Pioli should change the formation; AC Milan’s ideal XI against Napoli

Even though AC Milan lost against Juventus, falling further down the standings, there is still some light at the end of the tunnel. The Rossoneri put up a good fight against the Bianconeri, who had to rely on a piece of individual brilliance from Dybala off the bench to win the game in the end. 

Of course, in Milan’s situation, a good performance simply isn’t enough to turn their situation around, let alone climb up the standings. However, as the team was able to put arguably the best Italian side in so much trouble, surely they are at least on the right path.  Continue reading

Serie A Round 12 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

With the international break around the corner, most sides are looking to go into it on a positive note. Inter take on a resolute Hellas Verona while Juventus will host a struggling Milan on Sunday. Napoli, a side in revolt against their upper management, will be taking on a Genoa side who have improved from week-to-week under Thiago Motta. Otherwise, the capital sides are in action as Roma take on Parma and Lazio will look to overcome Lecce.

With match-day 12 upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Gianluigi Donnarumma (GK, Milan, Value 12.44) – The Milan goalkeeper has struggled in recent times and has let in a few goals he’d be hoping to have back. Given the uncertainty in front of him, Donnarumma is often left vulnerable by his defence and will continue conceding goals. Despite this, he knows he’ll have to be better, especially with league leaders Juventus coming up this weekend.

For the time being, swap the Italian international out of your side in favour of a low-cost option. At least until the Milan man hits top form again.

Lorenzo Insigne (ATT, Napoli, Value 17.25) – Being referred to as the leader of the ongoing mutiny at Napoli, Lorenzo Insigne has been far from his best this season. With the side refusing to go into a ritiro against the club’s orders, expect Insigne’s play to suffer as a result. That’s if he plays, of course.

Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti may be looking to make a statement and bench his captain given recent events. Given Arkadiusz Milik’s good form, expect Insigne to register limited minutes for the next few weeks as the situation unfolds further.

Fabian Ruiz (MID, Napoli, Value 14.44) – The Napoli midfielder was expected to take the next step in his career this season, but has struggled with consistency. This season, the partenopei have often lacked balance in the midfield and have left their rearguard exposed due to the lack of a real number six. Whether it’s Piotr Zielinski or Allan alongside Ruiz, it seems they’re an awkward fit and could use a more robust presence.

Despite this, Ruiz has impressed in the final third but can’t convert his positive play into end-product. Currently, he has one goal and two assists and let’s face it, Napoli have come to expect way more from the Spaniard international. Given the ongoing revolution at Napoli, it would be wise to swap Fabian out of your sides, at least until they steady the ship.

Cristiano Ronaldo (ATT, Juventus, Value 18.86) – The Juventus superstar has looked a shade of his former self over the course of the last month and is likely playing with a knock. Uninvolved in the build-up play and one step off in the final third, Ronaldo has had a rough start to the season and has struggled to find the back of the net with regularity. The former Real Madrid man was subbed out against Lokomotiv Moscow most recently indicating he may be injured.

With a clash against Milan on the horizon, Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri may opt to rest Ronaldo in favour of the in-form Gonzalo Higuain. Considering Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa have both looked dangerous in possession together recently, it’s very possible they all start.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (MID, Lazio, Value 17.25) – Following his breakout season, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has disappointed and has failed to reach his former heights. The Serbian international arguably needs a change of scenery for newfound motivation, but the fact remains that the Lazio man isn’t dictated proceedings as much as he would have liked. One goal and three assists in his ten starts highlight his relatively indifferent form.

Given his increased price-tag, it’s time you get ride of Milinkovic-Savic for the foreseeable future.

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Napoli’s season on the brink

Recovering from a massive disappointment is hard enough in life but doing so while you are also trying to make the leap from very good to great, is truly a Herculean task. This is essentially the situation Napoli have found themselves in following Maurizio Sarri’s departure to Chelsea, and while the club has on paper made almost all the right moves, you simply can’t plan your way out of battling issues that are mainly mental.

Despite this challenging situation, I was very tempted to pick Napoli to win the scudetto when the season started. They kept all of their best players, added Kostas Manolas to replace Raul Albiol who had missed most of the previous season, made a big sacrifice to add Hector Lozano to an already stacked front line, acquired one of the most impressive players at a very scarce position on the market with Di Lorenzo and bolstered their bench with impressive Turkish prospect Elmas and veteran striker Llorente.

The assumption was that going into a second year with Ancelotti would give the team an advantage over Juventus who were going through a very significant philosophical change from Allegri’s pragmatic style to the vaunted offensive juggernaut known as Sarriball. But instead Napoli find themselves way behind Inter who now look like Juventus’ main antagonist for the foreseeable future and also trailing Roma, Lazio, Atalanta and incredibly Cagliari who defeated the partenopei at the San Paolo in the match that started their tailspin.

Napoli’s struggles are even more puzzling when you consider how well they operated on the transfer market since losing the scudetto to Juventus in dramatic fashion. While Manolas, Lozano, and Llorente were quite the haul of established players this summer, in recent years president De Laurentiis and sporting director Giuntoli hit grand slam homeruns on Fabian Ruiz and Alex Meret, two players who are now worth considerably more than when they were acquired and are now elite players at their positions league wide.

Even Arkadiusz Milik who arrived to replace Higuain has done his part when he’s been healthy, so it’s hard to fault the team’s philosophy and execution on the transfer market. What has held Napoli back this season are the veterans who have formed the core of the team in recent years- Allan, Koulibaly and Insigne.

Since Arturo Vidal’s departure from Juventus, Allan has held the title of the best box to box midfielder in Serie A (you can make a case for Nainggolan but he hasn’t been as consistent and healthy) but his performances fell off a cliff following his failed transfer to Paris St Germain last January. Napoli demanded a massive return for the Brazilian international since they knew that signing their top choice to replace him, Niccolo’ Barella, would cost a small fortune- in retrospect not selling Allan at right time also hurt Napoli in another way since Barella has been a key player for Inter who have no surpassed Napoli as Juventus’ main antagonist.

A player struggling after participating in the Africa Cup is nothing new since in recent years, we saw Gervinho and Benatia come back from that tournament and be a shell of their usual selves. But Koulibaly has been so outstanding in recent years, that many assumed he would get back on track after a few games under his belt. Except for his brilliant performance against Liverpool, Koulibaly has been a liability for Ancelotti on top of receiving an uncharacteristic two game suspension.

Home town hero Lorenzo Insigne has had his share of issues in 2019. His agent Mino Raiola met with the club multiple times this year to resolve a few disputes mainly centered around playing time. Insigne was sent to the stands for a Champions League match and confirmed in an interview while with the Italian national team, that he has had his share of disagreements with Ancelotti on a few topics but mainly his position on the pitch.

If that weren’t enough drama, De Laurentiis has been essentially publicly negotiating extensions for Callejon and Mertens, two of the best new additions to Serie A this decade. While it’s understandable that Napoli’s president wants to ensure he’ll be paying them for what they can do in the future rather than just reward them for their (considerable) past performances, his stance has created even more tension around the team, while alienating two key players for Ancelotti.

So despite doing all the right things on the transfer market, spending significantly to keep numerous key players, Napoli find themselves as essentially Serie A’s version of the Atlanta Falcons- a team that has never fully recovered from losing the Super Bowl to the Patriots in dramatic. The hangover effect has also been worsened by Napoli’s inability to make the leap from good to great- at this point there’s even a chance Napoli won’t qualify for the next Champions League, a scenario that would have been unimaginable at the start of the season. Ancelotti’s status at the club is now on the brink…

When is the right time to say goodbye? Juventus and Napoli have big decisions to make

The recent transfer window showed us how tricky extensions for veteran players can be for clubs. Even a team like Juventus, who are usually universally praised for the way they handle themselves on the market, found themselves with numerous older players they couldn’t move. The trick is ensuring you aren’t paying someone just to reward them for their past performances, you also have to be sure they’ll be able to perform in the future.

Inter learned this lesson the hard way- following their impressive treble run, president Massimo Moratti decided to keep his nucleus, which was for the most part on the back nine of their careers, even though he had lost the manager that made it all work. This approach is the main reason they found themselves in Financial Fair Play jail for quite some time.

While Juventus didn’t win a treble, they locked up Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira last year to new contracts that left many people puzzled. Once Max Allegri left Mario Mandzukic dropped in the depth chart faster than Apple stock following Steve Jobs’ passing and finding him a new home has been rather challenging. At least Khedira found a new fan in Maurizio Sarri, but having so many older players on big contracts (Higuain, Matuidi are also on the list) put Juventus in such a financial bind that they were doing all they could to make a plusvalenza on Paulo Dybala after previously sacrificing Joao Cancelo and Moise Kean.

Now Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici finds himself at another crossroads with Juan Cuadrado and Blaise Matuidi who have expiring contracts. Both have become surprising full time starters under Maurizio Sarri- Cuadrado has performed so well that there has been no drop off from Joao Cancelo and Matuidi has been constantly praised by his new manager for his tactical intelligence.

Will Paratici be scared off from what happened this summer? He would be hard pressed to find a better right back than Cuadrado on the market, the Colombian’s ability to cover multiple roles is especially valuable to a club competing on multiple fronts like Juventus so at least a one year extension seems reasonable. Matuidi is a bit more complicated since the bianconeri signed two starting caliber midfielders on substantial Bosman deals with Emre Can and Rabiot.

At least Juventus have a decent margin for error when it comes to these decisions because of their enormous revenues. Napoli on the other hand have to continue to be very prudent when it comes to veterans, it’s no surprise that when it comes to adding new players they tend to always go with young players who have the upside to at least bring a plusvalenza down the road with the added benefit that they tend to have lower wages.

De Laurentiis and sporting director Giuntoli are in a very tough spot with Jose’ Callejon and Dries Mertens- two players who have massively outperformed the transfer fees needed to acquire them. Napoli have tried to prepare for life after these two brilliant players- they brought in Simone Verdi last year to see if he could replace Callejon and more recently Lozano to become the new Mertens, but so far this hasn’t worked out.

On paper you have to admire the thought process here- Napoli spent significantly to acquire Verdi and Lozano essentially a year earlier that they were needed to see if they could move on from Callejon and Mertens. Verdi ended up being a significant bust and has also struggled significantly since joining Torino at the very end of the last transfer window, while so far Lozano has been the least brilliant new addition to the team (this is a nice way to say he’s been flat out bad but needs to be given way more time since he just arrived in Serie A).

De Laurentiis wasn’t afraid to take the negotiations with Mertens and Callejon to the public sphere recently by stating that if “Mertens and Callejon won’t to go live a shitty life in China” to essentially get paid it wasn’t his problem. While that wasn’t exactly diplomatic, especially when you consider how much Mertens has embraced the Neapolitan life style to the point of earning the “Ciro” nickname”, he also isn’t exactly wrong, but because he has such a small margin for error with this decision he has to use the tools at his disposal.

Everyone loves beginnings- hope always springs eternal, when a new addition arrives, fans tend to focus on all the positives they can bring to the table- but once you’ve had a player for awhile, deciding to continue to the relationship can have far reaching consequences. Napoli and Juventus are now on the clock…

Serie A Round 8 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

The international break came and went and gave us fantacalcio managers some much-need time to step away from our teams and evaluate where it’s all gone wrong…or right! However, don’t get too comfortable as the next game-week is already upon us. Lazio will be hosting Atalanta in what promises to be an exciting clash, while Stefano Sensi returns to Sassuolo with Inter. Otherwise, Juventus take on a fiery Bologna side at the Allianz Stadium.

With match-day eight upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Allan (MID, Napoli, Value 13.9) – The Napoli midfielder has struggled for consistency this season and looks set for a period on the sidelines. Considering Eljif Elmas’ and Fabian Ruiz’ good form, expect the Brazilian to be rotated out of the eleven. While Allan is important for what he does off the ball for the partenopei, it doesn’t benefit you in Fantasy Serie A. The 28-year-old is also a yellow card risk costing you points and has already picked up two cautions on the season.

At 13.9 million euros, look elsewhere for your midfield.

Fabio Quagliarella (ATT, Sampdoria, Value 17.7) – Sampdoria are currently a club in disarray and sit in last place in the standings. Having just fired Eusebio Di Francesco, it will take some time for Claudio Ranieri to get the blucerchiati firing on all cylinders again. After the international break, Sampdoria host Paulo Fonseca’s Roma, in what promises to be yet another difficult clash for them. Fabio Quagliarella has struggled as a result of the chaos in Genoa and has only found the back of the net once this season, albeit in a 4-1 loss against Sassuolo. Much like it was the case last season, it was from the spot.

Given Sampdoria’s recent issues and Quagliarella’s inefficiency in front of goal, it would be wise to temporarily swap the 36-year-old out of your elevens. At least until Ranieri steadies the ship.

Cristian Zapata (DEF, Genoa, Value 17.7) – After a positive start to the season, the defender has struggled for form and has seen his Genoa side slide down the table to 19th. In addition to not getting the results, I Grifoni’s defence has looked porous, conceding goals at will. If that weren’t enough to drop him from your side, Zapata is an aggressive defender and is unafraid to slide into a tackle. Currently, the 33-year-old is on three yellow cards, costing your crucial fantasy points in the process.

At 17.7 million euros, it’s time you bid adieu to Zapata and remove him from your eleven once and for all. It doesn’t look like things are getting any better in Genoa anytime soon.

Duvan Zapata (ATT, Atalanta, Value 26.8) - Let’s get something straight. Zapata has been in sensational form this season and would never have made this list if it wasn’t for his recent injury while on international duty. He’s currently among the top fantacalcio point earners alongside Ciro Immobile and has picked up from where he left off last season.

However, his recent injury will reportedly sideline him for a minimum of three weeks. Given Atalanta’s wide array of attacking options, they have no pressure to force him back into action anytime before that. As a result of this in addition to his inflated price-tag, it would be wise to move him out of your roster for the next three game-weeks at least.

Christian Kouamé (ATT, Genoa, Value 24.5) – Yet another player from the Genovese clubs makes this list as Kouamé has struggled for form in recent weeks. After a positive start to the season that saw him notch three goals, the attacker has tailed off and has been inefficient in the eighteen-yard box. Much like Sampdoria, Genoa are currently a club in disarray, who’s manager’s future is in danger. Given the uncertainty surrounding the club, expect Kouamé’s goalscoring woes to continue.

At 24.5 million euros, it’s time to move on from the talented young man.

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Which Serie A team has the most margin for improvement this season?

The second international break of the season is a good opportunity for Serie A teams to take stock of their strengths and weaknesses. Both Milan and Sampdoria went beyond a self appraisal and decided to use the two week window with no games as an opportunity to make a coaching change, but for the rest this break is the ideal time to find ways to improve.

With that in mind, which top Serie A teams have the most margins for improvement? let’s rank them

 

 

Atalanta 

While many, including yours truly, genuinely believed there would be some regression after a stellar season that saw most of their top players perform at the highest level of their careers, Atalanta have been just as devastating in Serie A where they find themselves in third place and with the second highest goal differential in the league.

But unlike the other teams listed in this article, there isn’t much margin for improvement. Duvan Zapata will be out for three weeks following an injury during the international break, the defense has performed better than expected with Kjaer seamlessly replacing Mancini and goalkeeper Gollini earning a selection to the Italian national team. Atalanta will however now be able to play their home matches in Bergamo again after their curva was rebuilt and new addition Malinovski can continue to improve while Ilicic has yet to be as consistently brilliant as last season. Atalanta will have to continue to prove they aren’t a fluke rather than looking for ways to get better.

 

Inter

 

The nerazzurri won their first six Serie A matches of the season before losing to Juventus in a close match at San Siro. They have the best goal differential in the league with plus 10, have received some strong contributions from almost all their new additions especially Godin, Barella and Sensi while Handanovic, De Vrij and Brozovic continue to be some of the best players at their respective position in all of Serie A.

While the nerazzurri have performed at almost their peak level in the domestic league, there’s still some margin for improvement once Romelu Lukaku develops more chemistry with Lautaro Martinez. With D’Ambrosio’s recent injury we’ll also likely see Valentino Lazaro make his debut- the Austrian international has the potential to be an upgrade from what we’ve seen from Candreva to so far this season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lazio 

 

No top Serie A team went through less changes than the biancocelesti who brought back manager Simone Inzaghi as well we as all of their core players. With that in mind, they have fallen short of expectations since they are in sixth place because they are unable to consistently win the matches in which they are the favorites.

Luis Alberto, Milinkovic Savic, Acerbi and especially Immobile have performed at their top level which doesn’t leave much room for growth beyond hoping new center back Vavro and wingback Lazzari can become the impactful additions they were expected to become. Lazzari had gotten off to a strong start but then struggled enough to lose playing time to Marusic.

 

Roma

The giallorossi are one of the most exciting team to watch in Serie A because of their free flowing offense and their leaky backline. Roma should be a bit concerned with the fact Dzeko and Kolarov have been their two best players, but they can also point to some significant margins for improvement once Pellegrini, Under and Mkhitaryan return from their injuries and once Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling can get more reps playing together.

 

 

Juventus 

 

Right before the international break, Inter were reminded of the saying “if you want to be the champ, you have to beat the champ”. Juventus displayed their depth and ruthlessness at San Siro in the final Serie A match and reminded the rest of the league why they’ve won the last eight scudetti.

If that wasn’t frightening enough, the bianconeri have considerable margins for improvement- Sarri now has more time to implement his ideas and because of the depth of his squad, he can alternate between two formations. Douglas Costa is returning from an injury, Dybala has started to develop better chemistry with Cristiano Ronaldo, and speaking of the Portuguese striker, it’s only a matter of time until he goes on a scoring streak.

If that weren’t enough De Ligt can be considerably better than what he’s shown so far, Rabiot could eventually replace Matuidi and Chiellini will be back for the stretch run of the season.

 

Milan 

 

The rossoneri are three points away from relegation zone and four behind Napoli for the last Champions League spot so they have some clear margins for improvements while also having hope they can completely turn their season around. Their new manager Pioli has been in a similar situation when he took over at Inter a few years ago and it’s hard to imagine Paqueta’ and Piatek not turning things around in a new system.

Look for Pioli to get the most out of new additions Leao, Hernandez, Bennacer and Rebic while Caldara could be an upgrade over Musacchio as Romagnoli’s partner. A healthy Bonaventura would also feel like what Galliani would describe “as like a new addition”.

 

Napoli 

 

While the partenopei are in nowhere near as dire a situation as Milan, they have the most margin for improvement of any top team. Koulibaly has really struggled since missing the pre season because of the Africa Cup, Milik will finally be fully fit for the first time this season after rehabbing from a painful injury, while both Manolas and Lozano have yet to perform at the level expected from two of the most expensive additions in the club’s history. Ancelotti’s squad could also receive a significant boost from a return to form for Lorenzo Insigne and Faouzi Ghoulam.

 

What to Watch For: Torino vs Napoli

Round 7 of the still young 2019/20 Serie A season is highlighted by the Derby d’Italia between first place Inter and reigning 8-time champions Juventus for what has already been confirmed to be a record-setting gate attraction for the affair, generating €6,5 million.

However, there are plenty of intriguing matches taking place elsewhere across the continent, including Turin where Walter Mazzarri’s Torino will host Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli.

Here are five things to watch for on Sunday. Continue reading

Serie A Round 7 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

Match-day six came and went as Antonio Conte’s Inter maintained their perfect record dispatching last-place Sampdoria 3-1 with a man down. Similarly, Juventus overcame SPAL with ease, as Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the score-sheet.

Otherwise, Napoli returned to winning ways against Mario Balotelli’s Brescia after stumbling in mid-week to Cagliari. Top four contenders Atalanta, Roma and Lazio all picked up wins while Milan’s poor form continued in their 3-1 defeat against Fiorentina.

With match-day seven upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 Krzysztof Piątek (ATT, Milan, Value 20.9) – The Polish international and this column have been a match made in heaven this season. Since Marco Giampaolo has assumed the reigns at Milanello, Piątek has looked a shade of his former self and has lost his lethal touch in the box. As the former Genoa man’s woes in front of goal continue, don’t be surprised if Giampaolo opts for the in-form Rafa Leao this week.

At 20.9 million euros, it’s time to move away from the Milan striker and bring in a more prolific figure in your fantacalcio sides. One-season wonder?

Domenico Criscito (DEF, Genoa, Value 22.3) – Since Genoa’s win against Fiorentina at the beginning of September, it’s been a bumpy ride for the Grifoni. Genoa are currently winless in their last three, succumbing to Serie B side Virtus Entella in a club friendly. Moreover, they’ve conceded a staggering seven goals in these clashes, four of which coming in their most recent drubbing against Lazio.

While Criscito hasn’t exactly played poor in these games, Genoa’s porous defence means it’s worth shifting away from the former Juventus defender – especially at 22.4 million.

Andrea Petagna (ATT, SPAL, Value 25.3) – The 24-year-old started the season positively scoring two goals and registering one assist in his first three games, but has since slowed down. In addition to his own profligacy in front of goal, SPAL aren’t in the best form either and have struggled to create chances in the final third. 

In fact, Leonardo Semplici’s men have now picked up three defeats on the bounce, including a 3-1 loss to fellow relegation candidates Lecce. In their most recent defeat against Serie A champions Juventus, Petagna looked out of sorts and isolated on his own up top. As a result, it’s worth using your free transfer and temporarily swapping him out of your eleven for the time being. If his fortunes don’t change soon, consider making the switch permanent.

Arkadiusz Milik (ATT, Napoli, Value 4.5) – Continuing with the theme of out-of-form strikers, Napoli’s Milik is another player you just drop from your fantacalcio sides for the time being. Currently, the Polish international cannot buy a goal, as illustrated in the partenopei’s most recent stalemate in their Champions League clash against Genk.

In his three appearances this season, Milik is yet to find the back of the net and has regularly looked out of sorts spearheading Napoli’s attack. With Dries Mertens, Hirving Lozano and Fernando Llorente as options up front, expect Milik’s playing time to be further reduced moving forward. And we haven’t even mentioned Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne yet. For now, even 4.5 million is too much for the Napoli hitman.

Riccardo Orsolini (MID, Bologna, Value 21.9) – The Bologna winger started the season with a lot of promise, putting in man-of-the-match performances against both SPAL and Brescia. His goal and two early assists indicated that Orsolini introduced end-product to his game and was ready to take the next step in his career. However, in Bologna’s last three games, the 22-year-old has struggled for consistency and is yet to register a goal contribution.

In fact, Bologna have been shut out in their last two games, dropping points against Genoa and Udinese – two sides that will arguably be fighting relegation this season. At 21.9 million, you’d be wise to move Orsolini out of your elevens until he returns to form.

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Napoli Player Ratings vs Cagliari

The Round 5’s biggest upset arrived in Naples Wednesday evening as substitute veteran Lucas Castro’s header in the 87th minute dealt Napoli a gutwrenching 1-0 defeat.

Spoiling far too much of their chances in the opposition‘s third, this one showed shades of the 2018/19 season for the Scudetto contenders as they too often struggled to pull ahead and put this one to bed. Throw in the fact both Juventus and Inter managed to come out with wins despite the quick turnaround in the schedule and this one will certainly leave a sour taste in Napoli’s mouth as they head into the next phase of the campaign.

Here are the player ratings for Carlo Ancelotti’s men in the defeat. Continue reading

Liverpool and Chelsea are shot down in Champions League openers

The Champions League is back and the premier competition in European football wasn’t without its surprises.

First Liverpool, and the current European champions were beaten 2-0 by Italians Napoli, signalling a poor start from Jurgen Klopp’s team in their title defence. The biggest worry for Klopp will be that his side always looked second best and credit to Napoli who played brillantly and made the unstoppable looking Reds side look very normal in this competition.

Still write Liverpool off at your peril, everyone knows how strong they are at Anfield and with the likes of Red Bull Salzburg and Genk in their group they should be more than fine. However notice needs to be given to Salzburg who smashed Genk 6-2. They had scored five of those goals in the first half. Also Napoli do not travel historically well and so this group is still obtainable for Liverpool.

The more disappointing result of the night for English teams would have been Chelsea, who at Stamford Bridge, lost 1-0 to Valencia. In years gone by this type of fixture would have been won a canter for the Blues, and problems still persist with the club with Frank Lampard in charge. They are playing some good football of course but not getting the results desired.

Chelsea could face an uphill struggle now with the likes of Ajax and Lille also in their group. Ajax who so impressed last season beat Lille 3-0 even though they have lost the core of what made them a great side, it is clear that their objectives will be to at least get to the knockout rounds.

Barcelona drew against Borussia Dortmund with the final score ending 0-0, but Barca will be more than happy with that at a very difficult ground. This is multiplied when we consider that ter Stegen saved a penalty from Dortmund and that Lionel Messi finally returned this season. The Argentine came off the bench in the 2nd half and Barcelona will be very happy about this development with La Liga looming at the weekend.

Inter Milan were very lucky to draw 1-1 with Slavia Prague. A last minute injury time goal by Nicolo Barella sealed a point at San Siro, a defeat would have been a big shock for the Italians.

Whilst it is just the first games of the competition there is a feeling that this edition could be wide open. Could a non big traditional team win it? The last one to do so was arguably Porto in 2004, still one has to remember that they one of the biggest teams in Portugal and had won the competition before in 1987. Another club that won it and shocked was Borussia Dortmund back in 1997. Maybe 2020 could see a change from the usual teams getting to the final and winning it?