2001: An Ace Squad-yssey – Part 33: Fringe Benefits | @NTR9798

Hello and welcome to the final season with the CM01/02 Aces. After finally winning the Serie A, they only have the Italian super cup left to win. Can Nick tick that final box before letting his fringe players finally get their chance?

As super cup finals go, it couldn’t be tougher, as we face the old enemy and old lady, Juve. I’ll be going full-strength for that match, and then it’s second string all the way from then on.

It seems that winning Serie A has made me a much sought-after man, even though I’ve already won two champions leagues, but hey-ho. Anyway, England and Spain both come knocking, but I really want this super cup.

Well this is an unexpected piece of good news…

Mr. Lippi’s departure leaves Juve managerless for the super cup, which is a predictably tight affair, and the hosts take an early lead through Zizou. But super Sergey Nikiforenko comes off the bench in the second half to assist two goals and complete our trophy haul, I’m happy now.

Juve make a fab appointment a couple of days later…

We get this champions league group, which I’d normally be pleased with, but this season is going to be far from normal, so we’ll see…

This’ll be our typical lineup this season, not accounting for injuries or suspensions. Kerr isn’t a DM or an AM, but I had to put him somewhere…

I’m going to cram a whole season into this one episode, so I’ll give a month-by-month account rather than reporting on every match. So here goes…

The end of August sees Cremonese hold us in the cup to force a replay, and our league season gets off to a losing start away at Bari.

September is quite frankly a disaster. Cremonese win the replay to send us crashing out of the Coppa Italia, and we lose all four of our league games to opponents of varying quality. However, there is one positive as our champions league campaign gets off to a winning start against Benfica.

October is only very slightly better. After hidings from Auxerre, Juve and Atalanta, we manage to notch up two wins in a row. Out of all the players in the squad, I think I had the lowest hopes for João Paiva, but here he is, taking his chance and banging the goals in.

November begins with defeat to Bologna, but things pick up after that, and we record our most successful month so far, with an unbeaten run of six games. Paiva continues to do his thing, but Robben is also starting to look the part. Could things finally be starting to click for us after a faltering start?

We receive little in the way of gifts over the festive period, the only points coming during a European visit to Sweden, which incidentally sends us through to the knockout stage. Samba has decided to join the party over the last few weeks, so hopefully him and Paiva can strike up a prolific partnership.

We start 2004 with a bang, and brush aside Parma and Bari. Napoli bring us to a brief halt, but we dust ourselves off and bounce back against Roma, where dirty Diana gets a taste of her own medicine. Nevertheless, it’s three wins from four in January.

After a promising last two months, February is an absolute shocker. A draw with Sampdoria is the only highlight, as we concede a total of thirteen goals during losses to Palermo, Milan, Juve and Fiorentina.

Our European form has been our shining light so far, and in an otherwise dismal March, we take care of Aab over two legs in the quarter finals, and get a priceless away goal in a semi final first leg draw at Highbury.

April is similarly depressing, with three more league defeats, but Kennedy B’s goal at Highbury is enough to send us through to the Champions League final, where we’ll face Atletico Madrid after a stalemate in the return leg with the Gunners.

We’re unbeaten in May but despite the best efforts of our second string, they just couldn’t cut it, and sadly we’re relegated back to Serie B along with Palermo, Torino and Verona.

Our final ever game is the champions league final against Atletico Madrid. We’re 3-0 down in half an hour and never recover, despite pulling two goals back. It would have been nice to go out with the ultimate bang, but I’m amazed we got as far as the final if I’m honest

One last lot of player stats for you, and just look at how much the values of my best players have dropped through lack of game time!

No awards for us, but that’s no real surprise…

And that about wraps things up. The aim of this blog was to find out if the legends of CM01/02 could cut it in CM97/98, and I think the fact that we won the lot says they definitely can! It’s disappointing to end with relegation, but I think it’s actually a fitting ending because it gives the story a “They came, they saw, they conquered, they left” feel, and we’re leaving how we arrived seven seasons ago… via Serie B.

Thank you for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed this story. It was an interesting experiment, which I really enjoyed, and now I’m off to Germany to meet up with my RB Leipzig squad for the resumption of “A Cock & Red Bull Story” which continues next Friday, so I’ll see you then, Ciao!

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