Mid 90's Milan - Part 9

Written by Dave Black @cm9798

Hello! Welcome to the final edition of Mid 90s Milan. So far, we’ve been ruddy brilliant. We’re just a few points away from securing the Serie A title. The Champions League final will see us take on Man Utd. Before all of that though, we take on Brescia in the second leg of the Coppa Italia. That’s Italian for Italian Cup. We’re 2-0 up from the first leg, I like our chances.

Brescia are a Serie B team. Not even a very good one, they’re 17th out of 20. I already ran through their squad in the last episode so I won’t again but this is a dour encounter. We are very poor, it’s 0-0 for 89 minutes before Brescia score a consolation. A bad result and probably the dullest cup celebration ever.

Still, a cup is a cup.

There are just four games to go and we’re 9 points ahead. Even we would struggle to throw this away.

Away to 17th placed Reggiana looks like a great opportunity to seal the title. However, our goalkeeper is dismissed after two minutes and we’re behind to the penalty. That’s bad. Then Desailly gets sent off for a professional foul and they score the penalty. That’s really bad. It’s soon 3-0 and then Boba commits a bad foul and we’re down to 8 men. Crikey, talk about choking. We lose 5-0. One of my worst days in management.

Juventus lose 4-0 and only Parma winning stops us winning the title in the worst of circumstances.

I’d rather win the league at home anyway. Fiorentina smashed Juventus 4-0 a week ago so I could think of better opponents. Batistuta, Oliveira, Rui Costa and er, Francesco Baiano will be out to get us. We only need a point.

It’s dire. But it’s gritty. We’re falling over the finish line but nobody says you’ve got to cross the line standing upright. 0-0 brings us the title – the Italian way.

Well thank goodness. All we have to do is survive the last two league games without getting injuries before the Champions League final. Davids and Albertini are already injured, plus the filthy trio who are suspended from a few weeks ago. Oh and Savicevic. He’s banned too. He has 29 assists this season, by the way. We’re away to Parma, who are 2nd. Thank goodness we already have this sewn up.

We’re actually brilliant for 80 minutes. Costacurta scores twice from set pieces and it’s vintage us. Then we concede two in the last 10 minutes and it’s annoying but pointless.

We finish at home to Juventus. I tell you what, I’m really pleased this didn’t go down to the final two games. Our battered side are hanging tough and even when we go behind to Moreno Torricelli, George Weah equalises and then pops up with a late winner to finish the domestic season on a high.

Our first win of the night. We end up being 10 points clear, I don’t know what all the fuss was about.

One final game then and it’s the Champions League final. Savicevic and Albertini are ruled out through injury but otherwise we’re full strength.

Man Utd are without Giggs and Beckham due to injury but oddly have opted to leave Scholes and Solskjaer out of the 16. Chris Armstrong has been signed from Spurs and makes the bench.

The final is in the Nou Camp where Man Utd have some history…albeit in the future.

It’s a bit of a basketball match to begin with, end to end only without the scoring. Then on the stroke of half time, we let Denis Irwin head in from a free kick. Where to start with that? We’re struggling but the introduction of Dugarry from the bench pays immediate dividends. No wonder Steve Bruce signed him. Roberto Baggio curls in a free kick 7 minutes later – they should make a game about his free kicks. It’s a momentous night. CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE.

It hasn’t always been vintage but we’ve got the job done. The treble. Let’s take a look at some numbers.

Weah ended up running away as top scorer, not really sure why Maldini outscored Baggio and the entire midfield. Savicevic and Baggio were assist machines whilst Maldini and Desailly were our top performers.

That’s it from me. What a journey we’ve been on. Thanks for putting up with me and I’ll hopefully see you around. Bye for now.

A word from the #WeStreamFM Team: It’s been a pleasure to have Dave contribute to our website, many of us have been fans of his work for a long time and we look forward to working with him again in the future. Thanks Dave.

Make sure you’re following Dave on Twitter: @cm9798
His website:
His books: The World According to Championship Manager 97/98 | The World According To Championship Manager 01/02

Mid 90's Milan - Part Eight

Written by Dave Black

Hello! Welcome back to Mid 90s Milan. This is the penultimate episode as we’re about to enter the month of April. The business end of the season will see us look to push on towards the Serie A title whilst competing in the latter stages of the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. Here’s how the table looks:

Fresh from getting the manager of the month award for March, we welcome Bologna to the San Siro. They’re missing star man Kennett Andersson so it’s Igor Kolyvanov up front. Who you ask? This Russian striker won’t be on many people’s radars but he was a star man for my all conquering Coventry team in play by mail in the 90s. This one goes out to you, KJC Games.

Oh, the game. It’s dull. We’re sort of lucky to get a 0-0 draw. Not ideal but when news filters through that Juventus have lost at home to Atalanta it’s a good day afterall.

Time for a famous Thursday night as Bayern Munich roll into town for a Champions League semi final. We’ve got an immediate break – both of their goalkeepers are banned so Rizzitelli the striker is in goal. That’s got to help.

It’s an impressive squad but having a striker in goal will undermine it somewhat.

Rizzitelli makes a few saves early on but eventually Boban scores and Savicevic heads a second. Thomas Struntz takes over in goal and makes more saves than Rossi, who is beaten by Christian Ziege. We win 5-1, it probably should have been more but either way, I think we’ll be in the final.

From Thursday night frolics it’s back to the Sunday shift. Juventus conquerors Atalanta provide the opposition but we have none of the problems our rivals did. Future Juventus man Filippo Inzaghi scored twice in that game but he has a much quieter day here and we win 4-1. Baggio’s free kick in the first minute set the tone for the day and despite a brief setback, it’s an easy win.

It’s another few weeks out for Costacurta. Baresi’s old limbs will have to keep going.

The Coppa Italia final is over two legs. That’s really annoying. Anyway, Brescia are 17th in Serie B and really shouldn’t be in the final. They have a great banter squad though, including flying left winger Andrea Pirlo, a defender called Manfred Binz and Bismarck. What I like about Bismarck is that he simply signed from the J League. No details given.

Yes, he was named after Otto von Bismarck (according to Wiki). He’s actually got caps for Brazil and never played club football in Europe.

The game itself you ask? Routine. One hand on the cup.

Back to league action now and Napoli are our visitors. They’re 8th and bang average. Weah opens the scoring and although Napoli level for three minutes, Desailly converts a penalty. I don’t know why the computer chooses him for the pens, it’s not a manager choice (which is stupid).

9 points clear with four games to go. I like those odds.

Off to Munich now then and Bayern’s two goalkeepers are still banned. For goodness sake lads. Rizzo starts in goal but Struntz and Helmer both take stints in goal. Weah takes matters into his own hands and plunders a hat-trick and although Bayern show admirable courage, they never look likely to overturn a huge deficit. We’re in the final!

Man Utd gave Ajax a good thrashing too. They’ll be a tough opponent in the final for sure, Cantona is averaging 8.88 in European matches which is quite fearsome.

It doesn’t tell me where the final will be played other than it being a neutral venue. That rules two stadiums out at least.

That seems like a good place to finish. We’re well set for the treble. We’re odds on for two parts of that and then there’s the Champions League. Here’s the table:

I’ll be back next week to draw a line under what has been quite a successful journey. How did Milan make such a mess of things with this squad? It turns out everything is easier on Championship Manager. See you next week!

Mid 90's Milan - Part Seven

Written by @cm9798

Welcome back to Mid 90s Milan! I’ve loaded up CM2 Italian League to try and correct Milan’s woeful 96/97 season and so far we’re doing quite well. It hasn’t been without stress – some big beatings threatened to ruin Christmas but the ship has been steadied. We sit top of Serie A with a 3 point cushion. We’ve got a Coppa Italia final to look forward to and soon a Champions League quarter final clash with Barcelona.

All of that lands me the manager of the month award for February. Will it be a curse as we head into March?

A home game with Vicenza doesn’t really seem like appropriate warm up for Barcelona. Albertini and Costacurta remain out but we should have plenty in our ranks. From the off though we are poor. Sloppy in fact. We also seem intent on throwing in some big challenges. Desailly is booked for one before Weah goes in dangerously on their centre back and it’s a red card. Uh oh. With over half the match to survive I’m not optimistic but if anything we are better with 10. We push hard but Mondini is equal to everything. Eventually, Savicevic beats him with a header. Relief, rejoice.

Lazio and Juventus both drop points and the cushion is 5 points.

The Champions league quarter final is played on the Thursday. Was that a thing? Who knows. I’m amused to see Luis Enrique is “just” a central midfielder here, he would be upgraded to the ultimate utility man for 97/98. Ronaldo however will probably destroy poor old Rossi.

We’re no further forward in terms of selection so it means Baresi will be tasked with dealing with Ronaldo. Please, not a foot race.

We get a Champions League classic. Two teams at the top of their game duke it out and swap great goals. A Weah solo run gives us the lead but Stoichkov chips in a leveller. The Bulgarian puts his side ahead with a curling free kick before Boban scores from 25 yards. Maldini wins it from a corner. Advantage Milan.

We’ll do it all again in two weeks. First though, we’re off to Sampdoria.

You may remember from a few updates ago, I am fascinated by Sampdoria’s squad. Sebastian “don’t call me Juan” Veron is a striker, who is on the bench. Dunga is in midfield with Mihailovic and up front is Roberto Mancini. He’s a star player but has only 4 goals in 15, so I’m not worried.

We start like a train and that goal machine Maldini strikes from a set piece. Mancini equalises for a minute but Savicevic heads us in front. Mancini then scores from 25 yards to make it three goals in as many minutes, surpassing the number of goals scored in most Serie A matches in the 90s. We’re not finished yet either. We’ve lost two to injury but the sight of our own blood only serves to rile us up.

Mancini strikes from distance again just after half time as Rossi waves it in. Sav equalises but Simone scores a late winner. Just call us the entertainers.

Lazio are humbled 5-1 by Vicenza and the lead is 8 points. The pressure is off heading into the second Milan derby of the season.

Ganz, Djorkaeff and Zanetti are all out injured. They have spent £6m on Dario Hubner though and he partners Zamorano. Weah is banned (and also injured) whilst Eranio’s injury is timed well with Albertini’s return. Both he and Costacurta are less than 100% but they are needed.

Inter score with their first and only shot on target. Festa – who I called a clown during the preview a few updates ago – heads in from a corner. It looks like being a vintage Italian defensive display as we struggle to make a clear chance but Maldini pops up on the back stick to head us level late on. That’s three in three for the captain, scoring when we need him to most.

Lazio continue to drop points and Juventus win to move into second. The gap though is still 8 points.

Rossi is called into the Italy squad. He’s 32, uncapped and averaging 6.29. Oh Italy.

Weah’s back for the return leg with Barcelona. It continues where it left off, a slugfest. Both teams are landing heavy blows and with the score at 3-2 on the night, Pizzi takes the metaphor too literally and judo throws Albertini. He’s off, Weah scores from the resulting free kick and that’s that. Maldini scores for a 4th consecutive game to seal it – his 9th of the season.

Rossi’s injury gave a chance to 23 year old Pagotto. I don’t want to alarm anybody but in 2007 je tested positive for cocaine and was banned from football for life. Although this was reduced, he was 41 by the time it expired. Thankfully Rossi will only miss a week – but it does cost him his place with Italy.

Some big scores there but we’ll face the only team who scored more than us – Bayern Munich. Oliver Kahn will be suspended but they’ve signed Frank De Boer and Slaven Bilic. More on them next week.

The Internationals pass by without further injury incident, a miracle in itself. We finish March with a trip to Roma. They’re 10th and Balbo is out injured, so hopefully we can get away from the capital with the points.

Albertini scores but departs injured before half time. A torn hamstring will end his season, a huge shame. We look likely to hang on to all three points but a late goal from Del boy means we have to settle for a point. Juventus win to cut the gap to 6.

Albertini’s 7 goals and 13 assists will take some replacing. There are only 7 league games to go but with at least two Champions League games to come plus a two-legged Coppa Italia final there’s plenty of work to do. With the rate we get injuries we’re never far from a crisis.

Join me next week for the penultimate episode. April has a busy schedule for us. Not only do we face Bayern twice but there’s both legs of the final as well three Serie A games to negotiate. Some would say it is a pivotal month. Arrivederci!

Mid 90's Milan - Part Five

Written by Dave Black @cm9798

Welcome back! This is all going rather well isn’t it? I took over Milan in 1996 with low expectations after their disastrous real life season. Turns out it is a lot easier on Championship Manager. We sit 4 points clear at the top of the table at the start of December. Sure, there’s been a lot of injuries, but we get patched up and we go again. Repeatedly.

We’re also through in the Champions League with a game to spare. This is a magnificent link to where we pick up today’s update, in the wonderful surrounds of Sofia as we look to seek a table topping finish.

For once, we are efficient. 87 minutes of efficiency in fact. And yes, we make it hard for ourselves but only for three minutes.

There are no easy draws in the quarter finals but Barcelona seems like a total stinker. Why couldn’t we get Steaua?

Back to domestic fun and a home game with Reggiana. They’re bottom of the table and really this should be our bread and butter. They have Franz Carr, who moved to Italy after leaving Aston Villa in 1996. He didn’t do particularly well.

We’re a bit laboured and when it’s 0-0 at half time, I’m concerned. We have a lack of options on the bench thanks to the injury situation and I can only throw on Blomqvist. That doesn’t help and their keeper gets man of the match. ‘sakes.

That is a bad result. It’s also an ill timed International break which not only sees Italy lose to Iceland but Costacurta and Panucci go off injured. Both will be out for a couple of weeks.

Fiorentina away is the last match before Christmas and we’re without Desailly, who is banned for three games following a misdemeanour a few weeks ago. That means the veteran duo of Baresi and Vierchowod have to deal with Batistuta. That will not end well. La Viola have a wonderful team. Alongside Batistuta is Oliveira (good dog – tweet me if you get this reference), Rui Costa and of course future Derby forward Francesco Baiano. Francesco Toldo is in goal so no matter how you look at it, this is a tough fixture.

The good news is, Batistuta doesn’t score. The bad news is that everybody else does. This was a battering. Rui Costa pulls the strings and the old lads are busy trying to stop Batistuta to notice. Happy bloody Christmas.

Amazingly, Lazio and Juventus both lose and we retain top spot. The turkey tastes a little sweeter – metaphorically.

Parma visit the San Siro and it’s another tough fixture. Parma have always had an exciting CM team – Crespo, Stanic, Chiesa, Dino Baggio, Sensini, Thuram, Cannavaro, Buffon…I could go on. Cannavaro was never really rated on the early CMs, I guess he was a late bloomer. For us, Maldini moves to centre back with Coco at left back. Davids is finally back from injury to line up in central midfield.

It’s a wild game and I’m starting to worry about Rossi in goal. He concedes two shots out of four and we’re indebted to Albertini for his late solo run and finish to snatch a draw.

That puts us third as our luck runs out. Into 1997 we go.

They celebrate new year’s a little differently in Italy. It’s apparently the perfect day to play the 2nd leg of Coppa Italia Quarter Finals. We are already 3-0 up against Serie C Ancona but it’s a little bit embarrassing to draw 2-2. Coco gets injured because he likes to follow a trend.

That’s no win in four and it’s time for Juventus away next. First though, the draw for the semi finals sees us tangle with Udinese. Serie B side Foggia hilariously knocked out Juventus, it’s a bit of a lopsided draw.

It’s time to focus on Juventus now though. Costacurta and Desailly are reunited at centre half and that will hopefully be enough to make us competitive again.

You know when I said I was worried about Rossi? Those chickens have come home to roost. This was HALF TIME.

Wow. That’s how it finished, mercifully. A goalkeeper scoring a two rating is frankly ridiculous.

Five games without a win and down to fourth. This has been a very poor winter indeed.

Midtable Piacenza should not be a concern to us but we are more vulnerable that ever at the moment. They have Taibi in goal though who is possibly an inspiration to Rossi at the moment. Eranio and an Albertini free kick build the platform before the lead is halved. A double from George Weah settles things and gets us back to winning ways.

Juventus and Lazio went head to head and drew 0-0. That is a good result for us.

We finish this update with Lazio away – a monumental game in the title race. We’re level on points with them and have scored the same number of goals, so it should be a tight affair. We are out of sorts defensively though and that makes any away trip like this a recipe for disaster.

Savicevic returns! He’s only 70% though so will have to be a sub. It’s quite the game, too. We’re 2-0 up inside 10 minutes as attack proves to be the best form of defence. Typically though Lazio come storming back, despite persisting with Jody Morris in central midfield. Naturally, it’s soon 2-2. Panucci is sent off for a terrible lunge and as we’re hanging on for a point, Desailly makes a lung busting run from central midfield to get on the end of a cross and win the day for us. Phew!

Juventus manage to draw 0-0 at bottom side Cagliari to cap off a great day for us. Let’s drink the table in.

Top and loving life. Somehow. Our goals against has taken a battering but we are nothing if not resilient.

Join me next week to see if Rossi has learned to catch. I feel it is imperative he does that before Barcelona turn up. Arrivederci!

Mid 90's Milan - Part Four

Written by Dave Black @cm9798

Welcome back to Milan in 1996. I set about trying to reverse their disastrous season and so far, I’d give myself a B+. October was bittersweet for us. Our home form continues to keep us afloat. Our Champions League campaign has picked up momentum. We’re still in the Coppa Italia. This is all good. However, we lost the Milan derby, got humbled in Vicenza and we haven’t won an away game since September 29th. Thankfully, our next game is at home to Roma.

Although we are second you’ll notice Roma are nowhere to be seen. They are actually 13th, a disappointing season that plumbed new depths in their recent UEFA Cup exit to Middlesbrough. Star striker Abel Balbo is injured, but oddly Brazilian centre half Aldair has 7 goals in 14 games. A 19 year old by the name of Francesco Totti is filling in for Balbo, I don’t think he’ll amount to much.

Simone is in great form at the moment. He was man of the match in the Champions League win over Juventus and he picks up where he left off with two headed goals here. Savicevic also weighs in with two, though goal machine Aldair briefly has us worried. 4-1 probably flatters us but if the front three are clicking, I’m all for it.

Panucci will be missing for a month. We get a lot of injuries.

Napoli managed to win 3-2 at Fiorentina so we’re still chasing. We actually play Napoli next in the cup replay. If the first game was dull, this one certainly wasn’t.

We’ve drawn Ancona, the only Serie C team left in the competition, in the quarter finals. That could have been worse.

Bologna is our next destination as we attempt to correct our dodgy away form. We get the first goal for a change as Davids scrambles one in from a corner. Savicevic goes off injured and we can’t find a second goal despite spurning a hatful of chances. I await the sucker punch that never comes. It’s a win!

Three months out for Savicevic is definitely not a win. He’s got 16 assists to his name already. Added to his seven goals that means he has played some part in 23 of our goals which is exactly half of our overall total. His replacement, George Weah, only has one goal. But away to group whipping boys FC Croatia is probably as good an opportunity as you could hope for to kickstart your season.

A dull first half is soon forgotten when Maldini heads in a corner. Baggio curls in a second and the icing on the cake is supplied by Mr Weah when he rams in a rebound from a free kick. An easy win and two away wins on the spin. Our spot in the last 8 is secured.

Atalanta are the visitors to the San Siro and that means future Serie A legend Filippo Inzaghi lining up against us. They’ve seen the future and signed Otto Konrad from Salzburg – who would in fact move to Roma in real life.

The last thing we need is another key creator to go down. But a bruised thigh takes Roberto Baggio out of the game after just six minutes and means we’ll be without him for two weeks. Sigh. Luckily he’s replaced by French International Christophe Dugarry, our strength in depth is scary really. Anyway, Simone’s 11th of the season and a Boban free kick has us on the road to three points before that goal machine Weah seals the deal.

A good day is made even better by news of Napoli’s loss at Juventus. No shame in that of course but it does mean we are back in top spot.

Yet another cup game now and the Coppa Italia Quarter finals are over two legs. Why? Seems a little unnecessary. Costacurta whole heartedly disagrees and gets sent off after two minutes for a dangerous challenge. That’s a bit stupid but the fact my players’ bones are made of chipsticks is starting to wear thin. Davids is the next to go, pulling a hamstring and facing a month out. We’re 3-0 up by the time Dugarry tears his ankle ligaments. That’ll be a couple of months off. We win the match but it’s more of a war. We’ll see them for the 2nd leg next month but I might be better served putting out the reserves.

I’m awarded manager of the month for November. That’s probably fair, we have been excellent. We have somewhat of an injury crisis though and our next game is Napoli away. If we’re going to hold on to top spot we’re going to have to find a way of not playing Jesper Blomqvist.

We managed a 0-0 draw at Napoli in the Coppa Italia game so the same here would be the perfect start to December.

I’ve reverted to a 4-4-2 as I am down to two forward players in the absence of Dugarry, Savicevic and Baggio. At least the divine ponytail will return in about a week, the other two won’t been seen again in 1996. Boban and Eranio are on the wings with Albertini joined in central midfield by young Ambrosini. It might work.

It bloody is working. Weah and Simone combine for the opener before our flying Liberian is wiped out by goalkeeper Di Fusco. It’s a red card and when Weah converts the penalty, the result looks secure. However, it’s soon 2-1 and Desailly sees red for throwing an elbow. We manage to shut the game down with a series of defensive moves but a win is a win. An important win.

That’s better. The squad is in tatters but we’ve opened a small lead at the top. The squad is at breaking point and I can see why Fabio sought pastures new. On the other hand, it’s a resilient set of lads who have gone the month of November unbeaten.

Join me next time as we cross over into 1997. We’ve kept the treble hopes alive but our physio is busier than ever. See you next week.

Mid 90's Milan - Part Three

Written by Dave Black @cm9798

Welcome back! We’re up to episode 3 of Mid 90s Milan and so far, we’re getting by but only just. Trying to find the right formula for this star studded squad is easier said than done. We are however top of the Serie A table after five games and frankly, that’s all that matters. It’s a home game with Perugia to kick off October – an easy game on paper but they just toppled Juventus, so we can’t afford to be slack. We’re always kind of slack.

Perugia have two names of particular note. Marco Negri sits on the bench – he’d go on to score a lot of goals in his first season at Rangers before injuries curtailed that. They also have an 18 year old Ivan “called me Gennaro” Gattuso who has an aggression stat of 11 and therefore I can only assume is a complete unknown at this point. A rather bigger threat is a certain Massimiliano Allegri. The current Juventus manager is a star player for our visitors and is valued at £7.5m. We best keep an eye on him.

As for us, well I’ve had enough of Blomqvist’s subpar efforts so Stefano Eranio is in. Baggio gets us off to the perfect start, the divine ponytail meets a cross in the fifth minute and everything is good. As usual a second goal doesn’t follow and we are soon pegged back. Just after half time though and future Derby man Eranio gets on the end of a great ball from Baggio and it looks like our usual shoddy approach will scrape us through. Michel Kreek has other ideas though. He bends in a gem of a free kick (the text really sold it to me) and it looks like we’ll have to settle for a disappointing point. Substitute Dugarry has other ideas though. He drives a long range effort home in injury time. If playing poorly and winning is a sign of a good team, we’re unbelievable.

One more game to get through before the International break and we are without Boban, who stubbed his toe. Marcel Desailly has also broken a cheekbone to get himself two weeks off. They join Davids, Maldini and Costacurta in missing the trip to Vicenza. Wow.

Our hosts don’t have the most star studded of squads. They’ve spent £1.8m on Steve Lomas from Man City and he starts in the centre of their midfield. Right. The less said about our side the better. The centre halves are 37 and 36. Coco is a clown. Eranio and Blomqvist are either side of a midfield three. I don’t have a lot of hope for this.

We’re 2-0 down at half time. Vierchowod has looked every one of his 37 years of age. He scored an own goal and nearly gave away a pen. Lomas has ran the game. I need to do…something. Blomqvist has a 4.

What to do? Reiziger comes on to play centre back and Ambrosini, just 18, is on for Blomqvist. It’s soon 3-0 and I just want to go home.

The International break is a chance for us to lick our wounds. Quite literally in several cases. Maldini recovers to play for Italy but he gets injured at the hands of Wales. Another two weeks of Coco.

Still, we’re able to field Costacurta and Boban for the visit of CSKA Sofia in the Champions League. I rather foolishly said anything other than 12 points for the two games against CSKA and FC Croatia would be a failure. Thankfully this is not the banana skin it might have been.

We’re still on home turf for the clash with Sampdoria. Their squad is full of stories. Sebastian Veron (missing his Juan) is a 21-year-old striker, normally partnered by current Italy manager Roberto Mancini. He’s injured which is a relief as he’s a star player. Sinisa Mihailovic is classified as a left winger but still has 20 for set pieces. They’ve spent £1.2m to bring Dunga over from the J League. The Brazil captain is in midfield with Christian Karembeu. We are unchanged!

A tight game is opened up when Savicevic gets taken out in the box and Albertini does the rest. Veron might be missing his Juan but none of his ability as his measured chip levels things up. Savicevic smashes home a free kick and Panucci seals the points. Routine in the end, with the usual mid game struggle.

We trail Napoli on goal difference only but we go up against them next – in the cup. It’s an awful draw for a third round tie. I’m not really sure why Napoli are doing so well, their squad is unremarkable. Ayala and Cruz are a good centre half partnership but their star man appears to be Caio Ribeiro. He starred in the FIFA Youth Championships in 1995 which prompted Napoli to buy him, but he was rubbish for them. Just like this cup tie. It’s a replay. The only good news is that Desailly returned to the starting 11 whilst Davids got 20 minutes from the bench.

That’s big news because it’s the small matter of the Milan derby next. Maldini returns on the day of the game. I don’t care how unfit he is, he’s better than Coco. Inter’s squad is magnificent. Pagliuca is unbelievable between the sticks whilst penalty king Paul Ince lines up in midfield. Zanetti, Berti, Winter, Zamorano, Djorkaeff…the list goes on. They also have Gianluca Festa, which looks like an opportunity to me.

We are nominally the away side as we share the San Siro. I can see we’re in trouble from the first whistle. Ince is unbelievable and Zanetti ends up playing the perfect 10. We’re lucky to only lose 3-2. The front three were barely in the game and that’s a major concern. On the plus side, Davids made a big impression off the bench and Weah, also a sub, set him up. He’s been the biggest disappointment so far.

Well that stings. The last action of October comes against Juventus in the Champions League. We owe our fans not only for the derby shitshow but for losing the reverse game earlier in the group stages. Our task is made easier when Schottel commits a cynical foul on Simone and is dismissed. Albertini blasts the pen over the bar – it’s not my fault, I quite literally can’t select any set piece takers. Desailly heads in from a corner and Simone finishes a one on one. Good. The game is petering out until Del Piero pulls one back and it’s a mad final ten minutes. The woodwork is struck by both teams several times and I’m grateful to Desailly finishing the game with a burst forward from open play for no real reason. We had 23 shots to their 5, 15 on target. Peruzzi is the best but we still beat him three times. I need a lie down.

We are looking well placed to go through but Juventus haven’t done their side of the bargain. They’ve let CSKA make this a three horse race and I have limited time for that, especially as we need to go to Bulgaria yet.

We’re just one point off the top but it’s still fairly early days.

Join me next time to see what November has in store for us. Hopefully we can reclaim top spot and get through in the Champions League but in reality is will probably be more injuries and 4’s from Jesper bloody Blomqvist. Goodbye!