Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 29


Standings implications: they did it in opposite fashion, but Juventus and Napoli both took home the full spoils in this round. Inter were bested by Lazio, Milan by Sampdoria and therefore the Biancocelesti and Atalanta moved closer to the fourth spot. The Orobici leapfrogged Roma, while Sampdoria now share the eight spot with Torino, which tied in Florence. Cagliari prevailed for the third time in the last four fixtures, this time versus Chievo, and are eight point clear of the 18th spot, which is now occupied by Empoli that have been overtaken by Bologna as result of a dramatic victory. Udinese and SPAL kept their slim lead with Ws against Genoa and Frosinone.

Confirmations: Duvan Zapata took advantage of few elite strikers being shut out to pull closer to the top of the scorers’ chart thanks to a brace.  Continue reading

Manchester United 2-1 Watford: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wins his first game as permanent manager


Manchester United had the chance to re-enter the top four positions for the first time in recent weeks, with their next fixture being at home to Watford, a side that have won five league games away from home and are sat in the middle of the table. With Arsenal playing on Monday and Tottenham facing Liverpool on Sunday afternoon, it was a massive must for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to achieve the much needed three points as well as the victory itself in a dominant manner.

As a whole, the visitors were the ones who surprisingly started the game and ended the game on a high note, where they forced the hosts to sit deep for majority of the first half but failed to create the clear chances to test the goalkeeper David De Gea. However, the first goal of the match actually came from United, as Marcus Rashford latched onto Luke Shaw’s perfect through ball and swept it passed Ben Foster, who had rushed out from his line to do his best to put the centre forward off.

Following the Rashford goal, the Red Devils completed the first half in the ideal way, but could have done more to complete the win with the number of shots they had on goal. The two main attempts that will be remembered the most by the Old Trafford faithful at the half time break would be, Anthony Martial’s chance from a corner which was literally hit straight at Foster, and the other one being Rashford’s dribble from the right into the middle but the shot not causing any problems at all as the defenders had it covered.

The second half was the same as the first, with Watford dominating the possession of the ball and grew in more confidence by the minute whilst United were not sure whether to sit deep or to press high up the pitch. United thought the game was set and match with Martial scoring for the home team in the 72nd minute, though, the side faced a huge scare towards the end of the match as Abdoulaye Doucoure pulled a goal back for Javi Garcia’s men, who were simply not ready to give up till the final whistle.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…

Midfield were ineffective and sloppy

As the usual midfield trio of Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba came out to play at Old Trafford against Watford, it felt like the three players had not played for a long time or were not familiar of one another. The balance on both sides of the pitch was not there, as they looked out of their depth in the opposition’s half and could not defend consistently enough when required.

Both Matic and Pogba had quite a few poor moments throughout the match, where they lost possession of the ball easily and were unable to pick out the simplest of passes. Meanwhile, Herrera was alright to some extent but failed to influence the game as a whole. Given the performances in midfield, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see Fred or Scott McTominay return into the team for the Wolves fixture on Tuesday night.

Watford will surely end the season on a high note

It’s been quite some time where a team from outside of the Premier League top-six had dominated and overrun the hosts at Old Trafford whilst looking like they are going onto to win the match. If Watford had an attacking midfielder with pace and trickery and a much more complete forward, they would have surely converted one of the eight shots they had on target before Doucoure had scored in the final minutes of the game.

Although the current focus is on who will win the league, who will finish in the top four and who will be relegated to the Championship, Javi Garcia’s Watford deserve more appreciation and credit for the type of football they are playing and how well they have done against the bigger teams. Leicester City and Wolves have received a lot of gratitude in recent months for their desire and results in the huge games, but it’s time for Watford to get their fair share of recognition of how they have managed to do it their way.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showed when and how to make changes

The questions were raised during the matches against Arsenal and Wolves a few weeks ago, on if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the intelligence to understand when to make the substitutions and how to change the game around. In the first game after the international break, the 46-year-old Norwegian international proved the critics wrong with the two changes that helped his side to win the game.

Solskjaer showed off his cleverness in the second half of the match, where he brought on both Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard for Ander Herrera and Juan Mata, two players that went on to inject more energy and pace into the side’s midfield and attack. Ten minutes after that, Ole was forced into bringing Martial off due to a minor knock he picked up, but was smart in adding Marcos Rojo into the team and went to a back-three setup, as Watford started to pile on the pressure and were looking for the equaliser.

Three Things We Learned From Juventus’ Win

Today, Juventus overcame Empoli at the Allianz Stadium extending their lead over second-place Napoli to eighteen points, in anticipation of the partenopei’s clash against Roma tomorrow. While Allegri’s men did just enough to claim all three points, Juventus played poorly, and demonstrated their past midfield issues still loom large, as the visitors dominated the proceedings in the first half.

Despite this, it would only take super-sub and star-boy Moise Kean two and a half minutes after his introduction to break the deadlock, and bag the three points for Juventus. Here are three things we learned today about the Italian champions.


1) Kean and Spinazzola must play more. 

Since the return leg against Atletico Madrid, Kean and Leonardo Spinazzola have gone from strength to strength making the most of their limited minutes, and have given Allegri quite the selection conundrum. With Alex Sandro’s decline in full force, Allegri must now turn to the former Atalanta man for the left back position, and allow him to earn the starting role all for himself. Entering a crucial stage in the season, Juventus cannot afford further subpar performances from Alex Sandro, who at times, is guilty of switching off defensively. After all, Spinazzola has been the superior player since the turn of the new year, at the very least, and is deserving of more minutes.

Much like Spinazzola, Kean must also be given more playing time. At the moment, he’s the side’s most in-form forward, scoring three goals in his last three games, including two on international duty. With Cristiano Ronaldo out, and Mandzukic struggling, it’s only right Kean is given consistent time. Until now, the Italian international hasn’t disappointed in the slightest, netting a goal every 40.33 minutes in Serie A.

2) Juventus midfield struggles on display, once again.

With the league all but wrapped up, Juventus have demonstrated signs of arrogance in Serie A action. Just before the international break, the bianconeri succumbed by a score of 2-0 to Genoa, and put in an overall atrocious performance at the Marassi. Against Empoli, Allegri’s men looked out of sorts in the first half, fielding five midfielders and just one striker in Mandzukic.

Despite outnumbering Empoli in the midfield, Juventus still struggled to impose themselves on the game, and watched as the Serie A minnows completely dominated the first half. Had it not been for some poor decision-making in the final third and profligacy in front of goal, Juventus could have found themselves down one early. Against a better side, they will be punished.

If Juve would like to focus solely on the Champions League in the latter stages of the season, it would be a good idea to wrap up the league as soon as possible. That way they can pour all their efforts into Europe’s elite competition. In any case, whatever happens this season, one thing’s for certain: Juve’s midfield is nowhere near good enough and is in dire need of reinforcements, starting with Aaron Ramsey.

3) Rugani needs to grow physically. 

Daniele Rugani has been rather inconsistent since being trusted with more minutes these past two seasons, and still has ways to go before he can compete for a starting position alongside Giorgio Chiellini. Regardless of his inconsistencies, the former Empoli man has showed glimpses of his true potential, and has always boasted an impressive sense of anticipation. Capable of reading the game well and instilling calmness at the back, Rugani is one of the nation’s highest rated defenders, but has stagnated a bit. Today, against a more technical strike-force, the young defender did well and stifled Empoli’s threat with ease.

However, every time Rugani goes up against a physical threat (See: Duvan Zapata) he struggles to cope, and makes the Juventus rearguard all the more vulnerable. With Bonucci and Chiellini ageing, and with Ajax’s Matthjis de Ligt looking set to sign with Barcelona, Rugani would be wise to make the most of this unique opportunity, and bulk up. A little more muscle, and tenacity to his game could go a long way, and could help him live up to the hype.

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Sampdoria 1-0 AC Milan: Pathetic Rossoneri display results in three points lost

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AC Milan had a chance to get back from the tough derby loss two weeks ago, but failed to seise the moment against Sampdoria this evening. In fact, their performance only highlighted more issues, as the home side completely dominated the game. 

Many would’ve hoped to see a response to the lacklustre performance in the very important Milan derby, but today we didn’t get that. At first sight, the starting eleven looked promising, but once the game was underway there were obvious flaws in the system.

Sampdoria applied their high press on the Rossoneri’s backline, which simply couldn’t cope. This became evident after just 33 seconds as Donnarumma hit Defrel with a ridiculous pass, and the ball made its way into the back of the net. Uphill straight away for Milan, and things certainly didn’t better.  Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 29


Juventus sleepwalked through the first half on Saturday night, but somehow avoided conceding and, after intermission, turned up the volume just enough to topple Empoli and move one win closer to Scudetto.

Giorgio Chiellini (5 points): if the squad survived after a horrid showing in the first 45 days minutes, that is primarily thanks to a very diligent performance by both centre-backs, who did their best to plug the plethora of holes in that makeshift initial XI. Daniele Rugani celebrated the extension with a near immaculate showing, but the captain gets nod due to his involvement in the game-winning goal, where he uncorked a Leonardo Bonucci-esque long ball and for a key intervention to thwart a dangerous counter in the second half. Continue reading

Spalletti confirms Icardi is not ready to face Lazio


Luciano Spalletti held his traditional pre-match press conference ahead of Inter’s crucial Serie A match against Lazio tomorrow night. The Tuscan tactician spoke about a range of topics, including his decision not to include Mauro Icardi in his matchday squad to face the Biancocelesti. Here is what he said to the journalists who gathered at the Suning Training Centre: Continue reading

Why Marotta’s presence will ultimately bear fruit for Inter


Inter CEO sport Beppe Marotta spoke from the stage at the ‘Il Foglio a San Siro’ convention held at San Siro earlier this week. He touched on a range of topics, including the possibility of the Nerazzurri moving into a new stadium alongside city neighbours AC Milan. Here is what he had to say: Continue reading

Sleeping giant Bayern Munich are planning for dominance next season


The season in Germany is of course not over but it has been an awkward one for the giants of the country Bayern Munich.

Usually dominant in the Bundesliga Bayern simply haven’t had it all their own way this season and have had to play second fiddle to Borussia Dortmund for most of it. True as they go into this weekend Bayern are on top, but that’s only on goal difference. Either Dortmund or Bayern will win the league this season and that looks like it will go right down to the wire.

Bayern’s Champions League exit at the hands of Liverpool underlined that the team needs refreshing. Stars such as Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, loyal servants are too old and they will need to be moved on in the summer. Nico Kovac the young Croatian manager has been under intense pressure this season with even Arsene Wenger linked to the job. Truth is Kovac has inherited an aging team who at times haven’t always been hungry for success.

The good news for Bayern is that club President Uli Hoeness has promised that the club will spend big in the summer, and he’s not lying. Indeed Bayern have already splashed the cash with the confirmation of Lucas Hernandez for an incredible £68m. Hernandez will join from Atletico Madrid in July and be ready for next season.

It does appear that Hoeness who has been famous in the past for tightening  the clubs purse strings is putting his mouth where the money is and delivering on his promise and Bayern fans will be excited to hear what he had to say. Hoeness recently said: “If only you knew (the names) we have lined up for next season. We can’t make announcements right now. Everyone here would go mad and we still have goals to reach in the current campaign. We’ve saved. We’re well prepared for the summer. Our director of sport (Hasan Salihamidzic) has it all under control.”

Exciting times look to be around the corner for Bayern who have not won the Champions League since 2013, and since the rebranding took place in 1993 have only won the competition twice despite appearing in numerous finals. But also the current domestic season has not been good enough even if they win it, because just being able to win it is very un Bayern like. Think, for example, PSG winning Ligue 1 on the last day of the season.

Bayern mean business and it will be interesting if they will be able to attract the players they want. With Real Madrid reportedly having a huge spending package this summer it could turn into quite a transfer tussle between the two teams this summer- whoever is selling will benefit.

Sampdoria vs. AC Milan: The Rossoneri’s chance to bounce back from derby loss


This evening, AC Milan will take on Sampdoria away from home, looking to bounce back from the disappointing derby loss two weeks ago. However, it will be far from easy for Gattuso’s men, even though they are favourites heading into the game. 

Giampaolo’s men have caused Milan problems before, especially in the first tie between the two sides this season. Eventually, the Rossoneri came away with the victory at San Siro (3-2), but the away side certainly proved how lethal they can be up front. Gattuso was keen to point this out during the press conference, stating that his side will need a great performance.

“We have to be aware of the fact that this team has already put us in difficulty this year. They have incredible players up front, and the concede little at the back. We will need a great performance. We want to bounce back,” Gattuso said about the game. Continue reading

Maurizio Sarri doesn’t deserve the criticism he has faced at Chelsea


With Chelsea’s impending two window transfer ban it might be an idea that the club get behind Maurizio Sarri and start properly backing him. It has felt unfair that the Italian has endured so much criticism this season, and it hasn’t just been from the board but also some of the players and even the fans.

Some fans are calling for his head which just seems bizarre when we look at the plain facts. The club are still in with a chance of a top 4 finish, they reached the Carabao Cup final and they are in the quarter finals of the Europa League. How has this been a bad season?

Granted a league title was shot away months ago, but did anyone expect Chelsea to challenge for a title this season? And yes there have been disappointing defeats and they have lost 7 games this season. But take out Liverpool and the least amount of games lost is Manchester City with 4 defeats, so only 3 more is not a disaster. Plus shouldn’t we remember that the Blues started the season off so strongly, going the first three months without a defeat?

Of course fans will see backwards steps- the 6-0 loss to Manchester City just underlined who is the boss right now, but again let’s remind ourselves of Chelsea’s 2-0 win over the same side at Stamford Bridge earlier this season. Had that result happened now Sarri would be praised. Plus in the Carabao Cup where they had just lost 6-0 to City they faced them again, with everyone expecting another cricket score it didn’t happen. The match finished 0-0, Chelsea were accused of being boring, when in reality they had quickly learned from their mistakes. In the end perhaps it didn’t matter as they lost in the most cruellest ways to penalties.

Sarri has also been accused of not being able to deploy his players in the right positions and making some odd selection choices. One of these is the outstanding emerging talent of Callum Hudson-Odoi. Sarri has not been picking the 18 year old as regularly as fans would have liked. But at the same time Sarri is being careful with the prodigy and at the end of the day is still giving him a run in the Europa League, so he is gaining experience.

With the transfer window ban and the possibility that key player Eden Hazard will leave at the end of the season maybe Chelsea need to back Sarri more. Isn’t this is a case of not appreciating what you have, after all Chelsea have made that mistake countless times before.