Best Strikers in Serie A – Week 11

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With further chapters in this season’s Serie A story having been written, Napoli’s lead at the top of Serie A was cut to a single point with Juventus breathing down their necks. Continue reading

Best Strikers in Serie A – Week 10

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Napoli continue to lead Serie A following the latest round of matches, with Juventus hot on their heels. Continue reading

Best Strikers in Serie A – Week 8

Inter-Icardi

With some surprises coming in these early stages of the season in Serie A – not least the struggles of AC Milan and Fiorentina – the Italian top flight returned following the international break with plenty of goals on display. Continue reading

EuroFantasyLeague’s Week 8 Video Recap of EPL, La Liga & Serie A

Week 8 of Euro Fantasy League saw some blockbuster matches across Europe, with the Milan derby, Atletico Madrid up against Barcelona while Liverpool hosted Manchester United.

In the very first edition of the EFL video recap, Nicholas Carroll takes us through some of the weekend highlights and major point-scorers from the latest round of fantasy football.

Euro Fantasy League – Week 8 recap

Fresh start under Pioli beckons for Inter

Euro 2016

Ever since Jose Mourinho left his role as Inter Milan manager in May 2010, the club have struggled to achieve success, winning only the Coppa Italia the season after the 53-year-old departure.

Although eight different managers have been tasked with building upon Mourinho’s fine managerial era of I Nerazzuri, whereby they won five trophies during his two years in charge, each failed, with the latest to do so being Frank De Boer.

The end of De Boer

After just 85 days in charge of Inter, with the club languishing in 12th place in Serie A, De Boer was relieved of his duty.  Despite showing signs of promise under De Boer’s guidance by embarking upon a five game unbeaten run in Serie A to climb to third in the table, after losing their opening match of the season to Chievo Verona, Inter’s form then underwent a marked deterioration.

Their fine early season work was completely undone as a result of winning one and losing four of their next five matches, as both De Boer and his players fell firmly out of favour with the club’s vociferous support.

Subsequently De Boer, who was initially contracted to manage Inter until August 2019, received the sack, following a 1-0 loss to Sampdoria.

Vecchi assumes interim charge

In the aftermath of that defeat, Inter’s youth team coach Stefano Vecchi assumed interim charge of the senior side for their 2-1 Europa League defeat to Southampton and 3-0 victory over Crotone in Serie A.

A tough challenge awaits Pioli

That result was extremely important in terms of averting Inter’s slide down the Serie A table, with it now being the responsibility of Stefano Pioli to mastermind a period of on field stabilisation, following the 51-year-old’s appointment as manager.  The contract which Pioli signed is relatively short, with that being just until the end of June 2018.

Nevertheless after being sacked in April as manager of Lazio, which is one of eleven clubs he previous managed with Chievo and Palermo being two others, Pioli has waited patiently to return to working in the top flight of Italian football.

Ultimately he faces a difficult challenge in terms of resurrecting Inter’s season to such an extent so that they can compete to either win Serie A or even finish in the top three to qualify for the Champions League, since they are already thirteen points behind leaders Juventus and eight adrift of third placed Milan.

Optimism that a change may serve Inter well

However it is often the case in football that a team of players respond very positively to a change in management.  As such Pioli’s arrival possesses the potential to mark a fresh new start for Inter, which the former Bologna and Parma manager will seek to officially begin by leading the team which he has inherited from De Boer to a victory over their fierce rivals AC Milan in his first game in charge.

In stark contrast to Inter’s disappointing start to the season, Milan has been in fine form under the guidance of Vicenzo Montella, which acted to amplify the struggles being experienced by De Boer.

Therefore Pioli’s aim must be to ensure that he efficiently develops a positive relationship with his entire squad, so that they are well prepared to face a Milan side which have so far outshone Inter this season.

A fresh new start with Pioli at the helm is desired by everyone associated with Inter.

Top seeded quartet aim to improve Europa League prospects

Euro 2016

A fortnight ago, several surprising results materialised from the first round of group stage games in this season’s Europa League.

Specifically four of the competition’s highest profile and top seeded teams were unable to win their opening match.

Whilst Atletico Bilbao, Internazionale and Manchester United all lost to sit bottom of their respective groups, Fiorentina were held to a goalless draw by PAOK Saloniki.

As such the four top seeded teams now face crucial second group stage fixtures, as the outcome of those will partially shape their prospects of reaching the knock-out stages.

Each of the assignments that the quartet have been set to enhance those prospects vary in difficulty.  That is the case since whereas Bilbao, Fiorentina and Manchester United are to play home games Inter will face Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic.

Internazionale travel to Prague

Whereas Inter suffered a 2-0 home defeat in their opening group stage game against Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Zdenek Scasny’s team were also comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Southampton.

All but one member, the Zimbabwean defender Costa Nhamoinseu, of Scasny’s squad is Czech, with Tomas Rosicky having returned to the club, where his career began in 1999, after being released by Arsenal.

In contrast to the wealth of home based players available to Scasny, for his team’s Europa League encounter with Sparta Prague, Frank De Boer is able to select from 14 different nationalities, as the Dutchman aims to mastermind a maiden win in European competition as Inter manager.

Whilst I Nerazzuri have recovered well from the disappointment of losing to Hapoal Be’er Sheva by embarking upon a three-game unbeaten run in three Serie A, Sparta lost their most recent league game 2-0 at home to their fierce city rivals Slavia, in a game which bared similar hallmarks to the one that they played against Southampton.

As such although the current form of Inter and Sparta is markedly different, both teams share a need to inject some impetus and momentum into their Europa League campaigns.

Bilbao wounded due to Sassuolo defeat

So too do Atletico Bilbao, as Ernesto Valverde’s side lost their opening game of the competition 3-0 to Sassuolo, for whom Pol Lirola scored a wonderful solo goal at the Stadio Cittadel Tricolore.

Since that humbling defeat however, Bilbao have won three successive La Liga games, to climb to fifth position in the top flight of Spanish football, just two point behind leaders Real Madrid.

Subsequently Bilbao have responded positively to being dismantled by Sassuolo and will now aim to replicate one of their fine recent domestic performances against Rapid Vienna, so as enhance their prospects of building a prosperous Europa League campaign, similar to the one they staged last season, when they reached the quarter finals.

Influential in powering that progression was Aritz Aduriz, as the 35-year-old striker scored 10 goals in 13 Europa League appearances, along with Raul Garcia and Aymeric Laporte, whilst the trio remain key players for Bilbao, who on route to the 2011-2012 Europa League final, which they lost 3-0 to Atletico Madrid, beat Manchester United.

Improvement sought of United by Mourinho

The three-times European champions lost their first Europa League game since that tie against Bilbao 1-0 to Feyenoord, as Jose Mourinho’s side began this season’s competition with a lacklustre display in Rotterdam.

A dynamic and vibrant Feyenoord team, who have opened the Eredivise season with seven successive victories under the guidance of Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, displayed far greater desire and drive than United.

They were similarly outfought and outmanoeuvred in their next English Premier League game, which they lost 3-1 to Watford.

However after galvanising United’s players to produce a vastly improved performance to beat Leicester 4-1, as Paul Pogba scored his first goal for the club, Mourinho will aspire to motivate his players to build upon that result, by delivering a similarly accomplished display at home to Zorya Luhansk.

In five matches against the Ukrainian club for two of his former teams Metalurh Donetsk and Shakhtar Donetsk, United’s 27-year-old Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored four goals.  However Armenia’s international captain and all-time record goal scorer with 19, is yet to establish himself as a regular in Mourinho’s side, with the Portuguese preferring to start Juan Mata in Mkhirtaryan’s favoured playmaking role.

Fiorentina to take Azerbaijani test

Just as United lacked the craft and guile to unlock Feyenoord’s defence in their opening Europa League game, Fiorentina’s best efforts to score against PAOK Salonika were in vain.  Nevertheless Paulo Sousa’s side remained solid defensively to earn a 0-0 draw, in a relatively ill-tempered affair, which was littered with eight yellow cards.

So far this season in six competitive matches, Fiorentina have scored just five goals, although their defence, marshalled by captain Gonzalo Rodriguez and Romanian goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu, has performed excellently well to help their team keep four clean sheets.

Subsequently they will aspire to ensure a continuation of that against Qarabag of Azerbaijan at their Stadio Artemio Franchi stadium, where Fiorentina have neither been beaten nor conceded a goal this season.

Despite that, only twice this season has Sousa’s side scored at home, with them failing to do so as they drew their last game 0-0 with AC Milan, after Josip Illicic missed a penalty for the first time in his Serie A career.

Whilst remaining key players for Fiorentina, the 28-year-old midfielder and winger Fernando Bernardeschi also played important roles for the club’s as they reached the 2014-2015 Europa League semi-finals before being beaten by Sevilla.

One of Fiorentina’s group stage opponents in that edition of the competition was once again PAOK Salonika.  Whilst victorious 1-0 in Greece, then managed by Vicenzo Montella, Fiorentina drew 1-1 with PAOK at home.

Prior to facing the Greeks again on 24 November, Fiorentina will play twice against Slovan Liberec after hosting Qarabag, against whom the Serie A side’s Croatian striker Nikola Kalanic scored twice to inspire his former club Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to a 2-1 win over the Azerbaijani champions during the group stages of the 2014-2015 Europa League.

Top seeded quartet up to the Europa League Challenge

The current edition of the competition is one within which Fiorentina possess the potential to progress far.

Ultimately so too do Atletico Bilbao, Internazionale and Manchester United.

Nevertheless in order to enhance their respective prospects of achieving that, it will be necessary for the quartet to overcome relatively strong, albeit markedly different opposition, in their second group stage games.

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