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

Mario Mandžukić is an elite striker: he has nothing to prove


Despite the fact that Croatia reached the knockout stage of this summer’s FIFA World Cup with maximum points, having conceded just one goal in the process, Mario Mandžukić has been subjected to a degree of criticism from his own fans. Indeed, the 32-year-old is yet to open his account in the tournament so far, but that is, quite frankly, besides the point. After all, Mandžukić’s reputation for being one of the best strikers in the world is built on far more than just being a pure goalscorer. Continue reading

Pjanic stars as Juventus record big win


Juventus went to Zagreb for their second Champions League clash of the campaign against Dinamo knowing a win was vital. A scoreless home draw with Sevilla was not exactly how they planned to open Group H and with some suspect Serie A performances in between, the pressure was on the Bianconeri to deliver.

When they needed somebody to step up, Miralem Pjanic did just that. He played just 45 minutes, but made a match-winning impact. Taken off at the interval following a first half knock, the Bosnian had already left his mark on the contest. He opened the scoring and then provided an assist for Gonzalo Higuain’s strike. That sent Juve on the road to a comfortable 4-0 victory.

It was one of Pjanic’s best showings in a Black and White shirt. It also served to prove that going forward his best role is not that of a deep-lying midfielder, but alongside that player. He was tasked with sitting deepest in midfield against Inter and was hardly in the game. In truth, it was a poor performance all-round from Juventus. But it was not what they were expecting from the summer addition from Roma, who had minimal impact.

The goal against Dinamo was Pjanic’s second, having also netted against Sassuolo. In both games he was given licence to move further forward and the team reaped the rewards. Pjanic was inside the penalty area to pounce on a defensive error on Tuesday and slot home the opening goal. He then turned provider for Higuain, a sumptuous ball over the top which the Argentine controlled and finished.

Speaking after about his best position, Pjanic said: “People have been asking me that for five years. I put myself at the disposal of the Coach, as I already played in front of the defence at Roma and did well, it all depends on how the team plays and the movements. I also like being closer to the goal so I can set up the strikers.”

Paulo Dybala got off the mark for 2016-17 with a thunderbolt in the second half, before a deflected Dani Alves free kick rounded out the scoring in the final moments. It was Juve’s biggest away win in the competition for two decades and a marker laid down after some shaky performances. They top Group H on goal difference over Sevilla.

Juventus will be hoping to recover the Bosnian for their trip to Empoli this weekend, the last match before the international break. After his starring performance in Zagreb, we are starting to see the real Pjanic in Turin.

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Three points a must for Juventus


Juventus have no option but to win. That’s the opinion of Massimiliano Allegri, who leads his side into battle against Croatian outfit Dinamo Zagreb tonight. Having started the Champions League campaign with a home draw against Sevilla, pressure is rising on Juve: do they have what it takes to compete with Europe’s very best?

“We have to deal with tomorrow in the right way, and above all take home three points with our performance.” That is all, Allegri stresses, Juventus can do at this stage.

The Bianconeri came in for criticism for their goalless performance against Sevilla. They then proceeded to lose at Inter, which further added to the pressure. A convincing midweek win over Cagliari was followed on Saturday by a laborious triumph at Palermo.

Juventus saw big names depart in the summer – Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata – but spent a lot of money on reinforcing the squad. The introduction of Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic, plus additional signings aimed at bolstering squad talent and depth, placed the Bianconeri just behind Europe’s main three clubs in the Champions League reckoning.

Recent performances suggest a squad that is still under construction. “The team definitely didn’t have a good game [against Palermo], but I know that, we all know that, the guys first and foremost,” Allegri said on Monday.

What the coach did also state is that there are unnecessary expectations forming – while also reminding that his team does top Serie A despite the critics. Giorgio Chiellini said after the Sevilla game that Juventus are not Real Madrid and will not win every game with ease. Allegri went further in his pre-match Press conference. “We shouldn’t be distracted by this notion that we have to win every game 3-0, because anyone who thinks that is deluding themselves.”

Juve face a Dinamo outfit which last season defeated Arsenal at the Stadion Maksimir. It was their first victory in the group stage of the Champions League since 1999-2000. The Italian champions clearly come in as the favourites, even if they are dealing with injuries. Paulo Dybala will return to partner Higuain in attack, having been rested on Saturday. Marko Pjaca joined from Dinamo in the summer but is expected to begin on the bench.

The Turin giants have finished second in the group stage for the past two seasons and so know the result is vital. Facing the group’s fourth seeds, they have a chance to kick-start their European campaign.

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