NFL International Series team profile: Detroit Lions

22 October, 2014

The 2014 NFL International Series continues at Wembley Stadium this Sunday (October 26th). The second match sees the Detroit Lions take on the Atlanta Falcons in the London showpiece event. In the third of our series looking at the franchises competing in the matches we focus on the Detroit Lions.

History

Detroit Lions are one of the oldest football teams in the NFL but they were originally formed as the Portsmouth Spartans in Ohio in 1929. They started in impressive fashion, beating the Ironton Tanks twice and recorded a first year in the NFL with a 5-6-3 record. Reaching the first ever NFL play-off in 1932 was the height of Spartans' life but they lost out 9-0 to the Chicago Bears.

The Great Depression threatened the future of the Spartans and in 1934, Detroit radio executive George Richards purchased the financially threatened franchise for $7,952.08 (£4,928.90) and brought them to Michigan. Naming them the Detroit Lions, complementing the MLB side the Detroit Tigers, Richards said that he wanted the Lions to be the "monarch of the NFL".

Detroit started off life in their new surroundings well but it was not until the 1950s where they truly hit their stride. The decade would see the Lions collect three NFL Championships to go alongside the 1935 title won by the Spartans. They won back-to-back titles in 1952 and 1953 before claiming another in 1958.

Unfortunately the next 50 years would be a barren time for the Lions with many conspiracy theorists putting it down to the "Curse of Bobby Layne". Lions quarterback Layne won all three championships in Detroit but when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958, it was claimed he said the Lions would "not win for 50 years".

The Lions have only had one playoff win since then, beating the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 before being eliminated by the Washington Redskins. They remain one of just four franchises never to have competed in a Super Bowl.

Stadium

The Lions have been playing their home matches at the impressive Ford Field since 2002 after relocating from the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. Regularly holding 70,000 supporters, the stadium is a true mecca for football fans.

In the past it has held numerous sporting events including the MAC Championship Game, Michigan High School Football Championship Game Division 1-8 and WWE's WrestleMania 23 in 2007. The latter attracted the biggest crowd ever at Ford Field when 80,103 wrestling fans packed the rafters of the Downtown Detroit stadium.

The naming rights were purchased by the Ford Motor Company for $40 million for a 20-year lease.

Key player

Detroit head to Wembley still sweating on the fitness of wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Nicknamed Megatron, Johnson is an integral part of the Lions' passing game but has been missing for the past two games. Megatron's natural replacement is Golden Tate, a new recruit from 2013 Super Bowl winners the Seattle Seahawks.

The Lions' success in London will boil down to the performance of the 26-year-old. Tate has deputised well in the absence of Johnson scoring two touchdowns so far this season. The Seattle recruit has linked up well with quarterback Matthew Stanford, especially during the Lions' last match with the New Orleans Saints.

Trailing 23-10 with just over five minutes to play, the Lions stormed back and were inspired by a 73-year catch-and-run touchdown from Tate. The unlikely win was rounded off with another touchdown from Corey Fuller, giving the Lions an 24-23 win.

If the Lions are to continue their form in London without Johnson, Tate will need to reproduce performances like this.

Super Bowl history

Detroit are among four franchises who have the unenviable title of never competing in a Super Bowl. Alongside the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Lions have never made it to the "grandest stage of all".

The Lions have had a turgid time when it comes to the play-offs, only making the post-season once since the millennium, in 2011. Even then they were soundly beaten by the New Orleans Saints. Many will still look to the "Curse of Bobby Layne" theory which still plagues the Lions to this very day.

The ironic aspect of this is that prior to the creation of the Super Bowl in 1966, the Lions were flying, winning three NFL Championships in the 1950s. However, when it comes to the biggest prize in NFL, the grand stage eludes them.

2014 season

The Lions head to Wembley in great form, sitting top of the NFC North and only losing twice in their opening seven games. Only the Carolina Panthers and the Buffalo Bills have been able to overcome the Lions so far and they will go to London buoyed by the stunning win over the Saints in their last outing.

Detroit's victory over the Saints put them on a two-game winning streak after beating the Minnesota Vikings at the TCF Bank Stadium a week earlier.

Despite their strong form, the Atlanta Falcons have become somewhat of a bogey team for the Lions with Detroit losing four of the last five meetings.

Man City throw away 2 goal lead to draw in Moscow

22 October, 2014

Manchester City face an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League after they stuttered in Moscow.

The Premier League champions squandered a two-goal lead against CSKA Moscow only to draw and have collected just two points from three games in the group stages. With a tough trip to Roma and a home game against 2013 Champions League winners Bayern Munich ahead, City boss Manuel Pellegrini will see this result as a huge missed opportunity to put his side within touching distance of qualification.

Playing in front of a sparse crowd at the Arena Khimki, due to a stadium ban imposed by UEFA on CSKA following crowd disturbances during their Group E opener against Roma, City got off to the perfect start. Sergio Aguero, fresh from putting four past Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, put the visitors ahead, tapping in Edin Dzeko's pass across the box.

It got even better for City seven minutes before half time when Aguero turned provider for James Milner. The Argentinian's scuffed shot allowed Milner to race in and slide home a second beyond the helpless Igor Akinfeev in the CSKA goal. The Englishman almost made three moments later when he smashed a shot off the post.

It was a much different story after the break as City were stunned by their Russian hosts. The introduction of Seydou Doumbia from the bench galvanised CSKA and as City eased off the home side grew in confidence. They got a foothold in the game when Ahmed Musa fired an effort across goal for Doumbia to convert.

Musa and former Manchester United player Zoran Tosic both went close to equalising but it was Doumbia who was running the show. CSKA's efforts paid dividends with just four minutes remaining when Doumbia went in the area under a challenge from Aleksander Kolarov for a controversial penalty. Bedras Natcho held his nerve to equalise, leaving City unable to grab a winner.

The Sky Blues now have a tough task ahead if they are to qualify for the knockout stages. They face CSKA at the Etihad in two weeks' time in what is a must win game before facing group leaders Bayern in Manchester and then travelling to Rome for a potentially decisive showdown against Roma.

City will take some comfort that they are not too far behind second place after the Italians were embarrassed 7-1 at the Stadio Olimpico by Bayern.

Sergio Aguero scores 4 as Man City thrash Tottenham

20 October, 2014

Manchester City kept up the pressure on league leaders Chelsea after a 4-1 thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium.

Sergio Aguero stole the show scoring four goals and missing a penalty in a pulsating match on Saturday lunchtime. The reigning champions also had goalkeeper Joe Hart to thanks as the England number saved a Roberto Soldado penalty in the 60th minute with the game tied at 2-1. City never looked back and two more from Aguero gave them the three points.

The victory put City within two points of Jose Mourinho's side but the Londoners retained their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League after beating Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park later in the day.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini decided to call upon the services of Frank Lampard once again with Yaya Toure starting from the bench. It did not take long for City and Aguero to hit their stride with the Argentinian scoring a superb individual goal after just 13 minutes. Picking up a Lampard pass, Aguero fired a low shot into the bottom corner.

Tottenham, looking to avoid a repeat of the 6-0 mauling at the hands of City last season, responded well and were back on terms within two minutes. Soldado muscled Fernando off the ball to slip in the excellent Christian Eriksen who beat Hart with a fierce drive. Unfortunately, for the North London side, that was as good as it got.

Aguero restored City's lead from the spot with a coolly taken penalty after Lampard was brought down Erik Lamela. The forward could have completed his hat-trick after just half an hour when David Silva was fouled by Younes Kaboul but Aguero saw his penalty denied by Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris.

Tottenham had a glorious chance to equalise when Martin Demichelis tripped Soldado but Hart guessed right and kept the Spaniard's spot kick out. Aguero was given another chance to net his hat-trick when Fazio fouled the striker to provide the game's fourth penalty, Fazio was sent off and Aguero duly punished Spurs, successfully beating Lloris on his right hand side.

Aguero rounded off the victory after beating the offside trap and angling a shot beyond the diving French keeper.

City will now travel to Moscow to face CSKA in the Champions League on Tuesday (October 21st) before tackling a tough away trip at West Ham on Saturday lunchtime. They will be hoping for neighbours Manchester United to do them a favour as the Red Devils meet Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Manchester City look to close gap at the top against Tottenham

16 October, 2014

Manchester City return to Premier League action this weekend as they look to close the gap on leaders Chelsea.

City are currently five points adrift of Jose Mourinho's team but welcome a Tottenham Hotspur side which lost 6-0 on their last visit to the Etihad Stadium. The champions will be looking to build on a hard fought victory against Aston Villa prior to the international break which left them still within touching distance of Chelsea.

The Sky Blues were far from their best at Villa Park but managed to wear down the home side's resistance with late goals from Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero claiming a win at a ground where they have struggled in recent years. They will be weary of the Spurs offensive on Saturday but the Londoners head to Eastlands with a terrible record against City.

Spurs have lost on their last four visits to the Etihad and were thrashed both home and away by City in the previous campaign. The Sky Blues ran riot at home last November with Jesus Navas, Aguero and Alvaro Negredo dismantling Spurs 6-0, then managed by Andre Villas-Boas. A change at the helm did not improve Spurs' fortunes against City as they lost 5-1 to the Manchester side at White Hart Lane.

Now under the guidance of former Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs will be keen to avoid a repeat of their past visits. For City and boss Manuel Pellegrini the early kick-off provides the perfect opportunity to narrow the five-point gap on Chelsea and a win would put the pressure on Mourinho's side who play at Crystal Palace later in the day.

Pellegrini will have been pleased to have seen all of his players return from international duty relatively. unscathed. Yaya Toure is a slight doubt for the match after returning late from the Ivory Coast's African Nations Cup qualifier against DR Congo which could see Frank Lampard continue to deputise. He will still be without long-term absentees Fernandinho and Samir Nasri who remain on the treatment table.

Lampard has been a revelation for Pellegrini's side following his loan move from New York City. The former Chelsea man scored a precious equaliser against the London side and then followed this up with two goals against Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup and another against Hull City in the Premier League.

While City fans would love to see another 6-0 thrashing, manager Pellegrini will no doubt settle for a 1-0 to put the pressure on Mourinho and his Chelsea side.

Manchester City stars prepare for international week

9 October, 2014

The Premier League and Champions League are taking a break this weekend to make way for international qualifiers.

No less than 15 Manchester City players will be in action over the coming days with many eyes focused on Wembley Stadium where England take on San Marino this evening (October 9th). City keeper Joe Hart is expected to start while midfielder James Milner will play a part during the Three Lions' second Euro 2016 qualifier.

England have started the qualifying campaign in pleasing fashion claiming a 2-0 victory against Switzerland in Basel. Billed as the hardest game of the group, England breezed to victory against an underwhelming Swiss side with Arsenal's Danny Welbeck grabbing two goals. Now attentions turn to home soil against the lowest ranked side in world football.

San Marino are placed joint 202nd in the FIFA World Rankings, on a par with Bhutan, and lost 8-0 when the two teams last met in Serravalle. Despite their lowly position England are not taking them for granted.

In the build-up to the game, Milner spoke of the positive team spirit in the England camp: "The talk around the England team wasn't great going into the Switzerland game and people saying what a difficult game it was, and that's when you need your team spirit to come through to go there and get a result and we did that and played very well."

After the San Marino game, England will fly to Tallinn where they face Estonia in the second October qualifier on Sunday (October 12th). Two wins will give the Three Lions a commanding position going into games against Slovenia and Lithuania.

It is not just Wembley where City's stars will be appearing in the coming. Captain Vincent Kompany and Jason Denayer, currently on loan at Celtic, will line up for Belgium against Andorra on Friday with Denayer potentially set for a first cap.

Aleksander Kolarov and Matija Nastasic are in the Serbian squad to face Armenia while new signings Bacary Sagna and Eliaquim Mangala are on duty for France against Portugal in a friendly.

Argentine trio Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero and Martin Demichelis will travel to China to face fellow South Americans Brazil in a friendly.

Elsewhere, Spain's David Silva will be facing both Slovakia and Luxembourg over the weekend, Yaya Toure is in action for Ivory Coast against Congo, Stevan Jovetic's Montenegro take on Liechtenstein and Edin Dzeko will be lining up for Bosnia-Herzegovina against Wales.

Jules Bianchi crash overshadows Japanese Grand Prix

6 October, 2014

Lewis Hamilton's third successive win was overshadowed by a serious accident involving Marussia's Jules Bianchi at the Japanese Grand Prix.

The French driver lost control on a bend, crashing into recovery vehicles which were attending an earlier accident. Bianchi suffered a "severe" head injury and was unconscious when he was taken to hospital. The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) confirmed that Bianchi underwent surgery and remains in intensive care.

Bianchi's crash forced the race to be stopped early handing Hamilton his eighth win of the championship but it did not seem to matter under the circumstances. Drivers sent their thoughts and prayers to Bianchi.

Speaking after the race, Hamilton, who was awarded the race victory despite drivers only completing 44 laps, spoke of his concerns and hoped Bianchi pulled through: "To hear one of our colleagues is seriously injured is the main worry."

Drivers battled treacherous conditions in Suzuka as the approaching typhoon Phanfone descended on the race track. It was somewhat of a stuttering start with the safety car needing to be deployed for eight laps while the race was contested under a red flag for two laps. It was yet another race that revolved around the battle between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Starting in second behind his Mercedes teammate, Hamilton jostled with Rosberg throughout and was 2.2 seconds behind the German after their first pit stops. The Brit continued to apply the pressure on Rosberg and closed the gap to just one second on lap 24.

Hamilton was hot on the heels of Rosberg for another five laps before he made a decisive move to overtake his Mercedes teammate on lap 29 to take the lead. He did not look back and maintained a strong advantage before the race was red flagged on lap 44, by which time Hamilton had built up a formidable 16-second lead.

The win takes Hamilton ten points ahead of Rosberg with four races remaining. The German finished in second with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel finishing in third ahead of fellow Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren's Jenson Button.

Despite racking up an eighth win of the campaign and putting himself in pole position to win his second driver's championship, Hamilton described the win as an "anti-climax". The injury to Bianchi cast a shadow over the grand prix and there will be hope that the Frenchman can get back to racing as soon as possible.

Manchester City in Europe - a history

3 October, 2014

The 2014/15 season marks Manchester City's fourth consecutive year pitting their wits against Europe's elite in the Champions League. It has been a long road to reach this point and will have seemed like a far flung dream when playing Oldham Athletic on a wet, Tuesday night in late 1990s.

In recent years City have returned to European football's top table and welcomed the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to the Etihad Stadium. The Champions League comes to Eastlands again this year so, in spirit of the occasion, here is our guide to Manchester City in Europe.

Seventies success

City's first foray into Europe was in 1968 when they entered the European Cup, rebranded as the Champions League in 1992, as English champions. It was short-lived however as they were knocked out at the first round by Turkish side Fenerbahce.

Until recently, that was City's only crack at Europe's top trophy and in the years in between they competed for the European Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Cup and, at a later stage, the Europa League. Despite the disappointment of the 1968/69 European Cup campaign, City returned much stronger a year later.

Entering the 1969/70 European Cup Winners' Cup as FA Cup winners, City excelled. Comfortably dispatching of Athletic Bilbao, Lierse SK and Academica de Coimbra, the Manchester side faced Germany's Schalke 04 in the semi-final.

Going into the second leg, City had to overcome a 1-0 deficit after losing in the Ruhr. At a packed Maine Road, City blew away their German opponents with goals from Mike Doyle, Neil Young, Frannie Lee and Colin Bell giving City a 5-1 win. It set up a final with Polish side Gornik Zabrze.

City travelled to the Prater Stadium in Vienna well aware of the Poles' threat after Gornik had dispatched of Italian giants Roma in the semi-final. City took an early lead with Young once again putting the English side ahead before Lee scored a penalty just before half time.

City were made to sweat on their result when Stanislav Oslizlo pulled one back for Gornik but the Sky Blues held on to give them their first taste of European gold.

Young, Lee and co defended their title in 1970/71 and beat Gornik again in the quarter finals before being knocked out by Chelsea in the semis. City featured heavily in Europe through the rest of the 1970s, competing in the UEFA Cup for four seasons but after being knocked out by Borussia Monchengladbach in 1979 little did they know it would be over 20 years before they would compete in Europe again.

Return to Europe

City returned to European action after a 24-year absence when they gained entry into the UEFA Cup through the Fair Play award. The Sky Blues needed to navigate a qualifying round before entering the competition and were pitted against Welsh side Total Network Solutions.

After breezing through 7-0 on aggregate, City were drawn against Belgian side Lokeren who they dispatched 4-2 on aggregate. However, the 2003/04 European campaign was one to forget as they faced Polish side Groclin Dyskobolia.

Kevin Keegan's team headed to Poland after a 1-1 draw at the City of Manchester Stadium but despite boasting attacking threats such as Nicolas Anelka and Robbie Fowler they failed to score and went out on away goals.

Another stint in the wilderness followed before they returned in 2008/09, again as England's Fair Play representatives. Now under the tutelage of Mark Hughes, City navigated past EB Streymur, FC Midtjylland and Omonia Nicosia to reach the UEFA Cup group stages.

They advanced from the group and beat Danish opposition in the form of FC Copenhagen and Aalborg BK to reach a quarter final with Hamburg. Losing 3-1 at the Imtech Arena, City gave themselves too much to do in the return leg and despite winning 2-1 at home they went out 4-3 on aggregate.

By the time City were back in Europe, the UEFA Cup had been rebranded as the Europa League. This time under Roberto Mancini, City reached the last 16 before being dumped out by Dynamo Kiev. The return match will long be remembered for striker Mario Balotelli needlessly getting himself sent off.

Champions League debut

City finally realised their dream of playing Champions League football in 2011. Finishing third in the Premier League the previous season they were handed a tough group of Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal. Defeats in Munich and Naples and a draw with the Italian side condemned City to another year of Europa League football, which they exited in the round of 16.

The away match in Munich will always be remembered for the spat between Mancini and striker Carlos Tevez. With his side 2-0 down, Mancini instructed Tevez to warm up but the Argentine forward refused sparking Mancini to state that Tevez would never play for him again. He did and City went on to win the Premier League title.

The following season was also not kind on City being pitted against Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax. City finished bottom of the group with only two points as surprise package Dortmund stormed the group and were only beaten when they came up against Bayern in the Champions League final.

Last season saw City finally crack that Champions League group stage nut. Pitted once again against Bayern, the Sky Blues were thoroughly outplayed by the Germans in Manchester but home and away wins against Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow effectively put City through. With a final group game against Bayern remaining it seemed destined that City would finish second.

Despite going 2-0 down against the German champions fought back to lead 3-2 and would have topped the group had they scored another, something which manager Manuel Pellegrini admitted he was not aware of at the time. It proved costly as they were drawn against Spanish giants Barcelona in the last 16 and went out 4-1 on aggregate.

This season looks to be a challenge again with City only gathering one point from two games but with games against CSKA Moscow to come once again they will be confident of qualifying from a group containing Bayern and Roma.

Manchester City held to draw by Roma

1 October, 2014

Manchester City face an uphill task to qualify from Group E in the Champions League after being held to a 1-1 draw by Roma at the Etihad Stadium.

City took the lead through a Sergio Aguero penalty after four minutes but veteran Francesco Totti equalised for the Italian side at 23 minutes to help them claim a point. The result continues City's stuttering start to their European campaign after losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich in Germany. They have a tough task to reach the knockout stages with a trip to CSKA Moscow up next.

The Sky Blues will still be confident of qualification but with Bayern looking favourites to top the group with two wins out of two and Roma sitting on four points they will need to be on the top of their game. City supporters will also see the home match against the Italians as a missed opportunity as the Premier League champions toiled against an impressive Roma side.

City recalled goalkeeper Joe Hart to the starting line-up after the England number one was left out of the League Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday and Saturday's Premier League game at Hull. However, it was City that started the stronger and were ahead within a matter of minutes.

Former City defender Maicon needlessly pulled back Aguero in the box resulting in a penalty. The Argentinian stepped up to send Roma keeper Lukasz Skorupski the wrong way to give City the lead. This sparked the Italians into life with Maicon almost atoning for his error when hit the bar at an angle from a Totti pass.

It was not long before Roma were level and it was Totti again who rolled back the years to produce a sublime finish. The 38-year-old was sent racing clear by Radja Nainggolan and converted with a lofted finish over Hart, who slipped as he came to close the veteran down.

Totti's goal made him the oldest man to score in European club football, taking the record from Ryan Giggs when the Welshman scored for Manchester United in a 1-1 draw with Benfica in September 2011 aged 37 and 289 days.

Roma went close again through former Arsenal striker Gervinho while Hart had to be on his toes to deny Miralem Pjanic. The Bosnian also fizzed a 25-yard curling shot just over to the relief of the majority inside the Etihad as the game petered out to a draw.

Miami Dolphins thrash Oakland Raiders at Wembley

29 September, 2014

The Miami Dolphins returned to winning ways as they thrashed the Oakland Raiders 34-18 at Wembley Stadium.

In the first of the 2014 NFL International Series, the Dolphins put a disappointing start to the season behind them with a dominant performance which heaped yet more misery on the Raiders. Oakland are now 0-4 for the new season and are on a nine-game losing streak stretching back to November 2013. However, it could have been much different when they took 7-0 lead in the first quarter but defensive errors allowed Miami to capitalise towards a comfortable victory.

A sold-out Wembley Stadium was at fever pitch when the two teams took to the field and it was the Raiders that made a flying start to the match. Oakland seemed to have put the long losing streak to the back of their minds when a Brian Leonhardt touchdown catch sealed a 74-yard drive and put the Californian side into an early lead.

However, that was as good as it got for the Raiders who wilted under the London lights and simply did not have an answer to the Dolphins' offence. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill was in inspired form and was instrumental as the Dolphins scored 38 unanswered points to give them a 38-7 lead going into the fourth quarter.

It could have been much more embarrassing for the Raiders as a fifth Dolphins touchdown was ruled out for a foul. They did put some respectability onto the scoreline when Matt McGloin, on for Derek Carr after the quarterback limped off, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Andre Holmes who made it 38-14 with just under ten minutes remaining.

The final score somewhat flattered the Raiders who had been thoroughly outplayed and were lucky not to have been on the receiving end of a much bigger defeat. They now return to California and must regroup and prepare for the home game against the San Diego Chargers in two weeks time.

For the Dolphins it was a much more enjoyable trip to the English capital than their first visit, when they lost the inaugural game of the NFL International Series to the New York Giants in 2007. The form of Tannehill will be hugely pleasing to head coach Joe Philbin who had put pressure on the quarterback to perform after a string of disappointing outings in recent weeks.

Miami are also at home on October 12th when they take on the Green Bay Packers at the Sun Life Stadium.

NFL International Series team profile: Oakland Raiders

26 September, 2014

The NFL International Series returns to London for another year with Wembley Stadium hosting three matches. It all kicks off on Sunday (September 28th) with the Miami Dolphins taking on the Oakland Raiders. In the second in our series we look at the franchises contesting the 2014 matches, next up is the Oakland Raiders.

History

Founded in 1960, Oakland seemed an unlikely venue to have a professional football team. The city had not asked for a team and there was not a stadium in the area suitable, the nearest being Berkeley or San Francisco.

The Bay Area already had an established football team, the San Francisco 49ers, but the Raiders were founded when Los Angeles Chargers owner Barron Hilton threatened to pull his franchise unless another West Coast side was created.

The newly formed Raiders played their first game on September 11th, 1960, losing 37-22 to the Houston Oilers. As part of the AFC Championship, the Raiders impressed, winning the 1967 championship, and it was not long before they were competing for the biggest prize of them all.

In 1968, the Raiders took part in Super Bowl II and finally won the title in 1976. Oakland would add another Super Bowl before they moved to Los Angeles in 1982, under the name of the Los Angeles Raiders they claimed a third Super Bowl crown.

The move down the coast came after owner Al Davis failed to make improvement to the Coliseum and fought legal battles to move the team into a more suitable home and Los Angeles made perfect sense.

The Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995 and been there since. They have gone through somewhat of a barren spell in recent years and have not made the play-offs since 2002.

Stadium

The Raiders have played their home matches at the O.co Coliseum since 1966, except during the 14 years while they relocated to Los Angeles. They share the stadium with MLB side the Oakland Athletics, subject of the 2011 film Moneyball starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, while MLS side San Jose Earthquakes spent the 2008/9 season at the Coliseum.

It is the only multi-purpose stadium in the US that serves as the home ground of both a professional football and baseball team. In a bid to bring the Raiders back to Oakland, the Coliseum underwent significant renovations in the 1990s at a cost of $200 million (£122 million).

On a matchday, the Coliseum can accommodate up to 64,200 spectators.

Key player

When the Raiders step out on to the Wembley turf much of their success will depend on the performance of running back Maurice Jones-Drew. While entering the twilight of his career, MJD will still play a major part in whether Oakland come away from London with the victory.

The 29-year-old has enjoyed a fairly successful career picking up three Pro Bowls, three All-Pros and was named NFL Alumni Running Back of the Year in 2010 and 2011. Spending the majority of his career at the Jacksonville Jaguars, leading the Florida side to the 2007 play-offs, he set a franchise record of 63 rushing touchdowns.

He also completed the most rushing touchdowns for the Jags when he scored 15 in 2009, and the most career kick-off return yards of 2,054.

Joining the Raiders in 2014, Oakland will be hoping he can replicate some of this form and propel them back into play-off contention after a number of barren seasons.

Super Bowl history

The Raiders have collected three Super Bowls during their history, two as Oakland and one as Los Angeles. They contested the second ever Super Bowl in the 1968 season, losing 33-14 to the Green Bay Packers. However, it was only a matter of years before they tasted Super Bowl gold for the first time.

The 1976 season saw the Raiders reach Super Bowl XI against the Minnesota Vikings at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. In front of over 100,000 fans, the Raiders ran out 32-14 winners with Dave Casper, Pete Banaszak and Willie Brown all scoring touchdowns.

Four years later and the Raiders were back contesting the greatest show on earth at Super Bowl XV, this time beating the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10. Even the move to Los Angeles could not stop their momentum as they beat the Washington Redskins 38-9 at Super Bowl XVII.

Since then the Raiders have been starved of Super Bowl gold with their last appearance coming during the 2002 season when they lost Super Bowl XXVII to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

2014 season

The Raiders could not be going to London in any worse form. They have lost their opening three games against the New York Jets, Houston Texans and the New England Patriots. While putting up a fight against the Jets and Patriots, they were thoroughly outplayed 30-14 by the Texans.

Their wretched form has carried on from the 2013 season when they finished bottom of the AFC West after only collecting four wins. They are currently on a nine-game losing streak and will be desperate to turn it around at Wembley.

One crumb of comfort for Oakland is that their opponents, the Miami Dolphins, come into the game in a similar predicament, losing two of their first three games in the AFC East championship.

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