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[FM21] Finding Myself in Tuscany - A Recovering Savescummer's Story of Redemption and Glory! (Or maybe just redemption)


13th Man
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Running off the Romans

23/12/2024

 

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Are Livorno finally rounding into the kind of form that propelled them to second last year?  It certainly looks like it on the back of this 2-0 win over Roma at Armando Picchi.  After two disappointing draws to Brescia and Verona, Livorno have ripped off four straight wins in Serie A, scoring a jaw dropping thirteen goals.  They are still letting in more than they surely would like, giving up five in five, but most of those have come after they opened up large leads.

 

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The win against Roma also put Livorno back into the Champions League places for the first time since Week 1 as Juventus fell in a shock defeat to newly promoted Ternana.

 

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The Roma game, though, did not feature Livorno’s terrifying strike duo of Raspadori and Esposito though the later did score a penalty.  Rather, it was a game in which Livorno may have found their defensive foundation.  Roma huffed and puffed for large stretches of the game, but Livorno remained firm, giving up few chances of any quality.  On the other side, Livorno waited patiently for their own chances, and made the most of their opportunities.

 

First came a goal from centerback Gozzi in the 33rd minute, who rose to meet a far post free kick and power it into the roof of the net in the thirty third minute.  Roma managed one decent chance after that, with Bani forced into a good block when Roma striker Milik thought he was clean through on goal.  After that, however, Livorno switched to their 5-2-2-1 and began to play out of the back while focusing on possession, forcing Roma to chase the game.

 

It may have been the frustration, or the way that manager Stephano Pioli was berating his players all game long, but in the 72nd minute, Roma centerback Lovato clumsily brought down Esposito long before a Galves cross arrived.  Having earned the penalty, Esposito stepped up and clinched the game for Livorno.

 

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After the win, and Juventus’ loss, Livorno reached fourth place for the first time since week 1 of the season.  With their strike duo both scoring freely, if Livorno can improve on their only decent defense, suddenly they might just be able to manage a repeat of last season's successes.

 

That defense will face a stern test in two weeks time when they travel to Milan to take on the runaway Serie A leaders free scroing AC Milan following the holiday break.

 

UP NEXT - Misery in Milan

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Misery in Milan

 

Tough Ask Ahead for Livorno

4/1/2025

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Livorno's year opens with a with a to the San Siro to play AC Milan, a team that was fast, attacking, and had been scoring for fun all year.  The table topper's only loss was a 1-0 defeat away to Napol, and they have won almost every other game by two or more goals, suffering draws only against Inter and Roma. While Livorno beat AC Milan in their last meeting, that was at Armando Picchi, under an interim manager, and in a season when AC Milan were far from their best. Their other three meetings had resulted in comfortable victories for AC Milan. With Livorno entering the game in very good form, Livorno head to Milan with a vague hope of achieving a draw.  Maybe Raspadori can score a brace?  Or Esposito can strike against his former city rivals? 

 

Somehow, Livorno is going to have to rely on their attack because it is hard to believe that they will be able to repel Milan's lightning fast and skillful attack that has scored forty goals in only eighteen games. Livorno is second in the scoring charts of course, with thirty-six on the season, but unlike Milan, Livorno's defense, baring a few exceptions, has been shaky.

 

Misery for Milan

5/1/2025

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In a game that many thought would be a shootout with AC Milan heavily favored to win, Livorno prevailed in a cagey, hard fought game. Livorno held firm against AC Milan's onslaught and after eighty-two minutes, Raspadori scored a brilliant goal on the counter following one of many AC Milan’s 14 corners (it should be mentioned that Livorno also had their fair share with 8).

 

Looking at the stats from this game, you might think that this was a smash and grab victory for the visitors.  57-43% possession for the home side? Twenty shots to Livorno’s nine?  Mazzini in Livorno’s goal forced into seven shots?

 

But while Milan peppered the Livorno goal, even from seemingly decent positions, Livorno always had things covered.  Bellotti was stifled in attack, Dembele rarely got the ball down the flanks, and AC Milan’s midfield engine room was shut down, with AC manager Shevchenko moving around the three men in a futile attempt to unchain them from Livorno’s steady but structured press.  Milan’s most effective attacking players were their full backs, but their crosses were well dealt with by Livorno’s back line.

 

At the start of the game, AC Milan looked ready to dominate and possibly put two or more past the visitors, as they had on all but one occasion.  Verdi had sent out the 5-2-2-1, apparently in an attempt to shore up his back line and congest the midfield.  Instead, he realized he was giving AC Milan far too much space to build up their attacks.

 

“We were never going to press too hard against a team like AC Milan,” he said post game, “they have too much pace, too much quality - they’d cut right through us. So we sat off a bit at first. But then I watched their central midfielders able to dwell on the ball, to pick their passes. While Giacomo [Raspadori] and Martin [Palumbo] should have been able to disrupt them a bit, our lines were too deep.  Pushing up the defense and putting Giacomo back up front, we were able to squeeze them into a confined area and not let them use their pace against us in space, while still not having to chase them too much.” [Higher DL, lower line of engagement.]

 

After Livorno reverted to their normal 5-2-1-2, they not only began to stifle AC Milan, but they came to life offensively too.  Esposito and Raspadori both forced several excellent saves from Donnarumma late in the first half.

 

The second half was a cagey affair, with neither side able to get much going.  At least until the 82nd minute.  Garcia, on for the disappointing Palumbo in attacking midfield, reacted first to a Livorno clearance after AC Milan took a corner, and he charged forward.  After forcing the defender in front of him to commit, he played a beautifully weighted ball towards Raspadori.  Rightback Dodo seemed to have him covered until Rapsadori picked just the right moment to make a surge for the ball.  He nicked it around the helpless Dodo and was through on goal, leaving the right bank stumbling after him. Rather than let Donnarumma close him down, Raspadori fired a howitzer from just inside the box that gave the Milan keeper no chance.  

 

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AC Milan threw everything they had at Livorno in those final ten minutes, but other than one good save off another corner, Mazzini happily collected anything that made it past Livorno’s back three - all of whom played excellent in this game.

 

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While the wins against Sassoulo, SPAL, and Fiorentina were impressive from a scoring point of view, these past two games of Livorno’s win streak have shown that Livorno can be tight at the back as well. 

 

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With Juventus falling to Lazio yesterday, Livorno were able to gain a four point advantage over Juventus and further benefited from Inter failing to win against Sampdoria to move up into 3rd place. Napoli remains only three points behind Livorno in fifth.

 

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AC Milan suffered their first home defeat in twelve games as they fell to Raspadori’s goal and Livorno’s densely packed defense.

 

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With the second half of the season starting Thursday, Livorno can begin to dream of repeating last year’s accomplishment of finishing in the top four, and possibly even making a title challenge.

 

“For now,” Verdi said after the game, “we have to focus on finding that balance between attacking and defending which has eluded us for much of the season.  Hopefully we can keep this momentum going and see how far it takes us.”

 

Many expected AC Milan to pour the misery on Livorno, instead, it is AC Milan and their fans who head home from the San Siro, while Livorno claim another top team as a victim.

 

UP NEXT - The Actual Halfway Update and Analysis

Edited by 13th Man
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30 minutes ago, Muttley84 said:

Damn, you still going strong at this. And to think you were playing this when I was at Brescia which is like months ago in real life... keep up the good work, (mostly) silent reader here.

Ha! Well, I play slooooow. Only on season five and I started this save in March I think! I rarely get more than one-two saves per edition unless I stay on one FM for a few years.

I’m always amazed at how fast you go while still managing to accomplish a lot! You blast through seasons like crazy! I was super busy for a few weeks and missed a whole save of yours (August I think?). I guess that’s the thing about FM Touch though, right? 

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12 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

KUTGW! Defensively sound 1-0 Wins are just as important  as 5-0 thrashings or 4-3 wins! All that matters is the W. The table doesn't ask your team to draw a picture!

 

That's the way I'm doing things right now ;)

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Halfway Season Review (Tactical/Statistical Interlude!!!)

[Monday was a long, hard day. My son tried to refuse to be dropped off at daycare (20 mins of screaming), my students were tough, the class I’m required to take was a waste of time (Who doesn’t love to be told how to do their job by people with less experience?), and then my daughter got hit in the face at school and had three nasty cuts under her eye (she’ll be fine). So did I go to bed early? Did I prepare for my teaching the next day so that things would go smoother? Dear reader, I think you know I did none of those things. I defeated AC Milan with a tweaked strategy that I’m very proud of, wrote it up, then spent a bunch of time analyzing Livorno’s first half of the season. So…enjoy! Or don’t. I had fun.]

 

6/1/2025

 

The Serie A season just reached the halfway point this past week, and a fascinating race is shaping up at the top of the table. The story of the season has been AC Milan’s sudden rise to the top of the table after a poor year last season that saw them fail to even qualify for Europe. They had looked set to run away with the title too, ready to pull five points ahead, until the last round of games when they were defeated 1-0 at home to the upstart Livorno. Now they sit only two points ahead of last season’s champions Lazio, and five ahead of Livorno. The race for Champions League spots is extremely tight.  Only eight points separate the top six, and only four between Livorno in third and Juventus in sixth.  These two clubs make up the two of the story lines of the season so far.  

 

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While Juventus was a bit off of AC Milan’s blistering pace, the side has now lost their last two matches and find themselves eight points behind, and three behind Inter in fourth - with Champions League qualification surely a bare minimum for the Italian giants. While there was no shame in losing narrowly to Lazio in Rome, their failure to even draw against newly promoted Ternana was certainly embarrassing.

 

On the other side, Livorno are showing that last season’s title challenge was no fluke.  They have spent most of the season just outside the Champions League places but their recent string of impressive victories has seen them rise to third. They possess one of the most potent attacking trios in the league this season with Raspadori and Esposito scoring freely and attacking midfielder Palumbo playing both provider and finisher and often popping up with crucial goals. Their defense has been a bit shaky this season, but there have been signs of improvement in recent games.

Team by Team

Livorno - Predicted finish 9th. Currently 3rd.

Though impressive in their first game against Napoli and came from behind to beat Parma in their second, Livorno struggled a bit early in the season.  After falling to Atlanta following a red card for club captain Carboni - one which seems to have lost him his starting role - Livorno could only draw away to Empoli and narrowly squeeze by Sampdoria at home before falling again to Juventus following a rare howler from Mazzini.

 

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October saw a return to form, with a hat trick from Raspadori seeing Livorno past Ternana and a brilliant game again from the forward leading them to a 2-1 victory against Inter. Those two wins sandwiched a credible draw against Lazio.

 

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Since the Inter game, Livorno has been on a truly impressive run in the league, winning eight of ten and failing to score two or more goals on only two occasions. The only negatives were the consecutive 2-2 draws against Brescia and Verona that saw Livorno unable to keep a lead.  If they had found a way to win both those games and they would be topping the table now, just one and they would be second.

 

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The trends are looking promising for this Livorno side, who may have started a little slow, but are hitting their stride as those around them begin to falter. With the side out of the Champions League this season there might be less demands on the players, even as they try to match or better their efforts in last year's EURO Cup.

 

It is hard to say if Livorno’s mixed early season form was because of this, but a look at the team sheets in the past few months has shown remarkable consistency. Verdi certainly has settled on a starting 11.  

 

Early in the season it was not unusual to see four and even six changed to the lineup from game to game as Verdi juggled both Serie A and the Champions League. Since November, however, there have rarely been more than two unforced changes to the lineup from game to game, even when the games came twice a week. Instead, he began substituting in certain patterns to keep his first 11 fresh, and only occasionally resting starters.

 

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Club captain Carboni still played reguarly, but has obviously lost the trust of Verdi after his red card against Atalanta and a string of less than stellar performances. New arrival Amione has come into the side and performed at a consistently high level, though he is prone to losing top level strikers and not reading the game as well. Verdi may have found the solution, though, with Gozzi moving into the center and Amione to the left. On the evidence of the last few games, it has worked quite well, with Gozzi keeping the AC Milan’s previously unstoppable Bellotti quiet for ninety minutes.

 

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The midfield has looked much the same as last year, with Piccinocchi pairing with Ranocchia. New arrival Modric struggled to perform early in the season, but has been improving as he is given only occasional starts in more comfortable home games and has come off the bench in less high pressure situations.

 

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To last year’s potent attack, Sebastiano Esposito has been a piece that has turned Livorno from difficult to nearly impossible to defend. Moreo performed admirably the part two years, his high work rate and strength allowing Raspadori to thrive, but Esposito has taken some of the goal scoring load off his partner’s shoulders in a way that Moreo generally couldn’t. 

 

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The wings is the one place that Verdi still regularly rotates, with Tripadelli and Tsimikas trading starts on the left while Galves seems to be the preferred choice on the right for big games, but Farago still starts regularly.

 

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Since establishing his starting 11, and largely sticking with it, only rotating players when they truly need a rest, Livorno’s form has improved. The change has brought  more consistent and cohesive play from this side which relies so much on quick, intricate passing and maintaining shape in defense.

 

Verdi mentioned another recent tactical switch in a recent interview.

 

“Early in the season I was also pushing players forward too much, asking them to attack and take risks against teams that were sitting back. I began to realize that we were playing into their hands, sending too many long balls forward, too many low percentage passes that needlessly lost possession.”

 

Since returning to a more patient - but still quick and probing - style, Livorno have begun to unlock defenses at a terrifying rate. [Positive down to Balanced]

 

Livorno’s base formation is a progressive, high tempo passing 5-2-1-2 that allows them to press high without losing shape and gives them multiple routes to goal.  They are brutal on the counter with their fast and dangerous forwards, but tend more towards patient buildup through the middle up their ladder system. When probes come to nothing, Livorno often play back to their center backs, but regularly catch teams out with switches of play to unmarked wingbacks.

 

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[PIs. Front three - max pressing. AF - roam from position. AM - roam from position, take more risks, shoot more often. CAR - take more risks.]

 

The weakness of the 5-2-1-2, however, has been the 4-2-3-1 favored by many Serie A teams. The front four can occupy Livorno’s defense and the full backs can then attack the wings with impunity too often. In previous seasons Verdi countered this with a 5-3-2 with a flat midfield. While this helped keep the opposition at bay, it all but severed the link between Livorno’s midfield and forwards and forced them to be one dimensional, often only able to score on the counter.

Verdi’s solution to create a 5-2-2-1 was actually developed to counter Juventus’ wide overload 5-2-3, but has proven especially effective against 4-2-3-1.

 

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[Same PIs, just replace the AF, with the SS. Also add stay wider, or move into channels for two AMs]

 

Livorno’s 5-2-2-1 is a defensively fluid shape that allows Livorno to counteract many of the strengths of the 4-2-3-1. The effectiveness of the wide overloads is reduced by giving the wingbacks cover both from the center backs and the holding midfielders. The other defensive benefit of the formation is that the backline is not pulled out of position even by a roaming attacking midfielder with the two mids able to work together to constrict his space and mark him. This means the backline can float, one marking the striker and the other two able to cover opponents who break through.

 

But it’s not just effective offensively, as it specifically targets the gap between the defense and the midfield with its two attacking midfielders - both of whom are dangerous creators and finishers in and around the box. They are also able to drift into the wide and half spaces often left by the fullbacks bombing forward.

 

This is where Livorno can be especially dangerous in this formation. With Esposito occupying one and often both of the center backs, when Raspadori and Palumbo join him in the penalty area, one of them is often left unmarked.

The 5-2-1-2 remains the more potent and dangerous formation, but Verdi is apparently seeing things he liked when they line up in the 5-2-2-1 as he has used it far more this season.

By the Numbers

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At a glance, Livorno is a very good attacking team, but merely good at defending. They’re disciplinary record is decent, though both of their red cards have cost them, especially Carboni’s first half dismissal against Atalanta.

 

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Just as in 2023/2024, Livorno is above average in every statistical category, as is outperforming both their xG for and their xG against.

 

Goals

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Now that Raspadori is back in form and with Esposito continuing to score at a decent rate for a deep forward, Livorno’s numbers could get even better in the second half of the season. As it is, they are only three behind AC Milan as Serie A’s most prolific outfit.

 

What has been setting Livorno apart, and probably why they continue to outperform their xG, is that they create quality chances.

 

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Livorno again led Serie A in attacking efficiency in terms of conversation rate (16%), scoring just under two from an average of twelve shots per game.

 

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Livorno have created many more clear cut chances than their rivals, with Juventus trailing behind in second.

 

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Not only that, but their quality finishers put the ball on target exactly half the time, a rate bettered only by Bologna, who sit in the relegation zone, six points from safety.  The other teams near the top of this category are also all threatened by relegation, which means they only tend to get chances on the break when better teams have over committed.

 

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[Did I take a page from @_Ben_'s playbook and make my own graph to represent a stat I don’t see in game?  Yes I did.  Is this graph really ugly?  Yes it is! Will I ever do this again?  Probably not…]

 

While Livorno also might consistently outscore their xG, the reason there seems to be that Livorno’s xG per Shot is one of the best in the league as well.  Again, the only teams above them are ones that tend to be hitting superior teams on the break, with SPAL and Sampdoria (20th and 10th in the table respectively) above them.

 

Possession 

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Livorno were well behind the league leaders in possession average at 52% compared to Udinese’s 56% per game. Of course, Udinese are one of the most wasteful sides in Serie A (xG/shot at 0.10 against Livorno's 0.12). Verdi had often said that he sees no point in possession without penetration so he will likely be just fine with being simple above average in this category.

 

Conceded

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Livorno are well behind Serie A’s best defense in Inter - which made Livorno’s 2-1 win that much more impressive - but in a respectable 6th place.

 

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Livorno have been giving up more chances than their rivals for the Champions League spots, but while they let in a higher percentage of them than several other teams, they rarely gave up good chances.

 

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With two strikers on 16 goals for the seasons (though this includes the Champions League), it is no surprise that Livorno is near the top of the scoring charts.

 

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Raspadori, on 15 goals for the season despite missing the better part of a month and taking another month to get back into form, leads the Serie A scoring charts again. Esposito is tied for third with 11. It is usually a good sign when a team has two players among the top five goal scorers.

 

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Not only have Raspadori and Esposito scored at an alarming rate, Esposito is also at the top of the charts when it comes to shots on target per 90 mins and xG/90mins, with Raspadori only just a bit behind.

On the other side of the pitch, Mazzini has continued to be a brick wall in goal, with the keeper keeping out Serie A’s third best 82% of shots out. Part of that comes from the lack of good chances given up by Livorno, but the still young keeper is also a top quality keeper.

 

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UP NEXT - Second Half Preview

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First - to answer @Prolix's question, here’s Livorno’s pass volume.

 

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Well below wasteful leaders Udinese (enjoy all that possession in 13th place), but still in the top reaches.  Also a pass completion of 88% is pretty solid for a team that counters a lot.

 

Now on with the preview!

Second Half Preview

Livorno restart the fixture list with a trip to Napoli. Up after that, however, they begin their Italian Cup campaign.

 

Italian Cup

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While the past two years have seen Livorno get past their first hurdle, both times they’ve faced Juventus away in their next game and lost after valiant efforts. This year, however, they have a clear path to at least the semifinals with Genoa their first opponents, followed by the winner of Parma against Benevento. In the semifinal they could potentially meet Inter or Atalanta, but would have the advantage of playing the game at home based on their second place finish. Still, while they will need to guard against complacency in their first two rounds, they look set to at least follow their pattern of progressing one round further than the previous year.

 

When compared with the other half of the Italian Cup bracket, it becomes clear just how lucky Livorno finally got.  Juventus, Milan, Napoli, and Lazio all enter on the opposite side of the bracket.

 

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EURO Cup

Livorno also return to the EURO Cup in late February with a First Knockout Round tie against Turkish side Trabzonspor.  

 

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It will be a winnable tie but one in which Livorno will have to guard against complacency.  It must be said that Livorno are likely better suited to the EURO Cup than the Champions League.  Still, standing in their way of a potential trophy are plenty of quality teams.  Teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, RB Leipzig and EURO Cup specialists Sevilla will join in the second round, not to mention plenty of good clubs like Atheletico Bilbao, Bayer 04, and the all too well known Atalanta - a team that Livorno have not fared well against.

 

Serie A

In Serie A, Livorno face off against a Napoli team that is right on their heels, this time in Napoli. After that the fixture list gets easier in the league, but each of these teams gave Livorno trouble in the first half of the season. The next five games will be a good test of Livorno’s credentials as a Champions League team and potentially as title challengers.

 

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Well I’m back in Norway and that means FM time. First port of call was to catch up on all things good in our world. 
 

fantastic business in the summer!! Esposito realising his potential another striking masterpiece from Verdi 

tough champions league group and yet so close to qualifying!!

league form has really picked up as well now! 

Was a joy reading through and catching up. 

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9 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Well I’m back in Norway and that means FM time. First port of call was to catch up on all things good in our world. 
 

fantastic business in the summer!! Esposito realising his potential another striking masterpiece from Verdi 

tough champions league group and yet so close to qualifying!!

league form has really picked up as well now! 

Was a joy reading through and catching up. 

Good to have you back!

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Livorno Do the Double Over Napoli

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Livorno’s traveling fans had much to celebrate as their side were able to honor Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th game in charge with another 2-0 win over favored Napoli. The loss, and the milestone, must doubly hurt for Napoli’s board, who twice tried to hire Verdi as their manager. Instead, Verdi’s Livorno have just beaten them for a fifth time in a row.

 

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Napoli had hoped for revenge at home, especially having been in strong form, but instead they fell to the same 2-0 scoreline. Once again doubters will point to Napoli’s 60% possession, but when Livorno win three successive games against quality opposition without conceding it becomes clear that these wins are earned. While Napoli had a few decent chances, Livorno had their share too, and better ones. In fact, the two times they did score were actually in two of their worst chances.

 

The strategy by Verdi was clear from the first whistle. Though they still counter-pressed when they lost possession and tried to make things difficult for Napoli keeper Dragowski when he looked to distribute the ball, they used both strategies as a way of covering their retreat rather than to aggressively win the ball back. All in all, Livorno defended a bit deeper than usual, and focused on limiting the space that Napoli could operate, their 5-2-2-1 strangling the passing lanes that Napoli wanted in midfield.

 

“We wanted to force them to be perfect if they wanted to score,” Verdi explained. “Napoli have been very good offensively this year.  Chase them and they get what they want and can pull you out of position with their good playmakers and quick wingers. Make them earn it and they have to be perfect. Lucky for us they weren’t perfect today.”

 

Napoli was able to make inroads down the flanks, but the cost ended up being dear. In the 52nd minute right wingback Galves intercepted a pass deep in his own half, and found Palumbo surging into the huge space opened up by Napoli’s winger and fullback, who were caught too far upfield. Napoli’s center back was forced to close Palumbo down, but that allowed Esposito to surge into the space behind him. Palumbo put the ball into his path, and while it initially seemed to send Esposito too far wide, the forward hit his shot with such pace that Dragowski could not keep it out.

 

Moreo, on for Raspadori as Verdi looked to see out the game, was set to clinch the game in the 83rd minute after being only for Dragowski to keep his low shot out with an excellent save.

 

Five minutes later it seemed that Dragowski’s save was going to earn Napoli a point when forward Mariano, Serie A’s second top scorer after Raspadori, found himself in a good position near the edge of the area, but he was harried by a covering Bani and Mazzini denied him with a strong right hand to lift his shot over the bar.

 

Moreo then made up for his inability to convert earlier by pouncing on another fine Dragowski save, this time from Esposito, to guide the ball into the net and ensure Livorno took all three points.  The goal was again made from Napoli pushing too far forward down their left side, with Esposito’s initial shot meeting Palumbo’s cross from a wide open flank.

 

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Napoli might feel aggrieved, but Livorno were worthy of their win. They remained compact and composed without the ball and with the ball they were direct, but with fluid movement and intricate passing. In the end, Napoli simply couldn’t find a way through Livorno’s densely packed midfield, and in trying left themselves exposed to a team that lives for the chance to counter quickly.

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Transfer News!!!

24/1/2024

After a quiet first few weeks, Livorno suddenly sprang to life towards the back end of the winter transfer window.

 

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Livorno, already boasting Serie A’s most potent attack, has added another potentially lethal young striker to their ranks with Portuguese wonderkid Miguel Francisco. Livorno beat out Napoli for his signature, while the youngster had also been attracting interest from clubs like Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, and AC Milan. Like Modric last year, Francisco was loaned back to his former club, Famalicao, for the rest of the season before moving permanently to Livorno this summer. At only €6m for a player that could turn into a star, it seems Verdi has found another bargain.

 

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Only nineteen, lightning fast Francisco is already absolutely lethal in front of goal, scoring ten in twenty appearances for struggling Famalicao in the Portuguese Premier League. His composure and drive set him apart, and he is rarely flustered, even when under heavy pressure. Critics will say he is a bit selfish and that he does not tend to contribute much to the buildup, but he is still very young and Verdi will likely be hoping that he will mature and round out his game under the tutelage of senior players like Raspadori and Moreo. Yet even if he simply continues to develop as a finisher, Francisco could turn into a top forward. Considering how good Livorno already are going forward, this is a terrifying proposition.

 

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The move comes on the heels of Paolo Farago’s surprise departure from the club. The veteran right back moves to China for €5.5m with another €575k to come if he plays 50 games. While Farago has been a solid starter the previous two years, Galves has taken his place as the first choice on the right. While Verdi made no moves to sell Farago, it seems that the Chinese club made a good enough offer to tempt Verdi to cash in on the aging player before his stock went down too far.

 

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In his place Verdi has brought in English right back Kyle Walker-Peters from RC Lens in France for €2.8m.

 

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A remarkably similar player - though Farago is far better in the air - Walker-Peters will slot right in as Galves’ backup, but will get plenty of game time. Verdi will also appreciate that Walker-Peters is comfortable playing on the left as well as the right. It seems that Verdi managed not only to replace an older player whose pace was declining with a younger one still in his prime, but he has netted Livorno a reasonable €1.5m out of the deal.

 

Also outgoing was Crociata, a player who had not featured for Livorno this season, who left for €2.1m early in the month.

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Jesus that striker!! What a player he is! Has the full works at that age already. Some strike force. Do you feel if someone offered a huge amount for one of your main two just now you’d accept knowing you have him waiting in the wings?

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9 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Jesus that striker!! What a player he is! Has the full works at that age already. Some strike force. Do you feel if someone offered a huge amount for one of your main two just now you’d accept knowing you have him waiting in the wings?

That's half the idea.  AC Milan is sniffing around about Raspadori and as much as I love the player, if they can offer in the €80m+ range ('worth' €49m right now) I might just sell him and see what I can do with it.  Either way, I figure that someone's going to turn his head eventually and while Francisco's not quite the all around player Raspadori is, he could be an even deadlier finisher.

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Thriller in Atalanta

25/1/2024

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Livorno got revenge against Atalanta through goals from each of their front three in a battle of Serie A’s only two teams that tend to line up with a 5-2-1-2 formation. Livorno needed all three goals too, as Atalanta fought hard to the end and twice pegged Livorno back. 

 

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Livorno’s record against Atalanta has not been good. In their five previous meetings they have lost four and won only once. Livorno have repeatedly fallen into the trap that they often set for others by overcommitting against Atalanta and being undone by fluid counter attacks. In this game, however, both sides traded blows but Livorno’s forwards finished their chances better, even if Atalanta was able to hit Livorno with two quick strikes.

 

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Livorno headed into this game in great form and full of confidence. They’d scored eight goals in their past three games and conceded none in their last five. The later record was broken, but they managed to extend their winning streak to eight in the league.

 

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The game started brightly for Livorno. In previous games Atalanta had been able to keep Livorno at arms length, but that strategy went out the window in the first minute as Livorno attacked down the right flank and Palumbo turned in a Galves cross before 40 seconds had passed.

 

The right hand side would prove to be Atalanta’s undoing again as Galves was given too much space in the thirteenth minute. He passed in inside to Piccinocchi, who had already spotted a brilliant run by Raspadori across the backline and the midfield sent a one touch through ball that let Raspadori hit the ball in stride to make it 2-0.

 

Atalanta woke up a bit at this point, and began playing it direct to their own quick, strong forwards. In the first minute of the second half, Atalanta scored a near carbon copy of Livorno’s second goal, with young forward and Atalanta academy graduate Gioia making a great run and getting on the end of a perfect pass from midfield to cut the deficit in half.

 

Just six minutes later, however, Livorno restored their two goal advantage. Raspadori received the ball down the left flank but saw too many blue and black striped shirts in front of him. He looked infield and passed to Palumbo who had found himself a pocket of space in the center of Atalanta’s half. Palumbo chested the ball down and quickly distributed it to the overlapping Galves, who slipped Esposito in. The nicley weighted ball allowed Esposito to get there first and poke the ball past and on rushing Gollini in Atalanta’s goal to score what would prove to be the winner.

 

Atalanta again got to within one of Livorno as Gozzi switched off for a moment during a fluid Atalanta counter, and lost his mark. Atalanta striker Diaz, was able to breeze by him and get on the end of a through ball and slot past Mazzini.

 

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That was the last shot that Livorno would allow however, and they were able to claim only a second victory over Atalanta in three years. Their three goals must have been a massive relief after they had only managed to put one past Gollini in five previous attempts. On this occasion, Livorno dominated the wings, especially the left even though all three goals were assisted from the right, and made the better chances.

 

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4 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Good win! What does the table look like?

 

Milan and Livorno were tied on points with Livorno a few behind with goal difference but on top due to their win in Milan.
I’m a bit ahead in game - did a long session Friday when my wife and kids got a nasty cold and I knew it was coming for me…and then it did so I didn’t feel like writing/posting.

 

4 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Absolutely destroying it!! Can this be the title winning seasons to round of FM21 in style 

We’re just trying to take it one game at a time and see where it takes us ;)

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Lukaku Sees Red and Gives Livorno a Foot in the Cuppa Italia Final

4/2/2025

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On the second time of asking Esposito scored twice against his former club, but the focus of the game centered around a rash and unnecessary two footed challenge by Lukaku on Amione resulting in a straight red for the Inter forward. Livorno then took full advantage of their man advantage to score two more. 

 

As they had in their league meeting at Armando Picchi, Livorno looked to pin Inter back from the start, even coming out in the 3-4-1-2 to meet Inter’s wingbacks high up the pitch and disrupt their build up. Unable to get up in support of their two forwards, Inter’s 5-1-2-2(dm) was rendered impotent.

 

BPZtqZv1_aTX_VOjEn7p0FZSTmwjD6TvrFa0fC0bgtFcx-gOflV6W4aDJs39NFXRFr94NWuLaVfF9jgfS63TsRCppuHJWMqGaLJr9WSC7hDUN9RWnOyGIteWPzlpTwqv5d8uN52y=s0

 

[Look how much higher Livorno's wingbacks averaged than Inter's!  Yes the red card helped but it was looking like this before, just less exaggerated.]

 

The strategy stifled Inter and allowed Livorno to play the game largely in Inter’s half.  In the 20th minute Esposito started and finished an excellent move. After laying the ball back for deep playmaker Modric, he turned and surged into the space behind his marker. Modric sent a one touch pass out to Galves on the right, who quickly put the ball back into the path of Esposito. The forward’s finish across the face of goal was a perfect mix of accuracy and power, nestling neatly into the far corner. While Esposito had not celebrated the three goals he scored against Parma, a club where he spent two years on loan, he certainly celebrated this goal against the club that sold him, doing a cartwheel and pumping his fists as the curva began to sing his praises.

 

Inter, who had not been able to get into the game at all, managed to at least register a few shots before the break, but never really threatened, and Livorno went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.

 

Shortly after the break, Lukaku had an inexcusable lapse of judgement. Livorno were harmlessly working the ball around their backline near the halfway line, and Lukaku must have thought he had a chance to nick the ball and start a counter. Instead, he caught Livorno center back Amione with a two rooted challenge that earned him a straight red.

 

Livorno, already enjoying more and better possession, began to trap Inter in their own half.

 

New signing Walker-Peters, on for Tripadelli with Tsmikas injured, scored his first goal for Livorno in the tradition set in the last round where youngster Menini scored to give Livorno their win over Benevento. 

 

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Only minutes after coming on, Walker-Peters took a throw-in and received a pass back from Raspadori before surging into the box. Space opened up for the stand-in left winger, who did his best impression of an inside forward as he curled a shot into the far side of the net for a spectacular goal.

 

2-0 down and already without Lukaku for the second leg, Inter were in dire straits, needing to at least keep the scoreline from getting any worse. Instead, Esposito rubbed salt in their wounds in the 88th minute when he rose up to power in his second goal from a corner and, baring a total collapse from Livorno in the game in Milan, earned Livorno a place in their first ever Italian Cup final.

 

GClYvqXWKQyzFgupQJy-NoGUbiRocyNRILxKOaDPF619M9ORIQjpxxNroFt2nQFy42jy8r8Ft6WqE8tEHZBbNvd7Ho54PWicFi1gWazVkUaKpPVXeNy35al06lZFpepjG8GAYBz1=s0

qm2BHtzfvaRjstu2dYa-dyD2MWKIAbVGw3KYC9ooJevn9ozhzOyGMj3gcj19T2JKsFut0SfPxhYEpwIybFvw0BKlViFRWi1aQZY0xjiRWoYexPPpvtGdRRBZ9T963D8u9l-fp5FJ=s0

 

Livorno’s run of consecutive wins goes on, now reaching back eleven games since they lost in Dortmund.

 

[CODA]

4uHfILkpBODtUptk3qkkXWH_RZDuquzYy_HkL42VGvV021mJEJHyjGFLhv5YaRVbaMnL1fzRBE5CoG4J5lebflE2b7YJFRTwSJ2J53rOnx0x3KolLa5RH6qi9TZh_aymOFd4-XRC=s0

[Managed to keep things in control with a rotated squad]

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[Fantastic!  I get to lose to Juventus in another Cuppa Italia game!  This time the final!]

Edited by 13th Man
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8 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

Lukaku Sees Red and Gives Livorno a Foot in the Cuppa Italia Final

4/2/2025

1eJbhocD-tV39TvSYb4S8jDWo8Fk96n8s-zteeK_h6mGaMRsGRZ972qvvkWGI5UModLMh3PMBb4W6o3jwsb3S_ms8HuZlLFiFkDJhTwKiUWawWw-nGcffGG8ELWWKQbiwq_sTQTx=s0

 

On the second time of asking Esposito scored twice against his former club, but the focus of the game centered around a rash and unnecessary two footed challenge by Lukaku on Amione resulting in a straight red for the Inter forward. Livorno then took full advantage of their man advantage to score two more. 

 

As they had in their league meeting at Armando Picchi, Livorno looked to pin Inter back from the start, even coming out in the 3-4-1-2 to meet Inter’s wingbacks high up the pitch and disrupt their build up. Unable to get up in support of their two forwards, Inter’s 5-1-2-2(dm) was rendered impotent.

 

BPZtqZv1_aTX_VOjEn7p0FZSTmwjD6TvrFa0fC0bgtFcx-gOflV6W4aDJs39NFXRFr94NWuLaVfF9jgfS63TsRCppuHJWMqGaLJr9WSC7hDUN9RWnOyGIteWPzlpTwqv5d8uN52y=s0

 

[Look how much higher Livorno's wingbacks averaged than Inter's!  Yes the red card helped but it was looking like this before, just less exaggerated.]

 

The strategy stifled Inter and allowed Livorno to play the game largely in Inter’s half.  In the 20th minute Esposito started and finished an excellent move. After laying the ball back for deep playmaker Modric, he turned and surged into the space behind his marker. Modric sent a one touch pass out to Galves on the right, who quickly put the ball back into the path of Esposito. The forward’s finish across the face of goal was a perfect mix of accuracy and power, nestling neatly into the far corner. While Esposito had not celebrated the three goals he scored against Parma, a club where he spent two years on loan, he certainly celebrated this goal against the club that sold him, doing a cartwheel and pumping his fists as the curva began to sing his praises.

 

Inter, who had not been able to get into the game at all, managed to at least register a few shots before the break, but never really threatened, and Livorno went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.

 

Shortly after the break, Lukaku had an inexcusable lapse of judgement. Livorno were harmlessly working the ball around their backline near the halfway line, and Lukaku must have thought he had a chance to nick the ball and start a counter. Instead, he caught Livorno center back Amione with a two rooted challenge that earned him a straight red.

 

Livorno, already enjoying more and better possession, began to trap Inter in their own half.

 

New signing Walker-Peters, on for Tripadelli with Tsmikas injured, scored his first goal for Livorno in the tradition set in the last round where youngster Menini scored to give Livorno their win over Benevento. 

 

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Only minutes after coming on, Walker-Peters took a throw-in and received a pass back from Raspadori before surging into the box. Space opened up for the stand-in left winger, who did his best impression of an inside forward as he curled a shot into the far side of the net for a spectacular goal.

 

2-0 down and already without Lukaku for the second leg, Inter were in dire straits, needing to at least keep the scoreline from getting any worse. Instead, Esposito rubbed salt in their wounds in the 88th minute when he rose up to power in his second goal from a corner and, baring a total collapse from Livorno in the game in Milan, earned Livorno a place in their first ever Italian Cup final.

 

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qm2BHtzfvaRjstu2dYa-dyD2MWKIAbVGw3KYC9ooJevn9ozhzOyGMj3gcj19T2JKsFut0SfPxhYEpwIybFvw0BKlViFRWi1aQZY0xjiRWoYexPPpvtGdRRBZ9T963D8u9l-fp5FJ=s0

 

Livorno’s run of consecutive wins goes on, now reaching back eleven games since they lost in Dortmund.

 

[CODA]

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[Managed to keep things in control with a rotated squad]

PwIsFPlqPnG2sGHKo1UMAeUIJKwTDeyCyxdiOC45vyf6X9VTvFSLmiHlSC8FruvI3DtjJ7k-6FQbXNlmTxSe065vQ2Gj7JRaus2d-krgLgBtxAa_Ft2Xqh9EURZV7C93RSyl7CML=s0

 

[Fantastic!  I get to lose to Juventus in another Cuppa Italia game!  This time the final!]

I believe in Livorno especially with how clever Verdi has been with his tactical decisions of late 

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8 hours ago, SixPointer said:

I believe in Livorno especially with how clever Verdi has been with his tactical decisions of late 

Lukaku being sent off was a brilliant tactical move! But yes, I still think Livorno wins the game. Would have made the return leg a bit nervier though.

 

7 hours ago, deltablue said:

Good luck in the final.

Verdi will need it! Livorno has a yearly tradition of losing to Juventus in the cup. Unless…

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This is all I have to say:                                                                                                                                      

"Don't Stop Believin'"      Journey (1981)
 

Just a small-town girl
Livin' in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin' anywhere

Just a city boy
Born and raised in South Detroit
He took the midnight train goin' anywhere

A singer in a smokey room
The smell of wine and cheap perfume
For a smile they can share the night
It goes on and on, and on, and on

Strangers waiting
Up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night

Streetlights people
Livin' just to find emotion
Hidin' somewhere in the night

Workin' hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin' anything to roll the dice just one more time

Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on

Strangers waiting
Up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night

Streetlights people
Livin' just to find emotion
Hidin' somewhere in the night

Don't stop believin'
Hold on to that feelin'
Streetlight people

Don't stop believin'
Hold on
Streetlight people

Don't stop believin'
Hold on to that feelin'
Streetlight people
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@Hootieleece, you’ve just sent me into a flashback to my early twenties when every bar was apparently required to play this song at some point around midnight or later. Everyone would stop what they were doing and start singing along poorly and at the top of their lungs. Then it would return to normal…

Anyway, few more updates in the pipes. Livorno is cooking but Milan are dismantling all comers. Not even close to it in game yet, but the last game of the season is against Milan in Livorno. I’m hoping that game will still be critical once we get there.

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The Next Big Test

14/2/2025

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After finishing the job in Milan against Inter midweek, Livorno prepare to face the team they will face in the Cuppa Italia final, but on this occasion, there is no silverware at stake. But the stakes are still high. Livorno sit top of the table, tied with AC Milan on points but ahead after their win in Milan back in January. Juventus are teetering on the edge of Champions League qualification, and need to start winning more games if they are to salvage their season.

 

This game will mark the seventh time these clubs have faced off in just three years, with all but two of those meetings ending poorly for the Tuscans. It should be said that two of those games were in the Cuppa Italia, were played in Turin, and in both games Livorno were able to force extra time. 

 

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Despite their poor record, Livorno have actually tended to play well against the Italian giants, but have been undone by moments of brilliance from players like Christiano Ronaldo, who has scored four against Livorno, or individual mistakes. Ronaldo has finally retired but Mazzini will be looking to make up for the howler that cost Livorno a point in Turin earlier this year.

 

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Livorno will be without former Juventus academy graduate Paolo Gozzi, who’s move to the center of Livorno’s defense has coincided with a huge improvement in their defensive record. In the last nine games which Gozzi has played, Livorno have only conceded three goals. Club captain Carboni will likely take his place, but there are certainly fears that Livorno will miss Gozzi’s physical presence.

 

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Verdi’s other question mark will be who to pick in central minefield. Another Juventus academy graduate Ranocchia looks set to start in the holding role, but whether he will pair with the ever reliable Piccinocchi or the growing in stature but inconsistent Modric.

 

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The young Croatian has been featuring more in recent games following an excellent showing against Inter at Armando Picchi. He has primarily been starting in Cuppa Italia games but also started last weekend in Livorno’s 4-1 win over Sampdoria but was substituted early after a poor performance in the semi final return leg in Milan.

 

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There is no denying his quality, but the young man needs to work on his consistency as his performances have varied widely. 

 

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It does seem that Verdi’s more cautious approach to integrating him into the team is beginning to pay dividends with his average performance getting better since the new year.

While Livorno have ripped off eleven successive wins and sit top of Serie A, Juventus have won just two of their last five and are in danger of slipping out of the Champions League spots again.  After defeating Juventus at Armando Picchi last year and being close to a draw in Turin earlier this year, Livorno are again expected to line up in their 5-2-2-1 formation tomorrow evening against Juventus’ 5-2-3. 

Ten Minute Hat Trick from Raspadori Sinks Juventus

15/2/2025

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In a scoreline that no one saw coming, Livorno ran away 4-2 winners over Juventus on a mild February evening. The game was decided in a mad fifteen minutes that saw five goals scored with Juventus scoring first before Raspadri had one of his spells where he simply takes over a game. 

 

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As expected, Livorno lined up in a 5-2-2-1 shape, looking to stabilize the flanks and break quickly through Raspadori and Palumbo sitting in the hole between Juventus’s midfield and backline. Instead, they allowed Juventus too much time and space on the ball, and twice they were able to play switches to Chiesa on the right, but he missed one and Mazzini was able to save the other. Verdi had his players drop deeper, but that meant that the next time Chiesa was played through - this time from the deep left channel by Robertson in the nineteenth minute - he was simply closer to goal and was able to slot home easily past Mazzini in Livorno’s goal. Journalists were already drafting their end of game reports and reactions about how Juventus would use this win to reignite their season, but the game went wildly off script after that.

 

Right at the restart, Verdi changed his team shape back to their usual 5-2-1-2 and their response was instant. Esposito put the ball back in play by passing it to Palumbo. The attacking midfielder sent the ball wide to Tsmikas who was surging down the left. The left wingback drove to the byline and sent a lofted ball back towards the penalty spot where Radpadori had drifted back from the crowded goalmouth. His cushioned header was sublime, looping over a helpless Szczney in goal to equalize.

 

Not even two minutes later, Esposito rose once again to score with an unsavable header from a corner. Suddenly, only four minutes after going behind, Livorno were ahead.

 

There was a break of seven whole minutes before Esposito turned provider. Palumbo intercepted a pass from Robertson inside to McKinnie in central midfield and laid it back to Galves. The right wingback played it forward to Esposito, who was sitting in the pocket of space behind McKinnie. Esposito dwelled on the ball a moment before turning and launching a 60 yard ball that Raspadori greedily ran onto before charging into the penalty area. Szczeny rushed out well and made himself big, but Raspafori finished cooly and with power down low to Szczeny’s right. Not even a minute later, a Robertson cross from the left was cleared by Carboni in the center of Livorno’s defense. This time it was Palumbo sitting in the space behind McKinnie, and he wasted no time sending another ball deep past Juventus’ high line. Raspadori was again clean through on goal, facing an on rushing Szczeny.  Raspadori cleverly waited for the frustrated keeper to commit before rounding him to finish into an empty net.

 

Less than fifteen minutes after Juventus scored the goal that everyone expected to propel them to yet another win over Livorno, they were instead down 4-1.

 

Though Raspadori’s barrage was a special player taking over a game, two tactical changes also contributed. First was the switch to a 5-2-1-2 which allowed Raspadori to be in a position to score his goals, but the second was a subtle switch which may have helped in the build up to the third and fourth goals. Modric dropped a bit deeper and on the other side Ranocchia appeared to be given more of a box-to-box role on the other side. This put pressure on holding midfielder Bencantur and helped draw mezzala McKinnie forward. Those two goals were both assisted from that huge pocket of space behind McKinnie where first Esposito and then Palumbo drifted before helping Raspadori to his hat trick.

 

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Just before halftime, Juventus pulled one back after a Robertson cross led to another Mazzini howler. Mazzini should have easily gathered it, but instead it somehow let it through his hands and Chiesa was on hand to tap it in for the easiest finish of his life.

 

Mazzini had to have been relieved that this perticular howler against Juventus had come when they were comfortably ahead.

 

It did give the visitors some way of getting back into the game. However, Bencantur dashed any hope for Juventus five minutes after the break when he went in with a violent challenge on Palumbo just outside the box. His straight red ended Juventus’ hopes of a comeback as Livorno smothered the game for the final forty minutes. 

 

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Livorno’s incredible run of form just keeps on going, and while it will surely end before too long, this streak has given Livorno the platform they need to push for a return to the Champions League and possibly even another title challenge.

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20 hours ago, 13th Man said:

@Hootieleece, you’ve just sent me into a flashback to my early twenties when every bar was apparently required to play this song at some point around midnight or later. Everyone would stop what they were doing and start singing along poorly and at the top of their lungs. Then it would return to normal…

Anyway, few more updates in the pipes. Livorno is cooking but Milan are dismantling all comers. Not even close to it in game yet, but the last game of the season is against Milan in Livorno. I’m hoping that game will still be critical once we get there.

That was the idea.....except the fans are sing in L-I-V-O-R-N-O we love you! After a couple of "adult" beverages!

KUTGW!

 

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[May have gone on a bit of an FM bender. Expect a bunch of little updates to come shortly.  Been a crazy season.]

Another Red Card and Another Hat Trick Help Put Livorno in a Good Position

20/2/2025

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A red card to the opposition and a hat trick from Esposito were enough to help Livorno recover from a bad start to put them in control of the EURO Cup first round tie against Trabzonspor.

The visitors got off to an excellent start when they caught Livorno napping in the aftermath of an early corner. Though Livorno cleared the initial corner, Galves was too slow to close down on the wing, and Gozzi was too lackadaisical in his marking, and suddenly the hosts were behind.

The rest of the half belonged to Livorno, however, who created several good chances before eventually breaking through in the 23rd minute. Piccinocchi played a great pass into Raspadori, who beat his man to the ball and attracted the other center back to him. Raspadori unselfishly squared the ball to Esposito who was making a late run into the box and the big forward made no mistake as he passed the ball into the net.

Livorno were disappointed to go into the half level after being completely dominant in the first half, but early in the second Livorno again found themselves aided by a red card in a crucial game. Thiago Mendes got himself yellow carded in the 50th minute, and instead of being careful, he went and got himself a second yellow with his next action by slicing down Livorno wingback Galves.

Five minutes later and Livorno took the lead, again Piccinocchi found Raspadori, and again Raspadori set up Esposito, this time with a through ball.

Less than two minutes later, Esposito put an exclamation point on the win. Tsmikas skinned his man just inside the Trabzonspor half before driving for the left byline and putting in a deliciously floated cross to the far post.

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Esposito, once again, proved himself a fantastic acquisition for Livorno, taking some of the goal scoring load off Raspadori’s shoulders and simply giving Livorno a new dimension.

 

 

A Valiant Defensive Effort, and the Post, Not Quite Enough to Keep Raspadori Quiet 

[I decided to write up this one because it was just nuts.  Haven't had a game quite like it in a while!]

23/2/2025

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Verdi looked a resigned figure on the sideline as the game approached its end. His Livorno side had been completely dominant all game but had not been able to make many good chances, much less score. Earlier Verdi had looked like he wanted to sub himself in and create and get on the end of chances himself, but by the end he was just shaking his head every time Ternana managed to repel another Livorno attack.

Ternana had made no attempt to attack the league leaders, hoping only to escape the game with a point.

 

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 Livorno’s 3-4-1-2 had trapped Ternana in their own box, and Livorno were sending shots at Ternana’s goal in a steady stream, hitting the post an incredible three times. Considering Ternana’s complete lack of ambition, Verdi had switched his formation to a highly unusual 2-3-2-1-2 in the 70th minute to put more players in various levels across Ternana’s half considering how their center backs had been spectators for most of the game.

 

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But even as Livorno continued to pepper Ternana’s goal, they could not fashion a decent chance.

 

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In the 86th minute, Walker-Peters was in space on the the left after collecting a Ternana clearance. He looked up in and spotted a brilliant run by Raspadori. The forward seemed well covered, but then darted in front of his mark and rose to nod a powerful header past Ternana’s keeper.

 

The celebrations from the Livorno’s bench were wild, almost as if they had won a trophy. It might not have today, but these two points may just prove crucial come the end of the season. With Livorno and AC Milan deadlocked in first, and Lazio close on their heels, these are the games Livorno must win.

 

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Verdi, for his part, merely pumped his fist once, joined the other coaches in the celebration for a moment and returned to the bench in relief.

The fireworks did not stop after the whistle, however. Ternana’s manager Caner Erkin claimed that Livorno were lucky to win, and Verdi laughed it off.

 

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Verdi’s response infuriated Caner, who shot back in fury, claiming Verdi is a “petty and bitter” manager that is “obsessed” with him.

 

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Verdi, though, will simply be happy with the win as Livorno head into an intensely difficult run of games. They look set to finish Trabzonspor in Turkey, but then will play Lazio, Inter and whichever team they are drawn against in the EURO Cup, all within the space of seven days.

 

[CODA]

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[Rotated squad does the job]

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[Look at this! Monday, Thursday and Sunday!  All against top quality teams.  I've already played through it but I'll leave that for another post...]

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Inter Fall to Livorno Again

9/3/2025

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Inter supporters filed out of the Giuseppe Mezzala in shell shocked silence, wondering how their team had lost - how this Livorno team had so completely dominated them this year, defeating them 7-2 over four games.  This time it was goals from Palumbo and Raspadori that sunk the hosts, and an absolutely smothering game plan from Verdi which hardly allowed Inter to create decent chances.

 

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Inter would have been smelling blood in the water when Livorno arrived in Milan.  Lazio had broken their twelve game winning streak the previous weekend with a bore 0-0 draw, and Livorno had expended a lot of effort in a tough 3-3 draw in the EURO Cup in midweek that left their qualification for the next round in doubt.  Livorno still had not lost since December, but cracks were appearing in their armor, and they were running on empty after playing two games a week since January.

 

Livorno, however, had no plans to lose in Milan, and were ahead within four minutes. Tsmikas, who has all but secured his first choice status since Tripadelli went down with broken ribs, charged down the left and played in Raspadori. The striker has been on a great run off assists of late and added another with a great diagonal ball to put Palumbo through on goal. The attacking midfielder still had plenty to do, and his finish across the face of goal was superb.

 

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Inter nearly equalizer three minutes later when Lukaku went on one of his rampaging runs. After a knockdown to Barella who put the ball into the space behind Livorno’s backline. Lukaku beat out Bani and surged past a covering Gozzi. One on one with Mazzini, Lukaku looked certain to score, but Livorno’s keeper made a stunning one handed save to deny the Belgian.

 

On the ensuing corner, the ball was cleared back out to the taker, Dani Olmo, who drove into the box. His shot stung the hands of Mazzini but was again diverted away from goal.

 

Those two chances would be the last good chances Inter would produce all game, however. Livorno’s 3-4-1-2 once again neutralized Inter’s attack, and with the lead, they doubled down on their possession game, playing keep away in Inter’s half. Inter made regular inroads down Livorno’s flanks, but each attack was, at best, put out for a corner and Livorno were able to handle everything Inter threw at them. In fact, Inter did not get another shot in the box from open play and were limited to hopeful shots from distance.

 

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Instead, in the 84th minute, Livorno got an insurance goal to secure all three points. It was, in many ways, a quintessential Livorno goal. They had recycled possession along their backline and were keeping things simple, but they were only lulling Inter to sleep. Suddenly, in three passes up what Verdi calls the ladder, Raspadori was through on goal.

 

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Though Inter had a dominant seeming twenty shots with eight on target to Livorno’s four, and had twelve corners to Livorno’s two, Verdi’s successful gameplan is seen in the possession stats. They enjoyed 58% of the ball and dominated the midfield. 

 

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Especially after going ahead early, Livorno continued to use their smothering tactics that had been so effective all season. They locked Inter in their own half and only allowed balls over the top and to the flanks, where Livorno could easily defend them.

 

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It was a strange game, a chess match between two styles, but once again Livorno came out on top. Another famous win for the Tuscans, and one which allows them to keep pace with AC Milan at the top of the table.

 

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4 hours ago, Djecker said:

Another great win! Gozzi has just popped up in my save playing in second division of Germany, recommended by my scouts. I'm tempted to snap him up.

I don't love him, but he generally has been solid to excellent.  Seems like one of those CBs that's just prone to switching off from time to time, but he's a physical beast (at least in my save) and has been consistently good.

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Heartbreak in Basque Country for Livorno

13/3/2025

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Giuseppe, just how disappointed are you after falling in only the second round despite hoping to go deep into the competition?

 

I’m a bit heartbroken to be honest. We were very close to going through, only for us to switch off for a moment and let Bilbao score. It was just a throw in and a simple lofted ball.  Some players ball watching, leaving Ibanez too open.

But look, I have to take the blame for our exit. I didn’t set up the players in a way that put them in places to succeed. I didn’t learn from our mistakes in the first leg. Not enough. We didn’t give up two goals from four corners today, true, but we didn’t do much going forwards either.

 

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Thing is, if Unai Lopez had converted his penalty in Livorno we would have been in deep trouble. When Giacomo [Raspadori] earned the penalty and Sebastiano [Esposito] converted it, it seemed like it might be a tale of two penalties - one missed and one made. But then came their equalizer. And look, was it a soft goal to give up? Absolutely, but we didn’t deserve to go through, not on the basis of these two performances.

 

They had the better of us. They dominated the flanks and kept the ball really well. Their 4-3-3 just seemed to always find the holes in our shape. They honestly kept us pinned back for most of both legs of the tie. When we pressed they passed around us, when we sat back they came at us with pace and on the dribble. We simply didn't match up well and I couldn't find the way to break through. When Sebastiano scored that penalty, I thought that maybe we'd just get lucky, but instead Bilbao managed to get the goal that took them through.

 

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So am I disappointed? Yes, very. We had it in our hands and we let it slip through our fingers. But we didn’t deserve to go through and so we didn’t.

 

Now it’s time to focus on the league, and we also have the Cuppa Italia final to look forward to.

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Serie A Roundup - Livorno Go Top as Milan Draws with Juventus - Matchday 30

[I did a bit of a binge Friday and got way ahead of my posts so far. There's a whole run of games in which nothing is all that interesting tactics wise - though I'll get into that a bit in the next post - but I know Verdi's fans around the world need to know how things are going. In the end, I just put the basic details before I do a ‘title run in’ post with a bit more of how I did my set ups.]

23/3/2025

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Livorno were able to get past a hard fighting Cagliari with a fantastic goal from wingback Kostas Tsimikas after Cagliari had leveled the game following Raspadori’s early goal.

 

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The result takes them back top of the table after AC Milan could only draw against Juventus.

Lazio kept up their chase of the two league leaders. Last seasons’ Serie A champions are in with a chance, sitting only four points behind their rivals.

Livorno extend their streak in style - Matchday 31

6/4/2025

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Livorno turned on the style against a hapless Bologna team, scoring a season high six goals in a dominating performance as they make it 25 unbeaten in Serie A.  The Tuscan side has not lost since September when they fell 1-0 to Juventus in Turin.  Nolan Galves put Livorno ahead with a powerful goal from a Rapsadori cutback, but there were fears that Livorno’s defensive frailty might hurt them as they let in an equalizer from a free kick only seven minutes later.  Livorno fans need not have worried, as Raspadori and Palumbo both scored braces and Esposito added another and Livorno put on a finishing clinic at Armando Picchi.

 

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Lazio, however, lost ground on their title rivals as they drew with Roma and are now six points back from Livorno and AC Milan at the top of the table, as the latter dismantled Ternana 4-0.

 

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Matchday 32

13/4/2025

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A goal from Raspadori with an assist from Esposito was enough for Livorno to edge Brescia in a tight contest.  Livorno were far from their best and should be pleased that they managed to escape from this match with three points.

 

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Those extra two points could prove vital, as Lazio and Milan cancelled each other out and, in a result that will suit neither side, drew 0-0.

Matchday 33

19/4/2025

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Considering their massive domination of the ball, Livorno will be disappointed that they drew this game.  It was a point gained, however, considering that they trailed for most of the second half, and had to rely on a fortuitous bounce for Palumbo to pounce on a ball in the area to level the score in the 90th minute.

 

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AC Milan rejoined Livorno at the top of the table, level on points as they defeat city rivals Inter in the Milan derby with a critical goal from Diawara.

 

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Lazio, however, are all but out of the title race after losing in Naples.  They now sit eight points back with only five games to go.

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Edited by 13th Man
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This time it all goes according to script as Juventus beat Livorno to win the Cuppa Italia

24/4/2025

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Livorno may be flying high in Serie A while Juventus sit in crisis - on the outside looking into the Champions League places - on this evening, everything went according to script.  It was a hard fought game, and decent chances were few and far between, with both sides able to keep the other’s lethal attacks quiet.  In the final ten minutes though, Juventus found the breakthrough with a simple error from Livorno centerback Bani.  After Amione blocked a cross on the left, it fell back to Joao Cancelo who controlled the ball and took a look up.  In that moment, Livorno’s backline had begun to move forward, but the tired players were not together or paying enough attention to their marks.  Marc Navarro drifted away from Mattia Bani, and Canelo’s perfect cross found him at the back post to put Juventus in front - and to give them a game that had looked set for overtime.

 

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Neither side deserved to score, but on the day Juventus found a way through.

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Though they fell at the last hurdle, Livorno can be proud of making it to the first final in their history - with the 3-1 aggregate win over Inter Milan being a particular highlight.  On this day, though, they just could not find a way to repeat their incredible 4-2 win in Livorno earlier in the year.

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Livorno’s nerves on full display

28/4/2025

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Verdi has been playing down his sides chances at winning the title nearly every week, but on the evidence of this game, his team are not buying it. This was a nervy, disjointed performance from Livorno even after Raspadori’s early goal gave them the lead.  Gone is Livorno’s slick passing in midfield, their smothering defensive work. Instead, this is a club that has looked much like the midtable club that most expected them to be, even after last year's accomplishments. This was an even game, and Pedro’s equalizer looked like it was set to earn Fiorentina a point. Then Tsmikas charged down the left flank as he has so often this year, and then Esposito rose to power home the winner.

 

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On a night when Livorno could have easily dropped points, they once again managed to somehow find a way to win. Say it softly, but it is these games as much as the big ones that can decide the title.

 

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Livorno also punched their ticket to next year’s Champions League, a forgone conclusion but still a reason for Livorno to celebrate. 

 

[Coda]

380460081_ScreenShot2021-09-27at10_03_58PM.png.21a5519a154398694264406ed61db2c1.png

Milan fell three points behind Livorno in the title race as they fell 1-0 to Udinese.

Let’s never talk about this ever again

I don’t have any desire to write this game up in a real way, but I needed to share this insanity. It has to be the most ridiculous game I’ve played on FM.

 

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Four red cards for SPAL. Four. One was a straight red but the other three were for two yellows. And yet it took Livorno sixty-three minutes (and two red cards) to get the lead. No goals from open play, no decent chances created. It was an abysmal game, and I only was relieved when that first goal (header off a free kick) went in because there was no way SPAL could even get the ball out of their box with nine men…or eight…or seven. But did the boys relax and start enjoying themselves? No they did not. Lots of nervous and apprehensive. Then there was a PK (accompanied by one of the second yellows) and another off a free kick to round off the most embarrassing 3-0 win I’ve ever had.

 

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Completely terrible game all around, but hey - three points!

 

 

 

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Livorno finds a way again as Roma battle bravely

17/5/2025

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Livorno seemed to be in a great place when Raspadori his second after Tsmikas sent him through with a ball over the top on thirty minutes.  Only two minutes later, though, Noah Okafor got one back for Roma after Bani let his man run free behind him to blast a through ball past Mazzini in Livorno’s goal.  Still, it seemed like Livorno were doing enough.  They were edging possession, not allowing Roma to create any decent chances, but then Harry Wilson took a free kick and received a give and go.  He was well outside the box and being marshalled wide, but somehow managed to get away a powerful shot from several meters outside the box that flew into the top left corner.  Roma had come back from 2-0 down to tie the game.  When a Livorno goal by Esposito was chalked off for an erroneous offsides - Rapsadori was not involved in the play in any way - it seemed like the game would go to a draw. 

 

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Then, in the ninety-thrid minute, Moreo sent a perfectly weighted ball into the box for Raspadori to run onto.  The forward got there well ahead of his marker and finished at the near post to earn Livorno all three points.

 

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The game itself largely did not matter as Milan beat Brescia 5-0, but it was another example of Livorno somehow finding a way to win a game.  Against Milan they only need a draw, but with the kind of form that AC Milan are in, even a draw is a tough ask.

 

657351582_ScreenShot2021-09-27at10_04_39PM.png.1c232451bb36db7a421128aeab2750b0.png

 

 

UP NEXT - Showdown at Armando Picchi with the title on the line

 

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Screen Shot 2021-09-27 at 10.04.15 PM.png

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8 hours ago, Djecker said:

Damn that's a close title battle. Doesn't Serie A come down to head to head if you're tied on points? What was the result of the first Milan-Livorno game?

That’s right. Livorno beat AC Milan 1-0 in Milan so whenever they’ve been tied on points Livorno has been ahead. Still means that if Milan wins they get the title as their goal difference is hugely better. Livorno needs a win or a draw.

 

8 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Wow! what a battle for the title! I might not of shutdown my CPU and FM just to keep the streak alive.....lol!

 

 

4 hours ago, SixPointer said:

This is intense!!!!

Yeah, I actually started the game, did the game time adjustments, gave the team talk, hit kick off, and realized I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Maybe savescuming technically, but I was too nervous for it to be fun. Want to take some time to consider my game plan and be in the right mindset. I’ve never had a game like this - last day, title on the line, at home, against the title rival. Especially not as a team that is still was below in terms of quality across the pitch.

The game plan needs to be spot on. AC Milan will need to attack knowing they need a win, so Verdi had initially figured he should play conservative (waste time, lower LOE).  But then giving AC Milan time and space hadn’t been the right move before. Livorno were under siege in Milan in their deeper 5-2-2-1 before the switch back to the 5-2-1-2.

Truth is, while Livorno’s front three are quality players (Raspadori, Esposito [both on 31 goals for the season] and Palumbo) but the rest are mostly just decent players that fit the system. Maybe they should play to their strengths, play their usual game and hope it’s enough? The backline has been shaky (a big slice of the €60m transfer budget is definitely going there) so it’s probably best to keep the lines high and try to play on the front foot while being difficult to break down. Not press too much, but not sit back either. In the game in Milan they completely dominated the flanks (4-3-3), especially the left, but there’s not a whole lot that I seemed to be able to do about it as that’s already the side where I have my holding midfielder.

So yeah, think that’s what I’ll do when I’m in the right frame of mind. Funny that writing the post helped solidify my plan!

Edited by 13th Man
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Showdown at Armando Picchi with the title on the line

25/5/2025

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Make no mistake, this is the biggest game in Livorno’s history.  Making it to the cup final was a big day, but winning the league would be a legendary achievement for this small seaside club.  Only five years ago Livorno were relegated from Serie B, and now they are one game away from lifting the Serie A trophy for the first time in their history. Their title rivals, AC Milan, are their opponents, as if by design. In fact, if this kind of game was in a movie, critics would say it was so improbable that it ruined the experience.

 

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Over the last few weeks and months, Verdi has been coy about his side’s chances of being crowned champions, even as they have made first place theirs for much of the second half of the season. The pressure has definitely shown, however, with Livorno often looking anxious and unsure. Likewise, Verdi’s words and demeanor were calm during his press conference yesterday, but it did not take a body language expert to see the tension in his face and shoulders.

Livorno have the advantage of not only being at home, but of only needing a draw. With AC Milan’s vastly superior goal difference, however, if they win they will be champions. The question will be whether Livorno try to sit back and absorb pressure or play on the front foot and try to strike a knockout blow. Either way, it will be a fascinating contest, and with the Champions League and relegation spots already settled, all eyes in Italy will be on Livorno, where the tiny Armando Picchi will host its most important game.

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Livorno crowned Serie A champions in front of a raucous Armando Picchi

25/5/2025

 

[I actually played the game shortly after making my response to @SixPointerand @Hootieleece, but didn’t get around to writing it up for a bit. I know that my millions of fans have been waiting in anticipation for this moment, barely able to concentrate on their work, families, or even their FM saves. But it's finally here...the climax of the most improbable season ever...]

 

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Verdi’s ambitious game plan proved a masterstroke as Livorno not only held the offensive firepower of AC Milan at bay, but put two past their title rivals too. Livorno could not quite finish several good first half chances, and there was some fear that Raspadori had forgotten his shooting boots. The second half proved otherwise however, as Serie A’s leading scorer all but cemented his place as the player of the season by scoring a stunning brace in the biggest game of his life.

 

Rather than sit back and try to absorb pressure, Livorno choose to play to their strengths and play on the front foot.  They counter pressed and they took away easy distribution options for Donnarumma, marking high up the pitch, but then would retreat a bit once the ball was in play.  This is how Livorno normally plays, but what was different was the intensity of their press.  They were disciplined, but far more urgent in their pressing of AC Milan than they had been in Milan, especially their midfield engine room.  AC Milan had also dominated the flanks in Milan, and, surprisingly, Livorno allowed them to do the same here.  Though the wingbacks went out to press when the ball entered the final third, Livorno didn’t chase the ball when it was on the wings and that meant they were far tighter in the center when the crosses came in.  Though AC Milan’s Belotti is decent in the air, Bani, Gozzi, and Amione put him under constant pressure and he often cut an isolated figure as Milan attacked down the flanks again and again to little gain.

 

[FM terms - The usual high DL and standard LOE + prevent short gk dist, but I had on urgent instead of standard pressing, and standard width instead of force opposition inside.  Also had on stay on feet to keep shape and avoid unnecessary fouls.  Possession TIs as usual - higher tempo, standard passing, narrow.]

 

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In attack, Livorno were direct and aggressive on the counter, and should have taken advantage of several early opportunities.

 

In only the fourth minute, Livorno snuffed out an AC Milan attack on their right flank, and quickly played it up to Raspadori - who was causing AC Milan problems.  He dribbled it up the flank and though the counter came to nothing, Livorno kept possession and recycled it back through Ranocchia.  The holding midfielder found Tsmikas running towards the box, and the wingback’s through ball to Raspadori created as good a chance as you can hope for as a striker, but Raspadori blasted it right at Donnarumma.

 

Palumbo also had an excellent chance in the twenty first minute, after Raspadori slithered along the byline and again blasted his shot at Donnarumma.  Palumbo was on hand for the rebound, but managed to hit his shot against AC Milan defender Maulid [regen].

 

Raspadori was again through on goal in the 33rd minute but again could not convert with only Donnarumma to beat.  From Donnarumma’s clearance, Bani won the ball in the air, Esposito won the second ball and knocked it down to Modric.  The rising star took one touch and sent a perfectly weighted ball deep into Milan’s half for Raspadori to run onto.  This time the forward slipped the ball inside the near post, but Raspadori had anticipated a first time ball and so by the time Modric launched it forward, he was already offsides.  It would later become apparent that AC Milan should have heeded the warning in this disallowed goal.

 

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The closest Milan came to scoring in this game before it was beyond them came right after the restart, when Theo Hernandez - who was Milan’s best player - again drove to the byline and sent a cross in and Dembele struck the ball sweetly on the volley, but agonizingly hit the post.  Amione’s rushed clearance rebounded off Bani, and could have easily gone in the goal, but instead dribbled out for a corner.

The goal called back for offsides in the first half turned out to be merely a rehearsal to the opening goal. Livorno took a throw-in deep in their half, with Modric laying it back to Galves, who gave it back to Modric. The midfielder played it up to Esposito, who returned the ball to Modric. 

 

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[Esposito is about to play it back to Modric (#15) and nothing seems on]

 

AC Milan’s defenders were lulled into a false sense of security, but when Modric received the ball back, he remembered the goal that was chalked off due to offsides.

 

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[Raspadori (#13) lurking threateningly on the shoulder of Tomori (#5)]

 

Instead of taking a touch, this time the young Croatian instantly sends a ball over the top for Raspadori to run onto and the forward timed his run to perfection.

 

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This time Raspadori's control was perfect and he slipped the ball past Donnarumma and into the back of the net.  With Milan rarely threatening, it seemed that Livorno already had one hand on the trophy.

 

AC Milan seemed shocked by the goal, and the following thirty minutes saw Livorno largely control the game.  In the eighty-first minute, the game was put to bed as Mazzini sent a hopeful long ball up to midfield with AC Milan pressing high and hard and cutting off Livorno’s preferred short distribution.  Tomori in Milan’s defense was too casual in attacking the ball, and Raspadori’s sneaky and sudden acceleration caught him off guard.  The forward nicked the ball off Tomori’s foot as he tried to control it, and surged towards the Milan goal.  Maulid came over to cover quickly, and it seemed the chance was gone as he forced Raspadori to the left, but at the edge of the penalty area he struck the ball sweetly with his left foot and sent it just past the outstretched left hand of Donnarumma, off the post, and into the goal to secure Livorno’s first ever Serie A title.

 

AC Milan poured forward in the final ten minutes, but there was no chance that Livorno would give up three goals, and while Mazzini was forced into one magnificent save, the celebrations could truly begin long before the final whistle.

 

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[Sharp eyed folks will notice the C/A on the banner and the rather sparsely populated stands, that’s because FM somehow did not give me my title cut scene! I was furious! I mean, not really, but come on!  So here’s a repeat from Livorno winning Serie C/A but we can pretend it’s Serie A]

 

There can be no claims that Livorno did not earn this win, or that the scoreline was unfair. Livorno created the better chances, and while the goals they scored were both incredible pieces of skill, it must be said that they actually failed to convert their best chances.  

 

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It was a fairly even game by the numbers, but Livorno created the better chances and held AC Milan’s attack at arm’s length, hardly allowing them any chances. They pressed hard but with disciplined intensity. They conceded the flanks while packing the middle, so that AC Milan could not make anything out of their domination out wide. Then they controlled the ball like a snake coiled and ready to pounce, with both goals and several chances coming from direct play from Livorno after spells of quiet possession. Their win in Milan may have been a bit of a smash and grab, but in the game that mattered the most, Livorno fully eared the right to be named Serie A champions.

 

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A new name now sits in the Serie A history books for the first time since the 1986/1987 season, when Diego Maradona led Napoli to their first Serie A title.  Relegated from Serie B in the 2019/2020 season, Livorno have had a remarkable turnaround in the past five years and find themselves crowned champions after a dramatic end of the season which culminated in a winner-takes-all match against AC Milan.  While Milan fans will be heartbroken, neutrals in Italy and abroad must have enjoyed seeing such a underrated team come out on top.

 

UP NEXT - Season in Review + Tactics

Edited by 13th Man
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