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THE DIVISION TWO ROUNDUP
It's been a busy pre-season for the majority of teams in division two, with so many comings and goings as managers try to get their teams in the best possible shape in the build-up to the season ahead.
But is there enough time to really do everything you want to do? Sochaux manager Anthony Maddison feels like the competitive matches came round too soon, saying he needs 'at least another week' to sort his side out, after a defeat to Leyton Orient on the opening day, which manager Maddison called 'disgraceful'. Coming off the back of some promising pre-season results, it has left some fans wondering if the manager can hack it at this level, due to his questionable change in tactics for the league games, despite some smart purchases. Only time will tell.
It's a similar story at Wigan, where Simon Nicholls oversaw a solid set of friendly results, only to pick up one point from the first two matches of the season. Despite this, the fan at the DW stadium remains confident in such an experienced, well-revered manager who is sure to bring success to the club at some stage.
One manager feels that the flurry of activity all around him led him to make a few signings.
Espanyol's Marcos Vitorino said, 'Looking at the team and at the rivals we decided that we need more depth in the team. That's the reason why Joao Moutinho and Yuto Nagatomo have just joined'.
Vitorno re-shaped his squad following disappointing results in the friendlies, specifically adding Andriy Yarmolenko, Olivier Giroud and Andy Carroll to boost his attacking options. However, he feels this will need to be a season of stability for the Spaniards.
'Regarding the season expectations, I would like to really try and balance the team for a more ambitious approach next season. I hope not to be relegated, but I will try to enjoy the season regardless'.
So what about the star signings for each team? Here's a quick rundown:
FC Basel - Lukas Podolski
The German striker is a fan-favourite already at St. Jakob-Park, and he will be keen to solidify that status in a small but promising squad by chipping in with a few goals to aid Basel's attempts at mounting a play-off charge.
Wigan Athletic - Alex Song
With Wigan looking to meet their manager's somewhat pessimistic aims of avoiding relegation, they will be relying on Song to provide the team's spine. A brilliant playmaker from deep in the heart of midfield, he will link up well with Shinji Kagawa and hope to provide Fernando Torres with plenty of goals.
Espanyol - Olivier Giroud
If manager Vitorino can get him firing, then the Frenchman will be the key to Espanyol staying up. A potential dark horse for the golden boot.
Sochaux - Javier Mascherano
The Argentine recently became a centre-back after establishing himself as a terrific holding midfielder. If Anthony Maddison intends on playing him at the back, Mascherano should form a formidable partnership with Neven Subotic, proving difficult for even the best attackers to break down.
Southampton - Marco Reus
With the Saints looking likely to go down, Ashley Kirk is putting a lot of pressure on the young German forward to keep them afloat with his mobility and goal-scoring prowess. He will be expected to not only lead, but to carry the team.
Leyton Orient - Joel Obi
The underdogs from London have a lot to do this season, and finishing anywhere above eighth place will be a remarkable achievement. Young midfielder Joel Obi will live up to expectations this season, and he will be relied on to provide and weigh in with goals to give the O's a fighting chance this season.
Mainz - Fernando Llorente
The proven goalscorer is the best of a bad bunch, and unpopular manager Dave Izod will hope the Spaniard can restore a bit of likability to the club (though it is unlikely).
Atalanta - Santi Cazorla
Lee Bradbury is overjoyed with the signing of Cazorla, and his contribution to the club so far with some promising early performances. He will be considered a key player in a star-studded side.
The Key Clashes
Leyton Orient vs FC Basel
Every game is a big game for Orient, but it will be interesting to see how they pick themselves up after losing away at Mainz in midweek. Basel meanwhile will be looking to get their first win of the season and climb away from the bottom of the table. Both teams have something to prove to the other managers in the division, but who will do it? With Orient at home, they will be looking to upset another strong team.
Mainz vs Atalanta
A rivalry that has run almost as long as Izod's nose, that appeals to the masses as little as Izod's appearance, and that usually provides matches as unexciting as Izod's press conferences, it's fair to say that when Dave Izod goes up against Lee Bradbury tonight, the touchline will be alight. That's because the thuggish Mainz manager snuck some flares into the dressing room.
The Mainz boss has been trying some mind games in the run-up to tonight's game, but Lee Bradbury, some way short of having a mind, has announced that he is 'unaffected'.
The recently-appointed Atalanta boss said, 'He loves to try and get me thinking. He tends to bluff so much I don't think he remembers why. I have my tactics for tonight, and, win or lose, I'll be more than happy with myself for choosing said tactics. I won't crumble. Football is much more than a game of tactics and mind games, after all. If he does win, it'll probably be a fluke, and in that case, I couldn't care less'.
Mainz boss Izod was unavailable for comment.
Wigan manager Simon Nicholls has insisted that sought-after attacker Victor Moses is not for sale, at least for now. Nicholls stated 'Depending on how Victor performs over the next few months, we will see. At the moment the only likely move would be on loan, but right now we don't wish to do that'.
Lee Bradbury felt only 'content' with his squad, despite being one that, on paper, rival bosses would envy.
'I do believe I have a good squad of players here, yes, but it could've been an even better one. There were lots of targets for me during pre-season and I couldn't secure all the players I was after. I was a little disheartened to see them go to other clubs, especially as some of them were players I am a massive fan of. I hope to sign a couple of them at some point during my time here, but overall, I'm content with what I have here, and hopefully we can surprise a few and make a promotion push this season. We're feeling ambitious'.
And finally, Espanyol boss Marcos Vitorino has hinted that he would like one more player to strengthen his defence, although no transfer bid has been made official as of yet. Rumour has it Paris Saint-Germain centre-half Diego Lugano is linked with a move, as well as Olympiakos' Greek utility man Vasilis Torosidis.
Pie Sports News thanks the managers of Division 2 for their contribution, friendliness and willingness to collaborate for the good of such an awful piece of media. Cheers guys, all the best (except Izod, he smells).
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