feature for Zaragoza as they picked up a must win against Athletic Bilbao. They are four points from safety with three games to play.
Pletikosa scored on @ 2:10
Rostov drew 1-1 against Terek Grozny on Friday. Stipe Pletikosa was between the pipes and picked up a yellow card in the 26th minute. Pleti was not at his best and was lucky that Grozny’s finishing was off on the day. Rostov have two matches remaining and need some results in order to avoid the relegation playoffs.
-Ante Kvartuč reporting from Southern California with Zach Gilfix out of Minneapolis, Minnesota