Serie A Club of the Round – Lazio

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Despite failing to earn a shutout win due to a schoolboy error, Lazio had by far the most dominating performance in the round and vanquished Parma with a magnificent first half.

They came into the game looking to redeem themselves after a slightly disappointing tie in Florence, where they could have easily won the game with more precision and more intensity, especially in the second half, while they squashed Roma in the Derby two weeks ago. Continue reading

EPL Best XI – Week 31

nobleThere was only half a round of games in the Premier League this past weekend, what with FA Cup action also going on, and so with just ten teams taking part picking a best XI may be slightly different to usual. Sunday’s action was fun-packed, as Everton raised some eyebrows by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Goodison Park – their first home victory since mid-January – putting a big dent in Chelsea’s top-four ambitions. Liverpool were tested more than many will have been expecting at Craven Cottage, a late James Milner penalty putting them top of the table with a 2-1 win against Fulham. On Saturday, Bournemouth played out a 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle, Leicester won 2-1 at Burnley and West Ham beat Huddersfield in a 4-3 thriller.

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AC Milan 2-3 Inter: Gattuso’s men punished for the first 55 minutes

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The long-awaited derby ended in misery for AC Milan and all of its fans, as Inter edged the designated home side in front of a big crowd at San Siro. This is the Rossoneri’s first loss in the league since December. 

Given both sides’ recent form, not many would’ve expected Inter to get away with a 3-2 win, and especially not how they managed to do so. Despite their poor spell, Spalletti’s men completely dominated the game for the first 55 minutes, which turned out to be costly for Milan.

In that period, Inter could’ve scored 3-4 goals, both ‘only’ managed to put two past Donnarumma in goal. The first one came after just three minutes, as Perisic picked out Martinez at the back post. The Argentinian did brilliantly to find Vecino, who slotted it home.

Gattuso’s men managed to ride the storm until the half-time break, but they were reminded of Inter’s brilliance straight away in the second half, as de Vrij headed in the second just five minutes into the last 45. Milan got a lifeline as Calhanoglu picked up Bakayoko with a brilliant free-kick, and the Frenchman scored his first goal for Milan with a fantastic header. 1-2, and game on.

Just before the second half started, Castillejo was brought on to replace Paqueta, and more changes took place after their first goal. In fact, Cutrone replaced Rodriguez, which saw they Rossoneri switch to a 4-4-2 formation with the youngster and Piatek forming a duo up front. Calabria was moved to the left side while Kessie slotted in at right back.

The pressure started to mount on Inter but perhaps Gattuso changes were a bit naive. Politano was clipped by Castillejo just inside the penalty box, resulting in the referee blowing his whistle. Martinez stepped up and scored the third, but the game wasn’t over just there.

Gattuso decided to send on Conti instead of Kessie to get some structure to the play, and straight away the response came. Suso, for once, was responsible for a fantastic cross into the box, which eventually fell to Musacchio. The Argentinian made no mistakes to bring Milan back into the game once again, with just under 20 minutes remaining.

However, even though Gattuso’s men racked up a few dangerous chances, nothing more came of it. The loss means that Inter are now ahead of Milan in the standings, although only one point separates the two sides.

So, were there any positives to take out of the game? Despite the lacklustre performance, a few players stood out. Starting at the back, Musacchio looked very secure even though the team conceded three goals. Many would’ve seen him as the weak link ahead of the game, but surprisingly Romagnoli performed worse than his colleague, by quite some margin.

Bakayoko also put in a good display, for the most part, and his first goal for the club is something he will remember, although the result didn’t go his team’s way. During a spell of the game, he played as a deep-lying midfielder along with Calhanoglu, who was brilliant this evening. The Turk International was forced to move around a lot due to Gattuso’s changes, but did brilliantly in adjusting to the circumstances, running the show for Milan. For me, he certainly was the man of the match, which hopefully can inspire him to continue like this.

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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 28

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Standings implications: Juventus dropped their first game in Genoa, while Napoli tamed Udinese and so the lead yo-yoes back to 15 points. Inter resurrected at the most opportune time and torpedoed Milan in the Derby della Madonnina, reclaiming the third spot. Roma did not take advantage as they had a poor showing in Ferrara. It was a good week for Lazio, as they demolished Parma, while Atalanta got stymied by Chievo and Torino came up empty-handed against Bologna. In the lower districts, mammoth wins for the Felsinei, SPAL and Empoli, who sunk Frosinone in the head-to-head bout. Udinese fell back in the mud, as they are now just two points above the Felsinei. Cagliari kept the opponents at bay with a precious W against Fiorentina.

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Olivier Giroud is being under appreciated at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud’s main reason for leaving Arsenal in 2018 was that he wasn’t happy with the lack of game time he was getting in North London. Though a year on he’s in a pretty similar position, just in Chelsea’s blue rather than red and white.

Having scored a hat trick against Dynamo Kyiv on Thursday, he was put back on Chelsea’s bench for today’s 2-0 loss against Everton. He’s the highest scorer in the Europa League but hasn’t started a single league game in 2019. This all comes after he was laughed at by many for not getting a shot on target during the 2018 World Cup, despite being one of the most influential players in France’s winning squad. He also had impressive link up play with Eden Hazard in the early stages of this season.

He has started just six Premier League matches in the current campaign. The fact that he is in his current position after numerous important contributions feeds into the idea that he is currently being under appreciated and underplayed at club level. Though he has managed to keep his place in France’s national team, as he was called up for their imminent Euro 2020 qualifiers against Moldova and Iceland.

Chelsea have had their fair share of striker troubles since Diego Costa’s departure in 2017. This makes it even more surprising that Giroud has been given so few chances to establish himself as Chelsea’s first choice striker. Maurizio Sarri has even brought Gonzalo Higuain in on loan and put him straight into the team ahead of the Frenchman.

He’s arguably not had the desired impact, as his only goals in the 10 games he’s played in Chelsea’s blue came against Huddersfield Town and Fulham- who are both in the relegation zone. Giroud has started just five matches in the same amount of time but has hit the back of the net five times.

Chelsea have had a kind run in the Europa League, which has arguably helped Giroud’s record in the competition. His team mates Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have also impressed on the European stage this season. This hasn’t been enough for any of the three to be given regular time in the league though.

The January transfer window saw questions begin to circulate as to whether Hudson-Odoi would look to go elsewhere, with Bayern Munich showing interest. There have been indications that a similar situation could occur with Giroud, as the striker recently said there was “no chance” he’ll except his role as a bit part player going forward.

At 32-years-old, Giroud is beginning to approach the latter stages of his career. If he is to get more playing time at the highest level then he will likely have to do so soon. If Higuain continues to fail to hit the back of the net then Giroud should be given the chance to step in. Meanwhile, he will continue to the lead the line in the Europa League, with the next game in the competition coming against Slavia Praha on April 11th.

 

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Can Manchester City pull off a quadruple winning season?

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Pep Guardiola’s quadruple hopes are well and truly alive, just, after Manchester City fought back from two goals down against Swansea City in the FA Cup. Sergio Aguero clinched City’s place in the semi-final – of which they’ll play Brighton and Hove Albion – with a goal two minutes from time to complete a comeback against a fighting Swansea. Continue reading

Wolves 2-1 Manchester United: Back to back defeats for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men

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Manchester United had a really good chance to stamp a marker of being the favourites to win their first silverware in the FA Cup under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Though, the quarter-final fixture was not straightforward with it being a difficult one against Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves away from home, a side that have picked up a number of results against the Premier League’s top-six so far this season.

Overall, United started on a positive note and dominated possession for majority of the match, but failed to breakdown the opposition’s defence and did not test goalkeeper John Ruddy until the final moments of the game. Meanwhile, Wolves were defended in numbers and created the bigger chances and were ruthless on the counter, with the goals coming from Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest match…

Squad has been burned out from top to bottom

With Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku unavailable due to current injury problems, whilst the likes of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic have been rushed back into the starting line-up, it is not a surprise that the team have struggled to get going following the monumental Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain. The side have been lacking the quality from the bench to help them effect and turn the game around, leading to back-to-back defeats.

On top of that, Solskjaer himself has not got the ideal options available for him to use in the squad as a whole and the blame should definitely be referred back to the board and Ed Woodward. When looking at the current team and the fact that only Diogo Dalot, Fred and Lee Grant came into the club in the previous summer transfer window, it can easily be stated that the new arrivals was simply not enough to allow Jose Mourinho or Solskjaer to guide the side to a successful season.

The problems in the final third have started once again

At this moment of time, the problems in the final third have returned to what it once was in the final months of Mourinho’s time at the club, where the front three fail to provide enough creativity and movement on and off the ball. There was one stage in the match last night at Molineux Stadium, where it had seemed like Martial and Rashford were nowhere to be seen in the opposition’s half.

For sure, if Lukaku was fit and in good condition to play, the side would have played more down the flanks and would have sent constant crosses into the box for the Belgian international to pounce on. However, with his much needed presence missing, the back-three/five of Wolves were able to isolate United’s attackers and left the midfielders with no choices but to play backwards or sideways.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got outdone by Nuno Espirito Santo  

Since his arrival as Manchester United’s interim coach from the middle of December, this has been Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game where he has tactically been dominated and outdone by the opposition. In his favour, Wolves have actually eased down in the league over the last couple of weeks and have quietly been preparing for this match through less training and more resting.

On the other hand, the signs of a goal coming were there in the early moments of the second half, with the hosts becoming more comfortable in possession and attacking with intent along whilst both Matt Doherty and Ruben Neves enjoying a lot of space and time on the ball. Had Solskjaer and Mike Phelan spotted this and looked to match up with Wolves’ setup, the game could have potentially been more balanced and the side would have had more control to the match.

Spalletti battling for survival as Inter try to save face against Milan

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“The derby is always the derby, it makes you feel strong emotions even if I was even more motivated for games against Juventus. All of the wins against Milan were good, even the 4-0 which I spent on the bench. The Rossoneri have toughened up because Gattuso snarls on the bench and makes it look like they’re playing with 12. Piątek fights for every ball but he scores as part of the team thanks to everyone. Our guys will know what to do.” Those were the words of former Nerazzurri defender Marco Materazzi, who spoke to Inter TV about what it meant for him to feature in the Derby Milano during his playing career. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 28

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Juventus were devoid of energies and mostly of ideas too on Sunday in Genoa and were handed their first loss of the season in Serie A play. They almost managed to get by through experience, but once the VAR disallowed the Paulo Dybala goal the Griffon just overwhelmed them. The Bianconeri’s record run on the road, where they had not been defeated for 27 matches in a row obviously came to end.

Joao Cancelo: all the defenders were docked a point because of the two goals they allowed. Cancelo had the best outing among those who were fielded on Sunday as he showed flashes of his best self, in particular when he played as left winger after half time. Continue reading