Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Serie A: Milan derby preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 21, 2010
Milan 0 Inter 4

The first Milan derby of the season was emphatically won by Inter

At 20:45 local time on Sunday the second “Derby della Madonnina” will begin between Milanese giants Internazionale (46 points from 20 games) and AC Milan (40 pts, 19 games). Six points separate the sides and this has turned what is normally a grudge match anyway into something even more significant as both sides have separated from the rest of the league as the only likely challengers for lo Scudetto.

On Matchday 2 of the 2009-10 Serie A campaign the two sides met with experienced campaigner José Mourinho leading his Inter team to an emphatic 4-0 victory over a Milan side whose new coach Leonardo found the going tough in the opening weeks of the new season. Goals from Thiago Motta, Diego Milito and Maicon had already put the game beyond the Rossoneri by half-time before Dejan Stanković sealed the deal for the Nerazzurri with a long range strike midway through the second half. However one can only guess that, on current form, Inter won’t be finding their neighbours such an enticing proposition as Milan, and especially their charismatic talisman Ronaldinho, are in great form having only dropped three points in their last nine league games whilst Inter have stuttered in recent weeks scoring eleven points from eighteen available.

This particular fixture usually brings about the best in either one team or the other as there hasn’t been a drawn derby game in Serie A since October 2004. In the last nine derbies Inter have been victorious on six occasions including a ‘double’ in 2006-07, a result which, if repeated this Sunday, will extend Inter’s lead at the top to nine points albeit having played a game more. However if Milan can keep up their great recent form with a win against the champions they’ll close the gap to a mere three points which they can then equal with a win in their game in hand. Out of all permutations for Sunday’s game it is the latter option which is most important if the title race is to become a nailbiter. After being ‘given’ the Scudetto in 2005-06 due to the “Calciopoli” scandal, Inter have almost strolled their way to another three more titles by margins of 22pts, 3pts and 10pts in the last three championships. If Inter are to be denied being only the second team to win five Scudetti in a row (after the great Torino side of 1943-49) then it is imperative for the Rossoneri’s big guns to show on Sunday.

News from Milan’s camp has not been positive on the injury front. Players such as Alessandro Nesta and Clarence Seedorf are doubts whilst Pato will definitely sit the game out with a thigh problem. Inter have some problems of their own as two of the scorers from the 4-0 win this season, Motta and Stanković, are doubts and Sulley Muntari pulled up with a thigh strain in training earlier this week. Despite these problems both clubs have any number of players who can make a difference but one feels Milan have the advantage as they have Ronaldinho playing his best football since he left FC Barcelona, David Beckham looking like he hasn’t been away from the San Siro and Marco Borriello whose confidence has shone through in recent games, especially the 5-2 win over his old club Genoa. Inter will miss their top scorer Samuel Eto’o due to his participation in the African Cup of Nations but they still have potential matchwinners in Mario Balotelli, Goran Pandev and Diego Milito. Either way it makes for an exciting derby match which, hopefully, will set the scene for the rest of the season.

Champions League – Group Stage Round-Up: Part One

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 9, 2009
Louis Van Gaal

Can Louis van Gaal win the Champions League again?

This week sees the conclusion of the group stages in the UEFA Champions League. “Stoppage Time” takes a look back at how each group has shaped up, starting with groups A-D today, followed by groups E-H tomorrow:

GROUP A (BORDEAUX, BAYERN MUNICH, JUVENTUS, MACCABI HAIFA)

Bordeaux surprised the pundits with a near faultless performance in group A. “Les Girondins” only dropped two points away at Juventus on Matchday 1 leaving the traditional big boys “Juve” and FC Bayern to fight it out for second place. During the campaign it seemed as if Bayern’s domestic troubles were going to destroy their European ambitions and, with two matchdays to go, Juve seemed to be going through. However the four time European champions from Bavaria still had a chance on Matchday 6, all they had to do was beat Juventus away in Turin. What seemed a tough task proved, ultimately, to be a stroll in the park for Louis van Gaal’s men as they won 4-1 including a penalty goal from Bayern keeper Hans-Jörg Butt. Juventus are now confined to the Europa League whilst Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa couldn’t even score a goal in the whole group stage and, unsurprisingly, remained pointless after six games.

GROUP B (MANCHESTER UNITED, CSKA MOSCOW, VfL WOLFSBURG, BESIKTAS)

As expected Manchester United topped the group in comfortable fashion. CSKA Moscow claimed the second place after a 2-1 success away in Istanbul against Besiktas on Matchday 6. The celebrations were dampened somewhat by the news that two of their players, Alexei Berezutsky and Sergei Ignashevich, were tested positive for banned substances. However UEFA has decided to punish the players rather than the club for what officals of CSKA Moscow called “a clerical error”.  German champions VfL Wolfsburg had a good maiden campaign in Europe’s elite class with Edin Džeko attracting the notice of some of Europe’s biggest clubs with some good performances, most notably against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Besiktas were struggling from the start but a consolation win over Manchester United in Matchday 5 proved to be their only highlight. With players such as Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen showing glimpses of their best “ManU” finished with 13 points at the top of the group with CSKA three points behind. Wolfsburg’s European campaign will continue in the Europa League whilst Besiktas have to revert back to the travails of domestic football.

GROUP C (REAL MADRID, AC MILAN, OLYMPIQUE MARSEILLE, FC ZÜRICH)

Before a ball was kicked in this group virtually everybody had tipped Real Madrid and AC Milan, two clubs with sixteen European Cups before them, to qualify for the Round of 16 and so it was proved. The only real blip which the Spanish side suffered was their 3-2 home defeat by the Italian giants on Matchday 3. FC Zürich had their moments too, a 1-0 defeat of AC Milan in the San Siro on Matchday 2 had their fans dreaming of further glory. Sadly for the Swiss champions their double header against Marseille proved disappointing and effectively knocked them out of the competition. On Matchday 6 Marseille still had a chance of progressing but they had to defeat Real Madrid, who were already through, at home and hope Milan dropped points in Zürich. The latter scenario happened as Milan could only manage a 1-1 draw but Cristiano Ronaldo was in scintillating form for Real Madrid scoring twice in a 3-1 win at Stade Vélodrome to send Marseille into the Europa League.

GROUP D (CHELSEA FC, FC PORTO, ATLÉTICO DE MADRID, APOEL NICOSIA)

Chelsea and FC Porto were clearly the two best sides in the group easily seeing off a poor Atleti and a weak APOEL team although the Cypriots were far from expected to qualify for the last 16. Chelsea’s two matches against FC Porto determined the top two placings with the London club winning 1-0 home and away. This was the difference between the two teams even allowing for the fact that Chelsea drew 2-2 away at Atleti and at home to APOEL on Matchday 6 when they’d already qualified. Chelsea finsihed on 14 points two ahead of Porto who some people fancy as a good outside bet in the tournament. “Los Rojiblancos” (the red and whites) of Madrid scraped through to the Europa League going through on their head-to-head record against APOEL. With both teams finishing on three points each after six games Atleti’s away goal in the 1-1 draw in Cyprus proved crucial as APOEL were only able to manage a 0-0 draw in Spain.