With the drama of the past few days behind us, focus begrudgingly shifts towards the meaty part of the international break and a full slate of matches for Liverpool's internationals. It'd be nice if the end of the window was closely followed by a match for the club---it's not a completely new-look squad, but it has the feel of some sort of fresh start, and a chance for renewed optimism after a relatively disappointing end to the summer's activities.
Instead we've got Lithuania facing Liechtenstein and Georgia squaring off with Latvia, which is, you know, just like watching Liverpool. Or nothing like it. Either way, there's a few names to catch over the next couple of days in matches slightly more appealing than the aforementioned pair, so it's worth taking a look at what we can expect. As usual, there's plenty of different ways to catch the weekend's action, with Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN, and Sky Sports carrying coverage in their respective regions, and the usual streaming sites---MyP2P, StopStream.tv, ATDHEnet.tv, and FromSport.com---will be sure to have all you need.
Anyway, the goods:
Friday Euro Qualifiers:
Ireland v. Slovakia 7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST
Netherlands v. San Marino 7:30PM BST/2:30PM EST
Bulgaria v. England 7:15PM BST/2:15PM EST
Wales v. Montenegro 7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST
Martin Skrtel and Slovakia will have one their biggest matches of the qualifying campaign tomorrow, traveling to Dublin to face Ireland in a top of the table clash for Group B. With Russia hosting Macedonia in a match that should be an easy three points, it'll be important for Slovakia to come away with something tomorrow. That sentiment's not lost on Skrtel, who's got his sights set on taking a point away from the Aviva.
Holland have far and away the easiest fixture, as San Marino travel to the Netherlands on zero points and with a -33 goal differential. They've yet to score, and in the reverse fixture the Dutch hung five on their hosts, with Kuyt netting a first-half penalty to open the scoring. I'd be surprised if he saw much action tomorrow, as this is the perfect time for Bert van Marwijk to bleed a few of the new names in his squad up front, particularly with the chance for PSV pair Georginio Wijnaldum and Jeremain Lens to feature in front of their club's fans.
Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard missed out on the next biggest match in Football Association history, but Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll both made the trip to Bulgaria ahead of tomorrow's match. Given his form to start the season, you'd think Downing's a lock, and Carroll could get the nod up front alongside Wayne Rooney. With some help from Wales, England could push to the top of Group G, but they'll also need help from England, a side that's proven to be their Achille's heel for half a century.
New/old/new boy Craig Bellamy could provide that boost for Capello's boys, but Wales are yet to earn a point in what's been a disappointing qualifying campaign. They've only found the net once so far---Gareth Bale leveled things early in the 4-1 loss to Switzerland, and they'll need a much improved performance to get a result.
Ukraine v. Uruguay 7:00PM BST/2:00PM EST
Spain v. Chile 7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST
Both Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates are in the squad for the Copa America champions, who travel to Kharkiv to face next summer's co-hosts. International duty of any kind has more significance for the Uruguayans, so barring any fitness concerns I'd expect to see both get minutes. Which isn't a terrible prospect, as Suarez could probably use some match fitness and, at least for those of us who only caught glimpses of the Copa, it's a chance to pay attention to Liverpool's promising new central defender.
In a rematch of last summer's round of 16 clash, Pepe Reina could see time in goal as Spain take on Chile in St. Gallen. Probably worth watching to listen to the endless droning about the infighting in the Spanish squad because Barcelona and Real Madrid are both so emo, and it may or may not have all been caused by Jose Mourinho once again acting like a fucking jackwad. So yeah, go Pepe.
Saturday Euro Qualifiers:
Scotland v. Czech Republic 3:00PM BST/10:00AM EST
Charlie Adam and Danny Wilson are both in the Scottish squad for Saturday's lone Euro qualifier, with the former given a chance to contribute after missing out the last time these teams met. The hosts can climb within two points of their visitors tomorrow with a win, and with the Czechs out of action until they face Spain in October, Scotland could find themselves in the second spot with wins tomorrow and Tuesday against Lithuania.
That's your Liverpool-related football fix over the next few days, then, and there's more to follow when the week kicks off with Lucas and Brazil facing Ghana in London. It's not ideal, but there's at least enough to carry us through to the run-in for next Saturday's trip to the Britannia. National pride and etcetera.
In the meantime, if you're still trying to wash clean the stank of the transfer window, try purifying yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka: