Pitchside Europe

  • Lazio fans stay away in protest at club president

    Lazio fans carried out their threat to boycott the home Serie A match against Atalanta in protest at club president Claudio Lotito on Sunday, leaving their team to play in a near-deserted Stadio Olimpico.

    Coach Edoardo Reja called for the supporters to settle their differences with Lotito after his team slumped to a 1-0 defeat in the mid-table battle.

    "It's a real shame to see the Olimpico deserted," Reja told reporters. "We were in with a chance of achieving something significant but it's difficult to play in these conditions.

    "We didn't play as well as we've done recently," he added. "This

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  • Loyal Di Natale eyes place among Serie A legends

    Antonio Di Natale moved into select company after scoring his 185th Serie A goal on Saturday, the winning strike in Udinese's 1-0 victory over AC Milan.

    The 36-year-old's 62nd-minute tap-in lifted Di Natale past Gabriel Batistuta into 10th spot in the all-time Serie A scorers' chart.

    Now the former Italy international is eyeing a place further up the table, with former Lazio forward Giuseppe Signori and World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero only three goals away on 188.

    "I'll try to reach Del Piero's total. (Francesco) Totti's number will be unreachable but the 188 goals scored by Del Piero

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  • Unbelievably bad Barcelona give Man City glimmer of hope

    In a football universe governed by logic, a team could not go into a second leg against Barcelona, trailing 2-0, possessed with anything over than a profound sense of fatalism, but if Manchester City were desperately casting around for a glimmer of hope, the Catalans’ utterly bemusing 1-0 defeat to Real Valladolid on Saturday may just have provided it.

    A 1-0 reversal against a team in the relegation zone was shocking enough, but the staggering degree of Barcelona’s ineptitude put this defeat firmly in the realms of the bizarro world. It is hard to think of a worse performance in recent memory

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  • Suffering an existential crisis – particularly one which is being played out in the full glare of public life - cannot be a pleasant experience, but it could be that Mesut Ozil's rejuvenating performance against Everton, during which he contributed a goal and assist to help Arsenal into the semi-final of the FA Cup, will mark the end of his recent travails.

    The German’s dip in form - likely accentuated by the relentless pace and intensity of top-flight football in England, and the fact he's near untouchable at Arsenal - did not only subject Ozil to scrutiny, it came to undermine his very

    Read More »from Ozil’s existential crisis over following Everton masterclass
  • 1. End that sequence

    21st May 2005: that was the date when Arsenal planted their hands on some silverware. Perhaps used too regularly as a stick to beat Wenger and his team with, there is no getting away from the fact that they should have been picking up medals and titles in the intervening years.

    A large number of extremely high quality player have been at the club in the time between that FA Cup win and now, but have left without (and in some cases because of) being able to add to their silverware hauls.

    It will be nine years without a trophy if the Gunners fail to succeed in the FA Cup,

    Read More »from Three reasons why Arsenal should take the FA Cup seriously
  • Even the all-conquering domestic campaigns of Bayern Munich, 20 points clear at the top of the German Bundesliga, and Juventus, 11 points ahead of the pack in Italy's Serie A, pale in comparison.

    The seven-times Austrian champions have won their last 13 competitive matches and, in five league games since the winter break, have scored 25 goals.

    Although sceptics may claim that their record is partly a reflection of the lack of quality in Austrian football, Salzburg have been equally impressive in Europe.

    A run of 10 successive wins in the Europa League culminated in a 6-1 aggregate victory

    Read More »from Why Red Bull Salzburg are one of Europe’s most dominant teams
  • European Match of the Weekend: Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich

    Bayern Munich stand on the verge of a stunning achievement this weekend as they prepare to take on Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.

    Victory for Pep Guardiola's side would be the club's 16th in a row - and that would set a new record of consecutive wins in the German top flight.

    As you might expect, Bayern already have the old record: they set it back in 2005, when they won 15 matches split across the summer break.

    They equalled that record last time out with their 5-1 win over Schalke, so have already surpassed their own record in a sense by virtue of having won 15 matches on the trot in a single

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  • The experts at Squawka.com look at whether Chelsea's Brazilian star Oscar should be in the side ahead of his compatriot Willian.

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    Oscar is going through a slightly torrid phase at the moment. The Brazilian has not scored a Premier League goal since January 1, while he has won just 12 tackles since the turn of the year too.

    The Brazilian's form is wavering at just the wrong time as the finishing line comes into sight for the title-chasing Blues, for whom Eden Hazard is stealing all the plaudits at the moment.

    When Juan Mata departed Chelsea in a £37.5 million switch to Manchester United,

    Read More »from Oscar killed off Mata’s Chelsea career – but should Blues drop him?
  • Another week, another club in crisis talks

    A month ago Hamburg’s board kept us in suspense with an eight-hour meeting, after which they decided that former Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk could stay in charge.

    Not that it did him much good. The following weekend Hamburg lost 4-2 to bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig and Van Marwijk was shown the door.

    This week, Thomas Schneider’s (above, right) future was up for discussion, following a dramatic late turnaround in Frankfurt that left Stuttgart fretting about a first relegation since 1975. The club’s top brass eventually took the same approach as their Hamburg counterparts.

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  • Timid Costa fails to shine in Spain debut

    Diego Costa was drafted into the Spain attack to provide the blood and thunder he has displayed for Atletico Madrid this season while terrorising La Liga defences but the Brazil-born forward failed to sparkle in his debut against Italy.

    It was a timid display from Costa, who turned his back on the chance to play for Brazil so as to turn out for his adopted country, and he failed to leave his mark on a match decided by Pedro's strike just after the hour.

    "It was great to have my debut and that the team won. The boss put his confidence in me and just asked me to do what I have been doing for

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