II Soldatino 2.0

March 23, 2011

“2010/11 has been something of a nightmare for Juventus. But Adam Digby has spotted a potential club hero amidst the trials and tribulations.” In Bed With Maradona

Inter close gap

March 20, 2011

“Inter Milan took full advantage of AC Milan’s defeat on Saturday as they defeated Lecce 1-0 to move two points behind the leaders. Giampaolo Pazzini’s match-winner after 52 minutes had a suspicion of handball about it but the hosts just about deserved the three points after an improved second-half display.” ESPN

United’s forwards destroy Marseille; Marcelo key for Real

March 18, 2011

“Tactical observations from Champions League action this week…” SI

Champions League draw – as it happened

March 18, 2011

Jean-Pierre Clatot
“The draw begins at 11am UK time. By which what we mean, of course, is that the video montages, unnecessary musical interludes, and same-old boring lecture we get every year about how wonderful the Champions League is begins at 11am. Then, all of a sudden, the draw will happen very quickly just when you’ve given up waiting and gone to make a cuppa instead. Fear not, though, I shall be here without to make sure you don’t miss a thing.” Guardian

What’s So Special About Jose Mourinho?

March 16, 2011

“José Mourinho has a problem. When fans approach the world’s most famous coach—and they do so in great numbers, from Madrid to London to Los Angeles—they are seldom satisfied with a typical autograph. They want something unique. Distinct. Dare it be said: special. ‘I’ll sign JOSÉ MOURINHO,’ says the Real Madrid manager after a practice in the Spanish capital. ‘But most of the people say, “No, no, no. You will sign THE SPECIAL ONE!” ‘ Mourinho sighs, the edges of his trademark smirk curling into a faint smile. ‘Everybody wants me to be The Special One. But I don’t worry. There could be a worse nickname.'” SI

Bayern 2-3 Inter: Pandev snatches the win

March 16, 2011

“Inter progress on away goals after Goran Pandev’s late winner. Louis van Gaal changed his two centre-backs from the first game, but it was a familiar 4-2-3-1 for Bayern. Having started with a Christmas tree shape in the first leg, Leonardo switched to more of a 4-2-3-1ish shape here. Wesley Sneijder was used in a wide-left role, Goran Pandev started from the right but sometimes became a second striker, and Dejan Stankovic linked the holding midfielders and the attackers.” Zonal Marking

Man Utd 2-1 Marseille: two Hernandez tap-ins
“Manchester United survived a late scare to book their place in the quarter-finals. Sir Alex Ferguson made widespread changes from the weekend win over Arsenal. He played a 4-4-2 formation, Dimitar Berbatov was again left out, and Michael Carrick came into the midfield. John O’Shea got the nod over Rafael, but the Brazilian replaced him shortly before half time, due to injury.” Zonal Marking

Italian Football Needs To Get Its House In Order

March 4, 2011

“It has but been confirmed, as of the start of the 2012 season Serie A will only be allocated three Champions League spots. The confirmation came after all three Italian sides lost their first leg matches in the Champions League whilst Napoli was eliminated from the Europa League. These results have made it impossible for Serie A to catch the Bundesliga in the UEFA Coefficient Rankings so consequently Serie A will remain in fourth spot.” Serie A Weekly

Milan 3-0 Napoli: Napoli don’t turn up

March 1, 2011

“Milan recorded a comfortable victory over a hugely disappointing Napoli side. Max Allegri gave Marek Jankulovski a rare start at left-back. Upfront, he used the Robinho-Pato-Ibrahimovic trio. Walter Mazzarri played his usual XI with one exception – Ezequiel Lavezzi was unavailable, so Giuseppe Mascara started instead. Napoli were extremely poor throughout the game. Their passing was very sloppy, they lacked drive or creativity from the centre of midfield, and Edinson Cavani couldn’t get into the game. Milan were below par in the first half, but stepped it up in the second and never looked likely to give up the lead once Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a penalty in the 48th minute.” Zonal Marking

Five lessons from Europe

February 25, 2011

“With the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 done and dusted, here are five things we’ve learned…” ESPN

Italian teams remain wedded to tactically narrow formations

February 24, 2011

“In terms of tactics, the most important factor in Tottenham Hotspur’s victory over AC Milan last week was that its wide players were able to exploit the width left by Milan’s narrowness. As a corollary to that, Spurs had the pace and energy to ensure that its numerical disadvantage in central areas didn’t mean it had to cede control over possession. Milan’s only three league defeats this season have come against sides who play with attacking width — Cesena and Juventus — and Roma, a team that usually deploys a 4-3-1-2, but deployed its trequartista, Jeremy Menes, in wide areas in that game.” SI

Inter 0-1 Bayern: Gomez nicks it at the end

February 24, 2011

Antoine Jean Gros – La bataille d’Eylau
“Mario Gomez struck very late to give Bayern a crucial first leg lead. Leonardo was without Diego Milito (injured) and Giampaolo Pazzini (cup-tied). He played Dejan Stankovic and Wesley Sneijder off Samuel Eto’o. Louis van Gaal played the same XI that started the weekend game against Mainz, though had to make a change towards the end of the first half when Danijel Pranjic got injured. Breno replaced him, with Holger Bastuber going to left-back.” Zonal Marking

Inter Milan 0-1 Bayern Munich – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats
The 90th Minute

Marseille 0-0 Manchester United: stalemate
“A lack of goalmouth action resulted in the only goalless game of the Champions League second round first legs. Mathieu Valbuena was only fit enough for the bench, and Andre-Pierre Gignac was out completely, so Didier Deschamps used a patched-up 4-2-3-1 with Brandao as the lone forward. Sir Alex Ferguson fielded Wayne Rooney on the left of a 4-1-4-1, with Darron Gibson surprisingly starting over Paul Scholes in the centre of midfield.” Zonal Marking

Marseille 0-0 Manchester United – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats
The 90th Minute

Good Week/Bad Week in Serie A

February 15, 2011

“Football Italia may have long left our screens, but if you still have a craving for cappuccino then check out our weekly Serie A round-up. Caution: this post contains bad news for all West Ham fans about their new Olympic stadium.” Sabotage Times

Milan v Tottenham: tactical preview

February 15, 2011

“In theory, Tottenham have the perfect footballing style to cause Milan problems. Max Allegri’s side have been vulnerable to the same two things this season. First, pace on the counter-attack. Milan are an old side, and often can’t compete with raw speed from younger legs. Second, width. Whether playing a 4-3-3 or a 4-3-1-2, Milan’s front three leave the defending to the seven players behind them. The full-backs often become exposed to tricky wingers, and allow too many crosses into the box. Cesena showed the way to beat Milan earlier this season – sit back, and break down the flanks.” Zonal Marking

UEFA Champions League Power Rankings: Pre-Knockout Stage (Round of 16)

February 15, 2011

“Below are the power rankings for the UEFA Champions League heading into the knockout stage (round of 16). We will release a new rankings list after each round of the competition (until it reaches the semifinals).” The 90th Minute

Juventus 1-0 Inter: Leonardo unable to respond to Delneri’s narrow formation

February 14, 2011

Pallas Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue, Andrea Mantegna
“Alessandro Matri scored the biggest goal of his career to guide Juventus to victory in the Derby d’Italia. Gigi Delneri reverted to 4-4-2 after last week’s experiment with 4-1-4-1. Luca Toni was recalled upfront, with Jorge Martinez dropping out. Leonardo named an unchanged 4-3-1-2 side from the XI that demolished Roma the previous weekend.” Zonal Marking

Roma 0-2 Napoli: two more for Cavani
“Napoli recorded an important win to maintain their challenge for Lo Scudetto. Claudio Ranieri had a shortage of centre-backs, so Marco Cassetti moved across into the middle, with Aleandro Rosi coming in at right-back. Francesco Totti and Jeremy Menez were both left out. Walter Mazzarri used his expected starting XI. The first half of the game was dominated by the referee – both sides were committing too many fouls, and the match quickly became stop-start and lacked rhythm or outright goalscoring chances.” Zonal Marking

Juventus 1-0 Inter Milan (Internazionale) – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – Serie A
The 90th Minute

Five conclusions about…Italy

February 11, 2011

Giampaolo Pazzini
“Cesare Prandelli has brought in a style of play that is suited well to modern football – in South Africa last year Italy lacked any kind of cohesive gameplan. Despite the World Cup victory, you could say that was the situation throughout Marcello Lippi’s two tenures – Italy triumphed in 2006 because of a combination of (a) having a collection of superb footballers and (b) Lippi getting his tactical decisions correct every time. When the heroes of 2006 faded and Lippi got things wrong (most obviously against New Zealand), Italy were a very poor side – not creative, not threatening on the break, not good at keeping the ball.” Zonal Marking

Five conclusions about…Germany
“Many hoped that this game would see (yet another) new generation of German internationals – in particular, the group of youngsters that have taken Dortmund to the top of the table – Mario Götze, Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer, Lars Bender and Kevin Grosskreutz. As it turned out, Jogi Löw chose pretty much last year’s World Cup side, with two changes in defence. The front six was very familiar.” Zonal Marking

Inter 5-3 Roma: Sneijder stars in a great game

February 8, 2011

“Inter won a crazy game to move within five points of leaders Milan – and they still have a game in hand. Leonardo played Giampaolo Pazzini and Samuel Eto’o but left out Diego Milito in order to bring back Wesley Sneijder. Claudio Ranieri also went with a 4-3-1-2 shape – he was without Francesco Totti and David Pizarro.” Zonal Marking

Eto’o brace helps Inter edge thriller

February 7, 2011

“Inter Milan threw their hat into the ring for the Scudetto with a dramatic 5-3 win over 10-man Roma. Wesley Sneijder started the scoring in the third minute, but Fabio Simplicio responded for the Giallorossi in the 13th minute. Samuel Eto’o put the home side back in front 10 minutes before the break and the game seemed to be done and dusted for Inter when Nicolas Burdisso was sent off for giving away a penalty, which Eto’o converted in the 63rd minute.” ESPN

Inter Milan 5-3 AS Roma – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats
The 90th Minute

Inter 3-2 Palermo: a game of two halves

January 31, 2011

“2-0 down at half-time, Leonardo gave Giampaolo Pazzini his Inter debut and the game changed dramatically. Leonardo made various changes to his side, but kept the 4-3-1-2 shape he’s used since taking over as manager. Diego Milito returned upfront, Coutinho started as a trequartista. Delio Rossi used his usual 4-3-2-1 system with his expected eleven players – there can’t be many more consistent starting XIs in Europe than Palermo’s.” Zonal Marking

Heerenveen 1 –4 Groningen: A tale of the centre-backs
“Groningen beat Heerenveen for the second time this season. Not only does this mean a second victory over their main rivals after previously beating them 1-0 at home, it also means a second victory of Pieter Huistra over his predecessor Ron Jans. Three important points for Groningen as they maintain their current fourth spot in the Eredivisie which would guarantee Europa League football next season.” 11 tegen 11

Southampton 1-2 Manchester United: Ferguson’s switch back to a system with width turns game
“Manchester United yet again came back from an awful first half display to take the win. Nigel Adkins was without key playmaker Adam Lallana, so went for a fluid 4-3-1-2 / 4-3-3 system. Sir Alex Ferguson made numerous changes, and he also lined up with a 4-3-1-2.” Zonal Marking

Hull Aint A Bad Place To Be

January 25, 2011

“Italy’s current crop of goalkeepers is the envy of many rivals. Adam Digby adds another name to the list, one who has chosen a very different path to success.” In Bed With Maradona

Udinese 3-1 Inter: 3-5-1-1 beats 4-3-1-2

January 23, 2011

“Leonardo suffered his first defeat as Inter manager as Udinese dominated the majority of the game. Francesco Guidolin made one change from last week’s side which defeated Genoa. Andrea Coda was left out, with Maurizio Domizzi coming in on the left of defence. Leonardo replaced Marco Materazzi with Ivan Cordoba, and Diego Milito’s absence meant Goran Pandev pushed forward, as did Dejan Stankovic, with Thiago Motta returning on the left of the midfield.” Zonal Marking

Zlatan Ibrahimovic 0-1 Goal vs. Lecce

January 17, 2011

“After the Lecce corner, Zlatan first ran down a long ball against two defenders, then made a spectacular volley to put Milan up on the road over Lecce.” The Offside

Serie A 2010/2011: The Story so far – Too many strikers perfect for AC Milan broth

January 14, 2011

“As the build up to the 2010/11 Serie A season began it was very much a case of one self-obsessed, megalomaniac in, and one self-obsessed megalomaniac out. The landscape of Italian football was shaping up for a much quieter year following the departure of treble-winning Internazionale boss Jose Mourihno to Real Madrid, before the red-and-black half of Milan did the decent thing and convinced the brooding genius of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to come and tip Serie A’s normalcy quota firmly back towards the bonkers.” Just Football

Ten storylines to follow in Serie A

January 8, 2011

“These are the top 10 storylines to keep an eye on in 2011 as Serie A resumes play…” SI

Inter victorious, Juve humiliated

January 7, 2011

“New Inter boss Leonardo made a successful start as his side recorded a 3-1 victory over Napoli. Thiago Motta was the hero for the home side with the first and the last goal in a pulsating game. He put Inter ahead after three minutes, but Michele Pazienza deservedly levelled for an impressive Napoli in the 25th minute.” ESPN

Back to the future
“A good win. Inter defeated Napoli 3-1 to celebrate in the most appropriate way Leonardo’s first game in charge and the 2010 five trophies parade which preceded the kickoff. The Scudetto plate, the ‘Coppa Italia’ and the Champions League trophies [won under Mourinho] placed next to the Italian Supercup and the Fifa Club World Cup [won under Benitez].” ESPN

At the turn of the year, a shape-shifter in the Serie A
“Leonardo’s wacky and confident style of playing has clearly elicited warm and welcoming feelings from Inter’s locker room, despite his past as both a AC Milan star and coach, as the nerazzurri moved to beat the widely accredited team of Napoli with a score of 3-1. The top of the chart is still a telescope-distance away, and many stumbling blocks no doubt await the Milanese squad in the backwaters where they currently stand; but, with two more matches to play, the return to form of Inter will accelerate the process of restructuring for the whole season.” The 90th Minute

The Return of Rafa?

December 22, 2010

“With Rafa’s apparent departure from Inter Milan, there’s a growing bandwagon calling for his return to the Liverpool hot seat. For some, that time can’t come soon enough. But as ever, it’s a complex issue.” Tomkins Times

Rafael Benítez makes a tough job more difficult at Inter

December 21, 2010

“Following José Mourinho was always going to be a thankless task for Rafael Benítez. Not only did Mourinho win just about everything there is to win during his time in charge at Inter, he was also an exciting, passionate and absorbing public figure and front-man, a pantomime hero and a pantomime villain all at once. Benítez, on the other hand, could not be more different. He has neither the charm nor charisma of Mourinho. In short, he is a PR disaster.” WSC

Milan 0-1 Roma: Borriello punishes parent club

December 19, 2010

“At first it looked like Roma were coming for a draw, but they ended up leaving with a win. Max Allegri stuck with his 4-3-1-2 shape, the only change being Luca Antonini replacing Gianluca Zambrotta at left-back. Claudio Ranieri made five changes from the team which beat Bari last weekend – the major news being that Francesco Totti was omitted, with Adriano making his second start for Roma. Daniele De Rossi returned.” Zonal Marking

AC Milan 0-1 AS Roma – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – Serie A
The 90th Minute

Inter on top of the world

December 18, 2010

“Inter Milan became the first Italian side to collect five major trophies in a single calendar year as they brushed aside TP Mazembe in the final of the Club World Cup. Two goals in the space of five minutes early in the first half from Goran Pandev and Samuel Eto’o – who shook off an injury to play – put Inter in control, and Jonathan Biabiany completed the scoring five minutes from time.” ESPN

Is the four-man midfield a white elephant in the Serie A?

December 16, 2010

“Amidst some financial struggles, affecting Roma and Bologna, and some deepening stumbles, affecting everyone, to get victories, this campaign produced a strange, almost unnatural feel to the Italian game. One of the primary reasons why AC Milan is currently on top of the chart, at 36 points, is that the Serie A, as a whole, didn’t have anyone naturally picking up Inter’s fading role as a leader. Besides, Milan’s system was more structured at the top end of the pitch than usual.” The 90th Minute

Benitez under pressure at Inter

December 13, 2010

“Two quotes to reporters — in the space of a few days — from Inter president Massimo Moratti neatly sum up why the bad old days may be back. ‘Ten years ago, I would have sacked Rafa Benitez by now, but I’ve grown as well, we all have.’ Then, a few days later. ‘I’m not going to create problems before or during the World Club Cup, afterward, we’ll see.'” SI

Crossing the Picket Line

December 8, 2010

“The question of the Italian players strike has reared its head once more. Like a dormant volcano, it had been resting beneath the surface of the Italian football landscape ever since the initial threats were made in September. Now the players have decided to invoke the strike action once more, and as a result, there will be no football this weekend. Stadiums will lie empty on the 11th-12th December in the hope that action rather than words will force more constructive negotiations between the AIC (Italian Players Association), the chairmen of Serie A’s twenty clubs and the league. Should the players carry out their threats, it will be the second strike in Serie A history. The first (which took place back in 1996) focused on contract details and changes required related to the Bosman ruling, which had been ratified earlier that year.” In Bed With Maradona

Lazio 3-1 Inter: Zarate high up on the left gives Lazio more attacking thrust

December 4, 2010

“Mauro Zarate was the star man as Lazio moved joint top of Serie A. Eddy Reja kept a 4-2-3-1 system, making one change – bringing in Matuzalem for Cristian Ledesma in the centre of midfield. Rafael Benitez continues to have serious injury problems. Felice Natalino started at right-back, with Ivan Cordoba moving into the centre. Sulley Muntari started on the left.” Zonal Marking

How AC Milan have turned it around

November 26, 2010

“After winning just one of their first four games of the season, Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan side have won eight of the subsequent nine and now finds themselves top of Serie A by three points. What has changed? Here are five reasons Milan have turned their season around.” (ESPN)

Rafa Benítez struggles to deal with Inter expectations

November 21, 2010

” Reports in the Italian media that Inter manager Rafa Benítez has three games to save his job should come as no surprise. With the shadow of José Mourinho still hanging over them Inter sit a modest fifth in Serie A, seven points off their tally at this stage last season. They are six points off top spot, with only two wins and five goals in eight games. To rub salt into the wound a derby defeat to AC Milan on Sunday ended an undefeated run of 46 games at home and saw Milan retain top spot.” (WSC)

Inter 0-1 Milan – Nerazzurri

November 15, 2010

“Milan were fairly comfortable despite playing with ten men for the final half hour. Rafael Benitez chose a 4-3-1-2 formation to accommodate both Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito upfront. Maicon was out, so Ivan Cordoba played at right-back, with Marco Materazzi in the centre. Joel Obi started on the left side of the midfield three, with Esteban Cambiasso only fit enough for the bench.” (Zonal Marking)

Inter 0-1 Milan – Nerazzurri
“In a 4-3-1-2, Inter were attempting a new formation under Rafa Benitez, one borne from players available and a willingness to place Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito in attack together. However, the team’s uncharacteristic high-line was stung by a simple lofted ball that saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic outmuscle, outpace and outsmart Marco Materazzi for the decisive penalty inside five minutes.” (Football Italia)

Inter Milan 0-1 AC Milan – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – Serie A
(The 90th Minute)

Milan’s Age Of Austerity

November 9, 2010

“Although Milan more than played their part in last week’s thrilling 2-2 draw at the San Siro against old rivals Real Madrid, especially the effervescent Pippo Inzaghi, it is fair to say that the rossoneri have started the season in somewhat inconsistent fashion, having already suffered painful defeats against Cesena and Juventus in Serie A and only winning one of their four Champions League games to date (at home against Auxerre). It remains to be seen whether Milan can mount a challenge for honours this season, but the early signs are not overly convincing.” (The Swiss Ramble)

Messina – a true yo-yo club

November 5, 2010

“Messina is the third largest city in Sicily and thirteenth in Italy; founded in the 8th century BC throughout its history it has endured countless catastrophes. Seized by Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Spaniards for its tactical position; it has also been the site of plagues (rumoured to be the port where the Black Death entered mainland Europe), earthquakes and even a tsunami. The most recent earthquake in 1908 brought the city to its knees killing 60,000 people and destroying most of the ancient architecture. A further catastrophe is on the verge of occurring for the fans of the city’s football team.” (The Football Express)

Tottenham 3-1 Inter: Inter fail to deal with Bale

November 3, 2010

Calumny of Apelles, Botticelli.
“Gareth Bale dominated the game to a staggering extent as Tottenham recorded a famous victory. Spurs went with their expected XI. Carlo Cudicini came in for the suspended Heurelho Gomes. Elsewhere, Tom Huddlestone and Peter Crouch returned, with the rest of the side the same as the one which faced Manchester United at the weekend.” (Zonal Marking)

Tactics: What is Gareth Bale’s best position?
“Claims that Gareth Bale’s two scintillating performances against Internazionale have turned him into the best player in the world may be a little far-fetched, but it is no exaggeration to say that in Tuesday night’s match at White Hart Lane, almost everything he did with the ball at his feet was magnificent. Speculation is already rife about which European giant he will elect to join if and when the time comes to leave Spurs, but an important decision also needs to be made about where on the pitch he should play.” (Football Further)

The inevitable rise of Gareth Bale
“It’s amazing what two games of football can do to a player’s reputation. Following a pair of sublime performances against Rafael Benitez’s Internazionale, Gareth Bale has come to be spoken of in the most glowing of terms. From Tottenham’s unlucky charm to arguably their most influential player, the speed of Bale’s development seems to have turned hyperactive of late, the Welshman now being considered by some as one of the best left-sided players in European football.” (Equaliser Football)

Match of the Midweek: Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Internazionale
“Maicon is not a bad player, by any stretch of the imagination. He didn’t win the Italian national lottery to win a place in the Inter side, and he isn’t related to Massimo Moratti. He broke through the youth system in the fiercely competitive world of Brazilian football and into the Cruzeiro team. From there he was transferred to Monaco, where he again managed to hold onto his place in the first team and attract the interest of the Italian giants, Internazionale. He has played well over one hundred games for Inter, and has won four Serie A champions and, earlier this year, the UEFA Champions League. He has also played over sixty games for Brazil.” (twohundredpercent)

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Inter Milan – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – Champions League
(The 90th Minute)

Inter 1-1 Sampdoria: Inter’s attackers struggle to break down Sampdoria’s two banks of four

October 25, 2010

“Inter dominated, Sampdoria took the lead, then Rafael Benitez’s side rallied late on to claim a point. Diego Milito was still out injured, but Esteban Cambiasso returned to the centre of midfield. Elsewhere, the side was as expected, with Jonathan Biabiany on the right and Coutinho on the left.” (Zonal Marking)

Werder’s defense still an issue

October 22, 2010

“Some goals Werder Bremen conceded in the 4-0 drubbing at Internazionale last month were so soft that Italian football paper Gazzetta dello Sport rechristened the team ‘Werder Crema.’ It was a charitable assessment; Gazzetta easily could have reached for a stronger Italian word.” (SI)

Panathinaikos 0-0 Rubin Kazan: little invention from attackers and a good result for neither
“A disappointing match in which both sides’ shooting ability deserted them.
Panathinaikos lined up with their now customary 4-2-3-1 system. Simao sat infront of the defence with Kostas Katsouranis playing a more energetic role, and linking up with Giorgos Karagonis. Luis Garcia started from the left and drifted into the centre, whilst on the other side, Stergos Marinos linked up with with Loukas Vyntra, the right-back.” (Zonal Marking)

Inter Milan 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats
(The 90th Minute)

Twente 1 – 1 Werder Bremen: A self fulfilling prophecy for defensively tuned Twente
“Dutch champions FC Twente faced Werder Bremen at home for their third Champions League Group stage match tonight. This offered them a chance at revenge for both team’s match-up last season when the Germans knocked Twente out of the Europa League competition in the first knock-out stage. After winning 1-0 at home, Twente went on to lose the second tie 1-4.” (11 tegen 11)

UEFA Champions League Power Rankings After Matchday 3
“The Champions League is halfway through the group stage and the contenders to win the title have not really changed. Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern, and Real Madrid remain at the top. Other teams showing great form are Arsenal and Lyon who are both 3-0-0. The rankings are below and through October 21, 2010 and only include the top 8 (along with teams just missing the cut).” (The 90th Minute)

Zonal Marking blog: How Spurs can beat Inter

October 19, 2010

“It doesn’t get much tougher than a trip to the European champions, and in Milan Harry Redknapp has to prove that he is a competent tactician at the very highest level. Here are five key points to consider.” (itv)

A Glorious Education In Italian Football

October 7, 2010

Alessandro Del Piero
“There’s an advert on television at the moment asking what information overload has done to us. If you haven’t seen it already, two women are having lunch together in what appears to be a fashionable restaurant when a question from one of the pair causes her friend to apparently short-circuit and begin spewing random irrelevant facts with alarming speed, drawing the bemused attention of the other restaurant-goers and embarrassing her companion. The advert then poses its key, pertinent question, before somewhat confusingly plugging a new search engine on this here internet.” (Who ate all the Pies)

Inter 0-0 Juventus: defences come out in top in a disappointing Derby D’Italia

October 4, 2010

The Country Concert, Tiziano Vecellio
“An entertaining first half, but a second period where both sides were happy to take a point. Juventus were broadly in Luigi Delneri’s favoured 4-4-2 shape, with Fabio Qugliarella dropping to the left, just off Vincenzo Iaquinta. Milos Krasic played on the right and stayed high up the pitch, whilst Claudio Marchisio was tucked in on the opposite side. Rafael Benitez didn’t consider Diego Milito fit enough to start, so Samuel Eto’o was used upfront with Jonathan Biabiany and Coutinho either side. Ivan Cordoba continued at the back with the captain’s armband.” (Zonal Marking)

Internazionale 4 – 0 Werder Bremen

September 30, 2010

Samuel Eto’o
“Samuel Eto’o put Werder Bremen to the sword as Inter Milan delivered a lesson in clinical finishing at the San Siro tonight. The Cameroon striker scored a hat-trick and the influential Wesley Sneijder was also on target as the Champions League holders showed they are still a force to be reckoned with despite the departure of Jose Mourinho.” (ESPN)

Roma 1-0 Inter: Roma win it from the bench

September 26, 2010

“Substitute Mirko Vucinic scored a superb last minute header to record a crucial win for Roma. Claudio Ranieri lined up with a 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 formation that saw Francesco Totti playing off Marco Borriello. Simone Perrotta was naturally more defensive on the left than Jeremy Menez was on the right. Rafael Benitez played the usual 4-2-3-1 system. Their side was also slightly lopsided, as Goran Pandev was both deeper and more central than Samuel Eto’o. Dejan Stankovic played as a deep-lying regista.” (Zonal Marking)

Marx, Engels, Mao, Castro, & now…Vucinic
“You saw the well-timed run. You saw the diving header. And you saw the fiery celebration. But what you didn’t see was…. The simmering tensions amid the eternal struggle between proletariat and owner. First, read John Foot’s excellent piece at Goal on the history of the infamous ‘Sindacato Miliardari’, the Serie A players’ union. Up to speed on the current crisis? (futfanatico)

Under-fire Ranieri faces tough Inter test

September 23, 2010

“After Claudio Ranieri was handed a vote of confidence, Roma could not have asked for a more difficult opponent than Serie A leaders and European champions Inter. Roma dropped into the relegation zone with just two points in four league games after Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Brescia, while the Nerazzurri claimed their third straight win with a 4-0 thumping of Bari. The result lifted them to the top of the standings, one point clear of Chievo and Brescia.” (ESPN)

Inter Milan (Internazionale) 4-0 Bari – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – Serie A
(The 90th Minute)

Lazio 1-1 AC Milan – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – Serie A
(The 90th Mniute)

Twente Enschede 2 – 2 Internazionale

September 15, 2010

“Rafael Benitez had an unconvincing beginning to his Inter Milan Champions league career as his side were held in Holland. Former Liverpool boss Benitez took over from Jose Mourinho, now with Real Madrid, but the Spaniard’s bid to retain the Champions League title won by his Portuguese predecessor did not get off to the best of starts even if there was a goal for Dutchman Wesley Sneijder in his home country.” (ESPN)

Barcelona 5 – 1 Panathinaikos
“A Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona recovered from the shock of going a goal down against Panathinaikos to get their Champions League campaign off to a convincing start at Camp Nou. Panathinaikos took the lead against the run of play through Sidney Govou in the 20th minute but Barca hit back in merciless fashion to take a 3-1 lead by half-time through two goals from the irrepressible Messi and another from David Villa.” (ESPN)

Fergie’s gamble backfires in stalemate
“It is becoming an unfortunate habit. For the second time in four days, Manchester United were held to a potentially costly draw. For the second time in four days, Sir Alex Ferguson’s selection was questionable. Whereas the 3-3 at Everton was an early candidate for game of the season, this was the antithesis. Utterly devoid of incident, it was nonetheless a non-event that had significance. A failure to win perhaps the most winnable game in the group stage can have repercussions; so, too, can an inability to top the pool.” (ESPN)

Serie A 2010/11 – Title Contenders: Can Inter Milan’s domination be stopped?

September 10, 2010

“One of the world’s finest football leagues, the Italian Serie A is underway and this season all eyes will once again focus on whether reigning league champions Inter Milan can finally be dethroned. The Nerazurri have been collecting the Scudetto for five seasons in a row, albeit the first title from that five year run was pretty much a gift because of the Calciopoli scandal. Still, Inter’s domination has been so powerful that only last season were we finally witness to an interesting finish in the league.” (Just Football)

The Zlatan Ibrahimovic Transfer Analysed

September 9, 2010

“Last week Barcelona sold their enigmatic Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Milan in a transfer that was astonishing not only because it came just 12 months after “Ibra” had moved to the Camp Nou, but also because the price was considerably lower than the amount the Catalans had paid to Inter for the mercurial forward. Although his performances in the blaugrana shirt had been a bit hit-and-miss, Ibrahimovic was by no means a complete failure, having scored 21 goals in all competitions, averaging a goal every other game in La Liga, where he helped Barcelona retain their title.” (The Swiss Ramble)

Italian fan ID card gets off to a bad start

September 6, 2010

“This the debut season of Italian football’s Tessera del Tifoso, or fans’ ID card scheme. There have been protests about the card ever since it was first mooted and plenty more have been made in the last few weeks. During the season opener at the Stadio Olimpico, a large group of Roma’s ultras remained outside the stadium, leaving an entire block of the usually chock-full Curva Sud glaringly empty. At the Serie B game between Empoli and Pescara I saw a number of the home side’s ultras choosing not to enter the ground, but instead setting up a Subbuteo table outside.” (WSC)

Champions League group draw thoughts (Group A-D)

September 3, 2010

“Europe’s premier footballing competition once again welcomed the officials of the elite clubs across the continent to the Grimaldi Forum, for what is quickly becoming the most comedic and most drawn out football draw ever . Even I would welcome Jim Rosenthal into the proceedings in an attempt to make it a little bit quicker than Ben Hur. The faux-drama of the event was astounding whilst the Inter players who won the club awards looked uninterested at the format. Meanwhile Gary Lineker was called upon to pick letters, a task he seemed utterly bemused by continually picking out Group C. Conspiracy? No of course not, just coincidence.” (6 Pointer), (Group E-H)

How will Milan line up this season?

September 3, 2010

“In what was a predictably mellow summer transfer window, AC Milan bucked the general trend around Europe by making a number of high-profile acquisitions. The arrivals at the San Siro of Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Manchester City and Barcelona respectively have provided Milan with what is, at least on paper, one of the finest attacking units on the continent.” (The Equaliser)

Tactics: Robinho arrival threatens Ronaldinho’s renaissance

September 1, 2010

“Right-footed, left-sided attackers are currently one of football’s most fashionable commodities (think David Villa and Robinho at the World Cup; Franck Ribéry at Bayern Munich; Nani at Manchester United), and like any self-respecting wealthy Italian man, Silvio Berlusconi has to be up with the latest trends. So he bought two. But while Robinho is hoping his transfer deadline day move to Milan will allow him to re-launch his stuttering club career, his arrival at San Siro may well turn out to be bad news for Ronaldinho.” (Football Further)

Welcome to Purgatory, Van Der Vaart!

September 1, 2010

“The universe has inverted itself. The malcontent souls go to AC Milan, while the bad souls go to Barcelona. As for those in between – the hapless sailors aboard a ship sailed by a ruthless and sinful captain, the ocean opens up its mighty mouth but refuses to swallow them whole. Rather, they float, and they float, and they float. The currents toss them to and fro, the hypnotizing rhythm of the waves lulls them into exhausted slumber until salt water filled lungs choke them awake. Van Der Vaart is one of these souls.” (futfanatico)

Bologna 0-0 Inter: Benitez starts with bore draw

August 31, 2010

“A low-key game with few goalscoring opportunities – the result was celebrated by managerless Bologna like a win. The home side included new signings Andrea Esposito, Matteo Rubin, Gyorgy Garics and Albin Ekdal in a 4-1-4-1 system that saw Belgian midfielder Gaby Mudingayi sitting very deep in front of his defence, with Marco di Vaio isolated upfront. Rafael Benitez used the 4-2-3-1 formation that Inter played towards the end of last season, and the system Benitez favoured at Liverpool. Maicon was unavailable so Javier Zanetti started at right-back.” (Zonal Marking)

Aston Villa 1-0 Everton: Villa strike early, then hold on
“A bizarre game that Everton dominated from start to finish, and yet still managed to lose. Stephen Ireland suffered an injury in the warm up, so Nigel Reo-Coker replaced him in the centre of midfield. James Collins returned at the back, and Gabriel Agbonlahor wasn’t fit enough to start, so John Carew continued upfront.” (Zonal Marking)

Late August looks at Bundesliga and Serie A

August 31, 2010

“As per usual action in Germany’s top-flight commenced on the Friday, and for the second week in succession Bayern Munich got things under way. Unfortunately for Louis van Gaal, they didn’t quite gets things all their own way. Much to the delight of a rapturous home-crowd in Kaiserslautern, the 2009/10 2. Bundesliga champions defeated the illustrious treble-winners by a comfortable two-goal margin.” (Tactics, analysis, opinion, & scouting)

Barcelona: Mascherano to be Used in Double Pivot?

August 29, 2010

Javier Mascherano
“When I previously wrote about how signings will affect Barcelona’s squad, I naively assumed that Guardiola’s summer transfers were over. Then, possibly their two biggest transfers were completed – Javier Mascherano was signed from Liverpool and big money signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent out on loan (with a view to a permanent move) to AC Milan.” (A Tactical View)

Who can stop Inter?

August 28, 2010

“Serie A 2010-11 club by club previews. Get ready for the big kick off as we give you a unique lowdown on all 20 Serie A teams. (Football Italia)

Tactical battles await in Serie A
“A valuable lesson was learned by the Italian FA (FIGC) during the World Cup in June: when things go wrong, when the national tem performs lousily and has a worrying lack of young players ready to step up and replace tired veterans, do what all authorities seem to do in a crisis – panic.” (ESPN)

All change in Italy but expect a similar outcome

August 28, 2010

“‘Everything must change so that everything can stay the same,’ Italian novelist Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in The Leopard. The famous phrase is often used to describe the way cosmetic change is used to cover a lack of real reform in Italy’s political, economic and social spheres, but it may also be applicable to the country’s top-flight football this season. It’s all change at the big clubs, with three of the big four starting the campaign with new coaches. Nevertheless, the expectation is that we’ll have the same story of the last four seasons since the Calciopoli scandal shook things up, with Inter proving too good for the other contenders.” (WSC)