Three Things to Look Out For in the Derby Della Madonnina

With Inter and Milan locking horns in the latest instalment of the Derby Della Madonnina in match-day 23, both sides will be going in with differing objectives.

On one hand, Antonio Conte’s men, the official ‘anti-Juve’, will be looking to keep pace at the top with the Italian champions while the rossoneri will be eager to close down a seven-point gap between them and top four.

While earlier in the season it looked like Milan would be in for another indifferent year, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s arrival has coincided with a return to form. Since their 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Atalanta, Pioli’s men are unbeaten in their last seven in all competitions. Inter, by contrast, have struggled since the turn of the new year and have drawn three of their last four Serie A clashes.

Here are three things to look out for on Sunday!

1) Midfield battle – Conte’s 3-5-2 vs. Pioli’s 4-4-2. 

Since assuming the reins, Pioli has implemented a basic 4-4-2 formation and is slowly getting the most from some of the club’s misfiring players, including Ante Rebić and Samu Castillejo. While the results have been there, Milan, at times, have been overrun in the midfield as Pioli’s 4-4-2 is rather flat. Against Brescia, for example, Milan were left exposed and were lucky to walk away with all three points.

As has been the case since he’s coached Juve, Conte tends to load up the middle with three midfielders, one regista and two mezz’ale, who tend to do most of the running and offer defensive cover between the lines. In possession, these interior midfielders like to sit in half-spaces in the final third to receive the ball in dangerous areas.

Christian Eriksen’s arrival will only help in this respect and the Danish international will be licking his lips at the prospect of carving open the rossoneri’s rearguard. If Milan are to have a shot in this game, Pioli will need to alter his tactical setup and ensure Inter don’t gain numerical superiority in the middle of the park all-while keeping a particular focus on Eriksen who will likely be fielded right behind both strikers.

2) Christian Eriksen – 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2? Trequartista or mezz’ala? 

The worst-kept secret of the January mercato was Eriksen’s transfer to Inter, but after weeks of rumors, it finally got done. Now that he’s with the nerazzurri, however, question marks remain over where he will feature. In his first appearances with the club, Conte has altered his preferred 3-5-2 for a more fluid 3-4-1-2 with Eriksen occupying the trequartista role behind the strikers.

In the past, Conte has been reluctant to shift away from his rigid shape and typically perservered with his tried-and-tested 3-5-2. When he had Pirlo, Vidal, Marchisio and Pogba at Juve, it was the Frenchman who, at times, featured higher up the pitch in a 3-5-1-1. While it’s unlikely he does that with Eriksen, it remains a possibility.

The Derby della Madonnina will be the first real test for an Eriksen-led Inter and it will be interesting if Conte persists with him in an advanced role. After all, a mezz’ala role doesn’t exactly suit the former Tottenham man and isn’t why he was signed. With a big three points up for grabs, Eriksen is definitely one to watch.

3) Ibrahimovic-Leao face their first real test. 

Since Ibrahimovic’s arrival, the big Swede has formed an effective partnership with Rafael Leão and the duo have established themselves as Pioli’s undisputed front-two. With the former PSG man holding up play, Leão plays in a support role and makes the most of his turn of pace and ability to take on his man. Until now, Milan have had success with the Leão-Ibra partnership, but they have yet to be put to the test by an elite defence.

Taking nothing away from their opponents, Milan have played Cagliari, SPAL, Udinese, Brescia, Torino, and Verona. While each side represents their own challenges, none of them, bar Verona, come close to Inter when it comes to defensive solidity. It will be interesting to see the Ibra-Leão partnership go to work against Conte’s back-three in what is undoubtedly their first real test since coming to be.

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Cagliari 0-2 AC Milan: Ibrahimovic on target as Rossoneri claim three important points

AC Milan finally managed to claim all three points, beating Cagliari at the Sardegna Arena this afternoon. The Rossoneri quite convincingly secured a 2-0 scoreline against the Sardinia side, thus grabbing their first win in three games. 

However, there is still a long way to go for Pioli’s side, although today’s clash was certainly a step in the right direction. Above all, the players looked very confident, which we haven’t seen much in the first half of the season. There is no doubt that Ibrahimovic’s arrival has made a big difference. Continue reading

AC Milan 0-0 Sampdoria: Rossoneri fail to convert their chances in frustrating game

AC Milan failed to redeem themselves after the 5-0 defeat against Atalanta before the break, managing just a draw against Sampdoria at San Siro this afternoon. Certainly, taking their position in the standings into account, one point simply isn’t enough. 

The first half of the game was certainly drowsy, to say the least, as both sides had a lot of technical errors. As a result of this, they both failed to assert themselves and the tempo of the game really dropped. On a positive note, though, Milan had most of the possession in the first 45 minutes. Continue reading

AC Milan should bring back Ibrahimovic – Three reasons why

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of talk about a potential return to Serie A for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Just a few days ago, the Swede confirmed that he won’t renew his contract with LA Galaxy, which of course fueled the rumours in question.

Multiple Serie A clubs have shown their interest in the player, from his former side Milan to the underdogs Bologna. Recently, though, it seems the Rossoneri have overtaken the competitors in the race.

For many, it’s a no-brainer, but should the Rossoneri bring back the big man ahead of the second half of the season? In my opinion, the management has a great opportunity on the table, and down below are three reasons why they should sign the 38-year-old.

1. Goals, goals, goals…

At the start of the season, Milan have struggled to find the back of the net, bagging just 11 goals in 12 games. Many have blamed this on their style of play, but the problem has remained even after Pioli replaced Giampaolo. Therefore, it’s clear that they need some new energy.

Even though he’s older than he was during his last spell at the club, Ibrahimovic still knows how to score. And yes, MLS clearly isn’t as good as Serie A, but the Swede scored some spectacular goals with LA Galaxy to prove that he’s still got it.

The bottom line is that he will guarantee goals (hopefully) for the Rossoneri, who are in desperate need of it to turn the negative situation around. Furthermore, he should be able to raise the overall quality of Milan’s attack.

2. His experience is vital

Ibrahimovic has played on the highest level for a very long time now, and his experience would arguably be very useful for Milan. It also helps that he’s been at Milan before, as he knows the environment and what the club expects from the players.

It’s been said before, but the Rossoneri’s squad is simply too young for the time being. They need some experienced figures, and bringing in Zlatan will get them a long way. Above all, he will certainly raise the bar in the team, pushing the players to the max.

You can ask any of his former teammates, but they will all say the same. Ibrahimovic is just as important off the pitch as he is on it, constantly letting the players know about the demands in place.

3. It would be no holiday for ‘Ibra’

Should the deal go through, then it’s safe to say that it won’t be a holiday for the big Swede. He knows this, and after spending some time in the MLS, he will want to show his best side to the European crowd as well. Challenges drive the striker, which is perfect in this situation.

No doubt, he will be eager to prove that he can still do well at the top. Turning Milan around would certainly be a great testament to this. Therefore, the Rossoneri should sign him before it’s too late.

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Which Serie A team could realistically sign Ibrahimovic?

Few players are able to attract as much attention as Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This isn’t just because of his ability as a player, or his colorful quotes but also because just like Roberto Baggio and the Brazilian Ronaldo before him, he simply doesn’t belong to one club but rather to all football fans. Now that his MLS’ phase has almost certainly come to an end, we’ll likely see him linked to numerous clubs in Europe. 

In a recent interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Ibarhimovic left the door open to a return to Italy “I had unforgettable moments there, I’ll listen to everything” but which Serie A team is he likely to join? When assessing the options, let’s account for the fact Zlatan stated he wants a chance to compete for titles, the considerable influence of his agent Mino Raiola and the individual club needs:


Juventus- since being sold to Inter during the Calciopoli scandal, Ibrahimovic has been linked to a return to Turin. But this was back when Juventus struggled significantly to attract big name strikers and as it stands now they already have too many attackers on the squad. While Juventus have a great relationship with Mino Raiola, it’s hard to envision Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic on the same team.

Milan- let’s call a spade a spade, Zlatan and Raiola have almost certainly used rumors of a possible return to the rossoneri as leverage in negotiations with other clubs in recent years. While Boban has stated that he would like to add more veterans to his young squad, Ibarhimovic joining this Milan seems rather unlikely because he would stand in the way of Leao’s growth and the club’s attempts to get Piatek going. In addition, described the rossoneri as “a disaster, a lot of words and few facts. This isn’t the club we all fell in love with. Maybe today they have the wrong people who should be elsewhere”

Inter- the recent injury to Alexis Sanchez started the rumors of Ibrahimovic’s return to the nerazzurri. But when you consider how well Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku have played this season and how well they compliment each other, it’s hard to envision Ibrahimovic as anything more than a super sub on this squad. Ibrahimovic was very complimentary of Antonio Conte “I don’t know him personally, but everyone says he always gives 500% each day and in that regard we are the same” and his agent Raiola has done a lot of business with Beppe Marotta while the former Sampdoria director was at Juventus, but Inter feels like a very long shot.

Roma- the giallorossi have done business with Raiola in recent years and Ibrahimovic’s uber size personality would fit in the city very well. Beyond that though Roma already has an excellent older striker leading the line in Edin Dzeko so barring an injury to him it’s hard to see a natural fit from any sporting perspective.

Napoli- when asked if there was a Serie A team that intrigued him during his interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Zlatan answered Napoli. He mentioned that he appreciated the recent documentary on Maradona and that he would love to replicate the loving bond between the city and the Argentine legend. On the bright side Napoli have started to do a lot of business with Mino Raiola, just last summer they acquired two of his high profile players in Kostas Manolas and Hirving Lozano but they are also stacked up front with Milik, Llorente, Insigne and Lozano.

Now De Laurentiis has left the door open to signing Ibrahimovic, but clearly stated it’s up to Zlatan. On one hand Milik has now scored three goals in his last two matches, but on the other Napoli continue to show a lack of killer instinct. On Sunday the squandered a huge opportunity to make up some ground on both Juventus and Inter and failed to beat SPAL- the question is will they still be in a possession in the standings that bringing in Ibrahimovic for second half of the season is actually worth it? They certainly could use his ability to take the pressure off the team with his quotes and personality. 

Bologna- now while Ibrahimovic did state that being able to win trophies is a significant factor in the choice for his new team, he did tell Gazzetta dello Sport he would make an exception for Bologna because of his relationship with Sinisa Mihajlovic, who promised him the rest of the team would run for him so he can just focus on scoring. Bologna are off to a fairly good start to the season and do have a North American owner in Joey Saputo who could be looking to make a significant splash- bringing him to Bologna after MLS might help his club’s branding in US and Canada.


Sweden’s World Cup ends, but the journey continues

After a fantastic tournament, Sweden were knocked out of the World Cup, losing to England in the quarter-finals. Despite this anticlimax, Sweden fans should remain hopeful for the future, with Janne Andersson leading the line.

Sweden headed into the World Cup with more attention than usual, having knocked out Italy in the playoffs over two games. Despite this, not many had them advancing from the group, facing the likes of Germany and Mexico already in that stage. Continue reading

Datos y récords a batir en la Eurocopa

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

La Eurocopa es una cita para los grandes y que siempre tiene marcas a batir. En cuanto dé comienzo ya se habrá convertido en la fase final con más participantes de la historia, ya que será la primera vez que haya 24 naciones. No obstante, hay muchos más registros que se ansían superar.

  • Cristiano e Ibrahimovic pueden ser los primeros futbolistas en marcar en cuatro Eurocopas. Hasta ahora, comparten este honor con 5 jugadores más, pero si alguno de los dos grandes delanteros anota un solo gol batirá este récord.
  • Será la Eurocopa con más debutantes en el torneo, concretamente 5. Albania, Eslovaquia, Gales, Irlanda del Norte e Islandia participarán por primera vez en este torneo continental.
  • Los penaltis encierran muchas estadísticas. La Selección que sale más favorecida en este cara o cruz es la República Checa, que ha disputado 3 tantas y ganado todas, además de marcar los 20 tantos que ha lanzado. Holanda e Inglaterra se llevan la cara más amarga.
  • Buffon es el jugador que más partidos ha jugado en la Eurocopa, contando las fases de clasificación suma 54 partidos.
  • En cambio, Casillas está empatado con van der Sar siendo el portero que ha dejado más veces su portería a cero. Lleva 9 y, si juega algún partido y lo para todo, ostentará el récord en solitario.
  • Casillas sigue en los récords, será el primer futbolista en participar en 5 fases finales de una Eurocopa. Desde el año 2000 ha estado en todas.
  • Alemania y España han terminado invictas el torneo hasta en 4 ocasiones. En 3 de ellas, cada una fue capaz de alzarse con el trofeo, en otra ocasión no le sirvió de nada no perder.
  • Francia ostenta el récord goleador en una fase final con 14 tantos, lo consiguió precisamente en la otra Eurocopa disputada en el país galo y que ganaron los propios Bleus. Su récord tiene más mérito si añadimos que solamente jugó 5 partidos porque antes la competición era más breve.
  • Las finales casi nunca se repiten. En las 14 ediciones previas, tan solo han aparecido los mismos protagonistas en 1976 y 1996 aunque con variedades geopolíticas entre Alemania y la República Checa (siendo la antigua Alemania Federal y la heredera de la extinta Checoslovaquia) y ambos casos se llegó a la prórroga.

Top performers of the weekend – Ligue 1 and Community Shield kick-off season

The football season is now officially underway, with France’s Ligue 1 kicking off over the weekend and the annual tradition of the Community Shield kicked off the English season, though that competition does not count points towards managers’ fantasy teams. That said though, it does give something of an indication of where things could be headed at least in the early doors of the season, so let’s get down to it and see just who the big hitters were.

No fewer than five players in the French top flight are presently tied for top spot on our points’ scorers tables, with Christopher Maboulou (SC Bastia), Mevlüt Erdinç (AS Saint-Étienne), Dario Cvitanich (OGC Nice), Mathieu Duhamel (Caen) and Marseille’s Andre-Pierre Gignac all bagging themselves 40 early points – a cracking start for the guys, who all play as strikers. Interestingly, at the time of writing, only Gignac actually features in any fantasy teams – only 2%, however, foresaw his value up front. Of these guys, Erdinç proved the best value inclusion as his asking price is only €3.50m – a full mill lower than nearest counterparts Cvitanich and Gignac. All of these stars bagged two goals each for their respective sides on opening day.

Talismanic star Zlatan Ibrahimovic got off to a predictably splendid start, bagging two goals of his own for PSG, but unfortunately he also missed a penalty which cost him 10 points, dropping him down to 6th, 10 points behind the aforementioned strikers. Not only did that penalty miss mean he was deducted 10, but he also missed out on 10 as well as that would have meant a hat-trick, which includes 10 bonus points – meaning the miss was actually worth 20 to the negative for the Swede. Had that spot kick found its target, he would be top with a beautiful 50 points from the off.

Several defensive players find themselves with a mountain to climb already having finished their first games in negative totals, with goalkeepers Alphonse Areola (SC Bastia), Zacharie Boucher (Toulouse), Jesper Hansen (Évian Thonon Gaillard F.C) and Steve Mandanda (Marseille) all kicking off on -20. They are joined in that group by former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), who also finds himself there owing to having been dismissed.

Moving north of the pond towards England now, Londoners Arsenal saw off their northern rivals – and Premier League champions – Man City by an impressively comfortable 3-0 margin to claim the FA Community Shield. Having gone nine years without a trophy, this represents Arsenal’s second piece of silverware in as many competitive games. While the game does not directly impact on the league season, it does mean the Gunners arguably have something of a psychological edge over the Citizens ahead of next weekend’s kickoff, and goals from Santi Cazorla, midfielder Aaron Ramsey and Frenchman Olivier Giroud show that this trio in particular has an eye for finding the net already, and manager Arsene Wenger will surely be hoping that trend continues once the formalities get underway on Saturday.

With Man City, the direct implications of the result could well be that Chilean boss Manuel Pellegrini looks to tweak his squad, though many cite the fact that the Blues’ starting lineup looked considerably weaker than the expected league teamsheet means that this scenario is unlikely. With Stevan Jovetic sniffing around goal there certainly seems to be some success in front of the net lying in wait for him this season, but regardless of one’s opinion of the strength of City’s team in this fixture, it could certainly be interpreted that the champions can scarcely afford any slipups this term, and can surely not become too complacent when it comes to selection. The quality is certainly there to oust them should they miss a beat, and Arsenal have proven themselves capable of being one of those sides breathing down City’s necks in the event of that happening.