Mourinho says Juventus played in Ajax’s favour in Champions League defeat

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 admits difficult times with AS Roma since taking charge

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 international speaks about the prospect of playing for Inter Milan

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.

Carlo Ancelotti drops update on David Ospina’s future with Napoli

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 single goal.” 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.

Roberto Mancini open to Mario Balotelli’s international comeback

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 successive matches.

Antonio Di Gennaro says Inter Milan can’t afford to lose Mauro Icardi

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.

Tiemoue Bakayoko open to permanent stay with AC Milan

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.

Kalidou Koulibaly hoping to repay Napoli with Scudetto

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.”
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Antonio Conte in no rush to return to management

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.”
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Allegri Lauds Juve’s Win Over Udinese

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… )