Football Italiano’s 500@five – European watch

The UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League are set to resume within a week’s time. We take a look at what the opponents of the Italian sides have been up to over the last few months.

The Champions League features an Italy vs. England scenario once again, and the Italians will be hoping that this year things turn out to be more positive than the last. In the previous edition Inter, Juventus and Roma were all dumped out of the Europe’s premier competition by English opposition at the same stage. This time round Milan are set to tackle Manchester United, Inter will take on Chelsea and Fiorentina will face Bayern Munich.

United, who will take on the Rossoneri on Tuesday, have been in scintillating form of late. The Red Devils have scored 15 goals in their last four outings with the talismanic Wayne Rooney contributing seven of them. Rooney has become United’s lead man this season ever since Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Real Madrid. Sir Alex Ferguson has given him a more advanced role and Rooney has repaid his manager’s faith and currently leads the goal scoring charts in England. However, Rooney’s performances have also made the side dependent on him greatly and if Wayne fails to perform or is shut down, United struggle to get the results. Leonardo will have obviously picked this up and will hope that Alessandro Nesta is fit for the encounter otherwise Milan will have a hard time keeping a lid on Rooney at the San Siro.

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Fiorentina are struggling to pick up points in Serie A and will be travelling to Munich to take on Bayern at the most inopportune of times. The Bavarian giants have won 10 games in a row in all competitions. They have scored 25 times in their previous seven games which includes the 4-1 thrashing of Juventus. Louis van Gaal’s side are level on points at the top of the Bundesliga despite having a torrid start to their campaign. The Ri-Ro partnership of Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben is back again after the Frenchman’s lengthy injury lay-off and is definitely one of the most fearsome in all of Europe, although the former is struggling to break into the team after his return. Bayern have a wealth of options upfront in Mario Gómez, Miroslav Klose and Ivica Olić so do not be surprised to see the Germans knock a couple of goals past la Viola, who have picked up only one point in their last four games. There is a real danger that the Florence side’s season is slipping off the tracks and Cesare Prandelli needs to come up with an urgent action plan to halt the downfall.

In the Europa League, Juventus and Roma will both be in action this coming week. The out-of-synch Bianconeri travel to Amsterdam to take on Ajax, while the Giallorossi visit Athens to face Panathinaikos. Ajax and Juve have an old history and this encounter should provide its fair share of excitement. Ajax is third in the Dutch Eredivisie and is unbeaten in the league since mid-December. They are the highest scoring team in the league and in their 11 home games have scored 38 times. The captain, Uruguayan – Luis Suárez, has scored 22 goals this season in 22 appearances and his name is being linked with a move to a European heavyweight in the coming summer. Panathinaikos currently lead the Greek Championship by six points and performed admirably in the group stages of the Europa League as well. Ex-Liverpool man, Djibril Cissé, leads their front line and has scored 17 times for the Greeks. Brazilian Gilberto Silva and captain Giorgos Karagounis are some of the other experienced names in the squad. Last year, Pana managed to beat Inter at home in the Champions League and that proves they are a side not to be taken lightly.

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