Blog Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
This years Coppa Italia final is a clash between two giants of Italian football, Milan and Juventus. For Juventus, a Coppa win would see Allegri's men be the first team to complete a back-to-back double. For Milan, a Coppa win would see them gain access to the Europa League and shine some light on another poor season from the Rossoneri. The stage is set at The Stadio Olimpico in Rome for one of these fierce rivals to add another trophy to their cabinet. So who will come out on top in the big clash tonight?
Juventus will be looking to win the Coppa Italia and become the first team to complete a league and cup double for two successive seasons. Allegri, who is the last Milan manager to win a trophy, will be looking to prevent Brocchi from picking up his first trophy as a manager. Juventus come into the cup final on fine form despite Allegri being disappointed with post-Scudetto performances against Verona and Carpi. The match against Verona was Juve’s first loss in 28 matches, an incredible statistic. This season, Juventus have stormed their way to a fifth consecutive Scudetto after a poor start to the season. A cup win would be a perfect ending to the season for the Bianconeri. If Juventus are to beat Milan tonight which they are heavily fancied to do, players like Paulo Dybala and Paul Pogba will be crucial for The Old Lady. Juventus will be missing Leonardo Bonucci (suspension) and Sami Khedira (injury) for the big match. Bonucci is a massive loss for Juve as he's been a stalwart in the heart of their defense the last few seasons. However, Juventus as ever have great strength in their depth and will be well covered with Daniele Rugani, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini likely to start in defense. Despite being overwhelming favorites, Allegri is aware of the danger of Milan; "There's no such thing as an easy final," he warned in his pre-match press conference. Allegri will no doubt have his players fired up for the match and he will be looking to add more misery to his former employers catastrophic season.
Milan's season has been a catastrophe but a Coppa win would at least qualify them for the Europa League and give creditability to their season. Milan have been in dire form since Brocchi took charge winning only one game out of six, a 1-0 win away to an out-of-sorts Sampdoria. For Milan to beat Juventus, they will need every player to be at the top of their game and have fate on their side. A win for Milan would give the Rossoneri a return to European football and it would be their 29th trophy in 30 years under Berlusconi. However, a defeat would make the situation at Milan, which seemingly can't get any worse, even more catastrophic. Brocchi will almost certainly lose his job if he fails to win and even a win might not be enough to secure his future. Carlos Bacca and Giacomo Bonaventura will have to provide the creativity for Milan if they are to upset the odds and beat Juventus. Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonelli will be big losses for Milan and those injuries could see Alessio Romangnoli moved to left-back. A possible M’Baye Niang return from injury would be a big boost to Milan’s chances. Despite being underdogs, Brocchi is confident that Juventus can be beaten; “All teams have flaws,” Brocchi told reporters at his pre-match press conference. Brocchi will be hoping for a win to possibly secure his own future and clinch a place in the Europa League for Milan.
Tonight's match is set to be a cracker with both groups of fans set to provide us with a fantastic atmosphere. Sassuolo fans will also watch the Coppa final nervously as they await to see if they qualify for the Europa League since the Neroverdi need Juventus to beat Milan. The stage is now set but who will deliver the best performance on the night and take the Coppa Italia home? After all, only one team can prevail in this clash of giants.
Blog Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
With another Serie A season coming to a close, Fiorentina yet again find themselves missing out on Champions League football. Despite a great start to the season, the Viola have once again failed to qualify for the Champions League. After setting high expectations and playing an attractive style of football, it hasn't been enough to gain qualification for the UCL and yet again Fiorentina will be in the Europa League. However the current squad is decent and with some sensible signings, Champions League qualification could be a real possibility next season for the Viola. Keeping Paulo Sousa will be vital for next season if they are to qualify for the Champions League. So the questions on Fiorentina fans lips are why have their team failed to qualify for Champions League once again? And can they build on this season and qualify for Europe's elite competition next season?
So in what must be beginning to feel like Groundhog Day for La Viola's faithful, Fiorentina find themselves going into the last game of the season with a Europa League place secure. For the past three years now Fiorentina have set their sights on Champions League qualification but it still remains out of their reach. Fiorentina made a fantastic start to this season and even had some fans dreaming of winning the title. As usual, however, in January the wheels began to come off. Fiorentina for the past four years have played very attractive football in Serie A but they always seem to fall short of those precious Champions League places. Under Vincenzo Montella, Fiorentina finished in fourth place for three consecutive years. This year under Paolo Sousa, Fiorentina will finish in fifth place with the same reasons preventing them from qualifying for the Champions League.
Fiorentina's lack of strength in depth at the back and the need for a real goal scorer upfront consistently hamper La Viola in their pursuit of Champions League football. These problems have shown up yet again this season. Whenever Gonzalo Rodriguez is absent from the Viola's defense they seem to fall apart. Fiorentina do not have enough quality defenders to make a real push for Champions League football. While captain Rodriguez is excellent, players such as Roncaglia, Tomovic and Astori are good players to have in the squad but more quality is needed. Fiorentina need to sign two or three quality defenders to make a real push into the top three.
Going forward is also a problem as Nikola Kalinic started like a house on fire this season but the goals have dried up. Yet again for a team pushing for Champions League qualification, Kalinic would be a good squad player but a top-level goal scorer is needed for the Viola. They must sign a quality centre forward; Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi were both promising signings but neither performed consistently and Kalinic on his own won't be enough to make the Champions League.
However, despite these problems Fiorentina have solid foundations to build on. They have an excellent manager in Paolo Sousa, who recently announced he would be staying with the Viola after much speculation. Sousa will be looking for the board to address the aforementioned problems and reinforce the defense and striking departments. The makings of a great team is there however with Rodriguez, Borja Valero, Ilicic and Bernardeschi making up the core of the side. With some sensible signings Fiorentina can make a real push for Champions League football next season and finally qualify for Europe's elite competition. Given Fiorentina's attractive playing style it would be fitting that they finish in third next year after so many years of narrowly missing out.
Fiorentina's fans will certainly be hoping that they can finally qualify for the Champions League next year and end their long wait to return to Europe's elite competition.
Blog Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
The recent saga between Roma and Francesco Totti has been well documented. Roma's club legend has reportedly been unhappy about his playing time this season while also reportedly having numerous heated arguments with Spalletti. Initially Roma's president, James Pallotta, wanted to see Totti retire and take up a role among the clubs board of directors. However, after some great performances and crucial goals for Roma in recent games, Totti is expected to be rewarded with a new contract by the Giallorossi. This saga between Spalletti and Totti has been running since February and it seems to be finally drawing to a close as the end of the season approaches. So let's take a look at how the arguments between Totti and Spalletti began.
It started back in February before Roma's game against Palermo. Spalletti said in his press conference that Totti could start the match. However, unknown to Spalletti at the time, Totti was giving an interview lamenting his lack of playing time under Spalletti. When Spalletti heard the interview he decided that the veteran playmaker was out of order and left him out of the squad for Roma's match against Palermo, which they won 5-0. So it seemed that Spalletti was right for the time being and Roma did not need to rely on Totti. At that time it looked very likely that Totti would leave Roma at the end of the season turning down the club's offer to be a director. Totti felt that he could still play while Roma doubted his athletic ability preferring him to take up a management role at the club. This caused some friction between the club and the fans, with the club taking Spalletti's side and the fans standing by their hero, cheering Totti at every opportunity and jeering Spalletti.
However, a loss of form prompted Spalletti to introduce Totti from the bench against Bologna at half time with Roma 1-0 down. Il Capitano proved effective providing the crucial assist for the equalizer. The following week against Atalanta, Spalletti again introduced Totti from the bench and he scored a last gasp equalizer to rescue a point for the Giallorossi. After the game against Atalanta, Spalletti and Totti reportedly had another heated argument. Totti, out to prove a point that he was still able to perform at the highest level, made his mark against Torino. Roma were 2-1 down with 10 minutes to go and Totti was brought on to rescue Roma. He did not fail to deliver scoring two goals to give Roma all 3 points and push them towards second place. In his last 5 games, Totti has 4 goals and 1 assist and it seems he has proved Spalletti wrong with his performances on the pitch. Totti has once again showed his importance to Roma.
Totti is adamant to continue playing and it seems that a new contract at Roma is increasingly likely but where could he end up if the Lupi decide against keeping him. Totti would not be short of offers if he does leave Roma as there are a number of clubs interested in him. The New York Cosmos, Al Jazira, UAE and even Leicester City have all been linked with the Roma icon. It's hard to imagine Totti wearing a shirt that's not Roma's however and he is expected to sign a new contract with the Giallorossi and stay for at least one more year. Perhaps this new role off the bench is more suited to Totti now given his age and Roma will certainly have to sign a striker next season if they are to challenge for the title.
For now, anyway, Roma fans will be happy to have their icon stay at the club for another season. As Spalletti once said, "It would be easier to move the Colosseum out of Rome" rather than move Totti out of Roma and as it turns out Spalletti is one hundred percent right…