Some key fixtures this week in the English Premier League and Italian Serie A. John Terry returns to face Luis Suarez and his Liverpool compatriots. AC Milan fall to the mighty Montella clan. Atalanta snaps Inter’s 10 game unbeaten streak. Chicharito is slowly becoming Man United’s match-winner. The Old Lady awakens from her short nap after smashing six past Pescara.
5) Terry returns and scores, Suarez injures Terry and scores, 1-1 draw
Man of the match here has got to be Luis Suarez as he jabbed a double edge sword into the Blues’ side. The Uruguayan always finds himself in the spotlight and this showing certainly keeps him there.
John Terry returns to the line-up after serving a four-match suspension for racist comments. Chelsea adopted more a of defensive/counterattacking approach to this game seeing that Roberto Di Matteo’s side has conceded 14 goals in their last seven matches. This strategy almost paid off in the sixth minute when Joe Allen lost possession to Oscar who lifted the ball over the crossbar.
At the 20th minute though, Liverpool’s defensive woe allowed the Blues to take the lead from a corner when Juan Mata found John Terry open at the near post to head home the opener.
Chelsea’s counterattacking tactic was working to perfection as they fielded talented and quick-pace attackers like Hazard, Mata and Oscar together who will certainly surprise any team. The trio work together like a well-oiled machine.
The fan were ecstatic of Chelsea’s captain’s return. But alas, John Terry’s homecoming was cut short when he was forced to abandon the match due to picking up a knee injury after colliding with none other than Luis Suarez. At this point, Liverpool anteed up the aggression and it paid off.
With 17 minutes from time, Liverpool substitute Suso sent a cross toward Jamie Carragher who flicked it onto the on-running Luis Suarez to head home from point-blank range – 1-1.
Approaching the end of the match, both sides wasted a number of chances to snatch the victory.
Chelsea are in third place with 24 points. Liverpool are way down there in 13th with 12 points.
4) Vincenzo Montella’s beautifully designed Viola send AC Milan back to the slums
After a stellar round last weekend in the Serie A for both AC Milan and Inter – the Rossoneri demolished Chievo Verona 5-1 and Inter ended the Old Lady’s triumphant run of 49 unbeaten Serie A matches with an emphatic win at the Juventus Stadium – the Milan sides were grounded with defeats. The Diavoli lost 3-1 at the San Siro to a magnificent Fiorentina performance while the Beneamata came up short against Atalanta 3-2 in Bergamo.
Fiorentina have completely turned over a leaf from last season thanks to Vincenzo Montella whose combination of tactics and player selection has led this team to fourth place in the Serie A. The Viola are rising high and fully deserved this victory.
The Rossoneri demonstrated once again that they possess a fragile central defensive pairing. Alberto Aquilani opened the scoring after he was left completely unmarked from 12-yards out. The Viola’s second goal definitely proves how weak the Rossoneri heart of defence really is when Borja Valero went on a mazy run, undressing Philippe Mexes and then sending the ball past Christian Abbiati for a 2-0 lead. Prior to this, Alexandre Pato missed an opportunity to equalize when he shot a pk over the bar.
Milan was able to pull one back when the Viola failed to clear a corner. Mexes cheekily chipped the ball onto the post that fell in to the path of Gianpaolo Pazzini who was able to cut the lead to one.
The Diavoli poured everything forward when Massimiliano Allegri decided to put on all of the forwards available for this match. It was not to be though as the Viola restored their two-goal lead after sending an over-the-top through ball to the right which Mounir El Hamdaoui controlled, lobbed the on-rushing Abbiati and steered the ball to the far top corner.
Montella’s men put the Rossoneri back into their spots fighting for safety this season after a short positive spell. Will Allegri be able to get his men back on track?
Fiorentina are currently in fourth place with 24 points. AC Milan sit in 13th position with 14 points.
3) Atalanta end Inter’s run of 10 straight victories
The Nerazzurri’s fine run of 10 straight consecutive wins comes to a halt against Serie A’s less prestigious black and blue club Atalanta. It was a surprising result as the side from Bergamo pushed Inter back on their heels.
Atalanta put in a fantastic display and fully deserve the result. This side is hungry and began the season with a -2 point deduction. Sergio Colantuono’s team currently sits in sixth place with 18 points, just four shy of fifth place Lazio. With a little more consistency, it will be possible for this side to reach Europe. It will most likely not be the Champions League, but an Europa League berth is in cards. But again, consistency is the key to success here. Atalanta, if they somehow beat Juventus, will earn the nickname of “Giant Killers” seeing that they already stole three points away from Milan, Lazio, Napoli and now Inter. Incredible results for the Atalantini.
Inter, on the other hand, was expected to win this encounter and keep pace with the Old Lady especially after putting in an amazing performance against arch-nemesis Juventus in the last round. A positive note that the Nerazzurri of Milan can take away from this match is that the front line continues to create chances to score. But in this fixture, they failed to take them. The negative side of this performance was that, this time around, the defence looked disorganized and a little sloppy as the defenders were not sure of who to mark. For the first goal, the ball was swung in from the left for Bonaventura who was left all alone in the middle for a header to slot home. Atalanta could have gone up 3-0 as Denis was left unmarked twice in front of goal, but lucky for Inter, he failed to convert sitters.
Inter did show, however, a lot of desire to get back into the game and almost made a miraculous comeback, but good thing for Atalanta and Juventus, it was not meant to be.
Inter are still in second with 27 points.
2) Chicharito leads comeback veterans Man United to 3-2 victory over Villa
The Red Devils are quickly becoming known as comeback kings. This is Man U’s second come-from-behind victory in succession in all competitions. Last week in the CL, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were trailing Braga 1-0 in Portugal for the majority of the second half until Robin van Persie opened the scoring with ten minutes left in regulation. United went on to score three goals in 12 minutes with Wayne Rooney slotting home yet another penalty (debatable call) and Javier Hernandez nailing another game-winner to confirm that Man U take home the much needed three points which makes them the first side to qualify for the second round.
The comeback win streak continued against Aston Villa on Saturday with the home side taking a shock two-goal lead five minutes apart with Austrian striker Andreas Weimann bagging a double on either side of half time.
This sparked Man United’s grit and grinding after Javier Hernandez was introduced at half time for Ashley Young. The Mexican opened the comeback account at the 58th minute with his seventh goal of the campaign.
At this time, the Red Devils poured forward and began to take control of the match. Chicharito, the Aston villain for this match, was not done yet as the equalizer was looming and arrived on 63 minutes when Hernandez got on the end of Rafael’s cross that was deflected off AV’s goalkeeper Vlaar for an own goal. It was unlucky for Vlaar but also for Chicharito seeing that it did not count towards his tally of goals for the current season. Nonetheless, the game was tied at two goals apiece.
With three minutes remaining in regulation, the Aston villain was again on target for the winner when he headed in Robin van Persie’s cross from a free-kick.
Three important details to note:
Firstly, the ‘comeback kings’ nickname is fitting for Manchester United as this is the Red Devils’ fourth come-from-behind win in the EPL climbing back from one-goal deficits to snatch the three points on each occasion. In the CL, the count is three as Man U were down by a goal in two matches against Cluj and, more recently, Braga in addition to clawing back from being two goals behind against Braga in Manchester. Again, the English side claimed all three points in these three encounters.
Secondly, if the EPL standings were to be ordered greatest to least according to goals against, Manchester United would find themselves placed in eighth position with 16 goals conceded. For a club that is pushing to win the title, this number is getting very high and thus something needs to be done to reduce this statistic. On the other hand, the Red Devils lead the league with goals scored which is, of course, a necessity to win this league, but more importantly to counterattack the number of goals conceded. Therefore, Sir Alex Ferguson is fortunate that his side is very capable of scoring goals.
Thirdly, lately Javier Hernandez has been making up for the lack of goals scored by Wayne Rooney and RvP, Chicharito bagged four goals against Braga in both matches; the offside game winner against Chelsea in the EPL; he scored again against the Blues in the 5-4 loss in the Capital One Cup; and bagged twice (almost thrice) against AV. It is currently a very good run of form for Hernandez and should perhaps be handed more playing time.
1) Super Juve hit Pescara for six!
Juventus are back with a fury after beating new Serie A promoted side, Pescara, 6-1 at the Stadio Adriatico. The Bianconeri’s intensity has visibly decreased in recent weeks and left many thinking that last year’s Old Lady was only a memory. The fixtures against Siena, Catania, and Inter demonstrated the Turin giants’ complacency and perhaps arrogance that wins would come easily in the Serie A. But last weekend’s deserved loss to title rivals Inter served well as a wake-up call and slapped the Bianconeri back into high gear.
Juve’s first message was sent with the 4-0 drumming of Nordsjaelland in midweek Champions League action which placed Antonio Conte and Co. in contention for a qualification spot. The Bianconeri require a minimum of four points from the next two rounds against Chelsea and Shaktar Donetsk to go through. It is a must-win situation for both the Blues and the Bianconeri on November 20, so look for a very exciting encounter at the Juventus Stadium.
Juve continued this run of fury Saturday and have absolutely sent a message to the rest of the Serie A that the loss to Inter is behind them and served them well as a lesson learned to never take anyone lightly, not even the lowliest of clubs, such as Pescara. It was complete demolition of the Abruzzese side with Fabio Quagliarella bagging his first ever hat-trick. Arturo Vidal, Sebastian Giovinco and Asamoah were all on target with spectacular goals.
Goalscoring has been an issue in the Bianconeri camp with forwards and attacking midfielders pitching in to help out. This has lead Juve director general Giuseppe Marotta to begin his search for a reliable goal-poacher to aid the Old Lady’s cause. Recent reports indicate that Fernando Llorente of Atletico Bilbao may be on his way to Turin sooner than expected. The Bianconeri were hoping to net the Spaniard on a bosman deal in June 2013 with the hope that Niklas Bendtner would live up to expectations but the Dane has certainly dissolved those hopes with lacklustre and goal-less performances.
Turin-based newspaper, Tuttosport, is also reporting that an interest for David Villa of Barcelona is growing amid rumours that he will be pushed out of playing time by new arrivals. Villa, apparently, would be available for at least €10 million and because the Blaugrana are expected to land a deal for Brazilian Neymar. It is thought that Alexis Sanchez is also on the market. There is stiff competition, though, for Villa as Chelsea would like to add him to the collection of Spaniards the Blues currently boast on their roster.
Opinion: David Villa would be a far better option for the Old Lady and possibly a good choice for the Spain international as well, as he would consistently receive more playing time with the Old Lady versus receiving a larger pay cheque with Chelsea. What will transpire in the winter and/or summer transfer windows?
Juventus continue to top the Serie A with 31 points.
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