Posts tagged AC Milan
The Counter Press EP 24

Happy FIFA Day! Fire up your PS4 and turn The Counter Press up to ignorant levels! Josh and Vijay are back with friend @MindofDharma to talk about the opening month of the soccer season, from Champions League to domestic cup failures in England and a whole lot more!

Follow Josh: @highbiscuits
Follow Vijay: @VJVemu

The Counter Press Serie A Preview

The Counter Press boys finish up their preview of the European leagues with a Serie A preview. They are joined by recurring guests @AvikarSaini and @GuerschonLynch. We go through all the Italian teams, give our predictions, including how Napoli will do as well as give some air time to SPAL

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Follow Vijay: @VJVemu

2018-19 Serie A Power Rankings: Juventus should dominate but the league will be fun
Photo Credit: AFP

Photo Credit: AFP

Unlike years prior, last season’s Serie A title race was an eventful one. Maurizio Sarri and Napoli pushed Juventus all the way to the brink of breaking their championship streak. After Napoli’s 2-1 win in Turin against the defending champions, it looked like there might be a new team lifting the Scudetto. Things got even worse when Juventus found themselves down 2-1 at Inter Milan in the San Siro. But the Bianconeri showed why they are the cream of the crop in Italian football, making a stunning turnaround to win 3-2 thanks to a Gonzalo Higuain stoppage-time goal. In the end, it was Juventus who lifted the trophy. With the dramatic changes we have seen in the footballing landscape this summer, it seems like things will stay status quo when it comes to who will top Serie A. However the real fun begins when you look at how rest of the table is going to shake out.

Class 1: Title Contenders


As I mentioned earlier, there is only one true contender for the Serie A title and it’s Juventus. They have only gotten stronger and the additions they have made could be enough to argue their worth as a top 5 European side. The big addition to Bianconeri is the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. In what was a shocking move, Juve landed one of the most talented players of his generation and even at 33 years old, Ronaldo can offer a potent scoring threat. If you thought he was good in La Liga, just wait till he plays in Italy. Ronaldo will be scoring goals for fun in Serie A and he has the providers around him to make the fit of him in a Juve jersey work. As he was in his final season at Real Madrid, Ronaldo will play up top in a pure striker role. He will likely have Mario Mandzukic on the left wing as a hybrid striker at times who can make backdoor runs into the box. Juan Cuadrado, Douglas Costa, or even Paulo Dybala could slot in on the right with the latter cutting inside more to be more of a playmaker. However, it would be in Max Allegri’s best interest to start Costa as he shined for Juventus last season. His pace and tricky dribbling can fool even the best defenders and he is a decent enough passer to give crosses into CR7. Dybala will likely play centrally in a CAM role with license to roam around to gather and push the ball up forward. Emre Can is a solid replacement for the aging Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio, who left last week after 25 years with the club. Blaise Matuidi offers a solid box to box option while Miralem Pjanic can boss a game around in the midfield.

Juventus also got back Leonardo Bonucci in the swap deal with AC Milan which sent Gonzalo Higuain to the Rossoneri. There is likely to be another change in tactics with Allegri changing to a back four instead of their famed back three. Alex Sandro and new man Joao Cancelo will be on the wings with the likely duo of Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini as the last line of defense. Mehdi Benatia and Daniele Rugani are solid backups.

It’s not hard to see what the aspirations are for Allegri and his side. There is no doubt they should be feared by the rest of Europe’s top clubs as a Champions League contender. As far as the league goes, they are by far the most talented side and bring back the majority of the squad. As long as the key players stay healthy and Ronaldo can provide to be a solid threat in front of goal, Juventus should win the league by a double-digit point total.

Class 2: European competition spots

AC Milan

Like La Liga, it’s always a rotating door of who finishes where in spots 2 through 6 of Serie A. It’s unlikely we will see a club like last season’s Napoli in which they really give Juventus a run for their money. However, it doesn’t mean the race for Champions League and Europa League spots won’t be entertaining. Each of these clubs in this list has something to prove and the talent to beat each other.

Inter Milan had arguably one of the more better summers in all of European football. Luciano Spaletti’s side added more strength in key areas of the pitch as well as grabbing some solid youth presence as well. The biggest move they made was nabbing Roma’s Radja Nainggolan and grabbing Lazio’s Stefan De Vrij. Even at age 30, Nainggolan is a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the park and still is a good box to box presence. De Vrij came over on a free and was one of the trio of defenders Inter brought in (Kwando Asamoah and Sime Vrsaljko were the two others). Inter also picked up some nice wing depth in Monaco’s Keita Balde Diao, and Matteo Politano, who can step up for a now aging Andre Candreva. Along with Ivan Perisic, two signings will give Inter Milan pace and creativity from the wide areas. Mauro Icardi will continue to be a deadly scorer in front of goal and will no doubt lead them in scoring this season. Lautaro Martinez, who came over from Racing Club in Argentina this summer, is expected to be a solid backup. After barely nabbing 4th last year thanks to a final matchday win against Lazio, Inter Milan have had a really good summer. They were able to hang on to Icardi and improved offensively in both the midfield and on the wings. Along with that, Inter has some nice young prospects for the future. They should do better than 4th this year.

While they might not challenge for the title this season, there is still a lot to like in Napoli as well. Granted they lost two key members of the club in Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho but they were still able to hold onto everyone else. To replace their manager, Napoli brought in a top manager in Carlo Ancelotti. A knockout specialist, Ancelotti will inherit a squad still filled with attacking talent up top as well as a midfield with two solid engines. Most of the time when an upstart club makes a title run, their talent likely gets poached by the bigger fish the summer after. It wasn't the case in Naples this summer. The trio of Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon, and Dries Mertens all return while Simone Verdi and Amin Younes were brought in to help out on the wings. Arkadiusz Milik recovered from last year’s ACL injury and will fill in for Mertens, who is still resting after his spell in the World Cup. Piotr Zieliński slots into Jorginho’s role. he will be covered well with the likes of Allan and the ever-active Maren Hamsik alongside him. Both Allan and Hamsik will have big roles in Ancelotti’s system and the latter will still be expected to make late runs into the box or be available for long-range blasts. The backline should be the same with Mario Rui stepping into the left back slot as Fazio Ghoulam is still injured. Pepe Reina moved on from his spell in Italy and Napoli did well to bring in replacements. Alex Meret and Arsenal’s David Ospina should both be contenders for the starting nod. Last season Napoli hit their peak, they were one of the best teams in Europe to not win their domestic title. They played attractive football and made the Serie A title race fun. Even with Ancelotti at the helm, it will be a tough sell to say this will happen again. There are still questions about this squad, especially the defense which looked shaky in pre-season. Napoli’s offense and midfield should be enough though, to make sure they don’t make a dramatic leap down in the table.

Roma’s run to the Champions League semi-finals was magical. It featured some gritty away performances and an amazing comeback against Barcelona. Surprisingly it didn’t take a toll on them in the league as they finished 3rd, five points ahead of 4th place Inter. This year represents a new challenge. Roma knows they probably won’t repeat their performance in the UCL but finishing 3rd in Italy is very much on the cards. They have sold some this summer, letting Nainggolan leave and selling Allison off for a big fee to Liverpool. Eusebio Di Francesco did a good job of at least filling those spots with summer signings. Roma brought in three new keepers and four new midfielders so you can say they at least tried to replace two of their best players. The middle of the park is interesting as the likes of PSG’s Javier Pastore and Sevilla’s Steven N’Zonzi come to Stadio Olimpico. The Frenchman will offer a screening presence in front of Roma’s backline and can cycle possession if need be. Pastore will be looked to be a good link between offense and defense. Two youngsters in Ante Coric and Nicolio Zaniolo also arrived this summer. On the wings, the future is bright with Cengiz Under on one side and new signing Justin Kluivert on the other. There was the dilemma with Malcom spurning Roma at the last minute and if not for that, Roma would have had a trio of players the big clubs could come calling for in a couple of years. Edin Dzeko is undoubtedly the starter up top at striker with Patrik Schick his backup and a good option to bring on late. EDF and his side made some screwed moves this summer and definitely got younger. Losing out on Malcom really hurt and they will feel the losses of Nainggolan and Allison. But this squad is still talented enough to finish top 4 and gives someone trouble in the Champions League.

Lazio’s end of the season form was terrible as they missed out on Champions League action thanks to a 3-2 loss against Inter Milan on the final day. It didn’t get any better considering they were up 2-1 in the second half. It was a tough pill to swallow for the side and it’s now Simone Inghazi’s job to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The road back to a Champions League spot is going to be much tougher though and despite still having Ciro Immobile, who has had a career revival with the club, losing a player like Felipe Anderson really hurt. With his pace, Anderson was able to give Lazio a solid counter-attacking outlet and someone who can beat defenders one on one. Now they have a big gap to fill on the wings so they brought in Joaquin Correa from Sevilla. If anything Correa can give them some threat on goal as well as being able to track back and defend. The player to watch for, however, is big man Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. He starred for Serbia in the World Cup and should be a player who is surely going to command a humongous transfer fee sometime soon. At 6’4 and with the gracefulness of a top midfielder, SMS stands out in the middle of the park. If he’s able to have a great season, it will do wonders for Lazio. It’s going to be a tough season for Inghazi as he tries to replace the offensive workload done by Anderson. Correa is a good buy but who knows if it’s going to be enough. He’s going to need another big season from Immobile and SMS to step up as well.

Two other teams to watch for will be Atalanta and AC Milan. Milan has had a huge fall from grace since their glory days and they have been desperately trying to restore it. Finishing 6th last season helps the cause as it gets them back in Europe but they have a lot more work ahead of them. Bringing in Gonzalo Higuain certainly helps with the striker situation and gives Milan a real threat in front of goal. They also got a decent defender in Mattia Caldara in the Bonucci-Higuain swap deal. Getting Timothe Bakayoko on loan from Chelsea gives them midfield depth along with a younger face among the veterans of Lucas Biglia and Riccardo Montolivio. It will be an interesting year from Gennaro Gattuso and his squad. There are some good arrivals including Samu Castillejo from Villarreal. But they will be in a battle for one of the lower Europa spots.

Class 3: Mid-table


After finishing 9th last year, Torino leads the group when it comes to the midtable. They have some interesting players in attack to go along with captain Andrea Belotti with both M'baye Niang and Simone Zaza arriving. Both will make the striker positions competitive for Torino. Sampdoria finished right behind them at 10th and they added a lot of new faces to the club. Now it’s time to see if they can try and make another run into the top 8.

Other ones to look for will be Sassuolo, who beat Inter Milan on the first matchday, and Chievo who also gave Juventus a scare in Ronaldo’s debut. Both teams are expected to be mid-table at best but they won’t roll over easily. It won’t be an easy three points against them. Bologna also has a new manager in Filippo Inghazi and will be interesting as they explore working with a 3-5-2. If they fall, however, they could find themselves in a relegation fight.

Class 4: Relegation zone


Despite the relegation zone being all negative, there are some feel-good stories out of the handful of teams who will be fighting to stay alive. After years out of the top flight, Parma is finally back in Serie A. The famous club struggled for years to get back to the best of Italian football and they are finally here. They know how tough the transition is from Serie B to A. Signing a player like Gervinho isn’t a splashy move but getting him along with Jonathan Biabiany gives them some pace on the wings. Both are past their primes but can give Parma some flashiness at times. SPAL is a small team and have battled their way to stay in the league last season. It will be the same struggle last season. They are the ultimate Italian underdogs and should be very worried about them going down. Cagliari and SPAL barely survived last season, finishing a respective 4 and 3 points above the 18th placed Crotone. Empoli and Frosinone are the ones who really need to be worried though. Serie A is ruthless and the bottom two teams last year finished with less than 26 points each. There is a possibility we already know who is finishing last before Christmas. Hopefully, that’s not the case. 

Table Prediction:

  1. Juventus

  2. Inter Milan

  3. Napoli

  4. Roma

  5. Lazio

  6. Atalanta

  7. AC Milan

  8. Fiorentina

  9. Sampdoria

  10. Torino

  11. Sassuolo

  12. Genoa

  13. Chievo

  14. Udinese

  15. Bologna

  16. Parma

  17. SPAL

  18. Cagliari

  19. Empoli

  20. Frosinone


Europa League preview

Even with the Champions League underway, we thought it was some time to appreciate some of the fixtures in this year’s Europa League. There are some quality clubs in this years competition as the likes of Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, and Arsenal are all competing this week. Even RB Leipzig, who were at a time second in the Bundesliga, are in action this week. Let’s take a look at the three most intriguing fixtures taking place in the UEL this week.

AC Milan vs. Arsenal
TV: Fox Sports 2
Where is the fixture: San Siro in Milan, Italy

Andy Hooper/Daily Mail

Andy Hooper/Daily Mail

This is a battle of two historic clubs who find themselves in another season of disappointing results. Both Arsenal and Milan are relatively low (by their standards) in their respective domestic league tables. Arsene Wenger’s club sits firmly 6th in the Premier League table but are coming into this match on a 4 game winning streak which included two 3-0 beatings by Manchester City and stunning losses to Brighton and Swedish club Ostersands in the second leg of their previous Europa League tie. The Gunners look completely broken and are playing like a team who is desperate for anything positive to happen. With the Gunners firmly positioned in the middle of the table with the madness of them crashing out of the FA and League Cup, this is their final go around to grab a trophy this year.

It’s been a troubling year for AC Milan as well. They are currently 7th in the Serie A table, tied on points with Sampdoria for 6th. With them being 7 points behind rivals Inter for 5th and 6 points ahead of Atalanta in 8th, Milan are stuck in the table and it’s likely to stay that way. However, it doesn’t mean they don’t any other trophies to play for. In their most recent fixture they advanced to the Coppa Italia final after beating Lazio 5-4 on penalties. With both legs being disappointing 0-0 draws, the only way to decide it was a penalty shootout. After Marchi missed a penalty with the score being 4-4, Alessio Romagnoli stepped up and fired a penalty past Strakosha to send Milan to the final against Juventus. But now they have a test at home against Arsenal.

With Pierre Emerick Aubamayeng cup tied, he will be unavailable in this match. This handicaps Arsenal even more and they will likely rely on Alexandre Lacazette to be their striker. The former Lyon danger man has been moved out to the wing with Auba coming in. Not only has he been playing out of position but he’s dealing with a severe lack of confidence in front of goal. Arsenal will need to serve him some A+ chances for him to put one into the net of AC Milan.

The pressure on Wenger mounts with each passing game. It’s been a disastorous season for the Gunners and it could get worse in Milan. As bad as Milan has been in Serie A, they should be favorites in this tie and it helps that the first leg is in the San Siro.

Prediction: 2-0 Milan


Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao
TV: Fox Sports Plus
Where: Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France

It’s been a turbulent season for Athletic Bilbao. They’ve lost some important players like Aymeric Laporte and it’s shown in their La Liga form. Right now Bilbao sit 14th, that’s right 14th, in Spain’s top division.  In their last two La Liga games, Bilbao drew Valencia 1-1 and were beat 2-0 by Sevilla. They are now 13 points behind 5th place Sevilla so barring a near perfect final months of the season + some help on the side, winning the Europa League is the only way Athletic can get back into Europe next season.

It was a tricky situation in their Round of 32 tie against Spartak Moscow. Bilbao escaped with a 4-3 win on aggregate despite losing the second leg 2-1. They will have to be much better against a Marseille team which likes to get up and down the pitch in a hurry.

The French team, who are 3rd in Ligue 1 at the moment, are in desperate need of a good game. Marseille have gone 4 games without a win which has included two back to back 3-0 beatings by league leaders PSG. In their most recent Ligue 1 match, they drew Nantes 1-1 in a game where they had 22 shots but only 4 on target along with 80% possession. It was a match they should have won. Like Bilbao, they advanced in their Round of 32 tie despite losing the second leg. Thanks to a 3-0 first leg win against Braga, they were able to get away with a 1-0 loss in the second leg.

Both teams are coming in with struggles in their domestic leagues with Marseille’s being more recent. But this will be a fun game. Especially from the French team’s side. They have scored 57 goals in Ligue 1, which is more than double of Bilbao’s total in La Liga. Look for Athletic to try and absorb the pressure while trying to strike on the counter.

Prediction: 2-1 Marseille


Atletico Madrid vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
Where: Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, Spain



This matchup features the favorites of the favorites to win the Europa League against the leaders in the Russian Premier League.

Atletico Madrid are no doubt the best team in the Europa League and after crashing out in the Champions League group stage, they are ready to put the embarrassment behind them. Diego Simeone’s team will be revved to go tomorrow and will be looking to suffocate the game from the get-go. They are currently second in La Liga but saw their six game winning streak snapped against league leaders Barcelona in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss. Had they gotten the three points, Atletico Madrid could have putten some real pressure on the Blaugranes but thanks to a Leo Messi free kick, which he put into the top right corner, Barcelona are up 8 points on Atletico. They have to be able to put the loss behind them as they keep striving towards a Europa League title.

Meanwhile, Lokomotiv Moscow have built themselves a comfortable lead at the top of the Russian Premier League. They are seven points ahead of second place FC Krasnador. They had their four game domestic winning streak snapped with a 0-0 draw against Spartak on Sunday. But they are cruising in the league right now. Meanwhile, their Round of 32 tie against OG Nice was interesting. They were down 2-1 in the first leg when a red card sent their French opponents to 10 men. After that Lokomotiv scored 2 goals in the final 21 minutes to nab a crucial 1st leg win with the added bonus of away goals. They sealed off the tie in the second leg when Ignor Denisov scored in the 30th minute to make it 4-2 on aggregate. The 1-0 saw them to the Round of 16 but they will be facing a very tough squad.

The Russian league leaders played well in their last away leg but this isn’t Nice. They will be going up against one of the toughest teams in Europe and it’s going to take a massive performance from the away side to make this a competitive tie.

Prediction: 3-0 Atletico Madrid