Wednesday, December 3 rd, 2014
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Football migranti: Rodgers is losing hope in Mario Balotelli
FOOTBALL MIGRANTI Balo is at his 24th EPL game without a goal. It's a bad spell also for Cerci, as the ex Torino's forward still has to play his first Liga game as a starter
by Anthony Pepe
Mario Balotelli, Liverpool vs Basel (0-1); Liverpool vs W.B.A. (2-1). Mario Balotelli is not scoring and Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is publically stating that Balo needs more goals. Rodgers tried playing Steven Gerrard higher up the pitch to allow him to link up with Mario, saying that “Mario is a guy who needs certain type of passes and Steven is the sort of player who can provide them.” This hasn’t helped Mario though. He played the whole 90 minutes of the defeat to Basel in the UCL and contributed very little apart from the stinging the goalkeeper’s gloves with a long range free-kick and scoring from an offside position, correctly ruled out. Mario was left out of the starting line-up against West Brom at the weekend, not the best sign. He entered the fray in the 65th minute but was again unable to score, continuing a disastrous streak of 24 EPL games without a goal. While Liverpool are clearly not finding Mario on the pitch enough – the service to him has often been atrocious this season – but it is clearly up to Mario to adapt to what was such a successful attacking system last year. Perhaps the return of Daniel Sturridge next week will help, a player who will make the forward runs that Balotelli is either incapable of or unwilling to do.

Ciro Immobile, Borussia Dortmund vs Anderlecht (3-0); Dortmund vs Hamburg (0-1). Ciro enjoyed another UCL night, against much weaker opposition than Arsenal, by scoring again. A lovely dinked pass by Shinji Kagawa was easily tucked away by the blonde bomber. Ciro has settled into his new team very quickly and the fans seem to have taken him to heart already. Dortmund’s problems in the Bundesliga, however, remain. They lost again and it is striking that when opposing teams allow Dortmund to dominate the ball then they flounder. Immobile was a late introduction, entering the field in the 78th minute, but was unable to equalise. It is expected that Immobile will be even more effective when creative talents like Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan return from injury as he will be able to both play higher up the pitch and be the recipient of their incisive passing.

Alessio Cerci, Atlético Madrid vs Valencia (1-3). Things are going from bad to worse for Torino’s former bad boy Alessio Cerci. Still yet to start a game for his new team, he remained an unused substitute for Madrid’s UCL victory against Juve, a game he was surely dying to play in. This is not abnormal, one suspects that Simeone would leave out Lionel Messi if he felt that he was not yet integrated into the tactical plan. Against Valencia he again started from the bench, but was introduced as a second half substitute. He very quickly picked up a yellow card after committing a foul in midfield, but compounded his misery by picking up a second yellow in the dying minutes after scoring a goal which was ruled out. The referee saw Cerci control the ball with his arm and duly showed him yellow and then red.

Graziano Pellé, Southampton vs Tottenham Hotspur (0-1). Pellé may be overjoyed about his first senior Italy call-up, calling it “another dream which has come true,” but he had absolutely no joy against Spurs, just like his teammates. He barely got a touch and was totally anonymous. He was up against French defender Younes Kaboul who when he performs at 100% has the physicality and pace to deal with any powerful forward. With Vertonghen at his side they left Pellé isolated, who wasn’t helped by his teammates not supporting him or breaking past him.

Marco Verratti, Salvatore Sirigu & Thiago Motta, PSG vs Barcelona (3-2), PSG vs Monaco (1-1). All three Italians started both of two of PSG’s biggest games of the season, demonstrating their worth to coach Laurent Blanc. Marco Verratti’s progress as potential replacement for Pirlo in the nazionale carries on unabated, but the big surprise was to see the diminutive playmaker not only score against Barça, but to score a header from a corner kick. Viewers might be equally surprised to see tough tackling midfielder Thiago Motta take the corner. What Verratti has always shown us is his exquisite manipulation of the ball but what those who watch him frequently know is that he is also a fighter; he and Motta (helped by the equally brilliant Frenchman Blaise Matuidi) were able to stand toe to toe and defeat what is still one of the most fearsome midfields in the world, composed of Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic and Xavi. Sirigu may have been beaten twice but both were sublime finishes. PSG have been less impressive in the league, unable to close out victories and have notched up another 1-1 draw to ‘inferior’ opposition (after Rennes, Ajax, Lyon, and Toulouse) and Sirigu has been a key factor in those draws not becoming defeats.

Marco Verratti dominated the ball in midfield but failed to score when a very presentable opportunity arose. Despite his goal in the UCL, it is certainly an area the young midfielder could work on. Verratti was substituted at half-time, unsurprisingly considering how many minutes he has played recently.

Ex-Empoli and Bologna full back Andrea Raggi started and played the full game for Monaco; he has quietly become the first name on the team sheet for two successive managers, in both League and European football. His calm and assured presence lets Belgian livewire Ferreira Carrasco do his magic further up the flank.

Tuesday, October 7 th, 2014
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