Sunday, February 22 nd, 2015
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Football Migranti. Pelle back to scoring habit, game over SuperMario?
Made in Italy doesn't seem to be living its best period football wise. Most Azzurri are struggling to find a spot in the starting-11, especially up-front: Cerci, Immobile and Balotelli went missing, while the only Pellé played (and scored) after 5 games
by Anthony Pepe
Things seem to be going from bad to worse for the majority of Italy’s foreign legion.

Starting with Ciro Immobile’s travails on the Ruhr , he came on as a 90th minute substitute in Dortmund’s Friday night 1-0 victory against TSG Hoffenheim, inevitably not affecting the game. This win lifts Borussia off the foot of the table and Ciro’s difficulties must be contextualised by the fact that this is an injury stricken team which after 40% of league matches played was bottom of the league. Immobile is likely being rested for Dortmund’s final Champions League game, where a victory is needed to guarantee first place. While Immobile has not exactly shone in the league (2 goals in 10 games), he has scored vital CL goals (3 in 4). Rumours of a January move to AC Milan have been surfacing, but his agent has asserted that Ciro will definitely stay in Dortmund as he is wedded to the long term project. It would be foolish for Ciro to admit defeat so early in this challenging episode and drop down a level; Dortmund may be failing in the Bundesliga but their true qualities remain evident in the CL.


A man greatly enjoying his foreign adventure is Monaco’s Andrea Raggi. Brought to the club by Claudio Ranieri three seasons ago, Raggi is now the undisputed number one right back at the multinational club and has formed a solid block with Ricardo Carvalho, Aymen Abdennour and Layvin Kurzawa (the latter two are very highly rated young defenders, especially Kurzawa) which is slowly bringing Monaco back up the table. He is an uncompromising full back who rarely ventures forward and stays close to his centre back. This is the first time in his career that Raggi has played in the CL and he’s not only loving it but he’s looked completely at home against teams like Benfica and Bayer Leverkusen. He spoke on Monday to the French press, calling Tuesday’s match against Zenit St. Petersburg (and Mimmo Criscito) “a final”. The game between 2nd and 3rd will decide who goes through to the knockout stages and whether said knockout stages will feature a blonde Neapolitan left back or a bald Ligurian right back. Raggi said: “I used to hold a bitterness about the way I felt ignored in Italy, but thanks to Monaco I don’t feel that way anymore. Tuesday is a big game for Monaco, but personally, it’s definitely the most important match of my career.” Raggi, as usual, played all 90 minutes for Monaco on Friday night as they defeated Toulouse 2-0 away, keeping a confidence boosting clean sheet. He played at left back, as Kurzawa is currently injured


Time is running out in Spain for Alessio Cerci as he failed to set foot on the pitch once again this weekend. As Atlético are guaranteed first spot in their CL group, Cerci might well expect to start the game, if he doesn’t one must wonder whether Simeone is already thinking of letting Cerci go, which would alert big name clubs all over Europe. One must wonder why though; yes, he is clearly a wonderfully balanced player with beautiful technique, but nothing he has done yet shows he is capable of delivering consistently on the highest stage.


Balotelli is also still undergoing a torrid time in England, his injury has kept him off the pitch for almost a month and now he is also embroiled in a racism controversy. While it would surely be hasty in the extreme for Liverpool to wash their hands of Mario so quickly, the local Liverpool newspaper declared on Sunday that his time is up and it tend to be very reliable concerning Liverpool clubs.


Two Italians who remain stalwarts for their club are Salvatore Sirigu and Marco Verratti. PSG beat Nantes 2-1, Nantes scored early with an unstoppable screamer that Sirigu could not have prevented. Marco Verratti played his standard game, controlling the play but, unfortunately and predictably, he received a yellow card for a very bad foul which should have been punished with a red. He is far from a complete player but if there is one aspect of his game that needs immediate work is his tackling. It remains rash and uncontrolled, he almost forces Laurent Blanc to substitute him every game as he will already be on a yellow. It might take a red card in a CL semi-final or in a tournament for Italy for him to finally curb his ways. He remains undeniably, however, a diamond, but still unpolished.


Monday night saw Graziano Pellé of Southampton face Manchester United; Pellé hasn’t hit the net in five games and that has affected Southampton’s run of form, however Southampton’s previous two games were against Man City and Arsenal. Having seen a lot of Southampton, in my opinion Pellé hasn’t necessarily been playing poorly but has rather suffered from the injuries to Southampton’s midfield. His hold up play has been immaculate for weeks however his teammates have been giving him far fewer goal scoring chances. It should also be noted that against both Man City and Arsenal respectively Pellé missed one big chance. Pellé broke his duck by equalising with a thumping finish against Man Utd’s David De Gea from just inside the six yard box. Had he been in better form he could even have claimed some points for the Saints, he missed one great chance and had a few other half chances that could have gone his way. 

Tuesday, December 9 th, 2014
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