Juventus vs Napoli Serie A Preview

Juventus vs Napoli Preview: Tactical conundrums for top two

As Serie A drew to a close last season, fans of Italian football were treated to something of a rarity: a title challenge that went to the wire. Having beaten Juventus at the Allianz Stadium in Gameweek 34, Napoli found themselves one point off the top of the table with four games to go. In their next two games, though, they failed to beat Fiorentina and Torino, whimpering to a second-place finish five points behind I Bianconeri who picked up a seventh consecutive scudetto.

With the new season six games old, there is already a sense of déjà vu at the top table of Italian football. Juventus find themselves three points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A as they head into their clash on Saturday. According to FiveThirtyEight’s predictive model, Juventus have a 63% chance of ending up at the top of Serie A come the end of the season, a figure that dwarves the 21% ascribed to their next closest challenger, Napoli. However the championship plays out this year, you can almost be certain that one of these two teams will be declared the winners by the time May swings around. Read More

Valencia vs Juventus Champions League Preview

Valencia vs Juventus Preview: Ketchup for Ronaldo’s return?

“Goals are like ketchup: all comes out at once”. If Cristiano Ronaldo applies the analogy that he launched back in 2010, after ten games without scoring for Portugal, then Valencia have reasons to be worried.

Cristiano finally scored for Juventus, against Sassuolo (as Massimo Allegri had predicted), and in a double dose. The Portuguese star overthrew the psychological barrier, and just three days before his return to Spain. Definitely not good news for Valencia, against whom Ronaldo has already scored fifteen goals, with eight of them at Mestalla.

Ironically, it’s in Spain, where Cristiano Ronaldo lived for the last nine years, that begins this European journey of a “vecchia signora” with renewed ambition with the arrival of the Portuguese. “If you can’t beat him, sign him” must have been the idea of the Italian leaders, who advanced for the most popular transfer of the summer. Juventus don’t want only internal hegemony and looked for the missing piece to regain European glory. Read More

Croatia brushed aside by fierce French

Croatia

A strong Croatian challenge was undone by a clinical France side as Les Bleus won their second World Cup.

Croatia started the game extremely strongly dominating possession with Luka Modric orchestrating the midfield excellently, by pinning France deep into their half and getting the ball into dangerous areas. The French, fair play to them, dealt with the pressure well, and this style of play suited them, as they were happy to sit back and counter on the break dangerously.

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Croatia vs England Preview: Midfield supremacy vital for Vatreni

It seems almost nothing can stop Croatia on it’s way to the World Cup final. They’ve walked through the group stage in a surprisingly easy manner. Winning against Nigeria was not impressive, but it was enough for the initial self-confidence injection. Afterwards came the match against Argentina where Dalić’s team proved to be a serious candidate for a medal in Russia.

High-quality counter attacking football turned out to be a perfect plan for Croatia in the situation where it is opposed by a strong opponent. Vatreni began to feel very good in the role of an underdog as they showed against Sampaoli’s side.

But then the obvious problems in play while being a favorite started showing up. Dalic’s side started to struggle when in possession which was clear in the next two games.

In the first round of the knockout phase Croatia held off both it’s nerve and Denmark 3-2 in penalty kicks with the veteran shot-stopper Danijel Subasic stepping up at the right time. The Danes completely controlled the situation on the pitch for almost the whole match and similar was repeated against Russia.

There Modric and co. showed that football isn’t all about tactics, but a sport filled with strong emotions where they again came out as winners. It was simply unbelievable to see them pulling out from another penalty shootout intact. But, if they would play like in the last two games – against Denmark and Russia – they don’t stand a chance opposing England.

How can Croatia upset Southgate’s side?

First of all, Zlatko Dalic needs to return to a formation with three in midfield where Marcelo Brozovic will be the one who can unleash Modric’s abilty to drive his team forward, drag the opposition out of shape and generally dictate the match tempo. Dalic’s decision to introduce Internazionale’s deep-lying playmaker against the hosts after an hour proved to be a game-changer. Ultimately, in similar shape Croatia completely outplayed Argentina who, like England, play with three at the back.

Brozovic played a decent game against Argentina where he successfully, in cooperation with Rakitic and the defence, stopped Lionel Messi. He is the third best Croatian as per Twelve’s ‘points per minute’ overall rating at the tournament and will be vital in stuffing the midfield with players in order to stop England’s excellent duo Alli and Lingard in their roaming.


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