European Analysis – A Roman downfall, a Milanese nightmare and a Crazy Inter

The third round of the Champions League ended on Wednesday night and European champions Inter were the only Italian side to register a positive result. Roma conceived to lose at home to Swiss side FC Basel while Milan were outplayed and outclassed by Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid.
Roma are probably the team in most difficulty after another horrid display saw them slip to the bottom of Group E with three points from the first round of games. The Giallorossi seemed like the team of old playing some good football but lacking the penetrative edge to execute a crucial blow. For the umpteenth time this season, the team went behind thanks to a defensive lapse as Nicolas Burdisso was caught out of position for Alexander Frei’s opener. The ‘Totti-Borriello’ partnership was hailed as stratospheric by Coach Claudio Ranieri and the two combined very well for Roma’s equalizer. However, with the other players around them delivering sub-par performances at best, Roma lost their grip on the game and ended up losing 1-3.
In the absence of Juan the defence looks very shaky and the summer long pursuit of Burdisso seems to have been in vain as the Argentine is delivering decidedly average performances. Roma are desperately missing Jeremy Menez’s pace as the team put out on Tuesday night lacked a final gear. There are calls in Rome to axe Ranieri and the name of Leonardo has popped up frequently in discussions, but this may prove a costly mistake for the capital club. The Brazilian is a talented manager but the Roma squad he would inherit is rife with inadequacies, and an old head in Ranieri is better suited to tackle the situation than a new, young manager. The result however, puts the Romans in a tough place as their only remaining home game is against table toppers Bayern Munich and with two difficult away trips, we may see the Giallorossi exit the competiton in the group stages itself.
Milan also suffered defeat on Tuesday night at the hands of their arch nemesis, Jose Mourinho. The Rossoneri lost 2-0 to Los Merengues; by no means an embarrassing scoreline – seeing as the game was played in Madrid – but nonetheless a lesson in tactics for coach Massimiliano Allegri. Like Roma, there were similar issues which continued to be a bother for Milan as the defence, devoid of Thiago Silva, looked extremely porous. Alessandro Nesta is no longer the player he was a few years ago and many teams are beginning to take notice of this fact. Daniele Bonera drafted in to replace Silva has always lacked the quality to cut it at a big team and it was his mistake that led to Madrid’s second goal.
Then there were the ‘old’ midfield issues – Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso are players who would strike fear in opposition minds, but now a midfield trio of these three is a liability for the Rossoneri. There was no movement in the middle of the park for the Milanese side, up against the likes of Angel Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil, what was required were players able to deny the opposition the space. But instead, the Milan midfield was second to almost every ball played and allowed plenty of time and space to Real’s forwards. Allegri will do well to learn his lessons from this game when he welcomes Mourinho back to the San Siro in two weeks’ time. The Portuguese exposed all their weaknesses this week and with Ajax looking strong, it will be crucial that Milan get a strong result against the Los Blancos in the return fixture.
Finally, there was Inter who had a terribly strange game against Tottenham on Wednesday. The team went 3-0 up in fifteen minutes and had a player advantage and were totally dominant in the first half, which saw them score four goals to the good. The second half conversely saw the Nerazzurri almost bored to have to step out for the remainder of the game and a sensational Gareth Bale hat-trick restored respectability to the scoreline for Tottenham. The one major conclusion to be reached from that game was that Inter without Esteban Cambiasso are all over the place in defence. ‘El Cuchu’ has been Inter’s midfield marshal for years and it is his tactical vision and understanding that plays a pivotal role in shielding the Nerazzurri backline. As Inter lost their concentration, it was Cambiasso’s absence that made the difference with too many players committed forward.
On the whole though, it was a good showing from Benitez’s men and the third goal scored after some 34 passes was almost Barcelonaesque in its execution. Samuel Eto’o is in sensational form and Milito’s absence from the team is a blessing in disguise for the Spanish tactician who will have to devise a system to accommodate both these players in the team, when he returns. Inter have now half a foot in the next round as they lead their group with seven points and a positive result against Tottenham in two weeks’ time, could seal their passage. Dejan Stankovic may miss out on that match as he suffered a calf strain that is likely to keep him out for ten days or more. ‘Pazza Inter’ would go home satisfied as this is the best start Inter have made in Europe for a long while and as defending champions, they will want to continue this way.

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