In our weekly feature, here on Italian Football Daily, we take a look at the performances of the Italians currently based in the top two divisions in England.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Claudio Ranieri (Manager – Leicester City)
Leicester City and Claudio Ranieri remain top of the Premier League table by five points after a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon.
With only seven games remaining, Leicester show no sign of letting the pressure get to them, as the chasing pack, led by Spurs, look to stop the most unlikely of title victories becoming a reality. It was Riyad Mahrez who was once again the Leicester match-winner, firing past the Palace ‘keeper, Wayne Hennessey, thanks to a Jamie Vardy cross. It was Mahrez’ sixteenth goal of the season, taking him to only three behind his team-mate, Vardy.
Although they were free-scoring earlier season, mainly thanks to Vardy and Mahrez netting on a weekly basis, this was Leicester’s third successive 1-0 win, and their fourth by that scoreline in 5 league games. Ranieri appears to have installed an element of catennacio into his team, and their defensive resilience may see them cruise to the title with several games to spare.
After the game, Ranieri spoke to the media, indicating that:-
“It sounds good, our fans are singing a very good song about that but we are to stay calm because the Premier League is the same as every match, you don’t know what will happen.
“We have to continue to push a lot because the Champions League is very close to us. Maybe in the next two matches I can say something more.”
Matteo Darmian (Manchester United)
Matteo Darmian returned to the starting line-up for Manchester United’s 1-0 derby victory at local rivals, Manchester City. Darmian has had difficulties getting into the United first team recently, and a spate of injuries and a clear lack of confidence have not helped his bid to become a regular for United.
Darmian struggled early in the first-half with the pace of Raheem Sterling, but matters improved when the winger was substituted half-way after 26 minutes. The substitution of Marcos Rojo saw Darmian move over to left-back after 63 minutes, but he was only to last a further 21 minutes before he himself was substituted after succumbing to cramp.
Although Darmian put in a solid performance overall, his reluctance to trust himself when in possession of the ball differs greatly from the player who United signed from Torino in July. At times, there was a genuine reluctance to carry the ball forward, or sometimes even take a touch to get control of the ball.
If Darmian is to feature for Italy at Euro 2016, then he needs to rediscover the confidence and form that secured him the move to Manchester in the first place.
Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham United)
West Ham United continued their push for a Champions League spot on Saturday with a 2-2 draw away at local rivals Chelsea. Ogbonna and The Hammers were unlucky not to secure a win, as a controversial penalty saw Chelsea equalise with only one minute of the 90 remaining.
Ogbonna was once again in excellent form, and nullified the threat posed by Loic Remy easily. Although competition for the defensive spots in the Azzurri Euro 2016 squad is tough, Ogbonna really should be under consideration by Antonio Conte, and it is astonishing that Andrea Ranocchia of Inter (currently on loan to Sampdoria) has been selected ahead of him.
Graziano Pelle (Southampton)
Fresh from his double-strike against Stoke City last weekend, Graziano Pelle once again found the net for Southampton as he netted Southampton’s second goal in their 3-2 win over Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
Liverpool raced into a two goal lead within 22 minutes, and things went from bad to worse for the Saints as Sadio Mane missed a penalty which came about after Pelle was fouled by Martin Skrtel in the penalty area just after the interval. Despite that, Southampton continued to press and Mane pulled one back on 64 minutes. Pelle then netted the equaliser with 7 minutes of the game remaining, before Mane grabbed the winner 3 minutes later to round off an amazing comeback.
Francesco Guidolin (Manager) & Alberto Paloschi (Swansea City)
Francesco Guidolin’s Swansea City moved further clear of the relegation zone on Saturday following their 1-0 win over Aston Villa.
Guidolin returned to the touchline after a three week absence due to a chest infection and his team continued their good recent form against a poor Aston Villa team. The win moves Swansea 10 points clear of the relegation zone with only seven fixtures remaining and should secure their Premier League survival.
Former Chievo striker, Alberto Paloschi, was an unused substitute in the win.
After the win, Guidolin spoke to the media stating:
“It was not a very good performance but the players were concentrated and focused like a final game.
“Our season has not been a good season. When I came two months ago we had only two points on the relegation zone and we’re now better than that.
“This is an important result for us.”
Fabio Borini & Vito Mannone (Sunderland)
On Sunday lunchtime, Sunderland faced local rivals, Newcastle United, in what has almost become a relegation survival battle given the teams’ respective positions.
Both Vito Mannone and Fabio Borini were rewarded for their recent good form by playing the full 90 minutes. Borini had a key part in Sunderland taking the lead just before half-time as his shot was only parried by Rob Elliot in the Newcastle goal, with the rebound being fired in by Jermain Defoe.
Mannone looked to have done enough to keep a clean sheet and help Sunderland take the three points, but he was unable to prevent a late header from Aleksandar Mitrovic which earned Newcastle a share of the spoils.
Fernando Forestieri (Sheffield Wednesday)
Sheffield Wednesday maintained their challenge for a Championship play-off place with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Charlton Athletic on Saturday.
Once again, Forestieri was involved in most of Wednesday’s best attacking moments, and capped another good performance with the second goal of the match. Forestieri reacted quickest to a header from Atdhe Nuhiu that rebounded off a post.
Diego Fabbrini (Birmingham City)
Diego Fabbrini missed Birmingham City’s 1-1 draw with Fulham on Saturday.
Mirco Antenucci, Giuseppe Bellusci and Marco Silvestri (Leeds United)
After a run of three successive wins, hopes were high amongst Leeds United fans that they might secure a top-half finish, and they were expected to beat Yorkshire rivals, Huddersfield Town, comfortably. By full-time, there were more protests against the owner, Massimo Cellino, and increasing frustration at Leeds’ increasing inconsistency.
Things started badly for Leeds, when Sol Bamba conceded a penalty after 11 minutes however, he was rescued by Marco Silvestri who saved the resulting spot-kick. Leeds then took the lead on 22 minutes through Stuart Dallas, and things were looking up for the Whites. However, Huddersfield equalised just before half-time and, with only 20 minutes left took the lead thanks to another mistake from Bamba.
Leeds tried to get back into the match to no avail and Huddersfield took advantage of increasing space to romp to a 4-1 win.
Giuseppe Bellusci and Mirco Antenucci both featured, but were largely ineffective.
Gabriele Angella (Queens Park Rangers)
Gabriele Angella played the full ninety minutes as Queens Park Rangers were held to a 1-1 draw at Preston North End on Saturday. Rangers took the lead after only 5 minutes, and it looked like that was sufficient to secure a win, but two minutes into injury time Preston equalised to take a share of the spoils.
Federico Macheda (Nottingham Forest)
Federico Macheda started the game his new club, Nottingham Forest, against their local rivals, Derby County on Saturday lunchtime.
Macheda has moved to the City Ground to kickstart his career however, he was largely ineffective and was removed after 70 minutes.
Michael Agazzi (Middlesbrough)
Michael Agazzi was an unused substitute in Middlesbrough’s 1-0 victory over promotion rivals, Hull City, on Friday evening.