Thursday, March 27, 2008

No need for panic

So, we lost to Spain in a friendly. It was a cracking strike by David Villa which decided the game. Nonetheless, I am still cheerful for a few reasons.

1) Daniele De Rossi is growing into one of Europe's best midfielders. He is like Rino Gattuso but with better distribution skills and more goal threat. That makes a pretty impressive package.

2) Big Luca Toni led the line well and Toto Di Natale was a great sidekick. With Mauro Camoranesi also in good form the attacking options looked good.

3) Gigi Buffon is the best.

4) Let's face it, Spain ALWAYS win friendlies. It's the big tournaments that matter.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A lively finale in store

If the weekend events are anything to go by, the last ten weeks of the Serie A season could be pretty entertaining. Here are a few reasons why I think so...

1) Despite going down to defeat against Roma, Milan looked good. If only they had had Clarence Seedorf in for the second leg against Arsenal they might have given a better account of themselves. Bad news with the injury to Kaka but they will still fight hard for a fourth place finish.

2) Roma showed a lot of guts to come from behind to beat the Rossoneri. They play a lot of their games in advance of Inter in the weeks to come, it could be to their advantage. Also, they have Serie A's finest supersub - Mirko Vucinic.

3) Fiorentina got Adrian Mutu back which will be vital to fending off Milan in the fight for fourth place. I don't know if they can take the strain of the playing the UEFA Cup and battling for a Champions League finish but I do hope so.

4) Even the teams at the bottom of the table have started winning, meaning the relegation fight is going to be a juicy prospect too.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How we used to be

UEFA, take note. Get rid of those daft group games and get the UEFA Cup back to the way it was. Up-and-coming sides standing toe-to-toe in a battle of footballing philosophies - just like we got at Goodison Park on Wednesday night.

If the game in Italy was all about Fiorentina's technique then the return match was all about Everton's passion. They threw everything at the Viola who eventually held on - just - to win the tie on penalties. But what a thrilling night.

It was just like the old days when old-fashioned English attitudes of commitment, strength and tempo clashed head on with Italian technique, tactics and invention. What compelling viewing it made. In the end, it was only the cool heads from the penalty spot that made the difference. Everton were a team transformed from the pale imitation which turned up in Florence. It wasn't how I like to see the game played but, by God, it was effective.

Now the Viola go into the pot for the quarter-finals and, with the way they clung on to win in England, must have a chance of going further. See you in the City of Manchester for the final?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bitter night for Inter

I know they are not many people's favourites but you still had to feel a bit sorry for Inter on Tuesday night. Not for going out of the Champs League, but the manner in which it happened. Playing the majority of their two legs against Liverpool with 10 men gave them a mountain to climb - and they are not THAT good to be able to climb it.

The decisions which put the Nerazzurri in difficulty were dreadful. Both in Liverpool and in Milan. If it had happened in reverse we would no doubt have been hearing all sorts of claims of corruption of officials.

What is annoying is that the top team in Serie A went out without being able to give a fair account of themselves. They might have gone out anyway but it would have been nice for Liverpool to have to beat them 11 against 11. Such is life.

Tonight it is Fiorentina's turn. There is a job to be finished at Goodison and I hope they are professional enough to do it. I haven't enjoyed Mr Moyes' attempts to ape Sir Alex and call for a "strong referee" and all that. He is surely better than that. Still, may the best team in purple win.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

We're not dead yet...

Maybe Serie A is not in such a disastrous state as we thought. Roma have won through, Fiorentina beat Everton and, who knows, if Inter could pull off a miracle the European scene would not looks so bleak.

There were also a few wake-up calls for England after their Champions League dominance. Spurs and Everton beaten in Europe and Bolton on a scoring draw at home. Yes, the top four are strong but maybe the strength in depth is not quite at the level it first appeared. Still, the Viola have to finish the job on Wednesday at Goodison.

So a big week lies in store. I hope for at the very least a show of pride by Inter. They were unlucky to play so much of the game at Anfield with ten men. Now they have got to show some guts and at least put up a fight. Otherwise, may the wheels fall off completely and let someone else win Serie A!

As for the boys in purple, they were impeccable on Thursday. Don't know how much was down to Everton playing badly and how much to Viola playing well. Pasqual looked like a world-beater while Carsley, Yobo, Lescott and others looked cumbersome in comparison. No doubt it will be a different tempo on Wednesday but I would hope the Fiorentini can find a goal - that would surely make it too much for Everton to do.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Magical Mirko!

After the bitter taste of Tuesday what a joy to see Roma keep Italian football to the fore with a gutsy display in Madrid. If only we could play Spanish teams every week...

The game was cagey throughout but the Giallorossi kept their cool but it was Mirko Vucinic who turned the match. He came on for Mancini and put in a virtuoso display - hitting the crossbar, getting a man sent off and scoring the vital second which killed off the tie.

The team also showed it had learned a few lessons from the terrible thumping it took in Manchester not so long ago. They may not go on to win the thing but they should at least be nobody's idea of an easy draw in the quarter finals.

Addio campioni!

They tried to resist the forces of nature but, in the end, Milan succumbed to Arsenal in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday night. In the end, disappointed as you might be, the better team over the two legs went through.

The Rossoneri had their chances in the San Siro but it was a bad time for Ricky Kaka to have an off night. Andrea Pirlo was also ensnared well by the Gunners midfield which left the playmaking role all too often in the hands of Rino Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini. How we wished the warmly-wrapped Clarence Seedorf could have come down from the stands and played his part.

Now is a time for stock-taking in Milan. The team needs an overhaul - maybe not as drastic as some people suggest - but an overhaul nonetheless. A striking target man would be useful, another creative midfielder to take pressure off Pirlo and - toughest of all - a replacement for Paolo Maldini.

You have to wonder if it might be the end of Carlo Ancelotti too. Not that he has done badly but failure to get to the last eight will be seen as disaster. If the Rossoneri should finish outside the top four that would be unforgivable. Do you think Mr Mourinho will have his phone switched on?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A weekend of surprises...

Ah, history in the making! The Viola down Juve in Turin and Napoli beat Inter. Great times, my friends, great times...