Former Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho
has said that Juventus got the tactics wrong during the recent Champions League
quarter-final tie against Ajax. The Bianconeri gained a solid away goal
advantage from a 1-1 draw in Amsterdam but they were outclassed in their own
stadium where Ajax won with a 2-1 scoreline.
As such, the Eredivisie giants produced to
the semi-final stage with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline but Mourinho suggests that
the outcome could have been better, had the Bianconeri not shown relax to the
opposition’s style of play, he told RT: “In my opinion, [Juventus are] another
team that let Ajax play with their strength.
“Until this moment, nobody really respected
them, and they let them play with the qualities they have. They have fantastic
young players with a little bit of the experience they didn’t have a couple of
years ago when I played them in the Europa League final.We gave them the game
that they didn’t want to have. If you play against Ajax in the way they want to
play, you have the risk that they are better than you.”
Ajax have beaten the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the final four of the competition where they are scheduled to face Tottenham Hotspur. The tie remains equally balanced with both teams possessing exciting talents within their ranks but Spurs will be expected to showcase the dominance, given they are playing in a much better league compared to the Amsterdam outfit.
Before the encounter, however, Ajax have league games against Groningen and Vitesse Arnhem and they need to win both of those to remain in contention for the Eredivisie title. Ajax are currently ahead of PSV Eindhoven at the top of the table with a superior goal difference. They have netted an average of more than three goals during the course of the campaign.
Claudio Ranieri has acknowledged that he is
facing difficulty in helping Roma secure a top-four finish to the Serie A
season. The Italian manager was appointed as the caretaker manager last month
but he has since struggled to change the club’s fortunes with a couple of
defeats from the opening three matches.
One of those came at the weekend where Roma
suffered a damaging 4-1 defeat to Napoli and speaking after that game, the veteran
acknowledged that he is giving his best to resurrect the club’s run of form, he
said: “We’re doing everything. We’re going through a period where we concede
from the first attack in the first half. We were able to equalise – I don’t
know how – but they scored the second goal from their first attack after the
break. It is hard, you try to help the group, but the other team runs more.
It’s difficult to help them, it is difficult, but we’re not giving up. It is
hard but we’re doing our best.”
With the result, Roma have dropped four points behind the Champions League places and they have a tough task ahead with four of the remaining eight matches on the road, where they have managed just five wins through the campaign. Elsewhere, they also have a home meeting against Juventus during the run-in and things don’t look bright for Ranieri’s men, unless they find a sudden trust in confidence.
Roma’s next game comes against Sampdoria on
the road and the match should pose plenty of questions over their credentials.
Sampdoria are currently just three points behind them on the table and they
have shown that they can compete against the elite after succumbing AC Milan to
a 1-0 defeat at the weekend. Roma have won just one of the previous three
meetings against Sampdoria.
Germany and Hoffenheim midfielder Nico
Schulz has spoken about his dream of playing for Inter Milan in the future. The
25-year-old has made tremendous progress over the past year in the Bundesliga
and this has been recognised with his regular selection to the German national
squad since the World Cup.
Speaking to T-Online.de, Schulz
acknowledged that he has the ambition of playing regular Champions League
football in the future and the Nerazzurri remain his preferred destination. He
added that he has no desperation to leave Hoffenheim at the moment and would be
content to stay put, if no big offers come by in the forthcoming years.
He said: “I would like to play for a
European top club one day. There are some extraordinary clubs that play in the
Champions League every year. It is still a dream for me and Inter has always
been my dream team. I am very calm, especially because I am in a big club like
Hoffenheim already and I feel very good. Even if I do not leave the club, I
will still be a happy person.”
Schulz has managed six caps for the Germany national side over the past year where he has scored two goals in the process. One of those came during the Euro 2020 qualifier against the Netherlands this month where he bagged a late winner after the scores were tied at 2-2. Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane scored for the former World Cup champions in a dominant first half display against the Dutch and they could have easily scored more, barring some last-ditch defending from Ronald Koeman’s side.
The second half, however, produced a
different game with the Dutch levelling the scores through Matthijs de Ligt and
Memphis Depay, but Schulz managed to come off the bench to secure the winning
strike in the 90th minute.
Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti has
indicated that goalkeeper David Ospina has a future with the Serie A outfit
beyond the current campaign. The Colombia international has made 11 appearances
in the Serie A since his season-long loan move from Arsenal in the summer but
his future has come under question with Alex Meret competing with him for the
number one role.
Speaking to reporters, Ancelotti clarified that the Colombian has a future with the Naples outfit regardless of the games he plays from now and the end of the season. He added that Ospina should have started for the midweek Europa League week game but a minor illness meant that he was dropped to the bench, he said: “Ospina was meant to play on Thursday in the Europa League, but wasn’t feeling up to it, so I switched things around and used him [against Torino] instead. Ospina will remain at Napoli next season, regardless of how many games he plays.”
Elsewhere, Ancelotti spoke about the
frustration with the recent run of league results after the team drew 0-0 for
the second game running despite dominating the proceedings, he added: “We play
very well, but we are not able to score the goals that we should score. In a
match like this you are supposed to win for the way you performed. But if we
didn’t win, we can’t put the blame on anyone else but ourselves, because in two
matches [against Fiorentina and Torino] we had 18 chances and we didn’t score a
With the stalemate, the Naples outfit appear
very much out of the title race with 13 points separating from league leaders
Juventus. Nonetheless, they could still end up with potential silverware from
the Europa League where they are among the favourites to reach at least the
semi-final stage of the competition. The Naples outfit secured a comfortable
3-1 triumph over FC Zurich during the away leg of the round of 32 stage.
Italy manager Roberto Mancini has said that
Mario Balotelli can make another comeback to the national team, if he can
produce consistent performance with new club Marseille. The marksman previously
featured for Italy at the Nations League last year but he appears determined to
find a way to the Azzurri after switching clubs during
the winter transfer window.
Speaking to reporters, Mancini indicated
that Balotelli can make a comeback with the Azzurri for the upcoming
internationals, provided he can find the consistency with the scoring, he said:
“We haven’t lost sight of anyone. Mario is part of the group.He knows that
well and he also knows that it depends on him, not me. So far he’s played
little. [On Sunday] he played only his second game in months. “But if he scores
consistently between now and the end of March, maybe he could come back.”
Balotelli had failed to find the scoresheet in 10 appearances for Nice during the ongoing campaign and he found himself out of favour under Patrick Vieira at one stage. As such, he decided to terminate his contract to make the switch to Les Phoceens and the move has certainly worked out with him scoring in two of his three appearances.
Meanwhile, veteran star Fabio Quagliarella
has been called up to training camp ahead of the selection for the
internationals next month and Mancini has not ruled out the marksman’s comeback
despite him turning 36 earlier in the year, he added: “He deserves to be
here, despite his age. He is playing well, scoring goals and is one of the
top-scorers [in Serie A]. He has always been a very strong player. “But he
himself knows well that he may not be the future of the team.”
Quagliarella may be approaching the final years
of his professional career but he had gone head-to-head with Cristiano Ronaldo
in the scoring charts and he has netted 16 goals during the league campaign.
The veteran recently broke a Serie A scoring record after netting for 11
Former Serie A winner Antonio Di Gennaro
has said that Inter Milan can’t afford to lose the services of Mauro Icardi in
the near future unless they are able to recruit a replacement with the same
level of pedigree. The Nerazzurri captain currently has more than two years
remaining on his existing deal but his future has still come under scrutiny
with the tempting £96m release clause inserted into his contract.
Speaking to RMC Sport, Di Gennaro suggested
that the Nerazzurri would find it difficult to replace Icardi, given players of
the same capacity would command significant wages. He added that the San Siro
outfit should seek to commit the Argentine to a long-term deal with the
economic demands of the striker being within the affordable range.
He told: “If you want to replace someone like him then Inter would need a player of the same level who would have a very big salary. I think that a club that is planning very well like Inter cannot lose someone like Icardi. Inter has it in their mind to keep Icardi and I think there is not so much of a gap on the economic level. If everyone has the same will and agreement can be found.”
Icardi’s release clause has certainly kept
the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid interested over the past few months and
this has increased the urgency from Inter’s end to resolve the marksman’s
future. Still, they have not been able to find the breakthrough with the
player’s wife and agent and the next few months could give an indication over
the progress made.
Icardi has not enjoyed the same vein of form as
the previous campaign but he has nonetheless contributed nine goals in the
Serie A including a few late winners. The striker’s consistency has also caught
the eye of Argentina of late with manager Lionel Scaloni regularly calling him
upfor international friendlies.
French midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko has
admitted that he is open to remaining with AC Milan beyond the conclusion of
the ongoing campaign. The 24-year-old joined the Rossoneri on a season-long
loan from Chelsea during the summer but his beginning was far from impressive
with manager Gennaro Gattuso questioning his abilities with the ball.
However, the Frenchman has since made impressive progress at the heart of the midfield amid the club’s injury crisis at the centre of the park and he has already made 20 appearances during the first half of the season. Speaking to Milan News, the former Monaco man has acknowledged that he is pleased to have made progress with the Rossoneri after enduring a difficult start where his future with the club was questioned.
He added that he is pleased to commit his long-term future to the Rossoneri, although the final decision has to be taken by the San Siro giants, who have the option to buy him at the end of the season, he told: “I don’t think anything special has changed. I’ve carried on training and working hard, and when you do that things change. I’m happy because I’m playing well with the team. The future? I’m happy here but it’s not my decision, it’s Milan and Chelsea’s. We’ll talk at the end of the season to see what we can do.”
Meanwhile, Milan ended the calendar year on a high after securing a 2-1 comeback triumph over SPAL at the San Siro. The Rossoneri had recently gone through some unwanted history after going four winless matches without finding the scoresheet but they managed to put the disappointment to bed against SPAL, where Gonzalo Higuain scored the match-defining goal. With the outcome, the Rossoneri have been able to close the gap on the Champions League positions with just one point separating them fourth-placed Lazio.
Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly has revealed his ambition of winning the Scudetto with the Naples outfit after they failed to do so during the previous campaign. The Serie A outfit were on course to end Juventus’ dominance for the Scudetto last term but their challenge feel apart during the final months which saw them finish second with a six-point deficit.
Despite the outcome, Koulibaly was recently named among the African Player of The Year contenders and speaking about the same, he said: “The most important thing is that I always try to improve so I can show everyone that I can be one of the best defenders in the world. For me, when I scored this goal I was really happy. I really want to win something with Napoli, they give me a lot of love and confidence. I want to give something back to them and I hope it will be the Scudetto.”
» ( Read more of Kalidou Koulibaly hoping to repay Napoli with Scudetto… )
Former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has indicated that he is not in a hurry to return to management. The 48-year-old was recently being fancied to take over the managerial vacancy at Real Madrid but he happened to dismiss the speculation shortly after which caretaker Santiago Scolari was recruited by Real Madrid on a permanent basis.
In an interview with Sky Sports, Conte has suggested that he is prepared to wait for the right opportunity ahead and does not have the immediate thought to returning to management, he said: “For a manager of my level it is better to wait instead of jumping on a train. I prefer to wait for June and to start a path with a new team, a new project. For the moment, I don’t feel the urge to go back to work. Maybe in a two or three months I will feel the desire and I’ll say something different from what I am saying now.”
» ( Read more of Antonio Conte in no rush to return to management… )
Massimiliano Allegri claimed that Juventus had one of their best games of the campaign as they produced a strong 2-0 victory over Udinese during the weekend. Cristiano Ronaldo and Rodrigo Bentancur were on the scoresheet for the defending champions, as they opened up a nine point lead over Napoli following the weekend matches.
Ronaldo was returning back to the starting lineup after missing out on the midweek Champions League game due to a suspension. He also managed to score for the first time since the infamous rape allegations against him have been opened up. » ( Read more of Allegri Lauds Juve’s Win Over Udinese… )