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.
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.
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.