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Darren – Ultimate European Challenge, AC Milan fly towards April 13/14

Hey folks and welcome back to my FM 2011 Ultimate European Challenge. My last post was all about AC’s good start to 2013. We managed to go unbeaten in the league from August to November, my Champions League form had almost secured top spot in our group as well. Today’s post starts in December and finishes in mid April, there’s a lot to get through so lets not delay.

Italian yearly awards

My domination in Serie A during 2013 has certainly been noticed. Pato won the Fans Player of the Year award and two other AC Milan players came second and third. Silva definitely deserved the Defender of the Year award and it was nice to see Papastathopoulos claim runner up, I guess he can now be forgiven for having such an annoying name to pronounce. :) Stekelenburg also claimed Goalkeeper of the Year which just shows how strong we are at the back.

Valencia come calling – is Spain next?

The Spanish giants, Valencia, have officially approached me with a contract offer. They have a fairly weak squad, but I could see myself having a crack at Spain and Valencia currently seem to be the only way in. My request to delay the decision until the end of this season has been accepted. Our good friend, Dave, was offered a similar proposal in his story, but Valencia forced a decision before his Cup finals. If I make any finals and they do the same to me, I’ll be telling them to stuff it at get some common sense. :) Either way we’ll see what the end of season brings…I am desperate to leave Italy after this season though as I am not a fan of their football.

Serie A results, December-January

After such a good start to the season I was delighted with my continued home form. Beating Inter Milan and Juventus added an extra little something to my title challenge. However, my away form was starting to show signs of failing. We won the first fixture, but then drew to Sampdoria, lost to Catania and drew against Bari. Thankfully we ended January with a 5-1 victory away at Napoli. Some disgraceful finishing was mainly to blame for the surprise loss and draws early on.

Serie A results, February-April

The 3-1 loss to Juventus during February had me a little worried. Juve were just five points behind me at the time and closed the gap to two. Thankfully my side stepped it up a gear after the wake up call. We won 10 matches and lost two from these three months. A very good return considering our opponents included Roma, Juventus, Palermo, Fiorentina and Sampdoria. Kadlec found some fantastic form from the bench and alongside Pato in my 4-4-2. His goals were vital during this fantastic run.

Serie A table – one hand and four fingers on the title

Although the title isn’t mathematically secured, I think we’ll manage the one point required. Juventus, Inter Milan and Fiorentina have hit an awful run of form during the last month and pretty much surrendered without a fight. I am delighted with my sides determination and character. They could have fallen like the rest during a tough patch in December, but they fought on and will win the league with ease. This should also leave me to concentrate on the Champions League and Italian Cup. :)

Italian Cup results

AC Milan were entered in to the Italian Cup very late, just before the quarter-final stage in fact. We managed to draw an easy opponent in Sassuolo and my reserves won the tie 3-1. The quarter-final draw was not so kind, an away tie against second placed Juventus. I knew that keeping their 35 goal man, Huntelaar quiet could provide a victory. This worked and Pato took care of the rest. A nervy 3-2 victory, but I was glad to make the semi-final. Another tough draw awaited as Palermo are very tough to beat. A convincing home performance followed by a solid defence away provided the 2-0 aggregate victory. I am looking forward to a heated final against Lazio and hopefully my second consecutive domestic double. :)

Solid performance – Italian Cup semi final 1st leg, AC Milan 2-0 Palermo

My 4-5-1 was used during this fixture. I also added a high defensive line, with very slow tempo and very narrow width. After beating Palermo before I knew this was tried and tested to good effect. My best starting XI were used as I am chasing the double at least for 2013/14.

Man of the Match was awarded to Sanchez, he deserved it really as the Chilean ran his socks off. His run and cross for the first goal was brilliant and luck may have helped for the second. Alexis is slowly becoming my most valued asset.

Champions League group stage – with one game to go

A surprising 3-0 victory against Leverkusen in my last game meant we secured top spot. We also did Real Madrid a favour in the process as they may not have qualified if we’d lost. Top spot should hopefully secure an easier route in the knockout stages. Kadlec was used a lot during these matches and performed very well. The young striker has proven to be my number two upfront.

Champions League Knockout stages – results

What seemed like a few easy draws turned out to be real battles in the end. The first knockout round was against Turkish champions Fenerbahce. After some awful finishing in the first leg, I was starting think a shock exit could be possible. Thankfully my two super wingers were on hand to score in the second leg. Sanchez and Vella really saved the tie, as no one else looked like making a difference. My quarter-final draw produced Lyon as the opponent. The French side had already beaten Barcelona, so I wasn’t underestimating them. I used a 4-4-2 as recommended by my assistant during the first leg. This was an awful decision as my side barely touched the ball and lost 1-0. I changed to a 4-5-1 for the home leg and it paid off. Vella turned up with another match winning performance that saw us qualify 2-1 on aggregate. By now a lot of great sides had already left the competition including Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea. There are still some very strong sides left including Bayern my opponents in the semi-final.

I couldn’t help playing the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. Below is the match highlights so lets see what happened in Germany.

Champions League semi-final 1st leg – Bayern vs AC Milan

I have beaten Bayern many times on FM 2011 and always used a 4-4-2. For this tie my assistant recommended a 4-5-1 and despite his previous bad judgement I decided to trust him and use my 4-5-1 for the first time against the Germans. The risk paid off big time as my side won 3-1. I was delighted! :)

After Pato shock opener my side came under some real pressure and had to dig deep. We stood strong and my super sub, Kadlec, scored after replacing Pato. Bayern pulled one back but were caught on the counter as N’Zogbia finished the tie off 3-1. The home leg should see us through to the final, but I will have to be careful.

Squad stats

Pato could have scored many more goals, but I am happy with the Brazilians tally of 24. Sanchez has been incredible so far with 16 goals and 14 assists. While Vella has been vital down the right wing with 9 goals and 9 assists. Kadlec has also chipped in with 17 goals.

Remaining fixtures

The remaining league fixtures will mainly feature my reserve players. I need to rest the stars for my Champions League campaign and Italian Cup final. One things for sure, its going to be a stressful end to the season. :)

Well that concludes today’s update. I hope you all enjoyed the read and I look forward to your comments. As always thanks for stopping by and be sure to join me next time for a dramatic end to the season

If you want to join us all in the Ultimate European Challenge, please follow the link and read the rules. Its very simple and should get us all into different cultures and styles of Football.

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Laxeyman
Laxeyman
10 years ago

Hi Darren, AC Milan continue to march on under your reign, and the league is all but secured, well done. You’ve got a great chance of doing an historic treble, I’m backing you to win the Italian Cup, and reach the Champions League final. Hopefully you can win that too, good luck!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Laxeyman

Thanks Laxeyman, AC Milan are blessed with great players especially the ones I have brought in like Sanchez and the regen Vella. They have been the reason for our success. I am expecting a double, but the Champions League will depend on momentum, injuries and my opponent.

kevin
kevin
10 years ago

Hi Darren
Well you are dominating proceedings once again and a treble is certainly a reality for you. Sanchez really adds something to the team in terms of goals and assists. Looking forward to the conclusion as well as your new start with Valencia

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  kevin

Thanks Kevin, I am hoping for the domestic double at least this season. Sanchez is fantastic and I am blessed with an outstanding squad. The move to Valencia may not happen, I’m going to see how I feel come the end of this season.

Birdy
10 years ago

Hey Darren
You are dominating AC Milan The treble will be easy unless you face Barcelona or a team like that. Sanchez is doing great for you scoring a bag of goals and getting a bag of Assists. Looking forward to your next post. Valencia will be really hard because they have lost most of there good players and are in massive debt

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Birdy

Thanks Birdy, the treble could happen this year but it depends on the Champions League draw like you said. Valencia isn’t a definite move for me yet, it just depends on their transfer budget offer and my feelings at the time. :)

Sears
10 years ago

I’m sure you’ll have no trouble completing the treble, good luck!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Sears

Thanks Sears, the treble is definitely possible but will take some luck along the way as always.

Davewig1980
Davewig1980
10 years ago

Well on course for victory on all fronts there! If you somehow get knocked out of the Champions League then the move for Valencia could be on because you won the league and cup last year didn’t you?

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Davewig1980

Thanks Dave, the season is certainly turning out well so far. I did win the league and cup last year in Italy so effectively I can leave whenever, but really want the Italian Cup again at least. Besides I want to see Valencia’s transfer budget offer…if its crap I will reject as they need rebuilding and that is impossible without any cash. I think I have a good enough rep to get the best jobs now so we’ll see. :)

Lye
Lye
10 years ago

Hi Darren,

Another fantastic season, i don’t think Lazio will be able to stop you from getting the Italian Cup. A good first leg advantage over Bayern. Good luck for the Champions League. I will popping the champagne when you win the treble.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Lye

Thanks Lye, I agree with you on Lazio, their OK but shouldn’t stand in my way. Hopefully the Champions League will offer up an easy draw. Until then the champagne is on ice. :)

Johnny Karp
10 years ago

Great result against Bayern, you’re one step into the final already! I’m looking forward to the Spanish challenge, beating Barcelona and Real Madrid to the title will be quite interesting. But before that, good luck for the Champions League final!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Johnny Karp

Thanks Johnny, my track record against Bayern is great but to win using a completely different tactic was an added bonus. Like I’ve said, the Valencia move is not definite yet. The club needs rebuilding and I can’t do that without a transfer budget so will turn em down if they don’t come up with some cash.

Wazz
Wazz
10 years ago

Pato’s really amazing and so is Sanchez with 14 assists. That’s great. As always Darren, you’re doing really great! Great result against Bayern there. Good luck Darren!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Wazz

Cheers Wazz, Pato has been immense but none of the success would be possible without an incredible Sanchez. Lets hope those two keep making the difference to win me the treble. :)

Sayam Khan
Sayam Khan
10 years ago

Your team seems to be dominating the world. the 3 players nominated of your team is brilliant. I’m looking forward to see you winning the future trophy’s! Good Luck!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Sayam Khan

Thanks Sayam, Vella and Sanchez are two players I would love to follow me around this challenge. :) Should be an interesting end to the season. :)

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[…] but this post is by far my most important. Last time we saw AC Milan close in on the treble from December to April. With the league title all but won, I needed to turn my attentions to the Italian Cup and Champions […]

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