Bendita Camino: Why I Love Atletico Madrid

April 23, 2014

“I ambled into a random bar near the center of the Spanish capital on September 18, 2005, looking to catch Atletico Madrid, which was hosting Barcelona at Vicente Calderon Stadium in a Sunday nightcap. There was a television bolted in the upper-left corner of the room, and rarely did eyes stray from it. It was standing room only in this old man’s bar. There were men who were born during the Spanish Civil War; men who were born to parents who lived through the war; almost everyone inside was alive during Franco’s reign. It was like stumbling into a house of worship on a holy day. Everyone knew why they were there.” Grantland

Atletico Madrid 0-0 Chelsea: Tactical Analysis | The battle for a compact midfield

April 23, 2014

“Atletico Madrid and Chelsea went head-to-head at the Vicente Calderon in the Champions League semi-finals. It was a tactical battle that was certainly not pleasing to the eyes, it was never going to be. Both sides are in their respective title races but Atletico Madrid are in a  much better situation while Chelsea’s contention could come to a halt this weekend. Mourinho has been desperate for a Champions League with Chelsea, and a record third with a different club while Atletico Madrid are looking forward to a first final in 40 years.Outside of the Boot

The 54 Club – Malta

April 20, 2014

“Needing to use up some holiday time and in desperate need of some sun, beaches, countryside and football I elected to visit Malta. What little knowledge I possessed of the lonely island came from several chapters of Thomas Pynchon’s haunting novel V and I was uncertain of what to expect. Happily, I got on extremely well with Malta and while the tourist sites, ranging from ancient wonders to Second World War bunkers, were remarkable it was the miles of picturesque countryside and sun-drenched, arid farmland in between charming towns untouched for countless years that really impressed itself on me.” backpagefootball

You Shall Not Pass: Atletico Madrid Suffocate Barcelona, Just Like They Planned

April 11, 2014

“Atletico Madrid’s triumph over Barcelona (2-1, on aggregate) might seem like a Champions League Cinderella story. But is it really a Cinderella story when a team does exactly what it was designed to do? What Diego Simeone’s side accomplished against the Catalan giants was hardly the stuff of scrappy underdogs; this was about the imposition of a defense perfectly constructed to neutralize Barcelona’s possession-based attack. And that’s what Atletico did.” Grantland

Champions League semi-finals: how last four teams compare

April 11, 2014

“Can Atlético Madrid last the pace? Will Pep Guardiola’s tinkering harm Bayern Munich’s hopes? Does José Mourinho have the right gameplan and will Real Madrid’s forward line be too strong for everyone? Here we analyse all four teams” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Team Focus: Record Breaking Parma Dream of a Return to Europe

March 26, 2014

“Parma were undone by a ‘Quagliarellata’. A wonder strike that came out of nowhere. Juventus hadn’t scored from open play at the Ennio Tardini in six years. Something special was required. Who else but Fabio Quagliarella duly provided it. Thirty-five yards out with his back to goal he turned his man and pitched a looping shot against the upright. It left Parma goalkeeper Antonio Mirante stunned. By the time he recovered his senses, Paul Pogba had followed Quagliarella’s shot up to score the only goal of the game. Parma had resisted until the 75th minute. It was the last time they lost in Serie A. That was right at the beginning of November.” Who Scored – James Horncastle

Mattia De Sciglio: Scout Report

March 17, 2014

“A.C. Milan is historically one of the most decorated football clubs. Now, they are struggling to find balance in the team and the situation at the club is undesirable for their fans to say the least. They have been confronted with failure and thus started a new chapter with their legendary player, Clarence Seedorf. New names, new staff members even maybe a new board will arrive but success at Milan, at least in the short term seems increasingly unlikely.” Outside of the Boot

Unlike Simeone’s Atletico, Seedorf’s AC Milan still searching for identity

March 10, 2014

“The most fascinating aspect of Atletico Madrid is how the club resembles its coach, Diego Simeone. The Argentine was a hugely talented central midfielder, winning titles in both Spain and Italy, while becoming the first Argentine to collect over 100 caps for his national side — only Roberto Ayala and Javier Zanetti, two of his contemporaries, have beaten his tally. Simeone could pass astutely, he scored more goals than expected, he was superb in the air and he was highly mobile.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)

The Decline, Worries and Rejuvenation of Milan

March 7, 2014

“Much like Manchester United in England, A.C. Milan have been having a tough time this season in Serie A, with below par performances and baffling tactics leading to the sacking of Massimiliano Allegri after four years in charge of the Italian giants. His replacement, former Milan hero Clarence Seedorf has since seen a dramatic change in form and there’s a new sense of cautious optimism around the San Siro.” Outside of the Boot

Milan 0-2 Juventus: Milan play well, but Juventus show ruthlessness upfront

March 3, 2014

“Clarence Seedorf’s Milan played extremely well – but couldn’t translate their dominance into goals. Seedorf changed no fewer than six players, despite winning 2-0 at Sampdoria last time out. Mario Balotelli was still unavailable. Juventus were without Arturo Vidal through suspension and Giorgio Chiellini was only fit enough for the bench, but otherwise Antonio Conte’s line-ups was as expected. Milan were superior for long periods, but lacked combination play and reliable finishing upfront – in stark contrast to Juventus.” Zonal Marking

AC Milan 0-2 Juventus: Tactical Analysis
“AC Milan vs Juventus has widely been considered to be the biggest match (traditionally) in Italian football. The two have won majority of the domestic league titles and performed commendably in Europe as well, representing the Italian peninsula. However, Juventus have won the last two Scudetto’s & look set to claim a third, while Milan haven’t won a trophy since 2011. What’s worse is that while Juventus enjoy a lead at the top of the Serie A this season, Milan are struggling to stay in the top half. But when these two sides meet, it’s always a tight affair. The rivalry, the history, the passion adds to the experience and this fixture rarely disappoints.” Outside of the Boot

Alessandro Florenzi: Scout Report | Roma’s academy graduate settling into the first-team

February 27, 2014

“Roma supporters love nothing more than a home-grown talent making the step up to the first-team; with the likes of Alessio Cerci, Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti all coming through the club’s youth system. It would now appear that the Giallorossi have one more to add to that list, in the form of midfielder Alessandro Florenzi; who has been a shining light in what has been a fantastic campaign for Roma thus far.” Outside of the Boot

AC Milan 0-1 Atletico Madrid: Tactical Analysis

February 21, 2014

“The 2 teams that clashed in this particular round of 16 clash have had wildly contrasting seasons up until this point. While the home side have been disappointing, and recently sacked Allegri and replaced him with club legend Seedorf, Atleti have been on an upward curve ever since the excellent Simeone has control at the Calderon. The clash was always going to be interesting, as the great European team took on the greenhorn that is Atletico.” Outside of the Boot

Fiorentina 1-2 Inter: Palacio’s positional variation crucial in Inter victory

February 19, 2014

“Fifth-placed Inter won at fourth-placed Fiorentina, cutting the game between them to five points. Vincenzo Montella was still without Giuseppe Rossi and a host of defenders, with star midfielder Borja Valero suspended. Mario Gomez was fit enough to be on the bench, however, after a few months out – Joaquin and Josip Ilicic were upfront form the start. Walter Mazzarri named an unchanged side from last weekend’s 1-0 win over Sassuolo. Inter were the better side here – more organised without the ball and more purposeful with possession.” Zonal Marking

Semifinal: Roma-Napoli 3-2

February 6, 2014

“In Philip Pullman’s His Dark Matters trilogy, central to the plot is a knife. How, where, why and whose it is doesn’t matter, merely this: in the books, it can be used to carve out windows into different, parallel worlds. Only the bearer of the knife can detect the openings, and use it to slice open portals from midair where there were none. If there were such a knife in real life, Francesco Totti would be the one to wield it. As Benatia passed the ball to him over a distance of maybe ten meters, Totti dropped down to meet it and, without ever looking in the right direction, with one touch carved up an opening where there was none.” blogistuta

Player Focus: Gervinho – From Figure of Fun to Fan Favourite

January 29, 2014

“Before really getting into his Tuesday column in La Repubblica back in early December, Gabriele Romagnoli had a confession to make. ‘I love Gervinho,’ he wrote. ‘I will not be impartial. It’s necessary to write it with a heart between the subject and the direct object like in the NY logo… I am not a Romanista and I never succumbed to the ecstatic aesthetics of Garrincha, George Best or Gigi Meroni. Rather, it’s a sort of literary passion: the kind that makes you prefer Yanez to Sandokan [the protagonists of Emilio Salgari’s 19th century pirate novels] or Sancho Panza to Don Quixote. With poetic license, this is Gervinho, he’s a creature of ‘Gervantes’: a dreamer-squire, who drags the indolent hero beyond the limits of his fantasy.’ Reading that, it’s fair to say Gervinho has found an appreciation in Italy that he never did in England.” Who Scored?

Quarterfinal: Roma-Juve 1-0

January 23, 2014

“No need to complicate things: both teams largely went for the same approach as in the league game which Juventus won 3-0. That Roma accepted that premise was surprising, in a sense, since it was a 3-goal loss. But apart from Roma’s struggles to create chances — which, as we would see, had been adjusted, or at least accounted for internally — it made sense, because on January 5th Juve “simply” capitalized1 on the few half-opportunities there were. Apart from that, they were, as last night, quiet and retreated. And it’s easy to see why Conte went for the same approach as at Juventus Stadium, because well, they’d won. That they weren’t set up to consistently threaten Roma was probably an acceptable price to pay for not giving away the counterattack situations Roma has made its bread and butter this season.” blogistuta

Hernanes: The unsung hero of Lazio

January 21, 2014

“Beginning his career at Sao Paulo in 2005, Hernanes had won many trophies with the Brazil superpower. The midfielder had netted a sum of 28 goals in 184 official games and assisted many more. Hernanes is very effective on the pitch and the price tag of more than €11 million paid by Lazio was the cutest of examples to prove the Brazilian’s quality. Eddy Reja, who took the head coach role at Lazio from the struggling Davide Ballardini in early 2010, has taken the praise for landing this talented Brazilian midfielder in Italy.” Backpage Football

Juary enjoying hero status in Avellino and Porto

January 19, 2014

“Back in the early eighties Italy was the centre of the world of football and would remain such for the best part of a decade. The richest clubs in the world played in the Serie A and, in turn, these attracted the best players. Juventus had Platini and Boniek, Napoli played to the tune set by Maradona whilst Milan had the trio of Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard. Even a small club like Udinese could attract a player like Zico.” Worad Soccer

The Basque Connection

January 17, 2014

“The Basque country is something of a historical relic. The region was never conquered by the Romans and the Basque language, bears no resemblance to any other living language. The Basque people are notorious for doing things their own way and have fought fiercely for decades to protect their local customs from the imposition of Spanish culture. This independent spirit extends to the region’s biggest football club, Athletic Bilbao. The club, nicknamed Los Leones (“The Lions”), are a unique organisation in world football, having achieved considerable success whilst preserving their core traditions and maintaining close ties to their local community.” Back Page Football

In first coaching role, Seedorf faces daunting task at Milan

January 15, 2014

“After the news had broken that Clarence Seedorf was to be the new manager of AC Milan, the Curva Sud ultra group erected a banner outside the club’s old offices. Its message was simple: ‘Seedorf, no grazie.’ Given that it’s only two months since the ultras were confronting players over poor performances, there’s something unexpected and slightly touching about their on-going support for Massimiliano Allegri, who was dismissed following Sunday’s 4-3 defeat at Sassuolo after a little over three seasons in the job. The Curva Sud have been consistent in this, though, acknowledging the turmoil behind the scenes at the club, and releasing a statement in May in which they explicitly stated they didn’t want Seedorf or any other manager who lacked experience.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Player Focus: Berardi’s Seamless Progression to Serie A Stardom

January 15, 2014

“It’s a long journey, Cariati Marina to Modena. Almost the length of Italy. By car, it can take you eight or nine hours. Quite the road trip. But Domenico Berardi was keen to make it. He wanted to visit his brother Francesco who was studying there at university. So off he went up north. This was in 2010. It was a trip he’d never forget. Like many students, Francesco was involved in a five-a-side league. While Domenico was in town, he invited him to play. Only 15 at the time, the lads he came up against were bigger, stronger and older than he was, but not to worry. Berardi dominated.” Who Scored?

Barcelona, Atlético’s tactical clash ends in a stalemate

January 13, 2014

“All season, it’s been impossible to separate Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. They’ve chugged along at the top of the table, trading blow for blow, and when they met in the Copa del Rey, they exchanged a pair of draws and Barcelona went through only on away goals. They couldn’t be separated on Saturday either, a tight goalless draw leaving Barcelona top of La Liga at the halfway point by virtue of having a goal difference five better than that of Atlético.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Atletico Madrid 0-0 Barcelona: different styles but similar lack of invention upfront
“La Liga’s top of the table clash was intense and intriguing, but ultimately goalless. Diego Simeone named his expected side, with right-back Juanfran available after his suspension was overturned. Despite Lionel Messi’s return in midweek against Getafe, he wasn’t risked from the start – he joined Neymar on the bench, and Cesc Fabregas played as the false nine. A draw was a fair result – both sides’ gameplan was clear, but the defences came out on top.” Zonal Marking

Atletico Madrid 0-0 Barcelona: Tactical Analysis | Atletico’s Physicality versus Barca’s Passing
“The top 2 in Spain faced off for the first time in the league this season, in a clash that generated almost as much hype as most El Clasico’s. This season, Atletico have surprised one and all with their tremendous run in the league, staying 5 points clear of their city rivals Real for this long. Barcelona have been imperious, scoring almost at will, despite the absence of their talisman, Messi, and new acquisition Neymar. One of the meanest defences in the league was up against a free flowing attacking force, and it made for a great spectacle.” Outside of the Boot

Atletico Madrid proving tackling can be a quality

January 11, 2014

“This weekend, Atletico Madrid host Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon stadium in the biggest game of the European season so far. The two sides are level on points, and therefore it is literally a top of the table clash – La Liga’s rules mean teams are separated by head-to-head results rather than goal difference, and therefore having not played each other this season, the sides can’t be separated. Halfway through the season, La Liga’s best two clubs are neck-and-neck, joint first.” Zonal Marking

Whatever Is God’s Will: Juary

January 11, 2014

“Back in the early eighties Italy was the centre of the world of football and would remain such for the best part of a decade. The richest clubs in the world played in the Serie A and, in turn, these attracted the best players. Juventus had Platini and Boniek, Napoli played to the tune set by Maradona whilst AC Milan had the trio of Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard. Even a small club like Udinese could attract a player like Zico. If the Serie A was the cream of world football, then Avellino was the curd. Promoted to the Serie A for the first time in 1978, they had defied expectation by staying there year after year despite being billed as relegation favourites at the start of each season.” In Bed With Maradona

Juventus 3-0 Roma: Juventus sit extremely deep to prevent Roma counter-attacking

January 8, 2014

“Juventus took a big step towards a third consecutive title with a convincing victory over their closest challengers. Antonio Conte welcomed back Andrea Pirlo in the deep playmaking position, and was able to select his first-choice starting XI. Rudi Garcia had Francesco Totti back after injury, and opted for Adem Ljajic rather than Mattia Destro in the forward trio. Juventus created little in open play, but defended solidly and pounced at set-pieces – it was something of an ‘underdog’ victory, even though the home side started as favourites.” Zonal Marking

Venezia’s woes threaten to make football a relic in city of rich history

January 8, 2014

The church bell tower which overlooks the Stadio Pierlugi Penzo, home of Union Venezia
“The rain runs down the grimy windows of the vaporetto. Somewhere through the murk is the church of San Giovanni Battista and then the gardens where the Biennale is based. A quarter of an hour after leaving San Marco, we arrive at Sant’Elena. The most obvious landmark as you leave the vaporetto station is the bell tower of the church, an imposing brick rectangle that frowned down on the low floodlights that nestle in its lea. This is the Stadio Pierlugi Penzo, the home of the third-flight side Union Venezia. It’s the second oldest stadium in Italy, and it looks it. Opposite the main stand – which, thank goodness, has a functioning roof – it’s not immediately clear where the dilapidated brickwork of the stadium ends and the 15th-century monastery begins. On another day there might be a ramshackle beauty to the Penzo, with the masts of boats in the harbour visible beyond the north stand and the bell tower looming to the south-east. But as the rain teems down, it’s a damp, grey place.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

The 54 Club – Italy

December 29, 2013

“As usual my parents escaped England for Christmas, thus shirking any festive responsibilities, and 2012 saw them wintering in Rome. Taking up their kind offer to join them I deliberately arrived late in December with the aim of fulfilling the dream of every child who grew up watching James Richardson sip coffee and hold the Gazetta Dello Sport aloft outside the Pantheon, watching some live calcio. With the winter break arriving I expected my options to be limited and would have been quite content to seeing one of the Roman teams play a basement dweller but luck was on my side and Roma had a home fixture against my childhood sweetheart, AC Milan.” Back Page Football

Milan 2-2 Roma: Tactical Analysis | Defensive & Positional Errors

December 19, 2013

“AC Milan have had a poor first half of the campaign and find themselves struggling to get into the coveted European spots. Roma, on the other hand, had a dream start to the season which saw them winning 10 consecutive games having conceded just 1 goal, before hitting a slight slump; they’ve won just 1 game in their last 5 Serie A matches, and are still unbeaten. AC Milan needed to start getting points to keep pace with those above them, or risk falling into mid-table obscurity. AS Roma needed points for a whole different reason, to ensure Juventus (who won 4-0 on the weekend) don’t runaway with the title again.” Outside of the Boot

Napoli 4-2 Inter Milan: Tactical Analysis | Benitez counters Mazzarri

December 17, 2013

“Napoli came in to this match after suffering a heartbreak exit from the Champions League, despite winning 2-0 against the in form Gunners and amassing a total of 12 points in the group stage, which included a victory over Napoli. Rafa Benitez’s men were now relegated to the Europa League had the task of making the most of their league campaign in order to play Champions League football again next year. A 3-3 draw last match day against Udinese saw Juventus and Roma pull away at the top. Inter Milan started the game four points behind Napoli. After three consecutive draws (Bologna, Sampdoria and Parma) in the league, Inter look to close the gap and give Napoli a fight for their much yearned Champions League spot. With Fiorentina leapfrogging in front of them after a 3-0 victory against Bologna earlier that day, three points against Napoli was massively crucial for Walter Mazzarri’s men.” Outside of the Boot

Massimo Bonini – Watercarrier To the Stars

December 12, 2013

“Defensive midfielders are often underrated: they are, indeed, underrated to the point where they become overrated and one man, Claude Makelele, even has a role in football named after him. But there is one man, one watercarrier, one mediano, who can perhaps lay claim to being one of the most underrated players of all time. On 14th November 1990 in a the Stadio Olimpico in Serravalle, San Marino, a 31 year old midfielder by the name of Massimo Bonini made his full international debut playing the first half of a 4-0 defeat to Switzerland in a Euro ’92 qualifying game.” Put Niels In Goal

Roma 2-1 Fiorentina: everything down the wings

December 9, 2013

“Roma ended a run of four draws with a victory over Fiorentina in a highly entertaining match. Rudi Garcia’s side was as expected – Adem Ljajic continued to play the Francesco Totti role against his former side, while Dodo was still at left-back in place of Federico Balzaretti. Vincenzo Montella moved Juan Vargas forward to the left flank having excelled at left-back against Verona in midweek. Manuel Pasqual returned at left-back, with Joaquin making way and Juan Cuadrado switching flanks. Alberto Aquilani returned in place of Matias Vecino in midfield, while David Pizarro was only fit enough for the bench. This game was most interesting for its overall pattern, rather than for the specifics of either side’s play.” Zonal Marking

AC Milan Crisis: What next for the Rossoneri?

December 7, 2013

“While teams like Juventus, Roma, Napoli were racking up points to fight it out for the title, Milan were sliding downhill, drawing and losing to teams they would have annihilated a few years back. Champions in 2010-11, Milan were flirting with the relegation zone as they had slumped to a lowly 13th in the table just 4 points off the dreaded drop zone and a massive 20 points off the table toppers, Juventus. Things were fairly quiet and subdued at the Via Turati in the summer; somewhat a relief after last seasons mass exodus with Filippo Inzaghi, Gennaro Gattuso, Alessandro Nesta et al putting their keys to their San Siro lockers on the table one by one.” Outside of the Boot

Territorial Discrimination in Italy

December 1, 2013

“Remember that mom who always went back on her word? The one whose kid would fail his classes, get suspended from school, and then be allowed to go out the next weekend after you thought he’d never see the light of day again. The mom who threatened to ground her kid for the next two months but always caved and never held firm. Well that mom is exactly like the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), an organization whose menacing threats are undermined by a severe lack of enforcement. Specifically, as territorial discrimination by fans in Serie A continues to escalate, the FIGC’s lackadaisical approach hinders the hope of any indelible progress being made.” Soccer Politics (Video)

Giancarlo Rinaldi — Interview

November 22, 2013

“In our latest interview feature we talk to Fiorentina fan and Italian football expert, Giancarlo Rinaldi. Mr.Rinaldi is the author of Kindle football best-seller, 20 Great Italian Games. He has a wealth of knowledge of the Italian games and shares his thoughts on his Viola, the 2013-14 Serie A season and the Italian national team.” Outside of the Boot

What three things did we learn from Real Madrid’s 2-2 draw at Juventus?

November 7, 2013

“If Real Madrid are to be genuine Champions League contenders, then they must eradicate the defensive frailties that currently run through the team. In La Liga, you can more or less get away with it. Not in Europe, though. There’s no hiding place and you will get punished for lapses in concentration at key points of the game. For Juventus’ first goal, young and emerging central defender Raphael Varane stupidly dived into the back of Paul Pogba, knowing very well he wasn’t going to reach the ball. It was an entirely needless tackle to make as Pogba was heading for a tight angle in which to shoot. Juventus scored, albeit with a stunning spot kick from Arturo Vidal, and Carlo Ancelotti’s men were on the back foot.” Think Football

Juventus 2-2 Real Madrid: Tactical Analysis
“As the fourth round of matches got underway this week, the first of the big ones to be played was at the Juventus Stadium. The Bianconeri hosted the Galacticos 2.0 in what was a must win encounter for the Old Lady. A win for real would see them secure their place in the next round very early, and spell doom for Juventus. Conte started his side in a 4-1-4-1 formation. The back four consisted of Caceres, Barzagli, Bonucci and Asamoah from right to left. Pirlo was the regista in front of them. The 4 ahead of him were expected to run up and down the pitch to provide defensive cover and attacking thrust. Llorente was the lone striker.” Outside of the Boot

AC Milan 0-2 Fiorentina: Tactical Analysis

November 3, 2013

“The final game on an action packed Saturday saw Fiorentina travel to Milan to take on the Rossonieri. Milan have struggled in the league so far, and found themselves in 10th place going into the game. Fiorentina had played some fantastic football, but failed to convert it into results thus far. Neither team was especially close to the top or even the Champions League places, and therefore it this match was very significant to both teams, as a win could get them back on the trail for Champions League football.” Outside of the Boot

Sergio Busquets has become an key component of the new Barcelona

October 24, 2013

“One of the fundamental principles of Barcelona’s philosophy is the consistent use of a 4-3-3 formation. It is their trio in midfield — the heart of any football side, but particularly one that insists upon possession dominance and bossing the centre ground — that has always felt most idiosyncratic. In that zone, the club have frequently played three Spanish La Masia graduates over the past four years: Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Real Madrid 2-1 Juventus: Real take the victory, but fail to impress

October 24, 2013

“Despite losing the contest, Antonio Conte can arguably draw more positives from this match after his side performed impressively with ten men. Carlo Ancelotti selected a 4-3-3 system for the second time this season, with Gareth Bale and Isco both on the bench. Iker Casillas returned in goal. Conte went for a 4-5-1 system with Claudio Marchisio and Carlos Tevez either side of the midfield, and Fernando Llorente upfront alone. Leonardo Bonucci was left out, and Angelo Ogbonna played at left-back. The game was fairly evenly balanced in the first half, with Giorgio Chiellini’s unnecessary penalty concession handing Real the advantage. After Chiellini’s dismissal, Real dominated possession but failed to put the game beyond Juve.” Zonal Marking

Fiorentina 4-2 Juventus: Juve lead 2-0, but Montella changes formation to prompt comeback

October 22, 2013

“Champions Juventus suffered their first defeat of the season, despite taking a 2-0 lead by half-time. Vincenzo Montella is still without Mario Gomez, so fielded Giuseppe Rossi upfront alone, and brought Massimo Ambrosini into the midfield. Antonio Conte left out Arturo Vidal after he was late back from international duty, but fielded Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente upfront together. This was one of those crazy, inexplicable football matches where the goals had little relation to the tactical battle unfolding – but it was still a fascinating contest.” Zonal Marking

Juventus meeting a historical reminder for Real Madrid

October 22, 2013

“The last time Antonio Conte faced Real Madrid, it was a truly momentous occasion. The current Juventus manager played a very small role during La Vecchia Signora’s 3-1 win over Real Madrid in 2003, replacing Edgar Davids late on as Marcello Lippi guided his side through to an all-Italian Champions League final against Milan. However, that semifinal victory remains one of Juventus’ most famous victories this century — and it signalled the beginning of the end for Real Madrid’s Galacticos.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Roma 2-0 Napoli: Pjanic punishes Napoli after two Cannavaro fouls

October 22, 2013

“Roma still have a 100% record in Serie A, and extended their gap over second-placed Napoli to five points. Rudi Garcia changed both his full-backs – Federico Balzaretti was suspended so Dodo played at left-back, with Maicon back in for Vasilis Torosidis. Rafael Benitez was unable to use Gonzalo Higuain from the start, so Goran Pandev started upfront. The absence of Juan Zuniga meant Giandomenico Mesto played at left-back. Roma ran out winners, but this game could have gone either way – Napoli had plenty of chances at 0-0.” Zonal Marking

Fiorentina 4-2 Juventus: Tactical Analysis

October 20, 2013

“After Roma did well to beat Napoli in their clash on Friday evening, Juventus had to win this match up in order to keep pace with their Roman rivals at the top of the table. Fiorentina on the other hand had slipped into 6th place, after flattering to deceive, with many of their performances not getting the desired results. It was therefore a clash that was important to both teams in the context of their positions on the table and the momentum they needed.” Outside of the Boot

My Favorite Player of All time: An Italian icon, the Ultimate Bianconeri , a gentleman and a player the will always be missed in Turin – Alessandro Del Piero

October 18, 2013

“Growing up a Juventino in the city of Turin there was only one name you needed to know Alessandro Del Piero. You entered the stadium every Sunday hearing 40,000 fans screaming ‘C’e un capitano, C’e solo un capitano, Alex Del Piero,’ (there is a captain, only one captain), it was riveting, exciting and a joy to behold for a player that only represented one club for 19 years of competitive football. It wasn’t just his ability to pass through defenders like a magician with an invisible ball at his feet, or his ability to score when his team needed him, it was also the class he represented off the field. Unlike the Totti’s, or Cassano’s or Balotelli’s of our generation, Del Piero lived a simple life of an man who exhibits the characteristics the game needs today. He was a fighter, a leader and an incredible player to watch.” Soccer Politics

Can Atletico Madrid keep pace at the top of La Liga this time around?

October 12, 2013

“Eight matches into last year’s La Liga season, Atletico Madrid were level on points with Barcelona at the top. At the same stage of this campaign, they are in exactly the same position, separated by goal difference having won all of their opening eight league games, 2 points better off than the seven wins and one draw they had recorded last year. In fact, Atletico’s standing is in much better shape than that. They opened the season with 2 draws with Barcelona which saw them narrowly defeated in the Supercopa via away goals and have complimented their league form with 2 wins out of 2 in the Champions League, making it 15 competitive games unbeaten following on from last season. You have to go back to February and Rayo Vallecano to trace their last defeat on the road, making it 17 games without an away loss in all competitions.” Outside of the Boot

These Violent Delights: The Romance and Tragedy Of Batistuta’s Fiorentina

October 12, 2013

“The rain thuds down on a murky February afternoon in Florence, blurring the tired limbs of the home side in purple, of Milan in their stripes of red and black. Beards drip; glossy Latin haircuts shed water like slate roofs into drainpipes. Going into that fateful afternoon at the Stadio Artemi Franchi, Giovanni Trappatoni’s Fiorentina sit where they have done since the early days of the 1998-99 season – at the top of Serie A. Their lead over second-placed Lazio is three points – a sizeable gap, but no gulf – yet such has been La Viola’s dominance over the first half of the season, the title seems destined to return to Florence after a thirty year wait. A powerful Milan side – Maldini, Albertini, Bierhoff, Weah, Boban – are third. Eighty-five minutes have gone by without either defence giving way. Milan force a corner and a final chance to break the deadlock.” In Bed With Maradona

Inter 0-3 Roma: Totti drags Inter’s back three out of shape to prompt quick attacks

October 9, 2013

“Roma maintained their 100% record with a win at previously unbeaten Inter. Walter Mazzarri made two changes from the 1-1 draw at Cagliari, bringing in Saphir Taider and Rodrigo Palacio for Mateo Kovacic and Ishak Belfodil. Predictably, Rudi Garcia kept exactly the same side which demolished Bologna 5-0. This was another superb Roma display – and although their 3-0 half-time lead was slightly flattering, they played some sparkling football at times.” Zonal Marking

Juventus 3-2 Milan: Tactical Analysis

October 8, 2013

“As Roma have run away at the top of the table in Serie A, some of the traditional giants like Juventus and Milan have had slightly lukewarm starts to their season. So, there was a lot at stake for both managers in the clash between these two teams, as victory in a match against a big rival can kick start the season. Milan were the visitors to Turin on this occasion. The home side started with a 3-5-2 formation. Buffon and the usual trio of Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini started at the back. In midfield too, the familiar trio of Pirlo, Marchisio and and Vidal started. The wings were manned by Asamoah on the left, and Padoin on the right. Up front, Quagliarella played as the one who tried to run in behind, while Tevez dropped deeper to link play.” Outside of the Boot

Arsenal 2-0 Napoli: Arsenal win the game early by attacking down the right flank

October 2, 2013

“Arsene Wenger fielded five natural central midfielders, but Napoli were opened up repeatedly in their left-back zone. Wenger was without a variety of players comfortable in wide roles – Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – while Jack Wilshere was rested, with Mikel Arteta coming into the side and Arsenal’s three attacking midfielders playing fluid roles. Rafael Benitez was still without Christian Maggio, and also lost Gonzalo Higuain through injury. Arsenal were dominant from the first whistle, and Napoli rarely offered a goal threat.”
Zonal Marking

Arsenal 2 Napoli 0: Mesut Özil sets the tone as Arsene Wenger’s side turn on the style against Napoli
“When Arsenal play with the precision, pace and elegance that spiced some of their mesmerising first-half movement here the feeling grows stronger and stronger that the long, soul-searching, inquisition-scarred wait for a trophy might yet end this season. If it does, the player who should touch the trophy first should be Mesut Özil, who impressed again in a 2-0 victory. The German has strengthened Arsenal psychologically and as an attacking, trophy-threatening force. He has brought belief, assists and now his first goal for the club, a strike that celebrated his sumptuous technique. Özil was almost unplayable at times, gliding hither and thither, twisting away from opponents, the ball merrily snuggling his left foot, leaving Napoli bewildered and bewitched. Telegraph – Henry Winter


Italy’s recent racism judgment could be a game-changer

September 25, 2013

“History was made on Monday. Or at least, a legal precedent of the kind that could in time have massive ramifications around Europe. And perhaps, eventually, change our match-going experience forever. Sound excessive? Bear with me. The Italian FA charged Milan for the fact that some of their fans engaged in racist abuse during Sunday night’s match against Napoli.” ESPN

Napoli 2-1 Dortmund: Higuain & Insigne exploit Dortmund’s failure to heed their warnings

September 20, 2013

Napoli's Rafael Benítez reflects on victory over Borussia Dortmund - video
“Gonzalo Higuain and Lorenzo Insigne scored the goals from set-piece situations – but they had been the most threatening players in open play, too. Rafael Benitez’s line-up was as expected, with Insigne’s role on the left probably the biggest news on the teamsheet. Jurgen Klopp is without long-term absentee Lukasz Piszczek at right-back, and the excellent central midfielder Ilkay Gundogan. Kevin Grosskreutz and Nuri Sahin played in those roles, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was only on the bench. The teams were evenly matched for long spells of the first half, but Napoli increasingly threatened in two particular ways – and they proved the game-changing situations.” Zonal Marking

Napoli 2-1 Borussia Dortmund: Tactical Analysis
“By sheer audacity or Great Optimism? Napoli’s clash against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League’s group of death match was certainly dubbed as the match of the game week. And Boy! Did it live up to its billing, however marred with controversies? The pragmatic vs the Visionary. As the two master tacticians went head to head for the first time, it was certainly a Rafa Benitez vs Jurgen Klopp clash from the very beginning.” Outside of the Boot


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