AC Milan 0-1 Man Utd (1-2 agg.): Rossoneri punished by defensive mistake and missed chances

Milan managed to get a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last week and their chances of going through to the next round very decent ahead of tonight’s game. However, Man Utd scored the only goal at San Siro after a mistake at the back by the Rossoneri, who have themselves to blame. 

Much like the first leg, the performance was far from terrible by Stefano Pioli’s side and you could even argue that they were the better side overall. Having said that, when it came to the ever-so-important final touch, it’s clear that Man Utd edged Milan in both of the games.  Continue reading

Man Utd 1-1 AC Milan: Top three Rossoneri performers as Kjaer clinches important away goal

Milan were heading towards a decent result – albeit a disappointing one considering the events of the game – as Man Utd had a one-goal with just minutes to go of second half. However, then Simon Kjaer stepped up and scored a crucial away goal for the Rossoneri, who are now in a very good position. 

Stefano Pioli’s men did very well despite the injury crisis, playing without the likes of Ismael Bennacer, Hakan Calhanoglu, Theo Hernandez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ante Rebic. The alternatives stepped up, just as we saw against Hellas Verona, and with a bit more luck they could have won the game.  Continue reading

In Europe Manchester United are bullish and brilliant but in the Premier League they have lost direction

The difference seemingly can’t be measured when Manchester United play in Europe and then switch to domestic football. Here we have a club whose form this season in the Premier League has been amongst the best, but United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer keep having their dips in form.

Every team of course has form problems and can go on an average to bad run, the problem with Manchester United is that it seems to hang around longer. The flipside to this is that they can pull out 5-6 game winning runs. But in this moment it feels as though the Red Devils have lost some direction in the Premier League.

Perhaps this is down too the fact that their city rivals Manchester City have shot away from the rest of the league and are now 14 points in the lead over United who are in 2nd place. It seems as if United have given up the chase and let’s face it they will not claw those points back now. However at the same time any United fan and anyone associated with the club would love to see them finish 2nd if being champions was always going to be too much for them to achieve this season.

The truth is, at this point, United will have a challenge on their hands to finish in the top four. Currently they are in 2nd and have 51 points and the gap to 5th where Liverpool currently are is 8 points. The Reds have a game in hand and those points could be reduced in midweek.

Manchester United have won just once in their last 5 games and have earned just 15 points from their last 30. With their standing that just isn’t good enough. Leicester could be poised to take 2nd place from United too and they have a chasing pack of West Ham, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham to contend with. Jose Mourinho’s side do not look a threat at present being 12 points behind United but they have 2 games in hand and all could change rather quickly if teams find more consistency.

In drawing 0-0 with Crystal Palace, United also have gone their last 2 games without a goal and when one looks at their strike force including Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani one would expect better. After all Palace were not fighting for anything when the clubs met this week.

United fans will know this form isn’t just a blip, not under Solskjaer who has had a good 5 dips of form since becoming manager of the club, those dips have stretched out for two months at a time. And that form would have cost Solskjaer his job at many clubs especially a club like Chelsea which Frank Lampard found out just a few weeks ago.

So in the Europa League when United were pitted against Spanish side Real Sociedad it was thought that the club were going to struggle and could get knocked out of the competition. Sociedad had led La Liga this season for several weeks and had taken points from the bigger teams. In Portu Sociedad have their own Bruno Fernandes, a versatile attacking midfielder who also scores plenty of goals. Just last weekend his goal helped the club to take 2 points from Real Madrid away from home as that match finished 1-1. In short Sociedad are a very good side. And yet Manchester United in poor form beat Sociedad 4-0 and knocked them out of the Europa League.

It feels as if United have that fire in the belly and man for man one could say that United have the better team than Sociedad, but one would also have to agree that they thought this match up would have been very close and not settled with such a large score. In Europe in this cup competition under Solskjaer United seem to have found their footing, their place where everything clicks and they should be among the favourites to go on and win the competition.

The players seem more focused in Europe and there is a goal to reach, and perhaps domestically United understand that they need an extra push to stay in the top 4 but apart from that not much can be achieved now, but in Europe and also the FA Cup the fire in the belly remains.

United will play Milan in the quarter finals of the Europa League and should be content in the fact that this isn’t the Milan of 15 years ago. Milan are a good side of course but United over two legs, one would think, would have too much for the Italians.

But Solskjaer needs to be mindful this his side do not lose focus in the Premier League, it is a tough and competitive league that takes no prisoners. If you start to lag and stop winning you will be punished and United are not certain for a top four place. They would be foolish to put all of their eggs in one basket and go for the Europa, they need to maintain some desire to pick up points in the Premier League also.

The next few months will reveal the story more and Solskjaer will be well aware that his job despite an overall good season is far from safe.

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Milan lacklustre yet again as they just about advance from two-legged tie vs. Red Star

Milan just about clinched their spot in the last 16 of the Europa League this evening, advancing from their tie against Red Star Belgrade on away goals. After 2-2 in Serbia, the Rossoneri were hoping for a convincing win with a half-decent XI, but that ended up not being the case for them. 

It started well as Franck Kessie converted a penalty after just nine minutes, but from there on Stefano Pioli’s men struggle to assert themselves in the game. Despite the early goal, Red Star showed great mentality as they kept plugging on and eventually got paid for the efforts.  Continue reading

One foot in Europa League quarter finals but a step back in Serie A for Roma

Roma are almost in the quarter finals of the Europa League after they beat Braga of Portugal 2-0. The return leg is tonight in Italy and it is widely expected that the Giallorossi will have few problems in reaching the last 8 after their dominant display in the 1st leg.

The Europa League win was a game of a goal in the early stages and a goal at the end. Within 5 minutes of the start Leonardo Spinnazola had set up Edin Dzeko with a beautiful pass that caught out the Braga defence and Dzeko made no mistakes to put Roma in front. Dzeko has struggled to hold down a place this season and had fallen out with coach Paulo Fonseca so this goal felt like redemption for him.

Roma could have been 3 goals up within the hour if they had had some luck. A penalty appeal was rejected by a VAR review and then a goal was wiped off due to offside after another VAR review. But Roma knew that if they had a chance going into the 2nd leg against a quality side like Braga they would need to try and grab that second.

The goal finally came with just four minutes remaining but there would still be some controversy and tense moments to have it confirmed. Good work from Jordan Veretout set up Borja Mayoral to slot in an easy chance but VAR called it back for yet another possible offside. After some tense minutes the goal was given and Roma deservedly won the game 2-0. In the end Braga managed just 1 shot on target which was simply not good enough.

So the Europa League game was the good news, but the bad news was that Roma’s league title challenge could be over. The club could only draw 0-0 away to Benevento. The Giallorossi created numerous chances and again were denied a stoppage time penalty by VAR. They deserved the win this time but could only get a point. The end scenes were also chaotic as Benevento coach Filipo Inzaghi was sent off.

Roma are in 4th place with Atalanta and Lazio only one point behind them for a Champions League place. The Giallorossi have also slipped 9 points behind league leaders Inter and have Milan and Juventus in front of them. The league title isn’t quite over for them but realistically it now looks a distant hope and the focus has to be on finishing in a top 4 place.

What do the bookmakers think?

Let’s look at the two competitions that Roma are still in with a chance of winning which of course is Serie A and the Europa League. This is what the bookmakers think of Roma’s chances of winning either competition.

Serie A : 45/1

Europa League: 14/1

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Julen Lopetegui wants to usher in a new era at Sevilla

Because of their Europa League successes Sevilla are one of the most successful clubs in Europe over the last decade. But there is a feeling that the club have become more of a cup specialist team and less of a league one, and Julen Lopetegui has come in over the past year to try and change that up.

Of course winning cups is a great thing and Sevilla have achieved so much in the modern game winning 5 trophies in the last decade and, according to the official UEFA rankings they are in 9th place. That’s not bad going at all and yet of course they are not seen in same lights as Real Madrid and Barcelona and not even Atletico Madrid.

The reason is that the club do not win league titles- their last one came n 1946 and they haven’t even finished in the runners-up position since 1957. There is also the case of the other European competition, the Champions League where Sevilla have had no significant history. Even Atletico have made it to finals including two recent ones. This year highlighted Sevilla’s miserable run in the Champions League when they were knocked out at the group stages and in one game lost 4-0 at home against Chelsea.

Lopetegui is doing a steady job with Sevilla and in his first season he was able to get them to 4th place with 70 points and therefore qualify for the Champions League. Overall he has a win rate of 57% which is impressive and has lost 14 games from 73 played.

This season the club are in sixth place and are seven points adrift. They have been up and down as they do not draw many games, just 1 so far. Whilst they need to find stability no one can accuse the club of not being entertaining. The problem currently is that no one is sure what Sevilla version will turn up week by week. On their day they are capable of beating any side in La Liga.

Lopetegui has kept the people he knows close to him and that figurehead is the clubs assistant coach Pablo Sanz who used to be a product of the old Academy at Barcelona. When Lopetegui was the coach of the national side Spain, Sanz was his assistant so they know each other very well. He was also the assistant at Real Madrid at Lopetegui’s short spell at Santiago Bernabeu back in 2018.

The objective for the club is to improve each season in the league, the last season saw the club finish 4th so the objective is to finish 3rd and a possible title challenge with 2-3 years although whether that is realistic or not is another story altogether.

However the club have always had some quality within their ranks and below we look at the best 3 players currently playing for the club this season based on fantasy rankings points.

Bono- Goalkeeper

Bono’s value is 6.5m and he currently has the most points of any Sevilla player with 19 so far. Bono’s job is of course to keep clean sheets and he has done so on 3 occasions so far. He is 5th in the goalkeeper rankings for La Liga overall.

Youssef En-Nesyri- Striker

Youssef En Nesyri has scored 3 goals so far but is yet to assist and has 12 points so far. He has only managed to start six games so has a 50% striker rate which is good and his value is 6.5m.

Sergio Escudero- Defender

Sergio Escudero has helped keep 2 clean sheets he has also scored a goal and his value is 6m and so far he has earned 12 points.

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Roma hit Bologna for 5 and are in search of a top 4 place this week

After their disappointing 0-0 result against Sassuolo the Giallorossi were back in style as they went to Bologna and thumped then 5-1.

There were four different goalscorers for Roma and an own goal in a very eventful game. It started with a bang too within just 4 minutes Andrea Poli had scored an own goal after a low dangerous cross and Roma were one up. But this start was nothing compared to what Bologna would face in the next 10 minutes of the game.

When the clock struck the tenth minute it was 2-0 and five minutes later it was 3-0 and this game was put to bed within the first quarter of an hour. Edin Dzeko scored Roma’s second when he found the ball just inside the box and made a brilliant turn to fool the defender and slotted home with absolute ease.

The third goal came after a brilliant long pass from Leonardo Spinazzola and the ball found an unmarked Lorenzo Pellegrini who steered home rather easily. Indeed it was well taken but the defending from Bologna was comical it was as if they had switched off possibly looking for an offside that never came. However against the run of play Bologna pulled one back after Roma scored an own goal through Bryan Cristante.

But Roma were playing like a team possessed and it was soon 4-1. The fourth goal was perhaps the best of the lot as it was a classic team goal that consisted of passes and quick one twos. It was finished off by Henrikh Mkhitaryan whose brilliant pass found Jordan Veretout who had been quite the last few weeks and he slid home easily. It was a perfect goal.

The Gallorossi were not finished yet though and would score their 5th goal before half time in a nightmare 45 minutes for the home side. It would be Mkhitaryan who would score the fifth goal after great team work again and with 5 in the bag at half time people were wondering if we were going to see double figures by the end. It wasn’t to be though and the game ended with that scoreline.

It said it all that Bologna at home had just 1 shot on target the whole game and Roma thoroughly deserved their victory. It is a win that has put the club in sixth place and was their sixth win of the season. Roma now has 21 points and are seven behind the league leaders Milan who drew at Genoa.

Europa League draw for Roma

Roma were impressive in the Europa League group stages and their reward for reaching the knock out rounds which begin next year is a two legged match with Portuguese outfit Sporting Braga. The clubs haven’t met before and the encounters are sure to be memorable and very close.

Serie A- the next 3 games

Christmas time is coming and that means that Serie A will shut down for a few weeks. Roma have 3 games left to play. Tonight they will be at home against Torino and then on Sunday they will play Atalanta away. Their final game before the break will be against Cagliari and that will take place at home.

Top 3 best performing players

Let’s take a look at the best performing players in the fantasy rankings so far for Roma.

1. Henrikh Mkhitaryan 44pts

2. Jordan Veretout       27pts

3. Lorenzo Pellegrini    17pts

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Sparta Praha 0-1 AC Milan: Rossoneri narrowly secure first-place finish with makeshift XI

Milan got the job done away at Sparta Praha this evening, narrowly securing the win and thus the first spot in the group as Celtic managed to beat Lille. Jens Petter Hauge got on the scoresheet again and Stefano Pioli was able to try out some youngsters, most of whom did well. 

Having secured their spot in the knockout phase, while Sparta had no chance to climb the group, the Rossoneri fielded a makeshift eleven with several youngsters that wouldn’t normally play. The home side followed suit and it made for an interesting game, with both sets of players under pressure to do well.  Continue reading

Roma draw a blank against Sassuolo as coach Fonseca receives a touchline ban

There were two disallowed goals and a red card as Roma could only draw against a tough opponent in Sassuolo at home, with the game ending 0-0.

First man of the moment for Roma Henrikh Mkhitaryan saw his goal effort ruled out by VAR as there had been a foul in the build up. At least for Roma this would be levelled up later on when Sassuolo thought that they had taken the lead in the 75th minute which could have been the winner through Lukas Haraslin but this was ruled out also.

The focus on the game was not the 1 point earned though but other incidents. The first of which was Pedro Rodriguez’s performance. The midfielder was sent off for two bookable offences. The first involved a head butt and the second a cynical foul and the former Barcelona player was having an early first half shower.

Pedro’s sending off led to another sending off but not for a player but for Roma’s coach Paulo Fonseca who was angered by Pedro’s red card. He seemed to insult an official and was given his marching orders and it has now been confirmed that Fonseca will receive a touchline ban for Roma’s next Serie A game which will take place away to Bologna.

This result has left Roma in sixth place with 18 points and they are now 8 points behind leader leaders Milan. Of course being just 2 points from 4th place a possible Champions League finish is very realistic but it is too early to talk about that.

Fonseca had his thoughts after the match and had this to say, “I am very proud of the lads, as we played very well, had the better scoring opportunities, were organised in defence and stopped a great team like Sassuolo from creating chances. I didn’t like the refereeing, though. I don’t understand why Pedro’s first foul was a yellow card. After that, I saw the situation with Pellegrini, how is that a yellow? I know the referee might not see it well, but VAR ought to see that. There was also potentially a penalty for us with the handball, but again VAR did not intervene.”

As far as the fantasy points are concerned not one player with Giallorossi earned any points. The player who really missed out was inevitably Pedro who finished with -2 points for the weekend.

The Europa League is up next for Roma but it is a dead rubber game against CSKA Sofia and Fonseca will rest much of his regular team. Roma have already qualified as group winners. The draw for the knock out stage of the Europa League will take place on December 14th.

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Reality check for Roma with crushing defeat at Napoli as Giallorossi aim to finish 1st in Europa League group

Roma lost their ‘first’ league game of the season as they were crushed by Napoli 4-0 at the weekend. Of course the Serie A standings will have made this the clubs 2nd defeat of the season, which it is, although in theory their game v Verona was defaulted.

Let’s be honest and say that the Giallorossi were simply overwhelmed by Napoli and a higher plane rising above any other player who was on that pitch on Sunday. That man was of course Diego Armando Maradona, perhaps the greatest player to have ever played the game, and certainly the greatest to have played for Napoli. His sudden passing last week was a shock and will live in the memory for all football fans for as long as the game is played.

There was no mistake that at San Paolo Stadium, which looks soon to be renamed after Maradona that the Argentine’s brilliance was not influencing the game. For Napoli who haven’t won Serie A since Maradona guided them to two titles in 1987 and 1990, they had an extra determination, extra passion and dare it be said an extra power to them at the weekend, this was all about honouring El Diego, and they rightly did.

Lorenzo Insigne opened the scoring for Napoli and there was always only going to be one winner here. Indeed whilst Napoli had 9 shots on target Roma had just 1 and the Giallorossi were never in the game.

Most of the players did see this match as a one off, they simply were not at the races, out fought by a team that wanted so desperately to honour their hero. This is what football does, and the game can work on such a higher psychological level that even if we say that man for man Roma have a better team than Napoli, at times that can simply pale into significance.

Roma coach Paulo Fonseca had this to say about the defeat which leaves the club in sixth place and six points behind the current leaders AC Milan. “We couldn’t string three passes together. Quite simply, we didn’t show enough courage and did not do anywhere near enough to earn a result against Napoli. We weren’t the best team in the world before this game and we are not the worst now. Every match is a test for this team, not just against the biggest opponents. It certainly wasn’t a good performance, as we lacked aggression, lacked courage, so we need to learn from this and correct our mistakes next time.”

Six Roma players earned minus points at the weekend, with the best having to share zero points, that’s how bad the performance was. The worst affected player was goalkeeper Antonio Mirante who lost 6 points. The worst affected outfield player was Ibanez who lost 4 points.

The knock out stages of the Europa League await Roma

Roma have already qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League- that’s the good news. But it could get even better when the Giallorossi clash with Young Boys on Thursday evening. If Roma win then they are guaranteed first position which usually means an easier path and a so called easier fixture in the first knock out round. Roma will be at home to Young Boys and in the reverse fixture Roma won 2-1.

Next league game v Sassuolo

Roma’s next Serie A game will take place at home against third place Sassuolo who have been a real surprise package this season. Roma are unbeaten at home so far with three wins and one draw and that includes winning their last three in a row. Last season Roma won this fixture 4-2 and Sassuolo do not usually travel well to the capital.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was firing on all cylinders before the Napoli defeat and has scored 5 goals so far and the club will be hoping that he can recapture his fantastic form. The midfielder also has the most fantasy points for the team with 38 so far and his fantasy value is 7.5m.

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