Tag Archives: Serie A

Villarreal vs Juventus – Champions League Last 16 predictions

The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.

In an intriguing tie we’ll see the Europa League holders Villarreal take on Serie A giants Juventus, who have just bolstered their squad with a £66 million striker in Dusan Vlahovic during January.

Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.



Route to the last 16

La Liga outfit Villarreal were able to secure their path into the knockout stages after pipping Atalanta to the runners-up spot in their group.

Unai Emery’s side suffered defeats home and away to Manchester United, but went undefeated beyond that and had their place confirmed prior to the final group game.

Juventus on the other hand were able to clinch top spot thanks to a 1-0 win over Malmo in their final group game, while Chelsea were held by Zenit.

Max Allegri’s team earned five wins from their six games, but it was a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Thomas Tuchel’s Blues that will give Emery’s side confidence heading into the final game.

Team news

Villarreal will be without their top scorer Gerard Moreno for the game, while Francis Coquelin and Ruben Pena will also miss the game. January signing Giovanni Lo Celso is a doubt, while Etienne Capoue is also expected to be racing against time to be available.

Arnaut Danjuma has been one of the stand out players for the Yellow Submarine so far this season, and his performances have seen him ear-marked as the true danger man for Juventus to deal with.

Juventus welcome Vlahovic to Europe’s elite competition for the first time in his career after his big money move from Fiorentina, and he should start.

Paulo Dybala is expected to miss the game, while Federico Chiesa is out for the rest of the season with an ACL tear. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci will miss the game, which will likely see Danilo partner Matthijs De Ligt in the heart of defence.

Breakdown and Prediction

This is a game that will be decided by who plays less badly over the two legs, because neither team are particularly good right now.

Villarreal will be sturdy off the ball with their setup there to contain Juventus and pick them off on the counter with Danjuma’s pace.

Juventus are trying to become a ball dominant side who can sustain attacks and apply constant pressure to their opposition, but they’re in shocking form and really struggling this season.

Neither team have much chance of doing big things in this tournament this season, but in a game likely to be close you’d have to make the assumption that individual quality will make a difference.

Ultimately, the goals of Vlahovic will likely prove vital in this tie and the home tie back in Turin for the second leg should see Juventus qualify – just.

Villarreal 1-1 Juventus
Juventus 2-1 Villarreal
(Juventus to qualify 3-2 on aggregate)

Inter Milan vs Liverpool – Champions League Last 16 predictions

The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.

In one of the biggest ties of the round we’ll see Italian champions Inter Milan in their first knockout round since the 2011/12 season, and they’ll take on Premier League heavyweights Liverpool.

Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.



Route to the last 16

It was two very different group stages for these two sides, with Simone Inzaghi’s men battling it out with Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk and Sheriff until the final day.

It wasn’t until defeat to Madrid in that final group game that they were unable to win the group, but with three wins from the other five games they managed to secure the runners-up spot.

They scored only eight goals during the groups, and conceded five, so there is plenty of room for improvement there. Domestically, they currently a point behind rivals AC Milan with a game in hand.

For Liverpool, it was quite literally the perfect campaign.

A group of death containing AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and FC Porto was expected to cause them problems but Jurgen Klopp’s side made it six wins from six to become the first English side to earn a 100% record in the competition’s history.

They scored a wonderful 17 goals in six games, conceding six to come into the knockout stages as one team that everyone wanted to avoid.

Team news

Inter will be missing their key midfielder Nicolo Barella for the first leg after he was sent off in the final group game against Real Madrid.

Arturo Vidal should replace him, while Ivan Perisic is likely to continue at left-wing-back with January signing Robert Gosens still injured.

Nicolo Barella FC Internazionale Milano leaves the pitch after receiving a red card during the UEFA Champions League group D match between Real...

Liverpool are essentially at full strength and Klopp has got the strongest squad of his entire tenure at Anfield to choose from currently.

Diogo Jota will likely return to the team after missing the weekend win over Burnley, while Luis Diaz will probably start on the bench since both Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are back from AFCON.

Breakdown and Prediction

Inzaghi will stick with his 3-5-2 system that he loves, with Lautaro Martinez likely partnered up front by Edin Dzeko.

The midfield strength with Brozovic and Calhanoglu gives lots of balance and with Vidal going box-to-box they can go toe-to-toe with the Liverpool midfield.

In attack though, Liverpool are likely to cause far problems to Inter than vice-versa. They have great depth and goals from all three attackers are possible, but Inter have adapted their system in Europe under Inzaghi and are difficult to beat.

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool with Sadio Mane of Liverpool during a training session at AXA Training Centre on February 11, 2022 in Kirkby, England.

Without any real pace in behind though, Liverpool should be able to deal with their best attacking threats and while a clean sheet won’t be easy I would be surprised if Inter grabbed a goal at Anfield.

Because of that and the added depth they have in their squad, I expect Liverpool to progress through this tie but don’t be surprised if they make hard work of it.

Inter Milan 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool 2-0 Inter Milan
(Liverpool to qualify 3-1 on aggregate)

Antonio Conte leaves Inter Milan as exodus begins

After two seasons, a Serie A title and a Europa Legue final, Antonio Conte has left Inter Milan.

The Italian coach joined the club in 2019 and reached the Europa League final, losing 3-2 to Sevilla, while finishing one point behind Juventus in the race for the Serie A title.

He followed that performance up this season with a remarkable league run, winning the title for the first time since 2010 by finishing 12 points ahead of city rivals AC Milan.

But after the COVID-19 pandemic caused owners Suning International some really tough times financially, it was reported that Inter needed to make up to €70m worth of sales this summer to survive.

That meant that not only would Conte have no money to spend during this transfer window to bolster his squad, but that his team would get weakened considerably by the sale of a key player or two.

That was enough to convince Conte to walk away from the club, citing a lack of ambition and the two parties agreed on a mutual agreement that would allow him to leave immediately.

Sky Italia’s best reporter Gianluca Di Marzio was the first to break the news and revealed that the club have agreed to pay the former Chelsea coach €7m to leave immediately. He will be free to take another coaching role too, with no compensation required.

Inter will now look to hire quickly to replace him, with Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi and former Milan and Juventus manager Max Allegri among the favourites for the job.

As for Conte, he won’t be short on admirers either. Zinedine Zidane looks likely to leave Real Madrid this summer and Conte has revealed in the past that he was close to signing with the Bernabeu club, only for them to go in a different direction in the end.

After winning the title this season, his stock will be at an all-time high and Madrid will look for a quick replacement too. While it’s expected that Allegri will be their first choice too, if he opts to go for Inter then Conte would be a great alternative.

There is always the possibility of a return to the Premier League with Tottenham too. Spurs sacked Jose Mourinho last season, who has since gone on to join Roma for next season.

Conte enjoyed his time in England, winning the Premier League in his first season before winning the FA Cup with Chelsea before leaving after just two years once again. During that title winning campaign, the Blues had no European football to contend with and while Spurs will be in the UEFA Europa Conference League it should be easy enough to navigate with youth players if the club want to push for a real title challenge.

He would need assurances of cash to spend and that the club would be able to hold on to it’s stars, like Harry Kane, but if Daniel Levy can promise that then he will have a great chance at being able to bring in one of the top coaches in the world.

Conte is able now to move on from a job where he has done really well, without damaging his reputation by going out on a low. So whatever comes next will come with high expectations too, but he seems to thrive in that anyway.

What will Juventus do with Andrea Pirlo and Cristiano Ronaldo this summer?

It’s been a long, tough season for Juventus and manager Andrea Pirlo this season but it’s finally all over for them.

It’s been pretty poor from them throughout the season, but a 4-1 win on the final day of the season meant that they just about secured qualification for Europe’s elite club competition when Napoli failed to beat Verona.

But that win came despite Pirlo dropping Cristiano Ronaldo from the starting lineup, despite him being completely fit for the game. That in itself offered up a lot of questions in the media about the player’s future, but also the manager’s after a very underwhelming season.

Despite just about qualifying for the Champions League, it’s impossible to think that Pirlo hasn’t underachieved. After winning the league for the previous nine seasons, finishing fourth and heading into the final day with their fate not even in their own hands is simply not good enough.

He was able to win silverware though, winning the Coppa Italia thanks to a 2-0 win over Atalanta in the final, but overall you’d be hard pressed to find a Juventus fan content with how the season has gone. Especially if you consider the fact that Maurizio Sarri was sacked despite winning the league due to his style.

Pirlo’s side play uninspiring, dull football and really failed to get the best out of a large section of the squad. He should be praised for the form of Federico Chiesa, Juan Cuadrado, Matthijs De Ligt and even Ronaldo himself, who was Serie A’s top scorer this season, but the decision to often play a rigid 4-4-2 system is certainly questionable.

Add to that the fact the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro have really struggled under him, Juventus could look to move him on a year early in his contract and try to bring in someone better to oversee the rebuild they need.

The biggest question of the rebuild will undoubtedly circle around the future of the legendary Portuguese attacker. At 36 years old, it’s fair to say Ronaldo isn’t quite the player he once was. Despite that though, he has been Juventus’ top scorer every year since joining the club and won the Serie A golden boot this season with 29 league goals in 33 appearances and 36 goals in 44 games in all competitions.

Despite his phenomenal numbers, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that having Ronaldo in your team takes away from the numbers that your other attacking players can put up. For example, Karim Benzema has scored 30, 27 and 30 goals in the three seasons since Ronaldo left Real Madrid. In the nine seasons they spent together, he only bettered 27 once and only bettered 30 once.

Dybala managed to score 26 times in the season before Ronaldo joined Turin, but since his arrival he’s registered just 32 in the three seasons combined.

Ronaldo is currently on around €60m per-season and is entering the final year of his contract, but the chances of another club stepping in to try and sign him this summer is so, so low. His wages are insane and it’s unlikely that a club so desperate for the European Super League because of their financial situation is likely to be able to just pay him off.

It’s hard to see Pirlo and Ronaldo both being at the club at the start of next season and if I had to bet money on one of them leaving it would be Pirlo. But something tells me that Juventus may see next year as another write off campaign.

Focus on securing a better season, then the following season start over without Pirlo and without the huge burden of Ronaldo in the team for the new manager to work with and build from.

It’s certainly a situation to keep an eye on, and one that no matter what way it goes won’t totally be a surprise.

Lille crowned champions of France as Juventus scrape Champions League qualification

Paris Saint-Germain are not the champions of France anymore, after Lille were crowned the winners of Ligue 1 thanks to their win over Angers on the final day.

The French title race went down to the wire, with PSG needing to better Lille’s result on Sunday to be able to leapfrog them at the final hurdle and win the title for a fourth straight season.

It was never on the cards on the day though, as Lille took an early lead and never looked back. Record signing Jonathan David was put through on goal by Renato Sanches and slotted past the goalkeeper, before Burak Yilmaz smashed a penalty home on the stroke of half-time to all but seal the title in the first half.

PSG had an eventful first half of their own, with Neymar missing a penalty after mind games from the Brest goalkeeper before Angel Di Maria scored directly from a corner. Kylian Mbappe added another in the second half but that wasn’t enough though as Lille stayed firm throughout the second half of their game to be crowned champions for the first time since the 2010/11 season.

It’s an incredible achievement from Christophe Galtier’s side, who have blended youth and experience brilliantly and maintained a very exciting style of play to be able to go toe-to-toe with the billionaires in the capital.

Mauricio Pochettino’s job when appointed in January was to ensure success. While he has won two domestic cups since joining, the club were eliminated at the semi-final stage of the Champions League by Manchester City and now were pipped to the title too, in a league many deem to be a one-horse race.

Considering he only signed an 18-month contract on arrival, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Qatari owners decide to cut ties now and bring someone else in this summer with a more long-term view at things.

Elsewhere on the continent in Italy, Juventus were able to scrape qualification into the Champions League on the final day after Napoli failed to beat Verona and they beat Bologna 4-1.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-BOLOGNA-JUVENTUS : News Photo
Ronaldo watches on as an unused substitute

Manager Andrea Pirlo made the unthinkable decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo from the team for the must-win game, but the choice worked brilliantly as the Bianconeri raced into a 3-0 lead in the first-half. Ronaldo didn’t even come on as Juventus waited patiently, but as Napoli failed to break down Verona and were held to a 1-1 draw their fate was confirmed.

They’ll be joined in the competition by AC Milan, who beat Atalanta 2-0 thanks to two Franck Kessie penalties to finish 3rd and qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2014.

Milan had led the table for a short period during the winter, but eventually faded away and as injuries and poor form picked up their season threatened to spiral out of control. Stefano Pioli was able to manage the situation well though and saw the team win four of their last five games to secure a wonderful season for themselves.

While Ronaldo’s future will almost certainly now be called into question, Juventus will be delighted to have been able to qualify after a very rocky season. They can now focus on rebuilding the squad, with or without Pirlo and Ronaldo, to try and reclaim their place as Italy’s best.

As for PSG, they also have some big decisions to make this summer. Despite the hundreds of millions spent revamping the squad over the years, they are still in need of some big upgrades at full-back and in midfield. Add to that the fact that Mbappe is entering the final year of his contract and there is a lot going on that needs to be addressed this summer.

Remembering Greatness: Alessandro Nesta

Behind every great winning team is a world class defence. Within that world class defence, there is usually one stand-out defender in the team holding it all together.

In every team Alessandro Nesta was in, he made up a large chunk of that solidity with his brilliance. Yet despite winning everything there was to win he’s often overlooked when we discuss the absolute best defenders that we’ve ever seen.

I’ve made it my personal mission to remind everyone just how good Nesta was once upon a time and why he is my personal favourite central defender of all-time.

Nesta’s career started at Lazio, where he played through the youth system as a striker and then a midfielder before eventually settling down as a centre back. His place in ‘The Eagles’ academy came after an offer from Roma was rejected by his father, a lifelong Lazio fan.

He made his debut in the back end of the 1993/94 season as a substitute, but by the time 1997 rolled around Sven-Goran Eriksson had appointed the 21-year-old as the captain of the side. After two full seasons, Lazio were now ready to push for trophies and it was him that was entrusted to lead a pack of players including Roberto Mancini, Pierluigi Casiraghi, Pavel Nedved and Alen Boksic.

That season Lazio were in the race for the treble but they lost their last six games in Serie A to finish fourth, ten points behind eventual winners Juventus. They also made it to the UEFA Cup final but were beaten 3-0 by Inter Milan, although Nesta earned the first trophy of his career by scoring the winning goal in the Coppa Italia final.

He’d go on to be crowned the Young Player of the Year in 1998 as an honour to his performances and his time at Lazio would only bring more success. Despite a serious knee injury picked up during the 1998 World Cup meaning he missed half the season, he returned to captain the side through a title race that would see them miss out on the crown by a single point on the final day.

They did however earn the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup with a win over Mallorca and then go on to beat treble winners Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup at the start of the following season, thanks to a Marcelo Salas strike.

That campaign would be the best of Nesta’s Lazio career, as he would lead the team to victory in the 2000 Coppa Italia final over Inter as well as becoming Serie A champions for the first time in his illustrious career thanks to a final day victory over Reggina. Lazio would win the next edition of the Italian Supercoppa as Nesta won the final trophy of six during his spell in Rome.

Financial troubles and stellar performances would see him picked up by AC Milan in 2002 for €31million. He’d join a defence alongside Paulo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta to form one of the most feared back lines in Europe and earned instant success.

The Rossoneri finished third in Serie A but were successful in winning the double, trumping AS Roma 6-3 on aggregate in the Coppa Italia before winning the UEFA Champions League on penalties against Juventus, with Nesta scoring the fourth penalty. He was named the defender of the year and named in the UEFA team of the year, highlighting his performances.

The following year his performances alongside the addition of Cafu to the side helped the team to be crowned champions of Italy. Nesta made 38 appearances across all competitions as he was named in the UEFA team of the year for a third consecutive season ahead of Euro 2004, where Italy were eliminated at the group stages following some disappointing displays in front of goal.

Dutch centre half Jaap Stam then joined and former a formidable partnership, as Milan won the Italian Supercoppa before making two Champions League finals in three years between 2005 and 2007.

Unfortunately for Nesta he will be remembered for being part of the Milan side who blew a 3-0 lead to Liverpool in Istanbul, but he was also instrumental at the heart of the defence as they avenged that defeat two years later in Athens.

That final would come a year after Nesta won the World Cup with Italy in Germany. Nesta was first-choice alongside Fabio Cannavaro but picked up a knee injury in the group stages that would rule him out of the remainder of the tournament. As Italy went on to win the tournament, his partner Cannavaro would end up winning the Ballon d’Or following Juventus’ title that went with it, showing just how much extra work he needed to put in without Nesta.

Injuries began to affect the tail end of his career, but that didn’t stop him having one more top class season in 2010 and 2011. Milan won the league once again and then won the Supercoppa at the start of the following season as Nesta continued to be a regular in the side.

Alongside Thiago Silva the club conceded just 24 goals in 38 Serie A games on their way to the title, with Nesta postponing his planned retirement by a season and being named in the team of the year. His added title took his tally up to 326 games for the club with ten trophies won in ten seasons.

Sport, Football, FIFA World Cup Final, Berlin, 9th July 2006, Italy 1 v France 1, , Italy won 5-3 on Penalties, Italy's Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro...

He ended his career playing in the MLS with Canadian outfit Montreal Impact, winning the Canadian title in 2013.

His career is one of the best, with trophies at all his clubs but also a legacy. He is one of the most artistic defenders the game has seen, with brilliant tackling and raw power to match his gazelle like speed and agility. He was also brilliant in the air at 6ft 2 but unlike the defenders of today he didn’t care for being a threat in the opposition box, it was all about stopping goals going in against him.

Nesta led the way for defenders from a young age and for my money is the best Italian centre-back of his generation, despite the accolades some others may have. Remember his greatness next time there’s a debate happening.

How Europe’s leagues can be settled on the final day

A long and crazy season is finally coming to an end, but not before a wild final day across Europe’s top leagues.

While the Bundesliga in Germany is settled, with Bayern Munich finishing as champions for a ninth consecutive season and the top four places already cemented, Spain’s La Liga, France’s Ligue 1 and Italy’s Serie A are all far from complete as we enter the final game of the campaign.

With champions and Champions League places to be settled in them all, lets take a look at all the potential outcomes of the three leagues so that you’re all caught up ahead of the games.


LIGUE 1

The French title race has been one of the most riveting all season long, with Paris Saint-Germain looking to become champions for a fourth season in a row.

Their quest for success has been matched all the way though by LOSC Lille, who have led the way with the points tally since the 20th game of the season. PSG have tried to close the gap but failed to win key games, but Lille have continued winning games to go into the final day of the season as favourites to win the title.

As it stands it’s a three-horse race, although AS Monaco will need a lot of things to go in their favour to become champions.

If Lille win their final game of the season against Angers they will be champions, no matter what else happens in the division.

Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG must better Lille’s result to become champions again. Should they draw with Brest and Lille lose, they will both end the season on 80 points but PSG will win the title on goal difference with the league breaking any ties via GD and then goals scored – not head to head.

If Monaco are to pull off the impossible, they must win their final game of the season against Lens and hope both PSG and Lille lose. On top of that, they will need a six goal swing in their favour for the goal difference. It’s unlikely, but still possible and would represent the biggest shock of all the potential possibilities.


SERIE A

While the champions of Italy are already crowned with Inter Milan ending the dominance of Juventus thanks to the brilliance of Antonio Conte and Romelu Lukaku in particular, the rest of the division is a free-for-all.

The four places directly below them are all still up for grabs, with the potential of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus team finishing up in the Europa League places very real.

The final day of the season will see Atalanta take on AC Milan, where a win for Milan will not only confirm their place in the Champions League for next season but also move them above Atalanta in the league table. That would also allow Napoli to move above them with a win in their final game against Verona. Should both Milan and Napoli win their games, it won’t matter what Juventus do on the final day against Bologna as they will be unable to be caught.

Juventus must win their game and also hope one of AC Milan or Napoli do not in order to make the top four and ensure their record of appearing every year since 2012 continues. Should Andrea Pirlo’s side fail to win, then both Napoli and Milan will qualify regardless of their own results.


LA LIGA

The simplest of all, but the most tense end to the season will be the Spanish league title race between Madrid’s two biggest clubs Atletico and Real.

The two sides, along with FC Barcelona, have competed all throughout the season to be crowned champions, with Diego Simeone’s side at one point holding a massive lead with games in hand too. However a bad turn in form earlier in the season has seen them be dragged back into the tussle and it will now go down to the final day.

Barcelona were in the race up until this past weekend, when a 2-1 home defeat to Celta Vigo meant they now were unable to match the winning points tally but the tightness of the battle between the top two was on show in the matches involving the two Madrid sides.

Atletico were able to wrap the title up during the last game, if they had won their game against Osasuna and Real Madrid had failed to win. However as Real Madrid took the lead through defender Nacho, Atleti fell behind. They managed to turn the result around however, with goals from substitute Renan Lodi and a late winner from summer signing Luis Suarez meaning the title is still in their hands.

This weekend Simeone’s men will travel to Valladolid knowing that a win will secure them a first title since 2013. Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid will however host Villarreal, who need a win to secure European football themselves next season but also have a Europa League final in the midweek following to navigate.

Should Real Madrid win and Atletico Madrid’s fail to, they will win the title in back-to-back seasons for the first time since their 2006-08 campaigns. Los Blancos’ huge win in December in the Madrid derby means they will win the league should both teams finish level on points, with Spain opting for a head-to-head tie-breaker rather than goal difference.

Remembering Greatness: Lilian Thuram

When you think back to the legendary French national team back in the late nineties and early 00’s, one thing they were built off was a solid defence.

Along with the elegance of Zinedine Zidane in midfield and the explosive technique of Christophe Dugarry and Youri Djorkaeff in attack, in addition to the youthful energy and skill of Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet, they were able to field a defence that was complete with everything you’d ask for.

One of the stand-out performers of that golden generation was right-back and absolute unit Lilian Thuram.

Standing at 6ft tall, Thuram was a physical defender who used those gifts to great effect constantly. He had fantastic pace, excellent strength, a brilliant football brain and was a leader throughout his career, winning a trophy at every club he played for as well as at international level.

He started off with AS Monaco in Ligue 1 as a teenager and after a couple of seasons as a back-up squad player, he finally broke into the team as a regular in the right-back position. In that first season with Monaco he won the Coupe de Ligue, although he wasn’t selected to play in that game by a certain Arsene Wenger.

He would go on to make 193 appearances for the French giants, while making his international debut in 1994. He also competed in Euro 1996, starting four out of five of France’s fixtures as they went out in the semi-finals on penalties after conceding just two goals throughout the tournament.

Those performances would earn him a high-profile move to Parma in Serie A, as he became part of their legendary team filled with talent such as Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta, Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo.

PARMA TEAM SHOT, NESTOR SENSINI, FABIO MUSSI, ALAIN BOGHOSSIAN, LILIAM THURAM, GIANLUIGI BUFFON, JUAN SEBASTIAN VERON, FAUSTINO ASPRILLA, ANTONIO...

He made over 200 appearances for the club and won three trophies during his time in the famous yellow and blue shirt, all of which came in 1999. An excellent campaign saw Parma do the double, winning the Coppa Italia on away goals after drawing 3-3 with Fiorentina over two legs, before lifting the UEFA Cup thanks to a 3-0 win over Marseille in Moscow.

Thuram became a stalwart of the team and was a leader of the changing room as they went on to win the Supercoppa Italiana with a 2-1 win over league champions AC Milan, with Thuram captaining the team as one of the three centre-backs.

While he never lifted the Serie A title with Parma, many regard that period of his career as the best despite the trophies that would follow at club level. Not only did he do brilliantly with the Italian side, but he was magnificent as France dominated the international scene too.

Continuing in his right-back role with the national team, France won the 1998 World Cup with Thuram starting six out of seven games and the team conceding just once with him in the team. That goal came in the semi-final against Croatia, where Thuram played Davor Suker onside to allow them to take the lead. He made amends for losing that perfect record however by scoring twice to send Les Bleus through to the final – his only two international goals.

At Euro 2000 he was just as influential and important, starting five out of six games and completing every minute of each of those games. In fact, the only minutes he missed during the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 were when he was rested in the third group game of both tournaments with France already qualified, such was his importance.

The following season with Parma would go on to be his last as he led the team to a fourth place league finish and a Coppa Italia final, where they were beaten by Fiorentina 2-1 on aggregate.

His phenomenal reputation and ability earned him a move to Serie A heavyweights Juventus, who took him and Buffon at the same time for a deal that would be worth around €41million today.

The move saw him final claim some of the many titles his ability deserved, as he racked up four Scudetto’s (although two were later revoked due to the match-fixing scandal) and two Italian Supercoppa’s in five years at the club.

Once again playing as a right-back under Marcelo Lippi and then Fabio Capello, Thuram showed the world that while he was known as a no-nonsense central defender that had shone as one of the best around in the toughest defensive era, he could go both ways.

He continued to use his pace and intelligence to overlap and cause problems for opposition defenders in a team that dominated the bulk of possession and he was able to adapt brilliantly.

French players Christophe Dugarry, Lilian Thuram, and Robert Pires celebrate with their trophy after winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup 3-0 against...

Thuram was an ever-present in the team that made it all the way to the 2003 UEFA Champions League final, where they were beaten by Serie A rivals AC Milan on penalties at Old Trafford.

After the match-fixing scandal that rocked Italian football, Thuram was coming to the end of his career at 34 years old. That didn’t stop the top clubs wanting him however, as European champions Barcelona paid €5m to bring him to Spain.

There he would act largely as back up to Carles Puyol, Rafael Marquez and Gabriel Milito at centre-back with his pace now not what it once was. It was a transitional period for Los Cules and while they didn’t win La Liga during his time at the club, he was part of the club that won the Super Cup in 2006 – playing one half of the second leg in a 4-0 aggregate win.

Thuram would retire at the end of his two year spell as the third player to hit 100 international caps and most capped French player every with 142 caps to his name, with a record of having won everywhere he went.

Without a doubt one of the best pure defenders the modern game has ever seen, but also one of the most underrated attacking full-back to play the game too. One of France’s greatest ever exports, remember Lilian Thuram’s greatness next time you’re talking about all-time great defenders.

Arsenal dumped out of Europe as Manchester United get to the final

Arsenal were dumped out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by former manager Unai Emery’s Villarreal side to set up a final in Gdansk against Manchester United.

The Gunners came into the game knowing they had to win after losing the first leg 2-1 and Mikel Arteta set the team up with a five-at-the-back formation that was troubled before the game even started, with Granit Xhaka getting injured in the warm up.

Kieran Tierney came in but Arsenal struggled throughout, having just two shots on target in the 90 minutes as they were held to a 0-0 draw and dumped out of the tournament.

Villarreal remain unbeaten throughout the tournament so far and Emery has now made it to a record five Europa League finals, after winning three-in-a-row with Sevilla before losing in the final to Chelsea as Arsenal manager in 2019.

They will now face Manchester United in the final who’s first leg 6-2 win was enough to see them through as they lost 3-2 on the night in Rome and saw off a little scare.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was able to get to his first final as manager of the club and he named a strong team on the night despite the club being set to play four games in seven days prior to kick off. Edinson Cavani gave the Reds the lead to settle any nerves, but Roma scored two goals in very quick succession to give themselves hope.

Cavani scored once again to wrap up progression, although Roma scored once more to earn themselves a win when youngster Nicola Zalewski’s strike came off Alex Telles and went through David De Gea’s legs.

Despite that, United showed they were the better team throughout the two legs and can finally put the ridiculous semi-final curse under Solskjaer behind them.

Arsenal must now really consider their future, as they face having no European football whatsoever next season for the first time in 25 years. The club are currently sat in ninth place and unless they can make up a five point swing over Liverpool, who have played a game less, in four games then they will be without.

Arteta was a gamble at the time of his appointment and it is one that has failed. Despite winning the FA Cup in his first season, he has accumulated just 49 points in 34 games and this season has failed to make it to a final of any cup competition.

The Gunners look totally incapable of being a genuine threat against teams who have any sort of clue what they’re doing and are always open to an error or three at the back to allow teams to punish them.

Fans have now turned on him and with the atmosphere at the club already volatile with fans against the owners, it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to ride this storm out once again and make it to next season.

Manchester United on the other hand will be favourites going into the final in Poland, with the better players and team than Villarreal but Emery’s experience in winning this competition will prove vital without a doubt.

United do have weaknesses in the way they play and Emery will undoubtedly look to expose those issues to help the Spanish side win the first European trophy in their history.

In a fun coincidence the final will be played on May 26th, the same date that Solskjaer famously scored the winning goal in the UEFA Champions League final back in 1999 as the Red Devils won the treble.

Jose Mourinho announced as next Roma manager

It turns out Jose Mourinho wasn’t joking when he said he didn’t need an extended break from football after being sacked as Tottenham manager, because he’s got a new job already.

The Portuguese coach has been officially announced as the new manager of AS Roma, taking over from the departing Paulo Fonseca this summer to return to Serie A for the first time since leading Inter Milan to a treble 11 years ago.

Mourinho was sacked by Tottenham on April 19th, just six days before the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City. The club went on to lose the final 1-0, but Mourinho’s departure before the game meant that Spurs were the first side he’s managed since prior to being Porto manager that he failed to win a trophy with.

With no obvious job roles readily available at the time of his sacking many people including myself speculated that he could (or should) move into international management once the Euro 2020 tournament concludes.

However Roma have made a swift decision to not renew the contract of Paulo Fonseca this summer and instead bring in a prove winner in Italy in Mourinho. The club had reportedly been eyeing up former Chelsea and Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri for the role, but when Mourinho became available the club’s sporting director Tiago Pinto made him a priority.

It should be an interesting season for Mourinho in Italy, with Roma likely to miss out on Champions League and Europa League football next season. They are currently sitting in seventh place in the league and were thumped in the first-leg of their Europa League semi-final clash against Manchester United – losing 6-2 at Old Trafford despite having a 2-1 lead at half-time.

That could buy Mourinho some time in the project, using the first season to just focus on getting back into the Champions League while figuring out his squad needs and which players he can and can’t count on.

What it also does though, is show just how far his star has fallen since he was regarded as one of the top names in the world.

Mourinho has won just four trophies since the 2014/15 season, or five if you’re him and include the Community Shield in that conversation. He’s won nothing since the 2016/17 season with Manchester United and since that title win in 2015 with Chelsea, he has finished sixth, second and seventh while also being sacked three times.

He was sacked at Chelsea after having the club in 16th place, just one point above relegation the year after winning the title, before getting sacked at Manchester United in sixth place and Spurs in seventh place.

Even before the Spurs job many questioned whether he was the right man for the job anymore but when he stated that he had adapted his philosophies, people were willing to give him another chance.

What we saw was the same old, confrontational and argumentative Mourinho and thus it was no shock to see him struggle and eventually be dismissed.

In Serie A he returns to a league where he had great success and is still adored by the vast majority of the media after leaving on his own, good terms back in 2010 to take over at Real Madrid.

He has another chance to return to the top bracket of European football managers now, but it really is sink or swim at this point in his career now.