SSN Legends: Pavel Nedved

There’s been a lot of  heated debate across our social media platforms in recent weeks- who is world class? What defines world class? How entertaining is Serie A as a competition?

Discussing these topics prompted me to recall one of my favorite ever players. Pavel Nedved. Someone I’d rate in the same class as the great Argentinian Juan Roman Riquelme. Someone I had the pleasure of watching live at the 2006 World Cup when the Czech Republic took on Italy.

I was amazed a footballer could be that good. The former Juve player says he was blown away by the passion shown by Celtic and Lubo Moravcik on the night the Hoops humbled Juventus 4-3 in the Champions League back in 2001. I guess I felt the same way, with the only difference being I was a spectator watching Nedved, whilst the Czech legend was playing against Lubo

A FIFA Ballon d’Or winner (2003), the most successful Czech footballer of all time and a legend of European football, Pavel Nedved remains beloved by fans of the game the world over. Nicknamed Furia Ceca (“The Czech Fury”), Nedved won Serie A four times across his 19-year career but was arguably at his best in Europe where he inspired brilliant UEFA Super Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup triumphs with Lazio before dazzling in the Champions League with Juventus, driving them to a 2003 final full of drama and spectacle.

On the international circuit he was no less impressive, playing with flair and penache at the heart of the newly formed Czech Republic team at the 1996 Euros, where they ended runners-up. He now continues to be a guiding force for Juventus, albeit off the pitch – as a board member, he oversees many of the club’s transfer deals and has been a key figure in engineering the team’s resurgence in recent years. Nedved was appointed vice president of his former club in October 2015

Last month he came out of retirement at the age of 45 in his homeland. Signing for amateur side FK Skalna is undoubtedly interrelated to his son (Pavel Jr) being on the books of Skalna and the chance of lining up together at some point this season. Czech Republic legend Pavel Nedved revealed the biggest regret he had during his career was not playing for Manchester United. European footballer of the year in 2003, instead enjoying highly successful spells with Lazio and Juventus.  The midfielder was once a target for Chelsea, a move which he turned down and when asked by a Czech news outlet what he rues the most from his playing days he said: ‘That I never played for Manchester United, I’d have liked that.”

If I were Nedved I wouldn’t have any regrets.  Seria A WAS great back in those days. Nedved was truly WORLD CLASS.

Serie A Preview: Week 11

Whilst those in England had to make do with an underwhelming round of Carabao Cup action, Italian football fans were treated to a midweek installment of Serie A.

Mauro Icardi and Inter continued their fine form on Tuesday night with a 3-2 victory over Sampdoria at the San Siro which saw them temporarily climb to the summit.  Napoli saw to it that Inter’s reign at the top lasted less than 24 hours when they leapfrogged the Nerrazzuri having won 2-3 at Genoa. Juventus, Roma and Lazio also registered victories midweek and the battle for the Scudetto and the Champions League positions continues to heat up.

Looking ahead to match day 11 the standout fixture comes from Milan.  Juventus travel to Italy’s second city in a bid to chase down league leaders Napoli and simultaneously inflict further pain on under fire Milan boss Vincenzo Montella.  The former Fiorentina manager must feel as though the walls are closing in on him.  Having spent a vast amount of money during the summer the minimum expectation was for Milan to secure a Champions League place.  Given the way Napoli, Lazio, Roma, Inter and Juventus have started the campaign that is looking increasingly unlikely.

Juventus go into this one in a far richer vein of form, despite their recent defeat at the hands of Lazio they were able to bounce back instantly with convincing victories in Udine and then at home against SPAL.  Hardly the kind of opponent Montella would have wanted to face given his precarious situation.  Dybala, Higuain and co will be confident of leaving the San Siro with maximum points and you wouldn’t be surprised if this was to be Montella’s final game in charge.

With Carlo Ancelotti hovering in the background, unemployed and in search of pastures new could we see the Milan hierarchy turn to their former boss for inspiration?  Some food for thought.

Elsewhere Napoli entertain Sassuolo, Lazio travel to relegation threatened Benevento, Roma welcome Bologna to the Olimpico, Inter head to Verona and SPAL take on Genoa in an early season six pointer.

Remaining fixtures:

Crotone vs Fiorentina, Sampdoria vs Chievo, Torino vs Cagliari and Udinese vs Atalanta.

Another action packed weekend of Serie A football coming your way!

Ciao!

@HarrySymeou

Arsenal 2-1 Norwich – Nketiah steals the show

Edward Nketiah was the name on everyone’s lips last night when he came off of the bench to rescue Arsenal in the Carabao cup against Norwich.

Arsenal had made 11 changes to their win over Everton on Sunday and the bench, with the exception of Chuba Akpom, had players known only to the staunchest Arsenal fans.

Norwich had led through Josh Murphy’s fine finish and had every right to feel aggrieved when Eleneny only saw yellow for pulling down Oliviera early in the 2nd Half.

Arsenal began to push late on though and Wenger’s faith in his young guns proved its worth when young Nketiah equalised with 5 minutes left. He did so just 15 seconds after coming on the field as a substitute, and became the first player born after Wenger’s appointment to score for the Gunners.

Arsenal’s foothold was not to be given up as they dominated extra time, and that man Edward Nketiah rose highest from a corner to head the gunners into the quarter final draw. A night to remember for him and a player to watch out for in the future.

Dan De Luca

@DDL_SSN

No Defence for Koeman

Ronald Koeman was dismissed from his post as Everton manager after his disastrous start to the campaign saw the Toffees slip in to the relegation zone after a 5-2 home routing by Arsenal. Everton are also rooted to the bottom of their Europa League group.

Whilst there are couple of factors you could point at as elements of misfortune, overall Koeman can have no complaints that his up to now successful spell in English football has been brought to at least a temporary halt.

The fixture computer was not kind to Everton when it pitted them against Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, United and Arsenal as 5 of the first 9 fixtures.

The performances though in those games were not what you’d expect from an Everton side historically notorious for giving the big sides a tough game, 15 goals against is an unacceptable return from those 5 fixtures and highlights a lack of quality, but more concerning a lack of character and organisation. Surprising maybe too after Everton stole a march on most rivals for the signature of Jordan Pickford

Losing Lukaku from the side last summer was always going to be tough, and the mismanagement by the club of Ross Barkley, even though he is currently injured, means Everton are without their two best players. That said the recruitment has to be a lot better than what has come into the club, the mistakes of other clubs in recent years to play a numbers game has bitten.

The club find themselves with no top players at their peak with mainly a collection of youngsters who are not quite ready and a collection of older players who are past their best. Williams Baines and Jagielka all over 32. Rooney still effective but released from Manchester United for a reason, Calvert-Lewin, Davies and Vlasic yet to celebrate their 21st birthdays. Mixing youth and experience is a great cocktail, but only Rooney has the quality required to make those two traits a success. The players Koeman has started the season with aren’t good enough. He can blame no-one or nothing but himself.

A huge managerial decision is needed now to haul Everton away from a precarious season, the quality is not there, character and motivation is going to be key.

Dan De Luca

@DDL_SSN

Atleti are back!

Well back with a win at least. Atletico had travelled to Galicia without a win in in almost a month but Kevin Gameiro pounced on a loose ball to put Atletico ahead against the run of play in the first half, and although Celta Vigo had more than their fair share of the ball, the match ended in a 1-0 victory for Atleti.

Gameiro’s first goal of the season came in a second successive start, which is welcome news before Wednesday’s trip to third-tier Elche for a Copa del Rey last-32 first leg. Listeners of our SSN pod would have heard me praise Koke, Niguez and Carrasco regularly as three of La liga’s less known talents. Only Saul Niguez made the trip due to a hamstring and knee injury for Koke and Carraso respectively, so you have to give the Argentinian credit for adjusting his tactics accordingly.

Simeone, now in his sixth full season in charge of Atletico having signed a deal over the summer that commits him to the club until 2020, cut a relieved figure in the post-match press conference- “It is an important win, it was needed. Between the international break, the games against Leganes, Barcelona and Qarabag [in the Champions League], it was a long wait for a win.”

The bigger picture is that the club’s chances of making it to the knockout stages of the Champions League are currently hanging by a thread. Vitolo and Diego Costa arrive in January, which can’t come quick enough for Simeone. In the meantime there have been calls for a youngster Keidi Bare who impressed in preseason to be given his chance. Luciano Vietto is another omission in recent match day squads that have left the Atletico faithful puzzled.

However, Simeone remains unruffled “It would really be worrying if we had stopped being ourselves. The year we won La Liga, we lost in Almeria, who were relegated. I did not get carried away when we won in Bilbao, and I did not get too down when we drew in Baku. We must find some stability. We will find the right path.”

The right path is anything but an embarrassment this Wednesday.

Simon Alavi

@Alavi_SSN

Spurs vs Liverpool Preview

There are some big selection headaches for Mr Pochettino at Wembley today, after a great tactical display in Madrid. Alli and Davies back in the fold, Reckless but at times impressive Aurier or more reliable Trippier? Winksy or powerhouse Sissoko? Reward for Llorente or return for underperforming Alli? Too soon for Rose or throw him back in to the firing line to deal with Mo Salah’s pace. Rose was Spurs’s best player at White Hart Lane last season in the 1-1 draw Liverpool dominated.

Liverpool have caused Spurs the most problems consistently of any team over the last 3 seasons due to their speed and frequency of attacks. A lot of joy may be on the break where we can pick them off, but we need to be as solid Defensively as we were in the Bernabau.

Team I’d start with today:

 

Would give us the opportunity to break fast as I expect Liverpool to try and dictate the pace of the game in the early stages, with some steady hands on the bench should they be needed and still different attacking options like Llorente and Son to try and change the game if needed later on.
Still a bit early for Rose, but some players that didn’t feature or start on Wednesday to hopefully keep the side fresh where a tough night at the Bernabau may have taken its toll.

Prediction: 2-1 Spurs.

Derbies, Dives & Double Decker Buses

The @sofasportsnews_ panel discuss week 8 of the English Premier League, Match Day 3 in the UEFA Champions League and the sacking of Craig Shakespeare. Harry & co also discuss the World Cup Qualification draw as well as a round up of the action from Europe’s big leagues.

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Derbies, Dives & Double Decker Buses

Spain’s Surprise Package

Each season, from the top leagues around Europe there tends to be at least one surprise package. This can be as extreme as Leicester City winning the league or Juventus failing to wrap up another Scudetto before February. So far in La Liga we have Valencia.

Now 2nd in LaLiga following the weekend round of games, Valencia are cruising having netted 17 goals in their last 4 matches. A Real Betis comeback did loom for a period of time before ‘Los Verdiblancos’ succumbed to a 6-3 defeat. They play 4-4-2, tight, compact, extremely quick on the break and aren’t worried about dominating possession.

This summer Valencia found the right manager (Marcelino García Toral) and made the necessary changes higher up in the club (Mateu Alemany, once at Mallorca, is a football man and widely respected).  Every transfer is agreed with Toral, as it should be, but such is football nowadays it no longer goes without saying.

The summer targets of Goncalo Guedes and Andreas Pereira were bought in on loan with Diego Alves, Enzo Pérez and Álvaro Negredo all heading in the opposite direction. Worth keeping your eye on Geoffrey Kondogbia too. Valencia will always be a selling club, a club that once had my 2 favourite players in Europe on their books; Silva and Isco. However, it’s nice to see a different top 2, even if for a fleeting moment.

@Alavi_SSN

 

Serie A Review: Week 8

I’ve argued it for weeks, Serie A is on the up and whilst it’s yet to reach the heights of the 1990’s there is no doubt it’s been the standout league competition in Europe so far.

Champions Juventus suffered their first home defeat in more than 2 years at the hands of Lazio despite being awarded a controversial penalty in stoppage time.

Paulo Dybala was denied by Lazio stopper Thomas Strakosha to condemn the Vecchia Signora (the old lady) to a 2-1 defeat.

Cirro Immobile who began his career in Turin proved to be the difference netting twice at the Allianz Stadium. With Juve beaten the onus was on Maurizio Sari’s Napoli who faced a difficult trip to Roma and the league leaders didn’t disappoint. Lorenzo Insigne bagged his 100th career goal to ensure Sari’s men maintained their 100% record in the league so far.

Head almost 600km North-West to Italy’s second city and you’d have stumbled across the weekend’s standout fixture. The Derby Della Madonnina or otherwise known as the Milan Derby had Italian football fans drooling. Both Inter and AC Milan are currently under Chinese ownership and that adds an extra spice to what is already one of the games fiercest rivalries.

Mauro Icardi’s hat-trick was enough to secure the points and inflict more pressure on under fire Milan boss Vincenzo Montella. Despite Milan coming from behind twice they left empty handed after referee Paolo Tagliavento pointed to the spot on the 90th minute. The resulting spot-kick completed Icardi’s treble and his celebration of removing his shirt and holding it aloft to the crowd will live long in the memory of Inter supporters.

The current top four are separated by just five points and the title race is hotting up, if its entertainment you’re after this is certainly one to keep your eye on. As Napoli hunt their first scudetto since the days of Maradona it remains to be seen whether they can hold off the challenge posed by the current Champions Juventus, Inter and Lazio. A long way to go but things are shaping up nicely.

@HarrySymeou

International’s aren’t that bad are they?

This weeks panel includes Kristan Heneage – football writer @FourFourTwo, ITVFootball and the @Guardian & Sports Journalist/Broadcaster Andy Wilson. The guys discuss the big stories from the World Cup 2018 Qualifiers & assess England’s chances in Russia next summer!

Ancelotti sacked, Koeman under fire, KDB’s strike & Delle the liar

Host @HarrySymeou is joined by sofasportsnews.com panelists Dan De Luca, Simon Alavi and Tim Curtis to discuss the latest stories from the Premier League & European football.

On this weeks show…
Part 1: The sacking of Carlo Ancelotti and the future of Ronald Koeman.
Part 2: Giroud joins the 100 club and Delle Alli’s dive.
Part 3: Chelsea vs Man City & whether or not Roy Hodgson can save Crystal Palace.
Part 4: Serie A and La Liga roundups and a quick little quiz.

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Hat-trick for Harry & the legend of Gareth Barry

The team discuss Harry Kane’s hat-trick in Cyprus, Gareth Barry’s 633rd Premier League appearance, Morata vs Costa and whether Liverpool & Arsenal were right to keep their want away players this summer.

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Ref Watch with Mark Halsey

Our host Harry managed to grab a few minutes with former Premier League referee to discuss the sending off of Sadio Mane last weekend and the similar challenge by Matt Ritchie in the clash between Swansea and Newcastle.

Here is Mark’s take on both incident.

Do you agree?

Spurs break the Wembley curse

Harry Kane’s brace handed Spurs their first win at Wembley and ensured their Champions League campaign got off to a flyer. The 3-1 victory over Peter Bosz’s Borussia Dortmund side means Spurs have a real strong chance of progressing from undoubtedly one of the competitions toughest groups. Heung Min Son opened the scoring inside five minutes when his effort beat Roman Burki at his near post, the Korean international scoring his 7th goal versus Dortmund in 9 fixtures. However it wasn’t long before Yarmolenko leveled things for the away side with a stunning curling effort.

Dortmund to their dismay were only level for 4 minutes before Spurs restored their lead through Harry Kane. The England striker escaped the challenge of Sokratis and fired past Roman Burki who was beaten for a second time at his near post. No doubt some questionable goalkeeping from the Swiss international who arguably should have saved both efforts.

The German side posed a constant threat throughout the game and will be disappointed with the Italian official’s decision to rule out a perfectly good goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Tottenham Hotspur once again turned to their talisman to put the game beyond doubt and Harry Kane’s low effort on the hour mark found the bottom corner and sealed the points.

Perhaps the only disappointment on a great night for the hosts was the late red card shown to Jan Vertonghen who was adjudged to have caught Mario Gotze with an arm.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid cruised to a 3-0 victory over APOEL Nicosia of Cyprus meaning they lead the group with Spurs in second.

@HarrySymeou

@sofasportsnews_

Man City vs Liverpool Preview

The international break has been and gone.  Premier League football returns this weekend and the early kick off is a mouth watering clash between two of the most exciting teams the division has to offer.  Manchester City entertain Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Eastland’s.

Both of these clubs currently occupy the top four having both collected seven points thus far and you can be sure neither side will attempt to ‘park the bus’ in this one.

The home side have an array of attacking talent in their ranks but one area of the pitch would concern me from a City standpoint.  The heart of the midfield.

Liverpool’s trio of Can, Henderson and Wijnaldum is far more combative and if the likes of Silva and De Bruyne fail to put in a shift you could see the Red’s dominate in that key area of the park.

The City midfield certainly has the talent when in possession and if they click will be difficult to contain but I’m sure Jurgen Klopp will be aware of that.  I expect the Liverpool midfield to go out there, press and impose themselves physically on the game.

If they get that right there’s no doubt the likes of KDB and Silva will be out of their comfort zone and we’ll need to see them dig deep (something that doesn’t come naturally to them).

It can go either way but its clear to me the midfield battle will decide this one.

Team News:

Man City will be without Raheem Sterling, the England internationals red card at Bournemouth last time out means he will have to miss the visit of his former club through suspension.

Vincent Kompany didn’t feature for Belgium during the international break and there are still question marks over his fitness.  Pep Guardiola will have to make a late call and it remains to be seen whether his captain will be available for selection.

Ilkay Gundogan continues to work his way back to fitness after a long term injury but is unlikely to feature this weekend.

Liverpool welcome Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into their squad but I’d be very surprised if he walked straight into the starting XI.

Philippe Coutinho made his first appearance of the season for Brazil during the international break and is now available for selection, it will be interesting to see how Klopp deals with this one.

The German boss has a number of decisions to make going into this one. Mignolet or Karius? Alexander-Arnold or Gomez? Robertson or Moreno?

Prediction: 

I expect to see an entertaining fixture, all the evidence suggests both sides will feel they can win this.  Neither manager is known for their defensive competency and that can only mean goals.

Liverpool’s away form versus the rest of the top 6 under Jurgen Klopp has been nothing short of remarkable but equally on their day Man City are capable of decimating anyone.

Score draw for me!

@HarrySymeou

@sofasportsnews_