Roberto Di Matteo was an understated player. Through Chelsea’s resurgence in the 1990s, he was at the heart of it. But it is as a manager that he achieved true greatness, leading Chelsea to lift both the Champions League and FA Cup trophies in a few months, in what was possibly one of the greatest managerial turnarounds in modern Premier League history.
Jürgen Klopp is currently the world’s best manager, at least according to FIFA. Yet, even the world’s best sometimes make bad statements. But Klopp, being a highly charismatic, widely-loved figure, managed to turn his initial anger towards questions on the coronavirus to a message of hope and advice to everyone around the world.
In what is an amazing underdog story from this season’s Champions League, Atalanta became the first team to book a place in the Quarter-Finals of the competition. A 4-3 win over Valencia embellished by a haul by Josip Ilicic was all the Bergamo club needed to make history. Their win was even more important given Juventus President Andrea Agnelli’s recent rant.
After squeezing through to the knockout stages, Atalanta’s Champions League debut is gathering pace. After a stellar performance at home by the hugely talented Italian side, they seem poised to go through. It would take a feat of epic proportions for Valencia to overturn the 4-1 advantage in a second leg which will be played behind closed doors due to coronavirus.
Juventus lost 0-1 to Lyon in the first leg of their Champions League knockout stage game, writing another chapter of their tormented relationship with the top European competition. The Bianconeri still have plenty of chances to qualify, but it will take a different attitude to see them past the French side in two weeks. Maurizio Sarri’s lineup was frankly a pity to watch.
In their first visit to the temple that once belonged to Diego Armando Maradona, Lionel Messi and Barcelona were put to the ropes by a convincing Napoli side in a Champions League Round of 16 first leg. The Partenopei, however, failed to knock Quique Setien’s squad out after Dries Mertens’ opener and saw their lead canceled by Antoine Griezmann’s equalizer.
This weeks’ Champions League roundup sees three Italian sides through the knockout stages but perhaps not exactly the teams you’d expected. Inter went into the game against Barcelona knowing that only a win would aid them in their attempts to progress, but a weakened Spanish eleven offered no solace to the Nerazzurri’s hopes of European qualification.
Two infinite minutes. That’s how long it took for the referee to check Alejandro Gomez’s position on a pass by Robin Gosens, before ruling that El Papu was not in offside when he served Timothy Castagne an assist for the goal that propelled Atalanta into history. La Dea qualified to the Champions League knockout stage after trailing Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0.
After a valiant performance at Anfield where Ancelotti’s men held on for a hard earned point, Napoli secured their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League in emphatic style at home to Genk. Hours later Carlo Ancelotti was out of a job, his dismissal immediately overshadowed by President Aurelio De Laurentiis’ swift appointment of Gennaro Gattuso.
In Champions League Round 5, Juventus beat Atletico Madrid to cement their place in the knockout rounds, while Inter grabbed the win they needed to remain in contention for qualification. Atalanta dispatched of Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb, whereas Liverpool and Napoli settled for one point which still leaves the Partenopei with hope of snatching top spot.
The story of Napoli this season so far has been somewhat intriguing and difficult to comprehend. In Serie A, they are currently 7th in the table, unable to win against sides battling for survival. In Champions League, however, they are a different team, as they showed on Wednesday by going tooth and nail against defending European Champions Liverpool.
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.