One of the hottest properties in South America, up-and-coming Racing Club centre-forward Luciano Vietto, gave a lesson on how to re-take a penalty on Friday night against Union Santa Fe. At 0-0, Vietto earned Racing Club a penalty, he buried it home only for the referee to say Vietto had taken the penalty before he had blown his whistle and as a result had to re-take it. Watch the video below to see how Vietto reacted under pressure…
Tonight sees the return of the 2013 Copa Libertadores with the first semi-final between Olimpia Asuncion and Independiente Santa Fe.
Both sides topped their respective groups in the earlier stages of the tournament. Santa Fe seen off Gremio on goal difference before emphatically eliminating Real Garcilaso 5-1 over two legs. Olimpia knocked out Copa Sudamericano finalists Tigre in the Final 16 before defeating Brasileiro champions Fluminense in the Quarter-Finals. Despite getting this far, it is the winner of the other semi-final, Newell’s versus Atletico Mineiro, who is expected to be the clear favourite for the Copa Libertadores Final. It would however be foolish to write-off either off these two sides and Olimpia in particular have a very rich history in this tournament, having already won it three times (most recently in 2002).
Expect this to be a very tight nervy game. Olimpia will fear defeat and will play very conservatively, Santa Fe will look to stay tight and attack in the few moments when the Paraguayans over-commit themselves.. Olimpia have been very strong at home in the tournament, most notably annihilating the best team in Argentina Newell’s Old Boys 4-1 in the group stages. Santa Fe though have conceded a few goals in away matches and if Olimpia smell blood early, they have enough quality to put three-four goals past them. The one real hope that there could be goals in this is if Olimpia feel they have to finish the tie tonight through fear of playing at altitude in the away leg in Bogota. This could perhaps drive Olimpia to score three or four goals.
For Oilimpia, and in this first leg, there will only be three men weighed with the responsibility of winning this tie – Juan Manuel Salgueiro, Fredy Bareiro and Juan Carlos Ferreyra. Salgueiro was last week named by Conmebol as the second top performer on the continent and going by his performances in the Copa Libertadores this year, it cannot be argued. Time and time again he has made the difference for Olimpia and brought home the big goals, including a priceless double in the previous round to progress past Fluminense and a hat-trick in the group match against Newell’s to seal their dominance of the group. The Oliimpia attack team up beautifully together. Salgueiro plays off of Fereyra who is the big target man upfront and focal point of Olimpia’s attack, very good with his chest, near impossible to move off the ball and possesses a deceptively delicate touch. These two will be vital tonight as they are the two clear stand-outs in this side and Santa Fe will more than likely issue out some of the rough treatment to both. Bareiro feeds off of the chemistry between these two and along with Salguerio, he is joint second top scorer in the tournament with five goals a-piece so far. Fereyra has been struggling with a thigh problem for a number of weeks now though and it is touch and go whether he will start tonight.
For Santa Fe, the three players who have made the difference so far are former Boca attacking midfielder Omar Perez, and forwards Wilder Medina and Cristian Borja. Perez supplying these two will be the only hopes of goals for Santa Fe from open play. There’s a strong chance they could be isolated figures in Asuncion tonight. Borja especially has a great strike rate in this year’s Copa Libertadores (scoring 4 goals) but surprisingly hasn’t been prolific outside of it.
Although Independiente Santa Fe are going through arguably the club’s strongest spell in their history both domestically and on the continent, I still fancy Club Olimpia to progress here, so I’ll go for a 2-0 home victory. They have had the tougher run-in so far in the competition and knocked out two very strong sides. There is just a feeling about them in this tournament and I expect them to lay the foundations for qualification to the final with a clean home victory tonight. When Olimpia hit their rhythm they can play at an awesome pace, and possess an aggression about them that makes Paraguayan football very exciting. They also have a justified fear of playing at altitude in Bogota for the second leg and this will add extra motivation to their cause to get the tie as close to finished as possible tonight.
Last night, Olimpia firmly planted one foot in the Copa Libertadores Final with a 2-0 victory over Independiente Santa Fe, now it is time for the most anticipated clash of the semis. The hottest team in Argentina play the hottest team in Brazil.
Newell’s Old Boys have not been entirely convincing in the tournament. They finished second in the their group to Club Olimpia, which included Olimpia thumping them 4-1 on the final matchday and very nearly resulting in a seven goal swing that would’ve knocked them out only for a second string Univesidad de Chile to fall short in the other match against Deportivo Lara after conceding late on. Away goals were enough to see off Velez Sarsfield in the Last 16 and after two goalless matches against Boca Juniors in the Quarters, Newell’s progressed on penalties.
Atletico Mineiro set the Copa Libertadores alight early on storming to five wins out of five in the group stages before succumbing to Sao Paulo away in the final match (although Atletico had already secured top spot in the group by then). They then humiliated one of the pre-tournament favourites Sao Paulo whom they met again in the Last 16 (best qualifier of the group stages against the worst placed qualifier, despite already being in the same group). After two legs it finished 6-2 on aggregate to Atletico Mineiro. The next round proved more difficult as invited guests into this season’s tournament, Mexican side Tijuana, came very close to eliminating them by missing a 92nd minute penalty in the second leg. After an invincible looking Atletico early in the tournament, they now showed glaring weaknesses.
For Newell’s, the standout man for them all season has been Ignacio Scocco. If they are to win this evening he will have to be clinical. He is a tricky customer, creative as well as prolific, good at bringing others into play. With cause for fear of the away goal, at the back it will be up to the leadership of veteran Gabriele Heinze to lead by example. Another big name former Argentine international, Maxi Rodriguez, will also play a pivotal role as he will more than likely be asked to interrupt any attacking rhythm Atletico try to build in the midfield. But most importantly it will be the fans who stand out for Newell’s and on a night like this there are few better. Argentinian crowds in general are a spectacle and Rosario will be steeped in passion tonight.
Altetico Mineiro boast two of the tournament’s top goalscorers, Jo and Diego Tardelli, both with six goals each so far, and supported by two incredible talents in Bernard and Ronaldinho, it is difficult to see any defence which this attack cannot pick. Towering centre-back Rever will also be influential tonight in restoring organisation to such an attacking team that could easily fold into chaos.
There has been bad blood in the last two clashes of Argentine-Brazilian sides in the continental cups recently, with both Tigre and Boca Juniors complaining of the security in Brazil treating them far too heavy-handed, to the point of intimidation. So much so in Tigre’s case in the Copa Sudamericana Final that they refused to come out for the second half and in turn forfeited the competition. And with big matches like this in South America, it too easily becomes petty with fouls, with referees blowing their whistle every second touch and killing any flow to the match. I expect this game to pan out in that manner and for that reason I’m going to opt for 0-0 as the first leg scoreline. Atletico have more than enough here to hurt Newell’s but I think the Argentinians will be too wary of the away goal to really go for it. With such a chorus behind them though, if there is a winner here I see it being Newell’s in this leg.
Fellipe Bastos has a reputation for scoring some unbelievable goals and he all but secured Ponte Preta’s progression to the Copa Sudamericana Semi-Finals with two free-kicks. His first free-kick is parried by the goalkeeper only for Uendel to tuck it home before Bastos fires in the second goal from at least 35 yards out (second goal starts at 00:50):
Trinidad and Tobago international defender Akeem Adeems has lost his left leg in his battle to survive after suffering a major heart attack on Wednesday 25th September. Doctors confirmed the amputation below the knee on Tuesday morning, explaining that it was esential to aid circulation. Adams has now undergone four major operations since the 25th and it is believes he is body is too weak at the moment to successfully handle any heart transplant. The 22 year old has been capped 8 times for his national side and made the move to Europe to play for Hungarian side Ferencváros.
The fans of Ujpest, bitter fierce rivals of Ferencvárosi, released an incredible statement in support of Adams once they had heard the news.
Adams had played in Ferencvárosi’s 3-1 victory over Ujpest in the Budarest Derby only a few days before he was struck down. The Ferencvárosi physio has since said Akeem told him he had felt dizzy during the match. We will keep you updated on any developments of this story and the condition of Akeem Adams.
After spending seven years as a player at Parkhead, Stan Petrov returned to Glasgow to take part in a match for his charity, a game that sold out the 60,000 capacity of Celtic Park, a charity he founded after recently overcoming his battle with leukemia. At the end of the match the Celtic support serenaded their former captain which a wonderful rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, with Petrov’s sons running on the park it became an extremely emotional scene, prompting Petrov himself to break into tears as his youngest son leaped into his arms.
Vitesse Arnhem will commemorate the Battle of Arnhem this weekend by wearing a strip consisting of the regiment’s famous colours.
The British 1st Airbourne Division were heavily involved in the attempted liberation of Arnhem in September 1944 from Nazi occupation. The division lost three quarters of its strength (8000 men) behind enemy lines during the failed mission before the remaining survivors eventually withdrew after nine days of fighting.
With this list I’ve tried to avoid the usual big names that typically appear in this type of article – the likes of Neymar, Draxler, Isco, Lamela, Koke, Marquinhos, Eriksen etc. Here is our rundown of the ten players to watch this season, aged 21 and under, from all over the world.
10) Alen Halilović – Dinamo Zagreb
The Croatian attacking midfielder came very close to joining Tottenham Hotspur in the summer in a double swoop involving Dinamo Zagreb club-mate Tin Jedvaj joining him in a €24 million move to White Hart Lane. The deal fell through at the final hour and Jedvaj soon joined Roma for a fee of €5 million. Speculation as to why the deal collapsed pointed the finger at Halilović’s family asking for ridiculous personal demands during negotiations. It is not the first time he has been linked with a move away from Zagreb. At 14 years old, Alen’s father, former Real Valladolid midfielder Sejad Halilović, was caught by Dinamo trying to arrange a move to Real Madrid for his son. The club temporarily suspended both father and son for the attempted move.
Comparisons have been drawn to Halilović and Modric for their many similarities – composure in possession, ability to hold onto the ball and diminutive stature. He has also been labelled the Croatian Messi due to his skill of beating opposing players and his over-reliance on his left foot. Truthfully, in terms of style the Messi comparison holds more weight. And like Messi in his early career, Halilović has often been deployed on the right-hand side by Dinamo Zagreb. Still only 17, Alen has already been capped three times by the senior Croatian national side and became the second youngest ever player to play in the Champions League when he came on as a late substitute against PSG last season. Surely it is only a matter of time until this lad is household name.
9) Bruma – Galatasaray
After breaking into the Sporting CP line-up in the final third of last season, Bruma went on to become one of the stars of the summer’s Under-20 World Cup in Turkey, scoring five goals in four games for Portugal. The exciting winger would then go on to have a controversy filled summer as he entered a dispute with Sporting a to whether or not he had a contract with the Lisbon club. Bruma said his contract had ended and he was a free agent. Sporting however declared that his current contract did not end until summer 2014. This mess wasn’t sorted until Portugal’s Sporting Arbitration Committee became involved and declared that Bruma still had one year left on his contract. After the falling out a move was still clearly on the cards and he soon joined Galatasaray for €10 million amidst alleged interest from Manchester United and Chelsea.
With Galatasaray badly struggling to find any rhythm playing both Burak Yilmaz and Drogba together in the same system this season, and with the lack of quality from players such as Amrabat and Aydin Yilmaz, Bruma may quickly see himself become vital to Galatasaray’s season. He kickstarted his spell in Turkey in Galatasaray’s match at home to Antalyaspor, adding some much need energy and invention to a dire performance from the Turkish champions, although the match ended 1-1. With pace to burn and the arrogance on the ball to exploit it, Bruma will be another star of a long line of talented Sporting wingers to prosper away from the Lisbon club.
8) Memphis Depay – PSV
With the departure of Dries Mertens to Napoli, Depay will settle into the role he vacated in the left-wing position in the PSV attack under new coach Phillip Cocu. He possesses an almighty right foot and has already scored a screamer from distance in the second round of Champions League qualifying campaign against Zulte Waregem (video below). He also came agonizingly close to scoring the goal of the tournament against Spain in the summer’s Euro Under-21 tournament in Israel (video of this strike also below this paragraph).
With the huge loss of quality in the Eredivise during the transfer market, and with the league being as open as it has ever been, a breakout season for Depay could propel Cocu’s young side to preventing Ajax from achieving their first ever four league titles in a row.
7) Juan Quintero – Porto
In a deal that could quite easily become one of the bargains of recent times, Quintero joined Porto from Colombian giants Atletico Nacional for only €5 million. The price coming as a big shock as Quintero had performed strongly in the previous season with Pescara in Serie A and with Colombia at the U20 World Cup. The environment at Porto will be perfect for his development and with the loss of James Rodriguez to Monaco during the transfer market, Quintero’s presence fills in the exact tactical role left by James.
Quintero has a very similar style to Diego Maradona. He is clearly nowhere near that level and it is extremely unlikely he ever will be but they share that same dribbling action and severely left-footed style. Quintero still has nuances in his game he has to iron out such as holding onto possession for too long and becoming too bogged down in trying to beat a player when a pass is clearly the better option. He plays with that beautiful South American tempo to his game. As Porto rebuild their next generation of moneymakers, Quintero looks to be the most promising of all the talents they acquired over the summer. He has already opened his account in the Portuguese Primeira Liga with a delicious goal against Vitoria Sebutal:
6) Mohamed Salah – Basel
Salah has grabbed the headlines this week with his man of the match performance and goal in Basel’s win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League, it was his second goal at the Bridge after he scored in his side’s 3-1 defeat there in last season’s Europa League. The 21 year old winger already has an incredible goalscoring record at international level with Egypt, 17 goals in 24 caps. Basel has served as the perfect club for Salah to grow and now it looks like it may well be his final season in Switzerland. Strong interest from Roma, Inter and Tottenham Hotspur persisted during the summer. And with his price rising with every passing week, there will probably not be a better time for Basel to cash in on their star man.
5) Adrien Rabiot – PSG
For anyone who watched Ligue 1 , the physical difference in Rabiot between now and this time last year is night and day. He has filled out considerably in that time, growing taller and broader. The appointment of Laurent Blanc as PSG head coach will do nothing but good for him as he is not shy to use youth, having already displayed that already this season. A loan spell at Toulouse in the second half of last season served Rabiot well in exposing him to consistent Ligue 1 football. He has already made a telling contribution in the league this season when he came on as a second half substitute and scored the vital opener in the 91st minute against newly promoted Guingamp in a match were PSG looked completely out of ideas. Although he faces stiff competition from fellow youngsters Paul Pogba and Geoffrey Kondogbia for a prospective future role, it will be no surprise to see Rabiot as a full French international at some point this season. Although World Cup 2014 comes a touch too early for the 18 year old.
4) Luciano Vietto – Racing Club
The hottest prospect in Argentina and with the sale of Neymar perhaps now the most sought after player on the South American continent. Rumours circulated for weeks of Borussia Dortmund’s interest in Vietto, a bid relied upon the departure of Lewandowski which never came to realise. Vietto has been a shining light for Racing Club in some tumultuous times for the Argentinian powerhouse. The 19 year old striker made his name with a blistering hat-trick in a match against San Martin de San Juan last year before going on to score his second hat-trick against league champions Newell’s in April. With Europe beckoning, it only a matter of time before Vietto is strutting his stuff for one of Europe’s biggest teams.
3) Doria – Botafogo
Over the past decade Brazil have been second to none in producing world class centre-backs and Doria will be another off of that assembly line. The 18 year old is already a key member of a Botafogo side chasing the Brasileiro, currently lying in second place with one of the tightest defences in the league. The recent purchase of Marquinhos from Roma to PSG for €35m made him the fourth most expensive defender of all time behind Lilian Thuram, Rio Ferdinand and Thiago Silva. Doria is very much in the Marquinhos mould. Already unbelievably mature in his defensive style, Doria is much more physical than his PSG counterpart. For someone so young he is far along in his physical development. Given his no-nonsense demanour to playing, t is easy to see a future Brazil captain in Doria.
2) Filip Đuričić – Benfica
Benfica announced the signing of Djuricic for a reported €6m before the transfer window even opened and then proceeded to slap a €40m buy-out price in his contract. The Serb was coming off the back off an electrifying season for Heerenveen. Djuricic found himself thriving at the left wing position in the Eredivise although it is yet to be seen where exactly he will play for Benfica as they could look to return him to his former attacking midfielder role. Djuricic is an incredible talent – intelligent, direct and elegant in possession. He has all the raw qualities there to go on and become a truly world class player. He has already scored in his Champions League debut against Anderlecht in the past few days. Benfica banked one of the deals of the transfer market when they moved swiftly for him, swooping in before interest from Serie A champions Juventus could be confirmed. And in Portugal he will be in the perfect league to hone his craft for the next 2-3 seasons. Not a name that is one everyone’s lips at the moment but be rest assured, Djuricic will become one of the most sought after players in Europe soon.
1) Adem Ljajić – Roma
When Roma sold Erik Lamela to Spurs for €30m (€35m including performance related bonuses), many were gobsmacked at the low price he had gone for. However, Roma Sporting Director Walter Sabatini had a move up his sleeve. He instantly moved for Fiorentina’s want-away star Adem Ljajic in a deal that could go as high as €15m. The 21 year old playmaker was statistically one of the most productive players in the whole of Europe last season when it came to key actions such as key passes and shots on goal. And was by far the most productive player of anyone aged 21 and under. A more in-depth look at this can be found in this fantastic article at StatsBomb of Europe’s Best Young Attackers.
Roma have effectively replaced Lamela with a player just as talented and pocketed half the change in doing so. He started his life at Roma with a bang (video below). Ljajic was a huge factor in Fiorentina’s renaissance under Montella and with Roma looking much more balanced under Rudi Garcia this season in a Serie A looking more competitive than it has been over the past decade, Adem Ljajic could prove fatal to his former club when it comes down to the bitter race for those three Champions League spots in Italy. And learning from the master Totti, Ljajic could be a match made in heaven for Roma.
As we mentioned over the last week, Dutch club Vitesse planned to pay tribute in their home match against PEC Zwolle to the British paratroopers involved in the attempted liberation of their city Arnhem during Operation Market Garden in September 1944, this is an update on how the day went. Veterans of the British 1st Airbourne Division were welcomed to the match and the Vitesse support even unveiled a tifo featuring the colours of the regiment with the famous Nijmegen Bridge in the background of their display.
The Dutch side opted away from their typical yellow and black strip to dawn the claret and blue colours of the British 1st Airbourne Division for the commemoration. Emblazoned on the strips was the phrase ‘No Bridge Too Far’, in reference to the star-studded 1977 film A Bridge Too Far based on the events of the previously mentioned Allied mission.
Having been soundly beaten 3-1 by Napoli in Italy under former manager Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea will have to come back from a two-goal first leg deficit at Stamford Bridge under the stewardship of caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo if they’re to have a shot at lifting the Champions League trophy so coveted by owner Roman Abramovich. It’s vital to understand how Napoli got their first leg lead and the tactical battles that may play out in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
That Chelsea had 58% possession despite being thoroughly outplayed is indicative of the contrasting approaches both sides took to the game in Italy. The Italians lined up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, employing a compact back 3 and two wing-backs (Juan Camilo Zuniga and Christian Maggio). Marek Hamsik played behind the Napoli front two of Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi and remained on the right side of the pitch. Lavezzi drifted to the left wing while Cavani lined up in a slightly more advanced position on the left. Chelsea chose not to lineup in their usual 4-3-3, opting instead to play Malouda on the left and Juan Mata as a trequartista behind Drogba, forming a 4-2-3-1. Daniel Sturridge played on the right while Raul Meireles and Ramires played as a double pivot in front of the back four. David Luiz and Gary Cahill lined up in the center of defense, with Ivanovic at right back and Bosingwa at left back (he was injured early on and replaced by Ashley Cole).
Unsurprisingly, Napoli were keen to get numbers behind the ball and defend from deep, allowing Chelsea time on the ball in midfield and then looking to counter quickly when they won back possession. When Chelsea were on the attack, the Napoli wing-backs dropped deep alongside the back 3 forming a five-man defensive line. The key tactical decision of the game revolved around Chelsea’s use of Ivanovic at right-back. The Serb pushed up into very advanced positions on the right wing to give Chelsea width while Daniel Sturridge drifted inside from the right. Because Napoli were effectively defending with five at the back, Lavezzi didn’t need to track the forward runs of Ivanovic and was able to sit in the pocket of space left by the Serb. When Napoli won possession they quickly hit diagonal balls into this space on the left flank for Lavezzi. Cavani stood in front of Chelsea’s right-sided centre-back Cahill, creating a 2 vs.1 situation for Napoli on the left side of the pitch and overloading Cahill. The quick counter attacks of Napoli were exceptional and Chelsea were fortunate not to concede more goals (Lavezzi missed a breakaway and Ashley Cole saved off the line). It’s no surprise that Napoli like to counter-attack and though they executed them brilliantly, it’s nonetheless shocking how ill-prepared Chelsea were set up to mitigate the dangerous counters. After taking an early lead through Mata, Chelsea should have been more cautious, particularly in terms of Ivanovic’s forward runs.
Needing at least two goals to win the tie, Chelsea will be forced to get numbers forward and chase the game. Unfortunately for the Blues, this plays directly into the hands of counter-attacking experts Napoli. The Italians will again be happy to play with a back five when out of possession, put numbers behind the ball, clog space in Chelsea’s attacking third and counter when the opportunity comes. Regardless of how Chelsea line up, it’s crucially important they remain patient, keep their shape at the back, and avoid attacking recklessly. An early Napoli goal will leave the Blues chasing 3 goals which will all but kill the tie off.
Interestingly, the back three formation with advanced wing backs employed by Napoli seems like a good option for Chelsea (with Chelsea’s wing backs playing much more advanced than Napoli’s). The Blues could start Luiz, Cahill and Ivanovic as a back three with Cole and Bosingwa playing as wing backs and providing Chelsea width. Essien and Ramires would line up as a double pivot in front of the back 3 while Mata could play the trequartista role behind a forward pairing of Sturridge and Drogba.
There appears to be several benefits to this formation. It would allow Cole and Bosingwa to get involved offensively in wide positions. If Napoli were to nick possession and spring a counter-attack by playing the ball wide to Lavezzi, Chelsea would still have threes centre-backs available to deal with Cavani and Lavezzi. If both Napoli forwards overloaded one side as they did in the first leg, Chelsea would still be able to defend a 2 vs.2 situation rather than forcing Cahill into a 1 vs.2 as was the case in Italy. Offensively, the formation would allow Sturridge to play more centrally in a two-forward system where he is more comfortable. Cole and Bosingwa would join the attack from wide, occupying Napoli’s wing backs. The Napoli back three would then be left to deal with Sturridge and Drogba as well as Mata in his advanced role. This would create a 3 v. 3 situation in the attacking third for Chelsea rather than the 2 v. 3 one we saw in the first leg when Drogba was the lone forward and Mata stood behind him.
The obvious issue with this formation is that Chelsea have always played with a back four in the Abramovic era and it’s no easy task to install a formation that players aren’t familiar with. The Blues’ chances of advancing in the competition depend on their ability to get forward and create scoring opportunities while mitigating the effectiveness of Napoli’s swift counters.
Abramovich’s desire to lift the Champions League trophy is no secret but given Chelsea’s unfavorable position following the first leg defeat coupled with their overall poor form this campaign, the Russian billionaire can’t be too confident that success is beckoning in Europe. Any chance the Blues have of advancing to the quarterfinals will come down to their ability to press the issue from an offensive point of view while reducing the effectiveness of the excellent duo of Lavezzi and Cavani. Quite a task for a caretaker manager in what will only be his third game in charge.