“I am happy and proud to be beginning a new professional challenge at a prestigious club such as Inter. President Steven Zhang has an ambitious project and I am looking forward to becoming an active part of that. I want to thank Chairman Zhang and the Suning Group for their trust in me and I am sure that together we will make Inter successful again.” Those were the words of the Nerazzurri’s new Chief Executive Officer Sport, Beppe Marotta, who will work alongside current sporting director Piero Ausilio on the club’s transfer business. Continue reading
Massimiliano Allegri talked to the press earlier today for the customary pre-game rendez-vous: “Torino are doing well, it is a Derby and they have lost just thrice this year. They showed well against Milan. We need to have some continuity in this final four games, this is the start of the final push. It will be a difficult game, we will have to find the right energies.”
On the injured players: “Joao Cancelo’s knee buckled up this morning, he will undergo surgery to remove a torn meniscus and he will return after the break. Juan Cuadrado has a knee problem too, he will be further evaluated to see if he needs to go under the knife. Emre Can and Leonardo Spinazzola are fine, Sami Khedira will come back next week.” Continue reading
Francesco Acerbi is a man on a mission.
The centre-back is the dictionary definition of an ever-present, a player with a warrior spirit who refuses to yield an inch of grass on the pitch – or a single minute of game time.
The 30-year-old had a seemingly tough task ahead of him when he arrived at Lazio from Sassuolo in the summer as the chosen successor to Stefan De Vrij, one of the greatest defenders to have pulled on a sky-blue shirt in at least a decade.
Within a matter of weeks, the Dutchman was a distant memory.
Perhaps the greatest compliment Acerbi can be paid for his adaptation to life at one of Continue reading
Inter XI: 4-2-3-1 Handanovic; Vrsaljko, Skriniar, De Vrij, Asamoah; Brozovic, Gagliardini; Politano, Mario, Perisic; Icardi.
Potential lineup changes: D’Ambrosio for Vrsaljko, Valero for Gagliardini, Keita for Perisic.
Questionable: Nainggolan (thigh), Dalbert (calf).
Doubtful: Vecino (quad).
Juventus: Joao Cancelo has a torn meniscus and will return after the break. Juan Cuadrado hyperextended his knee against Young Boys and he will not play in the weekend, while Medhi Benatia (knee soreness) has recovered. Rodrigo Bentancur is suspended, Sami Khedira will not come back from his ankle injury. Andrea Barzagli is out with a quad strain.
Napoli: Mario Rui subbed off against Liverpool due to a muscular injury that has yet to be evaluated, while Simone Verdi should make the squad list after being on the mend for a good chunk due to a pair of injury, the latest being an ankle sprain. Continue reading
Since Miralem Pjanic joined Juventus, the Bosnian was tasked with dictating the proceedings in the middle of the park, replacing the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba in the process. This season, however, the 28-year-old has found himself on the periphery of games at times, and has struggled to impact play from deep. With Massimiliano Allegri fielding him in front of the back four as the side’s regista, Pjanic has looked hesitant to get forward and has typically resorted to safe passes to alleviate pressure. While his passing numbers haven’t dropped compared to years past, even Pjanic will admit he’s not been at his best.
When Pjanic made a name for himself at Roma, the Bosnian was being deployed as one of the side’s mezz’alas. In simpler terms, he played on the outside of the midfield three. From that position, the midfield maestro was given the license to roam and create, especially with hard-man Daniele De Rossi playing behind him. As Roma’s mezz’ala, Pjanic dazzled and played his best football since joining from Lyon, scoring 10 goals and registering a further 12 assists in his last season with the club.
After joining from the giallorossi, Pjanic played in the same role and impressed the Juventus faithful immediately. Later in the season, the 28-year-old established himself as a crucial part in Allegri’s double pivot and made it all the way to the Champions League final. Armed with the Bosnian’s invention in the midfield, Juventus made light work of most defences, and claimed their sixth consecutive domestic title.
He finished up as the match winner, but when the Arsenal team was released for the final Europa League group game against Qarabag on Thursday night many felt Alexandre Lacazette’s inclusion was unnecessary. They would have preferred that the Frenchman had been rested.
Arsenal are heading into a packed period of fixtures which will define their season. The Gunners have made progress under Unai Emery over the early part of the campaign, but they must consolidate that progress before the turn of the year or they will find themselves chasing their tail.
The Gunners will travel to the south coast to face Southampton this weekend before taking on Spurs in the quarter finals of the League Cup the following week. Then between December 22 and New Year’s Day Emery’s side will play four Premier League fixtures. This will be a testing stretch for everyone, including Arsenal.
Lacazette, many believe, should have been rested against Qarabag to keep him fresh for this upcoming run of games. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the Premier League top scorer this season, but he frequently plays out wide. It’s Lacazette who acts as the focal point of the Arsenal attack. He is, in the conventional sense of the term, their frontman.
Behind him, there is nobody who could perform the role. Of course, Aubameyang could play through the middle, as he has done many times before, but that would leave the Gunners short of threat on the left side. By pulling one side of the duvet, the feet would be left dangling uncovered on the other side.
Danny Welbeck’s injury, which could rule him out for the rest of the season, has left Arsenal light in the attacking positions and this is why they need to sign a striker when the January transfer window opens in a few weeks’ time. They need depth and Arsenal are lacking that up front.
Callum Wilson would fit the bill. The Bournemouth striker is in the form of his life at the moment, leading the Cherries to eighth place in the Premier League table. Injury free, Wilson is a bottom half Robert Lewandowski and would certainly be capable of leading the line for Arsenal as a deputy for Lacazette. He might even push the Frenchman to reach even higher heights.
The other option might be to spend big on Ousmane Dembele, who continues to be linked with a departure from Barcelona. That would free up Aubameyang to be used as a frontman in Lacazette’s absence, with Dembele used on the right when all three are fit and available.
Arsenal have done well in the transfer window under the new regime, signing shrewdly and adding to their squad smartly in a way that has allowed Emery to mould his team in the manner he wants. They must continue to do that in the coming transfer windows, starting with January.
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Fiorentina travelled to Sassuolo on Sunday and the game ended with a simply breathtaking finish. Down by three goals to one, the visitors looked dead and buried, only to suddenly spark into life in the final minutes of the match. Continue reading
Whenever a new manager takes over at West Ham, the same question always seems to arise among the many on fans’ lips: will he play Mark Noble? Despite the lack of faith some seem to have in him now, he has endured every test he’s come across in his beloved claret and blue shirt. The same has been the case under Pellegrini. He may not start every game, but has featured in 11 of West Ham’s 16 Premier League matches this season.
He is still an integral part of the team and his new contract extension highlights that. The year extension means it will now run until 2021, so he will have been involved with the West Ham first team for an incredible 17 years when it expires. It also makes it likely that he will retire at the club he loves, seeing him become a one club man.
This is nothing short of what he deserves for his continued service to the club and proves to any doubters that he is still firmly in West Ham’s plans. Declan Rice has shown he can be a future club captain –should his contract situation be sorted- and Marko Arnautovic is a formidable presence on the pitch. However, Mark Noble is still the best leader the club has, as is signified by his captaincy.
Aside from the obvious leadership qualities, both in the dressing room and on the pitch, Noble is an important cog in the Hammers’ midfield on merit outside of that. He is as committed as ever and like Rice, is brilliant at breaking down opposition play. Some claim that he has lost his legs and is no longer able to get round the pitch as is needed, but in truth, he’s never been the quickest and has catered his game to dealing with this, with his positional play ensuring he remains a central part of the play.
The Hammers’ number 16 is just four appearances away from 450 in a West Ham shirt, after making his debut in a 2-0 League Cup win at home against Southend United in 2004. He featured in the Great Escape of 2006-07, won the Championship Play Offs twice, captained the team in their final game at Upton Park and has been one of the few constants in the club since the move to the London Stadium. He has over 50 West Ham goals, with a large amount of them coming from the penalty spot. He’s also represented England from Under 16 to Under 21 level.
He hasn’t scored this season, but has two assists- which came in wins against Everton and Manchester United. He has continuously said that he feels the club is heading in the right direction under the management of Pellegrini and this contract extension means he’ll be part of that for an extra year.
For now though, he’ll be looking to Saturday’s match against bottom of the table Fulham. The club are on an impressive run of three wins in a row –something they hadn’t previously managed for over two years. Another win this time around will likely see them break into the top 10.
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After a dreadful stretch of Champions League matches for Italian clubs, Serie A returns this weekend. Here are the main story lines to watch
Will Inter officially enter the “Britney Spears with a shaved head attacking an SUV with an umbrella” phase of their season?
You have to hand it to Inter- they qualified for the Champions League in nerve wrecking fashion, their main star Icardi proved himself on the biggest stage in European competitions, they won two key matches in the last few minutes and they still managed to throw away qualifying out of the group stage because they couldn’t defeat a team already eliminated in front of close to 70,000 fans.
On the bright side, after the draw took place last summer not many gave them a chance to qualify in the first place, but failing to defeat PSV on the heels of their loss to bitter rival Juventus may have some serious repercussions. Spalletti will need his team to get back on track when they face Udinese at San Siro on Sunday, anything less than a win could send the team on a tail spin.
The nerazzurri desperately need at least one out of Ivan Perisic or Radja Nainggolan to get going in the coming weeks. On paper they’re the ones expected to be the two biggest difference makers on the team after Icardi and Skriniar, but so far you can make a great case that Politano and Vecino/Joao Mario have been more impactful at their respective roles.
Will Di Francesco hold on to his job? Will Kouame’ shine against his potential new team?
Roma has already sent their players on two retreats during the season following a string of disappointing results so now there is really no option left but to make a managerial change if things continue to go south. On the bright side for Di Francesco, he was able to get of his Champions League- something that Spalletti and Ancelotti failed to do, but qualifying for the next edition of the cup with the Mickey Mouse ears is what matters to the club- they simply cannot afford to forfeit those revenues.
Di Francesco will get one more chance against Genoa, a club that also went through a coaching change by replacing Ivan Juric with Cesare Prandelli. While on paper this should be a fairly easy match for the giallorossi, they have really struggled against the provinciali teams and now have to face Piatek and the surging Kouame’ after giving up goals in nine consecutive matches. Roma are ironically one of the many clubs who have expressed interest in Kouame’, they recently met with his agent to plant the seeds for a potential negotiation.
Will Zaza and Rincon punish their former team in the derby della Mole?
After an uneven start to the season, the granata are on pretty good roll- they’re on a four game unbeaten streak in all competitions, manager Walter Mazzarri returned to the team after being hospitalized and their star striker Andrea Belotti is starting to regain some confidence. Following a draw at San Siro against Milan, Torino now face Juventus in the first derby della Mole of the season.
Mazzarri will keep his fingers crossed that one of his two illustrious former bianconeri comes through on Saturday- Tomas Rincon is a perfect embodiment of Torino’s trademark grinta and with the suspended Rodrigo Bentancur he’ll likely face off against Juve’s new enforcer Emre Can, while Simone Zaza is no stranger to goals in big matches. But so far the former Sassuolo striker has struggled in his return to Serie A, he has only scored 1 goal and there are still questions on how he fits alongside Belotti.
Will Cagliari continue to hold their own at home against a top opponent?
The shocking comeback against Roma despite being down to 9 men was just the latest impressive performance Cagliari delivered for their season ticket holders. The Sardinian club are undefeated at home and will get Nicolo’ Barella back from his one game suspension when they square off against Napoli on Sunday. The home grown midfielder is the club’s best player and he has already been linked to Arsenal and Chelsea as well as every top Serie A club.
While Napoli will have to dust off the disappointment of the elimination from the Champions League, they should get a boost from Faouzi Ghoulam. The Algerian left back shined in his return to the pitch against Frosinone, the upcoming match against Cagliari will serve as a better test to gauge his level of fitness. Ancelotti may also give another chance to Alex Meret who will have his work cut out for him to permanently gain the starting job he expected last summer since in the meantime Ospina has been an upgrade from what we saw from Pepe Reina last season.
Can Sassuolo get back on track against Frosinone?
After a brilliant start to the season, Sassuolo have come back down to earth. The neroverdi have only one win in their last nine matches, they simply have not looked the same especially after Kevin Prince Boateng injury. In order for manager Roberto De Zerbi to reclaim the title as “the hot up and coming Italian manager” he’ll have to get his team back on track, starting with Sunday’s away match against Frosinone.