Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Messi Double Brings Barcelona Closer to Wembley Final

Messi scored a magnificent double at the Bernabeu

Clasicos are always quite a lot of fun. While often there isn't too much football played due to scuffles, pre-match press room mind games, and the ridiculous amount of red cards often handed out, the football which is played is often brilliant. It was Lionel Messi again, scoring two goals the second more beautiful than the first. While Mourinho might be trying to steal the spotlight with conspiracy rants, it's impossible to take away from Messi's magical second goal which helps secure Barcelona's spot in the Champions League final.

It's best to start at the beginning with this match, as there was plenty of action. Mourinho organized his Real Madrid side to stifle the match in the best way possible. A tight midfield trio of Lassana Diarra, Xabi Alonso, and Pepe was prepared to shut anything down which Xavi and his teammates tried to create. While their job was to shut down midfield passing, they were also set up to stop Lionel Messi. Mourinho also chose to play Ronaldo as a lone striker, and while the greased up Portuguese player moaned, Adebayor replaced Ozil at halftime to give Ronaldo something to work with.

But in the first half Barcelona didn't fall in Mourinho's tactical trap. Guardiola must have predicted a defensive display from Real (I know, what a surprise), and therefore ordered his players to practice passing. The blaugrana kept the ball, passing around the Real Madrid bunker in little triangles and other geometrical patterns. 

The match wasn't all passing around. Because Real Madrid were constantly chasing the ball, there were plenty of late tackles and interventions which broke up the match and helped tension rise in the Santiago Bernabeu. At halftime a scuffle on the field almost finished in a fight, and referee Wolfgang Stark awarded a red card to Barcelona's substitute keeper Pinto. The first of the match.

In the second half Real Madrid now had the big frame of Adebayor to hit long balls to, whenever they got possession. But the match took a forseeable turn in the 61st minute when Pepe came flying in, studs up onto Dani Alves's leg. The Brazilian was spun around before he hit the ground, crumpled in pain holding his leg. The referee produced an immediate red card, leaving Real Madrid yet again with only ten men to play the match with. Mourinho's sarcastic clapping earned him an expulsion along with a free seat in the stands. From there he (not-so) secretly slipped notes with information through people to his assistant coach, who made the necessary tactical adjustments so that they wouldn't be completely humiliated.

Tricky Jose...
Fifteen minutes after Pepe saw red, Messi made his permanent mark on the match. Substitute Afellay received the ball out wide on the right wing, and a low cross to Messi was tapped in through Iker Casillas's legs. While the goal didn't exude the usual brilliance which Messi's goals do, it was still a breathtaking moment, and it makes you wonder, did he mean to nutmeg Casillas? 

About ten minutes later the Bernabeu witnessed brilliance in its purest form. Messi took the ball from Xavi, running alone at the line of four Real Madrid defenders. He runs by the midfield duo of Xabi Alonso and Lassana Diarra, skips past a defender, then another, around a third, keeps going all alone until he's right in front of Casillas and then deftly slots it into the bottom corner. Words truly cannot describe the sheer magnificence of this goal.

Messi dancing past the Real Madrid backline before scoring the second goal of the match

It was over. Not just the match, but the tie seems finished as well. While Real Madrid will put up a fight at the Camp Nou, this decisive 2-0 victory seems to have shown that for this season at least, Barcelona are the best in Spain. Thanks to Messi, Barcelona have defeated their rivals yet again, and are now much closer to the Champions League final at Wembley.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Adidas F50 Adizero Synthetic Review

After getting the chance to test the Adidas F50 Adizero, it is apparent that the German boot-maker has created the ultimate speed cleats. While Nike and Puma have done their best to keep up, Adidas managed to come out on top with their release of the Adidas F50 Adizero Prime, which are currently the lightest cleats on the market. The long history of crafting Adidas soccer shoes has culminated in the production of the Adidas F50 Adizero. The synthetic Adidas F50 Adizero which I tested are just about 20 grams heavier than the Prime version, and they're the best pair of boots I've played in yet.

Breaking Them In

I was slightly apprehensive before using the cleats for the first time. While they are extremely light, often that comes with the disadvantage of discomfort or blisters while breaking them in. But my experience was wonderful with the cleats. While the synthetic material felt different (I often wear cleats with leather uppers), it didn't give me any discomfort or blisters.

For my first wear I decided to go with the "ultralight" insole instead of the "comfort" one. While I expected it to be tough on the bottom of my foot, I probably would have worn it for my entire practice if I didn't want to try the "comfort" insole. The comfort insole is notably more soft, but I prefer the "ultralight" insole because it provides enough comfort, and is a few grams lighter.

I initially feared the breaking in experience because of the lack of padding on the cleats, but it turned out to be a lovely and easy experience. The only complaint I have regarding breaking in is that the first couple of times I switched the insoles, they jiggled around a little when I turned sharply. With time this got better, and now that they're broken in I don't have this problem anymore.

On Field Performance

The first thing that strikes you when you start playing with these cleats is the astounding lightweight feel. My friend said that when he held them it felt like they were floating. Obviously they aren't weightless, but at 165 grams (5.8oz), they are incredibly light. While they probably don't make you much faster, they give a psychological advantage, along with the fact that it's much easier playing in these for 90 minutes instead of a heavy pair of T90 Laser III's.

The touch and control were better than what I expected, especially after I broke them in. Thanks to the thin single-layer Sprintskin upper, the ball is a lot closer to your foot. While there are internal TPU support bands which help support the cleat, there's basically only your socks and the upper between your foot and the ball. The leather version of the Adizeros provides better touch, but I was impressed by the feel and touch on the ball of the synthetic material.

Striking the ball is an equally pleasurable experience with theses boots. While I initially feared that it would be uncomfortable and not provide enough padding, the smooth upper gave me good contact when hitting the ball. While I can obviously hit it better when I'm wearing a pair of T90's or Concave's, taking shots with the Adizeros had a "clean" feel to it.

Regarding traction and the studs, I loved the Traxion stud system used by Adidas. It offered solid acceleration, and changing directions was easy to do as the triangular studs gripped well from whatever angle. While there have been lots of problems regarding studs falling off with the Traxion system, it hasn't happened to me yet.


Before the final judgement, the visual design of these cleats has to be looked at a little. The main orange color which Adidas calls "Warning" is extremely bright and eye-catching. In fact, wearing the cleats really made me stand out from everyone else, and it almost put a sense of "having to perform well" in such a flashy pair of cleats.

Wearing these gives you a sense of speed. Everything about them emits a feeling of sleek rapidity, from the three signature Adidas black stripes on the inside and outside, to the design which goes from the laces to the toe of the boot. The three colors of Orange, black, and white all complement each other well and help give the cleat a vibrant look.

Regarding the actual physical design fo the boots, Adidas have crafted a great cleat. The heel tab makes it a lot easier to put them on, and the redesigned tongue helps tightening and adjusting the cleats. Luckily for me, these accommodate people with wide feet, and give a nice glove-like feel once laced up and tightened. Probably the greatest element of the cleats is the bottom frame band. It's a clear support band between the sole and the upper which gives the cleats a very solid feel.

Final Judgement

The Adidas F50 Adizero have truly defined the category of speed cleats. We've seen professionals like Manchester United's Nani and Barcelona's Dani Alves switch to Adidas is because of the lightweight, comfort, and solidity of the Adizero. Dribbling and running with these cleats is a easy and enjoyable because they're amazingly light. They also offer excellent comfort and traction which make these cleats a very complete package. If you're looking for a pair of top quality lightweight cleats, but you're not keen on spending 300$ for the Prime version, I suggest you to check out the Synthetic Adidas F50 Adizero at

Thank you very much to Matt Wall and to SoccerPro for providing me with the cleats to review.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly III Images

A friend of mine recently splashed some cash on a pair of Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly III's, and being the cleat nerd that I am, I had to take a couple of photos. In case you're not much of a Nike fan, don't worry as I've got my review of the Adidas F50 Adizero coming soon. The F50's arrived a few weeks ago from SoccerPro, and I'm finishing up the testing now. The review should be up within the next few days.

While looking at pictures of the Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly III's online is nice, getting to actually see these cleats in person on the field was pretty cool. The blue and orange really do contrast along with the white, making for and extremely easy-to-spot boot.

The white Nike swoosh on the upper helped make the design of the cleats pop.

The orange design on the heel of the boot was also very eye-catching.

Overall they're a pretty wicked pair of cleats which will make you noticed wherever you play. After seeing these in person, I certainly prefer them to the Purple/Yellow colorway which a lot of the pros opt for. Do you have a pair of Superfly IIIs? Share any comments about the boot below!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Best Images of Real Madrid's Copa Del Rey Win Over Barcelona

Now that Real Madrid has defeated Barcelona parity has been restored to Spain, and maybe all of Europe. Their last game against the Catalans finished 1-1, and Mourinho's team took that draw (which virtually won La Liga for Barcelona) as a victory. But now Real can actually celebrate an El Clasico victory and a trophy.

The Copa del Rey final went into extra time, with Cristiano Ronaldo heading the dramatic winner. The Portuguese superstar's goal allowed Jose Mourinho to claim his first trophy as Real Madrid manager, ending Real's three year drought without trophies. Now Real have to face Barcelona two more times in the Champions League semifinal, and things are looking a lot different then they had just days ago. Maybe we'll see Real Madrid progress past Barcelona to the final of the Champions League? Or will Guardiola get a reaction from his players? It's very tough to call.

I snooped around on the internet for the most memorable photos of Real's Copa Del Rey victory which ended an 18 year drought for the particular trophy.

Here are some of my favorite photos of the disappointment and celebrations at the end of the match:

Adebayor seems happy to have left Manchester for Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the hero of the match celebrates with the cup.

Iker Casillas kissing the Copa del Rey trophy.

Real disappointment for Barcelona. (Sorry about the pun)
Pique looks slightly disappointed as the Real Madrid staff and players celebrate.

A formal handshake between the two coaches...

right before Mourinho is thrown into the air by his joyous players.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fearless Udinese Victorious Away At Napoli

Number 88 (Gokhan Inler) scored a spectacular goal but
did not celebrate... Why?

Udinese has had a truly fantastic season in the Serie A. While their start was terrible, losing their first four games in the league, they eventually figured out how to play a wonderful and winning way. While there are players which make the team shine, their success must be attributed to their coach Francesco Guidolin. He has been able to motivate Udinese to reach what were thought to be unreachable heights, fifth in the Serie A table. This weekend they were able to defeat second placed Napoli 2-1 at the San Paolo Stadium in Naples. While Guidolin couldn't call on the services of his two star players, Antonio Di Natale and Alexis Sanchez, his team was undaunted with the task of facing a powerful Napoli side.

For Napoli, this match was supposed to be the chance for them to win and then chase after table-leaders AC Milan. But Udinese had other plans. Napoli played their usual style, stretching the field well and constantly feeding the attacking trio of Hamsik, Lavezzi and Cavani. Udinese were tight and compact, not letting anything leak through the well-drilled 3-5-1-1 formation.

But Napoli weren't as dangerous as expected. Cavani was missing big chances, Lavezzi was unable to keep the ball at his feet, and Hamsik was spraying inaccurate passes without aim. The rest of the Napoli team wasn't clicking, therefore allowing Udinese to slowly take over the game. On the other hand, Udinese were playing as a team. The lack of the brilliant Sanchez, and Serie A's top goalscorer Di Natale was no problem for Udinese, as players like Armero, Benatia, and Inler stepped up and performed very well.

Denis apologizing to Napoli fans for scoring
In the second half, the San Paolo deflated when Inler scored a goal ten minutes in. It was a wonderful shot from about 25 meters, slightly deflected into the top right corner of Napoli's net. Strangely, Inler didn't celebrate at all, and the rumor that has been going around is that the Swiss scorer didn't celebrate because next season he'll be joining Napoli. After the goal, Udinese really began to press forward looking for a second goal.

It came in the 62st minute, when ex-Napoli player Denis controlled with his chest and volleyed to make it 2-0. While Denis looked ready to celebrate at first, he quickly went over to the crowd and apologized for scoring! Ridiculous if you ask me. If a player scores, he celebrates, no matter who he scores against. The goal wasn't the wake up call for this sleepy Napoli side, and Walter Mazzarri's side only began to press forward in the final minutes.

Mazzarri had put on Lucarelli and Mascara, making up a total of five forwards on the field for Napoli as they incompetently snooped around for a goal. In the 87th minute a golden opportunity came when Domizzi literally grabbed Lavezzi and threw him to the ground (along with a few punches) in some good old Italian defending. It resulted in Domizzi's expulsion and a penalty kick for Cavani to take. While Cavani's penalty was a low and accurate effort, Handanovic's massive frame parried with astounding grace. Napoli's perfect scoring opportunity was denied by Handanovic's brilliant save.

The humble Udinese coach Francesco
Guidolin (right) at the end of the match
Yet Napoli kept on pushing forward for a goal. It came when Cavani whiffed a volley in front of goal and his teammate Mascara smashed the ball into the back of the net himself. While the goal lifted the mood at the San Paolo, it didn't change the distribution of the three points which went to Udinese. Throughout the tense match there were a few too many scuffles between players, and a fight nearly broke out when Armero cheekily poked the ball from the penalty spot before Cavani was about to take the spot kick.

Because Napoli failed to win this match, AC Milan now have a six point lead at the top of the table with just five matches left in the Serie A season. While it looks doubtful that Napoli will manage to claw their way above AC Milan, what looks much more likely is Udinese's ascension into the top four. Francesco Guidolin's side is just a point behind fourth placed Lazio. The Serie A's battle for Champions League action could even see third placed Inter Milan kicked out of the top four if they don't start to improve results.

Real Madrid and Barcelona Draw In Foreshadowing Clasico

Guardiola awkwardly watches Sergio Busquets and Mourinho
nuzzle noses in a memorable moment of the match

After my makeshift preview of El Clasico, things turned out exactly as I didn't think they would. While I was expecting an exciting battle between two sides wanting to crush each other, it turned out to be a fairly tiring affair to watch, especially the first half. The game eventually finished 1-1, with two goals scored from the penalty spot.

While Barcelona are a wonderfully inventive machine, it seemed as if Real Madrid had gotten themselves stuck inside the cogs of Barca's very technical system. Real started as a nuisance to Barcelona, nothing more nothing less. While Barcelona did their best to keep possession, Real defended deep and scrappily, stopping the game often for petty free kicks and other useless happenings.

Jose Mourinho's mastermind idea of putting Pepe into the midfield worked out perfectly, as the Portuguese-Brazilian was merciless in his aim to kill everything blaugrana. Alongside Khedira and Xabi Alonso, a three man wall was formed in front of Madrid defence, giving Barcelona a very tough job to do. While Messi's brilliance was shown in spurts, forcing Casillas to a good save as his defence panic, the Argentine was unable to stamp his authority on the first half.

Casillas got a hand to but was unable to save Messi's penalty
Yet Real Madrid were also fairly dangerous when they wanted to. Their cautious play was only effective going forward from set pieces, where they came very close to scoring with headers flashed wide. But Barcelona were dangerous as well, with David Villa brought down by Casillas in the box, risking a penalty for the Catalans. Simply stated, I've seen penalties given for less. But the first half drew to a close, Mourinho's mind churned through tactical systems and inequalities while Guardiola's speakers blasted out inspirational Coldplay in the dressing room.

The second half was sparked to life a few minutes in, when Raul Albiol's snake-grapple-takedown on David Villa resulted in his direct expulsion and a penalty for Barca. With laser pens flashing into Messi's concentrating eyes, the Argentine coolly trotted his run-up and put the spot kick into the back of the net. It was a disappointing start of the second half for Real, and things didn't look to get much better as Barcelona began to express themselves artistically in dominant possession.

Pepe wildly celebrating Ronaldo's equalizer

Jose Mourinho decided that it was all or nothing, and he substituted Benzema with Ozil and Di Maria with Adebayor. The pair of substitutes provided a necessary hunger which revived their teammates into a frantic push in the final ten minutes of the match. All this newfound Real pressure culminated when Marcelo earned a penalty as Dani Alves brought him down. Not to be bested by the short Argentine, Ronaldo smashed the penalty into the top corner in the 82nd minute.

The final minutes were the exciting frenzy I had been longing for. Real Madrid were fearless in their pushing, and Barcelona weren't really taking advantage of all the width of the field as their opponents were a man down. The match finished 1-1, with two slightly disappointed sides with some positives to take from the foreshadowing of the Copa del Rey final and the Champions League semi-finals.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

El Clasico And Its Many Battles

El Clasico seems like an eternal fixture. No matter how much change we see in a season, it's this match which captures the attention of just about every soccer fan around the world. Admittedly, El Clasico has been slightly one-sided these past few seasons, with Barcelona having won the past five encounters. Yet maybe this match will see a change for Real, with Jose Mourinho surely preparing his players not to suffer another 5-0 defeat like they did previously this season.

Snooping around on the Spanish sport websites, there's quite a rift regarding bias in case you didn't know. In the end, there are Real Madrid newspapers, and then Barcelona newspapers, and reading only one newspaper can provide you with quite the skewed view of what should be, in Guardiola's words, "the match to decide La Liga". And while AS talks about the possibility of La Liga becoming winnable for Real Madrid if they win El Clasico, El Mundo Deportivo simply states, "Messi, Better than CR7". Truly unbiased reporting, isn't it?

Yet when I visited MARCA, a relatively Madrid biased newspaper, I found probably the best summation of El Clasico I could hope for. The strip at the top of the website shows four key battles which will inevitably decide the match. The technicians (Jose Mourinho vs. Josep Guardiola), the stars (Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo), the brains (Xabi Alonso vs. Xavi Hernandez) and the goal (Iker Casillas vs. Victor Valdes). What better way to sum this match up I'm not sure, but if I were to add something to the equation, I'd throw in the fullbacks, Marcelo vs. Dani Alves. While Dani Alves has always been a fearless machine of a fullback, providing a new way to unlock sides for Barcelona, Marcelo has grown to be one of Real Madrid's best players this season, especially going forward.

The two stars, Lionel Messi (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo (right)

While I often try and delve into a well thought out prediction, I think I might refrain this time around. There are simply too many game-changing factors. While in other big match-ups we see two or three star players which can change the game in a moment of brilliance, Barcelona and Real Madrid are simply too filled too the brim with sheer quality. Whether it be a Mourinho tactical masterclass, a Guardiola inspirational performance, a curled goal by Messi, or a blasted free kick by Ronaldo, there's too much to consider when trying to decide a winner.

So to make things easier for you (and me) I advise you not to worry about the result until the match is over. If anyone asks a prediction, simply state, "An enjoyable 0-0, with a goal or six thrown in". Because ultimately, I'll be watching El Clasico for entertainment, and I highly suggest that you do too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

First FIFA 12 Screenshot Released

You can click the image to zoom

The time of year has come around when FIFA gamers begin waiting for the next release of the series. The EA Sports FIFA website posted the first FIFA 12 screenshot, much to the mixed reaction of fans. While some are glad to get a look at FIFA 12, many and most are not impressed by the screenshot.

While there seems to be graphical advancements regarding jersey creases, there's little else that has improved from FIFA 11. Some are saying that the grass is looking much more realistic, as is the face of Kaka which when zoomed into a claustrophobic degree can be seen as an improvement.

While I'm not too impressed from the screenshot, it's beginning to raise the familiar hype in me. I'm hoping that behind this screenshot there will be a strong improvement in the game's many aspects. Details regarding actual gameplay changes haven't been announced, but news should come sometime next month.

If you haven't got a chance to play FIFA 11, I highly suggest you start. In case you missed it, here's my review of FIFA 11. FIFA 12 won't be released anytime soon, as it will probably come out in September or early October, and you'll be able to get plenty of practice time in before the new game is released.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Adidas F50 Adizero Synthetic Warning/Black Just Arrived

After my preview post of the Adidas F50 Adizero, the boots have finally arrived at my doorstep. After unboxing them and snapping some photos, I quickly took to the field for a quick jogging session to see how the boots felt out of the box.

While the full review will be up in a week or so, I can tell you a couple of things from my first run around in the cleats. Putting them on is a wonderful experience, the lightness just makes you want to run around and jump.

The "Ultralight" and "Comfort" insoles side by side
In my short session I went with the "Ultralight" insoles and then switched to the "Comfort" insoles to see if I could notice the difference. While I experienced to discomfort or problems breaking them in with the "Ultralight" insoles, the "Comfort" insoles were obviously much more comfortable yet slightly (barely noticeably) heavier.

While some might stray away from the idea of a synthetic upper, I'm finding it to be quite nice. I haven't tested the ball touch or striking of the cleats, and I'm not sure what to expect. Check out the full review soon if you're interested in seeing how they perform.

They're certainly shaping up to be a fantastic pair of cleats, and I'll have the review up soon. A big thanks to SoccerPro for supplying the cleats!

Friday, April 8, 2011

PFA 2011 Player of the Year Award Nominees Announced

Image from The Guardian

Every season there are players which light up the Premier League. This season there have been quite a few, some performing consistently and others maybe a little less. The PFA awards shortlists of the season were announced, and they seem to contain all the necessary players, even if they had to do some last minute adding on. Below are the shortlists for Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year.

PFA Players’ Player of the Year nominees:

Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
Charlie Adam (Blackpool)
Samir Nasri (Arsenal)
Scott Parker (West Ham United)
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham Hotspur)
Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)

PFA Young Player of the Year nominees:

Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
Seamus Coleman (Blackpool)
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Javier Hernandez (Manchester United)
Nani (Manchester United)
Samir Nasri (Arsenal)
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

There have been many complaints that Nani should be on the PFA Player of the Year Award Nominees, as his phenomenal play cutting inside from the wings for Manchester United helped win many matches. Seeing him on the Young Player list is a little strange, but I guess it is a form of recognition.

So who do you think will win the awards? I think I'll go with Scott Parker and Nani. What about you? Share your winners below!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Schalke Stun Inter Milan in 5-2 Away Victory

Edu scored two goals against Inter Milan

It really is rare seeing eleven goals scored in just two matches. Thanks to some brash decision-making, poor defending and wonderful moments of brilliance, fans got to see two amazing matches between Schalke 04 and Inter Milan and Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur. The final scores of the matches were a spectacular 5-2 win for Schalke 04, and a dominant 4-0 win for Real Madrid.

In Milan, Italian fans at the San Siro were very disappointed with their team's display. Although Inter Milan were a goal up after just 24 seconds, things ended up poorly for the nerazzurri. It was Stankovic's brilliant first time strike from Neuer's clearance which flew into the empty net. The Serbian scored from just past halfway, without the ball bouncing even once on the ground during his spectacular volley. While Stankovic's goal might've been the best I've seen this season, Matip's scrappy effort equalized for Schalke about 15 minutes later.

Milito putting Inter in front 2-1, but only temporarily...
At 1-1, Inter continued to push forward, and eventually restored their lead with Diego Milito scoring from a well crafted move which finished in the Argentine's tap-in. But yet again, Inter saw their hard work disappear when broke through the disorganized backline and shot at Julio Cesar. While the Brazilian keeper saved the shot, Edu quickly tapped-in the rebound to send the teams equal at halftime with the score at 2-2.

While the Italian fans expected a reaction in the second half from Inter, it was quite the opposite. Schalke came out and scored three with Raul and Edu both getting goals, along with an unlucky own goal for Andrea Ranocchia. The match finished 5-2 for Schalke, a truly amazing away display from the Germans. Inter now need to travel to Germany in the second leg and win by at least four goals if they want to progress, something which seems very difficult with their shaky back-line.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Milan Derby an Important Test for Both Managers

Perhaps Massimiliano Allegri said it best when talking about this upcoming derby della madonnina between AC Milan and Inter Milan.
"It's the match all of Italian soccer waits for, media and players together: it's a match inside a match." 
The AC Milan coach is right, because at the beginning of the season I always mark down the dates of the Milan derby. This season's second derby of the season seems to hold quite a bit of importance, even if some are trying to downplay the significant repercussions from a loss. But the result won't have massive mathematical impact considering that the top three sides in the Serie A are all within three points of each other.

But what were to happen if AC Milan lost to this inspired Inter side? A debut derby victory (as a manager) for Leonardo would put Inter in first place ahead of AC Milan. While they'd lead their city cousins by only one point, the psychological boost for the nerazzurri would be immense. A victory for Inter Milan would also bring Napoli and Udinese a bit closer to title aspirations, tightening up the Serie A season for an exciting finish.

But there's a match to be played first, and there are a few missing players for both sides. One of the most notable ones is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who's rib cracking (it wasn't actually rib cracking, but it must've hurt) punch on Bari's Marco Rossi earned him a three game suspension. The Inter defender who would've marked Ibrahimovic won't be playing either, as Lucio is also suspended. Because of those two absences, it looks like the Brazilian duo of Robinho and Pato will take on the central defensive pairing of Chivu and Ranocchia.

It will be Leonardo's first derby as the Inter Milan coach, and the Brazilian said a few things regarding the match, and what the derby encases:
"It will be an extraordinary match. A derby goes beyond any tactical reasoning, there are many feelings especially because the two top teams of the table are facing each other, at a distance of just two points. All of the players know each other, there's nothing to discover or invent. At a psychological level the derby brings lots of energy, but at a mathematical level it isn't decisive."
Whatever happens tomorrow at the San Siro, many will be watching. Whether they want to see a spectacular match which hasn't produced a draw in the past 14 times played, or they're just interested in the final result, people will be watching. Two men on the sidelines will be yelling at their players for 90 minutes, mainly because at the end of the day this match will have an effect on who will win the Serie A, no matter what anyone says.


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