Mkhitaryan in the form of his life as Roma go 3rd with third win in a row

There were no problems for Roma who went 3rd in the league as they beat Parma 3-0 for the 3rd win in a row in Serie A.

Paulo Fonseca’s side were ruthless as they scored all of their goals in the first half, having 5 shots on target alone in that period. Parma had to make do with having 1 shot on target for the whole match.

The plaudits will once again be paid to Henrikh Mkhitaryan who scored 2 goals, and a few weeks ago scored a hat trick. The player is on fire and is obviously enjoying himself.

With his 2 goals Mkhitaryan earned 10 points at the weekend in the fantasy rankings and he now has a total of 38. This total is enough to make him currently the best player in the rankings for Serie A.

So far this season Roma have scored 19 goals and Mkhitaryan has been involved in 9 of them, scoring 5 and assisting in a further 4.

The opening goal in the Parma game came after 28 minutes after some lovely work from Leonardo Spinazzola. His reverse clever pass found Borja Mayoral unmarked in the area and tucked away with precision. That was Mayoral’s first goal of the season and also Spinnazola’s first assist.

Minutes later it was 2-0 and this was a belter. Mkhitaryan picked up a bouncing loose ball on the edge of the area and thumped it home. Then just a few minutes after that it was 3-0, this goal again for Mkhitaryan won’t be remembered as was just a simple tap in.

Roma may have been left frustrated in the second half as no further goals developed but they had done their job early on and earned the three points. With the club in 3rd place they are just 3 points behind AC Milan.

Paulo Fonseca happy with Roma’s performance

“We put in an excellent performance, especially in the first half, as we scored three goals and could’ve had quite a few more. I think the team played well, in the second half we controlled the situation and still created more chances to find the net. I always said Mkhitaryan is a great professional who can do well in various different roles, so I am not surprised by what he’s doing. The team is feeling confident. It’s true Edin Dzeko is very important to us, but it’s also important to see that the team maintains its identity despite changing numerous players.”

Roma prepare for Cluj and receive fantastic boost

Roma will play Cluj in the Europa League on Thursday evening and the club received some good news. Striker Edin Dzeko has been passed fit to play in the game. It was initially thought that he would miss this one and instead make his comeback from injury against Napoli at the weekend.

It is expected that Dzeko will start from the bench and play at least 20 minutes of the game to get his fitness levels up before the Napoli match.

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Roma score 5 goals in 2 games amidst controversial encounter with Serie A leaders Milan

The week started in the Europa League for Roma as they took on Young Boys of Switzerland and won their Group A clash 2-1. It was the first game of the competition for the Giallorossi who found themselves 1-0 down early on courtesy of a Jean-Pierre Nsame penalty.

It wasn’t until the 2nd half that Roma got to grips with the game and the equaliser came from an unlikely hero in Bruno Peres. Five minutes later Marash Kumbulla made it 2-1 for the visitors as the Italians took hold of the game. The win will be welcomed as Roma try and negotiate a way out of the group stages.

It was an emotional winner from Kumbulla who went on to dedicate his goal to the club and all the help they have given his career. Coach Paolo Fonseca said: ”It was not an easy game, as let’s not forget that even Juventus lost here a few years ago and Young Boys won 15 home matches in a row. It was important to get the win and we did well. There’s still a long way to go in the group and the season. We rested a few players and can now focus on Milan in Serie A.”

And the Milan game was something in itself. The match finished 3-3 which was a positive for Roma as Milan lost their 100% start to the league but the game was marred in controversy of two penalties which looked like soft ones and naturally changed the nature of the game.

Referrer Pierre Giacomelli and VAR assistant Luigi Nasca are being reported to have been suspended for one month. This news hasn’t been confirmed but if true then Italian football is taking the right approach on the mistakes that were made in the game. Time and again odd decisions around Europe are being made even with the technology of VAR which is sometimes not even being used and when it is a decision that everyone thinks will go one way goes another. This is a welcome call and many more suspensions need to be served out across other leagues.

The first error of judgement came when Ismael Bennacer and Pedro simply collided as they both went for a loose ball and yet Pedro was adjudged to have been fouled but it just seemed like a normal clash between players, Milan were obviously furious and Roma scored from the penalty awarded.

Then after it felt as if the officials needed to level up the mistake and gave Milan a penalty after Hakan Calhanoglu was adjudged to have been fouled, Both seemed like weak decisions which seems to have been confirmed now by the Italian FA.

Roma’s next two games will begin later today on October 29th when they return to play in the Europa League against CSKA Sofia and they will be the favourites to win that one and keep their 100% record in Europe. At the weekend the club will play Fiorentina at home and in fact this is a moment that Fonseca’s side will want to take full advantage of the fact that they remain at home for their next three games in a row.

As for the fantasy points with another goal for Jordan Veretout he continues to have the most points for Roma and heads into another week with 19 so far.

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Giallorossi

Atalanta’s future is bright, despite PSG defeat

Three minutes. That’s all it took for Atalanta’s Champions League dream to unravel against Paris Saint-Germain. Heartbreakingly for the Italian side, those 180 seconds arrived at the end of a pulsating encounter against their profoundly more wealthy opponents.

This was never more evident than in the 60th minute, when the French side called upon the services of superstar Kylian Mbappe – their €180m signing – from the bench to rescue the game for the Parisians. Such is the disparity in wealth between the two sides that Mbappe’s transfer from Monaco three years ago is just a fraction under the entirety of Atalanta’s €188m club revenue. Continue reading

Cristiano Ronaldo breaks more records with Juventus as he stakes his claim as one of the greatest players of all time

What record is there left for Cristiano Ronaldo to break? When he was younger he said his dream was for a football fan to open up the record books of football and that his name would be on the first page. He may have to share column inches with Lionel Messi, but yes Ronaldo’s name will be there.

Ronaldo has added another record to his ever growing tally and it happened this weekend when Juventus beat Torino to go 7 points clear at the top of Serie A.

Ronaldo scored his 25th goal of the season. The remarkable feat is that no player who has played for Juventus since the 1960s has managed to score 25 or more league goals. That’s quite a fact that wouldn’t be out of place in the quiz game Trivial Pursuit but it is a fact. Not even greats such as Michel Platini or Alessandro del Piero were able to get that many goals in a league season.

In 2016 Gonzalo Higuain who was a goal scoring machine in Italy managed 24 goals but couldn’t crack the special 25. It is testament to Ronaldo who at 35 has scored so many goals for the club who are surely on their way to winning an 8th successive scudetto title.

The record for the old lady was achieved in 1961 and what was bizarre was that Ronaldo’s goal came in the 61st minute. If you’re wondering who had held the record for the past 59 years it was Argentine legend Omar Sivori who finished the season with 25. Though the season before that he scored 28 goals, so Ronaldo now has another record to chase.

It was only a few weeks ago that Ronaldo broke another record, which was the most goals scored by a Portuguese player in the colours of Juventus. That record had been held by Rui Costa.

With 8 games left in the league Ronaldo has plenty of time to add to his goal tally, and he will be after getting on the 30 goal marker, only a few players have achieved this in Serie A history. In fact the 30 goal marker has only been reached 10 times in the whole history. The current record holders are Gonzalo Higuain and Gino Rossetti who scored 36 goals each. Rossetti set the record in 1929 and Higuain equalled it in 2016 whilst playing for Napoli.

The 30 goal mark has also been reached just twice this century by Higuain and Luca Toni who scored 31 goals in 2006 for Fiorentina.

Still records could go this season because Ronaldo with his 25 goals is only 2nd in the goalscorers chart. Ciro Immobile has the most goals so far with 29 to his name and looks set to have the most this season. If Immobile continues to score on his average rate for the season he could well reach 36 goals.

So one eye will be on Immobile and one eye on Ronaldo, we know that the Portuguese star has the quality to score 3 or 4 goals in one game and he won’t be giving up the chase just yet. Whilst the league may be winding up, the goalscorers chart and records will, evidently, not.

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Romelu Lukaku is becoming a massive hit in Serie A despite the racists

When Romelu Lukaku joined Inter Milan to play in Serie A there were those that doubted the Belgian striker would be able to adapt to a league known for its defence. But Lukaku has just won the Milan derby, as Inter beat AC Milan 2-0 and he has got off to a superb start in the league.

In truth one could wonder why Manchester United sold him- was it because he had an average last season, where he scored 12 league goals. That’s very possible but he was still averaging 1 goal every 2 games and all in all was very consistent. But maybe the move has done Lukaku well. Maybe just maybe he was beginning to go stale at United, and had spent too much time in the Premier League. It does seem evident with the way he has started at Inter Milan that he needed his career to be refreshed. For now it is working wonders.

Lukaku has scored 3 goals in 4 Serie A games for his new club and has hit the ground running. His start means that he will now be a constant pick in the Inter Milan side. In Italy clubs have been notorious for dropping players to the bench who do not start their careers well. Lukaku has simply been on fire, make no mistake.

As for the club Inter Milan look like being at their most strongest since the Jose Mourinho years a decade ago. They are top of the league with 4 wins from as many games, have scored 9 goals and conceded just one, and also are 2 points in front of Juventus who have won the league for the past eight years. The Old Lady as Juventus are called finally seem to have a genuine rival.

Inter will be hoping that Lukaku can transform some of his brilliant form into the Champions League also, and the club did struggle in their first game when only a last minute injury time goal saved them from losing against Slavia Prague at home.

The only sour note of course with regards to Lukaku’s move to Italy is the racism he has had to endure. It has been a sad state of affairs with even his own fans defending racist chants from opposition fans. A Journalist on TV was also suspended for commentating on Lukaku, and the truth is with UEFA doing next to nothing, this will continue as clubs are not being discouraged.

But at least Lukaku his answering the best way he can, and that is on the pitch scoring plenty of goals.

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Aaron Ramsey’s arrival will force tactical reshuffle at Juventus

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It has been a period of upheaval behind the scenes at Juventus ahead of the 2019-20 Serie A season, with the defending champions preparing for life after Max Allegri.

Former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri has replaced Allegri in Turin, with big shoes to fill, as Juventus chase a ninth successive league title in 2020.

Sarri’s ties with arch rivals Napoli mean that he will already be starting with something to prove at the Biaconeri, with some sections of the fan base unhappy at his appointment.

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Assessing the Center Back Market in Serie A

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After looking at the goalkeeper position earlier this week, let’s review the market for center backs in Serie A. Let’s start with which top teams could use an addition or two

 

 

Juventus- Chiellini proved to be Juventus’ most important player this season and the fact that he’ll be 35 this year should give the team urgency to bolster this position especially since Bonucci was often a liability defensively while Rugani showed he’s not ready to be a starter at a club of this caliber. Emre Can could be used a center back more frequently but that would further weaken a midfield that isn’t great to begin with.

Napoli- there will be a lot of suitors for Koulibaly, and even though he’s expected to stay at the club, Albiol’s age and recent injuries, make the center back position a key need moving forward regardless of what Koulibaly does.

Inter- the nerazzurri are loaded at the position with Diego Godin joining Skriniar and De Vrij. Should Conte replace Spalletti, he’ll have a new version of the BBC waiting for him at la Pinetina.

Atalanta- the Bergamaschi could use an upgrade at the position especially since there’s a lot of suitors for Gianluca Mancini.

Roma- not upgrading this position in January is one of the many significant mistakes Monchi made at the club. The situation could get even more dire when you consider Kostas Manolas has a 36 million euro exit clause which is also valid in Italy.

Milan- Romagnoli took another step forward this season while Musacchio was considerably better than in his first campaign in Serie A. If Caldara can fully recover from his recent ACL injury, this will be one position where Milan can stay put with on the market.

Lazio- while Acerbi proved to be a more than adequate relacement for De Vrij, the rest of the biancocelesti’s center backs aren’t good enough to start for a team that wants to consistently compete for a Champions League spot. Should Inzaghi leave this summer, Lazio could also move away from a 3 center back defense which would have an impact on their summer plans- but regardless sporting director Tare’ needs to find at least one above average center back.

 

Now let’s look at the center backs in Serie A who will almost certainly be in the transfer news headlines

 

Koulibaly, Skriniar, Romagnoli- all three are expected to stay at their respective teams, but because of their impressive ability, they will certainly be targets for rich clubs abroad.

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Kostas Manolas- while De Ligt and Varane are Juventus’ top targets to build their defense around in the post Chiellini era, the Greek defender could be a very good stop gap. His speed would be an asset on a team that got run over by Atalanta and Ajax this season and the bianconeri have a great relationship with his agent Mino Raiola. Manolas’ profile was raised internationally last season thanks to Roma’s deep Champions League run, so he could also receive offers from outside of Serie A.

Nikola Milenkovic- the versatile Bosnian defender has been previously linked to Manchester United but Fiorentina’s very disappointing season has taken away some of his luster. But considering his ability to play as both a center back and right wing back, despite his considerable height, he will still be attractive to many teams.

Fiorentina spent just 5 million for him, so they can easily turn him into a massive profit. It will be interesting to see if Napoli or Roma get in the mix, considering he’ll turn 22 in October, MIlenkovic would still have considerable resale value down the line.

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Gianluca Mancini- between Atalanta’s magical run and making his debut for the Azzurri senior squad, this has been a magical season for the 23 year old defender from Pontendera. Roma has been targeting him for quite some time to either be Manolas’ partner or replacement and despite Monchi’s departure, a move to Italy’s capital still makes the most sense.

 

Nicholas NKolou & Armando Izzo- assuming he lands the Roma job, Petrachi would love nothing more than to bolster his new defense with one or two of Torino’s current key players. But the expected divorce from president Cairo looks to be quite acrimonious so it’s unlikely the granata would let either be reunited with Petrachi. Keeping both would be quite the statement from Torino especially when you consider their performances this season have elevated their profiles on the market.

Merih Demiral & Cristian Romero- while Juventus is expected to sign at least one big name at the center back position, their sporting director Paratici will also look to add a young player or two for the future. Juventus worked in synergy with Sassuolo to bring Demiral to Serie A from Turkey and he has more than distinguished himself since arriving, he’s very tall and has significant margins for improvement when you consider he’s only 21 years old.

Juventus is also expected to acquire Romero from Genoa, don’t be surprised if the transfer fee is rather substantial in light of the fact the amount of the Sturaro signing raised eye brows (remember that it’s very flawed to look at deals in a vacuum when clubs do a lot of business with one another). Both Romero and Demiral could however stay at their current clubs for another year.

 

Bruno Alves & Nicola Bastoni- Parma’s two stand out center backs could be on the move this summer. The veteran Portuguese international was linked to Juventus and Inter in January as a potential replacement for Benatia and Miranda respectively but ended up staying put. Bastoni on the other hand is on loan from Inter but would likely be better off staying on D’Aversa’s squad one more season so he can play regularly.

Joachim Andersen & Omar Colley- while Quagliarella has rightfully dominated the story lines surrounding Sampdoria, sporting director Osti has continued his streak of discovering intriguing center backs following Skriniar’s explosion. Considering that Colley is four years older than Andersen, he could be sold first.

 

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City – how Pep Guardiola got it wrong

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“I don’t feel we played badly, we created chances and we controlled the game,” said Pep Guardiola post Manchester City’s Champions League defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Yes, perhaps the Premier League leaders did have 59% possession of the ball but with 10 shots at goal and just two on target, Tuesday night’s performance is just the latest that shows Manchester City aren’t just as clinical as they shown previously. Guardiola’s side have scored 23 fewer league goals this season and with just six Premier League games remaining, it’s unlikely they’ll beat last season’s EPL tally of 106. Continue reading

Piatek ready for the step up at AC Milan

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Big money moves involving young players can be a tricky business, particularly if that player comes with a promising reputation, but Krzysztof Piatek looks ready to continue his incredible Serie A form with AC Milan.

The 23 year-old completed his long awaited move from Genoa to the San Siro on January 23rd, and he is already making a name for himself at his new club.

His first start yielded two goals as Gennaro Gattuso’s side eliminated Napoli from the Coppa Italia with a straightforward 2-0 home win.

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Violence, racism and shame- Serie A is light years away from the glory days

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There are people of a certain age who still fondly remember when the best players in the world played all over Italy’s Serie A and the league was filled with the greatest players showboating the greatest of skills in magnificent stadiums and where money to buy these players seemed like a pot that had no limits.

Serie A gave us the great AC Milan team who dominated football domestically and in Europe for a good 6 years. Up until Real Madrid won back to back Champions League in 2017 Milan had been the last team to so making that feat in 1990, for a record that had stood for 27 years. That great side that boasted the likes of Paolo Maldini, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and the incomparable Marco van Basten were simply breath-taking.

But other teams such as Napoli with Diego Maradona no less also made waves and teams would regularly reach European finals. It all seemed to go wrong in Serie A by the late 1990s heading into the early 2000s when the Spanish league took off with the emergence of the great teams Real Madrid and then Barcelona. Italy have still had their say, look at Inter Milan’s win in the Champions League in 2010 and Juventus have reached a few finals since. But Serie A seems to have been left back almost in a time that the footballing world have forgot.

Violence, hooliganism, stadiums falling apart, racism and deaths. Sadly a death occurred on Boxing Day when Serie A returned to playing one day after Christmas for the first time in almost 40 years. These situations used to happen in England but when one sees how things have changed in the Premier League then despite the commercialisation of it and the oft used words gravy train something very positive has come out of it all.

That isn’t to say that racism is not in England, Raheem Sterling and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang can verify that isn’t the case, but there has been a huge improvement. Sadly in 2018 Italian football seems rather like England was in the early 1980s, where violence seems to be brewing in each game. The edginess for some may feel more exciting than in the Premier League for example but that excitement is evaporated when lives are at risk all over a game of football.

Serie A is continually letting itself down and sponsors, well at least the main ones will not want to back the league. Italian football will hopefully rise once more but just now and for a good few years it feels as if it is stuck in some time warp. A sweeping change is needed and needed fast because it feels all rather embarrassing right now.