After a couple of very disappointing seasons, AC Milan seemed to have turned over a new leaf. Hiring Sinsa Mihajlovic to replace Pippo Inzaghi on the coach’s bench was a first step in the right direction for the Rossoneri. With Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol agreeing to buy 48% of the club from Silvio Berlusconi, Milan have been able to spend significant money this summer.
The team kicked off the summer by bringing back central defender Rodrigo Ely, who had been at Serie B club Avellino. The 21-year-old has looked quite impressive in preseason and the Coppa Italia match against Perugia. Expect Ely to get some solid playing time this season, with an occasional start. Then sporting director Adriano Galliani went out and signed a pair of midfielders; first, Andrea Bertolacci from Roma and then Jose Mauri on a free transfer. Bertolacci spent the last couple of seasons at Genoa and has played very well, even earning up a call up to the Azzurri. At a price of €20M, Milan overpaid but that’s a price you have to pay if you want to get back to the top. Price aside, expect Bertolacci to perform well and improve Milan’s midfield. Picking up 19-year-old Mauri on a free transfer was a great move by Galliani. Mauri is a very talented and skilled player. While there’s been talk of him possibly being loaned out this year, he will be very good in the future for the Rossoneri.
In one of the biggest deals this summer, Milan signed prolific striker Carlos Bacca from Sevilla for €30M. Mihajlovic gets a top class striker who consistently puts the ball in the back of the net. Bacca’s movement off the ball is remarkably good and all he needs is some decent service so expect about 15-20 goals this season from him. Milan also signed striker Luiz Adriano from Shakhtar Donetsk in an under-the-radar deal for €8M. It will be interesting to see how Adriano fits into Mihajlovic’s side but he has looked pretty good in preseason. From the little I have seen him play I think he will be able to both create and score goals. The Rossoneri finally made a significant improvement to their defense as they signed highly touted center back Alessio Romagnoli for €25M from Roma. Romagnoli played exceptionally well last season with Mihajlovic on loan at Sampdoria. While spending €25M on a 20-year-old center back is a risk, Romagnoli is already a starter and you can even make a case he’s their best central defender. Already drawing comparisons to Alessandro Nesta, Romagnoli looks set to flourish into a top center back for Milan over the coming years. Galliani is looking to sign one more midfielder to complete the mercato. Axel Witsel and Roberto Soriano are the two most likely candidates, although Witsel cost three times as much as Soriano. Milan is currently negotiating with Sampdoria to try and find an agreement for Soriano.
Mihajlovic will mostly use a 4-3-1-2 formation. Diego Lopez is a top goalkeeper in Serie A and will help keep Milan in most games. Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio and Luca Antonelli is a solid rotation for the outside backs but Abate and De Sciglio both have a history of injuries. Alessio Romagnoli, Rodrigo Ely, Philippe Mexes, Gabriel Paletta, Alex and Christian Zapata are the center backs. Expect Romagnoli to start just about every game and at least one CB to leave the club. Nigel De Jong will sit in front of the back four. Andrea Bertolacci, Giacomo Bonaventura, Andrea Poli and a new signing will alternate in the midfield along with De Jong. Keisuke Honda is the likely candidate to play the trequartista role, with Jeremy Menez and Suso also likely to get some minutes there. Then you have Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano starting up top who will score goals. Menez, Alessio Cerci and Alessandro Matri are currently the options off the bench. Expect M’Baye Niang to get some decent playing time when he returns from injury.
After disappointing performances in the Audi Cup against Bayern Munich and Tottenham, Milan won the Trofeo Tim Cup between Sassuolo and Inter and played quite well. Milan also looked good as they defeated Perugia 2-0 in the Coppa Italia. Honda and Bacca linked up fabulously for Luiz Adriano’s goal (https://vine.co/v/epjqtrJQVJd). With not having to worry about any European competition this season, Mihajlovic will certainly be expected to qualify for the Europa League. However, I think that there is a possibility that if things start clicking well that Milan can compete for 3rd place and the final Champions League spot. Milan will need to perform well consistently for that to happen. Sinsa Mihajlovic will look to lead Milan back to the top of Serie A.
Roma have improved their roster as they look to get over the 2nd place hump and win a Scudetto. At the beginning of the transfer window, Roma purchased Cagliari’s 50% of Radja Nainggolan, signed Iaqo Falque from Genoa and also picked up goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny on loan from Arsenal .
Last week Roma completed the signings of Mohamed Salah from Chelsea and Edin Dzeko from Manchester City. The Giallorossi get a dynamic winger who had a very impressive first six months in Italy with Fiorentina last season. If the Egyptian continues his form from last season he will be a very good signing, who will bring speed and some goals to Roma’s offense. In the Bosnian striker Roma get a proven top class goal scorer who will be a much needed target man/poacher inside the 18-yard box. Expect Dzeko to bag a significant amount of goals this season, providing he stays healthy.
With the return of Leandro Castan to full health after his brain surgery, Roma decided to sell CB Alessio Romagnoli to Milan for €25M. While Romagnoli is a very highly touted prospect who has been compared to Alessandro Nesta, Roma got a very good deal for the youngster. Roma decided to additionally sell center-back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to Lyon for €8M + €2M in bonuses. Roma sent January signing Seydou Doumbia back to CSKA Moscow on loan, while Mattia Destro is very close to signing with Bologna. With two center backs sold, Roma are on the verge of signing Suttgart’s Antonio Rüdiger, who is expected to arrive in Italy tomorrow. Roma are also reportedly close to signing PSG left-back Lucas Digne, who could rejoin Rudi Garcia after their time together at Lille. After selling Jose Holebas to Watford and Ashley Cole’s poor performances, Digne would be a quality signing. The Giallorossi have also been linked to Torino’s right back Bruno Peres and Inter’s Davide Santon.
With Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman, Miralem Pjanic and Seydou Keita, Roma arguably have the best midfield in Serie A. Roma had the second best defense last season, but struggled to find goals, scoring only 54, 8thin Serie A. Considering the new signings, Rudi Garcia will be expected to challenge for the title. With the additions of Salah and Dzeko, Roma are hoping to lift the Scudetto for the first time since the 2000-2001 campaign.
Standing atop of the Eastern Conference standings, D.C. United travelled to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx for their first-ever meeting against New York City Football Club. D.C. United had just came off a historic 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact. In the process, United became the first team in MLS history to win a game while taking only one single shot on goal. NYCFC instead was licking its wounds after two consecutive losses. Coming into the match in 8thplace, NYCFC were fighting to push forward for a playoff spot. Late in the day, NYCFC midfielder Frank Lampard was ruled out of the match due to a quad injury.
D.C. United started on the front foot as Perry Kitchen played a delightful through ball to Connor Doyle, who’s shot was saved by Josh Saunders yet it almost rolled in the net only to be cleared off the line by Shay Facey. NYCFC found a chance through David Villa in the 21th minute but United goalie Bill Hamid made a good save. In the 36th minute, an unusually poor back pass in the middle of the field from Andrea Pirlo led to the first goal of the game as Chris Rolfe picked up the errant pass, dribbled past Jason Hernandez and played a ball across the box to find Alvaro Saborio inside the box for a tap in. In the 38th minute Kwadwo Poku went on a 50-yard run into D.C.’s box and cut the ball back to find David Villa wide-open 11 yards from the net but the Spaniard’s shot was blocked off the line by Bobby Boswell. For the second match in a row, Jason Kreis and his players were down 1-0 at halftime.
The first half was quite even but D.C. was able to capitalize on one of their chances. NYCFC goalkeeper Josh Saunders did a quality job of coming off his line to smother two opportunities for D.C. NYCFC completed a total of 255 passes compared to D.C.’s 216 in the first half. The white board in NYCFC’s locker room said, “Our backs are against the wall… Are we ready to fight???” Jason Kreis certainly got his men to fight coming out for the second half.
NYCFC started the 2nd half on a much better note and it only got better for them as the game went on. Bill Hamid got down low to make a good save on Poku’s shot in the 50th minute. Just 30 seconds later, David Villa played an absolute gem of a through ball to Poku who proceeded to dribble around Hamid and found Tommy McNamara inside the six-yard box for a tap in to equalize. It was all NYCFC from then on. The New Yorkers did a good job of keeping possession and creating chances but good saves from Hamid and the post kept denying the home team. Eventually NYCFC found the go-ahead goal. Andrea Pirlo picked up the ball at midfield, playing a marvelous ball over the top to split two defenders and David Villa did a great job to bang home a left-footed shot. Villa scored his team-leading 14th goal as Yankee Stadium erupted in jubilation. NYCFC didn’t sit back and close up shop; instead they continued playing their game. And it paid off two minutes from full time. Kwadwo Poku picked up a pass from McNamara, got past Bobby Boswell 1v1 and finished his shot low into the net. With the game sealed, 28,262 fans celebrated a vital 3 points in NYCFC’s run for a playoff spot.
NYCFC showed more urgency right from the start of the second half. You could see they had more purpose going about themselves. NYCFC did a much better job of not only keeping possession but also getting more out of that possession. Kwadwo Poku was buzzing all around the field, showing his strength and looking dangerous almost every time he got on the ball. NYCFC’s first two goals were created by Villa and Pirlo respectively and those assists really show their world class quality. At times the two World Cup winners pick out such creative passes but their teammates have some trouble reading the play. This is something lacking in MLS compared to the top leagues in Europe: the ability to read the play at a very top level. New York City truly dominated the second half and importantly was able to find the back of the net for a great comeback win. For a Thursday night the crowd at Yankee Stadium was absolutely fantastic, which hopefully is a sign of how MLS is growing. NYCFC will hope to use this match as momentum towards making the playoffs as they are now only 1 point off the last playoff spot.
From the press conference room:
Coach Jason Kreis:
“For me it was an all or nothing situation. We made it clear to the guys that had to have 3 points tonight so to get them is extremely important and I’m very happy with it.’”
On Poku: “He was instrumental in almost everything good that happened for our team tonight.”
On Pirlo’s assist to Villa: “For me, that pass was out of this world.”
“I think it’s an important win. I think this could be a really huge win for us and a season changer for us and a momentum changer for us and I hope the locker room feels the same way.”
From the locker room:
Andrea Pirlo: "We didn't play a bad game on Sunday in New Jersey either but we never managed to score, whereas tonight we started off the same way but we managed to score so there was great reaction so the team as a whole is improving.”
"I needed to get forgiven for the bad pass that led to the first goal in the first half but then Villa was truly good at picking up on it."
Mix Diskerud on Pirlo: "He's one of the best players I've seen around. Every single day I learn from him, in games and also in training. Here's come here to MLS and he wants to be a part of something big and we all do. You know how we see the touches he has and spinning people around. It's a joy sometimes when you're out wide and you just look at him with awe."
beIN Sports has renewed the rights to broadcast Serie A matches until the 2017-2018 season. The new Serie A season will kick off on August 22nd on beIN for the 4th consecutive year. beIN Sports acquired the Serie A rights from FOX Soccer in 2012.
It is good to see that beIN decided to renew the rights for Serie A. I do wish that beIN was available to more viewers in the U.S. and maybe at no cost :)
The one thing that frustrates me beyond belief is when beIN plays the same exact match on both their English and Spanish Channels. I mean the whole purpose of having the two channels is to be able to show two different games at the same time! But nonetheless it is good to see that the Serie A rights have been renewed and most people in the U.S. will be able to continue watching calcio.
Serie A TV Schedule for U.S. viewers: Serie A TV schedule for viewers in the US
Juventus announced this morning that Paul Pogba will take over the #10 jersey after Carlos Tevez's departure. Michele Platini, Robert Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero are just a few players to don the legendary #10 in Torino.
Paul Pogba: "It's an honor to wear the number 10 shirt after so many great Juventus players of the past."