Inter shot down by Ibrahimovic in Milan derby, concentration now on the Champions League

The Derby della Madonnina was won by AC Milan who beat Inter 2-1 in a pulsating game of football. Both sides are being tipped to challenge Juventus this season for the Serie A title so this derby had much more spice about it than it has had in the past few seasons.

But it was a derby that felt like it was over just after it had started. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was slightly touched in the box and seemed to go down far too easy for Milan to be awarded a penalty in the 12th minute which he stuck away with no problem. And then after a superb counter attack Milan were 2-0 up just four minutes later and Zlatan again was there from a couple of yards out to prod home in what was an easy goal for him to score.

But twelve minutes later Ivan Perisic crossed the ball for Romelu Lukaku who actually looked surprise by the poor defending of the Milan back four and seemed to take his time in easily tapping in from close range just as Ibrahimovic had done moments before. With 3 goals scored and not even half an hour played this looked like it could be a rare derby game with lots of goals, and yet there would be no more.

Inter did remain a threat and late on they thought they should have had a penalty but VAR concluded and was right that in the build up Inter were offside.

All in all and compared to other derby games this was an enjoyable one, in part because in the 2nd half Inter had to come forward and they ended up with 4 shots on target to Milan’s six. Milan are now top of the league with 12 points and Inter are in sixth place and are 5 points behind. It was Inter’s first defeat of the season and they have now gone their last two matches without a win.

Inter coach Antonio Conte had this to say after the game: “I think we played very well and created many situations to score goals, in some cases we are unlucky, and it’s disappointing because the lads certainly put the effort in and believed they could win. We were distracted and made errors on their two goals, still had the chances to equalise, but Milan won and so we congratulate them. Every match we seem to create many, many scoring opportunities, so need to be more cool-headed and clinical in front of goal. At the same time, I cannot complain about their attitude, as we tried everything to at least get the equaliser.”

Inter prepare to meet Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League

The Champions League has returned and Inter will kick off their campaign at home against German outfit Borussia Monchengladbach. Inter will be the favourites to secure all three points when the two teams clash. The big news for Inter is that Christian Eriksen and Alexis Sanchez should be able to return for the club and both are set to start the game.

Romelu Lukaku- the best player of Inter so far in the fantasy rankings

Romelu Lukaku took over Lautaro Martinez as the best player for Inter in the fantasy rankings. Lukaku now has 15 points and collected a further four points at the weekend as he scored what turned out to be Inter’s consolation goal. The Belgian international much like last season is on fire and may be worth adding to your team. You can check out Lukaku’s full stats right here.

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The reinvigoration of Hirving Lozano

Not many sides have taken Atalanta apart quite like Napoli did last weekend. At this stage it’s no secret how much Gian Piero Gasperini has changed the entire fabric of the club since his arrival four years ago. La Dea are usually the ones handing out a 4-1 mauling, they don’t tend to be on the receiving end.

But on Saturday they were. Napoli simply blew their top-four rivals away in the opening 45 minutes with an intensity and attacking verve that’s usually Atalanta’s calling card. Gasperini’s men were thoroughly given a dose of their own medicine. Pivotal to their success in that opening period was Hirving Lozano, who scored twice in four minutes.

Lozano’s second, a wonderfully executed curling effort just inside the penalty box, was indicative of the confidence the Mexico international is now showing at the club. With four goals already this season, Lozano has equalled the tally of goals he scored in Serie A last season. Continue reading

Inter ready for Milan derby in crunch game

This weekend will see Inter play Milan in the derby and there is heightened interest in this fixture given how both clubs have started the season.

The Milan derby is, of course, always special but in recent years it hasn’t felt as big as it should be. This has been in part due to either Inter going through a bad spell or more recently Milan so the game has felt more lopsided. This Saturday that is set to change when the clubs clash at San Siro.

Both clubs have been tipped for a title challenge and are seen as the biggest threats to Juventus this season. Inter coach Antonio Conte will be delighted that star striker Lautaro Martinez escaped the international break with no injury concerns and the exciting Argentine also scored for his nation, he is really in superb form.

There is a doubt that Alexis Sanchez would struggle to be ready for the game but Sanchez himself has confirmed that he fine after picking up a knock on international duty with Chile.

The derby has been dominated in recent years by Inter who have won the last 4 league games in a row. Indeed AC Milan have not beaten Inter in the league since 2016 and they will be the designated away team for this encounter. The last time the Rossoneri won as the ‘away’ team was 10 years ago.

Martinez and Romelu Lukaku have already made an impact this season and the deadly pair will be hoping to add to their combined 6 goals already this season at the weekend.

Top performing players for Inter in 2020/21

Looking at the fantasy points these are the best performing players for Inter so far this season. Do you have them in your team? Check out their full stats on the links.

1. Lautaro Martinez  12pts

2. Romelu Lukaku     11pts

3. Roberto Gagliardini  6pts

Pirelli set to be replaced after 25 years

Historical sponsors Pirelli who have had their tyre brand on Inter’s shirts since 1996 look like they will be replaced by a Chinese sponsor perhaps Hisense from the 2021/22 season. Pirelli have been associated with Inter through some of the clubs glorious moments but simply put it seems that the tyre company can’t afford to pay what some other companies are shelling out each season.

Some sponsors are happy to spend upwards of 40m euros to have their brand on a top football teams shirt but it is thought that Pirelli’s deal is only worth 10m euros a year.

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Pedro helps Roma to their first win of the season but club post record debts

Roma’s new signing Pedro scored his 1st goal for the club as they beat Udinese away 1-0 and that resulted in their first win of the season.

It’s been a slow start for Roma who have won 1, drawn 1 and lost 1 but the victory at the weekend took the club up to 10th place and they are 5 points behind the current leaders Atalanta.

Pedro took his goal well and ran with the ball before unleashing a 25 yard screamer that was unstoppable. It was a magic moment in a game that lacked real quality from both sets of teams.

It was an important result for the Giallorossi as going to Udinese is never an easy task. After the game Roma coach Paulo Fonseca had this to say: “In the first half we continually played in Udinese’s final third, but they were dangerous when breaking on the counter. We weren’t aggressive enough when we lost possession, but still created good situations. After the break we managed to get the goal and the team remained united to bring home the result, which was the most important thing. Roma are a very attack-minded team, but Udinese’s style in the closing stages forced us to sit deeper. The team is playing well with Lorenzo Pellegrini in his current midfield position and we’ll see in future whether he remains there.”

El Shaarawy deals falls through but Smalling is back

Stephan El Shaarawy almost rejoined Roma on transfer deadline day but the move collapsed at the final hurdle with El Shaarawy claiming that the blame did not lie with him. The Italian left Roma to join Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua last season where he has scored just once in 16 games. With the Chinese league suspended until February it was thought that he could re join Roma up until then but that won’t happen now.

Still there was some good news as Chris Smalling completed a permanent transfer to the club after his successful loan period last season. Such was that news that fans even went to the airport to greet Smalling who has now officially left Manchester United.

New Balance and record losses

Roma reported the 2nd biggest lost in Italian football over a season as they came up short by 204m euros. Only Inter Milan a decade before reported higher losses. The club though have been busy looking for new sponsors and it appears that New Balance will take over from Nike, though this has yet to be confirmed.

When the league returns Roma will  be at home to Benevento where they will be the huge favourites to win that and hopefully move up the table and get their season fully on track.

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Do Juve really need Federico Chiesa?

In the end, Juventus got their man, just. Only hours remained of the transfer window when it was officially announced that the club had signed Federico Chiesa from Fiorentina.

Juve had to shift some pieces of the jigsaw around in order to get the 22-year-old; a Douglas Costa loan move to Bayern Munich here and a Daniele Rugani loan move to Rennes there, freed up the necessary funds in order to get the Chiesa deal finalised.

As has been the story of this Covid-influenced transfer window, Juve signed Chiesa on a two-year loan deal, but in reality it’s just a creative method of staggering the payments for the winger.

So everyone was happy: Juve got their man, Chiesa got the move he wanted a year ago, and Fiorentina offloaded a player who clearly didn’t want to be there for a cool €50m. But is Chiesa actually what the champions need?

There is no doubting Chiesa’s talent. The son of Parma and Sampdoria legend Enrico has seemingly unlimited barrels of energy, and can skip past players at will, when in the mood. Yet since his graduation to the first team at Fiorentina, Chiesa’s decision-making has been questionable. Too often he has beaten an opposing defender in a one vs. one situation, only to produce an inadequate cross or fail to pick out the correct pass. On occasion he’s simply been guilty of supreme selfishness, aiming for goal when a colleague was in a better position.

Chiesa posted 10 goals and six assists in Serie A last season for the Viola, a respectable record for a player in a side that finished 10th. Yet it should also be pointed out that he took more shots on goal than any of his teammates, with an average of 3.3 per game. Next in line was striker Dusan Vlahovic, with 2.2.

On the verge of his 23rd birthday, Chiesa is still incredibly raw. His development has been hampered by a succession of coaches at Fiorentina utilising him in a myriad of different positions, thus denying him the possibility to hone his ability in one position. Vincenzo Montella, Paulo Sousa, Stefano Pioli and now Beppe Iachini have shifted Chiesa everywhere from right wing-back to left winger, via stints as a second striker and attacking midfielder. It’s left the player as a non-accomplished jack-of-all-trades, and certainly a master of none. It’s a wonder Chiesa hasn’t been tried out at centre back, given the poor performances of Federico Ceccherini recently.

So where does Juve’s new €50m signing fit in Andrea Pirlo’s starting XI, and was Chiesa an essential purchase?

Due to the lack of pre-season games, Pirlo has been given little margin for experimentation as Juve boss thus far. In their opening game of the season against Sampdoria, Juve lined out in a 3-5-2 formation. A week later Pirlo changed to a 4-4-2 in order to accommodate the returning Alvaro Morata, but the switch didn’t work, and Juve played like the ghost of Maurizio Sarri had returned for one final game.

Speaking of ghosts, for the game that wasn’t against Napoli on Sunday, Pirlo had intended to line up in a 3-4-1-2 system. Should Pirlo return to this set-up in matches that actually happen, then this could be where Chiesa is set to play, replacing Juan Cuadrado on the right-hand side.

Chiesa’s arrival also gives Pirlo the option to utilise a 3-4-3 system, with Chiesa either being deployed as a right-winger, or on the right in the four-man midfield.

Whilst plotting theoretical positions for Chiesa is all well and good, do Juve actually need him? The answer is no, they don’t. Sporting director Fabio Paratici should’ve prioritised signing a right-back, with Danilo fluctuating somewhere between injury and unconvincing since joining the club from Man City a year ago. Cuadrado has done fine job as a makeshift right-back, but the Colombian is now 32, and defensively suspect, as is the case with someone who spent the majority of their career playing as a right winger.

Midfield is still another fragile position that’s been underfunded over the last half decade, with the shadows of Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal still looming large. It’s early days in Weston McKennie’s Juve sojourn, but the American produced a positive display against Sampdoria on his debut. Is he the Vidal-replacement the team has required for five years? Only time will tell. The signing of Arthur may alleviate the creative burden from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Dejan Kulusevski, but the Brazilian lacks the dynamism the midfield area so badly requires.

Bringing things round to Chiesa once more, recent history isn’t on his side. Giorgio Chiellini, signed by Juve in the summer of 2005, remains the last player to arrive from Florence and succeed. Since then, the likes of Felipe Melo, Neto, Valeri Bojinov and Federico Bernardeschi have all made the switch and failed to make an impact, and in the case of Melo, damagingly so.

There are similarities between Chiesa and Bernardeschi, the most recent player to make the jump. Like Chiesa, Bernardeschi arrived at Juve as the Viola’s brightest star in the summer of 2017 with a price tag of €40m. Furthermore, Bernardeschi, again like Chiesa, possessed some degree of versatility. This has proved to be his downfall at Juve, with the Carrara-native operating in various positions in the final third of the pitch, and in the process blunting his own skillset. The club would’ve accepted an offer to offload him during the transfer window, but there were no serious takers.

The pressure is firmly on Chiesa now to make the qualitative leap that playing for Juve demands. He wanted the big move for over a year, and now he’s got it. His father Enrico never got to play for Italy’s biggest club, it’s up to Federico to demonstrate that he’s more Roby Baggio or Chiellini, than Melo or Bojinov.

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Roma hold champions Juventus to a 2-2 draw despite Cristiano Ronaldo double

Roma held the best side in Serie A to a draw at Stadio Olimpico as the two sides drew 2-2 in a very entertaining game of football.

The home side knew from the beginning how important it would be to claim something in the game after their chaotic start to the season saw them default their first match and lose 3-0 to Verona after a mix up in their team selection (the actual game had finished 0-0). So a point at least here was needed, and they got it in the end although because Juventus were playing with 10 men after Adrian Rabiot was sent off Roma may feel aggrieved that they couldn’t find the 3rd goal to finish off the current champions.

Rabiot had a bad game to say the least and it was his handball which handed Roma a penalty after half an hour which Jordan Veretout converted, though the ball just squeezed in. But Juventus hit back just before half time, with the same procedure- a handball and that man Cristiano Ronaldo took the penalty and scored with ease.

Roma’s 2nd goal was classic counter attacking, right from the back and finished off sweetly again by Veretout. It was a goal that had so much skill in the build up it told you there and then that Roma will be in with a shout of a Champions League finish this season, there was a lot of quality in the goal.

Soon after Edin Dzeko who looked on the verge of signing for Juventus a week ago missed a good chance to put the game to bed, but his shot hit the post for the home side. And he would regret it as moments after Ronaldo made it 2-2 after a brilliant header where Ronaldo seemed to defy gravity and just hang in the air Pele style and still steer the ball past the goal keeper.

Roma now have a point on the board and come into their 3rd game of the season this weekend against Udinese away from home in 15th place although a win could take the club into the top 10.

Jordan Veretout has the most fantasy points for the club with 10. 

Roma coach Paulo Fonseca had this to say about the game: “Tonight was a wasted chance, I think we had a good match but I am not satisfied with the result. We had a good match that should’ve been won. I have total confidence in the club, the new president has arrived and we are constantly talking. We are working to find the best solution for the team.”

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Inter kick off their Serie A season in thrilling style as they win 4-3 classic against Fiorentina

Most clubs had already played twice in Serie A, but this past weekend marked Inter’s first game of the season, and what a game it would be.

To think that at the San Siro against Fiorentina they were losing 3-2 with three minutes to go and won the game is incredible and it was a fantastic comeback by Antonio Conte’s men.

The game had started poorly for the hosts when Fiorentina took the lead after just the 3rd minute through Christian Kouame. A muddle up in defence led to one of the sloppiest goals Inter may concede all season, the back four were looking for an offside decision that never came.

Just after the brilliant Lautaro Martinez looked like he was fouled for a penalty but replays showed he wasn’t touched. Now whilst VAR can cause many problems this was an example of the system getting it right, Martinez clearly looked for the penalty. The referee changed his decision and didn’t give it, however one has to question why Martinez then wasn’t booked for simulation? This is a problem that still riddles the game.

On the stroke of half time though Martinez showed his absolute class and why Barcelona have been trying to sign him. His strike outside of the area was a thing of unstoppable beauty, that’s the side to Martinez’s game that everybody wants to see.

After half time Inter went 2-1 up courtesy of an own goal and from then on in it looked like we would only get one result, the home one. But Fiorentina were not done and equalised for 2-2 just a few minutes later through Gaetano Castrovilli.

One player who was really making his mark for the visitors was Franck Ribery, he was everywhere and played some amazing passes and he assisted to put the away side in the lead through Federico Chiesa, it was a superb pass to let the young man in.

As the game went onto its final stages it seemed that Inter would lose their first game of the season, and it wouldn’t be the first time that Fiorentina would be a thorn in the clubs side. However that man Romelu Lukaku after good build up play and slotted home an easy goal from a few yards out to make the game 3-3, but Inter wouldn’t be done yet.

Terrible defending at the far post would end up giving Inter an unlikely victory right at the end of the game as Danilo D’Ambrosio headed in and whilst Inter players peeled away in excitement the truth is Fiorentina only had themselves to blame.

The game was very open but you could argue that Inter shaded it or that a draw would have been justified. Inter had more of the ball and had 6 shots on target to Fiorentina’s four.

Inter Milan: Man of the Match- Lautaro Martinez

Martinez earned 4 points, alongside Lukaku that was the most of any player from the team. But his fantastic goal earlier on in the game was a thing of beauty and he always remained a threat, he has a bright future ahead of him.

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Growing excitement over Gattuso’s Napoli

“Nobody gave me anything,” is reportedly the mantra Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso is trying to instil in his players.

The former Milan legend understands this better than most. As a player, Gattuso wasn’t blessed with the divine talents of his partner-in-crime, Andrea Pirlo, or even with the skillset of vastly underrated teammate Massimo Ambrosini. Gattuso was a fighter, someone who wasn’t going to pick out a rampaging right-back with a sumptuous 40-yard diagonal pass or produce an outrageous piece of skill, he was the player who did the grunt work, who took the ball from the opposition and gave it to his more talented colleagues. The Calabrian-native made a career out of it, and won a flurry of accolades as a result.

And in his short stint as Napoli coach, he’s succeeding in transferring his ethos to the players. Gattuso has brought a tighter cohesion to the team, installed a more diligent work ethic than had seemingly been evident during the final months of the Carlo Ancelotti era.

Gattuso guided the club to the Coppa Italia title in June, beating Juventus 4-2 on penalties. It was their first piece of major silverware since lifting the same trophy in 2014. It must also be remembered that Napoli beat Lazio, Inter and Juve en route – three of the top four sides last season – and conceded a single goal.

Going into this season, the club has almost gone under the radar. The €60m signing of Victor Osimhen hasn’t received the coverage that a signing of that expense should garner. Much of the focus surrounding the club has been on the potential departures of Kalidou Koulibaly and Arkadiusz Milik.

Eight goals in their first two Serie A games without reply suggests that Gattuso’s side mean business. They looked sluggish in the opening half against Parma on the opening day, and didn’t spring into life until the introduction of Osimhen in the second half, who caused havoc with his mere presence.

The Nigerian was granted his first start against Genoa at the San Paolo, and was instrumental in Napoli’s 6-0 demolition job, including a deft touch for Piotr Zielinski’s goal. Whilst Osimhen hasn’t got on the score sheet himself, it’s evident that he offers more to the Partenopei than Milik, who’s more static and less nimble than the 21-year-old.

Furthermore, Chucky Lozano has impressed Gattuso with his start to the season following a disappointing debut campaign in Italy. “I’m not giving anything to him,” said Gattuso following the 6-0 win. “He’s a different player now, he’s got great strength in his legs, and doesn’t fall to the ground like a kid when he gets kicked.” Lozano has inherited the departed Jose Callejon’s position on the right flank in Gattuso’s 4-2-3-1 system, and with the pressure of being the club’s most expensive signing lifted due to the arrival of Osimhen, the Mexican is beginning to look like the player Napoli shelled out €42m on a year ago.

During the Maurizio Sarri reign, the point was always argued that Napoli had a great starting XI, but little in the way of players that could’ve come off the bench and made a difference. However this is no longer the case. The January signings of Diego Demme, Stanislav Lobotka, Matteo Politano and the summers arrivals of Andrea Petagna, Amir Rrahmani and Osimhen have given Gattuso a far greater squad depth than either of his two predecessors were afforded.

In addition to having a bigger squad, with Serie A allowing five substitutions for this season only, Napoli could be one of the main beneficiaries of the rule, as Inter exemplified in their 4-3 win against Fiorentina last weekend.

Whilst yes, one could argue that their two wins were only against Parma and Genoa and that it’s very early in the season to be making grand proclamations, but, whisper it quietly – Napoli look a formidable opponent, and are in with a strong chance of securing Champions League football next season.

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Roma begin Serie A season in chaos as their first league game is awarded to Verona

After all the pre-season build up and the chaos endured by the Coronavirus over last season which is clearly affecting this season too, Roma, in the end, shot themselves in the foot.

The club coached by Paulo Fonseca thought that they had earned a point away to tricky opponents in Verona as the game had ended 0-0. Not so, there was more drama to come.

Verona were awarded a 3-0 win in the end that is standard practice in football due to the other team either cheating or make a terrible error- in Roma’s case they made a terrible error. A wrong player selection. The case of Amadou Diawara to be exact who was added to the Under 22 portion of Roma’s squad even though he turned 23 in July. That is a serious no no and Serie A sporting judge Gerardo Mastrandrea officially awarded the win to Verona and the game’s original result effectively null and void.

Pantaleo Longo Roma’s secretary has handed in his resignation and Roma have lost a point and been made to look foolish, though of course it was just human error but rules are rules.

It leaves Roma in 19th place, not exactly where they want to be as they have been seen this season as genuine title challengers to the all conquering Juventus. Without the mix up Roma would be entering their 2nd league game in 9th place, 10 places above. The good news of course is that there is plenty of time to make those points up.

As for the game Fonseca’s side lined up with a formation of 3-4-2-1 packing the midfield. New signing from Arsenal Henrikh Mkhitaryan played the lone striker.

Roma enjoyed more of the possession and had 15 attempts on goal, though only 7 on target which was the same as Verona.

Goalkeeper Antonio Mirante collected the most points earning 7pts for his ‘clean sheet’ of course whether that will stand long term is unclear in the fantasy rankings. The best outfield player on the day was defender Ibanez who seemed to be everywhere and cover so much ground, his value is 6m to add to your team and he earned 5pts.

The other big news coming out of the club this week is that striker Edin Dzeko looks very likely that he will join Juventus. The deal will be for 2 years, and that dashes any hope that Luis Suarez had of joining the old lady although he looks set for a move to Atletico Madrid.

Roma’s next game will be against the champions Juventus, they will be at home in a very early test for the club. The result remains uncertain but one thing is for sure and that is the team line ups will be checked and checked again.

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Napoli the losers in Allan deal

There’s an art form to knowing when to sell players. The selling club must navigate a fine line, to dance their finest tango, in a bid to make sure they produce a sizeable profit. Generally there are three roads for them to take.

The first road usually ends in the club striking prematurely, accepting a good offer rather than holding on for another season or two in the hope that player X develops even more and commands an even bigger figure. The second road tends to end with the club striking when the iron is hottest. This scenario is when player X is at the absolute pinnacle of their game, combined with them being relatively young and there is ample room to shift the player on in the future. Continue reading