Clarence Seedorf sounds confident ahead of tomorrow’s visit from Atlético Madrid; then again, what’s the new Milan boss suppose to say? That a Milan team that remains lodged in the middle of the Serie A standings is improving but still flawed? That the dramatic turnaround some loyalists hoped for hasn’t happened?
In lieu of such honestly, the four-time Champions League winner (as a player) is offering less committal responses. The recently retired midfielder is promising “a great night” in Milan, while saying Atlético has “weak points” he intends to exploit. Diego Simeone’s team is “one to respect and very strong,” but Seedorf contends his team is “confident although it will be hard.”
If Seedorf’s confidence comes from facing Atlético, he’s making the same mistake many around Italian soccer made when Milan were drawn against the Colchoneros. Though they’ve slumped recently (losing three games in a row earlier this month), Atleti have only lost four times in all competitions this season. Contrast that with Milan, who’ve lost 10 times. The Italian media may be lauding Milan’s chances because they didn’t draw Barcelona or Real Madrid, but their chances to advance are only slightly better against Atlético.
They’re expectations that work against Seedorf, whose meeting with Atlético is being seen as the new head coach’s first major test. In a fair world, he would be judged purely in terms of the incremental progress he makes from the state in which Max Allegri led the team. By next year, Milan may be ready to resume their place near the top of Serie A. Instead, Atlético lack of response beyond Spain has given fans hope.
In all likelihood, it’s false hope. Perhaps a Milan team with Mario Balotelli, Keisuke Honda, and Kaká will finally start converting their league-leading possession into better chances. And maybe Atlético will regress into the slump they’ve just busted. More likely, though, a mediocre Milan’s going up against one of the strongest teams in Europe, and because of their history, the presence of a new coach, and a lack of respect for Atlético, some see them as more than long shots they are.
Monaco has slapped a massive price tag on Bernardo Silva, and The Times says that isn’t stopping Chelsea.
Antonio Conte is trying to land the 22-year-old Portuguese attacker according to the report, which says that the Blues are already chatting up the Ligue 1 outfit.
[ MORE: Wenger’s Sutton pitch worry ]
Silva has six goals and seven assists in France’s top flight this season, adding another three in the UEFA Champions League. He did not appear at EURO 2016 thanks to a hamstring injury, as Portugal won the Henri Delaunay Trophy.
Chelsea is ready to spend $88 million on the right winger, who can also play in a attacking center mid role. From The Times:
Monaco would like to secure a minimum of €80m (£68.4m) for Bernardo, who is comfortable operating on either the left or right wing or as a number 10. With Barcelona, Real Madrid and both Manchester clubs also expressing their interest Monaco, who play Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday, believe a money-spinning auction may develop.
Transfer prices can be hard to predict, but is Silva the sort of talent that will tempt nine figures? We’ve been surprised before, and at his age it’s possible, but color us skeptical.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) AEK Athens defeated Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0 in an ill-tempered game on Sunday that saw 12 yellow cards and two dismissals.
[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win of season ]
Astrit Ajdarevic scored the only goal in the 34th minute with a free kick that deflected off Olympiakos defender Manuel da Costa.
Olympiakos’ athletic director Francois Modesto was sent to the stands for protesting about the lead-up to AEK’s goal. His team’s central defender Alberto Botia was dismissed after a second yellow card in the 75th for pulling an advancing AEK forward’s jersey.
Despite the defeat, its second of the season, Olympiakos has a 10-point cushion over second-place Panionios, which beat 10-man Iraklis 1-0.
PAOK, a 4-0 winner over Veria, remains in third place, one point ahead of Panathinaikos, which beat Asteras 5-0 on Saturday. AEK is joint fifth with Xanthi.
Just days after its massive (and somewhat unexpected) beatdown of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain failed to close the gap on league leaders Monaco.
[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win ]
PSG settled for a 0-0 draw on Sunday at the Parc des Princes against eighth-place Toulouse, leaving the Parisian side three points behind Monaco through 26 rounds of action.
[ MORE: Bielsa returns to Ligue 1 with Lille ]
Despite holding the visitors to just three shots (one on target), Toulouse managed to contain a rampant PSG attack, which posted four goals midweek in their rout of the Blaugrana.
PSG’s first strong chance came in the 14th minute when Lucas Moura’s effort was saved in the bottom corner by goalkeeper Alban Lafont.
Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani may have had the game’s best opportunity to break the deadlock when the Uruguayan attacker struck the post from inside the penalty area.
Unai Emery’s group will be back in action on Feb. 26 when PSG travels to Dimitri Payet and Marseille.
The story of Monday’s encounter between Arsenal and fifth-division Sutton United will be whether the minnows can overcome the mighty Gunners.
[ MORE: Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” against Blackburn ]
However, Arsene Wenger already fears a bigger challenge within the game, one that concerns his players’ safety.
Sutton’s 5,000-seat Gander Green Lane features an artificial surface, which is largely uncommon for English and most European venues regardless of club standing.
“First of all the pitch. Secondly their enthusiasm. Thirdly that we are not ready mentally for a big fight and think subconsciously that it doesn’t matter,” Wenger said ahead of Monday’s FA Cup meeting in South London.
In preparation for their meeting with the U’s, Wenger had his side train on their own indoor artificial field on Friday.
“Look, ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch. Competition is as well to deal with what you face, and we’ll face an unusual pitch and we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.
“We practice inside [on Friday] because we have an artificial pitch. It’s not the same as it’s a dry pitch, and at Sutton I’ve heard that’s a wet pitch, they water it before the game. So it will be much quicker than what we have.”