Reschedule everything you have planned for this weekend; it has some of the best matches of this season so far. Germany, Italy, England and Portugal, all of those countries are giving us the perfect reason to sit back on our couches and enjoy some titanic clashes amongst great footballing rivals. But which teams are we talking about exactly? To answer that, let me take you on a quick tour around Europe.

Let’s make our first stop at the Signal Iduna Park, in Dortmund. Well, when the league leaders go up against second place, it has all the makings of a match to remembered for a long time to come. When the clubs involved are Dortmund and Bayern Munich, all eyes will be on those decisive 90 minutes, where a top-form Borussia will clash against a solid leader in Bayern. The current champions are still trying to understand how they managed to lose at home in their last fixture against a much inferior 1. FSV Mainz 05. The two teams are separated by a very thin margin of 5 points, which can be decisive for Dortmund: if they win, the title is still in their grasp; if they lose, or even draw, they are practically giving the Bayern players their championship medals. The Signal Iduna Park will be full of supporters awaiting to see if Thomas Tuchel’s pupils can defeat the fierce and well-organized Die Roten. It’s truly the one rivalry that will ultimately decide everything.            

Next stop takes us to the Italian capital and former center of the world, Rome. Although it isn’t a match with the same level of decisiveness as Dortmund vs. Bayern, the AS Roma vs. Fiorentina may be the match that throws one of those teams off track from conquering the Scudetto. Although Roma are in third place, Fiorentina are hot in their pursuit, shadowing their every move – both teams have 53 points. The winner will almost guarantee their place on the podium along with a chance of keeping their title dreams alive and access to the Champions League playoffs. For the losing team, the Scudetto becomes almost impossible. You have my promise of a very intense game, in a word… Italian. What else?

On what should make our Saturday a lot more enjoyable, we now move on to what should be a thrilling North-London derby. In my opinion, the real clash will happen on the bench: two world-class managers, Mauricio Pochettino and Arsène Wenger, will be face to face in one of the most nerve-racking games of the season. Spurs are only 3 points ahead of The Gunners, and Wenger will surely encourage his team to play offensive and quick football, with the certainty that it will be different from the last fixture against Swansea, which ended up with a disappointing defeat. But with the match being played at White Hart Lane, Tottenham will have the advantage. A win is the one result that matters for both teams, and the hope that Watford surprise Leicester is the only thing both teams have in common. Two great and ambitious sides collide: who will be able to catch Leicester at the top of the league?

Last, but not least, there’s the oldest and most famous Portuguese derby of all time: Sporting Lisbon vs. SL Benfica. Being Portuguese myself, it’s easy to say that this will be the match that I’ll watch more closely, for a simple reason: this clash between the two eternal rivals is the one that will decide the 2015/2016 Portuguese champions. A single point divides the two teams, and Sporting will fight with all of their strength to increase that gap to 4 points. On the other side, we have a motivated SL Benfica, anxious to get their revenge for the 3 defeats they have suffered so far in derbies and jump ahead of their rivals at the top of the league. A tough match, for all teams (including the referees), and the answer is really in who will want it more.

Four of the most interesting derbies mark this weekend, and all of them are crucial. This weekend may determine champions and runner-ups, and we, as football lovers from all around the world, must be sure to not miss a bit of them. What a weekend it will be so let’s sit back and enjoy.

About the author – Luis Costa

Luis has a great passion for football and has been playing Soccer Manager for 5 years. He played semi-professional for 13 years and is currently a regional referee in Madeira’s football association.


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Throughout history, Brazilian footballers  have always been renowned for their skills, technique, speed and defensive solidity too. It’s safe to say that it is possible to find  Brazilian legends in almost all positions, such as Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Carlos Alberto, Kaka, Socrates, Rivelino, Zico, Garrincha, Ronaldo, Pele, and Romario, to name but a few.

But it’s really hard to find many top Brazilian goalkeepers. Without taking anything away from legends such as Nelson Dida, Julio Cesar, Claudio Taffarel or Rogerio Ceni, the role has never been considered a Brazilian speciality.

We found a very hot prospect for the future of Brazil. A young goalkeeper called Alisson Becker who plays for Internacional and there’s a very good chance he’s going to transfer to A.S. Roma in July

.At 23 years old, he possesses good reactions, is a key member in his team’s squad and starting line up.  As you would expect to find with most Brazilians he is good with his feet, however he has to improve his mental approach to the matches, to eradicate potential problems developing from what should be avoidable situations.

STRENGTHS: Reactivity, agility, footwork, goal cover, physique and height

WEAKNESSES: pressure handling, self-confidence.

Prior to the emergence of Becker, the Brazilian goal was defended by Jefferson, who is perhaps not considered a ‘top’ goalkeeper and in all fairness is not a household name outside of Brazil.

With his reputation on the rise, he is certainly one to keep an eye on for the future. Also with him set to be called up regularly by the Brazilian national team combined with the proposed transfer to AS Roma, he certainly has the right foundations in place for him to develop even further.

At the age of 23 he has a decade and beyond ahead of him. Who knows, we could be talking about him in the same sentence as other Brazilian legends when we look back on his career in years to come.

About the Author – Marco Santanche

Marco was born in Rome and supports Inter because of Luis Nazario da Lima Ronaldo. He’s a Brazilian citizen because of his father’s roots, and he played futsal for several years, even in FIGC (the italian FA) as a winger, playmaker, striker. He is now studying for a degree in finance.


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AC Milan patron Silvio Berlusconi has stated more than once over the past couple of years of his desire for his side to be filled with a majority of Italian players.

In an effort to build for the future by utilising the domestic league’s Italians while also nurturing players through their own academy, Milan are looking to form an identity in the present day after consecutive seasons of disappointment. The Rossoneri want to emulate clubs like Torino and Sassuolo who are currently fielding nearly an entire starting XI of Italians, and have found success doing it.

The former Prime Minister must have been pleased to note that eight out of Milan’s starting XI against Lazio were indeed Italian. Moreover, with the 3-1 win in the capital, Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men sit just four points off third-place.

Although the club’s past transfer windows have often been unable to forge a sense of completeness and stability to the squad, the additions of Alessio Romagnoli from Roma and Davide Calabria from Milan’s primavera side have been noteworthy and exceptional.

At just 20 and 18 years of age, the introduction of these two defenders in this campaign creates a real possibility of forming a formidable backline for years to come.

Romagnoli spent last season on loan at Sampdoria under his current manager, making 30 league appearances and winning plaudits from around the peninsula. The Italian giants purchased the left-footed centre-back in a deal worth €25 million plus possible bonuses, and has already proved to be a great signing for Milan.

The 20-year-old possesses great technique in his dribbling and passing abilities and can also feature at left-back. His intelligent positioning allows him to meet defenders head on and eloquently dispossess them of the ball. Impressively, the former Roma man has won 78% of his headed duels and recorded 86% passing accuracy this season.

Composed and confident, Romagnoli’s patience on the ball speaks volume for how mature he is for his age.

Romagnoli has had to pair up with Cristian Zapata, Alex and Rodrigo Ely in the back this season under Mihajlovic. But despite the shuffling of defenders, the 20-year-old has kept his concentration levels high and has been one of Milan’s bright spots so far this season.

However, as he appears quite lean, the young centre-back should enhance his game by bulking up and getting stronger in order to battle the game’s fiercest attackers.

While Romagnoli is marshalling the centre of defence, Calabria has stepped in and provided quality at right-back. The 18-year-old rose through the ranks of the Rossoneri’s academy, making 47 appearances, before making his senior debut this season.

Calabria has a delicate first touch and great close control. In his three matches played so far, he has showcased considerable pace down the right-flank as well as an impressive amount of stamina and endurance.

Explosive, dynamic and alert, he has proved to be a solid right-back option for the likes of Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio.

The youth product completed his debut against Palermo in the fourth round of Serie A play, coming on for the injured Abate, helping his side to a 3-2 win.

Calabria was then handed a start in the club’s next match against Udinese. He put in a solid shift and surprisingly, was subbed off for Alex just five minutes after half-time.

It turned out to be a poor move by Mihajlovic as the Rossoneri would concede a pair of goals and almost threw away their 3-0 lead. Nonetheless, the academy product would complete the full 90 away to Genoa, which unfortunately ended in a 1-0 loss.

Looking at his performances, Calabria has prided himself in moments of decisiveness. Not daunted by the high level of play, the right-back has averaged 4.7 tackles and 1.3 appearances per match.

Aggressive and always looking to push forward to join the attack, Calabria represents the modern day fullback. He also has the ability to pick out a pass, having created three chances thus far, the second most of any other Milan defender.

An area in which Calabria should look to improve in is his overall passing. While he possesses good intentions, his over eagerness at times lets him down, resulting in numerous misplaced passes. He has recorded 67% passing accuracy this term, which is the lowest return of any outfield play of his side bar Philippe Mexes.

Calabria will have to continue to battle with Abate and De Sciglio for a starting place this season, but when called up, the 18-year-old will show his quality. Furthermore, his good form won him a call-up to his country’s under-21 setup last month.

All in all, with Milan’s hopes of returning to the pinnacle of Italian football, entrusting in two young, Italian talents in Romagnoli and Calabria is a wise choice in establishing a solid foundation for future success.

About the author – Matthew Amalfitano

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, the Independent, Betfair, beIN Sports USA, Squawka and others.

twitter: _MattFootball


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The Eternal City has hosted some of the game’s all-time greats: Conti. Falcao. Chinaglia. None, however, are greater than current captain and eternal symbol, Francesco Totti. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to label the local boy as one of European football’s greatest talents. Further to that, on talent alone, Totti may well lay claim to being one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. His skill is at times immeasurable, for what he brings to Roma is unique and everlasting.

Strangely it’s romance that may never have blossomed. It is widely accepted that Totti’s mother turned down a lucrative offer from AC Milan so that he could join his hometown club, a dream that was realised in 1989. Foreseen as one for the future by Silvio Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani – whilst Arrigo Sacchi went about revolutionizing calcio with his invincible Milan team of the early-90s – the pair must be left rueing the what ifs had Totti indeed joined the Milan revolution.

However, despite all evidence to the contrary, given the success of his remarkable career, it would be safe to assume that such presumptuous hindsight would be flawed, given the very nature of Totti’s success with Roma, the one and only club he has ever represented professionally.

Like so many geniuses, his career is flawed; blotted by moments of madness. Controversy has followed Il Bimbo d’Oro (The Golden Boy) throughout his career and his psyche remains one of the most intriguing and unpredictable in the game.

Perhaps the greatest testament to Totti is that he’s still here; still gracing our screens with match-winning performances and memorable goals like last season’s Champions League effort against Manchester City. Still bringing hope to a city besieged with socio-economic and cultural problems. Still giving hope to the thousands of children who dream of becoming the next “monument” in Italian football. Still keeping alive the romantic dream of the classic trequartista.

He is, along with Juan Roman Riquelme, quite possibly the last of the aforementioned breed. He still relies on technique, vision and precision – much like he did on March 28, 1993, when he made his debut in an unremarkable 2-0 away victory against Brescia. His genius lies in his three unrivalled skills: the ability to create something from nothing off either foot, the supreme and deadly finishing, which has brought him almost 250 Serie A goals, and the confidence with which he goes about his business. Who can, of course, forget his Panenka from Euro 2000 against the Netherlands?

His genius also lies in his psyche. His feet are natural. Touching a ball, striking perfectly with ease, comes naturally. However his mind is what separates him from the rest. He thinks ahead. He’s the enigma who has carried his hometown club for over two decades and won a World Cup along the way.

Some managers have tried to negate the enigmatic Italian’s influence. Luis Enrique notably paid the price. Not necessarily because he lost his job, but because Roma lacked invention, skill and unpredictability. Perhaps Fabio Capello laid the blueprint on how to use Totti back in 2001: don’t stop using him. Make him the focal point of every attacking move and let him carry the burden. He can, he’s certainly strong of mind.

His stats are sublime – Totti has played more than half of his footballing career as a classic trequartista and yet, has managed to score more than greats like Del Piero, Baggio and Batistuta; players who had more freedom to score as forwards and have played more or less the same number of matches as the Roma captain.

Who can forget his 113th strike back in the 2005-06 season at San Siro against Inter, where his majestic chip from outside the box sailed over a stranded Francesco Toldo? That goal is perhaps one of the greatest chips scored in Italian football. Sadly, having suffered a career threatening injury a few months later, many feared that they’d seen the last of the star at the very top of the game.

But his love for football and Rome helped him recuperate in time to be selected by Marcello Lippi for the 2006 World Cup in Germany where he played every match and, having contributed four assists and the crucial last minute penalty against Australia in the second round, was one of the protagonists of the world conquering Italian side. That was some comeback, and for his never-ending fight to stay fit even after the age of 35, he deserves nothing but respect.

At 39, he’s fitter and stronger than most players from his era still playing the game. Perhaps he can’t drift around like he used to, especially in the channels, however his ability to find space in key areas ensures he remains one of the game’s most dangerous players. Just ask Vincent Kompany. For a man who many considered to be past his best when Luis Enrique took charge in 2011, he has improved and grown yet again. Just like any eternal being would.

People spend plenty of time asking Totti why he never moved clubs in search of trophies but the truth is, why would he? He is the soul of Roma, lauded as their saviour and afforded hero status; he loves the adulation. Always a man in search of greater purpose to find motivation in performing his magic on the pitch, Roma has long presented itself as the ideal foil for him to find his way to superstardom.

The relationship between Roma and Totti is of mutual benefit. Roma need their captain to galvanize the team and Totti needs a major stage to shine on – it’s not difficult to see why Totti remains motivated and hungry to carry on. Thankfully for the world of football, Totti made the right decision to turn AC Milan down as a child. He hasn’t looked back since.

This isn’t to say he hasn’t had offers. Real Madrid came on occasions and were politely ushered away. Manchester United tried their luck in 1999 and 2000. Ferguson had openly spoken of his admiration for Totti’s talent and his desire to see him grace Old Trafford. Perhaps his incessant desire to turn away potential suitors and remain in Rome is what deters some quarters of the English media from truly praising him.

The ever condescending English media never really admired him the way they did other players but their silly knack of judging foreigners based on their performances against English sides – like Zlatan Ibrahimovic – has done little to disparage the Italian who, according to IFFHS, was the most the popular footballer in the whole of Europe as late as 2011.

For Totti, he will ultimately judge his career on what he’s given back to the Romans who he calls “his people”.

Trophies are a bonus and the 2001 Scudetto will surely sit proudly alongside his European Golden Shoe in 2007 and World Cup winner’s medal. Factor in his five Italian Player of the Year awards and he will no doubt sleep easy.

Success is subjective. Ask Alan Hansen and he’ll tell you it’s all about what trophies you have in your cabinet. Ask Steven Gerrard or Paolo Maldini, however, and they’ll point to Hansen’s fact, alongside the achievement of playing for one club, the club you love, your entire career.

For Totti, his subjectivity cannot be criticised. For him, he’s given more back to the people of Rome than any trophy can. He’s given them loyalty and hope – a role model and a “monument” as Lippi calls him. He’s given them the chance to live each game through a man who wandered the same streets as they did as boy. Most importantly, however, he’s kept their identity alive.

In an Italy where identity and social segregation becomes an ever increasing and contentious topic, he’s united the people of various clubs and groups. He’s the monument that unites the Eternal City.

About the author – Omar Saleen

Based in London, Omar is the editor-in-chief at These Football Times. A professional coach by day having worked at clubs including Fulham, QPR and Red Bull New York, he also writes freelance for a number of outlets.

twitter: @omar_saleem


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With Juventus, Roma, Milan and Napoli all failing to pick up three points, it was an opening weekend that hinted at a competitive season to come in Serie A. While Udinese’s shock victory away to Juve was the standout result, the likes of Fiorentina, Sassuolo and Sampdoria were all also impressive as they got their respective campaigns off to the perfect start.

The same cannot be said for Bologna who, in truth, shocked no-one by succumbing to a 2-1 defeat away at Lazio. It was a tough start for the side who won the Serie B play-offs back in June, but there was enough about Delio Rossi’s outfit to suggest that survival is well within their reach this term.

New signing Mattia Destro began the game on the Rossoblu bench, the Italy international enjoying only 14 minutes of action after replacing Robert Acquafresca late on. Destro will be handed more game-time as the season progresses, with the capture of the 24-year-old this summer representing something of a coup for Bologna.

It is a big campaign for Destro, who surprised many by pitching up in Emilia-Romagna after a summer of being linked with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Milan, the club he spent the second half of last season at on loan from Roma. The striker’s goalscoring record in Serie A is generally good but, after spending much of his three seasons with the Giallorossi as a substitute, Destro must now seize his chance to make an impression as his new team’s main man.

Having been part of Inter’s academy as a youngster, Destro made his professional bow for Genoa in 2010 after being included as a makeweight in the deal that took Andrea Ranocchia in the opposite direction.

A goal on his debut hinted at big things to come, but the youngster struggled to nail down a place in the starting XI and was subsequently loaned to Serie A new boys Siena the following campaign. Finding the net 12 times helped the Bianconeri avoid the drop and earned Destro a move to Roma for an initial fee of £8m.

His time in the capital was a frustrating one: despite a decent scoring record – 29 strikes in all competitions in 68 appearances, only 42 of which came from the beginning of matches – Destro was mostly a back-up to Roma legend Francesco Totti.

It was at times puzzling that Rudi Garcia did not turn to him more often, particularly when Roma were crying out for a plan B during some particularly rough patches of form, but ultimately Destro did not do enough to convince his manager that he deserved a more regular slot in the team. His five-month spell at Milan in 2014-15 was slightly underwhelming, although that description would be applicable to the entire club last term.

Destro must therefore make good on his undoubted potential at Bologna this time around. A traditional No. 9 – despite being handed the No. 10 jersey by the Rossoblu – who comes alive in the penalty area but does not offer much outside it, Destro will be judged almost exclusively on his goalscoring return.

A lack of involvement in the build-up play could work to his advantage for Bologna, a side who will spend many games camped back in their own half, restricted to the counter-attack and needing a cool and clinical figure to convert their chances up top. Should Destro put the ball between the sticks on enough occasions, he will prove to be worth far more than the £5.95m that Bologna paid Roma for his services last week.

With the European Championship coming up in France and fellow Italian frontmen Ciro Immobile and Mario Balotelli enduring a difficult last 12 months, Destro could even force himself back into the international picture.

It is not quite make or break time yet, but a good campaign at Bologna would do wonders for Destro’s career.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball




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