Matthaus links Rodriguez to Juventus and Higuain’s future update

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Lothar Matthaus revealed in an interview to AS Colombia that he believes James Rodriguez will move to Old Lady after chatting with the player: “I met him during the celebration for the last Bayern title and talked about everything, from Colombia to the history of football. I think he will join Juventus: he is very close with Cristiano Ronaldo, they are in touch and the Portuguese would like to bring him to Turin. James is a great assist man and they do brilliant things together.” Rodriguez will leave Bundesliga as the club did not pick the €45M option to buy him, so it will be up to Real Madrid to decide his future. He has often been linked to the Madama in the past, but in recent weeks he appeared way closer to Napoli, which is helmed by his former coach Carlo Ancelotti. He scored 15 times and provided 20 helpers in 67 apperances in the last two years in Germany. Continue reading

Roberto Mancini Puts Italy on the Right Track

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Since being appointed as Italy boss, Roberto Mancini has set Gli Azzurri on the right path, and has guided them to four wins out of four in their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign thus far. 

In their most recent clashes, Italy travelled to Athens to take on Greece, and dispatched their European counterparts within thirty-three minutes, by a score of 3-0.

In their next game against Bosnia, Mancini’s men fell behind early, but mounted a second half comeback to prevail by a score of 2-1. Under Gian Piero Ventura, the side lacked character, and would have likely dropped points in a game like this. With these two wins, Italy now find themselves comfortably in first place, scoring 13 goals, and conceding one in the process. In addition to getting results, this is the best football Italy have played in recent memory, and have demonstrated an identity.

Once again, Mancini was rewarded for sticking with the highly technical midfield of Nicolo Barella, Jorginho, and Marco Verratti, and now has his side well on their way to the upcoming Euros. Together, the trio provide a blend of youth, experience and quality on the ball, and offer the national team some much needed creativity in the final third.

While many initially doubted the midfield’s defensive awareness given their smaller frames, Verratti, Jorginho and Barella have demonstrated they are capable of offering solidity to their back four. Given their similar profiles, Verratti and Jorginho often interchange roles at the base of the midfield, and don’t give their opponents a reference point.

With Barella making late, unmarked, runs into the box, it makes for a truly malleable midfield; something the Azzurri have sorely lacked over the past four years. The Cagliari captain’s drive has been rewarded, and already has two goals on the qualifying campaign.

Much like it’s the case in the midfield, Mancini has not shied away from taking risks with his front three. Since his appointment, the former Inter tactician has called up a number of up and coming talents, including the likes of Moise Kean and Federico Chiesa among others.

In the past, Ventura was afraid to take risks, and typically stuck with Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti up front, despite their struggles. When both strikers were misfiring, Italy did not have a plan B, and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. Rather than having set starters, like his predecessor, Mancini has mixed and matched at will, and has used a plethora of forwards across the front line. This keeps the Italian forwards on their toes, and ensures no one gets complacent. Moreover, if Italy are struggling in the final third, Mancini is able to turn to different solutions.

One player that has benefitted immensely from Mancini’s reign has been Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne. The diminutive forward was reduced to a bit-part role under Ventura, and largely struggled to make an impact on the pitch when called upon. Under Mancini, Insigne has established himself as a crucial player, and has scored two goals in his last two games. In addition, his assist to Verratti against Bosnia helped Gli Azzurri seal all three points.

On the defensive end, on the other hand, Mancini has decided to maintain the status quo and has typically gone with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. However, the Italian tactician has tinkered with his fullbacks, alternating between Leonardo Spinazzola, Emerson and Gianluca Mancini. While Mancini is a centre-back, he offers the Azzurri tactical flexibility from the right-hand side of defence, and often drops as a third centre-back when in possession. With the Atalanta man dropping centrally, it allows the left-back to get forward and overload with his winger.

While it’s still early days for Gli Azzurri, the future looks bright under Roberto Mancini. Using a blend of experience, and youth, the Italian tactician has demonstrated character both in his selections, and tactical setups. With no one’s place in the team secured, Italy have – for the first time in a while – shown hunger, and a desire to return to the top.

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Bernardeschi endorses Sarri

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Federico Bernardeschi spoke to the journalists from the Italy headquarters in Coverciano and weighed in on the coaching search: “We have excellent officials at the club, so whoever will be chosen will be up to the task and will bring something more for each player. In my mind Maurizio Sarri is a worthy candidate, but I have no idea whether he will be our new manager.”

In a past interview the current Chelsea trainer showered Bernardeschi with praise, calling him a superstar in the making and one of the best Italian talents next to Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 38

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Juventus ended the season with a loss against Sampdoria following yet another subpar perfomance where the lack of motivation played a big factor. The Bianconeri therefore finish the 2018/2019 campaign with 90 points, four losses, all on the road and two of them in the last month, an 11-point gap over the second-placed team Napoli, the best statistical defence (30 goals allowed) and the third most prolific attack (behind the Partenopei and Atalanta).

Mattia De Sciglio: nobody really impressed in the back-line, or in the whole squad to be really honest, but at least the ex-Milan fullback was not among those duped by Gregoire Defrel on the first Blucerchiato goal and added a pair of decent forays on offense that led to semi-dangerous situations. Martin Caceres had a similar showing on the other flank minus the okay contribution on the other end. Continue reading

Matuidi supports Allegri and Marchisio weighs in on Dybala

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Blaise Matuidi was interviewed by Tuttosport and gave his vote of confidence to Massimiliano Allegri: “He has done a great job here and I hope he will stay. He has shown tremendous abilities and he is an excellent coach.”

On the Atalanta game: “We want to have a good performance at home in order to finish well and celebrate the title in front of our fans.”

On his future: “I am fine at Juventus, I do not have any issues. I will 100 percent stay here, then Mino Raiola will think about the contract extension. He knows about that stuff more than anybody else.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 36

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Atalanta-Genoa: the Bergamaschi keep soaring and bested Lazio in a seminal clash last week, garnering their third win a row and building a little lead over Roma in the race to get the fourth position. They have not been defeated since the beginning of March. The Griffon is coming off two 1-1 ties in a row, versus SPAL and Roma, squandering a massive late opportunity on Sunday. They are four points above the third-to-last position. Suspensions are piling up for Gian Piero Gasperini and he will not be able to count on two defensive centre-pieces, Gianluca Mancini and Andrea Masiello, and more importantly on Alejandro Gomez, which will also not allow him to rotate the squad much ahead of next week’s cup final. Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata will take on an even larger load than usual: the Slovenian genius has been slowed down by some nagging injuries, while the Colombian powerhouse continues to lay hurt on opponents. Continue reading

Kean recounts his story

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Moise Kean talked about his upbringing in a video for the Player’s Tribune: “I have suffered when I have a kid, it was not easy, I did not have an ordinary childhood like the other children. Sometimes I think about it and feel I have been lucky to have all of this today. I thank God every day.”

“My first memory with a ball is at the Asti’s oratory. We were hosting tournaments on an asphalt pitch, where you get hurt if you fall down. The games were intense and every player had to play 10 euros to enter. One day I was so desperate that I stole the ball from the priest: his drawer was always open. Continue reading

Allegri previews the Derby della Mole

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Another week, another pre-game presser for Massimiliano Allegri: “Daniele Rugani has been ruled out because of a sore adductor. Martin Caceres is back, Andrea Barzagli is doing better but I will let him rest. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci will start tomorrow, we will not use a three-man defense.”

On his future: “We will meet to plan and talk about this season, what worked and what did not and what we can do ahead of the next one. We have to evaluate how to improve the squad, what our goals will be and what the ideas of the president will be. It is normal, we have talked this morning and the day before yesterday. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 35

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Juventus-Torino: the Bianconeri have no more achievements to pursue in Serie A, but they still showed up at San Siro last week and equalized in the second half after a poor start. They have yet to drop one at home. The Granata continue to be in the hunt not only for a Europa League berth: the fourth spot is four points away. They have defeated Milan and Genoa in their last two contests and have lost just once in the past 14. Cristiano Ronaldo scored last week and Miralem Pjanic has contributed with two assists recently. Federico Bernardeschi and Moise Kean are alternating next to the Portuguese ace, but neither is in supreme form, while Juan Cuadrado is starting to look sprier and Joao Cancelo is coming back on too. Continue reading

Juventus need more than winning an 8th Serie A league title in a row

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Juventus claimed an 8th Serie A title in a row last weekend and it was a fantastic spectacle at their stadium as Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to win league titles in the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A. It was a beautiful moment and the players were genuinely thrilled.

However not to put a dampener on it Juventus had this title in the bag as far as the beginning of the year. Indeed they didn’t even lose a game in Serie A until March and the last few games the team have been letting some of their regular players such as Ronaldo sit out games in order to rest for the Champions League.

And there is that word, the white elephant that was in the stadium in name only- the Champions League. This was supposed to be the season that Juventus won it for the first time since 1996. Ronaldo had been bought specifically to put Juventus on another level, after all he had just won the competition with Real Madrid for three years in a row.

As it turned out Juventus were no match for a very well organised and utterly brilliant Ajax team, who just 12 months before were a shadow of the side we see now. Juventus who looked out of the competition when they faced Atletico Madrid in the quarter finals, losing the first leg 2-0 and winning the 2nd 3-0 reached the semi-finals but could go no further this season.

The joy of winning a title should be celebrated and Juventus have had to work very hard for it, but anyone can see that there was really no challenge. Right now as the league stands Juventus have a 20 point lead over 2nd placed Napoli a 31 point lead over 4th position of AC Milan and a whopping 73 point lead over bottom team Chievo. However just to note Chievo were deducted 3 points by the Italian Football Federation- what’s a Serie A season without some docking of points?

But that’s the thing, Juventus have been so utterly dominant that this league title doesn’t feel as good or special for example as the title they won in 2012, one that came after the betting scandals of the 2000s saw the team relegated to Serie B. The 2012 league title win felt like a statement, that Juve were back and roaring back at that. This title felt a little hoarse and just par for the course now in Serie A.

That non Champions League trophy is sticking out like a sore thumb. Next season Juventus will go for it again but it may just end up being another player, a new transfer perhaps that helps deliver the title one day to a waiting Juventus as Ronaldo gets a year older, as he chases his sixth title which would equal Francesco Gento’s record for Real Madrid. We will wait and see.