AC Milan 3-0 Sparta Praha: Three things we learned from yet another secure Europa League win

Milan extended their unbeaten run to 23 games this evening, beating Sparta Praha by three goals to nil in the second round of the Europa League group stage. The win was never in doubt for the Rossoneri, just like against Celtic, and several players really impressed this evening. 

Brahim Diaz opened the scoring after just 24 minutes, having won the ball high up the pitch to start a counter-attack. Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked him out and the Spaniard made no mistakes with the finish, firing it through the legs of the goalkeeper. Another goal, in other words, for the Real Madrid loanee in Europa League. Continue reading

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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Celtic 1-3 AC Milan: Three things we learned from the Rossoneri’s start to the group stage

Following the win against Inter at the weekend, Milan extended their unbeaten run this evening and secured yet another three points, this time in the Europa League. Celtic never really stood a chance as the Rossoneri got the job done in Glasgow, scoring three goals in the end. 

Many questioned Stefano Pioli’s decision to start Rade Krunic over the likes of Rafael Leao and Jens Petter Hauge this evening, but the Bosnian came up big with the opener after just 14 minutes. Samu Castillejo was able to pick him out in the box and he made no mistakes with a lovely header.  Continue reading

Rio Ave 2-2 AC Milan (8-9p): Three things we learned from the Rossoneri’s thrilling win

Milan knew that it wouldn’t be easy to overcome Rio Ave in the Europa League play-offs, but I doubt they could have predicted what happened last night. It took 24 penalties to decide the game, with the Rossoneri just about managing to stay in it prior to the penalty shootout. 

Stefano Pioli’s men took the lead early in the second half through Alexis Saelemaekers, who pounced on a clearance and converted the chance with a low but powerful attempt. Although Milan had been far from brilliant up until that point, it seemed fair as the home side barely created any chances either.  Continue reading

AC Milan 3-2 Bodo/Glimt: Defensive flaws exposed as Calhanoglu saves the Rossoneri

Milan secured yet another win this evening – although it was anything but easy – and thus advanced to what is the final round of the Europa League preliminaries, namely the play-offs. Hakan Calhanoglu and Lorenzo Colombo were the goalscorers as Stefano Pioli lacked several key men. 

In addition to Alessio Romagnoli and Ante Rebic, the manager was forced to deal with the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose Coronavirus test came back positive a few hours before the game. The rest of the squad were negative and this allowed them to go ahead with the encounter this evening.  Continue reading

Shamrock Rovers 0-2 AC Milan: Important duo delivers yet again as Rossoneri advance to next round

Milan grabbed their first official win of the season this evening as Hakan Calhanoglu and Zlatan Ibrahimovic delivered once again. The duo was essential for the Rossoneri towards the end of last season, registering many points between them, and it looks like this will be the case this term as well. 

Stefano Pioli’s side was, obviously, the favourites heading into tonight’s game. Although Shamrock Rovers are sitting first in the Irish league, it’s an opponent that Milan should beat quite easily on paper. And just like expected, they managed to seal their ticket to the third round of the Europa League qualifiers.  Continue reading

Milan prepare for important clash against Shamrock Rovers – team update and more

It feels like the season just ended, but now Milan are gearing up to start the new one. These are certainly strange times and as the opener is just one day away, the Rossoneri have only had a few weeks – including four friendly games – to prepare for what will be an important season. 

On the other hand, the players were forced to give up long vacations and thus will be in somewhat good shape from the previous term. One can only hope that the preparation Stefano Pioli opted for was enough to restore most of the fitness levels they displayed this summer. That being said, all teams are in the same situation. Continue reading

Manchester United 2020-21 season preview

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer going into his second full season as the manager of Manchester United, the pressure will be on him to deliver another top four finish whilst aiming for success in the domestic cup competitions. Given that rivals Liverpool and Manchester City are levels ahead of the rest of the teams in the Premier League, it is impossible for the Red Devils to mount a title challenge with the current squad, unless they decide to go all out in the remainder of the summer window.

The previous campaign resulted in the side finishing in third place as well as reaching the FA Cup semi-final, Carabao Cup semi-final and the Europa League semi-final. However, looking at the present and current circumstance, it is highly unlikely for Manchester United to surpass the progress they have made last season, as they have only signed one player so far this summer window whilst the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Wolves have been quite proactive and positive off the pitch.

It is now time to look at what the 2020-21 season has in store for Manchester United…

The new addition – linked players

Unlike the previous summer transfer window, the signings completed by both Manchester United and Solskjaer have not been appealing at all, which has resulted in a lot of discontent and frustration between the United fanbase. The team are in need of two to three players to upgrade the starting line-up as well another two players for the bench, in order for them to compete for the league title.

The Red Devils have so far brought the one signing in Donny Van de Beek, who has come from Eredivisie side Ajax, for a fee of around £35million to £40million. With a couple of weeks remaining until the transfer window comes to an end, Solskjaer will be hoping that the United board, especially Ed Woodward, are more than capable of delivering two more players for him.

The two players are looking likely to be Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Real Madrid’s Sergio Reguilon, who have actually been linked with a move to Old Trafford throughout the summer. Thiago Alcantara has been linked with the club too, but it does not seem like the club will buy two midfielders in one window.

Focusing further on Van de Beek, he is the ideal backup player to have for both Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, as Solskjaer will need to rotate and keep the squad fit in between the league fixtures, the Champions League matches as well as the domestic cup competitions. On the other hand, the Dutch midfielder may be expected to be a regular starter, with the reports rising around the club that Solskjaer will be looking into ways of playing a midfield three of Bruno, Pogba and Van de Beek.

Key player

By now, it should be no secret that Manchester United’s key player happens to be Bruno Fernandes. Since the Portuguese international moved to Old Trafford in January, he has single-handedly transformed the side’s mentality and style of play, which has helped all parties in many ways.

In 14 Premier League appearances, the 26-year-old playmaker went on to produce eight goals and seven assists, resulting in the side to make a monumental comeback into the top four position and finish in 3rd place. Without Bruno Fernandes and his much needed contributions, it can comfortably be said that the team would have finished outside of the top four, around fifth place and seventh place.

Who should be sold?

At this moment of time, the ideal individuals that should be sold are the likes of Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, three centre-backs that are not in the long-term plans of the club and the manager. Not only that, but they would be seen as players that are far down the pecking order, with the main defenders actually being Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe.

Manchester United’s strongest XI

With the current squad members, here is Manchester United’s strongest XI for the new season –

David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw; Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial.

Premier League prediction

When looking at how strong Liverpool and Manchester City currently are, as well as how Chelsea have incredibly backed Frank Lampard so far this summer window, the best that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United can aim for is a top-four finish. Although, the critics expect the Red Devils to be aiming for trophies every season, which they should be doing so, performing consistently and at a higher level in the Premier League is more crucial, as the side have not finished in the top four in back-to-back seasons since the last two campaigns under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Premier League – 4th place

Champions League prediction

United’s current squad would suit them better in the Champions League rather than in the Premier League, where they can overcome the opposition over one game or two legs instead of the 19 English teams they will have to face home and away. With the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Greenwood Martial, Rashford and Pogba available for Solskjaer, it should not be a problem for both the club and manager to succeed the group stages and reach the Quarter-finals of the European competition.

Champions League – Quarter final

Not a great time for Manchester as United and City dumped out of European competition

First it was the turn of Manchester City who were dumped out of the Champions League at the quarter final stage against Lyon. A few days later their bitter rivals Manchester United followed suit losing 2-1 against Sevilla in the semi-finals of the Europa League. It’s fair to say that it’s been a bleak week for English football in Europe especially as Wolves exited the Europa League too. But it hasn’t been a good week for football in Manchester either.

Manchester City’s defeat means that they finished the season by ‘only’ winning the Carabao Cup. For a club of its size and budget that return marks a failed season and manager Pep Guardiola will know this. City were supposed to make light work of French club Lyon and advance to the semi-finals. But it was easy to tell early on in the game that Lyon had City’s number.

City remained with the threats and had the superior technical skill but Lyon had the pace of the game in the bag. They could slow it down when they wanted and their tactic of a 3-5-2 worked to perfection.

Moussa Dembele ended the game as the hero as he scored 2 goals which killed the game off and his redemption seems complete after his talents have largely been ignored by the Premier League. In France the media were all over Houssem Aouar. He was deemed as being all over the pitch and always in the right places and was named man of the match for most publications with a 9/10. Aouar has been on the fringes of the French team and these type of performances will only do him good, and he is still only 22 so has that chance.

As for City Guardiola said he has no excuses and that the better team won, but this loss would have been a big blow to him. Having said that with Bayern Munich waiting in the semi finals one wonders if it was light escape for City, it will be interesting to see how Lyon fare against the German team who look incredible.

For Manchester United their sheer momentum and confidence as the Premier League wrapped up simply wasn’t enough to get them past the line and into what would have been a surprise Europa League final. The problem for United is that there doesn’t seem to be a plan b and that is why even though on the night they were better than Sevilla they couldn’t get past them. The Spanish team who have won the Europa League on 5 occasions from the past 15 years may well add to that record.

All in all it has been a disappointing season for the Manchester clubs. City have lost their title to Liverpool and the one trophy they want- the Champions League- continues to elude them. As for United, they finished the season very well and that was good enough to play in the Champions League next season, a major plus point, but they have a long way to go to get back to the top.

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Manchester United: Three Sevilla players to look out for ahead of the Europa League semi-final

As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United take on Sevilla Football Club in the Europa League Semi-final on Sunday evening, majority of neutral football supporters feel the fixture will be closer than many think with both teams previously playing one another in the Champions League in 2018.

For now, we return back to 13th March 2018, a Champions League night at Old Trafford, where Sevilla pulled off a huge shocker against a Manchester United side which was managed by Jose Mourinho. The disappointing result was the beginning of the end for the former Chelsea and Real Madrid coach, as a large number of the Old Trafford faithful had began to turn on the manager.

Following the 0-0 draw in the first leg at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium, it was crucial for the Red Devils to hit the ground running and be on the attacking front, however, the team and most importantly the manager, had underestimated Vicenzo Montella’s Sevilla as Wissam Ben Yedder came on from the bench to score two monumental goals to help his side quality for the next round.

Focusing back onto the Europa League semi-final, both teams will be expected to give it their all, as United are looking to achieve their second Europa League trophy in history, whilst Sevilla already have five Europa League trophies to their name and will want to have the sixth as soon as possible.

Now, with no further ado, here are the three Sevilla players for United to look out for…

Ever Banega – Central midfielder

Regarded as the key creator in midfield and the most important player in the team, Ever Banega is a unique individual and is someone that is highly dependent on by Sevilla and Julen Lopetegui. In his recent match against Wolves, the Argentine international managed to achieve the following; 139 touches, 103 successful pass with 63 of them being forward passes, three chances created and one assist. By looking at these statistics only, it shows how much of a complete midfielder he actually is.

Given that Sevilla’s main issue tends to be in the type of chances they create and the end product, Banega will have to do his job effectively and at a high level, where he breaks the lines with his passes and how he is incredibly good at dictating the flow of possession. Not only that, he has shown in the past of how good he is with set-pieces, whether it’s from a free-kick or a corner into the box.

Sergio Reguilon – Left Back

Continuing on from Sevilla’s lack of creativity and end product, left-back Sergio Reguilon will hope to continue his fine performances down the left flank, as he poses with a huge amount of stamina, movement on and off the ball as well as the ideal dribbling from a full-back. Due to his rise in reputation and personal ability in recent months, the Sevilla loanee from Real Madrid has gained the attention of the likes of Chelsea and Everton whilst Sevilla would like to keep him permanently.

With Reguilon linking up and playing close to Lucas Ocampos, Mason Greenwood will have to ensure his work rate and assistance to help Aaron Wan-Bissaka is second to none, otherwise, Sevilla will certainly take advantage of the two-on-one phase down the left flank. Although the La Liga side’s main attack comes down both flanks at a fairly even amount, the left side will be put to a test more than the right, as both Jesus Navas and Suso have previously shown their quality down the right from time to time.

Lucas Ocampos – Left winger

Julen Lopetegui has a number of good attacking options at his disposal, however, it does seem like he will stick to the front three of Suso, Lucas Ocampos and Youssef En-Nesyri, who have played in the recent fixtures in the Europa League against Wolves and Roma. And if that is the case, United’s defence and especially Aaron Wan-Bissaka, will have to keep their eyes out for Ocampos, who is capable of producing something out of nothing.

The Argentine international has been scoring left, right and centre this season, with 17 goals to his name in all competition, his best tally so far his in professional footballing career. Despite his unconvincing time in Italy and France, the 26-year-old is finally looking to be at his best in Sevilla, where he is able to express himself within a possession-based team. With his quick passing, intelligent movement and silky dribbling, he will definitely be the one to watch out for later tonight.