Brescia’s Massimo Cellino wants Serie A null and void, he has a point but is he right?

Brescia  president Massimo Cellino has spoken out and wants the current Serie A season declared null and void but is he thinking of his clubs own interests or the interests of the league?

Brescia surprise surprise are bottom of Serie A and aren’t just last but rock bottom in the fact that they are 9 points from safety and with 12 games to go only a miracle really would have seen them stay up.

However Cellino believes that Coronavirus goes beyond football and his statement about ending the league which would save Brescia has nothing to do with his team being relegated. Cellino said: “I don’t care at all about relegation so far we have deserved it and I have my blame in that, too.”

Cellino went on to say that the season could descend into chaos and that Brescia may just forfeit games if the season did go ahead in respect of the towns in Italy that have been hit the hardest over the virus which includes the region of Brescia.

Cellino said: “This season doesn’t make sense any more. We’ve stopped no team will return as before, the matches will be behind closed doors, plus there’s a risk to the health of the athletes. For me to go back to business is pure madness. If they force us to play, I’d be willing to not field the team and lose the matches 3-0 out of respect for the citizens of Brescia and their loved ones who are no longer there.”

Cellino continued: “We need to change all the national and international rules players’ contracts, balance sheets, deadlines with the banks, the transfer market, preparation, start of the new season. It will be absolute chaos and for what?”.

At first glance it is easy to dismiss Cellino’s claims that the league season should be cut short and end now. His team are bottom of the league and sure to be relegated. At the same time would he be speaking out if Brescia had stunned Italian football and were in first place or challenging for first or a Champions League finish? Only people very close to him could tell you that answer and because of Brescia’s position, Cellino could talk about ending the season all day long, not many would listen. Now if Maurizio Sarri the Juventus coach asked for the season to end that would be different as they are leading and would be giving up the league title.

But Cellino does raise good and valid points about how football simply isn’t as important as some people may make out when a virus is killing thousands in Europe. Also players contracts, health insurance etc, all come into play. Cellino isn’t completely talking nonsense and making isn’t completely only thinking of self interests, and it wouldn’t be  a surprise if Serie A were to look into his views.

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Five greatest football clubs of the past decade starting 2010

As football understandably lays low for a while let’s take a look at the most successful club sides in Europe’s top leagues over the past decade.

There are different ways of doing so, points gained for example in a league, trophies won, games won, etc. This list will look at the trophies won for the most successful teams starting from 2009/10 season until the 2018/19 season, to determine which team has been the most successful.

You may have a few contenders but may also be surprised by some teams on the list, so is the club you think is the best the number 1 on this list?

Points system: Champions League = 12pts, League title = 10pts, Europa League = 8pts, Cups= 5pts, all other cups =2pts

5th: Juventus 112 pts

After being forcefully relegated in 2006, Juventus have made up for that during the past decade in Serie A winning 8 league titles in what could be described as a total domination. They have added some domestic cups too but they have failed to win the big prize in the shape of the Champions League since 1996. They will be hedging their bets that Ronaldo can finally deliver that missing piece of silverware. Still they are far and away the most successful team in Italy. Even though Inter Milan were the only Italian team to win the Champions League in the 2010s, Inter only finished our ranking with 30 points!

4th: Real Madrid 116 pts

Real Madrid were amazing in the 2010s which included winning an incredible 4 Champions League and winning 3 of those in a row. That had not been achieved since Bayern Munich in the 70s! So it was odd that Madrid sit only in 4th place and only four points above Juventus. The reason is that for all of their European glory they haven’t actuallly won many domestic trophies in the 2010s. True they still scooped up two league titles, but for their standards you take out what they achieved in Europe and you almost get the feeling of could have done better.

3rd: PSG 121 pts

Despite PSG having no wins in Europe they have dominated Ligue 1 in France winning every title since 2012 except one where Monaco surprised them. They have won countless domestic cups after they were bought in the earlier part of the decade and have dominated the league ever since. They also have an abundance of very good players who are genuinely eyeing winning this years Champions League.

2nd: Bayern Munich 140 pts

Bayern did reach 2 Champions League finals and after losing on penalties, at home to Chelsea they made up for it the year after. They have dominated the league title in Germany winning every year except one and scooped up a few domestic cups also. For a club their size they would like to add more European trophies of course but Bayern still come out as the 2nd most successful club in European football of the past decade despite this.

1st: Barcelona 150 pts

Barcelona may have played second fiddle to their rivals Real Madrid in Europe in the 2010s. But they still won 2 Champions Leagues. They also have won 7 La Liga titles which is impressive given how they have had to fend off not just Real but also Atletico Madrid who enjoyed one of their most successful decades in the history of the club. Barca fronted by Lionel Messi one of the greats of the game have been the best team in Europe trophy wise finishing with over double the points of the most successful English team which goes to Manchester City.

Notable mentions: Manchester City 71 pts, Chelsea 68, Manchester United 51, Atletico Madrid 42, Inter Milan 30.

 

 

 

Balotelli Hits out at league: “They Waited for Juventus to Go First.”

Mario Balotelli has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind and most recently, lambasted the league’s indecision regarding the ongoing outbreak of the Coronavirus. Since the outbreak, Supermario was very vocal and wanted the league to suspend the games with immediate effect. Serie A, however, allowed for the Derby d’Italia to be played before eventually suspending the games until April 3; a decision Balotelli rejected wholeheartedly.

In typical fashion, the enigmatic striker took to Instagram live to blast the league claiming they favored Juventus. “They had to wait until Juventus went back on top before stopping the league,” said Balotelli. “In all honesty, I hope Serie A doesn’t start up again until there are no more cases. I got so angry at the start when I urged everyone to stop and people insulted me for it. Maybe now they’ve finally realised the situation,” stated Supermario. 

Before the Derby d’Italia, Juventus found themselves two points behind Lazio in second-place with a game in hand. With their win, Maurizio Sarri’s men leapfrogged Lazio, pulling themselves temporarily in first with twelve games to play. However, one head-to-head clash between the two sides remains before the season comes to a close.

One option that FIGC President Gabriele Gravina put forward to decide key positions if the games couldn’t be played was to go off the current table to discern a winner. In this case, Juventus would be crowned champions with Lazio, Inter, and Atalanta rounding off the remaining Champions League spots.

Otherwise, the other two options would be to assign no winner and void the season or make Italy’s top four compete in playoffs. Simply put, any of the three options have their respective short-comings, leaving someone dissatisfied. In any case, a decision will need to be made sooner rather than later.

Shortly after Balotelli’s controversial comments, Brescia distanced themselves from their striker’s claims, stating his comments do not reflect the club’s position in any way. In an official press release, they said:

“Brescia officially distances themselves from Mario Balotelli and his hypothesis about the league’s potential favoritism. Specifically, on his Instagram live later disseminated on Youtube, Balotelli alluded to the league favoring Juventus for the title. Brescia would like to underline that this opinion is strictly personal and does not in any way reflect the club’s views.” 

In any case, clarity will be provided shortly as a number of factors remain. For one, what will happen to Euro 2020? If the tournament is postponed, there may be a chance that the remaining Serie A fixtures could be played.

As Italy looks to curtail the outbreak of the Coronavirus, let’s make one thing clear – at a time like this, football is secondary. In this sense, Balotelli is not wrong. Whether they void the season or not, it simply doesn’t matter at this delicate time. With the number of reported cases rising every day within Italy, what’s important is curbing the outbreak and then depending on where we are, figure out the rest of the season.

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Andrea Agnelli’s Superleague Represents All That is Wrong With Football

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has come under the fire for recent comments about Gian Piero Gasperini’s high-flying Atalanta, claiming they aren’t worthy representatives for Italy in the Champions Leauge. The Juventus president has regularly been on record in favour of a European superleague and criticized the Champions League’s current format.

In an interview at the FT Business of Football Summit in London, Agnelli said:

“I have great respect for everything that Atalanta are doing, but without international history and thanks to just one great season, they had direct access into the primary European club competition. Is that right or not?”

In case you missed it this season, Atalanta are primed to qualify for Europe’s elite eight having smashed Valencia 4-1 in their opening leg. After a rough opening three games, Atalanta found stability and did well to progress to the round of 16 against all the odds. In addition, Gasperini’s men are currently in fourth place, three points ahead of Roma with a game in hand, indicating last season’s success was far from a one-off.

Factor in that Atalanta are competing with Europe’s elites with a fraction of the budget, their rise becomes all the more impressive. In many ways, that’s what football is all about. It’s about the plucky underdog that defies all odds and finds a way to win. It’s about that team that goes against the grain and hits unprecedented heights when no one expected them to. If Agnelli’s superleague is put into place, these success stories will be fewer and far between if any at all, and would completely eliminate the magic of the sport.

For the last two seasons, Gasperini’s men have outplayed Italy’s traditional giants, pipping them to the final European places. Last season, they finished ahead of Inter, Milan, Roma, and Lazio and deservedly so. Despite this, Agnelli maintains their European qualification should not be guaranteed.

“Then I think of AS Roma, who contributed in recent years to maintaining Italy’s ranking. They had one bad season and are out, with all the consequent damage to them financially.”

If the superleague goes through as Agnelli wishes, it would reward clubs based on history and brand name, rather than results. In essence, the rich would get richer. In a society where elites control most facets of everyday life, football must reject this wholeheartedly and keep a meritocracy in place. Inefficiencies remain with the current system as big spenders are typically rewarded, however, less so than in a superleague, for example. In sports, most of the time, you get what you deserve. If you put in the work, chances are you’ll get rewarded accordingly.

Few clubs, if any, in Italy have innovated like Atalanta and have built a base for long-term success. Gli Orobici play an expansive brand of football, promote a host of youth talents annually and will soon be playing in their own stadium. While they may not be considered as one of Italian football’s pioneers, or one of the Seven Sisters, they shouldn’t be punished either for not being there from day one. A case could even be made that Atalanta are currently the nation’s most progressive side and represent all that is good with Italian football. 

Agnelli’s comments, while they may seem like one man’s opinion, represent a far bigger problem in football that currently exists. Europe’s elite have no regard for their league’s provinciali and will stop at nothing until the current format is blown up for their own benefit. Simply put, they’re in it for themselves. In an era where Europe’s elites have each other’s backs, the rest of Italy and the world, must do the same. Otherwise, we’ll be seeing the same 16 teams, if not fewer, every year fight for Europe’s crown. And where’s the fun in that?

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Coronavirus Outbreak Nullifies Home-Field Advantage

The 237th instalment of the Derby d’Italia will be a defining moment in the season for both sides. On one hand, Inter desperately needs the three points to maintain the pace with Lazio and Juve at the top, while the bianconeri, by contrast, would like to keep Antonio Conte’s men at arm’s length. After all, a win against their fierce rivals would extend their lead to nine over the nerazzurri, with just one game in hand. With Lazio in fine form, three points are of paramount importance for Sarri’s men ahead of their crucial Champions League return leg against Lyon.

The game was initially set to be played last week in Turin, in front of their usual 40,000 spectators. With former Juventus captain Antonio Conte returning as an opponent for the first time since switching allegiances, the Allianz Stadium promised to be hostile. Many fans have even petitioned for Conte’s star to be removed at the Allianz Stadium after he joined Inter.

However, with the coronavirus spreading across the nation, the Italian Government ruled that all sporting events until April 3 would need to be played behind closed doors. As a result, Conte and Marotta will have to wait until next season to receive their “warm” welcomes.

While the game promises to be an evenly-matched tilt, the ruling puts Inter at a slight advantage. For one, the deafening home crowd won’t be present to distract them and they’ll be able to lock in like never before. On the other hand, Conte excels at motivating his men for one-off battles as we have seen throughout his young managerial career and will benefit from the relatively quiet, empty stadium. There may not be fans present, but one thing’s for sure: Conte’s voice will be heard, whereas Sarri is far more observant on the touchline.

In a game like this, Conte gets the advantage and will likely be motivating his men full throttle. With everything on the line tomorrow, expect Inter to come out firing from all cylinders. The stadium ban is an unprecedented situation that nullifies Juve’s home advantage, and Inter will be looking to fully capitalize on it.

For Sarri, the challenge is unique. After seeing his side underperform after the new year, Juve have fallen behind in the title race for the first time. Simply put, a reaction is needed or they may be in for a rough finish to the end of the season. Juve may have the game in hand on Lazio, but the biancocelesti have been in sensational form and have shown no signs of stopping. In many ways, they’ve been the best side in Italy this past season. Anything but a win against Inter and Juventus will find themselves in second place by tomorrow night; a worrying prospect indeed.

With Inzaghi’s men focusing solely on the league, it will be quite the uphill battle to climb if they fall behind, especially with no fans to support them. Factor in Juventus’ narrow deficit in the Champions League and the bianconeri’s minds may just be on their European exploits.

On the bright side, the last week has allowed Sarri’s men to regain energy and rest ahead of a crucial stretch. Due to injuries and a lack of depth in key areas, a majority of Juventus’ squad needed this.

No matter which way you put it, tomorrow’s derby d’Italia will be an awkward affair. The contrast of having massive title implications but no fans present make it so, there’s no way around it. While Sarri will be eager to prove he’s the right man for the job after coming under fire, Conte and his men are more than happy to play spoiler and throw their name in the hat for the Scudetto. For now, it’s advantage Conte.

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What does the Serie A fixture chaos mean for Lazio?

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The worst, it seems, is over.

After a maddening week of indecision, bickering and downright incompetence from Italy’s football authorities, some answers have finally been delivered as to how Serie A will deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The Italian government have issued a decree confirming that all sporting events in the country are to be played behind closed doors until 3 April.

Up until this point, Lazio’s superb season has been unaffected by the public health crisis.

But after a week of contradicting statements and last-minute U-turns, now is the time to answer some of the key questions surrounding the new reality in Italian football. Continue reading

Juventus vs. AC Milan: Team news, stats and prediction – Coppa Italia

As a result of the postponement of this past weekend’s Serie A games, AC Milan and Juventus will most likely have a bit more energy in their legs, taking on each other in the Coppa Italia semi-final return leg. Considering what is at stake, it should be a very interesting game to watch. 

The first game between the two ended 1-1, as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late equaliser for the Bianconeri at the San Siro. Quite surprisingly, the Rossoneri were on top for most of the game and really deserved more than a draw, but the away side’s perseverance punished them at the end.  Continue reading

Three Things to Watch in the Derby d’Italia

With the Derby d’Italia coming up, albeit behind closed doors, the implications couldn’t be bigger. With a win, Inter pull themselves within three of Juve with a game in hand on the Italian champions. A loss for the nerazzurri, however, could spell the end of their title challenge. Juventus, by contrast, will be looking to bounce back after a tough defeat against Lyon and will be keen on keeping Lazio at a distance.

The biancocelesti are in fine form and are currently just one point behind Juventus. Without further ado, here are three things to look out for in the latest iteration of the Derby d’Italia.

1) Where is Christian Eriksen?

Since joining Inter, Eriksen has been eased into Conte’s set-up and often comes on as a super-sub. Against Milan, the former Tottenham man started on the bench and impacted the proceedings from a more advanced role in the second half. Considering Conte’s rigid 3-5-2 formation, it will be interesting to see if the veteran tactician deploys Eriksen from the start against Juve.

While he has used him in the hole behind Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, Conte is not exactly a risk-taker and typically opts for defensive solidity. Against Juventus, expect Eriksen to play a crucial role, however, it remains to be seen whether it’s off the bench or from the start. As the season wears on, the Danish international will see his influence on the side slowly increase, but hopefully for Inter, it won’t be too late.

For now, Eriksen’s progression is definitely something to keep an eye on.

2) Juventus’ midfield dilemma continues. 

You could have written this section three years ago and it still would have been true. Since Pogba and Vidal left Juve, their midfield has not been the same, an issue the bianconeri are yet to address. Beyond bosman signings, reinforcements in the middle of the park have been few and far between, something which has come to haunt Juventus today.

We’re going into match-day 26 and it still seems Sarri is unsure of his best midfield trio. Does it include Ramsey and Rabiot? Is Pjanic the bianconeri’s best option at regista or is it Rodrigo Bentancur? Questions that as of right now have no answers, which is deeply concerning. After fielding Rabiot and Bentancur alongside Pjanic in mid-week, expect Sarri to shuffle his deck once more in hopes of finally establishing his preferred midfield.

The Derby d’Italia is as good an opportunity as any for a midfielder to stake a claim for a starting role and Sarri will be hoping the enormity of the game will spur on his uninspired midfield. Until now, they’ve been lackluster and that needs to change.

3) Will the lack of fans impact the game? 

After the Coronavirus spread to Italy, it was announced that most games in Northern Italy will be played behind closed doors. While the logic makes sense and avoids further pandemic, it will undoubtedly be odd in this clash. The whole season has been building up to this Derby d’Italia and now the fans won’t even be able to be there.

Fans play a crucial role at establishing atmosphere in a stadium and spurring their team onto victory. Without them at the Allianz Stadium, it will be interesting to see just how the game will be affected. Will it still feel like a title race? Does it give Inter the advantage or will the calm give Juve the upper hand?

While it will definitely be strange to see an empty Derby d’Italia, the game itself promises to be an enthralling affair between two of Italy’s best sides. Lazio will be looking on eagerly.

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Lyon Defeats Highlights Juventus’ Woes in Plain Sight

While yesterday’s narrow defeat still gives Juventus a decent shot at progressing, the bianconeri’s lacklustre performance was vastly concerning and brought to light the side’s major issues. After the hosts scored an early goal, Lyon opted to defend in a deep, compact block and did so expertly. The French side conceded very little and emerged victorious keeping a clean sheet.

This season, Juventus have encountered a number of issues breaking down sides defending in their own penalty area and struggled to create anything of note last night. In fact, it took over eighty minutes for the Italian champions to register their first shot on target. Sarri’s men may still progress to the next round, but if last night highlighted anything, it’s that this Juventus side is NOT built to go toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite.

For one, Juventus’ defence lacks depth out wide. After selling Leonardo Spinazzola and loaning out his replacement Luca Pellegrini, Alex Sandro is the only senior left-back on the roster. Since last season, the Brazilian’s form has declined and offers close to nothing in the final third. Last night, Sandro looked gassed and struggled to beat his man.

On the opposing wing, Danilo did not fare much better. After pushing Cuadrado forward in his natural position, Sarri turned to Danilo for the right-back position. Since joining from Manchester City, the former Real Madrid man has regularly been sidelined and has struggled for form.

When he’s not injured, Danilo represents Juventus’ biggest liability, either at the back or in the final third. Last season, the now-departed Joao Cancelo made the right-back role his own and was arguably the side’s best performer in the first half of the season. Even if they progress past Lyon, Juventus’ questionable depth and options at full-back will come back to haunt them.

Beyond their stuttering fullbacks, Juventus’ biggest problem lies in the midfield. Miralem Pjanic is on the steep decline and hasn’t looked like himself for years while new recruit Adrien Rabiot is typically a passenger in the midfield when given the nod. Outside of Bentancur, Juventus’ midfield lacks drive and incision in the final third and often plays on the peripheries of games. Last night was no different.

Aaron Ramsey, Juventus’ other midfield recruit, is yet to establish himself as a set-starter but is slowly improving. After a top-notch performance on the weekend, the Welshman was inexplicably left out of the eleven by Sarri, leaving Juventus with three extremely similar midfielders on the pitch. If the bianconeri are to have a shot at progressing past Lyon and making a deep European run, Ramsey will need to be at the heart of it. The former Arsenal man is one of the side’s only midfielders that makes runs into the box, opening space for his teammates. Without him on the pitch, opposing sides are happy to drop off, conceding possession outside their penalty area.

The reality is, however, whatever setup Sarri goes with will have its own flaws. The side is poorly constructed and lacks pieces in key areas. If the tactician fields Dybala with Higuain and Ronaldo, Juve will lack balance and offensive options off the bench. If Sarri goes with the 4-3-3, it alienates the bianconeri’s best player Paulo Dybala and shoehorns him into a wide role. If he goes with the 4-3-1-2, he doesn’t have an out-and-out trequartista to make it work. He tried with Douglas Costa and Bernardeschi, and had no success. All this with one decent fullback.

While Ronaldo may very well put the team on his back like he did last year against Atletico Madrid, Juventus’ issues are there for everyone to see and Lyon know the tie is there for the taking. Their full-backs are sub-par, their midfield is anonymous and their roster, as a whole, is unbalanced.

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Champions League: Lyon vs Juventus Preview

Champions League resumes on Wednesday, so Juventus will be back in the competition where they had the most success in so far, as they cruised during the group stage. If it was not for a late two-goal comeback by Atletico Madrid back in the first game, they would have prevailed in each of the six matches in the group stage.

Finishing in first position allowed them to land a fairly cosy match-up with Lyon in the round of 16, an opponent they have familiarity with, since they have faced them four times in recent years, winning in three occasions. The French club is also not having a particular great season as they are in 7th position in Ligue 1 and do not boast a particularly good record at home. Continue reading