Lazio enter the new year with a spring in their step, having rediscovered a winning formula and returned to the top four in time for bells.
But before they return to competitive action with the visit of Novara in the Coppa Italia on Saturday, here are some suggested resolutions that would make the year ahead a memorable one for Simone Inzaghi and his players.
Reach the Champions League
The undisputed No.1 target for the club is to achieve the goal that so agonisingly eluded them on the final day of the 2017/18 season: qualify for the Champions League. It has been 11 years now since the club’s fans have been able to hear the famous anthem ring around the Stadio Olimpico in the group stage, with some near misses coming in the interim period. Continue reading →
Genoa’s breakthrough star Krzysztof Piątek, and his 13-goal scoring outburst, have unequivocally earned much of the attention around the Marassi this 2018-19 Serie A season; trailing only Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo (14) on goals will have such an effect. However, lost in all the fanfare and rumours surrounding the 23-year old’s white-hot start to life in Italy with the Rossoblu is his strike partner who, although does not rival his production, is the one generating the most buzz here in early 2019.
La Liga side Sevilla are considering a shock bid for Manchester United defender Eric Bailly, as Pablo Machin looks to strengthen his back line during the January transfer window.
Ivory Coast international Bailly is reported to be unhappy at the recent departure of Jose Mourinho from the club, and is considering his future in England, after starting just one game under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
According to Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo, Bailly is open to a return to Spain – where he enjoyed spells at Espanyol between 2014-15 and Villarreal between 2015-16 – before making the move to Old Trafford.
This has been a crazy, unpredictable La Liga season but as we head into Christmas the table is finally starting to take shape. Barcelona lead the way and both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are, as predicted, in the top four shake-up.
However, after 16 rounds of matches it is Sevilla who sit in second place while city rivals Real Betis have risen to fifth. Both clubs will be playing knockout European football this season. Indeed, of all the 80 teams across the Champions League and Europa League group stages, none scored as many as Sevilla (18) while none conceded fewer than Betis (2). Continue reading →
What a season it has been so far in the Spanish La Liga title race. Instead of, as in recent seasons Barcelona or Real Madrid taking off and not being seen for dust, both teams have had their struggles in recent weeks and the league remains wide open as we approach December- when is the last time we could say that?
Indeed take away Atletico Madrid’s superb title win in 2014 and there hasn’t been a different winner of the league apart from Barca and Real since the 2003-04 season when Valencia won it. What is also interesting is since then Barcelona has only failed to finish in the top 2 places in one season. In the last 14 years, 11 have finished with either Barca or Real Madrid taking the first two spots.
Of course the quality of football has been superb- even spellbinding at times and no one can argue against that. But for competitive games the Spanish league sure has come up short and we have been left with the same old song and dance of the majority of teams not just being able to challenge for the league but being so far from the top and the league title having that sinking feeling that it is virtually over by Christmas. Not so this season.
The first surprise is seeing Sevilla top of the league, not because they are a poor team but just the fact that it isn’t either Barca or Real sitting there. It is to put it mildly a revelation. Of course Barcelona are right there in 2nd place just a point behind but then again they have Atletico Madrid and Alaves breathing down their necks. And then there is the curious case of Real Madrid, Ronaldo less and showing it in 6th place. The team that have won an incredible 3 Champions League’s in a row won’t be in next seasons competition if the league was to end now.
It’s incredible to think how the league has simply opened up but then again some of the other teams namely Sevilla and Atletico Madrid have plugged away, bought well in the summer and made their threat real. But there has also been change at the super clubs. Andres Iniesta leaving Barcelona was certainly a big deal. Cristiano Ronaldo leaving for Juventus was a big change for Madrid who had become so reliant on him for the past decade. But also Real have suffered the departure of Zinedine Zidane, brought in Julen Lopetegui, sacked him and replaced him with Santiago Solari- for them it is the mid 2000′s all over again.
Realistically some of the teams will fall away and both Barcelona and Real Madrid should be able to find the form to mount a reasonable title challenge. But the likes of Atletico and Sevilla look like they will be sticking around for a while yet and could cause between them a major shock this season in Spain which nobody would have saw coming before the beginning of the season.
Not since 2004 have a side outside of Spain’s three established powerhouses – Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid – lifted La Liga. That was Valencia under the guidance of Rafael Benitez, who had built on Hector Cuper’s record of bringing Los Che to two successive Champions League finals.
Sevilla have not reached that level yet but do have a few remarkable tales of their own. Chief among them, their five Europa League crowns in the last 12 seasons. These have been unprecedented times for the Andalusian club who last season reached the quarter-final stage of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time in six decades. Continue reading →
Sevilla returned to second place in the La Liga table, with a 2-1 home win over Espanyol last weekend, sending a clear message to leaders Barcelona in the process.
Pablo Machin’s side replaced Espanyol as the closest side to Barcelona, with Joan Francesc Ferrer’s team slipping down to sixth following the loss.
Sevilla completed a double victory for Andalusia over Catalonia in Gameweek 12, with city rivals Real Betis inflicting Barcelona’s first home La Liga defeat of the season with a 4-3 victory at Camp Nou.
They have also taken advantage of Real Madrid’s inconsistency at the start of the season, to establish themselves as the main challenger to Barcelona, at this stage of the campaign.