2001: An Ace Squad-yssey – Season 3, Part 1 | @cmclassicsquads

Nick’s back with the 01/02 Aces where a season of European football awaits. CM0102 Legend Maxim Tsigalko sadly passed away over the festive period and we’d like to dedicate this episode to the great man.

Hello CM97/98 and CM01/02 fans alike! and welcome to season 3 of the blog save that brings your favourite CM01/02 stars to the world of CM97/98.

After strolling to the Serie B title in season 1, the CM01/02 Aces had a successful debut campaign in the top flight last season, finishing 6th in the league, reaching the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, and qualifying for the UEFA Cup. So without further ado, let’s begin season 3…

The first piece of news is that our home, The Sports Interactive Stadium, gets an increase in capacity, so a few more champ fans can take a seat to watch their favourite stars in action, which can only be a good thing.

Those of you who have followed this blog from the beginning will know that I like my pre-season tours to be against the teams of some of the CM97/98 legends to give my players an idea of what it takes to make it in this game. This year it’s England, where we’ll face Arsenal, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Man Utd. I chose Arsenal because of Pablo Aimar, who is admittedly not a CM97/98 legend, but I’m allowed to sign a handful of players who have had their stats upgraded to match their 01/02 stats, and Aimar is one of them, so I’d like to see him in action.

So to Highbury we go, and although it’s not the strongest Gunners side we could have faced, it’s still an emphatic win with our Belarusian goal machine netting a hat trick. The only blot was an injury to our captain, Taribo West but we start the tour with an impressive win.

Just before the next leg of the tour, Arjen Robben joins Cagliari on loan. He hasn’t featured a great deal for us so far, so hopefully he’ll get some games under his belt for them.

I chose Aston Villa because they have the defensive legend that is Robert Page, and he partners Riccardo Scimeca in the centre of Villa’s back line. I field a totally different eleven in this match, and despite an early battering from Villa, we take a surprise lead through Mark Kerr and manage to hold on for the remainder of the match. Collymore was closing in a few times, but man of the match Klompe kept him at bay.

Next up are Spurs. I was hoping to face both Richard Wright and Kieron Dyer in this game, but Wrighty has left for Man Utd, so we’ll see him in our next match, Dyer starts though. I want to field my strongest team against United, so I put out a similar team from the Villa match, with the 4 players who hadn’t yet played getting a run-out in a dismal display at the Lane. Lee Clark and Steffen Iversen delivered the killer blows.

Last stop is Old Trafford, and the United squad is packed with CM97/98 legends. Richard Wright, Terry Cooke and Alex Notman start, but disappointingly Alfonso is injured, Nevland is out on loan, and Curtis doesn’t even make the squad.

We start well, but Wright is typically on form, and just as we think we’ve finally beaten him on 23 minutes, it’s disallowed and we end the half with all of our 10 shots on target saved. It’s a similarly dominant 2nd half but we can’t find a way past the inspired Wright and although it’s only a friendly, I’m a little aggrieved not to have won it, especially with an extra man.

There’s another loan exit, with Nikiforenko joining Como. Like Robben, he too hasn’t played much, so a spell in Serie B should help him.

The draw is made for the 2nd round of the Coppa Italia and our first opponents are Brescia, but before that match there are a few pieces of news. The first is German, Jupp Heynckes controversially being appointed England manager, leaving Real Madrid managerless.

This is just fantastic…

AC Milan lay down a marker for the season and beat Juventus 3-1 to win the Italian Charity Shield.

And lastly, we’re drawn against Armenian outfit, Ararat in the 2nd round of the UEFA Cup, which I’m more than happy with.

So with the friendlies out of the way and the talking over, it’s time for our 1st competitive game of the season, a Coppa Italia 2nd round tie at home to Brescia, who just survived relegation last season. Le Rondinelle brought in 4 summer signings including keeper Massimo Taibi, who is apparently one of their star players. Let’s hope he’s as good as he’ll be for Man Utd one day.

The visitors are on top in a lively first 20 minutes, and we survive 2 red card shouts before going behind on half an hour to a Dario Hubner strike. Tsigalko and Madeira turn the game on it’s head before Bonazzoli and a 2nd for Hubner give Brescia a 3-2 half time lead. Madeira levels proceedings just past the hour, and it’s ends all-square, meaning we’ll have to do it all over again in a replay.

So not the best result, but we should have Frey and West back for the replay, so our back line should be a bit stronger.

Mark Kerr gets his first senior Scotland call-up, and after what he’s been through with injuries, I’m so happy for the lad and hopefully this will be the making of him.

So this is the squad ahead of the new season, and there are quite a few wanted symbols. Some are listed for loan and some will get their opportunity this season, so hopefully this will be the year when the Aces come of age.

I’ll leave you with our opening fixtures. The first 3 matches are tough to say the least, but they’re followed by a seemingly kind little run, so we’ll see how it goes.

So we’re all set for a new season, join us next week to see if it will be Aces high or low. Arrivederci!

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