Why Icardi must draw inspiration from Perišić’s recent resurgence

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Despite the fact Inter have won each of their last four matches in all competitions, there remains a lot of tension with regard to the situation involving Mauro Icardi and Wanda Nara’s current standoff with the club. Indeed, CEO sport Beppe Marotta and coach Luciano Spalletti have both made it clear that the Argentine must do several things in order to make amends and be accepted back into the first team fold. Continue reading

Ambition now bites the nails of Juventus’ success

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On one of U2’s best songs from the nineties “The Fly”, Bono mentions that “ambition bites the nails of success”, a fitting description of what has been happening at Juventus in recent weeks. After a resounding loss in the Coppa Italia to Atalanta, the bianconeri now find themselves on the brink of elimination in the Champions League.

While Juventus has always made domestic success their priority, last summer’s acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo, on top of redeeming the rights to Douglas Costa from Bayern Munich, bringing back Leonardo Bonucci after a season at Milan and acquiring Joao Cancelo made it quite obvious that the club was going all in for the Champions League.

This was a natural evolution for Juventus. When Max Allegri replaced Antonio Conte, one of the first things he said was that his immediate goal was to consistently get his team to the quarterfinals of Europe’s most prestigious competition. The thinking was that one year, things could break their way and they could finally lift the cup, something that had eluded Juventus since the early 90s.

Juventus did come close, ironically more so the first year Allegri arrived in Turin when a controversial non call on Dani Alves tackling Pogba in penalty box could have swung things the bianconeri’s way. A few years later, Juventus went to Cardiff with much more confidence, only to be outclassed by Real Madrid.

But the Cristiano Ronaldo acquisition was not only a marketing bonanza, it was also a statement of intent. While the club’s brass had always been very cautious saying the scudetto was the main objective and that the Champions League was a crapshoot, things changed across the board- from the president to the players- with statements that winning the trophy with the Mickey Mouse ears was the priority.

While Juventus did win their group, the first leg of round of sixteen against Atletico Madrid was a disastrous as the Pop tour was for U2. The bainconeri’s best player was keeper Szczesny, the duo of Chiellini and Bonucci struggled, Dybala played scared and Allegri’s decision to start De Sciglio over Cancelo was widely criticized.

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To make matters worse, Juventus gave up a goal to Diego Godin who is set to join their arch rivals Inter and Diego Simeone’s celebration went viral and will be added to the list of moments that illustrate the bianconeri’s underachievements in Europe.

But despite all this, is it fair to describe Juventus as being a team in crisis? Or has the team’s consistent success in Italy given them an almost impossible bar to surpass to define success?

It’s certainly fair to say that Atletico Madrid was arguably the most challenging opponent they could have faced in this round. The last second injury to Sami Khedira, who despite being hit like a piñata by Juventini on Twitter, is a proven commodity in the Champions League and the midfielder who scores the most goals in Allegri’s scheme forced the bianconeri to have to make a last second adjustment.

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While Rodrigo Bentancur has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the first half of the season, he doesn’t bring much offensively. If that weren’t enough, Pjanic came down with a fever the night before the game making him even less valuable than usual (it’s fair to say that Ronaldo taking so many free kicks had already made him less decisive this season).
But it’s also true that Atletico Madrid was without some key players in the match and they played with much more determination. Ronaldo was brought in for exactly these types of games and his only highlight was his mocking of the fans with the number of Champions League he won.
This wasn’t exactly an aberration for the former Real Madrid striker during this Champions League campaign. So far he has only scored one goal in Europe, and while it’s great that he’s leading Serie A in goals scored, Juventus really didn’t need him for that.
So where does Juventus go from here? In the short term, they need to try to come back for the first time from a 2-0 loss in the first leg and channel the same energy they showed at the Santiago Bernabeu last year when Simeone’s crew travels to Turin in 20 days.
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Should Juventus fail to overcome this deficit, which won’t be easy against a disciplined an staunch team like Atletico, they’ll have to think long and hard on what they need to do next season. While it’s fair to expect that Aaron Ramsey will make more of an impact than Emre Can has so far, it remains to be seen if he’s enough to upgrade a midfield that is a fair cry from the one Allegri fielded when he faced Barcelona in Berlin.
Considering the eight previous Serie A titles, it’s going to be very hard for Juventini to talk themselves into how meaningful another scudetto is, the rightful ambition the bianconeri made by acquiring Ronaldo truly bites the nails of success- it is now Champions League it bust for Juventus and this is a good thing.

Spalletti urges Inter to show consistency versus Fiorentina

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Luciano Spalletti held his traditional pre-match press conference ahead of Inter’s crucial Serie A match against Fiorentina tomorrow night. Here is what he said to the journalists who gathered at the Suning Training Centre in Appiano Gentile earlier this afternoon: Continue reading

Allegri talks before Bologna-Juventus

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri met the press today and obviously returned on the Atletico Madrid game and the comparison with what happend with Real last year: “The circumstances are different, we have 20 days to prepare this fixture, which will be our match of the year. With enthusiasm and adrenaline. I do not know whether we will advance, but we have to do everything in our power to pull it off. In order to get there, we have to do well in the next three league games. We face Bologna which have a new coach and a new attitude, they have won in Milan, tied with Genoa and did not deserve to lose against Roma. It is an important game because we want to arrive to the Napoli clash with the same lead. We need eight more wins in Serie A.” Continue reading

AC Milan 3-0 Empoli: Highlighting the positives for Gattuso’s men

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Despite a lacklustre first-half performance, AC Milan managed to get themselves together during the break, eventually scoring three goals to seal a comfortable win against Empoli. 

However, as said, it didn’t look all too well in the first half. After Paqueta had a goal disallowed correctly by VAR, the Rossoneri seeminly lost energy to find new solutions, almost looking like they were in the lead already. Fortunately, they were able to turn this around in the second half, perhaps thanks to a successful speech by Gattuso during the break.

In fact, in a matter of minutes, AC Milan secured the win by putting two goals past the away side’s goalkeeper. Piatek got on the scoresheet first, as Calhanoglu picked him out brilliantly in the box. Thanks to this goal, the Polish striker has equalled Oliver Bierhoff’s record from 1998, having scored in his first four consecutive league starts.

Just two minutes later, Kessie added to the lead as Castillejo managed to get past two defenders, before freeing the Ivorian in the middle. The tirelessly working midfielder chipped the goalkeeper and so Gattuso’s men had completed a misery compiler. The fun didn’t end there as Castillejo extended the lead 15 minutes later, capitalizing on a brilliant cross from Conti.

All in all, a very convincing victory by Milan, who are now just one point behind Inter in third place. However, the Nerazzurri of course have a game in hand: facing Fiorentina on Sunday evening. In any case, the three points are absolutely crucial as the Rossoneri look to distance themselves from Atalanta, Lazio and Roma.

So, what positives can we take from the game? Based on the second half, there are many moments to choose from. The centreback duo, consisting of Musacchio and Romagnoli, did really well to close down the opponents, who only had one shot on target all game. In addition to this, Biglia made his return coming back from injury, and performed quite well even though the game was done by then.

More importantly, Castillejo proved that he’s certainly worthy of replacing Suso on the right flank. In the first half, he seemed to be the only real threat, and performed to the best of his abilities in the last 45 minutes. One goal and one assist to his name, does it get much better than that? Even though Suso remains the favourite for the RW position, Samu has without a doubt given Gattuso something to think about.

Having scored three+ goals in three consecutive league games (for the first time since December 2012), the Rossoneri have subsequently improved their goal difference, which was pretty boring a few weeks ago. If this will prove decisive at the end of the season remains to be seen, but it’s certainly refreshing to see a Milan side scoring many goals (while also conceding little).

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Fiorentina’s Youngsters Face Tough Inter Test

Having earned another vital win last week, Fiorentina’s young side face a tough test this weekend as they welcome Inter to the Stadio Artemio Franchi. The Viola are undefeated since a 1-0 loss against Parma on December 26, recording four draws and four wins – over Torino, Chievo, AS Roma and SPAL – in the eight games since that date.  Continue reading

Serie A Probable Lineups – Round 25

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Milan XI: 4-3-3 Donnarumma; Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Bakayoko, Paqueta; Castillejo, Piatek, Calhanoglu.

Potential lineup changes: Calabria for Conti, Borini for Castillejo.

Confirmed Out: Suso (suspension), Bonaventura (knee), Zapata (thigh), Caldara (Achilles), Reina (thigh).

 

Empoli XI: 3-5-2 Provedel; Veseli, Silvestre, Dell’Orco; Di Lorenzo, Acquah, Bennacer, Krunic, Pasqual; Farias, Caputo. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 25

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Juventus: Sami Khedira underwent a heart ablation with an arrhythmogenic atrial focus and will miss a minimum of one month. Emre Can is suspended. Douglas Costa remains questionable with the quad injury that has forced to skip the last few games.

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne is disqualified, while Mario Rui has slim chances to return from a thigh pull.

Inter: Mauro Icardi took some tests this week, which revealed no structural damage on his achy knee, but he is still poised to be unavailable this week amid the standoff with the managament. Balde Keita is having a hard time shaking off a thigh strain. Continue reading

Stubborn Allegri Costs Juventus Again

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With the league just about wrapped up, Juventus travelled to Madrid with massive expectations on their shoulders. Crash out of the Champions League, and their season is effectively over. Despite the magnitude of the clash, the bianconeri looked a broken side at the Wanda Metropolitano and allowed Atletico Madrid to dominate from start to finish. Armed with Cristiano Ronaldo, this season was supposed to be different for the Italian giants and yet, Juventus arguably put in their worst European performance in six years.

While many of their stars frankly didn’t show up, Massimiliano Allegri will have to shoulder much of the blame for Juve’s most recent European embarrassment. With the score tied at zero, and still all to play for, Diego Simeone acted proactively bringing on Thomas Lemar, Alvaro Morata, and Angel Correa, essentially giving his side the extra push they needed to claim the victory.

Allegri, by contrast, acted timidly both with his starting lineup and in-game substitutions, keeping Joao Cancelo on the bench in favour of Mattia De Sciglio and only introduced Federico Bernardeschi by the time it was too late. Meanwhile, the former Milan tactician had Dybala operating from the right, as if he was a natural winger. Naturally, what transpired throughout the ninety minutes was an unmitigated disaster, culminating in a heavy defeat, which if we’re being honest, could have been much, much worse for Allegri. He’ll will be thanking VAR and Diego Costa.

Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 25

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Robin Olsen: Roma do not have the most airtight defense this year, but they will square off against Frosinone in this round, which have failed to score in four straights home fixtures. Olsen is coming off a superlative performance against Bologna.

Nicola Murru: Sampdoria are slumping, but in this weekend they will face Cagliari, which will be offensively challenged with few of their attackers on the sidelines and also have failed to hit the net in three straight road games. Murru has the most upside out of the Blucerchiati defenders, but the other regulars Bartosz Bereszynski and Joachim Andersen would be fine choices too. Continue reading