90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings: Week 19 – Barry Special

?Following a week in which: 

– Liverpool EXTENDED their lead at the top of the Premier League to 19 points. 

– AC Milan EXTENDED their winning streak to five games in all competitions. 

– Benfica EXTENDED their away winning streak to a nine league games. 

We, using quotes from a 90min favourite ‘Barry’ (if you haven’t watched it – WATCH IT), rank the  15 best teams in Europe. 


15. AC Milan (New Entry)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

“The f**k are you doing here?”

“Barry, it’s me. It’s Hank.”

“I know it’s Hank!”

“In a wig.”

“I know you’re wearing a wig!”

“The shirt’s mine, though.”

“I don’t f**king care! What the f**k are you doing here?!”

I know what you’re thinking. 

You’re thinking: what the f**k are AC Milan doing here? 

For the most part, AC Milan have been fairly terrible this season (yes I know that’s a massive understatement), but in recent weeks I Rossoneri have started to win games again. 

They’ve now won five on the bounce and are in contention for Europa League qualification. 


14. SSC Napoli (Re-Entry)

Lorenzo Insigne

“A little story to illustrate: I was doing Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Pasadena Playhouse with a bunch of coke heads. It’s usually about a three-hour play. We could bring it in at just under thirty-seven minutes. We thought we were great! Apparently, we were unintelligible. It was the beginning of the bad years, Barry.”

After losing their first three league games of the year, it seemed that 2020 was set to be the beginning of the bad years for SSC Napoli.

But then they beat Juventus.

?Outta nowhere!

And things are looking up for Napoli, who look to have finally found their feet under Gennaro Gattuso.


13. Leicester City (Down 6) 

James Maddison,Jonny Evans

“I think you’re deeply human.”

Leicester City: that was a bad defeat.

A really bad defeat.

A really, really, really bad defeat.

Big Brendy Baps’ team had an incredible opportunity to book a place in a Wembley final in midweek against one of the worst teams in the Premier League, but they didn’t. They bottled it. They lost to Aston Villa. Who are sh*t.


12. Manchester City (Down 3) 

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-MAN UTD

You know, I’m starting to see a trend in your work, and it’s disturbing.”

You know, I’m starting to see a trend at Manchester City, and it’s disturbing.

That trend is losing at the Etihad Stadium to Manchester United; who are a rather terrible football team.

Disturbing. 


11. Borussia Dortmund (Re-Entry)

Erling Braut Haaland

“You are, like, the most evil guy I know, man.”

Erling Haaland is a ?badddddd mannnnnnnn. 

In just 56 minutes of Bundesliga football, he’s scored five goals. 

Five goals. 

In 56 minutes. 

FIVE. 

Baddddddddd mannnnnnnn. 


10. Benfica (Up 1)

Carlos Vinicius

“I could drop kick you in the middle of the restaurant. Everyone would applaud and then I’d beat the f**k out of you.”

Benfica’s last 15 Primeira Liga: 

Played: 15.

Won: 15. 

Drawn: 0.

Lost: 0. 

Goals Scored: 39.

Goals Conceded: 4. 

Goal Difference: +35. 

Benfica drop kicked Braga on 1 September, and since then, Bruno Lage’s men have proceeded to beat the f**k out of every team in Portugal.


9. RB Leipzig (Down 6) 

Timo Werner

“50/50 with Cristobal!”

Last week, we urged RB Leipzig to ‘keep it moving’; to ‘keep up the good work.’ And they clearly didn’t listen. 

Instead, they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in Frankfurt. 

Instead, they let their lead slip to just one point at the top of the Bundesliga. 

FFS lads. 


8. Inter (-)

Nicolò Barella

“I want you to fight for yourself, Barry. I want you to say it out loud. I want you to say out loud, ‘Hey, I want this!’ Can you tell me one thing?”

“All I want is to take this class.”

“Well, you have ten seconds to make me believe that, f**ko, or you’re never gonna see the inside of this class again! And…action!”

Inter, say it with me: 

“I want this.”

C’mon, say it with more conviction! You haven’t won a trophy in *checks Days Since Inter Won a Trophy* 3169 days. You need this – you…

“I want this!” 

That’s more like it. 

Now, you’ve just signed Christian Eriksen, qualified for the Coppa Italia semi finals and cut Juventus’ lead at the top of the Serie A to three points. Your time is now; seize it. 


7. Juventus (Down 5)

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-NAPOLI-JUVENTUS

“I super-glued my hands to the steering wheel.”

Cristiano Ronaldo is putting numbers on the board – he’s scored eight in his last eight – but in order to do so, he’s negated the rest of the offensive unit.

This was the argument Max Cooper made recently for 90min (check it out here), and it was wholly evident in Juve’s stodgy performance away at Lazio, when Ronaldo scored as per, but La Vecchia Signora played terribly.


6. Bayern Munich (Up 6) 

Robert Lewandowski

You got good guys right here, man.”

Bar Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich want to get rid of every player they own, apparently. 

But, judging by their 5-0 win over Schalke 04, a complete squad upheaval probably isn’t necessary. They got good guys at the club already. 


5. SS Lazio (Down 1) 

Edin Dzeko,Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

“An audition?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“You?”

“Have an audition?”

The Derby della Capitale was Lazio’s audition for a role in the Serie A title race. 

It didn’t go exactly to plan – thanks in large part to Thomas Strakosha – but it wasn’t a complete disaster either. 

They’ll probably get a call-back, but don’t expect them to challenge Juventus and Inter for a starring role anytime soon. 


4. Atalanta (Re-Entry) 

Josip Ilicic

I think he…he trains her, or something, ’cause she was like a…like a feral mongoose.”

On Saturday night, Atalanta booked their place in the top four of this week’s Definitive European Power Rankings with a 7-0 win over Torino. 

Yes, 7-0. 

And it wasn’t just any 7-0 either, it was a 7-0 which included a halfway line goal courtesy of Josip Illicic. Nice one. 


3. Paris Saint-Germain (Up 3)

FBL-FRA-CUP-PAU-PSG

You wanna know what I’m good at? I’m good at killing people.”

Ten points clear at the top of Ligue 1? Check. 

Coupe de la Ligue finalists? Check.

Through to the Champions League round of 16? Check. 

Through to the French Cup quarter finals? Check. 

Paris Saint-Germain are quite good at football.  


2. Real Madrid (Up 3) 

Zinedine Zidane

“Like a good leader, I’m gonna get us some Ubers.”

During Zinedine Zidane’s brief hiatus, Real Madrid nearly died. They went through two managers in the space of about a week (roughly), lost 5-1 to Barcelona at Camp Nou, were knocked out of the Champions League early and every single one of their superstar players basically lost the ability to play football. 

Now that he’s back, Real Madrid are at the peak of their powers once again. This past week alone they went top of La Liga and waltzed into the latter stages of the Copa del Rey. 

He’s a good leader. 


1. Liverpool (-)

Mohamed Salah,Virgil van Dijk

“The only word I want in your fucking head: ‘kill’.”

I have to say, it is a bit tiresome praising Liverpool once a week in the Definitive European Power Rankings, but they just won’t stop winning. 

They’re killers. 

They’ve played 24 league games and only dropped two points. It’s ridiculous.


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Euro 2020: Italy’s All-Time Best XI at European Championships

?Since Italy won their maiden European Championship in 1968, they’ve fallen in two finals, with Gli Azzurri making the last-four on a couple of other occasions.

Despite the fact they’ve not ruled the continent in over half a century, this is a nation that’s synonymous with football. They’ve played a key role in the development of the sport throughout history, providing countless superstars along the way.

Here’s our take on Italy’s all-time greatest XI at the Euros, ranging from their 20th-century champions to modern legends of the game.


GK – Gianluigi Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon

Dino Zoff was a marvellous goalkeeper in his own right, but no one can challenge Gianluigi Buffon for the Italy gloves.

If it weren’t for a knee injury in 2000, the 42-year-old would be the only player in history to have appeared at five different European Championships. Still, he holds the record for most appearances in the competition, including the qualifying rounds.

In his prime, there wasn’t a safer pair of hands than Buffon. He’s a true giant of football, and a worthy number one.


RB – Gianluca Zambrotta

Gianluca Zambrotta

Gianluca Zambrotta was entrusted with the role of right-back in three straight editions of the tournament, the former right midfielder being used to brilliant effect after transitioning to defence.

His offensive skill-set added a new dimension to Gli Azzurri’s attack, while he also proved a hit in the backline, helping the side concede just eight goals in the 12 games he played at championships.

Whereas many of his counterparts were primarily focused on their defensive duties, Zambrotta’s engine allowed him to ceaselessly bomb up and down the pitch, offering a blueprint for future wing-backs.


CB – Franco Baresi

WORLD CUP-1990-ITA-ARG

A marauding centre-half, Franco Baresi was the heart and soul of the team in the ’80s and ’90s, his domineering style of play earning him a place in Italian footballing folklore.

He was called up by his country for a hat-trick of European Championships, with the ?Milan skipper’s second tournament undoubtedly his most impressive performance as he drove Gli Azzurri to a bronze medal.

Baresi’s influence couldn’t secure a place in the showpiece event during his debut campaign in 1980, but he and Italy came roaring back four years later, only to suffer a 2-0 defeat in the last-four against the Soviet Union. 

Despite the loss, the defender’s displays were outstanding, and it’s doubtful the side would have made it to that stage without his presence at the back.


CB – Paolo Maldini

Emile Heskey, Paolo Maldini

When Paolo Maldini made his Azzurri debut, Rick Astley, Phil Collins and Cliff Richard were top of the charts. By the time he stepped down from international duty, Shakira and Eminem were leading the new wave of music.

One of the great centurions of Italy, the defender went from fresh-faced teenager to inspirational captain during his 14 years of representing the country. You’ll struggle to find many sub-par displays in that period.

With Maldini in the heart of defence, this lineup would be racking up the clean-sheets.


LB – Giacinto Facchetti

WORLD CUP-1970-BRAZIL-ITALY

Zambrotta was among the generation who introduced wing-backs to the wider footballing public, but Giacinto Fachetti is one of the position’s founding fathers.

Tutored by the prodigious Helenio Herrera at ?Inter, he far surpassed all of his competitors for a spot in the Italian national team, offering a revolutionary new approach to the role of wide defender.

Fachetti’s physical prowess and impeccable technique saw him collect 94 caps, with the most cherished of those coming in the final of Euro ’68 as Gli Azzurri dismissed Yugoslavia 2-0 to clinch their first and only piece of continental silverware.


CM – Daniele De Rossi

Daniele De Rossi

If someone asked you to name Italy’s all-time leading midfield goalscorer, it’s unlikely you’d say Daniele De Rossi. And yet, the ‘Roman Emperor’ has netted more times than any other, scoring on 21 occasions.

Of course, that’s not really what he’s known for. Spine-tingling tackles, intelligent reading of the game, and a bottomless engine made him a staple of the team during the first two decades of the millennium.

He was a dream for Italy’s various coaches, and an inescapable nightmare for his unfortunate opponents.


CM – Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo

On 24 June 2012, Andrea Pirlo confirmed his place in the pantheon of legendary footballers, courtesy of an outrageous panenka versus England.

Joe Hart’s spaghetti-legs routine did nothing to put the midfielder off, the goalkeeper left red-faced after the most nonchalant of chips down the middle, with that the winning penalty in the quarter final shootout.

Pirlo’s effortless distribution and calming demeanour made him a figure of intrigue for viewers at Euro 2012. His classy free-kick against Croatia edged Italy towards the knockout stages, yet all people wanted to discuss was his gorgeous passing and visionary reading of the game.

Strangely, his sophisticated style of play wasn’t quite so well regarded at the previous two campaigns he’d played, perhaps due to Gli Azzurri’s early exits.


RAM – Gianni Rivera

Gianni Rivera

Gianni Rivera was the archetypal number 10.

More like a ballet dancer than a footballer, the playmaker’s elegance and poise reflected the values of his country. Those qualities were instrumental to Italy’s triumph in ’68, with Rivera continuing his rich vein of form into the final of the tournament.

Though he failed to score a goal that year, he brought his best for the showdown with Yugoslavia, the midfielder electrifying a jubilant home crowd as he guided Gli Azzurri to victory.


LAM – Francesco Totti

Francesco Totti

Pirlo opted for the panenka eight years ago. If you go back a further 12 years, you’ll come across an equally cheeky penalty from Francesco Totti versus the Netherlands.

Having already notched a pair of goals at Euro 2000, he put Italy on the brink of making the final as the forward exhibited a new penalty technique, dubbed the ‘spoon’.

It’s essentially the same as Pirlo’s spot-kick. While the latter scooped the ball beyond Hart, Totti chose to stab under it, bamboozling Edwin van der Sar.

Oranje midfielder Paul Bosvelt proceeded to miss his attempt, thereby setting the Italians up for a clash with France, which Les Bleus would go on to win 2-1.


ST – Gigi Riva

European Cup Final

Gigi Riva was the man who broke the deadlock in that treasured triumph over the Yugoslavians in 1968, his spot-kick handing Italy a lead they would never relinquish.

The striker’s sublime finishing abilities had seen him hit Switzerland for six when the two nations locked horns in a qualification playoff, the Red Crosses getting ripped to shreds by back-to-back hat-tricks.

It should be clear to see how Riva was able to amass 35 goals in 42 matches at international level.


ST – Mario Balotelli

Italian forward Mario Balotelli celebrat

Mario Balotelli’s career could have been truly special. As a teenager at Inter, he looked destined for the top. By the summer of 2012, he’d made good on that potential, winning the ?Premier League with ?Manchester City, as well as firing Italy to the European Championships final.

Since then, however, things have taken a turn for the worse. After spending several seasons as  bit of a nomad, he’s back at Brescia, the club he supported as a boy. Despite dropping out of the limelight, the striker remains a household name.

His breathtaking strike in Italy’s 2-1 win over Germany in the semi finals of Euro 2012 was a goal of the highest calibre, and it certainly helped him enter Italian football’s hall of fame.

What followed was nothing short of iconic, with Balotelli’s celebration trumping the thunderous half-volley he’d just scored. Super Mario somehow managed to overshadow himself, going full Hulk-mode to mark his third of the campaign and break the internet.


For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter

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4 of Italy’s Best European Championship Moments

It’s been a mixed bag of results for Italy at the European Championships. There have been more than a few bad memories, but also ?plenty of good ones.

There have been stunning goals, fantastic performances and memorable results, and Gli Azzurri will certainly be hoping to experience all that again this summer at Euro 2020.

In anticipation of the tournament, here are four of Italy’s best moments at the European Championships.


The Ultimate Glory in 1968

Champions Italy

The first time that Italy managed to reach the European Championships came back in 1968, when they actually hosted the entire competition. Having been humiliated at the 1966 World Cup at the hands of North Korea, the entire nation needed something to cheer them up.

Italy managed to win the entire tournament, ?but they did so in dramatic fashion. After drawing 0-0 with the Soviet Union in the semi-final, a coin toss decided that Italy would make it through to the final.

The final against Yugoslavia actually went to a replay – the only to ever do so – and that’s when Gli Azzurri picked up a 2-0 win to lift the trophy.


Francesco Toldo Saves 3 Penalties

Francesco Toldo

Italy finished as runners-up at Euro 2000?, but they needed some heroics from goalkeeper Francesco Toldo to get them to the final in the first place.

In the semi-final against the Netherlands, Toldo saved one penalty during regulation time and two doing the shoot-out at the end of the game to book their place in the final.

The Netherlands even missed another penalty during the game and yet another in the shoot-out, meaning they netted just once from their six attempts from the spot. More practice needed.


Andrea Pirlo’s Perfect Panenka

FBL-EURO-2012-ENG-ITA-MATCH28

Italy’s quarter-final against England at Euro 2012 was hardly the greatest exhibition of football. The game was a dull 0-0 draw, but the ensuing penalty shoot-out produced one of the most iconic goals in the history of the competition.

?With his side trailing 2-1, Andrea Pirlo stepped up to the spot. He looked Joe Hart right in the eyes, before unleashing an outrageous Panenka which left the goalkeeper floundering.

The audacity of the whole thing inspired Italy to a 4-2 victory, and on to the semi-final they went.


Mario Balotelli Takes Over

Italian forward Mario Balotelli celebrat

In Euro 2012, a young forward by the name of Mario Balotelli was proving to the world why he was so highly regarded. His finest moment of the tournament came during the semi-final clash with Germany.

Making history as the first black player to ever represent Italy at a major competition, Balotelli headed Italy ahead during the first half, before powering home a thunderous effort to give Italy an unassailable lead.

To celebrate, he whipped off his shirt and flexed his muscles towards the world, creating one of the most memorable celebrations in recent memory.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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Inter 2-1 Fiorentina: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Barella Heroics Sends Nerazzurri to Semi Finals

?Inter booked their place in the Coppa Italia semi-finals after they edged Fiorentina 2-1 at San  Siro on Wednesday night. 

In a first half that severely lacked quality, Fiorentina were content and defended well in their deep 5-3-2 set-up but failed to offer a threat going forward – with Inter’s back three comfortably coping with La Viola’s often tame attacking transitions. 

The Nerazzurri, however, were just as poor going forward. Despite enjoying much of the possession, Antonio Conte’s men struggled to sufficiently service the front two and, once again, they looked devoid of ideas in the final third – a deflected Alexis Sanchez header was the only half-decent chance the hosts could muster in the opening 40 minutes.

Alexis Sanchez

But just as the two sides were edging towards a much-needed half-time break, Inter struck through Antonio Candreva – the ball falling rather fortuitously to the wing-back in the box after the Fiorentina backline failed to deal with the goalscorer’s errant pass into Lautaro Martinez.

The goal undoubtedly reinvigorated the hosts and they looked like a completely different side at the start of the second period, spurning a couple of good opportunities to double their lead.

Completely against the run of play, however, Fiorentina levelled as Martin Caceres met a corner from the right superbly – heading past a hapless Samir Handanovic. 

The equaliser didn’t deter the hosts though, and almost immediately after Christian Eriksen was introduced for his Inter debut, they took the lead once more, this time through Nicolo Barella – who volleyed home expertly on the edge of the Fiorentina area. 


Inter continued to probe for the remainder of the contest but failed to find a third, settling for a 2-1 victory and setting up a semi-final clash with Napoli.


INTER

Key Talking Point

Instead of their usual high-intensity start followed by a second-half collapse, Inter did the complete opposite in this one. 

After an opening 45 minutes of unimaginative attacking play and overhit balls in behind La Viola’s backline, the Nerazzurri improved significantly in the second period – despite getting pegged back on the hour mark. 

FBL-ITA-CUP-INTER-FIORENTINA

Passes started to find their intended destinations while they began to suffocate the visitors deep in their own half with a typical high Conte press – a ploy that helped them create chances at a regular rate. 

The change in shape to a 3-4-1-2 certainly produced a mixed-bag but nevertheless, Conte will be looking to carry on the momentum from his side’s impressive second-half display into the trip to Udinese at the weekend.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Handanovic (6); Godin (7), Ranocchia (5), Bastoni (7); Candreva (5), Vecino (6), Barella (9*), Young (6); Alexis (3); Lukaku (6), Lautaro (6).
?
?Subs: Eriksen (7), Moses (6), Esposito (N/A).


Nicolo Barella

Conte would’ve been thrilled to have seen Barella, one of Inter’s stars in the first half of the season, shine on Wednesday night.

The dynamic midfielder has struggled for form since his return from injury earlier this month, but he looked back to his best in this one – lining up in a midfield two on this occasion.

The Italy international was the only positive from a tepid first-half display by the home side – showing off his fine passing range as well as his ability to resist La Viola’s midfield press. He continued to dominate the middle of the park in the second period, helping Inter discover a newfound intensity out of possession.

It was a display that had a little bit of everything: flair, composure, maturity, tenacity and, of course, a fine goal.

FIORENTINA

Player Ratings: Terracciano (6); Ceccherini (7), Caceres (7), Milenkovic (6); Lirola (6) Benassi (5), Badelj (6), Pulgar (5), Dalbert (6); Chiesa (6), Vlahovic (4)

Subs: Cutrone (6), Sottil (5), Ghezzal (N/A)


Looking Ahead

Inter travel to Udinese in Serie A on Sunday night, attempting to end a three-game winless run in the league before the Milan Derby the following week.
The Nerazzurri will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on Fiorentina’s next encounter as they’re taking on table-toppers Juventus at Sunday lunchtime.

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Remembering Italy’s Classic Euro 2000 Triumph Over the Netherlands

?It’s June 29 2000. Tony Blair is the UK’s Prime Minister, Bill Clinton is US President and most importantly, Kylie Minogue Spinning Around is about the top the UK Singles Chart

There’s also the small matter of a European Championship semi final to contend with Italy taking on co-hosts and pre-tournament favourites, the Netherlands. A place in the final against France awaits the victors and a wealth of both attacking and defensive talent is on display.

Italy, lined up in a typically conservative formation, can boast one of the best defensive lines in the world, with their back five of: Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta,  Mark Iuliano and Paolo Maldini enough to give any forward nightmares. 

Patrick Kluivert, Alessandro Nesta

However, if anyone can penetrate this stoic resistance it’s the Netherlands whose front four of: Marc Overmars, Patrick Kluivert, Dennis Bergkamp and Boudewijn Zenden have helped The Flying Dutchman average three goals per game in the competition so far. 

Six of these goals had come against Yugoslavia in the quarter finals, with Kluivert bagging a hat trick in an incredible 6-1 win. The Oranje seemed to be in unstoppable form and in front of a home crowd at the Amsterdam Arena surely nothing could prevent them from progressing to their second Euros final. 

Well…Italy had other ideas, but it was certainly not plain sailing. 

The Netherlands fired a few warning shots early in the first half to unsettled Dino Zoff’s side. After only three minutes Bergkamp prodded the ball through to Phillip Cocu who looped his shot just over, before the Arsenal striker then created his own opportunity, working his way into space and firing an effort across goal that hammered into the post.

Dennis Bergkamp, Fabio Cannavaro

The Netherland’s onslaught continue thereafter and Italy’s hopes took an absolute hammer blow during a dramatic four minutes. First, Zambrotta was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence, forcing Zoff to rejig his formation. Moments later, Nesta was caught pulling Kluivert’s shirt inside the penalty box and German referee Markus Merk had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. 

It was Frank de Boer versus Francesco Toldo from 12-yards. De Boer has already scored one penalty in the competition but on this occasion the Italy stopper came out on top, making a stupendous save down low to this left. 

Toldo would remarkably be called on again to keep out a Netherlands penalty after Iuliano was penalised for a clumsy challenge on Edgar Davids in the 61st minute. This time though Kluivert did his job for him by rolling the spot kick against the post – much to the disbelief of the wall of orange shirts camped out behind the goal. 

Francesco Toldo, Frank de Boer

The Netherlands continued to press as Italy retreated into a deeper and deeper defensive block. Chances kept coming but a lack of clinical edge from Frank Rijkaard’s side saw the game eventually drift into extra time…and then onto penalties. 

The Oranje’s record was abysmal going into the shootout; they had been eliminated on spot kicks during three of their last four major tournament appearances. 

Italy stepped up first with Luigi Di Baggio smashing it into the top corner to extinguish the demons of his quarter finals miss from 12-yards during the 1998 World Cup quarter finals.

De Boer could not make amends for his miscue earlier in the game though as his tame effort was easily kept out. The opening two attempts set the tone for the shootout with Italy going on to score their next two spot kicks through Gianluca Pessotto and a youthful Francesco Totti, while the Netherlands could only convert one of theirs.

Francesco Totti

Maldini’s miss gave Paul Bosvelt a chance to keep his side in the competition but yet again Toldo pulled out a fine save to send Italy through to the final.

It was a remarkable show of defensive grit and determination from Zoff’s side, though they would falter at the final hurdle with Les Bleus lifting the trophy thanks to a golden goal scored by David Trezeguet. 


For more from Matt O’Connor-Simpson, follow him on Twitter!

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