Posts Tagged ‘Serie A’

On December 23rd, after a little over six months at the helm, Rafa Benitez agreed to part ways with Inter Milan.  I’m not a fan of Inter but they did the right thing by getting rid of Benitez.  Inter is currently in seventh place in the standing, thirteen points behind leaders Milan, unacceptable.  That’s not reason enough to get rid of him.  He deserved to go because upon winning the FIFA Club World Cup he decided to give the owner an ultimatum.  He told Massimo Moratti that either the club back him with new signings or they should consider whether or not they wanted to keep him in charge.  Inter chose the latter and they decided that his services were no longer needed.

That didn't last long

Where does Benitez get off making these demands?  Did he not realize that this team has won the last four scudetti (the fifth one was handed to them)?  Did Benitez also forget that Inter just came off a season where they also won the Champions League and Coppa Italia?  Does this sound like a team that needs new signings?  Jose Mourinho was able to get this team to them top so why couldn’t Benitez make it work?  Hell, if Roberto Mancini can win a Scudetto, anyone can.  This team has five titles in the span of one year (Serie A, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup) but the players weren’t good enough for Rafa Benitez.

Proof anyone can win a Scudetto

Inter has 34 player on the roster.  How do you not win with the likes of Julio Cesar, Javier Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Cristian Chivu, Dejan Stankovic, Wesley Sneijder, Sulley Muntari, Esteban Cambiasso, Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and Goran Pandev?  Throw in youngsters Jonathan Biabiany (France), Philippe Coutinho (Brazil), and Davide Santon (Italy) and thats a pretty good team.  That’s only fifteen of the thirty-four players on this team.  Too bad Benitez had no use for Mario Balotelli (Manchester City) and Victor Obinna (West Ham), they could have really helped out this team.

Balotelli would've looked good in an Inter uniform....oh, wait

Who did he think he was going to sign?  I know the names of Dirk Kuyt, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard were being thrown around in the summer but why should Inter have to pay that much money to improve a team that has won so much in recent years?  Why couldn’t Rafa Benitez make do with what he had?

Sure, Rafa Benitez won a Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, an FA Cup in 2006, and two La Liga titles but what has he done lately?  That sounds harsh but in today’s game you have to win now.  Unless you’re Sir Alex  Ferguson, Arsene Wenger or Jose Mourinho, what you’ve done in the past doesn’t mean a thing now.  Benitez left Liverpool in ruins and wanted to change Inter in his own image.  Rafa Benitez might have been able to talk Gillett and Hicks into buying every player he wanted but Massimo Moratti doesn’t work that way.  You don’t tell Massimo Moratti what to do.  He does what he wants to do.  Benitez didn’t understand that and it cost him his job.

Massimo Moratti

Do you know who I am?

Where does Rafa Benitez go from here?  His name has enough cache that he’ll be in the running for some major jobs but teams will also be leery of giving him too much authority after seeing what he did with Liverpool and his actions at Inter.  There’s talk of Liverpool being interested in Benitez but that probably just talk.  No way the new owners of Liverpool hand the reins back to the guy who ruined it in the first place.  Roy Hodgson won’t make it through the season as the Liverpool coach but I seriously doubt we’ll ever see Benitez there again.  He’d be better off going back to La Liga and trying to find a team to wrestle the league away from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

I thank Inter for giving him a shot because AC Milan was able to take advantage of his poor showing and find its way atop Serie A.  Thanks for the memories Rafa, we hardly knew ya.

This was a long time ago Rafa

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Yesterday, one of The Blasian’s (remember him?) favorite teams, Inter Milan took on Chelsea at Giuseppe Meazza in the Champions League Round of 16 clash.  Inter won 2-1 and look good, not great, going into the return match in three weeks time.  Before I go into the actual game let me tell you about these two teams.

Last week my favorite team, AC Milan took on a team I really, really like, Manchester United.  Inter and Chelsea are the opposite of that.  They both make my Top 5 most hated soccer/football/futbol/calcio teams.  Both teams are probably tied for third on that list.  Let’s take a quick look at what that list look likes:

Top 5 Most Hated Soccer Teams
1.  Juventus (Italy)
2.  Manchester City (England)
T3. Inter Milan (Italy)
T3. Chelsea (England)
5.  Roma (Italy)

Even though Inter and Chelsea are on this list I have to admit that I do like some of the players on these teams whereas I hate everything about Juventus and Man City.  Juventus and Man City have no redeeming qualities and there is not one player, coach or member of management I like on either of those teams.

Sure Inter has won a few scudettos lately they but they haven’t won the Champion’s League/European Cup in my lifetime and this makes me very happy.  The Blaisian (who dat?) can say whatever he wants about Inter but you can have all the league championships you want but you’re nothing until you win in Europe.  Plus, don’t think winning one puts you in the same sentence as AC Milan.  Same goes for you Chelsea.  Try to win in Europe before you think you’re on par with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

I’m sad that AC Milan or Manchester United will be out after the Round of 16 but at the same time seeing Inter or Chelsea out makes it a little better.  The one thing that scares me is that Inter or Chelsea will go through to the final and beat AC Milan or Manchester United. That would be my ultimate nightmare.  Although, if it were reversed and AC Milan or Manchester United beat one of those two teams it would make winning the title even sweeter.  AC Milan has one quite a few Champions League/European Cup titles but the one I savor and remember the most is when we beat Juventus in the 2003 final in Manchester.  It was like winning two titles at once.  The Blasian (where are you?) would be unbearable if Inter won the Champions League.

The game:

To be honest, this game wasn’t that exciting.  I thought Chelsea worked hard and deserved better.  I wonder what the referee was thinking on the play where Kalou got taken down right in front of the goal?  Eto’o was disappointing.  Ivanovic (Chelsea) and Sneijder (Inter) had great games for their respective teams.  Maybe the game played too much like a chess match because both coaches knew the other team as well as anyone.  Chelsea better hope that Cech is able to play in the return because Hilario looks terrible.  The guy looked frightened when he came in to the game and can’t execute a goal kick to save his life.

Inter will go into Stamford Bridge with a slight advantage.  That away goal by Chelsea is big.  Chelsea can go through with a 1-0 win but if Inter scores then Chelsea will need to win by two.  Even though I hate both teams, I would love to see Inter crash out first.  Not just because The Blasian (I think he still writes for this blog) likes them but because they are and always will be second class citizens in Milan.

I don’t know if I should say this but I don’t like Mario Balotelli.  Please Blasian (come back soon), don’t rip me because he’s your guy.  It has nothing to do about his skin color.  I have no idea why the Italian fans have a problem with his ethnicity because on the field he’s all Italian.  What does that mean?  He’s such a whiner and goes down in a heap with minimal contact.  How has he not played for Italy yet?  He’d fit right in.

Italy, don't boo Super Mario because he's black, boo him because he dives and whines

Now that all of the games in the first leg are complete, lets take a quick look at the other games and what might happen in the return.

AC Milan – Manchester United (2-3), Manchester go home looking real good.  Three away goals are huge and I have trouble believing that Milan can score two, let alone win by two.  Then again, if Ferguson decides to play Neville on the right then Milan could probably do whatever they want (see Everton).

Bayern Munich – Fiorentina (2-1), Bayern got the benefit of a non-call from the referee and the linesman.  Klose was offsides not once, but twice on the play.  Sure, Fiorentina got an away goal but I think Bayern will find a way to get this done.  Don’t forget that Bayern went to Torino and beat Juventus 4-1 to knock them out of the tournament.

Lyon – Real Madrid (1-0), Lyon shocked Madrid but an ever healthier Ronaldo should make the difference at the Bernabeu.  I can’t muster up any excitement for Lyon because Jean-Alain Boumsong is one of their defenders.  Rangers, Newcastle and Juventus fans know what I’m talking about.

CSKA Moscow – Sevilla (1-1), a good showing by Sevilla in frigid Moscow puts them in the driver’s seat going back to Sanchez Pizjuan.

Stuttgart – Barcelona (1-1), the defending champs were frustrated by the German side and the return should be interesting.  Don’t put Barcelona in the next round quite yet but playing at the Camp Nou should help.

Porto – Arsenal (2-1), Arsenal looked terrible in this one.  Who knew that Almunia, as bad as he can be, is the best Arsenal can do in goal?  That being said, Arsenal rights the ship and advances at the Emirates.

Olympiakos – Bordeaux (0-1), the French leaders look good going back home.  Bordeaux have lost only once at home this season in Ligue 1

You can’t have two favorite teams.  It just doesn’t work.  When I lived in Chicago, some people would say, “I like the White Sox and the Cubs.”  Not possible.  Eventually these teams will meet and you have to choose.  One day (not anytime soon) the White Sox and the Cubs will be in the World Series and then they will have to pick a side.  If they can’t, then they were never a fan of either team.

Pick a side and live with it

I’m a Cleveland Browns fan and I could care less what the rest of the league is doing.  Sure, I have a man crush on Tom Brady but I’d choose the Browns over the Patriots every time.  I’m a White Sox fan and the rest of the league is none of my business.  I did like seeing the Yankees win the World Series but that was because everyone hates them so much.  Being a Clipper fan isn’t easy but there is never a time when it’s alright for the Clippers to lose.  If you play for the Clippers then I love you but if you left us, screw you.

You're dead to me

I thought soccer was different.  There are so many different leagues to follow that it’s easy to have multiple favorite teams.  In Germany’s Bundesliga it’s Bayern Munich, in Spain’s La Liga it’s Real Madrid, in Scotland’s Premier League it’s Rangers, in Argentina’s Primera Division it’s Boca Juniors and in MLS it’s……I don’t care.  My two favorite teams are AC Milan and Manchester United but if I had to choose, and sometimes I do, it’s AC Milan.

How many people know Gattuso once played for Rangers?

On Tuesday night the two teams met at the San Siro.  I didn’t want this game to happen but it did.  Somehow I just knew that when the draw was happening for the Round of 16 in the Champion’s League that these two teams would face each other.  I also knew that UEFA would find a way for Inter and Chelsea to play each other as well.  Random draw, my ass.

They have played each other before, the last time being in 2006/2007, but this game made me realize that AC Milan is my favorite team and always has been and that Manchester United is just a team I like.  I wrote a post saying that Serie A was in decline and that the Premiership was where it’s at.  Sure, that may be the case but I grew up with AC Milan and no other team can get in the way.  I’ve followed United since the days of Hughes, Irwin and Cantona but I’ve been a Milan fan longer.  Sorry United, I tried to fool myself and tell people my favorite teams were Milan and you but I can’t do it anymore.  AC Milan forever.  Forza Milan!!!!

Aways and forever

On to the game:

Manchester United went into the San Siro and beat AC Milan 3-2.  Looking at the score it may seem like it was a good game but it wasn’t.  There were some moments of brilliance but there was also a lot of meaningless and sloppy play.  If you just looked at the stats then the game seemed even and it was for the most part.  The game was ultimately decided on a defensive error between Thiago and Nesta.  Other than that, this game had tie written all over it.

Ronaldinho scored after three minutes with a little help from Evra but the Brazilian wouldn’t have an easy night after that.  Sure, he helped set up Milan’s second goal with a nice pass on Seedorf’s cheeky back-heel but for the most part, United’s Rafael made sure he didn’t have much space to work with.  Rafael did what a lot of defenders fail to do with Ronaldinho and other finesse players, he tried to keep Ronaldinho from putting the ball on the ground.  Ronaldinho did a lot of juggling but Rafael was there when the ball was about to hit the ground.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar looked ok but it looks like he’s trying too hard.  He’s heard the boo’s from the fans and the rumblings that he may be on his way out and I think it’s really affecting him.  Hopefully Milan doesn’t give up on him too quickly because I think he can really help this team when he finally finds his touch.

Don't give up on this guy

Andrea Pirlo was brilliant.  The guy is a magician on the field.  Surrounded by so many big names, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves but Pirlo can put the ball where he wants whenever he wants.

I don’t understand what Pato’s role was in the game.  It looked to me as if he was playing too far back to be effective.  He’s not the playmaker, he should be the finisher.  Pato needed to be up front with Huntelaar instead of trying to get the ball to him.  Pato took a more forward position after Inzaghi replaced Huntelaar but I wonder why Leonardo didn’t just keep him up there the whole time?

David Beckham is puzzling.  I’ve seen him in a few games since his return to Milan and I don’t understand what he’s supposed to be doing.  He takes free kicks but other than that he doesn’t look like he wants to go forward at all.  He’s mostly passing the ball back or sideways.  Beckham doesn’t really make things happen.  Is that what happens to you when you play in MLS?  If I’m the other team, I don’t really have to play him close because he’s not taking the space.

Wayne Rooney continues to have his career season.  I hope this carries on to the World Cup.  He was in the right place at the right time on both his goals.  You make a mistake and you pay.  On the third goal Rooney got between Thiago (gonna be great) and Nesta.  They must of both said “you got him” because neither player went toward him when he got the ball in the area.  That was game over.

It's Rooney's world, we just live in it

Antonio Valencia turned this game around.  He came in 65 minutes into the game and paid instant dividends.  His pass led to the second United goal and he was eating Favalli’s lunch for the last 25 minutes of the game.  The left side of the Milan defense couldn’t control him at all.  A young, energetic defender like Antonini (injured) or Abate might have helped there.  Valencia is having an awesome first season at United and I think he’ll be making a lot of money very soon.

You're gonna be a rich man soon

Park Ji-Sung was a bit disappointing.  He usually gives teams fits with his speed and energy but he didn’t look his normal self in the game.  I thought when Valencia came on that Park would do more but maybe they were playing to close to each other.  I think they need to be on opposite sides.

Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes were solid.  The only negative this is Carrick’s late yellow/red card which will keep him out of the return match.  But, I could’ve swore it was another player who made the late challenge and not Carrick but non one is reporting it so I’m sure it will stand.

The referee for the match was awful.  He missed quite a few calls and at least one United handball in the box.  He looked lost out there.  Here’s hoping Olegário Benquerença doesn’t get anymore big games.

If this guy is doing your team's game, get ready to throw shit at the TV

So these two teams play each other again on March 10 at Old Trafford.  Should be fantastic.  With United’s two away goals, AC Milan is in big trouble.  They have to either win by two goals or win 4-3.  Look for some changes in the lineups.  I expect Gattuso and Borriello to be in the game for Milan and Giggs and Valencia (to start) for United.

I like you but I don't "like you" like you

I just saw that UTEP ended Memphis’ 64-game conference winning streak.  This left Memphis tied with Kentucky for the all-time Division I conference winning streak record.  UTEP won 72-67, at the FedEx Forum no less.  But wait, how does Memphis even share that record with the great Kentucky teams of the 1940’s?  I thought they vacated all their wins from the 2007-2008 season, including their 16 wins in Conference USA.  Doesn’t that mean their streak ended at 29 games?  That’s how many consecutive conference games they had won at the end of the 2006-2007 season.  Sorry Blasian.  Is the NCAA different from other sports when it comes to handling CHEATERS?

In the Olympics, if someone is caught CHEATING, they’re stripped of their medal and it’s given to someone else.  That person doesn’t continue to call themselves a gold medalist and an Olympic champion.  Their name is stricken from the record books.  In the Olympics, CHEATERS never win and winners never CHEAT. 

Not the 1998 100 m Olympic gold medalist in Seoul. Also, not the 100 m record holder either. The IOC cleared the books of him.

In Italy when Juventus was found guilty of wrong-doing in 2006 Italian football scandal, they had to vacate their Serie A title.  The record books show that Inter Milan won the title in the 2005-2006 season, not Juventus.  That seems fair.  Why should Juventus call themselves champions when they were obvious CHEATERS?

Sorry, you can't keep that. Please give it to Inter. They didn't CHEAT.

Now, I know there will be at least one angry person reading this but rules are rules.  Without rules, there would be chaos.  Without rules, a coach can’t tarnish two programs and still be allowed to coach at a prestigious school like Kentucky.  Wait…..   When will the NCAA wise up and strike Memphis basketball from the record books for most consecutive Division I conference wins? 

Sorry Derrick! No SAT, no wins.

Serie A, I used to have eyes only for you but in recent years, other leagues have caught my fancy.  I grew up watching Serie A.  I probably started watching it in 1986 and watched it religiously until a few years ago.  I remember when Ruben Sosa ruled Inter.  When Marco Van Basten could do no wrong.  When Roberto Baggio went from great to the greatest to out of this world.  When Roberto Mancini was a whiny bitch player for Sampdoria then Lazio, before he was the whiny bitch manager of Fiorentina, Lazio, Inter and now Manchester City.  In that time, there has never been a time when I didn’t hate Juventus.  While I still hate Juventus and love AC Milan, Serie A doesn’t hold that special place in my heart.  If I had a choice I’d watch the Spanish La Liga first then the English Premier League.  Who am I kidding; I’d watch any game from the Argentine Primera before any of them.  Since I’m pretty sure a game from Argentina is hard to come by here in Korea, I’ll pretend like they don’t exist. 

Italy just seems to have gotten slower and more plodding over the years.  La Liga is as close as you can get to the Argentine Primera where it’s ninety minutes of back and forth play, with the ball being played through midfield instead of over it.  Serie A teams are better top to bottom but the play just doesn’t excite me as much.  The top eight EPL teams are good and put on a show when they play each other but there is a big drop off after that, in both talent and skill.  For some reason I seem to get Burnley, Hull or Bolton every week.  I know why I get Bolton (Lee Chung-Yong) but why the others?  Every team in Italy seems like it would be content if the game ended 0-0.  In England, every team seems like they want to win, even if they don’t have the skill of the big boys.

There are great players in Spain and England now, more than before.  Back in the day, everyone wanted to go to Italy.  That’s where you made a name for yourself.  We had Jurgen Klinsmann, Gabriel Batistuta, Faustino Asprilla, Rudy Voeller, Frank Rijkaard, and Ruud Gullit.  Now, players would rather go to Spain, England and even Germany before coming to Italy.  Antonio Valencia is having a great season at Manchester United but ten years ago he would have chosen to play somewhere like Parma instead of going to England.  Why????  I think it has something to do with the exposure that England gets all over the world.  In the mid-90’s if you had asked one hundred people around the world who their favorite team was, at least seventy-five percent of them would’ve named an Italian team.  Now, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool would make up a bulk of the answers, followed by Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Serie A, I still watch you but sometimes my heart’s not in it.  Please do something before I close the door on you for good.