There’s an immediate hot take available here that I just can’t commit myself to: the departure of Neymar from Barcelona has had an uplifting effect on 33-year-old midfielder Andres Iniesta, and El Ilusionista is about to enjoy the consummate season because of a mixture of peak footballing intelligence and a proverbial unchaining on the left-hand side of Barca’s midfield.
Juventus arrived at the 2016-17 Champions League Final having surrendered only three goals in 12 matches. Thanks in large part to Lionel Messi, that total was matched in the 2017-18 edition of the competition after only one match, or 69 minutes to be precise.
Messi scored a fantastic brace and Ivan Rakitic added one of his own as Barcelona throttled an under-strength Juventus 3-0 at the Camp Nou to begin Champions League group play.
Serie A was struck by storms this weekend. While the United States was dealing with the horrors of the hurricanes, areas such as Livorno experienced their own extreme weather and loss of life. Miraculously, all but one match took place.
There were surprises. AC Milan faced its first real challenge and failed spectacularly. Fiorentina’s new-look side seemed to click and ran out 5-0 winners against a hapless Verona team. There were also more run-of-the-mill fixtures. Juventus won. Napoli won. Inter won. Fairly standard, really.
This was the first week of the new Serie A season. Things seemed to go according to plan. Juventus won. Fiorentina played like a bunch of hastily assembled strangers. Napoli played free flowing, attractive football and almost undid itself in the end. Everything went according to plan. So, there’s not really a result that stands out from the rest in terms of demanding the attention. But that’s because there’s a new game in town.
For those familiar with the wizarding sport of Quidditch, you’ll know that teams inconsequentially spend long periods of time throwing the Quaffle through goal hoops for the pittance of 10 points. This is all entirely meaningless because during this time, the seeker is attempting to catch the Golden Snitch, ending the game and giving his side 150 points.
Serie A is almost back. So close you can nearly taste it. So, while most of Italy is shutting down in advance of Ferragosto, we’re going to spend some time with our Serie A preview, making predictions for the season ahead. Prepare for all of these to look completely wrong in eight months’ time.
During the quietest moments of the offseason, when nothing is stirring, not even Mino Raiola’s double chin, major footie outlets, without fail, turn to three sources to provide some semblance of news: #1. Diego Maradona — he’s guaranteed to have said something controversial in the last few days. #2. Sir Alex Ferguson — he’s guaranteed to have waxed lyrical on Cristiano Ronaldo or torn into Manchester United in the last few days. #3. Ronaldinho — he’s guaranteed to have done something, anything in the last few days.
Approaching his 40th birthday, Italian shot-stopper Gianluigi Buffon has been open about his plans for the future over the summer. If Juventus fail to win the Champions League this season, Buffon claims he’s “99.9 percent” certain that he’ll end his professional career after the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
If Buffon is able to win that elusive Champions League title, his competitive nature would see him return to the field in an attempt to win the FIFA Club World Cup the following season.