After promotion to the Serie A in the summer of 2014, Maurizio Sarri’s side were considered one of the favourites for relegation straight back into the second division. However, through
a fighting spirit and pure grit intelligent football and a particularly strong attacking game they were able to comfortably retain their top-flight status quite comfortably.
The odds were further against their favour after a disastrous off-season in which they lost multiple key players and worst of all, the manager who was central to their success in the first place. Whilst Sarri would go on to instil a stark turnaround in playing style at Napoli, Empoli found their replacement in Serie C1’s with Cremonese’s Marco Giampaolo.
Despite a slow start to the season and a winless period spanning almost 3 months, Giampaolo’s side are currently 12th with one remaining game. Looking past a league position, the coach has been able to develop the system his predecessor left which has given Empoli one of the most interesting and entertaining identities in Italy.
One of the most important principles of football is moving the ball forward. As an invasion sport, the eventual aim of any play is to reach the opposition’s end of the pitch and score. With the rise of ever more advanced pressing and counterpressing schemes, it is increasingly difficult to do this.
Massimiliano Allegri’s appointment in 2014 was expected to signal the downfall of Juventus. Allegri, however, has silenced the critics quickly.
Two of the major contenders for the Champions League slots in the Bundesliga met at Borussia-Park on Saturday afternoon. Leverkusen secured 3rd spot with their 6 game winning streak but were without the excellent Julian Brandt who had scored in 5 of those games, Kampl and Bellarabi two other big factors in their excellent form. These absences presented Gladbach an opportunity knowing that a win would put them in 4th position with one matchday to go. What followed was a highly intriguing encounter where both sides showed why they are amongst the upper echelon of the Bundesliga.
Large improvements on last week and one of the most dominant 1st halves of Bayern under Pep were not enough to overcome Simeone’s Atlético. After edging the first leg, the side from the Spanish capital held on against an excellent Bayern side who were on top for large periods.
Fresh from their last gasp Europa League triumph over Liverpool Villarreal travelled to the Mestalla to take on rivals Valencia on Sunday evening. Whilst victory would assure Marcelino’s men a top 4 position and a Champions league qualification round entry, their rivals, meanwhile, have endured a bitter season having even flirted with relegation at times.
Following a turbulent win over Dortmund in the previous round, Liverpool came into the next round as favourites for the competition. But the underrated Villarreal had no intention of rolling over, and provided a typically strong defensive performance to take a narrow 1-0 win after a last-minute winner from Adrian Lopez.
Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid are arguably the form team in the world currently. After overcoming Barcelona over two legs, they were faced with a worse-performing Bayern Munich in the semi-finals. Hosting the first leg, Cholo’s men made yet another great defensive performance to keep Bayern goalless after Saul Niguez opened the scoring early with an excellent solo run and finish.
Fiorentina hosted table topping Juventus in a tense derby game on Sunday evening. While Juventus were on the verge of winning the Scudetto once again, their bitter rivals were fighting to secure a top 4 position to avoid Europa League qualifiers ahead of next season.
Will this young hotshot from Stade Rennais be the Cristiano Ronaldo of the 2020s? Does this comparison even do justice to his abilities? Spielverlagerung’s scouting report seeks answers.