Ajax take a step back to go forward and are on the verge of Champions League final


Ajax beat Tottenham in London in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final to claim a vital away goal and a fantastic win.

To be fair it isn’t often that we have witnessed both teams get this far in the competition. Indeed for Tottenham it is the first since the rebranding of the competitions name in 1992/93 and their first since 1962.

For Ajax the last time the team were this good was in 1996 when they reached their second Champions League final in a row only to lose on penalties against Juventus. But rewind a year before when Ajax won the competition and beat the great Milan side of the 90s in the process.

That Ajax side were remembered for the youths that came through the side and stunned European football. Players such as Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmars, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids and Jari Litmanen just to name a few. All went on to play for the biggest sides in Europe- but that night will always remain the most special for the players.

The 1995 win was also the first for the club since 1973 when they won 3 European Cups in a row between 1971-73, headed by the great Johan Cruyff. There has always been quality and a sense of total football with Ajax since the 70s but since the early 2000s the club have suffered.

Youngsters were not coming through as frequently and when, on rare occasions, they did they would be sold and moved on when they were clearly too young. A new generation did threaten a couple of years ago when Ajax reached the Europa League final against Manchester United, but the Dutch side were simply not ready for Jose Mourinho’s side at that point.

This season has been unbelievable for them. They look on course to win the Dutch league and have been phenomenal in the Champions League. Not only did they end Real Madrid’s 3 year hold on the competition they destroyed them in their own back yard winning 4-1.

Next up was Juventus and not just any old Juventus, but the club that had bought Ronaldo from Madrid in order to win their first Champions League since 1996. But Ajax stayed professional throughout and won 3-2 over 2 legs, impressively beating Juventus in Italy.

In some ways this match up with Tottenham was fascinating. Ajax had rarely faced a stronger Tottenham side but Tottenham had never faced such a skilful and peaceful Ajax team. The way Ajax started the game in Tottenham’s new stadium was incredible- one was reminded of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona from 2011.

It is a joy to behold to see how strong Ajax have become- the 2nd leg is still up for grabs of course but it does look like Ajax have one foot in the final. The likes of Matthijs De Ligt, Donny van de Beek,- who scored against Tottenham, Frenkie de Jong and Hakim Ziyech have been a revelation and a shot in the arm for European football.

Can Ajax recall teams of the past and make it to the final and possibly even win it- it’s not such a pipedream like it was at the beginning of the year. It feels like a reality and it is clear that Ajax mean business.

Taking Stock of the market for managers in Serie A

With four games to go in the season, many clubs are already looking to the future. The first order of business is deciding who will be sitting on the club’s benches, so here’s a list of available options



Antonio Conte


The former Chelsea manager has a wide range of options between clubs who will definitely need a coach next season (Roma and Milan) and those who may look for a change (Juventus and Inter) if right candidate comes around. While Roma have been pushing hard to sign him and are trying to make their job more attractive by hiring Conte’s former teammate and friend Gianluca Petrachi to be the sporting director, Conte is taking time to ponder his options. He could take a page out of the Lippi and Trapattoni playbook by returning to Juventus, but at the moment the bianconeri’s first choice appears to be Guardiola, who unlike Conte, would bring a radically different approach than Allegri’s to the club. Inter would offer Conte the opportunity to build a new BBC around Skriniar, De Vrij and Godin while Milan would give him a clean slate to build open like when he first joined Juventus as a manager

 Genoa-Empoli Campionato Serie A Tim 2014-2015

Gian Piero Gasperini


Atalanta is the best story line in Serie A this season so it’s not surprising to see their manager getting a lot of buzz. Despite starting three center backs, Gasperini plays a free flowing offensive style with a team that runs much more than your average Serie A club, the only knock on him is the uncertainty on him continuing this success at a bigger club after failing during a brief stay at Inter (you could also point to the fact many of his former players have struggled after moving to a larger stage). Should Atalanta make it to the Champions League, Gasperini may decide to just stay but he could be an attractive fallback option for both Roma and Milan.

 Di Francesco

Eusebio Di Francesco


On one hand the former Sassuolo manager’s stock rose a bit because it became pretty obvious Monchi was the person most responsible for Roma’s struggles this season, but on the other his replacement Claudio Ranieri has fixed the defense and made Roma more consistent. Di Francesco could be a fallback option for Milan or a good replacement for Gasperini should he move on from Atalanta- in addition Sampdoria could be an option should they decide to make a change from Giampaolo. If you were trying to sell Di Francesco stock you could still point to his success in Europe since he did get Roma out of the group stage in the Champions League for two years in a row and the fact he did launch Under and Zaniolo.


Sinisa Mihajlovic


After a very brief experience at Sporting, the former Milan manager completely turned around Bologna’s season after replacing Pippo Inzaghi and could parlay this success into a bigger job while knowing he has a great fallback plan by staying put. Should Ferrero keep Sampdoria, he could be tempted by idea of a reunion with his former manager after recently describing him as “the best in the world”

Marco Giampaolo


While Mihajlovic’s stock is way up in recent weeks, the opposite can be said for Sampdoria’s current manager. Ironically the blucerchiati’s heavy loss to Bologna a few weeks ago was arguably the lowest point of their season, it caused sporting director’s Walter Sabatini’s abrupt resignation- things didn’t get better last weekend since Samp also at home to Lazio. Considering that there were already questions marks on Giampaolo’s ability to handle stress after an odd situation at Brescia a few years ago, it’s likely that this recent collapse takes job such as Milan and Roma off the table.


Roberto D’Aversa


While Parma was one of the best story lines in Serie A in the first half of the season, once they were essentially safe from relegation they became pretty anonymous.  But make no mistake about it, never being in danger of going back to Serie B is quite the achievement for any newly promoted team. But considering how many more established managers are available on the market, D’Aversa is likely to stay put next season.


 De Zerbi


Roberto De Zerbi


While D’Aversa is an old school catenaccio type coach, De Zerbi has been making a name for himself as a great offensive mind dating back to his days at Foggia. Sassuolo have had a very solid season despite selling one of their best players in January in Boateng and De Zerbi could be an excellent option for Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Atalanta- all clubs known for valuing attractive football- in the near future.


Stefano Pioli

On the bright side, Fiorentina haven’t been any better since Vincenzo Montella replaced him, but it’s hard to argue that Pioli’s stock has improved since he was let go at Inter. At this point, Pioli looks like the type of manager who will be one of the first to be called during the season when a club decides to sack their current manager.


Davide Ballardini


Speaking of managers sacked during the season, arguably the most puzzling decision in recent months was Preziosi’s decision to sack Ballardini after he had launched Piatek on his way to the upper table in Serie A. Since then, Genoa have replaced Ballardini’s successor Juric with Prandelli, who is now also on the hot seat. Look for Genoa’s president to swallow his pride and bring back Ballardini sooner rather than later since he’s still under contract.

Leicester and Rodgers to push for Premier League top six next season?

Leicester City

As a club, Leicester City has had more anguish to deal with this season than most.

Back in late October, the club’s 60-year-old Thai owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, along with four others, including the pilot, died when his helicopter crashed to the ground shortly after takeoff from the King Power Stadium.

Srivaddhanaprabha had just watched his team draw 1-1 at home to West Ham United before then attempting to make his usual helicopter trip back to his home in London.

A grey cloud covered the club over the following weeks with the playing staff all attending their previous owner’s funeral in Bangkok. Continue reading

Valencia eye Champions League spot via the Europa League

Goncalo Guedes

Valencia could secure an alternative route into next season’s Champions League, as their La Liga top four continues to falter.

Back to back defeats against Atletico Madrid and Eibar, in league action, has pushed Marcelino’s side down to sixth place, three points behind Getafe and Sevilla, with three games to go.

However it is not over yet in terms of a second successive season in Europe’s premier competition for Los Che.

Continue reading

Barcelona seal LaLiga title with home win over Levante


It was only just and proper that Lionel Messi was the man to score the winning goal which gave Barcelona their second LaLiga title in a row on Saturday.

Levante were the visitors to Camp Nou as they continue to fight for their status in Spanish football’s top division.

Messi actually started on the bench for the home side with Ernesto Valverde clearly having one eye on his side’s upcoming Champions League semi-final clash with Liverpool.

Luis Suarez brought a good save out of Aitor with Barcelona’s first real chance of the game. Then Philippe Coutinho rattled the crossbar with an excellent effort from a free-kick. Continue reading

Athletic Bilbao to edge rivals in Europa League push


Athletic Bilbao’s La Liga season is set to go full circle in the coming weeks as they look in pole position to claim the last Europa League spot in the Spanish top flight.

The Basque side are up to seventh in the table, with three games to play, taking full advantage of rivals Alaves’ dip in form as the season enters into its final stage.

They have a three point lead on their Basque neighbours, after drawing 1-1 with them last weekend at San Mames, and face relegation threatened Celta Vigo and Real Valladolid in the final weeks.

Continue reading

Atletico Madrid in the market for attacking options

Antoine Griezmann

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is set for a busy summer in the transfer market, with the biggest exodus of his time in charge in La Liga, expected in the coming months.

The Argentinian is set to remodel his side for 2019-20, with experienced players moving on and uncertainty surrounding other players in the squad.

Defenders Diego Godin and Filipe Luis look increasingly likely to leave in the summer, when their contracts expire at the Wanda Metropolitano.

That means defensive reinforcements are a priority, in particular a replacement for Godin, who has been central throughout Simeone’s time in charge.

There are doubts over the futures of Saul Niguez and Rodri, with Manchester City interested in both midfielders – however Simeone is unlikely to let either leave, having worked so hard to keep them away from Barcelona in the past 12 months.

The main issue, alongside Godin, could be finding a fresh attacker to partner Antoine Griezmann.

The French international has committed his own future to the club, after another round of speculation linking him with Barcelona.

However, the club are looking to part ways with controversial striker Diego Costa, after he received a eight game following a red card against Barcleona earlier this month.

Simeone has been standoffish on the subject, claiming the Spanish international deserved to be punished, but remained ambiguous as to whether or not he was actually guilty.

The club’s hierarchy appear to have now lost patience, and want to move Costa on, and are willing to take a cut price offer for the former Chelsea man.

Gelson Martins is set to make his loan move to Monaco a permanent one at the end of the season, with Luciano Vietto set to head off to Portugal as a makeweight in the deal.

Alvaro Morata’s loan looks set to stand, with Chelsea’s attempts to recall him early due to their transfer ban, set to be rebuffed by FIFA – however he could go back to London at the end of the 2019-20 season.

That leaves just Griezmann, Morata and Nikola Kalinic, who has also been linked with an exit, as Simeone’s only strikers, unless he can make a move.

Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi could be the ideal fit to replace Costa, and act as a foil for Griezmann, however Simeone will have to battle Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to bring the Argentinian international in.

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Barcelona to rest stars as they push for Champions League glory




Lionel Messi

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde was firm in his commitment to pushing for further glory, after his side wrapped up an eighth La Liga title in the last 11 seasons.

A 1-0 win at home to Levante means the Catalan side have secured their title defence, with three league games to spare before the end of the 2018-19 season.

The former Athletic Bilbao coach will now focus his squad’s energies on completing a first treble since 2015. Continue reading

Sandro update, Juventus linked to Ndombele and Bentancur talks


The injury bug continues to hit Juventus: Alex Sandro bowed out of the last game and was diagnosed with a thigh pull, which puts his presence in serious jeopardy for Friday’s Derby with Torino. Coach Massimiliano Allegri also stated post-game that the fullback has been playing through a toe fracture for a while, which would explain his subpar performances in the last period. On the same front, Sami Khedira underwent an arthroscopic clean-up surgery of the right knee yesterday in Augsburg, performed by the doctor Uli Beonisch. He is fully expected to be ready for the beginning of offseason activities. Continue reading

Race for Champions League places hots up in Ligue 1 between Lille, Lyon and Saint Etienne


Champions PSG had the weekend off in Ligue 1 as they were playing in the Coupe de France final which they sensationally lost on penalties against Rennes after the match finished 2-2 at full time. With PSG not playing it also meant that Montpellier skipped the weekend and they will take on PSG later today in their rescheduled match.

But concentrating on the battle for Champions League places was the main focus of the weekend. Lille in 2nd place reaffirmed their position in style as they beat Nimes 5-0 at Stade Pierry- Mauroy. There was five different scores including man of the moment Nicolas Pepe. Lille’s fans have now seen their club score 10 goals in their last two home matches.

The win ensures that Lille stay 6 points ahead of Lyon with just 4 games remaining and only the top two places in Ligue 1 are assured of automatic qualification for next seasons Champions League.

Lyon who were expected to catch Lille, remain in 3rd after beating Bordeaux 3-2 in a thrilling match. The club were losing 2-1 at half time. Moussa Dembele scored the winning goal for Lyon with just five minutes remaining. It was a very important result for the club because Saint Etienne also won. They beat Toulouse 2-0 at the weekend to remain 3 points behind Lyon for the final Champions League place.

Saint Etienne have been in brilliant form and would in fact based on the last five games be top of the league. They have gained 13 points from their last 15 and have not lost a game in over 6 weeks.

Is a European finish finally over for Marseille? That was the feeling after the club lost 2-1 to in form Nantes at Stade Velodrome. Mario Balotelli came back from injury to score but the club had just 2 shots on target to Nantes 6 the whole game in what was seen as surprise result. It leaves Marseille trailing 4th place by 5 points and while they still have a chance for a possible Europa League place, those hopes are fading fast.

As mentioned above Montpellier will play PSG on Tuesday and if they win they would join Marseille on 54 points. Nice ended a 2 game period without a win and easily swatted aside bottom club Guingamp 3-0. As a result they moved up to 7th place on 51 points, but their best hope for this season would be to finish in the top six.

Finally Reims continued their dismal form with yet another draw- this time 1-1 against Angers which didn’t help either team. The club have not won in their last five games, drawing 3 of their last four and have now slipped a massive 10 points from a European place with just 12 left on the board, and their European dream is now finished.

Next week will see a mouth watering clash between 2nd and 3rd when Lyon take on Lille in what could be a defining moment for who will play in the Champions League next season.

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