Croatians Around Europe *XIX*
February 10, 2017
Ivan Rakitić and Barcelona are trying to close the gap between themselves and leaders Real Madrid, who have two games in hand on Barca, and played to a convincing 6-0 victory over Alaves on Saturday. Rakitić played the full 90 minutes and capped off the match with Barca’s last goal in the 67th minute when he blistered a shot top shelf from inside the box from a tight angle. Champions League knockout round matches begin this week and Barca still trail Real Madrid by one point. Alex Vidal has been ruled out for the season which depletes Barca’s starting XI down the stretch.
Rakitić blisters a shot for the final goal
Luka Modrić returned to the Real Madrid starting lineup on Saturday in a tight 3-1 away win to Osasuna. Modrić played the full 90 minutes but was quiet during the match returning from a 2-week knee knock. Real Madrid remain top of La Liga with Mateo Kovačić coming off the bench in the 88th minute; moving back to a supporting role with Modrić back.
Šime Vrsaljko came on at halftime for Atletico Madrid in a nail biting 3-2 win over Celta Vigo Sunday. Vrsaljko was not at fault for the second half Vigo goal but was part of the Atletico run in the last five minutes of the match which saw Atletico score twice to win the game. Atletico remain one point in front of Real Sociedad for Spain’s last Champions League berth. Alen Halilović got the start for Las Palmas and played 81 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Sevilla. Duje Čop remained on the bench for Sporting Gijon but picked up a yellow card in a 2-0 win over Leganes. This was a huge result for Gijon as it pulls them within two points of the safety zone at the bottom of the La Liga table.
Dejan Lovren was left off the Liverpool squad list on Saturday in a huge 2-0 win over Tottenham. Lovren is resting a minor knee knock and should return in Liverpool’s next game. With the win, Liverpool pull within one point of second place in what should be an exciting finish to the season with clubs 2-6 all within two points of each other.
Juventus responds to Napoli and Roma and keep 7 points clear following to their away win in Cagliari 2-0 on Sunday Night. Mario Mandžukić kept his new position on the left side from the first minute to go the distance. The former Atletico star looked a bit tired, but did a solid job defensively. Mario managed to be dangerous in the second half with two headers, the second of which unluckily hit the top bar. He picked a seemingly intentional yellow card to miss the next match against Palermo.Marko Pjaca looked on from the bench.
La Gazzetta dello Sport ratings
Mario Mandžukić 6 “Well marked by Pisacane, is limited to defensive duties. Even without impressing manages to hit the bar.”
Inter beat Empoli 2-0 on Sunday Afternoon. Ivan Perišić missed the game for a 2 match ban that has now been reduced to one. He will be back for the next tie vs Bologna. Marcelo Brozović was sidelined due to a problem to a fracture to a finger. The Croatian international got injured during the match vs Juventus and should miss the next match as well.
Josip Posavec’s Palermo surrenders to Atalanta 3-1. The former Inter goalkeeper could have definitely done more on the first goal but was not at fault on the following two. The first half could have ended by a higher margin without his contribution. He cannot do miracles, but definitely needs to work on his technique.
La Gazzetta dello Sport ratings
Josip Posavec 5 “No particular faults but concedes 3.”
Napoli got away with a solid 2-0 vs Genoa on Friday and are now ready to face the Santiago Bernabeu. Marko Rog came on with 17 minutes to go in the second half. The former Dinamo star took Giaccherini’s place on the offensive right end of the usual 4-3-3. In spite of such a limited time, the Croatian international shone several times and made himself useful. Ivan Strinić looked on from the bench.
La Gazzetta dello Sport ratings
Marko Rog 6 “A few minutes to show some of his repertoire”
Fiorentina are back in contention for an European spot following their neat 3-0 vs Udinese on Saturday. After 2 months spent mainly warming the bench, Hrvoje Milić came back into the starting eleven and went the distance. The former Hajduk full back looked a bit rusty in the first half and almost caused a penalty on Widmer. His defensive support turned out to be rather solid eventually but his offensive skills rather inadequate.
Milan Badelj was also a starter for Paulo Sousa. The Croatian international retained his usual place in front of the defense to protect Borja Valero and arrange ball possession. The former Hamburg midfielder did his homework diligently and also tried to score with a good shot which found an attentive Karnezis.
Nikola Kalinić was left out of the intial formation for the second time in a row. The former Dnipro star came on in the 67th minute with the result set on 2-0. Kalinić looked lively and busy, his tries to convert always stopped. He showed that the bench didn’t affect his desire and that he is ready for the remainder of the Europa League campaign.
Stipe Perica came on in the 54th minute with Udinese being 1 goal down. The former Chelsea forward was relegated out wide on the left side. As a result he struggled to get in the match and left no trace. Andrija Balić warmed the bench the whole evening.
La Gazzetta dello Sport ratings:
Hrvoje Milić 5,5 “Not convincing”
Milan Badelj 6 “Playmaking without glimpses nor faults”
Nikola Kalinić 6 “Warmed up for the match in Germany.”
Stipe Perica 5,5 “Never really dangerous.”
Mario Pašalić’s Milan is already in Rome to face Lazio on Monday night in clash that smells of Europa League preliminary round. Sampdoria beat Bologna 3-1 on Saturday. The felsinei went ahead in the first half but did not manage to stop the blucerchiati’s come back. Ante Budimir and Bruno Petković remained sidelined for the whole 90 minutes.
Danjiel Subašić (above) was in net as AS Monaco’s impressive form continued on Saturday, as they cruised to a 5-0 win over Metz. The clean sheet came easy for Danijel Subašić, as he was called into action just once. Monaco remain atop Ligue 1, three points above PSG and five above Nice.
Tin Jedvaj (above) started at center back for Bayer Leverkusen as they won 3-0 against Niko Kovač’s Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. The versatile defender made five tackles and four clearances as he helped hold Frankfurt to three shots on target. Ante Rebić came off the bench in the 52nd minute and was productive but ultimately fruitless, as he fired three shots off target and created one chance. Leverkusen move up to 9th in the Bundesliga with the win, while Frankfurt hold onto third position with other top sides falling as well.
Andrej Kramarić started at forward for Hoffenheim in their 2-1 defeat at Wolfsburg on Sunday. Kramarić was subbed off in the 58th minute, after failing to make much of an impact (0 shots, 1 chance created). Hoffenheim remain 5th in the Bundesliga after a very strange round of fixtures that saw the teams in places 2 though 7 all lose.
Barcelona at PSG(UEFA Champions League),
Napoli at Real Madrid(UEFA Champions League),
Fiorentina at Borussia M’gla.(UEFA Europa League),
Monaco at Bastia, Bayer Leverkusen at Augsburg, Palermo at Juventus,
Darmstadt 98 at Hoffenheim, Ingolstadt at Frankfurt, Atlético Madrid at Sporting Gijón, Espanyol at Real Madrid,
Internazionale at Bologna, Napoli at Chievo, Sassuolo at Udinese, Fiorentina at Milan, Leganés at Barcelona,
~Ante Kvartuč reporting from sunny Southern California, Zach Gilfix reporting from Minneapolis, MN and Salvatore Cagnazzi reporting from Italy