Friday February 16 2018
Europa League all about motivation

Milan get off on the right foot in the Round of 32, but it was a mixed bag for the rest of their Italian counterparts, writes Matthew Santangelo.

I’ve written about Milan ad nauseam this year and have highlighted their sporadic play throughout, but in Europe they have been performing on par to expectations - unlike Atalanta, who punched above their weight by topping their ‘Group of Death’ with Lyon and Everton.

The road to the Europa League final got progressively harder when Atalanta were drawn with Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 32. But by now, we hope you had learned not to sleep when the Goddess is ready to run.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side has been one of Italian football’s feel-good stories over the past two seasons, finishing fourth in 2016-17 and continuing to hang tough on all three fronts in 2018, despite being raided of their top talent last summer.

Statistically, 2016-17 was the Bergamo outfit’s most successful season in club history, so topping that was always going to be a challenge. However, La Dea are currently four points off Sampdoria for the final European slot in Italy, alive in the Coppa Italia semi-finals against Juventus and still believe they can advance past Dortmund despite a 3-2 deficit.

Over 5,000 faithful supporters traveled to a difficult venue in the Westfalenstadion and were rewarded with an encouraging display by their beloved club. I can assure you ‘General Papu’ will have his men ready to keep the dream alive in the second leg, and if you believe in miracles, Atalanta hoisting a Europa League trophy after a string of unlucky draws would be a remarkable sight.

Meanwhile, Milan - the lone victors from the first leg of the knockout stage round – continued to ride the hot form of Patrick Cutrone last night. Once again, the 20-year-old left his major mark out on the pitch for the Milanese giants yet again, scoring a goal and earning a penalty that was later dispatched by Ricardo Rodriguez.

The Como-born hitman has grown to become Gennaro Gattuso’s first-choice option, and that will likely be the case until the end of the season – at least in important fixtures. But, more importantly than the Italian’s exploits, Milan extended their unbeaten run to nine games in all competition and are in pole position to progress to the Round of 16 after a 3-0 win.

Based on the line-up chosen, Gattuso is really prioritising this tournament, as it could be the back door the Rossoneri need to get into the Champions League for next year. Perhaps with some ‘grinta’ from the gaffer, steady form and a bit of luck on the draw, Milan could have their road paved to the final. However, others may not be throwing all of their eggs into one basket, and instead, keeping their eyes on the prize in the form of meeting domestic objectives.

When it comes to Serie A, Lazio and Napoli have plenty to play for, which is why exiting at this stage of the tournament could be just what the doctor ordered to ensure both get what they want.

The Aquile have been nothing short of magnificent this entire campaign, with attacking duo Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto leading one of Italy’s most potent offensive sides. Yet, their current three-match losing skid in Serie A has them now out of the top four, leading many to believe that maybe Simone Inzaghi could benefit from bowing out in the end if it meant reaching the Coppa Italia final and top four finish was the trade-off.

They will return home to Rome for the second leg trailing Steaua Bucharest 1-0 on aggregate, so certainly the Capital club likes the odds of advancing. The same cannot be said for the first-place Partenopei, who faltered at the San Paolo against RB Leipzig 3-1.

The goal was laid out from the moment each player arrived for pre-season camp in the summer; to dethrone Juventus and win the Scudetto. When Napoli were in the group stage of the Champions League before eventually failing to escape, many observed it as a blessing in Maurizio Sarri’s quest for a title. His men wouldn’t have to deal with the taxing travel schedule, long fixture list, and risk of further setbacks due to injuries that could otherwise threaten their hopes of beating the Old Lady to the podium.

With Juventus breathing down their necks and the 3-1 hole Napoli now find themselves in, Sarri likely won’t be taking many risks for the away leg. It’s inexplicable how he could act surprised that Napoli and their fans weren’t taking this seriously after weeks of moaning that the Europa League was a waste of time, a drain on resources and an unwanted clog in their fixture list.

For each Italian representative remaining in the tournament, anything can happen. Last night proved who is really seizing the opportunity in front of them, and who is not. However, the optimism is there in Italy being well represented in the next round, ready to make a deep run.

Have your say...
Europa Cup doesn't work. Teams are putting out weakened sides in order to concentrate on the league.UEFA needs to change things around.

It also looked really bad for Serie A around the world when people saw our top team Napoli beaten at home 3-1 by a smaller German team.Most don't know Napoli put out a weak team and don't care for this cup.
on the 20th February, 2018 at 9:57am
Milan can go far in the EL. I remember when the UC was like the Italian cup as there was always 2 or 3 sides in the 1/2 finals. I can go along with Napoli cause they r so good to watch n it would b great if they could win the Scudetto but if they r 2 progress as a club then they need 2 buy someone in the summer n have a decent B team who can adapt 2 Sarri's style so that they don't have to put all their eggs in 1 basket. Atalanta n Lazio r doing great. Shame they can't keep their best players!
on the 19th February, 2018 at 12:46pm
@ calcio cup yes and who died and made you the person responsible for letting the world know how many cl trophies it takes to make your team successful lololol seriously where do you ppl come from ? Lololol hahahaha wow i think thats all my brain can take for the day
on the 18th February, 2018 at 11:05pm
It's a funny old game!

Things have changed over the time and they will change again.....

For instance if UEFA brings about a "salary ceiling", as rumoured, the wind of change might be nearer than anybody thinks......

on the 17th February, 2018 at 9:21pm
Embarrassing league. No attitudes, defensive and slow football and old run down and empty stadiums. They know and don't care. Once I loved the league. Now I turn my back on them. Their financial muscles will decrease completely within a few years.
Only Juve have a bit of brain. They build a new stadium. But against Tottenham they looked like old tired men with no ideas. In a few years Italy will have two teams participating in CL. The rest will give a damn about EL. Just like Napoli did tonight
on the 17th February, 2018 at 6:32pm
on the great scheme of things it doesn't really matter but not player from serie a made the europa team of the week which is interesting considering the likes of monreal and chambers made it. I suppose milan where the only side to get a decent result. Still optimistic that there will be a improved result from the italian teams in the seconds legs.
on the 17th February, 2018 at 1:22pm
All carpe diem is trying to say is that the teams you ppl support dont win very much either and are nowhere near as consistent at winning anything at all. Juventus is not the 5th most successful team in the world by chance. Either way its best not to dwell on past victories tooo much.Accept where your team stands in the football world and move on.
on the 17th February, 2018 at 12:46am
Need we go on and on and on?

I'll leave it at this one (FOR NOW, depending on trolls..........)

" Italian Giants Juventus Set To Part Company With Promising Nigerian Forward

22 Jan 2018 - Italian Serie A powerhouse Juventus are set to part company with promising Nigerian striker King Udoh before the close of the winter transfer market, as per reports. "
on the 16th February, 2018 at 11:46pm

It goes on and on and on and on and on............

" AFC Leopards player training with Italian giants Juventus |


AFC Leopards youth midfielder Richard Odada might land a life-changing opportunity in Italy should he sign for Juventus youth team. "
on the 16th February, 2018 at 11:42pm


" JUVENTUS director Beppe Marotta has confirmed the Italian giants are hoping to sign Liverpool midfielder Emre Can. The German midfielder's contract is up in the summer, with the Serie A champions long-term admirers of the versatile star. "
on the 16th February, 2018 at 11:38pm

" Turin giants Juventus are famous for their black and white stiped shirts and prestigious and trophy-laded history. They are serial winners of Serie A - the Italian top flight. Juventus are in fact the most successful club in the country. "
on the 16th February, 2018 at 11:36pm
There is one Italian Giant and there are a couple of fallen Italian Giants. Fallen Giants sometimes climb back up and become Giants again but it seem Italian fallen Giants are not the recovering types.Italian fallen giants are the type that live in the past and believe that past matters more than present. 6 straight domestic titles and 2 CL finals in 3 years today mean nothing because their oldest fans still remember them winning something 12 years ago and that means they're still relevant today
on the 16th February, 2018 at 8:33pm
@dami - and over the course of the rest of this century Juventus is going to eventually win a couple more European cups, while at the same time Milan will qualify for EL a couple more times. I really wonder would 6 straight domestic titles and 2 CL finals in last 3 years really mean nothing if it was Milan who ACCOMPLISHED it. I guess we'll never know because those times are not coming back. Crisis is temporary but when it lasts for 12 years it's called a new reality, get used to it.
on the 16th February, 2018 at 8:22pm

If, and it's a big IF, totally NOT certain, if Juventus sign Emre Can it probably means that Khedira will move on to the MLS.

As far as other possible Juventus targets go, in the midfield area, obviously it's all up in the air, but it could be true that the bianconeri are thinking about signing Pellegrini and Praet.
The main reason being that both footballers have a fixed price of 25 millions each.
on the 16th February, 2018 at 8:08pm

English newspapers ALWAYS refer to Juventus as "Italian giants Juventus"
on the 16th February, 2018 at 7:56pm


Juventus have dominated for 6 years in Serie A

Juventus have done much better than any British or English side in the Champions League in the last 3 seasons, and of course of any other Italian side as well.

on the 16th February, 2018 at 7:40pm
Ok let's take a moment here and be really objective, put your Juve-hating to the side for a sec. For the past 6/7 years Juve has at least been trying in CL. The other Italian teams? Nope. Yeah Juve lost finals, but can your other teams deal with the departures of key players every year and still compete like Juve did? I bet if it was your team that had won the league 6 years straight and the domestic cup 3 years straight you wouldn't be pushing that aside as if it meant nothing.
on the 16th February, 2018 at 6:35pm
@Marco: Juve is NOT a European giant! To be a TRUE European giant, you have to have won the European Cup 5 times, ONLY Madrid,Milan,Bayen,Barca&Liverpool are true European giants,and also Inter&Man Utd.are bigger than Juve....Keep living in denial,but NOBODY outside of Juve values your domestic titles(especially this last run of 6 straight)< UNLESS you can win in Europe to go with it! ALL truly GIANT clubs win in Europe at some point when they dominate domestically,and Juve DON'T!
on the 16th February, 2018 at 5:11pm
A Carpe Diem, shame on you for still thinking its about Juve/AC and the rest when it comes to Europe. Lets celebrate Italian victories on this stage and hope we can get better results going forward, in the interest of recapturing the global stage again. We can have our petty comparisons this weekend when the league resumes...Forza Italia
Forza AC for flying the flag...
on the 16th February, 2018 at 4:31pm
Very disappointing performance by Italian teams in Europe. For the league to attract the right kind of sponsorship, money and top profile players its important for all teams to perform in European competitions. I am a Milanisti at heart, and I would definitely celebrate any Italian victory for the sake of bringing Serie a back in the spotlight. As it seems our real competition is not Juve/AC/Inter/Roma/Napoli anymore, but for these Italian teams to start winning on the European stage.
on the 16th February, 2018 at 4:27pm
keep going on about Juve being the best Italian team and that they have won more European matches, fact is Milan have 5 more European Cups and history remembers the WINNERS, who in 50 years will care that Juve reached 2 finals in 3 years. Juve can keep winning Serie A because who outside of Italy really cares about that, historically when it comes to Europe only Milan is in the same sentence as Madrid not Juve. Juve have 0 European Cups this century, Milan have 2.
on the 16th February, 2018 at 4:21pm
It puzzles me that there are so many critics of Juve... yes they made it to the finals a couple times in the last few years and choked.

But since 2010, Juve has shown to be the ONLY Italian team that seemed to be interested in competing in Europe. Pretty much ALL other Italian teams have shown in the past few years that their sole ambition was Serie A, as they have been nothing but pathetic jokes in Europe (Atalanta is at least trying)
on the 16th February, 2018 at 3:39pm
Calcio Cup - Juve are a European giant, like it or not! Yes they have not won the champions league since 1996 but they have had many fantastic victories over world class teams in europe. They have been to 2 finals in the last 3 years no other team apart from Real Madrid can beat that stat. Coming 2nd out of 32 teams that enter the champions league is nothing to be ashamed of! Add to that the amount of UEFA coefficient points Juve have gained for Serie A then everyone should be thankful.
on the 16th February, 2018 at 3:34pm
@ CAPE DIEM: Do you think throw out random stats can mask Juve's FAILURE to win a European trophy for 22 years!?!? And if you want a FACT: Milan, Inter, Parma & Lazio have all WON in Europe more recently than Juve!!! hahaha....
on the 16th February, 2018 at 2:43pm
Juventus are by far and unquestionably the VERY BEST Italian Team, and have been so for the last 6 years.

Juventus have achieved much, much more than any British or English side in the Champions League in the last 3 years.


What more do you want?
Nothing much to complain about, is there?
on the 16th February, 2018 at 2:24pm
i feel for atalanta dortmund are a quality team it is a tough draw especially considering the limits of their squad.

as for milan honestly i thought ludogrets would put up more a fight i suppose there is still a second leg

Napoli are focused on the league besides it not like they have a let options fatigue is starting to set in

Lazio are going through a rough patch at the moment they still have a decent chance of going through

Roma i agree with ferban on this one unpredictable
on the 16th February, 2018 at 2:17pm
Or maybe instead of the FIFA list you prefer this one:

World Football / Soccer Clubs Ranking
Updated after matches played on 12 February 2018

Rank Club / Country Points 1-yr change
Spain 2065 2

Bayern München
Germany 2031 0

Manchester City
England 2003 14

Italy 1998 0

Real Madrid
Spain 1991 4

Paris Saint Germain
France 1966 2
on the 16th February, 2018 at 2:03pm
Well, well, well................
Look what we've got here!

1 Real Madrid CF 29.543 39.600 33.043 37.786 37.028 176.999
2 FC Bayern München 36.586 29.943 31.171 32.286 24.914 154.899
3 FC Barcelona 27.543 28.600 38.043 30.786 27.028 151.999
4 Club Atlético de Madrid 13.543 37.600 26.043 32.786 33.028 142.999
5 Juventus 25.883 25.833 32.800 20.300 35.850 140.666
6 Paris Saint-Germain FC 27.350 26.700 23.183 26.217 22.883 126.333
7 BV Borussia Dortmund 33.586 24.943 21.171 20.286 24.914 124.899
8 Sevilla FC 3.543 26.600 32.043 27.786 23.028 112.999
9 SL Benfica 28.350 30.983 9.817 24.100 18.617 111.866
10 Chelsea FC 30.286 28.357 23.714 20.850 2.986 106.192
on the 16th February, 2018 at 1:59pm
As USUAL, it is left to Milan to get the name of Italian football! RESPECT to Atalanta for a brilliant display(they should have had a penalty).....Napoli & Lazio were a DISGRACE!!!!! As much as I want Napoli to win the Scudetto for the brilliant football, it was embarrassing to see that display,PLUS, Juve's PATHETIC output in the CL, it looks bad that the 2 top teams are failures in Europe! I don't understand Lazio either,with a chance to show their worth,GLAD they loss 3 SerieA games in a row!
on the 16th February, 2018 at 1:35pm
@viktor and Milan Fan - do you even know what year it is? hate to break it to you but in reality we're much closer to 2020. than we are to 2007. i know you guys are stuck but time actually moves on for the rest of us. there's little sustenance to be found in nostlagia and denial and what little there is is bitter. Juventus is a European loser because they repeatedly reach only the finals every few years but Milan is still a European great bacuse they very occasionally reach European football?
on the 16th February, 2018 at 1:25pm

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