Wednesday, December 10 th, 2014
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Football migranti: Balotelli is back on track, Cerci, a phantom in Madrid
A good week for most of the Migranti with even Super Mario turning in a good performance and earning a call-up to the national squad
by Shaan Sengupta
In our weekly feature, we review the performances of the best Italian players abroad. That's what happened in the latest weekend and in the Champions League fixture of the past week.

Mario Balotelli.
Liverpool vs Real Madrid (0-1); Liverpool vs Chelsea (1-2). Super Mario was not picked by Brendan Rodgers in what was a highly controversial selection against Real Madrid for the Champions League fixture. However, based on his inconsistent performances in the past, Rodgers was probably justified in not picking Balotelli and opting for some fresh ideas. However, it didn’t bear any fruit as the Merseyside team failed to score yet again. However, Balotelli was included in the starting lineup for the big match against Chelsea, and he didn’t disappoint... at least not initially. The Reds got off to a great start with Balotelli being, perhaps uncharacteristically, active and showed some great movement off the ball. However, this is increasingly becoming the norm; he is having to make runs off the ball without actually getting significant touches. After a sprightly start, Liverpool started to struggle as Chelsea kept piling on the pressure, and were lucky to end the half without conceding more than one goal.

The second half was largely unimpressive in terms of creativity in attack. In their attacking plays, the chasm between the midfield and the attack (i.e. Balotelli) seems to be far too wide. Most of the midfield played in withdrawn positions and ended up either getting isolated and having to take on multiple defenders on their own, or providing long balls which more often than not ended up being intercepted. With the added problem of Balotelli’s propensity to play in a very advanced position, there seemed to be a very clear disconnect between the midfielders and him. On more than one occasion, instead of passing the ball to Mario or linking up with him, the midfielders opted to take on the defenders with nothing coming out of it. This in turn resulted in Balotelli getting increasingly frustrated and being inattentive to his positioning, often being caught offside or not anticipating passes at the right moment. He ended up with just one shot on goal from outside the box and was able to get the ball inside the box only once. Overall though, he put in a lot of effort but was unlucky to not have any support from his midfield. Perhaps as a reward, he’s received a call-up to the Italian national tem squad for the upcoming international fixtures.

Ciro Immobile. BVB vs Galatasaray (4-1); BVB vs Borussia Monchengladbach (1-0). After a snub by Jurgen Klopp against arch-rivals Bayern Munich, the manager decided to give Immobile a shot in the continental fixture against Galatasaray. Brought on as a substitute for Dortmund wunderkind Marco Reus in the 71st minute, immediately after their lead was cut down to a goal by Hakan Balta, Immobile didn’t waste any time at all. He got involved in the action right away and did extremely well to receive Aubameyang’s lobbed cross on the run and slide the ball into the net while under duress from a defender and the goalkeeper. Within a few minutes he was involved in a great move where he made a sublime turn to break away from his defender and lay it off for Aubameyang, who should’ve been more assertive with the ball. Two minutes later, Immobile was involved in yet another chance when he redirected a lobbed pass into the box, right at Semih Kaya who deflected the ball into his own net.

great performance in the limited time he got. It was puzzling then, when Klopp opted to introduce Immobile against Borussia Monchengladbach only in the 89th minute. This despite the fact that Dortmund are struggling in the Bundesliga and the only goal in this game came from an erroneous back-pass by Monchengladbach defender Christoph Kramer, which gifted Dortmund all 3 points. In the previous six matches, Immobile has received playing time only on three occasions and has managed to find the net in all three matches. Why Klopp is refusing to give him more playing time is very puzzling indeed. He has been included in the national squad by Conte and will hopefully get playing time for the Azzurri.


Graziano Pellé. Southampton vs Leicester City (2-0). Riding high on the back of five consecutive wins out of five matches played, Southampton were keen to keep the pressure on Chelsea in the league standings. Playing against lowly Leicester City, the Saints were perhaps uncharacteristically quiet in the first half, with only seven shots on goal and Pellé‘s only attempt being blocked by the Leicester defense. Pellé and his team stayed patient and ramped up the pressure in the second half. It bore fruit when the Italian forward controlled a lobbed ball beautifully and with his back to the net, laid it off perfectly for substitute Shane Long, who capitalized and broke the deadlock in the 75th minute. With his continued good form, Pellé will be hoping to see action for the national team again, after being picked in the squad.

Alessio Cerci. Atletico Madrid vs Malmo (2-0); Atletico Madrid vs Real Sociedad (1-2). Not much to report since he basically warmed the bench for both games. He’s been included in the Italy squad replacing Lorenzo Insigne, who suffered a ligament injury in his right knee.

Thiago Motta & Marco Verratti. PSG vs APOEL FC (1-0); PSG vs Marseille (2-0). Verratti missed the match against APOEL Nicosia, where Motta played as the lone central midfielder. He turned in an excellent performance in a wasteful performance by PSG who nevertheless, were able to come away with a 1-0 win and ensure qualification for the Round of 16. Motta controlled the midfield almost flawlessly, rarely had a misplaced pass and won all of his tackles. He broke up the opposition’s possession in the midfield and was quick to distribute the ball to initiate counter attacks. Unfortunately, PSG had only one goal to show for all its dominance. For the weekend game against Marseille however, Verratti replaced Motta in the line-up and turned in a decent performance against league leaders Marseille.

He was able to control the midfield just like his fellow countryman Motta in the previous game, albeit with a lesser degree of dominance and was mostly restricted to a deep position. However, within this, he displayed remarkable composure and had few wayward passes. The team came away with a win and closed the gap between themselves and Marseille to just a point. Verratti also got a call-up to the national squad for the match against Croatia.


Monday, November 10 th, 2014
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