Carlo Ancelotti’s experience in Napoli may be set to end abruptly as the events following his players’ mutiny against president Aurelio De Laurentiis continue to unfold. Dark clouds gathered over the Azzurri roster last night as captain Lorenzo Insigne and his teammates refused to remain at a training retreat imposed by the club after tying 1-1 against Red Bull Salzburg.
For almost one hour, Inter lived the dream of breaking the curse of the Camp Nou, then Luis Suarez’s brilliant double plummeted them into a recurring nightmare. Inter’s second Champions League match in Group F ended 2-1 for the Blaugrana despite Lautaro Martinez’s opener after two minutes. It was the first goal for the Nerazzurri in Barcelona’s den in 50 years.
Seven is a charm for Jurgen Klopp. The German coach finally clinched a European Cup title leading Liverpool to a 2-0 win over Tottenham to conquer the Champions League 2018-19, and breaking a curse made of six international Final losses. Liverpool took a rapid lead with a penalty by Mohammed Salah, and controlled the game until Divock Origi’s late goal.
On this day, 30 years ago, the history of football changed. Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan trampled Steaua Bucuresti 4-0 with braces by Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten to conquer the European Cup 1988-89, the third in the history of the Rossoneri. The triumph in Barcelona marked the International legitimization of the Romagna-born coach’s football verbo.
In a month of May that is reshaping the geography of Serie A, Juventus decided to part ways with Massimiliano Allegri. The separation between the league title holders and their winning coach was made official yesterday in a sober press conference. Allegri leaves Juventus after five years in which he won five Scudetto, four Coppa Italia, and two Supercups.
It happened again. Yet another last minute comeback, to further embellish a Champions League edition that could arguably end up being the most exciting ever. This time, it was Tottenham’s turn to pull out the most incredible of victories, stunning Ajax with a shocking 2-3 late win that projected them straight into their first Champions League Final in their history.
Mohammed Salah’s t-shirt was prophetical. “Never Give Up,” it read. Liverpool wrote another page of a history made of impossible comebacks as they trashed Barcelona to reach the Champions League Final once again. The scorecard at Anfield Road read 4-0 at full time, an outcome that completely overturned what happened at the Camp Nou one week ago.
Ajax don’t want to stop. The white-and-red won 1-0 in London over Tottenham, and can now legitimately aim at reaching the Champions League Final for the first time in 23 years. A lone goal by midfielder Donny van de Beek stunned the Tottenham Stadium and the Semifinal debuting Spurs to secure his side a strong advantage in view of next Wednesday’s second leg.
Juventus’ Champions League Curse continues. The Bianconeri ended their run in the elite European competition once again in the Quarter Finals, demolished by a magnificent Ajax. Coach Erik ten Hag’s squad raided the Allianz Stadium, snatched an epic 2-1 win, and progressed 3-2 on aggregate to show their face among the Top Four after 22 years.
The last time Inter and Barcelona squared off at San Siro Stadium was on April 20th, 2010. It was the first leg of a Champions League Semi Final. Due to an ash cloud generated by an Icelandic volcano, the Blaugrana had to reach Milan via bus as most European flights were cancelled. The Nerazzurri won 3-1 and took one step further towards their fantastic “triplete.”
Last Thursday, the draw for the Champions League 2018-19 Group Stage took place. It was the day every fan had been waiting for since last May’s Real Madrid win over Liverpool 3-1 in the Final in Kiev. This year, the title of “Group of Death” went to Group C, which will feature Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, Liverpool, and Red Star Belgrade.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, they say. We may be in love with Italian calcio, but there’s more to football than what happens south of the Alps. As the Champions League Final approaches, The Cult of Calcio’s Spanish correspondent Carlos Molano takes a look at Real Madrid’s road towards Kiev, mixing personal memories with the club’s recent history.