Roma’s early momentum dissipates to leave Mourinho pointing the finger

“The players were in the tunnel ready to emerge for the second half at the Mapei Stadium, but José Mourinho was headed in the opposite direction, returning from the dugout to the changing room. Roma were drawing 0-0 with Sassuolo but just for a moment that was not his priority, as he went to retrieve a team shirt to give to a young supporter in a wheelchair he had noticed beside the pitch. …”
Guardian

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Italy: Serie A, 2022-23 season


“The map page has a location-map of 2022-23 Serie A, along with 3 charts. The location-map features each club’s home kit [2022-23]. The map also shows the 20 Regions of Italy. And the map also shows the 11 largest cities in Italy (2020 metropolitan-area figures) {Metropolitan cities of Italy}. The cities’ population figures can be seen at the top of the location-map. Also, the map shows the locations of both the 3 promoted clubs and the 3 relegated clubs from 2022…Promoted to Serie A for 2022-23: Lecce, Cremonese, Monza; relegated to Serie B for 2022-23: Cagliari, Genoa, Venezia. …”
billsportsmaps
Guardian: Milan bounce back against Juventus to give Allegri a slap in the face
The Analyst: Italian Serie A 2022-23 Season Stats

Arkadiusz Milik sparked bedlam in Turin. But then the real chaos

“Arkadiusz Milik knew the punishment but still committed the crime, ripping off his shirt and throwing it in the air as he barrelled toward Juventus’s supporters behind the goal. They came tumbling down the stand towards him, delirious and disbelieving. In the 91st minute, their team had trailed 2-1 at home to Salernitana. Now, in the 95th, Milik had scored to put them 3-2 ahead. …”
Guardian

European roundup: Bayern held by Stuttgart, Napoli and Milan grab wins

“Bayern Munich conceded a stoppage-time equaliser scored by the VfB Stuttgart striker Serhou Guirassy from the penalty spot, as the champions endured a third consecutive Bundesliga draw. The game started well for Bayern, with Mathys Tel scoring their opener in the 36th minute. The France youth international Tel, who at the age of 17 years and 136 days became the youngest player to start a league game for Bayern, had already scored in the German Cup first round. He scored his first league goal by drilling in a low drive from an Alphonso Davies cutback. …”
Guardian

How Sandro Tonali’s shifting roles helped decide a rollercoaster Milan derby


“If you are riding a rollercoaster, there are always ups and downs. And that was certainly the case in this weekend’s Derby della Madonnina between AC Milan and Inter Milan. Inter took the lead, Milan equalised, then dominated and scored twice to go 3-1 ahead. Then Inter hit back and, but for some miraculous goalkeeping by Mike Maignan and a tactical tweak by Stefano Pioli, could well have salvaged a point. … In this piece, The Athletic breaks down the key tactical battles from the game…”
The Athletic

What the Champions League Is Lacking


“PARIS — There will be stories, of course. There are always stories. The Champions League delivers them so frequently and so reliably that it is impossible to dismiss the nagging suspicion that all of this might just be scripted, the product of some complex simulation being run from a secret lair in Nyon. Robert Lewandowski, clad in the blue and red of Barcelona, will return to Bayern Munich, only a few weeks after forcing his exit. Manchester City’s visit to Borussia Dortmund will see Erling Haaland standing once more before its Yellow Wall, that great force of nature no longer at his back but marshaled in his face. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Champions League draw analysed – The biggest games, the shocks in store, the toughest groups

Rating the best and worst of Europe’s 2022-23 kits: From stunners to zany stripes

“We’ve rated the Premier League home kits. We’ve rated the Premier League away kits. So now it’s time to go Euro. It’s a big ask to review the design choices of an entire continent, but The Athletic has broad shoulders and is very happy to take on the job. Someone has to — you may think that this is not something that is absolutely vital for the smooth continuation of public discourse, but unfortunately, we’ve checked, and actually, it is. …”
The Athletic (Video)

The Biggest Serie A Wins


“The biggest win in Serie A history remains Torino’s 10-0 destruction of Alessandria in May 1948. This was the era of the Grande Torino – the five-time champions of Italy (in successive seasons) and the backbone of the Italian national team. This legendary team scored 125 goals in Serie A 1947-48 – 49 more than any other team, while they won the league title by a massive 16 points despite playing in the two points for a win era. The 10-0 victory against Alessandria saw Ezio Loik score a hat-trick. …”
The Analyst

It’s the Bandinis 2022! The complete review of Serie A’s 2021-22 season


Serie A lost some stars, but the football on the pitch still sparkled. Without Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi, Gianluigi Donnarumma or Antonio Conte the league simply had to make do with one of its most compelling title races for decades. It ended as a duel between Milan and Inter, two halves of the same city, clubs who share a stadium and the black stripes on their shirt but are divided by the red and the blue. Rivals who have emerged together from a decade in the wilderness, reminding themselves and each other that this league did not always belong to that lot down the road in Turin. …”
Guardian (Video)
W – 2021–22 Serie A

Silvio Berlusconi-backed Monza will play in Serie A for the first time in their history


“Silvio Berlusconi slouched down in his seat and appeared to take a nap. It had been a long day and, at 85, he is getting on a bit now. Rather than dozing off at his Arcore estate, though, Berlusconi was in the stands at the Arena Garibaldi, where the noise was enough to wake the dead and the tremors may have caused the nearby Leaning Tower to lean a little bit further. A pitch invasion was going on down below and the home side, Pisa, suddenly believed in promotion again. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi is a long shot for Italian president — but a likely kingmaker (Audio)

Futures bets for EPL, Serie A title chases and other tight European races


“The Champions League final is set between Liverpool and Real Madrid, but there are still two incredibly close title races in two of the biggest leagues in Europe. The Premier League and Serie A titles are coming down to the final few weeks. There are also close battles for European places and relegation battles across the top five European leagues. Here’s a look at what’s on the line, the biggest matches to come and how the betting market views the close races in the final few weeks of league play. …”
The Athletic

European roundup: Barcelona earn late win at Levante, Milan held by Torino


Barcelona striker Luuk de Jong scored a header in added time to give his side a 3-2 win at struggling Levante after a remarkable, end-to-end game in which his side gave away three penalties. Levante began the game in 19th place but took a deserved lead against lacklustre opponents in the 52nd minute. The captain José Luis Morales scored from the spot after a foul by Dani Alves and moments later the hosts earned a second penalty, for a handball by Eric García. This time striker Roger Martí stepped up to take it and his effort was saved by Marc-André ter Stegen. …”
Guardian

Milan: The Resurrection of the Rossoneri


“The iconic red and black silks, the cross of Saint Ambrose painted across their crest, the magnificent amphitheatre that is the San Siro – Milan are a side steeped in European footballing history. With seven European Cup and Champions League titles to their name, Milan are the second most successful club in the competition’s history behind only Real Madrid (13). The Rossoneri are also the third most successful club in Serie A, having won 18 league titles, yet the last of those came over a decade ago in 2010-11. Since Massimiliano Allegri departed for Juventus in 2014, Milan had seen seven permanent managers take to their San Siro dugout before the appointment of Stefano Pioli in October 2019. All this in addition to three different club owners in that same period, leading to a fall from grace for a club once considered among the European elite. …”
The Analyst

New Year, New Me: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings


“The return of European knockout football has us once again watching teams from across the continent go up against one another. But tournament football, clearly, doesn’t see every team play each other, and the beauty of it is that the best team doesn’t always win. And that’s absolutely fine. But what if there was a global league system, rather than one-off knockout ties, that could help us gauge the comparative strength of teams across the world? Well, that’s exactly what Stats Perform’s Power Rankings seek to do. …”
The Analyst

Van Dijk’s dominance and Konate’s best performance make Liverpool good bets to reach the Champions League final


“In a tactical sense, Liverpool’s 2-0 victory away to Inter Milan felt like a very modern contest. The game was played at a frenetic tempo, both sides looked to push up and press the opposition whenever possible, and there were various moments when the defences seemed set to play themselves into trouble on the edge of their own penalty areas, such was the defensive effort of the attacking players. In situations like that, sometimes the defenders themselves are slightly anonymous — they hold a high line, position themselves to sweep up if the press is beaten, but find that their job title is slightly misleading and they don’t have to do much actual defending. …”
The Athletic (Audio)

Inter vs. Roma: five things spotted in Mourinho’s Meazza return


“It wasn’t Mourinho’s first match at San Siro since his return to Serie A. It wasn’t even his first game against the Nerazzurri this season. However, he had never returned to Milan to play against his ex club since he left in 2010 to join Real Madrid. It was meant to be a special night for José Mourinho and, to some extent, it was a night he would never forget. However, his first game as an Inter opponent in Milan did not end as he wanted as his Roma side were eliminated from the competition. The disappointment was visible in his eyes while he walked inside the tunnel after the final whistle. …”
Football Italia

Ajax, Barca, Bayern among Europe’s great treble winners


“The Bavarians’ success was remarkable given they changed their coach earlier in the campaign, appointing Hans-Dieter Flick as head coach. Flick had been the number two at Bayern and had filled similar roles with RB Salzburg and the German national team. Prior to that, he was coach of Hoffenheim in the regional league. While Flick inherited a team, he rekindled the fire at Bayern and won three major prizes. Bayern Munich joined eight previous winners of the ‘treble’. …”
Game of the People

Serie A: How Does Each Team Play?


“Internazionale have recovered well from the loss of manager Antonio Conte and star player Romelu Lukaku this summer, as they top the Serie A table by four points with a game in hand on the chasing pack. Despite the arrival of Simone Inzaghi as manager, Inter have largely stuck to the playing style that served them so well in 2020-21, with the club remaining one of the slowest and most intricate in style this season. However, it’s Napoli who have become the most patient in building the play in Serie A this campaign since the arrival of Luciano Spalletti in Naples – a change from last season’s more direct style under Gennaro Gattuso. …”
The Analyst

Milan draw with Juventus as De Jong scores late winner for Barcelona


Frenkie de Jong
“La Liga leaders Real Madrid fought back from two goals down at home to rescue a 2-2 draw against lowly Elche thanks to a last-gasp Éder Militão goal in stoppage time. Real wasted a golden opportunity to widen the gap at the top of the table after second-placed Sevilla stumbled at home with a draw against Celta Vigo on Saturday. …”
Guardian

Football and cryptocurrency sponsorship: is the free-for-all over?


“Up until now, football’s relationship with cryptocurrency sponsorship has felt like a complete and utter free-for-all, with no rules whatsoever. Slowly but surely that is starting to change. This week the UK government announced plans to crackdown on misleading ads for cryptocurrency companies, which would treat them like ads for other financial products, a move that could have far-reaching implications in the world of football which is increasingly dependent on the booming sector. Meanwhile Spain is leading a similar charge in the EU. …”
The Athletic

Players to Watch in 2021-22: The Analyst 50 (Part I)


“After a summer of frantic international football tournaments across the globe, the new domestic league season is now on the horizon. Ninety-eight teams will battle it out across the top five European leagues, with titles to be won, European football to be secured and relegation to be avoided and we wanted to give you a guide on some of the players to watch in 2021-22. We recruited the very best of Stats Perform’s data editors to give us a list of 50 players. These players aren’t who they think are the greatest – you’ve all read that. This is a selection of 50 players that we think will make an impact in 2021-22. Some are obvious, some less so. Let’s dive in to The Analyst 50, with the first 25 players. …”
The Analyst (July 2021) Part I (Video), Part II (Video)

UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics


“Taking in José Mourinho’s touchline charge, La Remontada and plenty more besides, UEFA.com picks out a classic last-16 tie from each of the last 18 seasons. The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League is the 19th edition since the knockout round of 16 replaced the second group stage. UEFA.com picks out a classic tie from each of the past 18 seasons – all headline scores are aggregate. …”
UEFA (Video)

The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog


December 9: Villarreal qualified for this season’s Champions League despite not finishing in the top six of La Liga, the cutoff for traditional Europa League qualification. They did so by beating Manchester United in the Europa League final. And although they couldn’t chase down United to win Group F on Thursday, they did more than they needed to in Bergamo to carry on to the Champions League last 16 despite sitting 13th in La Liga. …”
The Analyst
SI: Champions League Group Ouster Is Barcelona’s New Bottom – Jonathan Wilson

ESPN FC 100: Messi, Lewandowski, Oblak among No. 1s; Premier League has most representatives


“For the sixth consecutive year, ESPN presents its annual ranking of the best men’s players and coaches in world soccer! Welcome to FC 100. As always, rankings are broken down into Top 10 lists for positions, plus a countdown of managers, in order to present the most meaningful look at talent on the pitch and the sideline. Whereas last year was dominated by Liverpool and Bayern Munich — the clubs combined for eight of the 10 No. 1 spots — the leaders in this year’s edition are spread across six teams, with none having more than two men on top of their respective category. …”
ESPN (Video)
Go to: Goalkeeper | Right-back | Centre-back | Left-back | Central midfield | Attacking midfield | Winger | Forward | Striker | Manager

Juventus’s season is going from bad to worse … on and off the pitch


“After losing 4-0 to Chelsea, Juventus’s week only went downhill. Tuesday’s Champions League drubbing was followed up by another loss at home to Atalanta on Saturday. In-between, the club’s offices were raided by police, who seized documents relating to player transfers and financial accounts. A statement from the Turin prosecutor Anna Maria Loreto explained on Friday that these searches were part of a wide-reaching investigation. The present focus, she explained, was to assess whether Juventus, a publicly listed company, had issued false communications to investors and invoices for non-existent transactions. But Loreto noted that further matters were also under scrutiny, including services offered by agents and intermediaries. …”
Guardian

Italy: Serie A, 2021-22 season – Location-map, with 2 charts: Seasons-in 1st-Division & All-time Italian Titles list.


“… The map page has a location-map of 2021-22 Serie A. The location-map features each club’s home kit [2021-22]. The map also shows the 20 Regions of Italy. And the map also shows the 11 largest cities in Italy (2019 metropolitan-area figures) {Metropolitan cities of Italy}. The cities’ population figures can be seen at the top of the location-map. Finally, the map shows the locations of both the promoted clubs and the relegated clubs from 2021… Promoted to Serie A for 2021-22 (Empoli, Salernitana, Venezia); relegated to Serie B for 2021-22 (Benevento, Crotone, Parma). The right-hand side of the map page has 2 charts. The top chart shows each of the 20 clubs’ total seasons in Serie A, with consecutive top-flight seasons also listed. The other chart is the All-time Italian titles list (1898-1915; 1920-43; 1946-2021). …”
billsportsmaps
W – 2021–22 Serie A

Tactics and Thunder: Analysing Antonio Conte’s suitability for Manchester United


When deeper, Conte’s teams prioritise compactness over pressure and work to block spaces centrally and force the opponent wide. When the ball is moved, all players move across in unison.
“No one can have missed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to be on the brink at Manchester United and clinging onto his job as the club’s manager. It’s being reported that the Norwegian needs positive results in the coming matches to remain in charge of United, highlighting United’s indecisiveness regarding their managerial situation. Surely, if the club officials were 100% behind Solskjaer, they would keep him regardless of the result at Tottenham on Saturday, or Manchester City next week? Equally, if they doubt him, why is he still in charge? …”
Running the Show (Video)

Chelsea’s loss at Juve illustrates the challenges Tuchel faces in fighting for titles domestically and abroad


Leonardo Bonucci in action for Juventus against Sampdoria.
“Thomas Tuchel probably didn’t need a reminder of the difficulty in competing on two fronts this season, but Manchester City and now Juventus have given him just that in the space of five days. The chaotic circumstances surrounding his arrival at Stamford Bridge in January — replacing fan favourite Frank Lampard and thrust straight into a condensed schedule made more unrelenting by COVID-19’s impact — created a degree of breathing space in the Premier League that helped propel them to Champions League glory. Tuchel was of course under a degree of pressure to secure a top-four spot last term, but he harnessed that rarest of things under owner Roman Abramovich — a sense of freedom arising from lowered expectations — to galvanise this group to an improbable European success. The dynamic is different this time. …”
ESPN
Guardian: Tuchel and Chelsea are failing to capitalise on Lukaku’s specific threat
YouTube: Juventus vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights, Bayern München vs. Dynamo Kyiv: Extended Highlights, Zenit vs. Malmö: Extended Highlights, Atalanta vs. Young Boys: Extended Highlights, Benfica vs. Barcelona: Extended Highlights, Wolfsburg vs. Sevilla: Extended Highlights

Why are Americans buying Italian football clubs?


“There is a wave of American-owned clubs in Serie A currently. Roma, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Parma, Spezia, Bologna and Venezia are all under US or Canadian control, meaning more than a quarter of the clubs in Italy’s top flight are owned by individuals from North America. Why do Americans want Italian clubs, and why is the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) allowing them to purchase these clubs at such a rate? Also, is it working out for them?”
The Athletic (Video)
Fortune: Despite ‘zero chance to win a championship,’ American business tycoons continue to pile into Italian soccer (March 2021)
Fortune: The Great Serie A Sale: Six Italian Soccer Clubs Are Currently Looking For New Ownership (Audio – Aug. 2020)
Understanding ‘Football’ in Italy By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw
W – List of Italian football club owners

2021–22 UEFA Champions League


“The 2021–22 UEFA Champions League is the 67th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 30th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was originally scheduled to be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, due to the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final, the final hosts were shifted back a year, with Saint Petersburg instead hosting the 2022 final. The winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Champions League will automatically qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Champions League group stage, and also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Europa League in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup. …”
W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League, W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League group stage
Guardian – Champions League 2021-22 draw: group stage analysis and predictions

Arrigo Sacchi’s cultural revolution


Arrigo Sacchi
“In the early 1990s, the Italian national team were in a distinct crisis. To solve the tactical issues, the Federazione drew on the secret weapon of domestic Italian football: Arrigo Sacchi. The former Milan coach replaced Azeglio Vicini, who had not been able to win the World Cup at home, in 1991. Making its début against Norway, a draw meant that the qualification for the 1992 EURO was definitively over. However, Sacchi’s real goal was to rebuild the Squadra Azzurra – and in the long term to succeed at the 1994 World Cup. In that context, Sacchi relied on the well-known Milan axis composed of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Franco Baresi. Meanwhile, the 1993 FIFA World Player of the Year, Roberto Baggio, was considered the pivotal point in attack. Certainly missing the qualities of his Dutch players from Sacchi’s Milan days, he was able to work on a coherent system, involving Baggio and the two Rossoneri Roberto Donadoni and Daniele Massaro. A system that, unsurprisingly, was very similar to the one Milan played in the late 1980s. …”
Arrigo Sacchi’s cultural revolution
Arrigo Sacchi: The Tactical Masters (Video)
How Marcello Lippi masterminded the resurgence of Juventus in the 1990s
The footballing fairy tale of Juventus cult hero Moreno Torricelli
How Giovanni Trapattoni adapted his way into legend
Total Football Journeyman: Arrigo Sacchi & The Cult of Universal Player (Video)
W – Marcello Lippi, W – Arrigo Sacchi, W – Giovanni Trapattoni
YouTube: A Brief History of Arrigo Sacchi, The coaching genius who made Juve invincible | Marcello Lippi Interview | Serie A, Legendary: Press Conference with Giovanni Trapattoni

Marcello Lippi

The Blueprint: Five Tactical Trends to Look out for in Juventus vs. Milan


“It’s official. The Blueprint’s gone continental. This week, we’re headed to Turin for a Serie A clash that pits the league frontrunners against an old superpower that has since faded. But maybe not in the way you think. Milan travel to Juventus with the sides in two very different frames of mind.  Juventus’ start has been troublesome to put it kindly, and downright dreadful if we are being less kind.  Defeat to Napoli last Saturday left Massimiliano Allegri’s side with just one point from their opening three fixtures, and they sit in 16th place. It’s the first time they’ve failed to win at least one of their first three Serie A matches in 52 years. …”
The Analyst

Fans don’t want legacy clubs dominating or state-funded clubs, so can football ever be happy?


“OK, so let me get this straight. We don’t want blue-blood clubs, like Liverpool and Manchester United, dominating for decades at a time and we are deeply suspicious of how enthusiastically these aristocrats embraced financial fair play (aka, Operation Drawbridge). When it comes to winners, we want to spread it around a bit — we like disruption. But we do not want these new challengers to be funded by oligarchs or sovereign wealth funds — unless it is our club, then it is completely fine — and we are not too keen on American investors coming over here and expecting to make some money. Is that right? If it is, many of you are going to be disappointed. But you will not be the only ones. …”
The Athletic

The Parable of Inter Milan


“The first alarm rang in February, a warning from thousands of miles away. Jiangsu Suning was one of the mainstays of that strange period, five or six years ago, when soccer awoke — almost overnight — to discover that China had arrived, its pockets bottomless and its ambitions unchecked, intent on inverting the world. At first, Europe saw this new horizon as it sees everything: as a market. China’s corporate-backed clubs were, as Turkey’s and Russia’s had been years before, a convenience and a curiosity, a place where they could offload unwanted players from bloated squads. …”
NY Times

Chelsea Tactical Analysis: Thomas Tuchel vs Previous Managers


“Thomas Tuchel’s entry into the Premier League as Frank Lampard’s replacement is seen with a lot of hope by the Chelsea faithful. Tuchel is a coach who has proven himself at the highest level and has managed the very best in the business over his last four stints. The German manager is an out-and-out football coach and he works quite intricately with the teams he has managed and the personnel he has worked with. … Antonio Conte would deploy a three-man defense with two wide centre-backs. The wing-backs would shuttle up and down the flanks. They’d join in attack and that’s why Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses were a hit under the Italian’s tutelage. Now, Tuchel has taken a bit of both worlds and fused them together into a system that has worked like a charm so far. …”
sportskeeda (Feb 2021)
YouTube: The Difference Between Tuchel & Conte’s 3-4-3 | Tuchel’s Tactics vs Conte’s Tactics (July 2021)
W – Thomas Tuchel, W – Antonio Conte
Thomas Tuchel – Chelsea – Tactical Analysis (March 2021)
Kante’s renaissance: How Tuchel restored him to role he starred in under Ranieri and Conte (May 2021)

How the Super League Fell Apart


“For 48 hours, soccer stood on the brink. Fans took to the streets. Players broke into open revolt. Chaos stalked the game’s corridors of power, unleashing a shock wave that resonated around the world, from Manchester to Manila, Barcelona to Beijing, and Liverpool to Los Angeles. That internationalism is what has turned European soccer, over the last 30 years, into a global obsession. The elite teams of western Europe are stocked with stars drawn from Africa, South America and all points in between. They draw fans not just from England, Italy and Spain, but China, India and Australia in numbers large enough to tempt broadcasters across the planet to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to show their games. …”
NY Times
W – The Super League
CBS – European Super League collapse explained: What’s next? Real Madrid, Barcelona quiet; Premier League clubs out (Audio)
BBC – European Super League: All six Premier League teams withdraw from competition (Video)
YouTube: All six English clubs confirm plans to exit European Super League

Capitalist Greed Created the European Super League


Roberto Firmino of Liverpool shoots while under pressure from Éder Militão of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg match on April 14, 2021 in Liverpool, England.
“Yesterday, once again, the prospect of a breakaway European Super League (ESL) reared its head. The proposal — to carve out a continental competition in which fifteen of the game’s elite clubs could never be relegated — was met with widespread dismay by those who love the game. Despite a year that has shown just how vital fans are for the ‘spectacle’ of football, it was the match-going fans that once again were of least concern. Instead, if the plans go ahead, the future of football will be shaped by television and advertising — an entertainment industry that the top clubs estimate will deliver them £300 million per year, far outstripping their current domestic and Champions League revenues. It’s important to point out that the Super League isn’t an anomaly. …” Jacobin, European Super League explained: the contracts, plots and threats that shook football to its core, Guardian: The greed of the European Super League has been decades in the making, Guardian – ‘It’s war’: what the papers say about the European Super League, NY Times: Super League Appears to Collapse as City Walks Away

Champions League’s Last 16 Will Be Quite Telling


“By the time the UEFA Champions League’s knockout stage begins, much could change. A winter transfer window will have come and gone, though with COVID-19 impacting club finances across Europe and some already having spent big in the summer, it remains to be seen how substantial the forthcoming moves will be. Barcelona will have held its club presidential elections, a pivotal moment for a giant in turmoil and one that could have plenty of say in how the club operates moving forward. Influential players currently out injured should return, and the form, fitness and focus levels of clubs will certainly vary to what they currently are. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Team Focus: Home Providing No Comfort for Stuttering Roma

“Full of himself, Sky Italia’s garrulous orator in chief Fabio Caressa made a gag at Roma’s expense before Monday night’s game with Sampdoria at the Olimpico. Doing a shift on the network’s sports news channel, he claimed to have exclusive pictures of the team’s final training session. ‘Very intense,’ he said as a cue to roll the VT. It was a promo of zombie drama The Walking Dead. As a joke it didn’t go down particularly well with the club and the fans, a precious few of whom, perhaps taking themselves a little too seriously, threatened to tear up their subscriptions.”  WhoScored?

The four levels of local derby significance, from must-watch to objectively terrible

“For the second time in a week, rivals Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion are set for a West Midlands Derby, with Saturday’s FA Cup quarterfinal at Villa Park coming on the heels of Tuesday’s Premier League match in Birmingham. Surprisingly for what was effectively a ‘relegation six-pointer’ and a local derby, Villa’s home ground was not even close to being full in midweek. Local rivalries, with their often unique histories of animus, usually carry an added level of intrigue that separate them from other fixtures on the calendar, but as we saw while West Brom came up short in the dying seconds on Tuesday (thanks, Ben Foster!), not all derbies are created equal.” Soccer Gods

Serie A: Lazio takes care of Sassuolo to keep pressure on Napoli

“Lazio kept up the pressure on third-placed Napoli with a comfortable 3-0 win at Sassuolo in Serie A Sunday as the race for the final Champions League spot gathered pace. Goals from Felipe Anderson, Miroslav Klose and Marco Parolo helped Lazio record its third successive win and move two points behind Napoli, which can go level with second-placed Roma with a victory at Torino later. Sampdoria remained four points behind Lazio after coming from behind to win 2-1 at Atalanta. Fiorentina, which is level with Samp, visits Inter Milan later.” SI

Mediocrity in Milan

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“Through 20 Serie A matches so far this season, AC Milan and Inter Milan have the same number of points. A few years ago, this would mean they were neck-and-neck for one of the top slots in Italy’s first division. I mean, these clubs are not only based in the same city but have also both won 18 scudetti, or Serie A titles. This season, as they sit 10th and 11th place, they’re knotted in mediocrity.” Soccer Pro

The decline of Serie A
“For football fans over a certain age there is no greater fall in modern football than what has happened in Italy during the past fifteen years. Serie A, the top division of Italian football, seemed like an unstoppable force throughout the 1990s. Shown live on Channel 4 in the UK and Ireland every Sunday the league brought glamour and entertainment to a sport slowly emerging from the disasters of the 1980s and was a huge contributor to what football has become today. Serie A in the late nineties was, arguably, the greatest football league of all time.” backpagefootball

Five things we learned this week in Serie A

“Our Italian roundup comes a little later in the week due to an action packed seven days on the Peninsula that consisted of two full rounds of Serie A fixtures which saw plenty of passion, goals and drama. Going into the midweek round of fixtures Serie A boasted two unbeaten teams in Juventus and the rather surprising Sampdoria. After game week nine I am happy to say that there are no longer any fans of Serie A who can brag that their team holds an unbeaten record this season as both fell to defeat in their respective games against Genoa and Inter.” backpagefootball

Italy: Inter blows out Sassuolo while Milan holds off Parma

“Mauro Icardi scored his first ever hat trick as Inter Milan thrashed 10-man Sassuolo 7-0 on Sunday for its first victory of the fledgling Serie A season, while AC Milan won 5-4 at Parma in a highly entertaining match, which saw both teams reduced to 10 men. New signing Paolo Osvaldo netted twice and Mateo Kovacic also recorded his first league goal for Inter, while Fredy Guarin capped off a fantastic day for the Nerazzurri. Sassuolo, which lost at home by the same scoreline in its first meeting with Inter last season, also had forward Domenico Berardi sent off for an elbow on Juan Jesus.” SI

Serie A preview: Juventus face new challenges for fourth straight title

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“Last season, Juventus won Serie A by 17 points. The season before, Juventus won Serie A by nine points. The season before that, Juventus won Serie A by four points. Juventus is the best-placed Italian club (ninth overall) in the 2014 Deloitte Money League, a ranking of Europe’s top-earning clubs. It’s Italy’s biggest club and recent record suggests it has the best squad. The only question in Serie A is whether anybody can prevent Juve making it four in a row.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

The end of the Rafa Benitez revolution at Napoli?

“At the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao there’s an olive tree. Tourists write down their wishes on pieces of paper and tie them to its branches. Before the second leg of his team’s Champions League play-off on Wednesday night, Napoli owner Aurelio de Laurentiis made one of his own. His wish? ‘That Napoli win against Athletic.’ No Italian team had ever claimed victory at San Mames but Napoli coach Rafa Benitez was defiant before the game: ‘We aren’t here to be the victim,’ he said on the eve of the game, which began with the two sides level 1-1 on aggregate.” ESPN

Can Mateo Kovacic Become a Regular at Inter Milan This Season?

“After what turned out to be a disappointing World Cup for him and his Croatian side, Mateo Kovacic returned to his club duties with Inter Milan last week. Manager Walter Mazzarri included him in to the starting XI in the 1-0 win over minnows Prato, in what can be seen as another sign of Inter’s determination to reject all the offers and keep Kovacic for the season that approaches. It is no secret that there is massive interest in a midfielder who turned 20 in May and has been considered one of the brightest prospects of world football.” Bleacher Report

Serie A season signs off with ding-dong battle for Europa League berth

“The Serie A season ended as these things usually do: with contrasting images of joy and despair. In one stadium, champagne bottles were uncorked and grown men were tossed up in the air. In another, an Italy forward wept inconsolably. His failure to convert a last-minute penalty had cost his team everything. Instead of sealing a triumphant sixth-place finish, Alessio Cerci had condemned Torino to disastrous seventh.” Guardian

Transfer Target: Who Will Rescue Mateo Kovacic from Inter Milan?

“As one would imagine, memories of the 1998 World Cup run deep in Croatia. Still very much a new nation then, only a few years after having gained its independence from Yugoslavia in a bloody war, the country had little to show for and football became its best promotional tool. The national team dazzled the world with an exuberant display in its maiden appearance at the tournament, wearing psychedelic red and white checkers and at times squeezing three exceptionally gifted playmakers into the lineup. As Croatia marched to third place in France, Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinecki and Aljosa Asanovic became known as its ‘magic triangle’.” Bleacher Report (Video)

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

“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

The 54 Club – Italy

“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

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

“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

AC Milan Crisis: What next for the Rossoneri?

“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

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

“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

Inter 1-1 Juventus: Tactical Analysis

“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

Statistical Infographic: Inter vs Juve

“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

No more bickering as Supercoppa awaits

“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

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

“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

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

“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)