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

Inter 1-1 Juventus: Tactical Analysis

September 16, 2013

“Inter and Juventus went head to head in an enthralling clash on Saturday. The Derby D’ Italia, as it is labelled, is one of the biggest football fixtures in Italy. However, a vast gulf in class has developed between the two over the past few seasons as Juventus have taken a lead of their rivals. But the match itself is one that doesn’t disappoint. As the latest clash bears witness, it showed how Italian football has developed over the past few season, completely removing it’s ‘boring’ tag. The game was a fast paced clash, with both sides equally effective in their own rights. The gulf in class wasn’t as visible as both sides managed to hold their own. Juventus did seem to create more but Inter effectively began to soak in the pressure and use it to their advantage on the counter. The final result of Inter 1-1 Juventus seemed a fair reflection of the game as neither side managed to gain the upper hand for a prolonged period of time.” Outside Of Football

Why Erik Lamela Going to Spurs Is a Huge Loss to Roma

September 16, 2013

“For Roma, Erik Lamela’s departure to Tottenham is a huge loss. Or not, depending on how you look at it. On the one hand, the Giallorossi have lost an immensely gifted young player who has been among their most consistent performers for the last two seasons. The 21-year-old was the footballer who many in Rome felt the future of the club could be built around—the type of forward who could consistently entertain the Curva Sud and fire the Lupi to long-awaited glory at the same time. He was the rarest of things: a possible heir to the throne of Francesco Totti.” Bleacher Report

Statistical Infographic: Inter vs Juve

September 14, 2013

“The first international break of the season has finally ended, and a return to club football beckons for the best footballers across the planet. The first 3 games of the season saw some lukewarm performances from most of the giants, but now that World Cup qualification is sealed for many of the players, and the season is well under way, we should see the intensity being upped. The return of club football has been marked by the return of one of the fiercest rivalries across football, and especially in the Serie A- the Derby D’ Italia. Aside from being 2 of the 3 most successful sides in the peninsula, the rivalry that Inter and Juve share is about much more than just trophies.” Outside of the Boot

Juventus 4-1 Lazio: Tactical Analysis

September 1, 2013

“It was Juventus’ first home game of the season in the Serie A, with Lazio as their opponents. The home side had emerged victorious a few weeks earlier when the two sides met in the Italian Super Cup. While the scoreline does suggest a sense of domination, the game itself was a well-fought affair; it was a perfect example of how much Italian football has developed since it’s ‘boring football’ tag. The game was anything but a drab affair, quick movement, slick passing, excellent vision, were all witnessed at this fixture. A true modern-day Serie A battle. The final score of Juventus 4-1 Lazio was not necessarily a true representation of the way the match went on.” Outside of the Boot

Marek Hamsik’s creativity ideal for Rafa Benitez’s Napoli revolution

August 25, 2013

Marek Hamsik
“It has been an exciting summer of coaching changes across Europe: The top seven favourites for the Champions League, the top three in England, the top two in Spain, plus the champions of France, Germany and Portugal all started 2013-14 with a new manager. In Italy, somewhat surprisingly, it’s been quieter. Of last season’s top four, Juventus’ Antonio Conte, Milan’s Max Allegri and Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Montella remain in their positions having performed extremely impressively, albeit in different ways, last season.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)

A Sardinian Summer: The Forgotten Story Of the Chicago Mustangs

August 25, 2013

“Cagliari Calcio are an altogether unremarkable football club. For much of their existence they have been a yo-yo team, alternating between promotion and relegation and oftentimes languishing in the rustic depths of the Serie C, the third tier of Italian football. In their 93 years of existence they have conquered just one piece of silverware, a lone Scudetto won in 1970. In those brief glory years they were led by the inspirational Gigi Riva, the all-time leading goalscorer of the Italian National team. Since their latest promotion to the top flight in 2004 they have managed to stave off relegation but have been in a perpetual state of purgatory; too far off the top to the table to harbor realistic European ambitions, yet too far from the bottom to risk a return to Serie B. Their record is, for the most part, unexceptional. Yet in a curious episode long forgotten in the annals of football history, for a brief period of time they were known as the Chicago Mustangs. For one fleeting summer, Cagliari Calcio, the team from the picturesque Mediterranean island of Sardinia, used Comiskey Park on the South Side of Chicago as their home ground. This is their story.” In Bed With Maradona

Marek Hamsik’s creativity ideal for Rafa Benitez’s Napoli revolution

August 22, 2013

“It has been an exciting summer of coaching changes across Europe: The top seven favourites for the Champions League, the top three in England, the top two in Spain, plus the champions of France, Germany and Portugal all started 2013-14 with a new manager. In Italy, somewhat surprisingly, it’s been quieter. Of last season’s top four, Juventus’ Antonio Conte, Milan’s Max Allegri and Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Montella remain in their positions having performed extremely impressively, albeit in different ways, last season.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)

Bilbao Tactics: Post Bielsa Era

August 22, 2013

“It was just over a year ago that Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao were the envy of most European clubs. With a squad assembled mostly of youth products and clever signings in-keeping with their Basque region-only philosophy, Bilbao reached the finals of both the Copa Del Rey and the Europa League by virtue of their high-pressing, slick passing football that saw Bielsa become one of the in-demand coaches on the continent. They lost both finals but after finishing a solid tenth in La Liga and disposing both Manchester United and Schalke with a young squad drilled brilliantly into Bielsa’s meticulous approach, there was high optimism that Bilbao could push on to challenge the higher reaches of the Primera.” Outside of the Boot

No more bickering as Supercoppa awaits

August 17, 2013

“The Italian Supercoppa is traditionally a competitive curtain-raiser to the Italian season, although the actual scheduling of the event this year roused more resentment between its two protagonists than can be expected at the Stadio Olimpico this Sunday. When Juventus and Lazio take to the field in Rome, most of the battle will have already been won and lost after months of off-field debating. The Italian Football League, Lega Calcio, stipulated an agreement with China in 2010 that formalised plans for three of the subsequent four editions of the Supercoppa to be staged in Beijing.” ESPN

They Are They, We Are We: The Forgotten Genius Of Vujadin Boskov

August 14, 2013

“If during the eighties you followed Italian football with any degree of interest, then those words (that, incidentally, mean ‘penalty is when referee gives it’) should sound familiar. As should ‘se vinciamo siamo vincitori se perdiamo siamo perditori’ (if we win we are winners, if we lose we are losers) and ‘loro sono loro, noi siamo noi’ (they are they, we are we). Those were the words of Vujadin Boskov and those were the kind of soundbites that made him popular with the waiting journalists after games. It was through such aphorisms that Vujadin Boskov entered Italian society’s public consciousness and it is for them that he remains most widely known.” In Bed With Maradona

Grazie Ambro: A Tribute

August 12, 2013

“And so it ends. After 18 seasons of running around, snarling and tackling all whilst sporting a flurry of long blonde hair with a band, come August, MASSIMO AMBROSINI will be a Milan player no more. Football has changed over the years and with changing times, even the clubs have changed their systems and policies. Milan too has changed its approach as they have decided to take a different path now, focusing on youth and ‘building stars instead of buying them’. The new campaign was labelled as ‘Year Zero’ as they wanted to start a fresh cycle and concentrate on youth. This year, once again the Rossoneri fans bid farewell to another long lasting servant, Massimo Ambrosini. After the mass exodus last season when Alessandro Nesta, Pippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf, Rino Gattuso ,Gianluca Zambrotta and Flavio Roma decided to jump off the Milanese train, this year it’s the club captain who will not be with the side in the coming campaign.” Outside of the Boot

Can Neymar and Messi co-exist? and four other things to look out for this season

August 6, 2013

“Every one of Europe’s top five leagues has the potential to have a thrilling title race this season. Sam Thompson, of TTTFootball, takes a closer look at who will be challenging at the top in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France…” Think Football

Top 10 Young Football Managers

July 22, 2013

“Football, over the last couple of seasons, has been witnessing a ‘change of guard’. Players who we adored in their prime have retired, managers that headed some of the greatest sides in history have resigned. All this has given rise to the next generation of football personnel ranging from talented young footballers to talented young tacticians. In this piece we will be focusing on the Top 10 Young Football Managers, that could be at the helm of some of the biggest clubs in World Football, in the not-so-distant future.” Outside of the Boot – Part 1, Outside of the Boot – Part 2

Are we witnessing an Italian footballing renaissance?

July 20, 2013

“… There’s a land far, far away – a mystical place filled with romantic and footballing sensibilities. Actually, it’s called Italy. Home to some of the greatest players, birth place of the most revolutionary tactical innovations. Seen as a place of fraud and feuds to those unwilling to look beyond the distinctive ‘defensive’ approach. The Italians have ruled and been ruled. The tides are turning; tumultuous Turin and melodramatic Milan are gathering an army and they’re planning a renaissance.” Think Football

After a productive transfer season are Fiorentina now real Serie A title contenders?

July 16, 2013

“Finishing in a lowly 13th place in the 2011/12 season, Vincenzo Montella made a huge turnaround last season leading Fiorentina to challenge Milan for the final slot Champions League slot, with Fiorentina narrowly missing out after a controversial Milan win against already relegated Siena in the last week. The owners’ decision to replace former sporting director Pantaleo Corvino with the dynamic duo of Daniele Prade and Eduardo Macía had impact on Fiorentina’s change in fortune. The new management sold troubled players such as Juan Vargas and replaced them with new, fresh, young and hungry faces, more suited to the tiki-taka style of football Montella wanted to install at Artemio Franchi. Last season has seen Fiorentina bringing in midfielder Borja Valero and centre-backs Gonzalo Rodriguez and Facundo Roncaglia from relegated Villarreal, where they also pick up Giuseppe Rossi, a dynamic, yet injury prone 25 year old.” Think Football

In Mario Gomez Fiorentina have seen something the rest of Europe did not

July 13, 2013

“Mario Gomez scores lots of goals: 75 in 115 league appearances for Bayern Munich, 63 in 121 for Stuttgart and 25 in 58 games for Germany. Even last season, when he had been relegated to second choice behind Mario Mandzukic, Gomez rattled in 12 goals in 11 starts. When he joined Bayern in 2009, he was the most expensive transfer in Bundesliga history. If various add-on clauses end up being triggered, he will surpass Nuno Gomes as Fiorentina’s record signing.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Visionary Luis Enrique looking back at the long-term with Celta Vigo

June 23, 2013

“Abel Resino left Celta Vigo with the remit of his four months in charge complete— to avoid relegation. The Galicia club avoided the drop by just one point on the final day after the 53 year old Resino came in as a fire-fighter, with Celta third from bottom upon the departure of Paco Herrera back in February. Resino was very much a short term choice, a stop-gap to lead the team to safety so President Carlos Mourino could implement a long-term vision that will be spearheaded by Luis Enrique, returning to La Liga after an ill-fated spell with Roma.” Outside of the Boot

Serie A’s battle for third down to Milan, Fiorentina

May 3, 2013

“OK, hands up, who remembers Serie A? After a fortnight where the major talking point has been the Bundesliga’s dominance over La Liga — with the Premier League chipping in with some end-of-season awards — Italian football has taken a backseat. It’s a position Italy has increasingly become accustomed to. Once revered as the finest league in Europe, there’s still much to recommend Serie A — but the UEFA coefficients now firmly rank it as the fourth-best league in Europe. Serie A boasts no semifinalists in either the Champions League or the Europa League, and it has featured an exciting title fight. Juventus have been on course for the title throughout the campaign, effectively ending the contest with their 1-1 draw away at closest challengers Napoli, who will finish second. Attention has turned to the battle for third.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Real Sociedad 4-2 Valencia: superb counter-attacking seals the win

April 30, 2013

“Real Sociedad opened up a five-point gap in the race for fourth place. Philippe Montanier brought in Alberto de la Bella for the injured Liassine Cadamuro at left-back, Asier Illarramendi returned after suspension, but Antoine Griezmann was banned so Gonzalo Castro played on the left. From the side that thrashed Malaga 5-1, Ernesto Valverde brought Ricardo Costa back into the centre of his defence, while Sofiane Feghouli started on the right, as Canales was injured again. Jonas switched to the left. The key feature of this game was not about formations, individual positioning or possession dominance – but instead about Real Sociedad’s brilliant quick counter-attacks that repeatedly carved Valencia open.” Zonal Marking

Saving Filadelfia

April 30, 2013

“In its heyday it stood majestically as the home of Torino. It housed ‘Il Grande Torino’, arguably the greatest side calcio has ever witnessed. It presented a wall of noise in an intimate atmosphere. It was where Torino claimed six of their seven Scudetti. Today the Stadio Filadelfia is a desolate, crumbling shadow of its former glory. The spiritual home of the Granata – claret reds – has few sections remaining. Like an Ancient Roman ruin, pieces of edifice linger to offer a haunting reminder of its majesty. Torino haven’t played a League match at the stadium since May 19, 1963. On that occasion 1982 World Cup winning Coach Enzo Bearzot was on target in a 1-1 draw against Napoli.” In Bed With Maradona

How not to write about football

April 18, 2013

“A reaction to the Champions League draw last Friday saw commentator Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger write about fears of a German hegemony in Europe. It is correct, 2 German clubs in the semi-final of Europe’s premier football competition is a Novum. However, there is no reason to bring hegemony into play. Hegemony is described as indirect rule by the means of cultural and political ideas in order to maintain a status quo. The Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci used the term ‘Cultural Hegemony’ to describe how the ruling class dominate the working class by setting an agenda of ideas and beliefs.” Do not mention the war

AC Milan 1-1 Napoli: Tactical Analysis

April 18, 2013

“The fight for Europe continued in the Serie A as 3rd placed Milan faced 2nd place Napoli. Juventus have a clear path through to the Serie A crown but its the teams below them than are competing for places. Games like this one at the San Siro can be crucial for teams who have aspirations for the Champions League next season. Milan were without Balotelli who was suspended for 3 games while El Sharaawy started (surprisingly) on the bench. Allegri opted to go with Robinho and Boateng either side of Pazzini in place of Niang and Sharaawy. The game was a closely fought affair. Napoli should feel disappointed at not taking advantage of Flamini’s red card. Milan however continued to look to get the victory despite being down to 10 men for the last 20 minutes.” Outside of the Boot

AC Milan 1-1 Napoli: Tactical Analysis
“The fight for Europe continued in the Serie A as 3rd placed Milan faced 2nd place Napoli. Juventus have a clear path through to the Serie A crown but it’s the teams below them that are competing for places. Games like this one at the San Siro can be crucial for teams who have aspirations for the Champions League next season. Milan were without Balotelli who was suspended for 3 games, while El Sharaawy started (surprisingly) on the bench. Allegri opted to go with Robinho and Boateng either side of Pazzini, in place of Niang and Sharaawy.” SportsKeeda

Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich: Bayern initially struggle with the tempo, then close out the tie

April 13, 2013

Juventus v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final
“This was expected to be the closest tie of the Champions League quarter-final stage, but was actually won by the biggest margin. Antonio Conte was without the suspended duo of Arturo Vidal and Stephane Lichtsteiner, so he played Paul Pogba and Federico Peluso. Mirko Vucinic returned to the side upfront. Jupp Heynckes welcomed back Javi Martinez from suspension, but otherwise continued with the side that played the majority of the first leg, after Toni Kroos’ injury. Juventus started the game brightly, but Bayern eventually took command and calmed the tempo of the game.” Zonal Marking

Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich- Tactical Analysis
“Juventus welcomed Bayern Munich to the Juventus arena on a night where they needed a minor miracle to turn around a 2-0 deficit from the first leg. The feat had only been replicated once before, by Barcelona in the previous round against AC Milan. The home side made two mandatory changes, Lichtsteiner and Vidal, sitting out through suspension, were replaced by Padoin and Pogba respectively. The rest of the team was familiar, as they started in their 3-5-2 formation, with Kwadwo Asamoah returning on the left wing. Up front, Vucinic started along side Fabio Quagliarella. The back 3 remained the same, along with Pirlo and Marchisio, who along with Pogba completed the midfield.” Outside of the Boot

Scramble Tactics – How Borussia Dortmund came back against Malaga
“You see this scenario all too often in football. A team trails or needs goals in the dying minutes of a game. Coaches throw on the additional striker or instruct their center-backs to play in the opponent’s box and wait for long balls or crosses to come in, hoping for the right bounce or opportunity to strike. What Jürgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund did in the Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Malaga was similar of course with a very interesting variation worth deconstructing.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Fiorentina 2-2 Milan: Montella reacts calmly to Fiorentina’s first-half setbacks

April 9, 2013

“Despite a numerical disadvantage and two men injured early on, Fiorentina came back from 2-0 down to keep their Champions League hopes alive. Vincenzo Montella was surprisingly able to call upon Stevan Jovetic – although he didn’t look 100% fit, and didn’t make it to the second half. Gonzalo Rodriguez was unavailable, so Nenad Tomovic started at the back. Max Allegri used Riccardo Montolivo in the deep-lying role against his old club, while Cristian Zapata returned in place of Daniele Bonera. Milan took control in the first hour, but the way Fiorentina responded was highly impressive.” Zonol Marking (Video)

The Question: How is interpretation of the playmaker role changing?

April 4, 2013

“Perhaps no position is undergoing such evolution so rapidly as the playmaker – or, as it is probably more accurate to call him in his present guise, the creative midfielder. This week, the Champions League quarter-finals seemed almost to showcase the changing interpretations of the position – albeit in the most modern case in unfortunately truncated form.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Bayern 2-0 Juve: Bayern’s pressing prevents Juve bringing their strike duo into play

April 4, 2013

“Bayern take a commanding lead into the second leg, after a dominant first leg performance. Jupp Heynckes named his expected side – Luiz Gustavo came in for the suspended Javi Martinez – although Toni Kroos’ early injury pushed Thomas Muller inside, with Arjen Robben introduced on the right. Despite strong rumours Antonio Conte would select a 3-5-1-1 formation, he went for the usual 3-5-2 with Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella (his least favoured strike duo this season) upfront. This was all about Bayern – they pressed excellently and Juventus struggled to put together good attacking moves, or bring their strike duo into play.” Zonal Marking

Bayern 2-0 Juventus: Tactical Analysis
“Former champions Juventus traveled to Munich to take on German giants, Bayern Munich at the Allianz arena in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final which eventually finished Bayern 2-0 Juventus. The home side started as expected, with Lahm, van Buyten, Dante and Alaba in defence. Luiz Gustavo played in midfield alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger. The wide areas were patrolled by Ribery and Thomas Muller, while Toni Kroos played behind the lone frontman Mario Mandzukic. The Bianconeri had veteran keeper Buffon in goal, and played their usual 3-5-2 formation. At the back, Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci were selected. The midfield trio of Marchisio, Pirlo and Vidal were handed the unenviable task of stopping Bayern’s midfield. Out wide, Lichtsteiner started on the right, and Peluso on the left. The front line consisted of Matri and Quagliarella to start with.” Outside of the Boot

Atlético Madrid 1-1 Valencia

April 2, 2013

“A wet evening at the Vicente Calderón stadium, Atlético Madrid failed to capitalize on the opportunity to go 2nd following Real Madrid’s draw with Real Zaragoza on Saturday. Valencia had the chance to leapfrog Málaga and go level on points with La Real, but both teams had to settle for a point each – a game full of overloads provided a stalemate.” Outside of the Boot

Reunions, stars clashing lead Champions League quarterfinal draw

March 17, 2013

“The Champions League quarterfinal draw took place Friday morning in Nyon, Switzerland, with the competition harder than ever to call. If Bayern Munich was the dominant side after its round of 16 first-leg win at Arsenal, the performances of Barcelona and Real Madrid in their second legs reminded everyone of the talent of the La Liga sides. Here is the rundown of the draw for the last eight …” SI

Manuel Pellegrini and Fatih Terim back where they belong

March 15, 2013

Fatih Terim
“By common consent, five of the eight remaining sides in the Champions League have a good chance of lifting the European Cup at Wembley in May. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Juventus — current league champions, imminent league champions or, in Juve’s case, both. The dark horse? Paris St Germain have performed well in Europe under Champions League specialist Carlo Ancelotti, and following their recruitment of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi, their presence is no great surprise.” ESPN – Michael Cox

The story behind the ups at downs at ‘crazy’ Inter

March 15, 2013

“Andrea Stramaccioni’s phone is vibrating. The Inter coach fumbles around his pockets for it. Caller ID reveals that club president Massimo Moratti is on the line. You’d maybe expect there to be some trepidation. All week, Stramaccioni had read in the papers, seen on the TV and heard on the radio that Moratti was apparently considering sacking him if Inter didn’t improve in the second leg of their Europa League tie with Tottenham on Thursday and their trip to Sampdoria on Sunday.” ESPN (Video)

Lazio 0-2 Fiorentina: Ledesma shows how not to play the holding midfield role – again role

March 13, 2013

“A familiar, assured passing performance from Fiorentina – but a rare away victory. They leapfrog Lazio into fourth. Vladimir Petkovic was without right-winger Antonio Candreva after his red card against Milan last week, so moved Alvaro Gonzales to the flank and used Ederson in the middle. Lorik Cana started at the back, in place of Giuseppe Biava. Vincenzo Montella selected his 4-3-3 formation. Alberto Aquilani was unavailable in the centre of the pitch, so Giulio Migliaccio started in his position, while Nenad Tomovic played at right-back. Fiorentina were clinical here – dominating the opening period with clever passing triangles, then playing possession football in the second half to seal a relatively comfortable victory.” Zonal Marking

Schalke 2-1 Dortmund: squeezed game allows full-backs forward on the overlap
“Schalke won the Revierderby with an excellent first-half display. Atsuto Uchida came back into Jens Keller’s side, with Marco Hoger moving forward into midfield in place of Jermaine Jones. Jurgen Klopp recalled Mats Hummels – although he didn’t seem 100% fit and only lasted half the game. Klopp left out Marco Reus, presumably because of rotation after a busy couple of weeks for Dortmund. This game was amazingly attack-minded in the opening stages, and almost solely about the flanks, with all four full-backs playing attack-minded roles.” Zonal Marking

Napoli 1-1 Juventus: Juve hold on

March 2, 2013

“Second-placed Napoli performed well after the break, but a draw puts Juve in a great position to retain their title. Walter Mazzarri continued with Miguel Britos on the left of his back three, and favoured the experience of Goran Pandev rather than Lorenzo Insigne’s directness. Antonio Conte selected Federico Peluso as his left-wing-back rather than Kwadwo Asamoah, while Giorgio Chiellini was fit to return just behind him. Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic continued upfront. Juventus looked stronger in the first half, before Mazzarri’s half-time switch changed the pattern of the game in the second period.” Zonal Marking

What Mario Balotelli Means For Italy (and Italy)

March 2, 2013

“In August 1990, just weeks after Totò Schillaci’s exploits at that summer’s World Cup, a shared place of birth would have seemed the only connection between the newborn Mario Balotelli and Italy’s Golden Boot winner. Born in Palermo to two Ghanaian immigrants, Thomas and Rose Barwuah, young Mario had a difficult first few years, undergoing a series of intestinal operations as a toddler. Even after being placed in foster care with the Balotelli family in the northern town of Brescia, the idea that Mario would one day wear the blue of Italy, let alone become a national icon, would have seemed unthinkable. Fast-forward to last summer and Mario Balotelli’s two-goal demolition of Germany in the semi-final of Euro 2012 cemented his fame and sealed his reputation as an explosive yet unpredictable talent. While a highly welcome addition to the Italian national team, his success is especially significant in a country that has often struggled with the concept of national identity as it attempts to reconcile its mixed feelings towards immigration.” In Bed With Maradona

Juventus silences Celtic’s rowdy audience, Zlatan red carded

February 13, 2013

“The Champions League returned to action Tuesday and despite two early goals scored by the away teams, both matches were compelling encounters. The games threw up some unlikely heroes and, as always, plenty of talking points. Here are a few: Marchisio breaks Celtic hearts: Celtic coach Neil Lennon said pre-match that his side did not play old-fashioned kick and rush football, and that much was true. In fact, it was Juventus who played the first long ball of the night, Andrea Pirlo’s third-minute pass from deep catching Efe Ambrose half-asleep and allowing Alessandro Matri to slot the ball past Fraser Forster.” SI

All Italian eyes rest on Balotelli

February 5, 2013

“Do spare a thought for Giampaolo Pazzini. After scoring twice in a 2-1 win against Bologna on January 20, 2013, the Milan striker was promised by chief executive Adriano Galliani that there were no plans to bring in a rival in the transfer window. One can only imagine then his reaction to La Gazzetta dello Sport’s front page last Wednesday, which declared that ‘Balo is back,’ the Photoshopped red of his ‘crest’ haircut signifying he’d joined Milan from Manchester City.” Eurosport

Putting Latina on the map

February 3, 2013

“A short drive south of Rome is a rather curious city, so very Italian and yet in all of Italy there exists no other city like it. It is a city whose football club has never before gone beyond the third division and yet which has produced one of Italy’s greatest ever goalscorers and one of the jewels in Maradona’s Napoli. But if you haven’t heard of Latina and its blue and black lions, perhaps you soon will. The team is within touching distance of playing in Serie B for the very first time.” World Soccer


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