2001: An Ace Squad-yssey – Season 3: Part 4 | @cmclassicsquads

Happy Friday! Here’s Nick and the 01/02 Aces continuing their pursuit of Serie A domination

Buon Venerdì to you! and welcome to part 4. Last week the CM01/02 Aces hit top gear and reeled off 8 wins on the bounce to climb to 3rd in Serie A and made it through the opening matches in the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup, but this week is sure to be their sternest test so far, so let’s get straight into it.

We start in Europe, Donetsk to be exact for the 2nd leg of our UEFA Cup 3rd round tie with Shakhtar (or in this case, Shakhtyor). Despite a few chances either way the game is largely a damp squib, but we emerge victorious courtesy of Selakovic and go into the next round £250k better off.

We draw Bordeaux in the next round, which is sure to be much tougher.

After scoring 68 goals in 2 and a bit seasons, Madeira finally gets called up by Portugal. David Prutton also gets a call up for England. Well done boys!

Vicenza are next in a dress rehearsal for our Coppa Italia quarter final. They’re 8th in the league and didn’t do much business over the summer. It’s 2-0 at half time after Tsigalko adds to an early Kerr strike. Otero pulls one back at the start of the 2nd half, but Källström immediately restores our 2-goal cushion. Madeira makes it 4-1 and Otero gets a 2nd, and then looks to have made it 4-3 but his 3rd goal is ruled out and we survive a late battering to secure the points.

Next there’s an international break, and Madeira earns his 1st cap for Portugal as they beat Ibrahim Said’s Egypt.

We now face both halves of Milan, starting with the red. Milan are down in 7th place but still have a squad packed with quality and have added Marco Regri and Christian Vieri to their ranks. We’re 3-0 down in under half an hour, with Patrik Andersson’s red card doing little to help our cause. I switch formations in the 2nd half to the one that I had success with in my RB Leipzig blog, and despite us battering them, we can’t beat Stefan Klos and our run of 13 straight wins ends with a whimper.

My 2 reserve keepers are annoyed at their lack of action, so I let Chiotis join Empoli on loan and keep Pinheiro as my no. 2.

We might as well have stayed at the San Siro as we’re back there again 4 days later to face table-topping Inter. The Nerazzuri are 4 points ahead of us, so we could do with a win to close the gap. I am surprised but not upset to see Ronaldo on the bench. I stick with the same formation from the 2nd half against Milan, and although we heavily outscore them in the chances department, super Pagliuca thwarts us. Not a terrible result in the scheme of things.

Back to Europe, and Bordeaux come to visit. Okoronkwo is suspended, so N’Diaye drops to centre back and Said makes his 1st start of the season in the anchor role. We have a goal disallowed on 17 minutes and Bordeaux have one ruled out on 25 minutes, and a half in which we had 5 shots on target ends goalless. Our persistence is eventually rewarded just past the hour as Tsigalko strikes and that’s enough to seal the win.

So with one cup 1st leg out of the way, we turn our attention to another as we face Vicenza in the Coppa Italia 4th round. I revert to 2-3-1-2-2 for this one in the hope of another big win. We survive an early red card shout and spurn chance after chance to leave it 0-0 at the break. Literally nothing happens in the 2nd half and it ends a stalemate, meaning we’ve got to go and win at their place now, which won’t be easy.

Our 3rd home game in a row sees us welcome the old lady. Juve are built on a solid defence and the back end of their team had hardly changed since season 1. The front end however is completely different, with Denilson, Pires, Chiesa and… George Donis. I switch formations again and it’s another goalless draw and a result that Mr. Mourinho himself would be proud of. I’m pleased to learn that Inter lost to Napoli, so we’ve gained a point on them.

The board remind me that they are delighted with my performance, but I’m far from delighted about this…

We finish this week away at 16th-placed Bari. Lundén stands in up front for Madeira for this one. There are chances aplenty in the 1st half, but it’s us who put one away as Selakovic gives us a half time lead. It’s an edgy 2nd half and Francesco Mancini is the latest keeper to annoy me, but try as he may to keep all our efforts out, Tsigalko finally gets one past him 7 minutes from time, and we gain on Inter again as they slip to a draw at Genoa.

Last week was always going to be hard to match, but we’re now 2nd and just a point behind Inter. We’re still top scorers despite scoring just 2 goals in our last 4 games, but we did keep clean sheets in 3 of those games, so we’re defending well and the alternative formation (see below) is doing a great job of stifling the bigger sides.

Formation courtesy of @9798Nikolai.

So there ends another week. Tune in at the same time next week as we play those 2nd legs against Bordeaux and Vicenza respectively, and there’s one more game against Atalanta before we reach the halfway point of the season and the return legs begin. Addio amici miei!

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