D-Day awaits for Juventus and Ronaldo in the Champions League

Ronaldo210219_0

Juventus are cruising to their 8th Serie A title in a row as they have extended their lead over Napoli to a massive 18 points with just 33 left on the table but it hasn’t been all plain sailing for the team when it comes to the Champions League.

The Old Lady have made life difficult for themselves coming into their 2nd leg against Atletico Madrid and are trailing the game 2-0. Though Juve will be at home in a packed stadium roaring them on, when the two teams meet the only thing that will matter will be who scores first. If it’s Juventus then their tails will be up and the ascendency will be fully with the Italians who could well end up making a fantastic comeback. But if Atletico score first then Juve will need 4, which even with a fit Ronaldo looks difficult to achieve.

The disappointment of exiting the Champions League would be huge for Juventus who bought Ronaldo at 33 for 100m euros based on the fact he had just won 3 Champions League titles in a row, and him and his team Real Madrid had beaten Juventus in the final and knocked them out of another competition. The signing of Ronaldo was supposed to be the final piece in the jigsaw to bring the glory back to the Italian giants who have not won the competition since 1996.

Since then it has been a history of also rans, maybes and defeats. In 1997 on the verge of winning back to back titles they were outclassed by German side Borussia Dortmund who won 3-1. Their next final came in 2003 which ended up being an all Italian one against AC Milan. After an inevitable 120 minutes of football with the scores locked at 0-0 Milan triumphed on penalties.

After a difficult decade in the 2000s which saw the team relegated through the bribery and betting scandals that engulfed in Serie A they bounced back to where they are now and completely dominating Serie A football. But that still included two more final losses in the Champions League. First in 2015 against Barcelona and then in 2017 against Real Madrid. It is a competition which just seems to allude them year after year.

It certainly did to club legend Gianluigi Buffon who took the risk to leave and join PSG, and the long line of misery followed him with PSG being knocked out at the round of 16. Juventus and Ronaldo could follow him and them in a season which could be written off as underwhelming even if they are dominating in Italy.

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

tumblr_mcx72xwmmy1rjrlvwo1_12802(1)

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.

 

Why has Ronaldo still not scored for Juventus?

RR

For any other player in world football barring Lionel Messi we would never have to pose the question of why they haven’t managed to score a goal in their opening 3 games for their new club? However alongside Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo is a different level player, one that scores goals whether he is playing for Manchester United or Real Madrid, and like Messi his rate of goals has been incredible. But Ronaldo and Juventus are waiting for the first one.

It’s not that Ronaldo isn’t trying or that age has caught up with him. He has had 23 shots on goal and been genuinely unlucky in some of the games, but still for a player that has scored 573 goals so far in his club career including 450 for Real Madrid it is odd and for some a little unsettling that he has drawn blanks.

Take Ronaldo’s most successful moments so far which have come with Real Madrid. In 9 seasons the least amount of goals Ronaldo scored was 33 which incredibly came in his debut season with the club and not as one would predict his last. He hasn’t petered out and that’s why Juventus were willing to pay so much money for him even at 33 years of age. Keeping with goals scored the most Ronaldo has converted in a season was in 2014-2015 where he netted an incredible 61 times in all competitions.

But why has Ronaldo got off to such a slow start given that he rarely has had blips in his career? Juventus’ manager Max Allegri gave his opinion after Ronaldo failed to score in Juventus’ 2-1 win away to Parma. “Serie A is a league where the teams defend carefully. I don’t want to say that it’s better than other leagues in Europe or not. Let’s just say that the teams are very strong in defence and the coaches are very good.”

It is clear that Allegri was being diplomatic in what he said, but he did touch on something about Italy and the rule of defence, which has always been the first rule. Even Diego Maradona only scored 15 goals one season at Napoli which was enough for him to be top goal scorer.

The good news at least, is that the Old Lady are not relying on their £88m man to convert the goals. They have won all three opening games and are in 1st place. Just how much better will they be when Ronaldo does start firing on all cylinders? The international break will be beneficial for him too as he will have time off international duty and should be refreshed from mid September when the league games resume alongside the Champions League. So yes it is odd that a player of Ronaldo’s calibre still hasn’t scored, but only a fool would write him off in Italy just yet.

Roma face Bologna in pivotal showdown

79E718B9-EF55-44EF-96C8-9B9C53D09ED3

Roma travel to Emilia-Romagna this weekend to face Bologna in a pivotal Serie A showdown with Champions League place implications. As it stands, Roma currently occupy the third place in the Serie A table with 59 points while Inter, who have a match in hand, have 55 points with Lazio just behind at 54 points. Given that the latter two have relatively easy match ups this weekend, against Verona and Benevento respectively, the Giallorossi find themselves in a must-win situation against the Rossoblu.

Bologna are in decent form as they’ve won two of their previous five matches and are coming off a good result against Lazio, who they drew 1-1 at the Stadio Olimpico before the international break. Roma, meanwhile, have won four of their previous five away matches in Serie A and find themselves in the midst of arguably their best form of the entire season.

However, with next week’s Champions League showdown against Barcelona on the horizon, Roma find themselves with a prototypical “trap” match at their feet as Bologna could potentially nab points off the Giallorossi should they overlook Roberto Donadoni’s side.

Key Matchup’s

Bologna’s weakest area of the pitch is undoubtedly their midfield. Roberto Donadoni does not have much individual quality at his disposal for the middle of the pitch; however, as a unit they tend to make up for each other’s individual deficiencies.

Roma’s midfield, though, has been on fire as of late and has been one of the main reasons for their recent successes. One of the standouts over the course of the last month has been captain Daniele De Rossi. Danielino has rolled back the clock and has been, perhaps, the best performer for the Giallorossi recently. He will likely find himself up against Bologna’s Andrea Poli in the middle of the pitch and will be tasked with trying to cut off the supply to Rossoblu’s attack.

The Giallorossi will also have to be stout in defence, particularly on the flanks. Bologna right winger Simone Verdi has been in great form all season as he’s the top scorer for the mid-table side. His performances have even caught the interest of several big clubs across Europe, including Roma and Napoli. Verdi will undoubtedly prove to be the greatest scoring threat to the Giallorossi, so left back Aleksandar Kolarov, who isn’t shy of venturing forward in attack, will have to be attentive in defence and cannot afford to be caught out of position.

Probable formations

Roma (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; De Rossi, Strootman; Perotti, Nainggolan, El Shaarawy; Dzeko

Bologna (4-3-3): Santurro; Torosidis, Gonzalez, Helander, Masina; Poli, Pulgar, Dzemaili; Verdi, Destro, Palacio

 

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you’re up for the challenge then play www.seriea-fantasy.com now!

Serie A Best Team to Pick – Round 28

under2

Here’s the list of the proposed players to pick ahead of the next Serie A round.

Alex Meret: his return from sports hernia surgery has not gone swimmingly, with several goals conceded, due to the weakness of Spal’s back-line and a pair of blunders, but he had a good showings in the last two games and Sassuolo have scored only five times so far in home games.

Kwadwo Asamoah: Alex Sandro is suspended and so it will be the Ghanaian fullback’s turn to attack down the left flank against Udinese. Juventus’ defence has been airtight in the last two months.

Cristiano Biraghi: he has found the back of the net in the last home game, where he benefitted from playing in a more advanced position. That might happen again in the Benevento game, it also helps that the guests have yet to collect a single point on the road so far this season. Continue reading