A lot of things are going on in the world of footy today. This is your place to discuss it all.
Leading off, this morning featured the draw for the UEFA Qualifying Playoffs for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The eight teams remaining will play two legs between November 9th and November 14th. That’s not so far away, so start marking your calendars. The matchups are as follows:
The majority here will have their eyes focused on the matchup between Italy and Sweden. In my opinion, Sweden is the team that would provide the most difficult matchup for Italy in the lower seeded pot, although I do think they should see victory and qualify for the tournament.
Sweden finished second place with 19 points in a group that headlined France and The Netherlands, and were able to beat out the once powerful Dutch team, who will miss a second-straight tournament. The group also featured Belarus, Luxembourg, and Bulgaria. They are no unfamiliar opponent to the Italians, who defeated them 1-0 in the 2016 Euros from a late Eder goal. Ventura, please don’t screw this up.
Speaking of Ventura screwing things up, ESPN FC (consider the source) reported today that “Unwanted by Italy, Napoli star Jorginho is waiting for Brazil to call”. The article claims that Brazil’s coach will be in the stands for tonight’s clash between Napoli and Manchester City to scout the Italy and Brazil eligible midfielder.
"If Brazil call him up, he will accept it," Jorginho's agent, Joao Santos, said.
As much as I’d like to say ESPN FC was spewing lies, I don’t think they would risk their credibility by fabricating an agent’s quote. I am very inclined to believe if Brazil wanted Jorginho, they could have him. In September, Ventura said:
"Jorginho is a good player, but there is no space for him in our 4-2-4 formation,"
Hey, Ventura - there is space. Play him. If it isn’t too late already, Jorginho missing out on playing for Italy would be detrimental for Italy’s teams of the future, and would cement Ventura’s place as one of the worst Italian managers in recent history, barring a miracle at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. If Jorginho slips through the cracks, he won’t just be hurting this current team, but teams from years to come.
Jorginho, Napoli 16-17. First flagged up by the young player model at VERONA, he's developed into one of the best DMs in the world. pic.twitter.com/3h8dwkp0iR— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) May 4, 2017
Just look at this radar from last season. Jorginho excelled in almost all categories, and was a ridiculously effective passer and tackler. To say he can’t fit in a 4-2-4 formation over players like Gagliardini and Marco Parolo is simply absurd. Call him up, Ventura, if it’s not too late already.
Clarification note: Jorginho has only played as a substitute for two of Italy’s friendlies - an important distinction. He is eligible to play for Brazil if he is called up, without FIGC being able to intervene.
And that brings us to the last point of the evening, the Champions League. There are some really good matchups going on today.
The first is Real Madrid vs. Tottenham Hotspurs. Yet another chance for English teams to prove they are to be taken seriously in Europe, and another chance for Real Madrid to reaffirm their European dominance.
Next up is Feyenoord vs. Shaktar Donetsk which is admittedly only an interesting matchup because it’s down the street from me. RB Leipzeg vs. Porto and Monaco vs. Beskitas should be decent matchups as well.
Most eyes here will likely be on Man City vs. Napoli at the Etihad Stadium. I don’t have to be the one to tell you that Napoli looks really good this season, as seen by their perfect league record. To be honest though, if Napoli wins tonight I may have to concede that it will probably be their season to lose. I know Manchester City aren’t the be-all end-all but defeating them on the road after their very impressive start would be a real sign that they may be for-real.
A lot of the analytics community on Twitter have now seen enough that their penciling in Napoli as favourites over Juve based on their models. Additionally, Squawka had a decent preview on the matchup this morning that might be worth taking a look at to learn some more about the players on both sides.
In many ways, Napoli and Man City are very similar sides. Both finished third place in the league last year with arguably the most likely team to be serious threats in the coming year. Both are attacking powerhouses that have made a huge statement so far in the league by outscoring their opponents by some significant margins. Both have a huge goalscoring threat in Dries Mertens and Sergio Aguero. And of course, both are on top of their respective league. It should make for a great matchup.
If it wasn’t clear, I know I’m going to have my eyes glued to the television for Man City vs. Napoli, and I highly recommend you do the same. As always, feel free to discuss and post your thoughts on any of tonight’s matchups, your thoughts on the draw or Italy situation, or anything you want really - this is more or less an off-topic thread.
And follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyTurgelis.