Ludogorets 0-2 Inter: Report, Ratings and Reaction as Eriksen’s First Goal Helps Nerazzurri to Win

Christian Eriksen scored his first goal for Inter as the Nerazzurri defeated Ludogorets 2-0 in the first leg of the teams’ Europa League Round of 32 clash. 

​The hosts managed to frustrate Antonio Conte’s side early on, slowing the tempo of the game and defending in numbers.

Antonio Biraghi and ​Eriksen were both afforded half chances, ​but neither player was able to convert meaning the first half finished goalless. 

FBL-EUR-C3-LUDOGORETS-INTER-MILAN

Inter improved after the introduction of ​Romelu Lukaku from the bench on the hour mark. They eventually got their reward for some promising attacks when Eriksen fired a shot home from the edge of the box after some neat build-up play. 

The visitors were given the chance to double their lead when they were awarded a last-minute penalty after a review by VAR; Lukaku converted from the spot to secure his side a 2-0 win. 

Here’s 90min’s verdict of the game…


LUDOGORETS

Player Ratings 

Starting XI: Ivanov (7); Cicinho (5), Terziev (6), Grigore (6), Nedyalkov (6); Dyakov (6), Anicet (6), Oliveira-Souza (5), Marcelinho (5), Swierczok (5), Wanderson (5)

Substitutes: Badji (5), Tchibota (5)


INTER

Key Talking Point 

​With Conte making seven changes to the side that suffered a disappointing defeat at the hands of Lazio on Sunday, this marked a big opportunity for some of Inter’s fringe players to stake a claim for a starting spot. 

Despite the rewards on offer, the Nerazzurri put in a lacklustre first half display that was devoid of any intensity and creativity going forward. 

In the end it took the introduction of Lukaku to spark Inter’s attack into life. The club’s star man provided the assist for Eriksen’s opening goal and added a much needed focal point to bring the midfield into the game.


Tonight showed how dependent Inter are on their top scorer, and with Lautaro Martinez ruled out of the second leg through suspension, Conte will likely have to call on Lukaku again. 

This will prevent the big Belgian from being rested in a potentially season-defining period in ​Serie A over the next month.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Padelli (6); Moses (6), Godin (7*), Ranocchia (7), D’Ambrosio (7), Biraghi (6); Vecino (5), Borja Valero (6), Eriksen (7); Martinez (5), Sanchez (5) 

Substitutes: Lukaku (7), Young (6), Barella (6)


Diego Godin

After his former teammates at ​Atlético Madrid put in a spirited performances against ​Liverpool on Tuesday night, Diego Godin himself pulled out a fine European display against the Bulgarian champions. 

Diego Godin

The Uruguayan drove his team forward with some marauding runs and played a key role in Inter’s imperious defensive display, which restricted Ludogorets to just one attempt all evening.


Looking Ahead

Ludogorets return to action on Sunday and they will be looking to extend their seven-point lead at the top of the Bulgarian First League when they face mid-table Etar. ​

Inter also play on Sunday, with Conte’s side hosting struggling Sampdoria in Serie A. The Nerazzurri will be hoping to secure three points to close the gap on league leaders ​Juventus. 


For more from Matt O’Connor-Simpson, follow him on Twitter! 

Let’

José Mourinho Has Managed 6 Different Clubs in Champions League Knockout Ties – His Record in Full

José Mourinho became only the fourth manager in Champions League history to take charge of 150 games when he led a Tottenham Hotspur side against RB Leipzig on Wednesday night.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and Carlo Ancelotti are the only other coaches to reach that milestone in the Champions League, with only Ancelotti (84) winning more of those first 150 games than Mourinho (81).

Mourinho has also now drawn level with Ancelotti in terms of the most clubs managed in the Champions League knockout stages. Spurs, who lost to RB Leipzig in the first leg of their last 16 tie this week, are now Mourinho’s sixth different side.

Looking back through his personal Champions League knockout history, here’s how Mourinho has fared with each of his clubs over the last 16 years…


Porto

Jose Dos Santos Mourinho,Nuno Valente

Off the back of winning the UEFA Cup in 2002/03, the 2003/04 season was Mourinho’s very first managing in the Champions League, and he won the whole thing.

His first knockout tie was against Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson. Porto prevailed 3-2 on aggregate after dramatically sealing progress with a late Costinha goal at Old Trafford that sent Mourinho infamously running down the touchline.

Given that this was his only Champions League season with Porto, Mourinho’s knockout record was flawless, with other aggregate victories over Lyon and Deportivo La Coruna, before then also beating Monaco 3- 0 in the final.

​Season ​Tie Round​
​2003/04 ​Porto 3-2 Manchester United (agg) ​Last 16
​2003/04 ​Porto 4-2 Lyon (agg) ​Quarter Final
​2003/04 ​Porto 1-0 Deportivo La Coruna (agg) ​Semi Final
​2003/04 Porto 3-0 Monaco​ ​Final

Chelsea

Jose Mourinho

Mourinho took Chelsea to the semi-finals in his first season there in 2004/05, falling to the Luis Garcia ‘ghost goal’ against Liverpool in a 1-0 aggregate defeat. Prior to that, Chelsea had beaten Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the last 16 and last eight respectively.

The following season, Barcelona took revenge on Mourinho’s Chelsea at the last 16 stage en route to lifting the trophy themselves. In 2006/07, it was another semi-final defeat to Liverpool, having earlier seen off Porto and Valencia in the previous rounds.

Season​ Tie​ Round​
​2004/05 ​Chelsea 5-4 Barcelona (agg) ​Last 16
​2004/05 ​Chelsea 6-5 Bayern Munich (agg) ​Quarter Final
​2004/05 ​Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool (agg) ​Semi Final
​2005/06 ​Chelsea 2-3 Barcelona (agg) ​Last 16
​2006/07 ​Chelsea 3-2 Porto (agg) ​Last 16
​2006/07 ​Chelsea 3-2 Valencia (agg) ​Quarter Final
​2006/07 ​Chelsea 1-1(p) Liverpool (agg) ​Semi Final

Inter

Jose Mourinho

Mourinho’s next job took him to Italy and Inter, where he experienced a last 16 Champions League exit to Manchester United in 2008/09. But the following season he won it for the second time in his career, and as part of a historic treble with Serie A and Coppa Italia titles.

Along the way to glory he beat former employers Porto and Barcelona, as well as getting the better of former boss Louis van Gaal against Bayern Munich in the final.

Season Tie​ Round​
​2008/09 ​Inter 0-2 Manchester United (agg) ​Last 16
​2009/10 ​Inter 3-1 Chelsea (agg) ​Last 16
​2009/10 ​Inter 2-0 CSKA Moscow (agg) ​Quarter Final
​2009/10 ​Inter 3-2 Barcelona (agg) ​Semi Final
​2009/10 Inter 2-0 Bayern Munich​ ​Final

Real Madrid

Jose Mourinho

After the club had been knocked out at the last 16 stage six times in a row prior to his arrival, Mourinho consistently took Real Madrid to the last four every season he was at the Bernabéu, but crucially never further after falling at the penultimate hurdle three years in a row.

Each time, the semi-final defeat was against a different opponent, yet it perhaps stung no more than when it was Barcelona, later dubbed one of the greatest teams ever. Mourinho then fell foul of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, both of whom went on to lose their respective finals.

​Season Tie​ Round
​2010/11 ​Real Madrid 4-1 Lyon (agg) ​Last 16
​2010/11 Real Madrid 5-0 Tottenham (agg) ​Quarter Final
​2010/11 ​Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona (agg) ​Semi Final
​2011/12 Real Madrid 5-2 CSKA Moscow​ (agg) ​Last 16
​2011/12 ​Real Madrid 8-2 APOEL (agg) ​Quarter Final
​2011/12 Real Madrid 3-3(p) Bayern Munich (agg)​ ​Semi Final
​2012/13 ​Real Madrid 3-2 Manchester United (agg) ​Last 16
​2012/13 ​Real Madrid 5-3 Galatasaray (agg) ​Quarter Final
​2012/13 ​Real Madrid 3-4 Borussia Dortmund (agg) ​Semi Final

Chelsea (again)

Jose Mourinho

Returning to Chelsea for a second spell, 2013/14 was a fifth consecutive season with a third different club where Mourinho reached at least the semi-finals. This time he was outfoxed by Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid, who won 3-1 at Stamford Bridge in the second leg.

A year later, Mourinho won his first Premier League trophy since 2006, but his Champions League streak was ended when Chelsea were knocked out at the last 16 stage by Paris Saint-Germain in a dramatic tie that was decided on away goals in extra-time at Stamford Bridge.

Season Tie​ Round​
​2013/14 Chelsea 3-1 Galatasaray (agg)​ ​Last 16
​2013/14 ​Chelsea (a)3-3 Paris Saint-Germain (agg) ​Quarter Final
​2013/14 ​Chelsea 1-3 Atletico Madrid (agg) ​Semi Final
​2014/15 ​Chelsea 3-3(aet) Paris Saint-Germain (agg) ​Last 16

Manchester United

Jose Mourinho

Mourinho got Manchester United back into the Champions League by winning the Europa League in 2016/17, which had been his first season in Europe’s secondary club competition since lifting the trophy under its former UEFA Cup guise with Porto back in 2003.

United got to the knockout stages, as is the norm for Mourinho, but a dismal last 16 tie against Sevilla saw the Red Devils lose 2-1 at Old Trafford in the second leg. Fans fumed that it was only after going 2-0 down that the team showed any sort of impetus.

​Season Tie​ Round
2017/18​ ​Manchester United 1-2 Sevilla (agg) Last 16​

Tottenham Hotspur

Jose Mourinho

Qualification for the 2019/20 Champions League knockout phase wasn’t all Mourinho’s doing after inheriting a Tottenham team from Mauricio Pochettino with only two group games to play, but they are now the sixth club he has managed at this stage of the competition.

However, to go any further Spurs must overturn a first leg defeat against RB Leipzig.

​Season

Tie​

Round​

2019/20​ Tottenham 0-1 RB Leipzig​ (first leg) Last 16​

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

Let’

5 of the Best Moments of Lothar Matthäus’ Career

Lothar Matthäus is number 27 in 90min’s Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time series


​The complete footballer and an inspirational leader, Lothar Matthäus was one of the game’s greatest ever central midfielders. 

After conquering Germany with Bayern Munich in the mid-1980s, Matthäus set sail for Serie A to form part of the German revolution at Inter under Giovanni Trapattoni – a move that saw him thrive in Europe’s ultimate proving ground. 

His ability to play several midfield roles was what made ‘der panzer’ so special and he had the knack of simply making those around perform at a higher level. 

So from domestic triumph to World Cup greatness, here are some of the finest moments from Matthäus’ illustrious 21-year career. 


Maiden Bundesliga Crown, 1984/85


Following his development as a dynamic box-to-box midfielder at Borussia Monchengladbach, Matthäus made the switch to Bayern in 1984.

A refined passer, powerful tackler and partial to a thunderb**tard or two; Matthäus excelled in Bavaria from the get-go – with his 16 goals in his debut campaign guiding Bayern to the Bundesliga title, the first trophy of his career. 

Matthäus swiftly established himself as a leader in Udo Lattek’s imperious side, with double-figure goal tallies in 1985/86 and 1986/87, as he helped Bayern to three consecutive Meisterschales. He would then go on to lead his side out in the 1987 European Cup final against Porto in Vienna – albeit in agonising defeat. 

Nevertheless, his title victory in 1984/85 after a barren spell at Die Fohlen kickstarted an impressive haul of 15 major honours at a domestic level.


Immediate Scudetto Success, 1988/89


Despite the sky-high expectations, very few foreseen the immediate impact Matthäus would have at San Siro. 

With the influx of foreign playmakers spearheading their respective sides to Serie A glory in the 1980s, Inter now had theirs in Matthäus – who joined the club alongside West German teammate Andreas Brehme.

Playing in a more advanced role, compared to his time in the Bundesliga, the injection of Matthäus’ world-class talent galvanised the Nerazzurri squad, transforming them on the pitch. His nine goals in his debut season guided Inter to their first Scudetto in eight years, finishing an impressive 11 points clear of second-place Napoli. 


Italia ’90 Triumph

Lothar Matthaeus,Pierre Littbarski

Confidence was high within the West German camp heading into Italia ’90, despite falling at the final hurdle in both 1982 and 1986. 

With German icon Franz Beckenbauer at the helm, Matthäus skippered his country for the second time at a major tournament – leading an efficient core of individuals who, like Matthäus, were plying their trade in Serie A at the time. To nobody’s surprise, West Germany breezed through the group stages – with the captain scoring on three occasions, including a brace in a stellar individual performance against Yugoslavia.

Matthäus’ penalty was then enough the see his side overcome Czechoslovakia 1-0 in the quarter-finals before he repeated his spot-kick reliability in an unforgettable penalty shootout victory against England in the semi-final.

A gargantuan display by der panzer ensued on football’s grandest stage against Argentina, as he executed Beckenbauer’s task of shutting out the world’s best player, Diego Maradona, to perfection. It was a selfless performance, with El Diego later describing Matthäus as “the best rival I’ve ever had”.

And although it was Brehme who garnered the bulk of the glory following his game-winning spot-kick, it was the captain’s versatility and defensive nuance that guided Die Mannschaft to victory that day.


Ballon d’Or, 1990


Off the back of his fantastic display in the World Cup final at Stadio Olimpico, Matthäus was crowned as the winner of the Ballon d’Or on Christmas Day 1990, pipping that summers tournament’s Golden Boot and Ball winner Salvatore Schillaci to the post along with iconic midfield rival Paul Gascoigne. 

Continued individual brilliance followed at the Nerazzurri in the 1990/91 campaign, where he scored 23 times in 46 appearances and was just beaten by Sampdoria’s Gianluca Vialli in the race for the Capocannoniere that season.

And after guiding Inter to victory in the UEFA Cup in May 1991 with a 2-1 victory over Italian rivals Roma over two legs, Matthäus was recognised as FIFA’s inaugural World Player of the Year – an award that capped off a monumental two years for Matthäus, when der panzer truly was at the peak of his powers.


Die Mannschaft Record-Breaker, 2000

Lothar Matthaus

By the time Euro 2000 rolled around, a decade after his Ballon d’Or crown, Matthäus had developed into an outstanding sweeper – with his intelligence and tactical nous prolonging his career in a different role. 

And although the campaign itself was one to forget for Germany – now reunified by the way – it was a special one for Matthäus, as he became the first German to represent his country on 150 occasions (83 for West Germany) after appearing in a group stage game against Portugal.

By the time he’d called it a career at the impressive age of 39, Matthäus had played in nine major tournaments for Die Mannschaft since 1980, including five World Cup finals – being the first outfielder in history to achieve that feat.


Let’

Olivier Giroud Receives ‘Concrete’ Offer to Join Lazio at the End of the Season

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud has received an offer to join Lazio when his contract expires at the end of the season. 

The 33-year-old has been a marginal figure under Frank Lampard this campaign, making just eight appearances – mainly from the bench – and scoring just one goal. 

Olivier Giroud

Giroud looked set to depart Stamford Bridge in January with a spate of clubs interested in signing him. The Frenchman came ​agonisingly close to securing a move to ​Inter in a deal that would have seen him reunited with former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, however the clubs were not able to agree a deal.

Now, the striker could join one of the Nerazzurri’s title rivals in Lazio. According to Le 10 Sport (via ​Daily S​tar), Giroud has received a ‘concrete proposal’ from the Rome-based side who are free to negotiate with the player due to the Bosman ruling. 

The striker is understood to have not yet made a decision on where he would like to move and is likely to be inundated with offers. As well as Inter, Giroud was linked with the likes of LA Galaxy, ​Newcastle and even ​Tottenham last month.

The player is thought to be particularly keen on a move to Spurs, with a ​rep​ort emerging this week stating that the veteran wants to gauge the strength of the Lilywhites’ interest before entertaining any other offers. 

FBL-EURO-2020-QUALIFIER-ALB-FRA

​Barcel​ona were similarly ​tracking the wantaway World Cup winner, though this transfer is unlikely to happen as the club ​closes in on signing Leganés forward Martin Braithwaite. 

Despite the speculation surrounding his future, Giroud insisted that he is fully focussed on forcing his way back into the Blues team and making the France squad for Euro 2020.

“I am 100 percent focused on Chelsea’s targets,” he told talkSPORT after Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat to Manchester United on Monday (via ​football.london). 

Now I need to move on, move forward. I want to give everything for the team and obviously my personal target is to play as much as I can to play at the Euros for my country. It is massive for me.”


For more from Matt O’Connor-Simpson, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Who’s on the Plane? Italy Euro 2020 Squad Power Rankings – February

Having qualified for next summer’s European Championships in hugely impressive fashion, Italy will be considered dark horses for the tournament. 

The Azzurri, one of the great footballing nations, failed to qualify the World Cup in 2018 after they slumped to a dismal 1-0 aggregate defeat to Sweden back in 2017. It was the first time Italy had not participated in the finals of the World Cup since 1958. It was bad. Really bad.

However, all has changed. Italy are now an entertaining nation to watch once more, and there is optimism after they qualified for Euro 2020 by finishing top of their group. Indeed, Roberto Mancini’s men won all ten of their games scoring 37 and conceding just four goals in this time. 

Roberto Mancini

Not bad, Roberto. Not bad. 

But the head coach has plenty of decisions to make before the tournament, notably, of course, who he is going to include in his squad. Here, we run you through who could be involved as it stands…


23. Giorgio Chiellini

Where else can we start? How good was it to see him on a football field once again?

After six months out through injury, Chiellini recently came off the bench during ​Juventus’ 2-0 win over Brescia, receiving a standing ovation as he entered the field.

If he can maintain fitness, Chiellini must be in the squad. 

Giorgio Chiellini

22. Riccardo Orsolini

With Nicolo Zaniolo rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament earlier in the season, Mancini is in need of an alternative attacking option in the likely event that the young Italian isn’t fit in time to feature. 

Enter, Orsolini. 

The 23-year-old has eight goals and five assists this season, while playing for middle of the table Bologna. 

21. Stefano Sensi

At number 21 is the giant that is Stefano Sensi, who stands at a towering 5’5.

The midfielder made a bright start to life at ​Inter, but he has since been struggling with a number of injuries. Once a certain squad member for his nation, Sensi’s place is certainly now under threat. 

However, if he can recover and play a few minutes in the not-too-distant future, he certainly has the quality to make it into the squad.

And if he doesn’t? Well, he’s a big boy, he can handle it. 

20. Alex Meret

Ah, the curious case of ​Napoli. 

Meret has started 15 games between the sticks for Napoli this season, but he has kept just three clean sheets. Despite this, the keeper is expected to assume the highly-coveted role of third-choice goalkeeper. 

19. Federico Bernardeschi

Federico Bernardeschi

In 21 appearances in all competitions this season, Bernardeschi has managed…one goal and one assist. 

Mancini may be a fan of the Juventus man, but his performances must improve if he wants to be sure of a spot. 

18. Mattia De Sciglio

De Sciglio has struggled with injuries this season and even when he hasn’t been injured, he’s still struggled for game time. 

However, for his national side, he is a useful squad player, with his versatility and international experience coming in handy.

17. Alessio Romagnoli

The defender has surprisingly made just 12 appearances for his country, but the ​Milan captain has been impressive at the back this season for the Italian giants. 

As a result, he could force his way into Mancini’s plans. 

16. Sandro Tonali

Sandro Tonali

Tonali has a very, very bright future ahead of him. As a result, just about every major club in Europe has been linked with a move for him, despite the fact that he’s not even 20 yet. 

Perhaps what is most impressive about Tonali is that he appears to be improving with each passing week. 

15. Alessandro Florenzi

Florenzi secured a late loan move to Valencia as he searched for greater game time ahead of the Euros.

Well, he now has it, but unfortunately for him, he missed the La Liga outfit’s last game as he was shown a red card on his second appearance for the club. 

14. Francesco Acerbi

Francesco Acerbi is continuing to impress in Serie A, contributing two goals and two assists from the centre of defence this season. 

A useful squad member. 

13. Andrea Belotti

Andrea Belotti

Nine goals and two assists in Serie A this season isn’t bad…it just isn’t…well, anywhere near Ciro Immobile’s tally.

12. Leonardo Spinazzola

Where would you like him to play, Roberto? 

Right-back? Left-back? Either wing? Take your pick!

Every squad needs a Spinazzola. 

11. Salvatore Sirigu

Well, Salvatore (what an excellent name, right?!) Sirigu will be Italy’s back-up goalkeeper if he can stay fit because, unfortunately for him, Gianluigi Donnarumma will be Mancini’s first-choice. 

10. Federico Chiesa

With Zaniolo out, Federico Chiesa’s role for Italy has become even more important. 

The Fiorentina man has seven goals and five assists this season and although he may play more centrally for his club, he will operate on the wing for his nation. 

9. Lorenzo Insigne

Lorenzo Insigne

Insigne somehow manages to make Stefano Sensi look tall, but in more important news, the forward is a major threat and Mancini will need him firing at the Euros.

His work ethic as well as his talent make him a nightmare to play against. He’s only got four goals and four assists this season, mind.

8. Lorenzo Pellegrini

Competition in the middle of the park will be high and while Pellegrini will be involved, he will need to prove that he is worthy of a starting berth between now and the end of the season. 

7. Emerson Palmieri

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is on the hunt for a new left-back, with ​Leicester’s Ben Chilwell and Everton’s Lucas Digne on their shortlist.

As for Emerson, well, he hasn’t even been included in the squad for the last two league games. Fortunately for him, he is a regular for his nation on the left of the defence. 

Still, would be good for him to get some minutes.

6. Gianluigi Donnarumma

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Donnarumma has played 189 times for Milan and while the Italian giants have had their fair share of ups (I guess?!) but mainly downs in recent years, the shot-stopper’s stock has continued to rise.  

He’s also somehow still only 20….how?!

5. Marco Verratti

Marco Verratti may have his injury struggles, but there’s no denying his importance to this Italy team – when he’s fit, of course.

He may not dominate the headlines, or have an endless amount of ‘Best Goalz’ videos on YouTube, but there is no denying his talent. 

He’s also part of a PSG team that ​Jurgen Klopp has claimed are now favourites to win the Champions League. 

4. Jorginho

Jorginho

Jorginho’s ​Chelsea struggled on Monday evening, losing for the third time this season to Manchester United. 

However, Jorginho has been a key player for the faltering Blues this campaign and he is an equally important player for Mancini. The end result? A place in the squad for the Euros.

3. Nicolò Barella

Romelu Lukaku is loving life at Inter, while new recruit Ashley Young is proving to be one hell of a signing.

But as for Barella, he is quietly putting in impressive performance after impressive performance. The Italian has been doing the dirty work for the team, while he also shown his quality on the ball as well. 

Not only that, he’s a key player for Mancini. 

2. Leonardo Bonucci

Bonucci is the rock at the back and he will be in the squad. The only question is: who will be playing alongside him? 

Whoever it is, Bonucci will be desperate to help Italy go deep into the tournament. 

1. Ciro Immobile

Ciro Immobile

2018/19 season – Fabio Quagliarella ends campaign as top goalscorer in Serie A with 26 goals.

2019/20 season – Ciro Immobile already has 26 goals in Serie A. It’s only February and there are still 14 matches left to play. 

This guy is scoring goals for fun and, yes, he doesn’t exactly have the same record for his nation, but Immobile will be Italy’s go-to guy if he continues finding the net with such great regularity.

Now, that’s a scary thought for any nation next summer.


On Standby

While Nicolo Zaniolo isn’t expected to feature, it would be wrong to completely rule him out, especially if his recovery goes better than expected. In attack, Domenico Berardi will be looking to make the cut. 

Domenico Berardi

Elsewhere, Gaetano Castrovilli is still in contention to make the squad, with the midfielder impressing for Fiorentina. As for the goalkeeping situation, Alessio Cragno and Pierluigi Gollini could still take the place currently occupied by Meret. 

In defence, Gianluca Mancini will be hopeful of forcing his way into the squad, as will Giovanni Di Lorenzo.

Let’

90min’s Definitive European Player Power Rankings: Week 22 – Curb Your Enthusiasm Special

Another week, another steamin’ hot batch of excitement for us to rank. 

You know how this works. We take 15 in-form players from across Europe and we rank them, but only with the help of a great TV show. This week, it’s a Curb Your Enthusiasm special!

Does that sounds good? Does that sound pretty, pretty, pretty good?


15. Steven Berghuis (New Entry)

Steven Berghuis

“You know what? Never mind, alright? I’ll take my liver out! I’ll walk around with a dialysis machine hanging out of me for the rest of my life, no problem!”

Berghuis is the kind of guy who’d give you a liver if you asked for it. The Feyenoord man is just dishing out assists for fun these days, racking up four in his last four games.

He even added two goals last time out against PEC Zwolle, so life’s pretty good for him right now.


14. Thomas Müller (New Entry)

Thomas Mueller

“I’m not a person who embraces challenges. I run from challenges. I break world records running from challenges.”

Some people run from challenges. ​Müller does not.

It’s not that long ago that his Bayern Munich career was supposed to be over, but now he’s got nine goals and a whopping 17 assists in all competitions this season.

Two assists in a 4-1 win over Köln? Yes please.


13. Josip Iličić (Down 2)

Josip Ilicic

“​Okay Larry, you don’t want the tour? Get the f*** out of my house.”

Iličić only played his way into the power rankings a few weeks ago, but ever since then, he’s failed to boost his stats. He’s playing well for Atalanta, but come on man. We want goals.


12. Son Heung-min (Re-Entry)

Son Heung-Min

“It’s people like you that are the problem.”

“No, I’m the solution! I’m the solution to the problem!”

​Son is the solution to every one of ​Tottenham’s problems. He bagged a late, late winner against ​Aston Villa, and even played through what could be a season-ending arm fracture. What a man.

Unfortunately, it might be the last time we see him in these rankings this year. 

Cheers, Son’s crying. Nice one.


11. Timo Werner (Down 2)

Timo Werner

“Smile.” 

“Hey, Mind Your Own Business. How About That?”

Can we go back to 2019? Back to a happier time when Werner was actually scoring goals?

He has scored in one of his six games this year, and that was the first game back after the winter break! Send help.


10. Alexander Sörloth (Up 2)

Turkish Spor Toto Super Lig"Trabzonspor AS v Besiktas AS"

“This project demands I get back to my base.”

I bet Crystal Palace bet they could bring Sörloth back to his base this year. 

While the Eagles are flailing in front of goal, the Norwegian took his tally for the year to 22 in all competitions with another goal this week.


9. Romelu Lukaku (Down 3)

Romelu Lukaku

“You know what? There’s a jet stream of bulls**t coming out of your mouth my friend, you are busted buddy!”

Being the self-proclaimed king hasn’t gone too well for ​Lukaku. After chatting a big game, he has fluffed his lines.

Defeats to both ​Napoli and Lazio have weakened ​Inter’s chances of domestic success this season. But hey, he’ll always have the Milan derby to remember.


8. Erling Haaland (Up 2)

Erling Braut Haaland

“Can I tell you something about apricots? One in 30 is a good one. It’s such a low percentage fruit.”

There’s a one in 30 chance that Haaland isn’t going to score.

After drawing a blank last week, the Borussia Dortmund man found his shooting boots once more against Frankfurt. Now just the eight goals from five appearances. Decent.


7. Carlos Vinícius (Down 3)

Carlos Vinicius

“Don’t put that pie down! Do not put that pie down!”

Vinícius doesn’t want pie, and he doesn’t want goals either apparently.

He drew a blank last time out against Braga, when Benfica fell to their second consecutive loss. Not ideal.


6. Robert Lewandowski (Up 2)

Robert Lewandowski

“So, how’s your marriage?”

“What the hell? Why would you ask me that?”

“I’m trying to elevate small talk to medium talk.”

Like Larry David, Lewandowski elevated his level last time out by getting back where he belongs – on the score sheet.

Bayern are back to winning ways as they sit pretty at the top of the ​Bundesliga.


5. Ciro Immobile (Up 5)

Ciro Immobile

“When you’re not concerned with succeeding, you can work with complete freedom.”

Unlike the rest of his ​Serie A tile rivals, Ciro Immobile did not have to worry about the Coppa Italia semi-final. Instead, he was solely focused on beating Inter.

Of all his 29 goals this year, his penalty against Inter may be the most important so far. The title race is on.


4. Kylian Mbappé (Up 1)

Kylian Mbappe

“What’s the level of anger here? What am I dealing with?”

“Well, I’d have to say at least an 8.7.”

“8.7? That’s not that bad. I thought it would be at least a 9.”

“It was a 9. Then you broke that lamp, and the crazy woman screamed at you, and it got you some pity points.

“Pity points. That’s fabulous, I love pity points. But how can I get to a 7? I know a 6 is out of the question, but is there any way I can get to a 7?”

No, that’s not a conversation between ​Mbappé and divisive manager Thomas Tuchel, but it might as well be.

Away from the drama, Mbappé managed a goal and two assists in a cup victory over Dijon, but he was rested for the dramatic 4-4 draw with Amiens.


3. Lionel Messi (-)

Lionel Messi

“You don’t work. You’re unemployed.”

“Loving you is my job, Larry.”

​Messi might not be scoring, but that doesn’t mean he’s not hard at work.

His longest dry streak in the league in over six years has coincided with a run of six assists in his last three games, so it’s not all bad.


2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Down 1)

Cristiano Ronaldo

“Why didn’t you say ‘hello’ to him? You know him.”

“He wanted to do a ‘stop and chat,’ I didn’t want to do a ‘stop and chat’.”

It seems a bit harsh to drop ​Ronaldo down one place even after he scored in the Coppa Italia semi-final, but we wanted the Serie A record!

He was ‘rested’ for the 2-0 win over Brescia, so his run of scoring in consecutive games just stopped. Even if he does come back to score in his next game, his record is going to have an asterisk next to it forever. 


 1. Jadon Sancho (Up 1)

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-FRANKFURT

“You god damn right I’m livin’ large! I just had a croissant filled with motherf*****g champagne!”

Life’s pretty good for Sancho these days.

His assist streak might have come to an end, but he chimed in with another goal instead. You’ve got to be happy with that.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Ludogorets Razgrad vs Inter Preview: How to Watch on TV, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

​Inter travel to Bulgaria on Thursday evening to take on Ludogorets Razgrad in the first leg of their round of 32 tie in the Europa League.

The Nerazzurri were disappointingly knocked out of the Champions League after a shock home defeat to a young Barcelona side on matchday six, forcing them into the Europa League competition.

FC Internazionale v FC Barcelona: Group F - UEFA Champions League

Ludogorets, meanwhile, scraped through their Europa League group to set up this knockout tie. The eight-time Bulgarian champions progressed in second place alongside Espanyol, after a 1-1 draw at home to Ferencvaros on the final matchday.

Domestically the hosts have once more been imperious this season. Through 21 games in the top-flight, Ludogorets are unbeaten and already hold a seven-point lead at the top of the table as they go in search of their ninth consecutive crown. 

Similarly, Inter have also enjoyed a successful domestic campaign thus far, but defeat to Lazio at the weekend did seriously dent their title chances. 


Where to Watch

​When Is Kick Off? ​Thursday 20 February
​What Time Is Kick Off? ​17:55 (BST)
​Where Is it Played? ​Ludogorets Arena
​TV Channel/Live Stream ​BT Sport Extra
​Referee ​Carlos del Cerro Grande


Team News

With the Scudetto the overwhelming priority, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Conte make a few changes from the side that were beaten in Rome on Sunday night. 

Stefano Sensi and Roberto Gagliardini remain out while it’s unlikely that Samir Handanovic will be risked ahead of Sunday’s home game against Sampdoria. 

Christian Eriksen

We should see Christian Eriksen make just his second start since his January arrival while Alessandro Bastoni, Victor Moses and Alexis Sanchez are all primed for returns to the starting XI. 

As for Ludogorets, new boss Pavel Vrba has only one fresh injury concern to deal with after winger Jorginho was forced off in the second half during their 6-0 win over Botev Vratsa on Saturday.  

Other than that, Vrba should have a full squad to pick from for Thursday’s first leg.


Predicted Lineups

​Ludogorets ​Iliev; Ikoko, Grigore, Moti, Nedyalkov; Cauly, Anicet, Dyakov, Wanderson; Marcelinho; Keseru.
​Inter Padelli; D’Ambrosio, De Vrij, Bastoni; Moses, Vecino, Brozovic, Eriksen, Biraghi; Alexis, Lukaku.​

Head to Head Record

Thursday’s encounter will be the first time these two have ever met. Ludogorets, however, have faced up against Italian opposition on four occasions since their Champions League in 2012.

Cicinho,André Miguel Valente Silva - Portuguese Soccer Player

The Bulgarian outfit have played both Lazio and Milan twice, winning just one of the four encounters.

Inter, meanwhile, have faced off against Bulgarian opposition just five times in their history. So far, they’re unbeaten – beating both Etar and CSKA Sofia once while the other three games against the two aforementioned sides finished all-square.


Recent Form

The hosts have only played one league game since their return from the winter break – winning 6-0 at home to the lowly Botev Vratsa on Saturday.

Before that Ludogorets had endured a rather patchy run of form during their winter break friendlies. In their six encounters, the Bulgarian outfit won just two. 

Nevertheless, their impressive domestic form in the first half of the campaign has seen them build up an impressive seven-point lead at the top of the table – winning 15 of their 21 league encounters thus far, drawing the other six.

Luiz Alberto,Joaquín Correa

As for Inter, well, Conte’s side’s defeat to Lazio on Sunday was a fairly disastrous one, as they dropped down to third in Serie A

In what was a fascinating chess match between Conte and Simone Inzaghi, the Nerazzurri – for the most part – were stout defensively and certainly looked the greater threat in transition. In the end, however, they were outdone by a rather soft penalty decision and a piece of magic by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in the Inter box after the Nerazzurri failed to clear a Lazio corner. 

Nevertheless, here’s how these two sides have fared in their last five outings.

Ludogorets Inter​
Ludogorets 6-0 Botev Vratsa (15/02) ​Lazio 2-1 Inter (16/02)
Ludogorets 1-1 Slovan Bratislava (07/02) ​Inter 0-1 Napoli (12/02)
Ludogorets 0-1 Akhmat Grozny (06/02) ​Inter 4-2 Milan (09/02)
Ludogorets 0-1 Red Star Belgrade (01/02) ​Udinese 0-2 Inter (02/02)
Ludogorets 6-0 Kairat (29/01) ​Inter 2-1 Fiorentina (29/01)


Prediction

Despite Conte fielding what’ll likely be a heavily rotated side, the Nerazzurri should still have enough to get a result in this one. 

Antonio Conte

The Bulgarian outfit scraped through their Europa League group – collecting just eight points from their six games – and in their recent bunch of friendlies over the winter break, they were beaten by Red Star Belgrade and were held by Slovan Bratislava.

Expect the pragmatism of the Italian boss to be on full display on Thursday evening, with Inter taking a slender advantage into the second leg. 

Prediction: Ludogorets Razgrad 0-1 Inter

Let’

Inter CEO Insists Lautaro Martínez Will Only Be Allowed to Join Barcelona if He Asks to Leave

​Inter executive Giuseppe Marotta has insisted forward Lautaro Martínez will only be allowed to join Barcelona if he specifically asks to do so.

Finding a new striker is one of Barcelona’s top priorities and Martínez is believed to be near the top of their wish list. The 22-year-old, who has managed 16 goals and four assists in all competitions this season, will have a €111m release clause in his contract become active in the summer.

Lautaro Martinez

​Barcelona are rumoured to be readying a summer bid for Martínez, but Marotta told ​Sky Sport Italia that ​Inter do not feel as though they need to fold under pressure from any of Europe’s biggest sides.

“Lautaro is growing, he is a very young boy,” he said. “I think he is above all interested in wearing this glorious shirt and growing from a professional point of view.

“Let’s not forget that because of its history, Inter does not envy any other teams, so as I always say, the players will be sold only and exclusively when they themselves indicate that is what they want.”

FBL-ITA-CUP-INTER-FIORENTINA

With Inter determined to hold on to their starlet, Barcelona may be forced to look elsewhere. According to ​Sport, La Blaugrana remain desperate to sign Martínez, but they are not prepared to go crazy in their attempts to get their man.

Barcelona believe that his €111m release clause, which will be active only for two weeks in July, is too high and does not reflect the direction in which they want to move – especially since they are considering other strikers who are available for far cheaper.

Sport suggest that Barcelona could try to explore sending other players to Inter in exchange. Midfielders ​Arturo Vidal and ​Ivan Rakitić have both been linked with moves to Italy, so Barcelona could look to capitalise on that and try save themselves some money in their pursuit of Martínez.

Arturo Vidal,Ivan Rakitic

​Tuttosport even claim that Antoine Griezmann has been identified as a potential replacement for Martínez at San Siro, but that’s almost certainly not happening as Barcelona are already light on numbers in attack.

With a deal for Martínez potentially looking tricky, Barcelona are considering a number of other strikers. A source has confirmed to 90min that ​Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in their sights, and any deal for the Gabon international would certainly be far cheaper.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Lazio 2-1 Inter: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Hosts Edge Enthralling Contest in Title Race

​Lazio edged Inter 2-1 on Sunday night as they leapfrogged the Nerazzurri in the Serie A table to leave them just a point off Juventus at the summit.

In what was an intriguing tactical battle of two 3-5-2 formations, it was the hosts who went the closest to opening the scoring early on in proceedings as Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s fierce drive from distance rattled Daniele Padelli’s crossbar.

Antonio Conte’s side were certainly the brighter in the first half, and after failing to make the most of some promising attacking transitions, they were finally able to execute late on in the opening period. After Jony’s cross was picked off by Ashley Young on the edge of the Inter box, Inter countered to great effect – with Young finishing on the half-volley after Thomas Strakosha had parried Antonio Candreva’s effort into danger.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-LAZIO-INTER

The hosts responded swiftly after the restart though, as Ciro Immobile scored his 26th Serie A goal of the season from the penalty spot after he was brought down inside the area by Stefan de Vrij.

Both sides defended resolutely after Immobile’s leveller, with chances coming few and far between, before a bit of magic by Milinkovic-Savic helped the Biancocelesti take the lead – the Serb doing brilliantly to work a bit of space inside the Inter box before squeezing his left-footed effort past Padelli.

Much to Simone Inzaghi’s displeasure, an entertaining, end-to-end contest played out with glorious chances coming at both ends.

Lautaro Martinez thought he’d grabbed a late equaliser after he’d nodded in Young’s unselfish cross, but the Argentine was rightly adjudged to have been offside before Immobile had his one-on-one effort well-saved by Padelli – the Italian goal machine beating both Diego Godin and De Vrij with a first touch sent from the Gods.

The visitors continued to press right up until the final whistle but were unable to find the all-important equaliser, sparking scenes off jubilation in the Stadio Olimpico.


LAZIO

Key Talking Point

What a turnaround by Simone Inzaghi’s men, eh?

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-LAZIO-INTER

After a rather underwhelming first-half display, the hosts came out like a different beast in the second period. A newfound intensity out of possession didn’t allow the Nerazzurri back three to settle on the ball and they were quickly on level terms after their drastic improvement.

And although it wasn’t a trademark attacking display by the Biancocelesti – with Inter doing well to nullify chief creator Luis Alberto – they did just about enough to edge this one. Inzaghi will know though, that he has the immense defensive work of Francesco Acerbi to thank for his side claiming a vital three points.

Ladies and gentleman, we’ve officially got ourselves a three-horse race. Strap yourselves in.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Strakosha (6); Felipe (7), Acerbi (9), Radu (7); Marusic (6), Milinkovic-Savic (9*), Lucas (7), Alberto (6), Jony (6); Caicedo (5), Immobile (7)

Subs: Correa (6), Lazzari (7), Cataldi (6)


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

The Serbia international’s wicked effort that struck the woodwork in the opening ten minutes set the tone for a wonderful display.


While as cool as ever in possession, it was Milinkovic-Savic’s physical presence that caused the Nerazzurri backline so many issues on Sunday night. His movement out of possession, meanwhile, was superb, initially starting a little deeper to find space before persistently exploiting the space between Inter’s left-sided centre-back and wing-back.

The 24-year-old’s expertly taken finish to give his side a massive three points was just the icing on what was a complete performance and based on his recent form, there’s little doubt he’ll have Europe’s elite at his feet come summertime.


INTER

Key Talking Point

After the highs of the derby victory last weekend, Conte’s side were quickly brought down to Earth – first losing at home to Napoli in the Coppa Italia in the week before tonight’s defeat. 

Once more the Nerazzurri failed to put in a complete display as they succumbed to a Lazio comeback in the second period. 

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-LAZIO-INTER

Overall, it wasn’t the worst performance by the visitors; they remained compact until the hosts took the lead, Immobile’s impact was limited in open play, while they were able to transition from defence to attack with relative ease. They certainly created enough to get a point from the Stadio Olimpico. 

In the end, however, a soft penalty decision and their inability to clear a corner was ultimately Inter’s undoing on Sunday night and now they’re three points off Juventus at the top, with the momentum from the Milan Derby victory swiftly evaporating.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Padelli (5); Godin (6), De Vrij (6), Skriniar (7); Candreva (7), Vecino (7), Brozovic (7), Barella (5), Young (7*); Lautaro (5), Lukaku (6)

Subs: Moses (6), Eriksen (6), Sanchez (5)


Ashley Young

The former United man has enjoyed a bright start in Italy but this was undoubtedly his finest display.

With Milinkovic-Savic often occupying the right half-space, Young had a mightily difficult task and with Adam Marusic providing width, Young’s defensive capabilities were certainly put to the test. The Englishman passing with flying colours, however. 

Ashley Young,Lautaro Martinez

Going forward he proved a threat as well, kickstarting the attacking transition that led to his opener in the first half – a finish that certainly made us think it was still 2012 and he was playing on Sir Alex Ferguson’s left-wing at Old Trafford.


Looking Ahead

Lazio travel to relegation-battlers Genoa next Sunday while Inter take on Ludogorets in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie on Thursday evening. 

The Nerazzurri then host Sampdoria in Serie A on Sunday night.


Let’

Lazio & Inter Are on the Cusp of Glory – But Only One Can End Juventus’ Title Monopoly

On September 25, Lazio lost their second game in the opening five league matches, falling to a 1-0 defeat to a new-look Inter side.

It would prove to be their final league defeat of the calendar year. Almost five months on, Le Aquile have risen to within a point of Inter, and on Sunday evening, they go toe-to-toe with I Nerazzurri in a top-of-the-table six-pointer. But how did we get here? 

It’s been somewhat of a Scudetto monopoly in Italy over the past eight years, with top dogs Juventus hoovering up title after title. But finally, a new challenger has entered the ring. Well – make that two. 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Almost a decade has passed since Inter last climbed to the Serie A summit under the Special One, but since then the Italian giants have rarely threatened powerhouses Juve for success. But I Nerazzurri went all out in the summer to rectify this drought, and the arrival of serial winner Antonio Conte has brought a new mental strength to the Milan side.

After a lightning start – and a winter wobble – ​Inter are back on song, and having invested heavily once again in the January transfer window, Conte’s side looks far more balanced across the pitch.

The team possesses bags of goals in ​Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, and the winter signing of ​Christian Eriksen will provide the spark needed to eke out wins in the tighter matches. At the back, Stefan de Vrij, Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni form a fierce barrier in front of the brick wall Samir Handanovic.

Title-winning stuff. 

But if Conte’s warriors want to do battle with the Old Lady for that top spot, they’ll have to get past the true underdogs of the title race first. 

Across in the Italian capital, something special is on the brink of eruption. 

Breaking clear of the chasing pack and firmly solidifying their place in the final sprint to success, SS Lazio have emerged from the fog as genuine title contenders. Simone Inzaghi’s men have gone on an incredible 17-game unbeaten run, and now find themselves only a point behind joint-leaders Inter and Juve. 

SS Lazio v SPAL - Serie A

Le Aquile are a fun and exciting team to watch, with Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic feeding Serie A’s irrepressible top-scorer Ciro Immobile, who has notched an unbelievable 25 goals in 23 matches.

If Inter’s decade dry spell has been tough on supporters, spare a thought for the Lazio faithful, who will be celebrating 20 years without title success at the end of this season. Or will they? 

Lazio host Inter on Sunday night in what may prove to be a straight shootout for a swing at the king of Italy, Juventus, in this title race. Victory for the in-form Rome club would see them leapfrog their opponents for a place in the top two, and depending on I Bianconeri’s result against Brescia, Inzaghi’s side could be top of the league by the end of the evening. 

But while this Lazio team is full of attacking vibrancy and a relentless energy, there still remains an air of naivety and inexperience at the highest level throughout the squad. A title race is a gruelling pressure-cooker, waiting to explode at any given moment.

And no one knows this better than Conte.

Antonio Conte

Although Inter have been known to stumble and crumble at the final hurdle in recent years, their new boss, quite simply, has not. The ​ex-Chelsea man was brought in to provide a new steel both on and off the field, and this has never been more evident than in their derby triumph. 

Trailing 2-0 at half-time to bitter rivals ​Milan, I Nerazzurri’s title hopes were hanging in the balance. But an inspired team talk from their coach injected some vim and vigour into the mis-firing stars, and Inter ran out 4-2 winners in one of the games of the season. 

Their reward? A trip to the most in-form team in Italy. Inter have fond memories of facing Lazio at Stadio Olimpico, most notably in May 2018, when the pair faced off in a winner-takes-all clash for a spot in the Champions League. 

Inter snatched a dramatic 3-2 win on the final day of the season, coming from behind as Lazio had two men sent off and imploded before a stunned home crowd.

It was proof of just how far Le Aquile had come, but how much further they had to go to consider themselves on a par with the league’s elite. Less than two years later, and Inzaghi and co face another trial by fire. 

Only the potential prize on offer is much grander this time round, and the stakes are unequivocally higher.

Simone Inzaghi,Marco Parolo

Victory for Inter would help them retain top spot for another week, and – more importantly – open up a four-point gap over Sunday’s hosts. It wouldn’t be the end of the race for Lazio, but it would be a serious psychological blow to a team running on momentum.

For the victor, the minor matter of the big bad boss awaits. And both teams are ready for that final hurdle. ​Juve may finish the weekend on top, but Maurizio Sarri’s side is in for one hell of a bumpy ride. 

Let’