Roma 2-0 Napoli: Pjanic punishes Napoli after two Cannavaro fouls

October 21, 2013
Roma 2-0 Napoli: Pjanic punishes Napoli after two Cannavaro fouls

Roma still have a 100% record in Serie A, and extended their gap over second-placed Napoli to five points.

Rudi Garcia changed both his full-backs – Federico Balzaretti was suspended so Dodo played at left-back, with Maicon back in for Vasilis Torosidis.

Rafael Benitez was unable to use Gonzalo Higuain from the start, so Goran Pandev started upfront. The absence of Juan Zuniga meant Giandomenico Mesto played at left-back.

Roma ran out winners, but this game could have gone either way – Napoli had plenty of chances at 0-0. Read more »

New managers: Martino at Barcelona

October 11, 2013
New managers: Martino at Barcelona

In an ideal world, Gerardo Martino wouldn’t be coaching Barcelona this season. Whereas the majority of Europe’s top clubs were after a new manager this summer because of footballing reasons, Barca were forced to turn to a new coach because of Tito Vilanova’s health problems.

Barcelona background

That makes Martino’s task slightly complicated, because this summer there was a genuine debate about how much Barcelona needed to evolve their style of play. Martino has not been appointed because his predecessor failed, but because he was simply unable to continue.

It’s impossible, however, to ignore Barcelona’s 7-0 aggregate defeat to Bayern in last year’s Champions League semi-final. That was a quite astonishing result, and the way Barca were completely outplayed and outfought throughout both legs was a genuine shock that understandably forced many to question whether the club was too committed to its favoured style of play. Read more »

Inter 0-3 Roma: Totti drags Inter’s back three out of shape to prompt quick attacks

October 8, 2013
Inter 0-3 Roma: Totti drags Inter’s back three out of shape to prompt quick attacks

Roma maintained their 100% record with a win at previously unbeaten Inter.

Walter Mazzarri made two changes from the 1-1 draw at Cagliari, bringing in Saphir Taider and Rodrigo Palacio for Mateo Kovacic and Ishak Belfodil.

Predictably, Rudi Garcia kept exactly the same side which demolished Bologna 5-0.

This was another superb Roma display – and although their 3-0 half-time lead was slightly flattering, they played some sparkling football at times. Read more »

Manchester City 1-3 Bayern Munich: Bayern dominate midfield through numbers & pressing

October 2, 2013
Manchester City 1-3 Bayern Munich: Bayern dominate midfield through numbers & pressing

Bayern Munich completely outplayed Manchester City for the vast majority of this contest.

Manuel Pellegrini somewhat surprisingly decided to use Micah Richards rather than Pablo Zabaleta at right-back, while Gael Clichy returned at left-back. David Silva was only considered fit enough for the bench – so it was Pellegrini’s usual midfield and attack.

Pep Guardiola named Thomas Muller as his main striker, with Mario Mandzukic only on the bench.

Bayern were superior to a staggering extent here, only force to withstand heavy pressure in the final 15 minutes. Read more »

Arsenal 2-0 Napoli: Arsenal win the game early by attacking down the right flank

October 1, 2013
Arsenal 2-0 Napoli: Arsenal win the game early by attacking down the right flank

Arsene Wenger fielded five natural central midfielders, but Napoli were opened up repeatedly in their left-back zone.

Wenger was without a variety of players comfortable in wide roles – Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – while Jack Wilshere was rested, with Mikel Arteta coming into the side and Arsenal’s three attacking midfielders playing fluid roles.

Rafael Benitez was still without Christian Maggio, and also lost Gonzalo Higuain through injury.

Arsenal were dominant from the first whistle, and Napoli rarely offered a goal threat. Read more »