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Monday October 8 2018
Can Serie A end Europa drought?

With no Italian team winning the competition in 20 years, Vilizar Yakimov analyses the Lazio’s and Milan’s chances of ending this painfully long run this term.

Twenty years. Yes, it has been that long since an Italian club has won the Europa League or the UEFA Cup as it was known in 1998-99 when the legendary Parma team lifted the trophy. Sadly, an Italian side has even failed to qualify for the final of the competition since that remarkable 3-0 victory that the Ducali earned against Olympique Marseille at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

This indeed is a sad fact, as just an year prior Parma’s triumph Inter won the trophy in an all-Italian final, which just demonstrated Serie A’s dominance in the competition at the time. From 1989 to 1999 there were seven Italian winners, four all-Italian finals and just one season, 1995-96, which didn’t feature an Italian team in the final.

Times have changed though and recent years Serie A clubs have rarely been listed amongst the favourites for the trophy, and have regularly underperformed.

That was the case when Benfica eliminated Antonio Conte’s Juventus in 2014, when Napoli lost to Dnipro a year later and the scenario repeated itself last season as well. Maurizio Sarri’s side were eliminated by Leipzig in the Round of 32, while Lazio did the impossible to send RB Salzburg through after winning the first leg 4-2 at home.

Something similar happened with Atalanta this year as well, as Gian Piero Gasperini’s men were eliminated by FC Copenhagen in the group stage play-off, meaning that only Milan and Lazio will represent Serie A in the competition this term.

The presence of the more wealthy and rejuvenated English powerhouses Chelsea and Arsenal, as well as the five-time champions Sevilla, mean the Italian clubs will be dark horses rather than clear favourites this term. Just like every year, it is also almost certain that at least one top team will drop to the Europa League after the Champions League group stages, which makes the task for Milan and Lazio even tougher. This is exactly what happened last year, as Atletico Madrid showed they are at a completely different level, compared to the rest of the Europa League teams.

However with Gonzalo Higuain’s summer arrival Milan made a significant leap in quality, so the Rossoneri fans can be optimistic that their team can hold their own against any team in the competition. That wasn’t the case last year, when Gennaro Gattuso’s men looked shaky in almost every game they played.

Although there were some terrible decisions by the referee in the second leg against Arsenal, Milan were comfortably dispatched by 5-1. The Gunners have improved massively after Arsene Wenger’s departure, as they are currently on a nine game winning streak.

However, similarly to the il Diavolo, the English side has major issues in defence, so a potential clash between the two teams can be expected to be much closer than it was last term. The Rossoneri have kept just one clean sheet since the start of the season and this came in their 1-0 win against Dudelange.

Lazio’s defensive record matches Arsenal’s, but despite having Ciro Immobile in attack, the Biancocelesti clearly do not possess the attacking power of the Gunners. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto have both looked like shadows of themselves during the majority of Lazio’s games so far, which further highlights the limitations of Simone Inzaghi’s 3-5-2 formation. The Aquile’s lack of consistency and predictable playing style are the two major reasons for their European underperformance in the last two seasons, as this was also evident in their latest defeat on the continent, when they were trashed with 4-1 by Eintracht Frankfurt.

Lazio are very strong at home and if Inzaghi manages to add some variety in his team’s game, the Rome outfit can have their say even against the big guns in the tournament. However, at this point it seems that Lazio are a step behind Milan, Arsenal and Chelsea, the latter of whom have been transformed under Maurizio Sarri.

However, despite having a bigger squad at his disposal, the ex-Napoli coach was never known for his ability to use the full depth of his team and getting results on multiple fronts.

Overall, it can be concluded that both Milan and Lazio have the quality to enjoy a deep run in the competition, but in order for them to do anything really significant, both sides need to improve. It might be ironic, but unfortunately the defence of Italian teams has been their biggest problem in Europe in the past few seasons, so Gattuso and Inzaghi need to tighten up if they want to challenge.

Every calcio lover hopes Juventus, Napoli, Roma and Inter will continue their Champions League campaign past the group stage, which would mean that Milan and Lazio would remain the only Italian representatives in the Europa League. Unfortunately, the truth is that the chances of both the Rossoneri and the Biancocelesti ending the Italian drought in the competition look very slim right now.

Have your say...
yes
on the 13th October, 2018 at 1:07pm
Juve is the best team in the world this year. They should win the CL
on the 12th October, 2018 at 11:08pm
@Pinturicchio.. YES, my only comments going forward will be on how this website should -like Serie A- start living in the present and start looking at their limitations.. a 500-letter limit is absolutely ridiculous 2 discuss anything let alone something as complicated as almost any football topic presented here. Imagine the author being limited to 500 characters? Not good, yet we have to express an opinion on the article + replies from other readers & somehow ke.. Oops, I runin outa characters..
on the 12th October, 2018 at 7:24am
Atalantas elimination by FC Copenhagen was predictable. Most people in Italy may not be familiar with the Danish club, but they have qualified for European football 12 out the past 13 seasons, 3 time for Champions League group stages, one times qualifying for the last 16.
on the 9th October, 2018 at 8:58am
moreover Italy will win WC 2022.

you can eat your heart out Azzurri haters!
on the 9th October, 2018 at 8:01am
Juventus will win CL
Milan will win UL
Italy will win Euro Cup 2020
on the 9th October, 2018 at 7:59am
Short Answer: No, because FIGC does not help the Serie A teams that compete in Europe display their best players in EU because they sandwich their games with tough Serie A games (with the exception of Juve). Numerous times, I've seen Napoli, Roma, Inter, or Milan play in tough Serie A games on both side of European matches while many other leagues give their big teams a "softer" game. The FIGC is a corrupt entity that only cares about Juve doing well by screwing other Italian teams.
on the 9th October, 2018 at 2:58am
Short Answer: No, because FIGC does not help the Serie A teams that compete in Europe display their best players in EU because they sandwich their games with tough Serie A games (with the exception of Juve). Numerous times, I've seen Napoli, Roma, Inter, or Milan play in tough Serie A games on both side of European matches while many other leagues give their big teams a "softer" game. The FIGC is a corrupt entity that only cares about Juve doing well by screwing other Italian teams.
on the 9th October, 2018 at 2:58am
it has been at least 8 years in which a 5 to 7 place italian team was really good enough to get to a final, fiorentina 08 side was the closest. Than it was a case of italian clubs not really caring or committing to the competition now they can't compete against the foreign teams which either are run better with effective youth academies or england case have complete financial advantage over 99% of italian teams.
on the 8th October, 2018 at 9:09pm
if napoli or juve drop into the europa league than i can see them having a team capable of winning the cup but they would have to fully commit something a Italian team hasn't done for years.

As for lazio and milan unless there winter transfer market involves both teams buying at least 3 top quality players each in the position they are lacking in than it seems fairly remote than either side would stand a chance of winning the cup.
on the 8th October, 2018 at 9:03pm
UHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH .......NO.



....IF A TEAM EVER DOES WIN IT, HOPE ITS PARMA.
on the 8th October, 2018 at 8:02pm
Short Answer: NO.

Detailed Explanation: Football-Italia should increase the word-limit on their comment section to enable people to express themselves properly...
on the 8th October, 2018 at 3:52pm
Napoli in 2014-15 and Juve in 2013-14 somehow managed to go out in the semi finals despite playing far weaker sides! If it wasn't for this Seville would probably not have won as many Europa League titles..
on the 8th October, 2018 at 2:13pm
Teams like especially Lazio need a modern arena they can fill - 35.000-40.000 seats. That way the stadium will be more intimidating and they will earn more money.
on the 8th October, 2018 at 1:33pm
An Italian team can certainly win it if they take it seriously, which they haven't in years.
on the 8th October, 2018 at 1:01pm

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