Friday, May 29, 2009

Showdown in Tuscany

This weekend Fiorentina and Milan go head to head for the last automatic spot in the Champions League. The Viola are already guaranteed a place in the qualifiers but a victory over the Rossoneri would see them leapfrog straight into the group stages.

Can it happen? Definitely yes. Should it happen? I think maybe so. At first I was inclined to say it might be better overall to have Milan in the main competition given their stature and pedigree. However, maybe it is time to let some new faces get in there. Unless the Milan giants spend a bit of money this summer they are only going to be another year older. The boys in purple, on the other hand, have a crop of younger players.

Of course, I'm hoping for a Fiorentina win anyway but it should be a pretty good game. Nice end to the season while Torino and Bologna fight it out to avoid the drop at the other end of the table.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A bit of Italian work

For those with a knowledge of the old Italiano, take a trip over here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Unlucky or unworthy?

So, the Ranieri era at Juve has come to an end. I suspect not many Bianconeri will be shedding any tears. The most sympathy, I reckon, will probably come from fans of other clubs. Claudio is a nice guy, but would you want him managing your team?

Did he do as much as could be expected with the players at his disposal? Probably. But the team needed a shake-up for the last couple of games. Otherwise Fiorentina might sneak up and pinch third spot and the automatic group stages in the Champions League. And how funny would that be?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Isn't it ironic?

The summer of 2002 is one I don't recall with any pleasure. I had to get time off work to get out of the office to watch the Azzurri clash with South Korea in the World Cup. I remember wishing I hadn't bothered.

And yet all the memories have come flooding back to me following Chelsea's elimination from the Champions League. The same finger-pointing at the referee, the same conspiracy theories, the same bitter recriminations. Except it has all been turned upside down.

Let us recall what Italy fans were told after they lost out in the Far East. "Get over it," was the main message. "You didn't take your chances - so don't blame the referee. You are just making excuses."

Well, great Blues of Stamford Bridge, how about taking that advice?

How many times have I seen an Italian team which based its game on stout defence and great organisation go out to a late goal? We are usually told it serves us right. So why does the same not hold true for an English club side?

The conspiracy theory about UEFA not wanting an all-English final is laughable. Magnificent as the match referee was, how could he have foreseen Iniesta's late, late thunderbolt? Without that, remember, Chelsea were heading to Rome. And how does the ludicrous red card for a Barca player fit in to the theory anyway?

Of course, those of us long enough in the tooth to remember South Korea will recall who was sitting on the bench that day. Yes, it was Mr Hiddink. So when he says the referee on Wednesday night was the worst he has ever seen it is hard not to think he might have a slightly selective memory. Byron Moreno was streets ahead of Tubby Tommy Ovrebo in the controversial decision department. He managed to send a man off when he should have got a penalty. Now imagine if that had happened to Didier Drogba...

Check it out!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

There in spirit

It wouldn't be the Champions League if there wasn't a bit of Italian influence. This time, in the form of referee Roberto Rosetti. Guilty, apparently, of a "totally ridiculous" red card for Darren Fletcher - if you believe the pundits.

But, wait a minute, just because you get the ball doesn't necessarily mean it is not a penalty. My take is that he had to go through the man to get to the ball. It was only really in the context of the match that the decision was harsh - at 3-0 to Man Utd there was nothing left to play for. Was it a foul? Yes. Was it in the penalty box? Yes. Was it a clear goal-scoring opportunity? Yes.

I feel sorry for any player who has to miss a major final but all this ballyhoo leaves me cold. Why should UEFA reverse the decision? It was perfectly acceptable in the first place.

Oh, and should Chelsea get through tonight, prepare for all the stories about why the final should not be played in Rome.