Diego Milito’s Injury: The Search for the Perfect Quick-Fix

The recent injury to Diego Milito in the Europa League has proven to be a troubling one. Not to mention the fact that it has put one of Inter’s top performers on the side-line’s for an extended period, it has highlighted the clubs lack of options when it comes to a spear head for the team.

For many Inter fans this current predicament is symptomatic of a lack of foresight by the Club’s hierarchy. Yet again Marco Branca has been responsible for a lack of vision in the transfer market, as the signing of the 36 year old Tommaso Rocchi indicates. The former Lazio veteran was brought in as cover for Milito, but it seems quite evident that he was only going to be used sporadically or as a closer in games to help keep Milito fresh for the following week and not as a regular starter.

There has also been criticism in some quarters due to the club letting go of younger talent such as Longo, who is on loan at Espanyol, and Livaja, who has gone to Atalanta as part of a co-ownership deal.

However, although the absence of those two players offers an easy point of attack for critics of the regime at Inter, it doesn’t really tell the full story. As undoubtedly talented as those two young players are, it is doubtful that they would be able to deliver the consistency and level of performance that are required of a team chasing the champions league spaces.

Circumstances, however, have not been kind to Inter and they now find themselves without an out and out goal threat up front. Although Cassano has been an extremely positive signing, he is much more of a creative player and is unlikely to contribute more than 10 goals between now and the end of the season.

The same may also be said of Palacio. While these two players are very good they are both better served creating opportunities for a striker such as Milito and not leading the line themselves.

With few options available Inter have been searching for an out of contract player who can come in and help the team out on a short term basis. Unfortunately, this presents an incredibly narrow field with which to choose from. John Carew recently had a fitness test with the club, but it was decided it would take too long for the former West Ham player to regain fitness and therefore it seemed pointless taking him on.

All this means that Inter’s chances of qualifying for the Champions league look pretty desperate. Their main rivals, AC Milan and Napoli, have strikers that many an Inter fan would probably kill for and with Inter’s form over the Christmas period already looking shaky at best; it’s hard to see how Stramaccioni is going to turn things around.


Written by Oliver Beatson

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Zenit - Liverpool aftermath: Not much St. Petersburg love for Suarez

A week may have already passed since last week’s Europa League drama at Anfield, but there has been no let up in the controversy that has followed the game. Whether it be Liverpool’s dramatic comeback or the antics of Luis Suarez, it was a game that so far, has been impossible to forget. While Zenit can look forward to a round of 16 tie against Swiss side Basel, Liverpool are left with bitter regrets after coming so close to pulling off a remarkable comeback against the Russian champions.

But it hasn’t just been the football that has proven to be the talking point. After the final whistle, many Zenit fans have called for Liverpool star Suarez to be banned from football until he can learn to play the game properly, after Suarez was spotted on camera stamping on the back of defender Tomas Hubocan, and earlier, deliberately hacking down Nicolas Lombaerts.  Ultimately Zenit had the last laugh with progressing, but you can’t ignore the fact Liverpool came so close to cheating their way into the last 16 ahead of the Russians.

When the draw for the last 32 was made in December last year, it was straight away singled out as one of the ties to watch out for, two games that would capture the attention of not just Europe, but the whole of the footballing world. And not just traditional football fans decided to take a look, in my case even my whole family took to the TV to see how a club steeped in such tradition as Liverpool would cope against a Zenit side which has gained European pedigree only in the last few years.

And both games didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Not just the second leg at Anfield had all the thrills and spills of a typical old fashioned cup tie, the game in Saint Petersburg was no less enthralling. End to end football was the order of the day, and the controversial Suarez himself could of helped himself to a Russian hat trick. But instead it was Zenit’s Hulk who stole the show, unleashing a blockbuster of a shot to open the scoring on 69 minutes, and that was followed quickly by veteran Sergey Semak capitalising on some stilted defending to slot home.

That goal eventually ended up to probably be the killer goal in the tie, but it could have been so different. Liverpool created no less chances than their hosts, albeit mostly down to Zenit’s slack defending, but how the English outfit didn’t get at least one away goal still puzzles many two weeks after the game.

While the first game lacked in controversy, that was all about to be made up for in the second leg in Liverpool. Before the game Liverpool’s living legend and captain Steven Gerrard had publicly made a call for the Merseyside faithful to be even louder than usual given the daunting task facing the hosts, and they certainly paid attention to him. Anfield may always be a cauldron of noise even on the smallest of occasions, this was just something else. The incessant deafening shouts of the Kop were heard from the first minute all the way to the last, and almost just on voices alone did Liverpool turn over their Russian counterparts.

And yet for Zenit the evening started so well. Hulk capitalised on a loose back pass to finish calmly past goalkeeper Pepe Reina, and with that, the tie looked done and dusted. It proved to be anything but. Luis Suarez smashed home a free kick just 10 minutes later, and moments before half time Joe Allen squeezed the ball in to bring the hosts within two of progressing.

Just 15 minutes into the second half it was 3-1, a stunning Suarez free kick bring Liverpool within an inch of adding Zenit to their long list of comeback victims. But it wasn’t to be with Zenit holding out for the remaining half an hour to just about go through to the last 16, and a collective sigh of relief was felt all the way from Saint Petersburg. The real talking though had only just started.

Liverpool’s number 7 and Kop hero Luiz Suarez has always been in the thick of it. From that unforgettable deliberate handball against Ghana in the World Cup quarter final of 2010 to racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, he has never shied away from being in the spotlight.

And the game at Anfield encapsulated his career in just 90 minutes. In scoring two fantastic free kicks, in particular his second goal in the second half, he showed the whole world, just how much talent he has. On his day he is one of the most dangerous forwards on the globe and for 180 minutes he tormented the Zenit defence throughout, with the Russians in the end only just surviving.

To go with his remarkable and special talent though, he possesses the unwanted quality, of letting himself down horribly.

While on Russian soil he may not have done anything that appeared untoward, the game in England proved to be the complete opposite. His pure hunger and desire to win was obvious and that is only to be admired, but he was up to his old tricks again. Tripping up any Zenit player when he could, he then went a step further. In the lead up to Liverpool’s second goal, he hacked down the Belgian Lombaerts, an incident which forced Lombaerts off the pitch. And then came the most talked about moment, right at the end of the game.

With frustration rife amongst the Liverpool players, Suarez took it upon himself to rake his right foot on Tomas Hubocan’s back, an incident which was caught right on camera for the whole world to see. Somehow the officials missed the incident, and even more surprisingly, club officials at Zenit decided to not even follow up the incident with UEFA.

The infamous stamping incident.

That hasn’t stopped Zenit fans venting their anger though, and it’s up for debate, whether such a player holds the right to be on the football field. No one doubts the talent that the Uruguayan star possesses, it’s on show just about every week for everyone to see. But such ‘tactics’ that he uses to try and win games illegally, shouldn’t be allowed to continue any more. UEFA themselves cannot follow up this most recent incident however as the referee for the night Björn Kuipers didn’t file the incident in his match report, but surely it can’t be too long before someone somewhere clamps down on such dirty tactics.

In any case, the only ones smiling come the final whistle were Zenit. The Russians survived a severe storm at Anfield and their reward is what should be a slightly less traumatic tie against Basel, and Zenit’s tag as one of the favourites for the Europa League trophy has surely only been enhanced after somehow surviving in one the loudest stadiums in Europe.

Even more pleasing however, is to see the back of Suarez for at least another European season.


Written by Shaun Nicolaides

Follow Shaun on Twitter @zenitfan93

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Tottenham: Plenty more behind Spurs’ top 4 challenge than just Bale

Arsenal will head into the pivotal north London derby this Sunday preoccupied with forming a plan to stop Gareth Bale, the currently unstoppable winger who is steering Spurs towards the promised land of a top four finish. Bale’s relentless form of 8 goals in his last 5 games, including a superb match-winning double against West Ham on Monday night, has seen comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo such is his ability for winning matches alone.

Bale’s irrepressible talent will inevitably be high on the priority list for a defence as porous as Arsenal’s, but it would be wholly naive of the Gunners to restrict their attentions solely on the flying Welsh winger when they meet again with the side they thrashed 5-2 back in November.

That defeat was the last in a run of three that saw Spurs slide down to eighth in the table and credit must go to Andre Villas-Boas for arresting the patchy form to the extent they are now sitting third having lost just once since that autumn lunchtime at the Emirates. Just one loss in 15 is the impressive sequence of form they will put on the line against their bitter rivals on Sunday in a battle that will have huge resonance in the race for Champions League qualification.

Bale has a total of 15 goals in that time, yet it can’t be overlooked the strong platform on which he has majestically performed. Villas-Boas boasts arguably the strongest centre-midfield in the league with Dembele and Sandro, and with the Brazilian now injured, England international Scott Parker is a more than able deputy. Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker set the right flank ablaze with lightning pace and creative talent, they have a combined tally of 9 assists so far, while Jermain Defoe and Clint Dempsey share some of the goal-scoring burden with Bale in attack, they have shared 15 in total.

A scroll further down the Spurs squad will reveal Emmanuel Adebayor, with his strength and intelligent movement in attack, Gylfi Sigurdsson, the gifted technician who scored his first goal for the club on Monday, and 22 year old midfielder Lewis Holtby, with his incisive passing, impressive balance and dangerous presence between the lines bought from Schalke in January for a bargain fee of £2 million. Holtby was another successful Villas-Boas transfer purchase after Dembele and, going further back in the Spurs squad to the defence, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and defender Jan Vertonghen.

Signed for less than £10 million, Lloris has been superb at the base of a defence that has shipped just 11 goals in the past 15 games. The French goalkeeper has shown his shot-stopping ability on numerous occasions this season and his big physical presence has provided a calming influence to a back-line that is showing the resilience that hasn’t necessarily, especially with the eccentricities of Heurelho Gomes, been there in recent years.

Part of that new found solidity is owing to the leadership of captain Michael Dawson, but also other summer signing Jan Vertonghen who has joined many of his fellow Belgians in slotting seamlessly into Premier League life.

Having played in all but four of Spurs’ 27 league matches so far, he has shown his versatility in playing both left-back and centre-back, where he has cut a sound defender who is perfectly able to bring the ball out confidently from the back, as an 86% pass-completion rate and his solitary goal, a marauding run and smart finish against Manchester United at Old Trafford, has shown.

A strong tackle and interception rate, of 2.8 and 2.9 per game respectively, has indicated his defensive quality that has, at times, rendered his 6ft 3 inch frame immovable. It is his strong focus and concentration levels, far beyond his 25 years of age, that have boosted a defence that has included the inexperienced Steven Caulker and Kyle Naughton across the season.

Vertonghen and Lloris, both in their debut year in England, have made a decisive contribution to forming a sturdy back-line which allows a strong attacking-line up to thrive, and promises to avoid a drastic collapse similar to the one that saw Spurs hit a spell of rocky form at this stage last year that eventually led to them missing out on the Champions League.

It will be Bale, quite righteously considering the awesome talent that has been in full effect in recent weeks, that will dominate the build-up to Sunday’s monumental clash, but Arsene Wenger will do well to realise there is far more to this Spurs team than their winger.

His opposite number meanwhile, should be reminded of his record in the transfer market so far that has yielded some impressive results, most notably Lloris and Vertonghen who, even though they will not receive the credit, have formed the back-bone to Spurs’ top four charge.


Written by Adam Gray

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