Posts Tagged ‘Europa League’

The Bianconeri rise again.

Juventus lifted the Scudetto for the 28th time in their history this season. A season in which they went unbeaten.

Who would of predicted this six years ago?

Match fixing Scandal

In 2006 Juventus were one of the five clubs who were linked with the Italian match fixing scandal. They were stripped of the two titles they won under Fabio Capello and demoted to the Serie B for the first time in the clubs history. As expected some key players left, including Lillian Thuram and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However others showed their loyalty and agreed to remain with Juve despite playing in the second tier of Italian football. The main players being Buffon, Nedved, Trezeguet and Del Piero. Juventus went straight back up after winning the Serie B, only losing four times in 42 games.

Rebuilding

The following season Claudio Ranieri took over the “Old Lady”, guiding them to a very respectable third place finish.  It also meant they had qualified for the following seasons Champions League.

2008-09 season was going to be a test for Ranieri’ men as they now had high expectations on their shoulders. The Summer transfer window saw them bring in eight players to strengthen the squad. Amauri being the “big” signing, coming from Palermo for €22.6 million. Juventus looked like genuine title contenders at various stages of the season and to boost the confidence of the fans they topped their Champions League group which contained Real Madrid. They were later knocked out by Chelsea in the last 16. However the players were struggling to remain motivated at certain times throughout the season as Ranieri belittled their title chances. The team went seven consecutive league games without a win. Despite this they finished second, a total of 10 points behind Champions Inter. Ranieri was sacked for failing to win a trophy.

With new coach Ciro Ferrara spending over €50 million on transfers, people imagined that the team could make the push and once again become champions of Italy. This was not the case as the 09-10 season proved to be disastrous for the Bianconeri. They failed to qualify from their Champions League group. Following the loss to Inter in the Coppa Italia, Ciro Ferrara was sacked as manager. The day later Alberto Zaccheroni was made head coach. Zaccheroni made a pretty decent start, knocking Ajax out of the Europa League followed up by a 3-1 win over Fulham. However Juventus were bet 4-1 in the second leg thus knocking them out, a poor run of form followed. Juve finished 7th in the Serie A.

Juventus started the following season with a new president, Andrea Agnelli and a new manager, Luigi Delneri. Despite the change Juventus once again had a poor season, finishing 7th for the second consecutive season and once again another year without a trophy. The crowds were plummeting, failing to sell out the 28,000 seater Stadio Olimpico once. Agnelli knew something had to change.

Resurrection 

There was a lot of change, the main one being the change of Stadium. Juventus became the only team in the Serie A to fully own their own stadium. Former Juventus midfielder Antonio Conte was made manager. The fans became optimistic and Juventus stadium was frequently sold out. Andrea Agnelli pumped money into the club and Conte gladly spent it, bringing in no more than twenty new faces for a total of €94.5 million. They knew they had to challenge Ac Milan for the title, a title that the Rossoneri were not going to give up easily. Juvetus won six of their first ten games, beating Inter and Ac Milan in the process. Despite the good form some criticised them for drawing too many games, something that might just cost them the title. Between the 5th of Febuary and the 11th of March Juve drew six of their seven Serie A games. However this was followed by an impressive run of form that saw the Bianconeri gather up nine wins on the trot. Despite Milan throwing away their lead earlier in the season, they still remained closely behind. Juve slipped up slightly following a 1-1 draw with Lecce, which allowed the Rossoneri back into the title race. It all came down to match-day 37. Ac Milan had to beat rivals Inter to keep their title hopes alive. A breathtaking Milan derby ended with the Rossoneri losing 4-2. Juventus win away to Cagliari meant they became champions of Italy for the first time since 2003. The win on the last day of the season ensured that Conte’s men went the entire Serie A season unbeaten, becoming one of only three teams to do so (Perugia in 78/79 and Ac Milan in 91/92).

Del Piero lifts the Scudetto in his final season as a Juve player.

Juventus have the chance to do a domestic double when they play Napoli in the Coppa Italia final on Sunday.

They will be hoping to defend their Scudetto next season and continue their unbeaten run. They will also be expected to do well in next seasons Champions League and could well prove to be dark horses.

Does this Juventus side have what it takes to become one of the best sides in the world?

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Top European Striker Want’s a Move to England

A top European striker wants a move to England.

Fernando Llorente has fast become one the hottest properties in European football and after an impressive campaign with Athletic Club, a campaign in which he helped his team reach the Europa League and Copa Del Rey finals, he is on all the top teams radar.

Athletic Club have been widely praised for their all out attacking style and passionate play and fans. Llorente has been at the forefront of all praise and at the age of 27 this is maybe his last chance to force a move to a top European team.

Many people feel that Llorente is a player designed for the Premiership and this is something he agrees with, he says “I’m the sort of player who would be successful in the Premier League… (But) it’s all hypothetical.” He went onto say that he feels it’s one of the best leagues in the world, saying “I’d love to get to know it and enjoy it” but he did finished off by saying that he was still very happy in Bilbao. But Llorente didn’t stop flirting with the Premiership just yet. When asked what did he like to do in his spare time, he again brought up England. “…I love travelling… We (himself and his girlfriend) went to London on holiday last year, I loved it, I saw Big Ben and Buckingham Palace and went to see the Wimbledon tennis, but I don’t speak English. I need to learn the language.”

Llorente “I’m the sort of player who would be successful in the Premier League”

And it is that last sentence that fuels most of the flames to this transfer rumour. Llorente clearly has strong intentions to return to England and shows a strong intent to stay for a long time. Well long enough to need to learn the language.

But who would be in for Llorente and who could afford him? Manchester City will be the favourites for the marksman but they may not need to sign him if Carlos Tevez decides to stay and if Balotelli isn’t sold. Chelsea will also be in for the Spanish foreword, as Didier Drogba is out of contract in the summer. Manchester United will also have tabs on Llorente as Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen look set to be on the way out of Old Trafford. Others that will have interest are both Tottenham and Liverpool, who will need to reinforce their squads to stand a chance of challenging for a Champions League spot next season.

But out of the five who would be able to afford him? Well, Manchester City and Chelsea will happily spend what is required to get their man. Manchester United would be able to afford him but may struggle to match his wage demands, especially if facing direct competition from rivals Man City. Tottenham and Liverpool’s best chance of signing the Spanish giant would be if City, Chelsea or United don’t go in for Llorente as neither Tottenham or Liverpool could guarantee Champions League football every season.

This rumour could run all the way through the transfer window as the striker will not make up his mind until after the European Championships, where he may have to play a huge part for Spain as David Villa is struggling in his race for full fitness.

Llorente has scored 28 goals already this season and has provided 6 assists for his teammates.

See also; Europa League Final 2012  

Europa League Final 2012

On the 9th of May in Bucharest, Athletic Bilbao will meet Atletico Madrid in an all-Spanish Europa League final.

Athletic Bilbao have been praised for their attractive football that they play. They are a team that never seems to stop attacking from kick-off to the final whistle.

Bilbao topped a group containing Slovan Bratislava, Red Bull Salzburg and big spending Paris Saint-Germain. In the round of 32 they scraped by Lokomotiv Moscow on away goals. Following this they met Manchester United, a game which many expected them to lose. However they outplayed United at Old Trafford and won 3-2. They later bet them in the San Mamés 2-1, progressing 5-3 on aggregate. Bielsa’s men knocked out German side Schalke to progress to the semi-finals where they contested in a highly entertaining fixture with Sporting Lisbon. It took a late Fernando Llorente goal to put them through.

Having not won a trophy since 1984, this season could prove to be one of Bilbao’s most successful yet being in both the Europa League and Copa Del Rey final.  The Basque side have only made it to one European Final previously, the Uefa Cup final in 1977 where they lost on away goals to Juventus. They will be hoping for better luck this time around.

Llorente celebrates his 88th minute winner against Sporting Lisbon.

2010 winners Atletico Madrid will be hoping to add their second Europa League to their trophy cabinet come the 9th of May.

Los Rojiblancos only lost once in a group that included Udinese, Celtic and French side Rennes. They comfortably bet Lazio 4-1 on aggregate  in the Round of 32. Besiktas proved to be no match for Atletico as they were brushed aside, losing 6-1 over the two legs. Like Bilbao, Atletico Madrid met a German team in the quarter-finals, Hannover 96. Madrid won 2-1 in each leg, which progressed them to the semi’s where they met fellow Spanish side Valencia. This was to be Atletico’s toughest task of the Europa League campaign. However, a Falcao brace helped them on their way to a 4-2 win at the Vicente Calderón. In the second leg, Valencia attacked from the start but it proved to be a frustrating night as they couldn’t get the goal they so badly needed. Then on the hour mark, Atletico Madrid forward Adrián shot down any hope of a Valencia comeback as he put the ball past Diego Alves. On the 80th minute Atletico captain Tiago was sent off and will now miss the final.

Atletico Madrid players celebrate goal against Valencia.

Atletico striker Radamel Falcao will be hoping to get a goal or two in the final to move him up the Europa League scoring charts. If he can score two he will be the second highest goalscorer in Europa League history on 30 goals only after two seasons. He could also lift his second Europa League in two seasons following his success with Porto last year.