The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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A Weekend of Lighting Old Candles

There are weekends full of matches that, like damned souls in a fiery moat, reach up for the ankles of the preview-writer crossing the drawbridge and shriek, “Choose me! Choose me!” Then there are weekends like this one, when Sunderland travel to Blackburn. Manchester United-Stoke is vaguely appealing, and I can’t promise that winged seraphim won’t slice through the boundary separating one dimension from the next in the Fulham-Spurs game (“Hail Harry” the Sun headline will read on Monday), but the pick of the Premier League matches is easily Arsenal-Aston Villa. Still, that isn’t one of the two games I’m really excited about.


Ajax – PSV (12:30 GMT, 6:30am ET)

Yes, it’s an early wake-up call, here in the US, anyway, for a match in which one of the teams is managed by Huub Stevens. But these two clubs have combined to win the last nine Eredivisie titles (also 14 of the last 15 and 24 of the last 26: thanks for keeping it interesting, Feyenoord). PSV have won four in a row—that’s league championships, not games—but are faltering this year and need a win to keep from gleaning bitter firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to finish a season in a spot not adjacent to zero. Ajax are in second, which, at this point, they’ve gotten decorated more or less the way they like it. They’ll be playing without their human transfer rumor Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who tore an ankle ligament against Sparta Rotterdam last weekend. It’s been a torn-ankle-ligament-against-Sparta-Rotterdam phase for both teams, actually, and they should be pricklier than coffee when they meet.

Roma – Lazio (20:30 GMT, 2:30pm ET)

Totti is broken. Mauro Zárate is not. The last time Lazio were ahead of Roma going into the capital city derby, football hadn’t been invented yet, and the match was just someone singing the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor. (And it’s essentially always like that.) Roma are wilting down the table and are wrenchingly jonesing for points; Lazio, currently in fifth, need a win to keep pace with the leaders and because this is a chance to gain a rare win against their wolf-suckling bêtes noir. Not that anyone needs any motivation for this one. Riise thinks it will be as ferocious as a Liverpool-Everton game. Oh, Johnny.

Also don’t forget the MLS playoffs tomorrow night. Or do, if that’s your style. I always enjoy hearing about the games you’re planning to watch/are watching/have watched, so if you see Harry Redknapp absentmindedly fulfilling any prophecies of Nostradamus, do leave your testimony in the comments.

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A Weekend of Lighting Old Candles

by Brian Phillips · November 14, 2008

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