Serie A preview: Talking through Italy’s new season – Part II

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In Part I of their Serie A preview, Kirsten Schlewitz and Richard Farley talked about Juventus, Fiorentina, and Napoli’s changes at Italy’s crown. With the new season starting tomorrow, here’s their look at Milan, Inter, Roma, Lazio, and the pack:

Kirsten Schlewitz: Milan may have a hope, but they have the same defensive issues as Napoli. They’re still playing Philippe Mexes, for goodness sake. I guess when you have Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy up front, you don’t worry too much about the back. It also helps that Nigel De Jong is fit again, and can help relieve some of the pressure from the back four.

Richard Farley: I’d love to go on and on about an attack that will sometimes feature all of Balotelli, El Shaarawy, and M’Baye Niang, but can we pause for a moment and stand in awe of the fact that Max Allegri survived? My God, that was close. The man’s only had three straight top three finishes while having his team sold (and let go) out from under him. He’s not perfect, but yeesh. What’s a man go to do to keep his … oh, wait. Forgot we were talking about Italy.

Same building, different team. How much difference will Walter Mazzari make at Inter? Clearly, he’s not going to do worse than Andrea Stramaccioni did last season.

KS: Allegri’s secret is the fact that he casts a spell over his side while yelling “DAI! DAI! DAI!” again and again. That and the arrival of Mario, of course.

I’m a big cynic about Mazzarri, having to had to watch him closely over the past few seasons. Yeah, he did well to get Napoli where they are, but he also had great players. I’m not sure Inter have great players. His insistence on using the same players, week in and week out, in the same shape, makes it easy for other sides to exploit their weaknesses. And his refusal to give young players a chance often harms his sides.

But will he do better than Strama? Yes. A … searching for a food metaphor here … an eggplant would be better than Stramaccioni.

Yes, an eggplant. I couldn’t think of anything better.

RF: I know I should transition into another team here, but I’m already debating whether to keep that reference in the edit. Seriously: No more food metaphors. Don’t you know all cool sports writing references pop culture. Which member of One Direction would Mazzarri be?

KS: Who? I’m hungry and we’re talking about Italy. Food metaphors are necessary. Although to be fair, I didn’t invent the Ljajic one.

RF: Fair enough. We still have the two teams from Rome … who it feels like we’re just referencing because they’re big clubs. Should we just say “Michael Bradley” and “Hernanes” and get out of here? I think our audience wants to hear a little about how Bradley’s going to do (especially with Roma having changed … everything, ever, again), and Hernanes – well, I just picked Lazio’s best player. What can these teams do?

KS: We can talk about Bradley, but he’s not the reason to watch Roma. He’s certainly improved at the club, but his role may diminish with the arrival of Kevin Strootman.

Roma have had an … interesting … transfer market, …

RF: You don’t say.

source: Getty ImagesKS: As of right now, they still have Erik Lamela, they still have Miralem Pjanic, and of course, they still have Francesco Totti (right). Those players are all reasons to believe Roma can make a solid showing, but anyone saying they can do more than finish in the top five is simply dreaming.

What else …

RF: My love of Totti is well documented. But … Lazio.

KS: Oh, Lazio. Lazio kind of fell off the deep end at the end of last season and have done little to rectify the situation since. They held on to Hernanes and they still have Miroslav Klose, but, well, he’s old. At some point, he’s going to stop scoring. That point may have been in the Supercoppa match last weekend. Vladmir Petkovic is a solid coach, but not spectacular. I just don’t think there’s a lot to fear from Lazio this season.

RF: Give the readers one team we haven’t detailed who could surprise and, say, claim a European spot.

KS: I assume you mean besides Udinese, who always manage to slip in and get a Europa League spot against all odds?

RF: No, I didn’t mean besides them, but that’s my fault. I always forget they’re in Europe, given how much they always seem to want out. But … yes, let’s pick somebody besides Udinese.

KS: Well, Catania were the surprise last year, but with the losses of Alejandro Gomez and Francesco Lodi, I have trouble believing they’ll finish in the top half. So I’d say . . . Parma? They’re at least interesting, they’ve kept much of their squad and made decent reinforcements. If Roberto Donadoni wises up and learns how to use his players, such as Nicola Sansone, they could certainly be the thorn in the side of the big clubs.

RF: And of source you bring up one of the players I want to dote on (Sansone) as we need to move on. Our contracts with the International Blogger Council require us to make picks, but let’s keep it simple. Who wins the league?

KS: Juve.

RF: Took my answer. Second and third? I’ll go Napoli and … OMG … am I really saying this? I think Max gets them (Milan) into top three again. Same order as last year.

KS: Hmmmm.

RF: Look, I’m no Serie A expert. I just play one on the internet, where I’m allowed to say dumb stuff (as long as the domain name is twitter.com).  You, however, need to be right.

KS: Well, by “Max” you mean “Mario,” right? Nevermind. Predictions are dumb and I always end up alienating fan bases. No more. I quit.

RF: Fair enough, but I’m not the one who’ll have to answer to the council.


Brighton 0-4 Chelsea: Magic Hazard runs the show

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  • Chelsea snap run of five-straight draws
  • Brighton have one win in last 13 PL games
  • Hazard scores twice, rips Brighton apart
  • Chelsea have won 11 of last 16 games

Chelsea beat Brighton and Hove Albion 4-0 at the Amex Stadium on Saturday as Eden Hazard scored twice and tore the Seagulls apart.

Two goals in the opening six minutes from Hazard and Willian set Chelsea on their way to victory, then Hazard capped the win off with a fine individual goal late on and Victor Moses added a fourth.

Brighton battled hard and hit the woodwork and had penalty shouts but Chris Hughton‘s men were outclassed by Hazard in dazzling form.

Without the suspended duo of Alvaro Morata and Pedro, plus injured goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea deserved the win and moved level on 50 points with second-place Manchester United, while the Seagulls are just three points above the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Less than three minutes into the game Chelsea took the lead as Moses’ cross from the right deflected into Hazard’s path and the Belgian took a touch to settle himself before he rifled home.

It got worse soon after for Brighton as Chelsea pounced to double their lead via Willian. The Brazilian surged forward, played the ball into Eden Hazard and he then flicked the ball into Michy Batshuayi with the back of his heel and Batshuayi followed suit to play in Willian who fired home. 2-0 with six minutes on the clock.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Brighton responded well and should have had a penalty kick as Willy Caballero rushed off his line and appeared to catch Ezequiel Schelotto, but no penalty kick was given and Chelsea cleared the danger. Moments later a high ball into the box caused Cabellero problems again as he flapped at a cross but his defense bailed him out.

On the break Batshuayi had an effort stopped by Mat Ryan as Hazard ran riot, while at the other end Caballero then made a superb save to deny Tomer Hemed and Shane Duffy nodded wide as Brighton had their chances in a action-packed first half.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ] 

In the second half, Brighton continued to push for a goal back and Davy Propper‘s header hit the post and came out. Andreas Christensen was then forced off after being involved in a nasty clash of heads as David Luiz came on.

At the other end Willian had his free kick pushed onto the post by Ryan as Chelsea looked to end any hope of a Brighton comeback.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Hazard (who else?) did just that in the closing stages as he sauntered towards goal and send Ryan the wrong way with a fine finish to make it 3-0.

Charly Musonda then made a great impression as he jumped off the bench and clipped a fine ball forward for Moses who controlled and finished for Chelsea’s four goal to hammer the final nail in Brighton’s coffin.

Report: Arsenal bid $61 million for Aubameyang

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It has begun.

According to German outlet Kicker, Arsenal have made an opening offer of $61 million to Borussia Dortmund for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Dortmund’s star striker, 28, has been left out of their last two matchday squads amid discpilinary problems and question marks over his future at the Westfalenstadion.

The leading goalscorer in the Bundesliga last season (31 goals in 32 games) has been linked with a move to Arsenal over the past week as they get ready to sell Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United. Reports linking Aubamyenag to Arsenal have seen Dortmund’s sporting director hit out at Arsene Wenger and called the Gunners’ behavior disrespectful.

Talking of disrespect…

Aubameyang was spotted playing five-a-side with friends in Dortmund on Friday while his teammates drew 1-1 with Hertha Berlin (something his manager Peter Stoeger had a less than positive reaction to) as the Gabonese striker wore a BVB shirt with Ousmane Dembele’s name on the back. Dembele was suspended by the club back in the summer as he tried to force through his move to Barcelona, which eventually happened for a fee of $130 million.

I’m sure the Dortmund hierarchy were pleased about that…

When it comes to Aubameyang and where he would fit in at Arsenal, this would be a great fit. He’d be the target forward they’ve needed for some time and imagine Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang in tandem, plus Mesut Ozil and maybe his former teammate at Dortmund, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, (if his move from Man United goes through) threading through balls.

Aubameyang is prolific and has scored 141 goals in 212 games for Dortmund over the past five seasons, including 21 goals in 23 games in all competitions this season.

Olivier Giroud was said to be offered as part of the deal, but his name isn’t mentioned in this report and the Frenchman is said to want to stay at Arsenal at least until the end of the season.

It’s likely Arsenal will have to pay closer to $70 million for a player who has three years left on his current contract, but his goal output is certainly worth that amount, even if his off-pitch antics and somewhat disruptive nature could be an issue for Wenger. At this point, Arsenal need all the help they can get to finish off games they dominate.

Barcelona issue statement on Antoine Griezmann

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Hmm, this is an interesting tactic from Barcelona.

On Saturday the Catalan club released a statement about Atletico Madrid and France striker Antoine Griezmann.

The forward has long been linked with a move to Barca and media reports in Spain have gone into overdrive regarding a move to the Nou Camp for the 26-year-old.

Below is the statement from Barca in full.

FC Barcelona strongly denies the information that has appeared over the course of the last few hours in different media regarding Atletico Madrid player, Antoine Griezmann, and an alleged deal with our club.

FC Barcelona expresses its objections in the face of these events and reiterates its full respect for the institution of Atletico Madrid.

This feels very similar to the situation with Virgil Van Dijk between Liverpool and Southampton.

Media speculation reached incredible levels back in June 2017 that VVD had agreed to sign for Liverpool, but the Anfield club then issued a public apology to Saints and ended their pursuit of Van Dijk. He then signed for Liverpool in January in a $100 million move.

With Atletico said to be incredibly unhappy that Griezmann continues to be linked with a move to Barca, plus reports suggesting the Madrid club want to report Barcelona to FIFA for an alleged approach for their star striker, it’s not too surprising to see Barca take this very unusual approach to try and calm the situation down.

Will it work? Who knows. Is it likely Griezmann will end up at Barcelona anyway? This statement suggests that the two clubs are in dialogue and Barcelona are trying to patch up their relationship to try and move for Griezmann in the summer.

Call me cynical, but that’s the way I see this.

VIDEO: Chelsea score stunning team goal

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Take a bow, Chelsea.

Willian put the Blues 2-0 up at Brighton early on Saturday and the goal was a thing of beauty.

Latching onto an error from Brighton, Chelsea surged forward through Willian who played the ball into Eden Hazard.

The Belgian played a delicious back heel to Michy Batshuayi and the forward then followed suit to flick the ball into Willian’s path who fired home.

Take a look at the stunning goal in the video above.