Last night saw some amazing football across Europe, from the shocker in Italy to the amazing comeback in Spain and two stunning results in England. Here I will be talking briefly on the few results as it affects the mindset of each teams moving forward in the season and re-evaluating their strategies.
Juventus Treble Hopes Gone:
Atalanta beat Juventus 3-0 at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia sending the Ronaldo lead team out of the Coppa Italia. Juventus fielded a very strong side as they prioritize winning the cup in hopes for the treble this season, as they fight for the UCL with the Seria A title almost done and dusted. Atalanta striker Zapata scored a brace that sunk the old ladies of Turin. This is a big lesson for Allegri’s men going forward, as they have shown some shocking performances over the course of the season. They will need to be at their best if they are to beat Atletico Madrid in the round of 16 of the UCL.
Chelsea Drops to 5th:
Bournemouth humiliated Chelsea 4-0 at the Vitality Stadium with a poor showing for the blues once more. Jorginho and Kante, one of the best midfielders in the league is being misused by Sarri and is causing the team points. With the physicality of the league, Jorginho has failed to adapt and has been caught out on multiple occasions, Kante, the best interceptor in the league for the past three seasons has been switched to a more advanced role which he has adapted to well but his defensive ability is needed more presently as they have enough attacking players for his position.
Sarri needs to change his formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 (or he tries to be more flexible with their positioning) if he still hopes to continue with Jorginho as his starting 4. Jorginho-Kante as the holding midfielders, Hazard- Barkley/Kovacic- Odoi/Wilian as the advanced player with Higuain as the starting 9. Chelsea failed to create any real chance for their striker with Pedro and Hazard being wasteful.
At the back, Emerson showed why he deserves more minutes this season, the coach needs to put in more faith in Christensen with David Luis being too sloppy. Luis should not be a starter for Chelsea next season if they wish to go far and win titles. Luis is a quality player coming on from the bench and not a suitable starter.
Sarri will need to sign a CB he trusts, a decent number 4 to give rest to Jorginho, and more wingers with Willian and Pedro already passed their prime. Odoi and Pulisic are for the future, but a more experienced winger should be added if they hope to dominate and compete with the big boys next season. They have not been as bad as expected this season, and I still see them finishing in the top 4 and possibly winning the Europa League this season.
Liverpool Fails to Edge City Completely:
Leicester City held Liverpool to a draw at Anfield with Liverpool failing to go 7 points clear at the top after Newcastle did them a favour by beating Manchester City earlier. The league is still Liverpool’s to lose, as they have looked the stronger side all season and difficult to beat. Liverpool next three games are relatively easy to get all 9 points while their rivals face Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea in that period and are bound to drop points. If Liverpool extends their lead in that period it would give them a psychological advantage over Man City, hopefully they do not bottle it.
As February approaches, the UCL resumes with Liverpool facing Bayern Munich, here Liverpool’s squad depth will be stretched and Kloop might need to prioritize either the league or the UCL or face losing them both. His squad is not large enough but they have had enough rest with being out of two competitions already this season and only have league and UCL commitments to tend to.
Almost all neutrals will like to see Liverpool end their 30 years wait for the league title which will be a glorious spectacle to behold, but with over 10 games to play it would be a difficult ask for the team but achievable. The EPL is well opened and the final months will be very tensed.
Barcelona Moves to the Semis after their 6-1 Comeback:
Barcelona beat Sevilla 6-1 after overturning their first leg 2-0 defeat. The Camp Nou was buzzing with the result and also the performance of the team. After the first leg defeat, Barcelona coach and players were accused of not taking the Cup seriously, Valverde put out a strong first XI and completely dominated the game, thou Sevilla had spells where they could have scored more but that’s how football is, it was just Barca’s game.
Coutinho for the first time in a while showed his full quality, he did not hold on to the ball too long and played everything simple and was rewarded with two goals. But he would need to improve more if he would challenge Dembele for a starting spot once he returns this week for injury. Valverde will be hoping Coutinho continues his form in the next game against Valencia.
Jordi Alba once again recorded two assists on the night, and was very effective going forward as he has been all season. Under Valverde, Alba has arguably been the best LB in Europe ahead of Marcelo. The whole Barcelona team is oozing with confidence, both starters and some bench players.
Barcelona will be hoping for the return of Samuel Umtiti who is in recover and is expected to resume training very soon, thou a return date is not in sights. Hopefully Umtiti will be back in time to help in their UCL fight, with his deputy Lenglet already doing a fantastic job all season.