Posts Tagged Inter Milan

The Rich Also Cry Mancini


It’s all fun and games until the City starts to fall apart and Manchester City may well need to check its excesses before it self-destructs owing ironically to its most potent weapon, near limitless wealth. Having been bought over by Sheikh Mansour, Manchester City has transformed into a feared adversary in the transfer market especially and more importantly on the pitch, though the latter remains arguable.

In any case, the oil riches have elevated City from mid-table obscurity under the likes of Steve McLaren and Sven Goran Eriksson to the lucrative top quarter of the league as well as Champions League football courtesy of its 3rd place finishing last season. This, coupled with high profile players being signed at will and pampered with wages pushing the line of absurd, certainly the club’s stature has improved surreally.

All that could however lead the club back to obscurity, given a more celebrated one, what with the pampered players such as Carlos Tevez and more recently Mario Balotteli giving the world a peek into the illusion that clouds the air at the Eastlands. Unfortunately, rather than trim its excesses, it may well be a fine manager in Roberto Mancini that will bear the repercussions while the brats stay on.

Mancini is known for being an excellent manager especially when it comes to resource management if I may put it that way. The Italian, since his managerial debut with Fiorentina, holds a record of reaching at least the semi-final of a Cup competition in every season he has managed a club. This includes Coppa Italia triumphs – in his only year at Fiorentina, at Lazio as well as four consecutive times at Inter Milan – as well as reaching the UEFA Cup semi-final with Lazio and winning the FA Cup last season at City.

Therefore his managerial abilities, tactic wise, remains very sound in my opinion but the other side of his abilities is in question. I believe Mancini’s main problem is being exposed to an obscene amount as transfer budget right after six seasons managing in a debt-riddled Serie A. He left Fiorentina with the club then perilously close to bankruptcy, Lazio was heavy in debt in the two otherwise successful seasons he spent at Rome and Inter Milan’s finances can be described as secure when he reigned at the San Siro and became their greatest manager in three decades with a complete lock down of the Italian league and cup titles.

So being able to thrive with little resources, Mancini was employed under the assumption he would properly manage a complete opposite of what he is used to. Alas, it has been a mess so far off the pitch and the level of ego at a club that pays at least £140,000 weekly to at least seven first team players with six more not far behind in earning at least £90,000 weekly leaves much to desire when it comes to the individuals being a team.

Egos then will see more players than not advocating to be left untouched in the first eleven at all times, some for all 90 minutes at all times even as Balotteli’s attitude seems, leaving dear old Mancini with the headache of what to do with; for example, his front line that at the moment comprises unsettled Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor, Edin Dzeko, Balotteli and new arrival Sergio Aguero without forgetting David Silva…

From the above, Adebayor can be left out seeing as he is determined to force a move away, one less source of migraine for Mancini there. And moving on, one may argue having good depth but there are times, a lot of times, when it is individual brilliance that rescues City from an embarrassing situation in a match as Tevez, Yaya Toure and maybe Silva can testify from last season’s performances. City surely can’t hope this would be the case all the time.

And in all this, Mancini still wants to add two players to the squad as quoted to stating last week and you start to wonder if there is a script at City…

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Champions League Match Day 2 Preview – Group E to H


First off, here’s how match day one went in the four groups on preview:

Group E: Bayern Munich 2-0 AS Roma. CFR Cluj 2-1 FC Basle

Group F: MSK Zilina 1-4 Chelsea. Olympique Marseille 0-1 Spartak Moscow

Group G: Real Madrid 2-0 AFC Ajax. AC Milan 2-0 AJ Auxerre

Group H: Arsenal 6-0 Sporting Braga. Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 Partizan Belgrade

Much has happened since a fortnight ago when these matches were played with Chelsea and Arsenal falling to first league defeats of their seasons, Bayern being stunned at home by surprise Bundesliga leaders FSV Mainz, Roma edging Inter Milan in Serie A in what should prove a real confidence booster for the Italians and Real Madrid dropping points in a goalless draw against newly promoted Levante to leave los Merengues playing chase in la Liga already.

In Group E, Roma’s seeming revival will be tested by CFR Cluj at the Stadio Olimpico which may prove a bit too imposing for the visiting Romanian side. A win for Roma in this match is especially crucial as any other result will deeply jeopardise Giallorossi’s chance of making the knock-out round. Bayern Munich, that have French winger Franck Ribery back, is favourite to win the trip to Switzerland to face Basle as the Bavarians will be out to get the home loss by Mainz behind them.

Group F sees an attractive fixture with French champions Marseille visiting the Stamford Bridge fortress to face Chelsea and its former striker Didier Drogba. Marseille may not have the quality of players or home advantage as Manchester City but there is much the French side can take to the Bridge. That said, Chelsea is known to recover very well from losses as against City on Saturday and Marseille will be made to rue losing its first match at home to Spartak. The Russians can consolidate on that crucial win with what should be a stroll of a game against visiting debutantes Zilina. A win for Spartak there would mean six points in the bag before a dreaded double header of games against Chelsea with the Blues visiting Russia in the first of those games in mid October.

In Group G, Ajax must utilise its youth and home advantage against seven time champions Milan that have former Ajax striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in its fold along with Alex Pato, Robinho and the ever dreaded Ronaldinho to bank on to ruffle the Ajax back line. Luis Suarez will be key if Ajax is to win otherwise, experience will play in favour of Milan with a point from the trip in the least.

Milan will also be driven to win by the looming fixture with Real Madrid coming after this and with the Spaniards not in top form, an upset in the form of a loss or draw against Auxerre will swing the group advantage to Milan… Jose Mourinho has his work cut out.

Finally from Group H, Arsenal face a tricky trip to Partizan Belgrade without captain Cesc Fàbregas and goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, who was chief culprit in the shock 2-3 reverse at home to West Brom in the Premier League, giving Polish keeper Lukasz Fabianski a starting berth and his chance to be Arsenal’s first choice keeper. Safe for that department, the Gunners should get a point at worst from this trip. Braga meanwhile must pick up from an appaling opening day display at the Emirates when Shakhtar visit Portugal looking to consolidate on its opening day win over Partizan. Any less than a win for Braga will poise Shakhtar for the double salvo in October against Arsenal and a reunion of Eduardo da Silva with his former employers.

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Champions League Review ~ Devils Draw Blank, Tottenham Clawed Back on Tuesday’s Match-Day 1


Seeing the starting XI, it was a little surprise the match at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Rangers of Scotland ended goalless while Werder Bremen’s previous experience in the competition came in handy in the German side’s draw at home to UEFA Champions League debutantes Tottenham Hotspur.

Against the Scots, the Red Devils were just a touch off being lethargic on the night largely thanks to Sir Alex Ferguson’s wisdom to ‘rest’ Edwin Van der Sar, Nani, Paul Scholes (for the love of God, your best performing midfielder?), Dimitar Berbatov (yes, the Bulgarian’s starting to put in performances deserving of the money spent to bring him here…three seasons after!) and Ryan Giggs, who only came on for the last half hour after Antonio Valencia suffered a bad looking ankle injury.

Before the introduction of Giggs, United desperately lacked verve, ideas to slice the visiting defence open; still props should be given for their performance on the night, and apparently the will to win the match as it were. Safe for Darron Gibson’s efforts from long range, it was a near ghastly show-up…near ghastly, it would have been ghastly had Rangers converted any one of its four shots on target.

So what was Sir Alex thinking with his selection for the night, especially in light of Valencia’s (the club now) ease of dispatching their Turkish hosts Bursaspor 4-0. The Spaniards are clearly faring well so far with life after the Davids – Villa and Silva – and former Getafe forward Roberto Soldado looked good in Turkey and rounded up the scoring there.

David Villa got on the score sheet as well for Barcelona that rallied from a 20th minute Sidnei Govou opener for Panathinaikos to see off the visiting Greeks 5-1 at Camp Nou in a match that saw Lionel Messi wreak havoc from right after the opening goal – even though he managed to miss a penalty ten minutes to half time.

Other results saw defending champions Inter Milan, as feared in this post http://wp.me/puIC6-3u found the trip to FC Twente not so rosy though the neutral and more especially the Twente fans will take the 2-2 draw any day. Argentine striker Diego Milito just can’t stop scoring though this time round, he got Twente’s second goal on the night in the Group A encounter. That group remains open for all clubs after an identical result was achieved despite Tottenham Hotspur leading 2-0 after 20 minutes of the match with goals either side of half time earning Werder Bremen a draw at home and a good point earned by Spurs.

Group B saw Benfica beat Hapoel Tel Aviv of Israel 2-0 in Lisbon while Olympique Lyon could only manage a lone goal win at home to Schalke 04. Barcelona lead Group D on a healthy goal difference ahead of Danish side FC Copenhagen that left it late before defeating Obafemi Martins’ Rubin Kazan by a lone goal.

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UEFA Champions League Day 1 Preview – Groups A to D


You may have had some feeling at the back of your mind that the football season, perhaps wasn’t fully on the way and from Tuesday night, that piece of ‘sporting anomaly’ will be fixed when the UEFA Champions League – Europe’s elite, and the world’s most glamorous club competition – begins on September 14 and there are a few match-ups should whet the appetite and set us on our way for this season.

Just to recap, FC Internazionale of Italy is the defending champion following a 2-0 win over German champions Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu; home of Spanish giants Real Madrid that have won the competition a record nine times…though their last triumph came in 2002 and more un-graciously have been unable go past the first knock-out round the previous six seasons. Right out of the hat, the favourites are, of course, the defending champions FC Internazionale along with 2009 champions CF Barcelona, English champions Chelsea and three time winners Manchester United while outsiders include AC Milan, Real Madrid – despite their knack for Second Round exits, you always have to hope – and err, Arsenal.

Group A
Inter Milan have an efficient team of players to count on and are as a result favourites to make it out of this group on top and besides, Rafael Benitez isn’t a stranger to European success with experience from Valencia and most memorably at Liverpool. The Nerazurri have a tough trip to FC Twente that, despite the exit of Steve McLaren to manage Wolfsburg, remain a modest enough team to cause Inter some trouble on Tuesday night. Group A’s other match looks more attracting with Werder Bremen at home to debutantes Tottenham Hotspur and both sides are attack minded teams so a few goals should probably be expected even though both sides will be missing a few players – Claudio Pizzaro and Jermain Defoe especially – and they have not been in good form on the field with Bremen on four points from four matches and Tottenham, unbeaten in four matches but have been disappointing in their last two league outings against clubs they should be winning. Looks like Bremen will edge it unless Spurs get their act together.

Group B
Olympique Lyonnais could have had it worse but in my opinion, the French side have a group it can cope with without much fuss and the visit of Schalke to the Gerlande should present a good platform to launch their quest in this season’s competition. Schalke have been dismal in the Bundesliga this season despite the arrival of Spanish veteran Raul and Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and that poor form may well spill into their European adventure for now. The other group match sees Benfica host Hapoel Tel Aviv, a match the Portuguese side to win. Lyon and Benfica as a result stand as favourites to qualify from this group while Hapoel may well nick the Europa League slot by finishing third in the group unless the Schalke side gel very soon.

Group C
This is a competitive looking group that on paper readily sees Manchester United and Valencia favourites to make the next round but I like the mould of Turkey’s representative this season. Champions League debutantes Bursaspor have begun the season in blistering note, winning all four league games so far including away at Galatasaray and should prove tough hosts to Spanish side Valencia on Tuesday. The group’s star match on the day would be at Old Trafford where Scottish champions Rangers face a Manchester United side that has thrown sure win positions away in their last two league matches; still baffled at how the Red Devils allowed Everton two goals in stoppage time in that enthralling draw at Goodison Park. Wayne Rooney will definitely be in the starting line-up on Tuesday and United should have the win even though the Scots will go about showing they aren’t one to be bullied around.

Group D
If I were Panathinaikos, I’d be cursing Hercules (not the Greek superhero) for that shock result on Saturday night because it will certainly push Pep Guardiola’s men to set the record straight at the expense of the visiting Greeks. The other game in Group D has Russian side Rubin Kazan on a tricky trip to Danish league leaders FC Copenhagen. This tie looks even to me, both sides are modest enough though if there’s to be a win on the night, I’d place my bet on Copenhagen…the trip from the old Soviet to Scandinavia isn’t a stroll you know.

All matches begin 19:45 BST (British Standard Time) so you might want to check for time zone differences. This season’s final will take place at England’s Wembley Stadium in May 2011 while the group stages run from September 14 & 15 to December 7 & 8. Have fun being a part of the Champions League!

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Ahead of the Champions League Draw


So who do you reckon will face whoever in the UEFA Champions League group stage, with the hour for the draws drawing ever so close now.

Pot One has last year’s finalists Inter Milan and Bayern Munich along with English trio Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, Spanish champions Barcelona, AC Milan and Olympique Lyon that I feel will make quite an impact again this coming season following their capture of talented midfielder Yoann Gourcuff from Bordeaux.

Pot Two is highlighted by Real Madrid; no thanks to losing out in the first knock round to Lyon last season, the sixth straight time los Merengues have bade bye to the competition so early, AS Roma, Werder Bremen and Olympique Marseille. A lot of eyes will be on Tottenham Hotspur in Pot Three that also has Scottish champions Rangers and Ajax Amsterdam while Pot Four has got among others, FC Copenhagen, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Auxerre, Spartak Moscow and MSK Zilina (no offence, who?).

Also watch out for the likes of Portugal’s Sporting Braga in Pot Three after knocking out Sevilla in the final qualifying round as well as a certain Bursaspor from Turkey…whatever happened to Fernabahçe and the likes?

My guts tell me Real Madrid would probably get their nemesis Lyon and I’m counting on Raul making a return to the Bernabeu as well in Schalke colours. The Red Devils could also draw Rangers, just to play up the Scot link with Sir Alex and Tottenham should get ready for one of Barcelona, Inter Milan or AC Milan, I’d prefer Barça!

But hey, it’s just my guts! The real draw will be known from 17:00 BST and the group stage will kick off from September 14 and 15…now the season’s completely started!

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Top Ten Players of 2009/10


This would normally have come at the end of May but being a World Cup year, I held it till the Mundial was over before coming up with players I feel deserve to be so recognised. Obviously, performances at the World Cup in South Africa has a lot to do with the players that have made this list; a lot, not all to do with who makes this list.

10.
It’s a three-way tie here made of Luis Suarez of Ajax, Englishmen Jermaine Defoe and Bobby Zamora of Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham respectively.

Africa may not like him no thanks to his hand in Ghana’s quarter final exit, but Suarez is a fine player nonetheless as shown in the three goals he scored at the World Cup on the back of 47 goals in 46 starts last season for Ajax, putting him in good stead to replace Diego Forlán as Uruguay’s main man. Besides, if not for his handiwork, Forlán most probably wouldn’t have got the Golden Ball award because Uruguay would definitely have crashed out.

Defoe appears on this list thanks to his goals that helped Spurs reach the League Cup final, FA Cup semi final, finish 4th in the Premier League and qualify for a first ever UEFA Champions League. Redknapp’s continuous faith in him (from West Ham to present) has consistently being repaid in kind. Admittedly his World Cup was average but he did score a goal (more than Wayne Rooney).

And Zamora, whose crucial goals helped Fulham finish respectably in the league and imperatively in their amazing run to the final of the maiden Europa League, shushed his critics all in a season plagued by injury which ultimately cost him a place with England’s party to South Africa.

9. Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos

It’s difficult to place a defender among the best of them all but Ramos in my view is an excellent defender and with an average of one goal in three games for underachieving Real Madrid last season coupled with a solid performance for newly crowned world champions Spain at the World Cup, fully deserves his place here.

8. Maiçon
It’s a pity Brazil met the Netherlands in that quarter final match either side could have won and had Brazil won, Maiçon would have come in higher on this list. He had a good World Cup, scoring quite a goal but it is his season with treble winning Inter Milan that catches the eye. Maiçon was consistent for the Nerazurri and was one of the stars that helped Inter to that treble.

7. Thomas Müller

Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller

The 20 year old has had a season to remember having broken into the German national team with top rate performances for Bayern Munich on the Bavarians way to winning the league and cup double as well as losing in the Champions League final. Müller capped his season with five goals and three assists at the World Cup to win the Golden Boot award ahead of David Villa and Forlán.

6. Lionel Messi
In my initial shortlist of players, Messi actually did not make the top ten…something definitely wrong there and this is the best I could do for the Argentine hope following a World Cup below expectations for country and a season parallel to our expectations. Messi remained true to his pace, menace and sheer will to disgrace opposition – until Mourinho came with his tactics and the Germans with their machines. Messi remains a fan favourite and his four goals against Arsenal (for me) in the quarter final of last season’s Champions League sums just why.

5. David Villa

David Villa

David Villa

Fernando Torres is regarded as the golden boy of la Roja but a month at South Africa surely must have changed perspectives with Villa running the show up front and from the flanks too, scoring five clinical goals and simply justifying the £30m or so Barcelona paid Valencia for his services. Asides scoring, Villa was a team player (sometimes) and had more shots on target at the Cup than anyone else – the move from modest, cash-strapped Valencia was only a matter of time and his form for Spain with his new club mates leaves the world to wonder, who will stop Blaugrana 2010/11?

4. Arjen Robben
He’s one of those Dutchmen that fall prey to injury season after season and he’s had his little fair share this season which gives his accomplishment this season even more credence in my books, helping Bayern Munich to a German double and the Champions League final as well as playing his part in the Netherlands run to the World Cup final despite missing the group stages (safe for the substitute appearance in the third match). He however will rue for a long time his missed chance one-on-one with Iker Cassilas (who by the way, finished at no. 11 on my shortlist or having more players at the number 10 spot would just have made this lose some cred) that most probably would have won the World Cup for Oranje…bygones I guess.

3. Xavi Hernandez
Xavi’s only flaw is the lack of goals in his games, safe for the occasional free kick and poachers effort otherwise it would be his name; and not Messi or CR9 (with all due respect), that would be on every football lovers’ lips. That said, he again was at the heart of affairs for Barcelona as Blaugrana won a Spanish double and fell short of retaining the Champions League against eventual champions Inter Milan with his ever pinpoint assists and overall vision and intelligence.

2. Diego Forlan

Diego Forlan

I’ve only heard Sir Alex Ferguson state his respect for players he sold twice – Jaap Stam and Forlan. Forlan without question was the spine behind Uruguay’s run to a fourth place finish at the World Cup, finishing with five goals and capping his campaign at South Africa with a goal that had class glossed all over it against the Germans. That, plus a season with Atletico Madrid that saw him lead the Spanish side to the Europa League trophy caps a terrific season for the late bloomer.

1. Wesley Sneijder
Not saying he’s going to be named World Footballer of the year but then again, he won the Italian league and cup and the Champions League being the playmaker of the Nerazzuri before coming so close to lifting a first World Cup for the Netherlands…enough ingredients in my opinion to be named the best footballer for the year #nodisrespect. And to think he is a Real Madrid reject, along with Robben! Sneijder has come a good long way from his torrid time at the Bernabeu where ironically he won the Champions League.

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