Mario Balotelli seemed like AC Milan’s biggest hope to take a lead against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday, giving their fans something to cling to in an otherwise wretched season.
Instead, just like things have the entire year for the Serie A giants, it all went wrong.
Not only did Atletico score in the waning seconds, stealing a win and away goal and leaving Milan with nothing to show for a promising performance, but the home side also lost their season’s best player.
Balotelli fell awkwardly on his shoulder, leaving him with a damaged AC joint and unable to make the pitch for at least 10 days, according to the Associated Press.
10 days, as the report says, as long as “there are no complications.” Most AC Milan fans are at the point where nothing would surprise them, including complications.
As it stands, however, Balotelli will be back for the reverse Champions League fixture in Madrid. Unfortunately, the immediate future is the biggest concern for the Rossoneri would be their upcoming Serie A fixtures.
With a trip to Sampdoria on Sunday and Juventus the following weekend, Milan will be forced to play 29-year-old striker Giampaolo Pazzini. The Pescia-born forward has himself struggled with injury this year, seeing just 202 Serie A minutes this season.
Sitting in ninth position in the Serie A standings – 18 points back of a Champions League qualification spot and a whopping 31 off the top – Balotelli’s loss will be another blow to Milan’s chance to salvage whatever they can on the disappointing season.
- Liverpool leads all-time 22W-8D-10L
- Swans lost five-straight at Anfield
- Reds unbeaten in 7 PL matches
One of the Premier League’s top attacks hosts the division’s leakiest defense, as Liverpool may be licking its chops ahead of a visit from struggling Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Liverpool has drawn at Sunderland and Manchester United in its last two Premier League outings, and sits seven points back of leaders Chelsea.
Swansea City has allowed multiple goals in five of six PL matches since beating Sunderland 3-0 on Dec. 10. It’s no surprise that they’ve lost those five (the sixth being a 2-1 win at struggling Crystal Palace).
What they’re saying
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on the match: “We’re really looking forward to this game. I don’t know when it happened but in England every game now is like a final. Swansea are trying to survive. I don’t know when the title run-in will start, maybe now and we’re in the race. I hope for a special atmosphere tomorrow.”
Swansea City back Federico Fernandez on Liverpool: “They are a team that is very strong going forward and that is shown by the number of goals they have scored. If you lose a little bit of focus against these teams then they have the players that will punish you every time. But it’s not only defending strongly when they are attacking, it is also how we keep hold of the ball and how we use it when in possession.”
Swansea boss Paul Clement has his hands full, and is grabbing reinforcements in the transfer window (Luciano Narsingh, Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll). That won’t be enough to handle what Liverpool will dish out Saturday, as the Reds break free with a 3-0 win.
West Ham has been linked with big name strikers since the summer, but the Irons’ big January transfer to date is a center back.
EURO champion and Southampton mainstay Jose Fonte is moving to London.
[ MORE: West Brom finally sells Berahino ]
Fonte, 33, makes an approximately $10 million move from the South Coast, where the Portuguese back will better Slaven Bilic‘s back line while forcing Southampton to find an answer alongside Virgil Van Dijk.
It’s been a strange trip to London for Fonte and Southampton, detailed by our own Joe Prince-Wright here. Fonte joined Saints during the 2009-10 season, and became a cult hero at St. Mary’s in helping the club move from League One to the Europa League in just over a half-decade.
Something won’t feel right about seeing Fonte in claret and blue, and Saints host West Ham on Feb. 4. Should be quite interesting.
What in the world is the transfer rumor mill going to do without Saido Berahino?
Linked with a move away from West Brom for the better part of two years, the English striker has been freed from the bad graces of Tony Pulis and has joined Stoke City on a five-and-a-half year deal.
[ MORE: Liverpool hires Steven Gerrard ]
Berahino, 23, was sold for $15 million, a fee that could rise as high as $19 million. West Brom has previously rejected bids from Spurs amongst others that reached as high as $31 million.
It’s a smart, calculated risk for Mark Hughes and Stoke, who have not been able to get over the mid-table hump and encroach on European competition. Berahino scored 14 PL goals in 2014-15, a figure that rose to 20 when including all competitions.
Now could this mean Bojan Krkic is indeed off to Middlesbrough? We’ll wait to see if it’s a domino move for the Potters, and also if we one day yearn for the dulcet tones of Pulis screaming, “Saido!”, again and again, on the West Brom touch line.
Sunderland boss David Moyes isn’t expressing the emotions of an optimistic man.
The former Everton, Manchester United, and Real Sociedad manager says his transfer budget is “limited with a big L” and that any names in the transfer market are not the players he’s allowed to pursue.
[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]
Sunderland has been linked with Phil Jagielka, Leonardo Ulloa, Robbie Brady, The Chronicle did report that free agent Joleon Lescott has been training with the team.
Even worse, Sunderland’s two most impactful players, Jermain Defoe and Patrick Van Aanholt, have been reported as targets for other PL sides and may prefer to leave the Northeast.
From The Chronicle:
“I’d be kidding you on if I said the players we are going to bring in in January are going to massively make a big difference because first of all, we probably couldn’t get that level of player and secondly, we probably wouldn’t have the finances to do that.
“To suggest that the player we bring in would be making a big difference, I think, wouldn’t be correct.”
Woof. That’s a tough pill for already beleaguered Sunderland supporters to swallow, and will only cause more unrest from a fan base that has been to know to leave a match early. Sunderland are far from dead in the water, but Swansea, Hull, and Palace are all making moves as it looks more and more like a four team race for 17th. Is Sunderland doomed?