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Top 5 this Weekend: Mazzarri’s midfield, Mackay’s future and more…

The latest feature (the first of many new ones on this website) is our way of getting football enthusiasts excited for the weekend. “Top 5 this Weekend” provides you with a list of things you can look forward to this weekend, thus assisting you in helping your football viewing. This feature will be published every Friday, looking ahead to all the football action on the weekend, with a tactical mindset. No more boring previews, no more pointless Friday articles, “Top 5 this Weekend” will satisfy your Friday football reading needs.

Week One (1)

1) Walter Mazzarri’s men running the midfield show in the Milan derby

Despite a 2-2 draw with AS Roma last weekend, AC Milan put in a below par performance and were lucky to come away with a point. The midfielders offered way too much space and the defence were unbelievably disorganised. Chuck Bales (@SoccerCTC), who attended the game, had this to say “Milan were all over the place. Players getting slaughtered by crowd. Kaka one-man show”, a perfect summation. For a more detailed Tactical Analysis, head this way.

The Milanista will be truly angered if a similar performance is put in, and sure enough, Inter Milan will be ready to pounce. If Inter Milan can press their counterparts how AS Roma did, it won’t paint a pretty picture for the men in red (be prepared for Fredy Guarin winning possession in dangerous areas).

Speaking of Freddy Guarin, the midfielder will have a crucial part to play in breaking up Milan’s midfield, as Cambiasso (who has been impressive) sits behind in midfield to prevent any creative dynamism. The Argentine did a good job of it earlier in the campaign. That midfield battle, personally, looks to be going Inters way. Added to that, Ricardo Alvarez has been impressive down Inter’s right this season as Mazzarri has implemented the 3-5-2 effectively, with the Argentine having the most assists in the league so far this season, no small feat considering the hard-work he has to put in as a wing-back.

AC Milan will have to be wary of this threat from the wings, something which they haven’t been able to do this season. Having said that, Mattia De Sciglio put in an impressive shift on the right side against Roma last weekend. Added to that, Rodrigo Palacio has been in good form this season; the club’s top scorer will look to get on the end of the through balls from Freddy Guarin and take advantage of Nagatomo’s and Alavarez’ wing play.

Inter are on the back of a 4-2 loss against Napoli, a game in which, the home side restricted Inter to lateral passes and almost nothing creative. Nagatomo and Alvarez will have to be careful in their movement forward; in their bid to provide wide assistance to the midfielders (who were clubbed in), they failed to get back into positions, something Allegri’s men can take advantage of. Having said that, Milan lack attacking threat from wide areas with Allegri preferring a more centralised approach. If he fails to do so on Sunday again, just remember, we told you so.

2) Sagna & Arteta’s role against Chelsea

The last 4 seasons in the Premier League, the club at top spot on Christmas has gone on to win the league. Given the close proximity of the club’s in the league table, that statistic may be negligible this time round. Nevertheless, top spot on Christmas, if nothing else, does give a much needed confidence booster to the side.

Arsenal & Chelsea face off at the Emirates on Monday night. Mourinho has been speaking all week about how Chelsea lack a goal-scorer. Eden Hazard is the club’s top goal-scorer with 6 goals with Samuel Eto’o the best ‘forward’ in terms of goals, a mere 2. Arsenal have been confident in their football at home, with the midfield constantly creating chances and making runs into the box. There will be constant supply to the forward man. One can only expect a dominating show by Arsenal’s quick passing, swift moving midfielders; Chelsea’s far from impressive midfield will have their work cut out.

Bacary Sagna will have a crucial game to play; Arsenal centre-backs are more than adept at keeping Chelsea’s striker quiet, and as has been the case for much of the season, the Blues will look to Eden Hazard for creativity and goals. It’s important that Arsenal’s French full-back is on his toes, closely marking the Belgian international, forcing him to run down the flanks and preventing him from cutting dangerously inside.

Arteta will be deployed to prevent the attacking midfielder (most likely Oscar) from causing too much trouble, allowing Ramsey and Ozil to contribute more to the attacking phase of the game. Expect Walcott to make runs into the box to provide another attacking avenue inside the box to supplement Giroud’s presence.

Liverpool play on Saturday and are expected to get all 3 points against Cardiff; an Arsenal victory will guarantee them top-spot on Christmas, anything else and Liverpool could find themselves leading the race on December 25th.

If interested, here’s a Tactical Analysis of Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Arsenal last season.

3) Mackay or Allegri?

Martin Jol, Pepe Mel, Elie Baup, Steve Clarke, Andre Villas-Boas and Miroslav Dukic all lost their jobs in December across Europe’s top leagues. The state of managerial job security is at an embarrassing stage in modern football, with unwarranted sackings taking place on a regular basis. All those five names (probably besides Pepe Mel) deserved to be given an extended period of time in the hot-seat. As the situation stands, it wouldn’t be entirely inconceivable that another man (men?) loses his job once the weekend football is done.

AC Milan could find themselves far from touching distance in the Serie A, with Massimo Allegri’s job (surely and understandably) on the line. However, the club had a poor start last campaign also before stabilizing in the second half. That is still possible, but it wont surprise many if Milan take the big decision, based on the results.

One sacking waiting to happen, completely against all humanity, is that of Malky Mackay. The situation at the Welsh club is getting pretty ugly with reports that owner Vincent Tan sent the manager an email threatening him to resign or be sacked. The Scot didn’t turn up for the pre-match press-conference either, and it’s more than likely that he’ll lose his job, to the anger and frustration of the Cardiff fans.

The third man who many not be in the hot seat is a certain Tim Sherwood. The Spurs caretaker boss suffered a 2-1 defeat at home in the Capital One Cup in his first game in charge (a second defeat at the Lane against West Ham). His next task is away to Southampton, a side with the best defensive record in the league, who can go back above Spurs with a win (and not many will bet against it). Despite talks of a possible permanent job for Sherwood, one finds it hard to believe that such a contract will be offered.

4) Atletico’s assault of the duopoly in Spain

14 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss, 44 goals scored, 10 conceded. That’s the stat of the side at the top of the table in Spain. That exact stat is shared by the team in second as well. Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid have done a fantastic job of keeping in touching distance of the title race. More importantly for Simeone’s men, they are a while 5 points clear of neighbours Real Madrid.

Atletico Madrid face off against Levante, and will be expected to get all 3 points. Barcelona on the other hand, who are trying to make distance between themselves and Atletico, are away to Getafe; worryingly for Barca fans, they will be without both Neymar and Messi. It will be interesting to see how they’ll get along. If Atletico can manage to keep a clean sheet this weekend, it would mean they’ve conceded just 1 goal since the end of October.

Diego Costa is doing an impressive job of competing with Ronaldo for the top scorer of the league. With Messi out injured, Ronaldo would have expected to run away with the title, but Diego Costa has matched him every step of the way with both on 17 goals for the season. Equally impressive is Koke (here’s a Scout Report) who is joint-top with Cesc Fabregas in terms of assists so far.  Hipsters worldwide will be hoping Atletico can maintain their push.

5) Bayern set to (officially) conquer the World

For many fans, experts and journalists, Bayern Munich are probably the best team of the present day and on current form, could be of our generation as well. But there’s nothing better than an official accolade to prove the same.

Bayern are currently in Morocco as they face host club, and surprising finalists, Raja Casablanca in the final of the 2013 Club World Cup. The Moroccan club are on a dream run but a victory over Bayern is next to impossible. They will be looking to be the first German side to win the tournament, adding another trophy to their cabinet. Pep Guardiola will also be attempting to win his 3rd Club World Cup, a record (and one that is unlikely to be broken for a long time).

Hipsters will once again be hoping for a Moroccan victory, but the players will be more than happy taking Ribery’s boots post-game.

Sami Faizullah

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