Riders from the East

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Of the 21 teams from Eastern Europe which participated in European competitons this season,12 have made it into the spring.This season we have witnessed the rise of a new European sensation which is Qarabaq which is Azerbaijan’s first ever representative in the Champions League and which will play a role in European competitions,the debut of Vardar which became the first ever Macedonian side to compete in the UEFA Europe League as well the victory of Rijeka over AC Milan in the final matchday as well Maribor drew Sevilla in the final matchday of the UEFA Champions League,but the surprise story comes from Kazakhstan where FC Astana made it to the second round of the UEFA Europe League and with that the yellow-blues from Kazakhstan all these years played a minor role in European football have put themselves on the European football map and became the latest club from Eastern Europe which has redrawn the European football map which has been stadily moving to the East.While Shakther Donetsk which is one of Eastern Europe’s finest football clubs will be the only from the region in the UEFA Champions League and it is still unlikely in the near future that the miners or any other football club from the east wins the UEFA Champions League,the UEFA Europe League gives a hope that this season at the final in Lyon we are going to see a club from the east in the final.Ever since the mid-to-late 2000 clubs from Eastern Europe have succeded in the UEFA Cuo with CSKA Moscow,Zenit St.Petersburg and Shakhter Donetsk wininng the competition before it was rebranded and reorganized,in fact during that time predicitions were that a club from the east would win the UEFA Champions League,but a decade later still no Eastern European club couldn’t manage to go to the final,the closest came Dynamo Kiev when in 1999 reached the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League under the legendary Valeriy Lobanovsky.From that moment no one from the east couldn’t replicate Dynamo’s success in Europe’s most prestige club competition.While in the Cold War era clubs from the east were on the par with those from the west winning European trophies,the post Cold War era meant something else.The problems came everywhere from finances,stadium infrastructure and new founded leagues which didn’t gave bigger clubs enough quality matches which is still in some cases a problem.However in the mid 2000s it began the change for the better when major investments were made which gave the rise of clubs like Zenit St.Petersburg which was billed after its 2008 UEFA Cup triumph over Rangers as a contender to win the UEFA Champions League,a decade after its triumph in Manchester and switching coaches like Luciano Spaletti and Andre Villas-Boas the skyblues which are owned by Gazprom aren’t anywhere near their goal of winning the Champions League,instead with Roberto Mancini on the bench the skyblues are in the second round of the UEFA Europe League and will try to replicate the success of a decade ago in Manchester.But in the last decade European football experienced the expansion of the map to more Eastern European clubs which in the Cold War era were unheard with the likes of CFR Cluj,Rubin Kazan,Ludogorec Razgrad,BATE Borisov,Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and many others who achieved the dream of playing in Europe.Still there are many obstacles which eastern clubs have to pass both on and off the field,but they have become a competition to the clubs in Western Europe and their presence can’t be ignored.Next years spring in the UEFA Europe League will have to be one of the strongest showing for the eastern clubs since it will feature a mixture of old and new names from the east with some of them making a deep run in the competition,the question is can the riders from the east break the domination of the west in the UEFA Europe League at the final in Lyon,we’lll see that next spring,but one thing is for sure it can be counted that clubs from the east will make deep runs in the UEFA Europe League,but one can hope that the same will happen in the years to come in the Champions League.

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A Derby d’Italia of destiny

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This weekend will feature by far one of the biggest matches of the current Serie A season which has the potential as one of the most crucial matches of thr whole season.The Derby d’Italia which is between Inter and Juventus this season is by far one of the most biggest matches since both clubs are competing for the Serie A title and the stakes couldn’t be higher.The nerazzurri are currently leading the Serie A with 39 points and they are the only unbeaten team in the Serie A since Napoli was defeated by the bianconeri last weekend at Sao Paolo,while the current Serie A champion the bianconeri are third two points behind the nerazzurri with two defeats in the season.Inter’s run this season is a contrast what happened last season when the nerazzurri in the autumn part were in deep crisis,Frank de Boer was fired after only three months on the bench,Stefano Pioli was no better,the whole spring part of the season was a catastrophe,for two months,from mid-March to mid-May the nerazzurri have collected a mere 2 points out of 24 and saw them finishing out of European places at seventh places.Pioli was let go and former Roma na Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti has hired to provide a shock therapy to the club and lead the nerazzurri to higher places,but Spalletti has exceded all expectations on the bench and the nerazzurri used Napoli’s loss for their first lead in the Serie A table in the current season.On the other side there is Juventus led by Allegri and the bianconeri have a good reason to be worried,the last six seasons where the Serie A champions and nobody could stop them.But this season that has changed Napoli,Roma and Inter have emerged as prime competitors,that can be seen that te bianconeri hadn’t led that table during season at all and suffered defeats against Lazio and Sampdoria whic has raised the question are the bianconeri in a period of crisis or simply the energy has ran out and there is no enthusiasm in Torino since the bianconeri’s beggest goal is to wn the Champions League while the Serie A and the Coppa Italia are put behind and in the minds of the whole mangement was a belief that it would be another walk in the park?Juventus still isn’t struggling against smaller teams and still its squad is one of the best in the Serie A with Dybala being the goal machine while Higuain and Mandzukich provide the necessary help in the attack with a midfield composed of Cuadrado,Marchisio,Pjanich and Khedira who are top-class midfielders and a defence with Benatia,Chielini,Lichtsteiner,Barzagli and Howedes with a timeless Buffon on the goal which will retire at the end of the season.But the cracks might be appear in the defence where Lichtstenier,Barzagli and Chielini are on the wrong side of the 30s with Buffon retiring at the end of the season regardless how the bianconeri will fare,this summer a necessary reconstruction of the squad will be needed.on the other side the nerazzurri don’t have such worries but since they are leading from now on its nearest competitors will be looking to give the nerazzurri a chase for the Serie A title and there is the absence of a long bench for the rest of the season something which the nerazzurri need to think since the season will be long and unpredictable and possible injuries might cripple the ability of the nerazzurri for a decent title run.Regardless of the advantages and disadvantages of both clubs this season,the Derby d’Italy this saturday night will be by far one of the crucial matches of the current Serie A season which could easily make the job of Juventus defending the title harder or Inter could easily blow up a chance to extend their stay at the top of th table.But one things is for sure the thrill of the Derby d’Italia has returned and on saturday night at the Allianz Stadium the stars will align.

The stage has been set

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The draw was made,the first reactions and predictions was made by everyone and now we 189 days till the 14th of June when the biggest event in world football will open its 21st edition,one of the most strangest by far where several names of world football like Chile,the USA,Ghana,Ivory Coast,Italy,Netherlands and Bosnia-Herzegovina are missing.We won’t be seeing Sanchez and Džeko,Buffon won’t make the end of his International career in Russia.This will be Leo Messi’s last chance for silverware with the Albicelestes since he is 31 and his playing at his height,but after three unsuccessful World Cups and a run of unsuccessful Copa America tournaments Russia will be the end of Messi’s International career,will it be a happy ending unlike four years ago in Rio we will see that in Moscow.Lifting the World Cup in Europe would give Messi a place among the immortals of world football and a legacy above his main rival Cristiano Ronaldo who last year conquered the Euros in France.speaking of Portugal they already have a grudge match with their rivals and neighbors Spain and the La Furia Roja will look to correct the perfomance from the last World Cup where they made an exit in the group stage which ended an era.If one by land then one by sea since Spain will play Morocco which would be for the first time in two decades the Atlas Lions will be featured in a World Cup .It will all start with the match between the oil superpowers Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki on Thursday night and since the Zbornaja was given an easy group it is expected that they made at least to the second round,anything more will be considered as a historic achievement since the Zbornaja has mixed results in the preparations for the World Cup on its own soil.But like other hosts,nothing is guaranteed for the Zbornaja and they should watch South Africa how fared when the Bafana hosted the World  Cup as a warning that they might similarly experience.The dark horses ae also present on the tournamentstarting with Belgium,after an  embarassing loss to Wales in the quarterfinals of the Euros in France,the Red Devils are looking to go even further in the tournament than the quarterfinals in Brazil since they have one of the strongest squads among the dark horses,Croatia is another of the dark horses and they have a chance for the first time in two decades to make out of the group stage,but the World Cup in Russia presents the last chance of the current generation of the Vatreni to make a decent result since a large number of players is hitting 30 or it is the on the wrong side of 30 which includes Luka Modrich who is now 32.Poland with Robert Lewandowski and Colombia with 2014 FIFA World Cup Goldden shoe winner James Rodriguez will clash one against each other in a match of two teams which can go far in the tournament.Meanwhile Germany the current World Cup holder will kickoff its title defence against Mexico who this time will have to with Sweden which denied Italy a place in Russia and South Korea for a place in the 2nd round.Brazil one of the favorites to win the World Cup is looking to leave behind the Maracanazo of four years ago to try to go all the way to the final in Moscow.The Selecao was the first team to qualify for the World Cup and Neymar and Co. wants to bring the World Cup title back to South America and it comes exactly 60 years after Brazil’s first World Cup triumph in the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden which featured back then a 17 year old Pele.The biggest stage of world football is only 189 days away and Russia will for a month be the center of the football world,but we can’t wait the 14th of June when it all begins.

The rebirth and the return of the Lagunari

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Venezia is one of the most well-known cities in Italy and the World,mostly for its canals and the gondolieri as well as the carnival.A city which of rich history which gave one of the most powerful maritime republic- the Republic of Venice which almost lasted for a millenia until Napoleon finally conquered the city 1797 and ended the republic.However when it comes to football Venezia is always at the bottom compared to other historical cities of Italy.But that is changing as well.Venezia FC is dreaming a return to the Serie A after 15 long years which was marked by chaos and disinterest in the club which meant a journey through the football wilderness which marked the opinion that Venezia FC became a lost and forgotten club of Italian football,but with Joe Tacopina as the new onwer and Filippo Inzaghi who won trophies with AC Milan during his Serie A career as well as the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany with the Azzurri a forgotten club is making a long waited comeback.Founded in 1907,the clubs golden era was the 1940s when 1941 they won the Coppy Italia,while in 1943 lost the final to Torino which would later build its Grande Torino with players from the Lagunari such as Valentino Mazzola who was one of the first post-war superstars of ITalian football,while in 1942 the lagunari achieved the highest position in the Serie A to date 3rd only four points behind Roma which were crowned as champions that season.However in the 1990s the club would become famous for its status as a yo-yo club where would bounce between the Serie A and B with players like Christian Vieri who played for the lagunari in the 1994-95 season,Filippo Maniero who would scored 54 goals in 116 appearances in four seasons for the club and Alvaro Recoba who spent a whole season as a loan at the club scoring 11 goals in 19 appearances.But after their last relegation from the Serie A in 2002 which meant the exit of controversial businessman Maurizio Zamparini who bought Palermo,it went downhill for the lagunari.Three bankrupcies in 15 years which included an unsuccessful invenstment by Russian businessman Jurij Korablin who had a vision to take the club back to the Serie A were put on hold when Giorgio Orsoni,the mayor of Venezia was arrested due to a corruption scandal forced Korablin to put the club on sale.That marked the entrance of celebrity lawyer Joe Tacopina who himself has Italian roots and inherited the love of the football from his parents.Tacopina was previously involved in Bologna and Roma,but Venezia was a much bigger challenge,at the time Tacopina took over the club in October 2015,the lagunari were in the Serie D wit a lack of a talent pool and a office staff,Tacopina had to build the club from the scratches.First by hiring Giorgio Perinetti who is known as the man who discovered Andrea Belotti as the club’s sporting director and Paolo Favaretto as the new club’s coach.The result was an immediate promotion to Lega Pro and in a bid to make a global brand and raise the shakethe public,Tacopina hired Inzaghi as the new club’s coach.In Inzaghi’s first season the lagunari finished first in their Lega Pro group with 80 points,ten points clear of Parma and even won the Coppa Italia Lega Pro,a cup competition for the 60 clubs of the Lega Prothe result was a club rebuilt in two years of his reign as owner currently sitting at the 6th place of the Serie B which the lagunari are playing for the first time in 14 years with the ambition of making a third promotion in a row to the Serie A.In his bid to make Venezia a global brand Tacopina shaped the club in numerous ways,the lagunari are going to the USA to play friendly matches,they are organizing tryouts for new football talent in the USA where they hope to pick promising young American players for the club,also the club began to organize new supporter groups across the world.Tacopina outlined a plan t build a new 25000 seating stadium which would replace the Pierluigi Penzo besides it is one of the most oldest but unique stadiums in the world which was built in 1913 and it is the only stadium in Europe accessible by boat.For Venezia there is only one way going:forward.The club has been rebuilt after a more than decade of negligence by its previous owners and most notably it has a future ahead and it can go just better for the lagunari and the city of Venezia which can’t wait for a return to Serie A football.