Anti-Inter conspiracy? The European clubs who have received the most & least penalties in 2013-14

The award of penalties and alleged bias on the part of match officials has again been the subject of much debate this season – but who is really suffering in terms of spot-kicks?

“How are we to interpret the refereeing decisions that are going against us? … They haven’t given us a penalty yet and I don’t think that’s normal.”

Those were the words of Diego Milito after Inter’s 1-0 loss to Serie A rivals Lazio on Monday evening. Such conspiracy theories are nothing new in Italy, of course, but, as the Calciopoli scandal of 2006 underlined, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean the referees are not doing right by you.

However, do the stats offer any kind of support for Milito’s claim? Well, Inter are in the unusual position of having reached the halfway point of the 2013-14 season without having received a single penalty. They are not alone in that regard, though, as Parma, Atalanta and Chievo have also yet to earn a single spot-kick.

Of course, one could claim that the smaller sides never get anything off referees, anyway, but Sassuolo are in the relegation zone and yet they’ve benefited from four penalties already this term – which puts them joint-sixth in the overall spot-kick standings.

It may come as a surprise to Roma captain Francesco Totti but that’s one more than leaders Juventus. Interestingly, it is fourth-placed Fiorentina and ninth-placed Genoa who top this particular table, with six penalties apiece.

That means that the Viola and the Rossoblu, on average, are awarded a spot-kick every three games. However, that’s not the best average in Europe’s ‘Big Five’ Leagues.

No, that honour/advantage belongs to a Bundesliga side. Bayern Munich? No. It’s lowly Hoffenheim. The 12th-placed team in Germany’s top flight have won seven penalties in just 17 games, one more than Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, and two more than the reigning champions.

The statistics in Spain are also somewhat surprising. There is an assumption that officials always favour Real Madrid and Barcelona, but it is Atletico who have racked up the most penalties after 18 rounds of action, though Diego Simeone’s men have only scored five of their seven spot-kicks. In fairness, both Madrid and Barcelona have received five apiece, but then, so too have Rayo Vallecano and Levante.

In France, though, it is leaders Paris Saint-Germain who top the penalty standings, with seven in 19 outings. Nearest rivals Monaco have received just three.

By complete contrast, Arsenal, who top the Premier League, have earned just two penalties this season. North London rivals Tottenham have four, though, one ahead of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, who have been involved in plenty of simulation controversies of late.

However, spare a thought for Cardiff City, as they’re the only side in the English top flight yet to win a single spot-kick this season. Proof, surely, that money can’t buy you everything.

Schweinsteiger sends chilling warning to Arsenal

The Germany international is dreaming of another Champions League title, while he expects to be back to full fitness shortly

Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has sent out a chilling warning to Arsenal ahead of their Champions League round of 16 tie.

No team has ever successfully defended the trophy in its current format, yet Schweinsteiger is hopeful Bayern can become the first side to do just that.

“I want to achieve what no team has ever achieved. I want to defend the Champions League title,” Schweinsteiger told reporters.

“We had an incredible year in 2013. However, the great thing about football is that there are always areas of our play we can improve.”

The 29-year-old midfielder then went on to discuss his fitness as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury and stressed that he will soon be raring to go again.

“I’m confident it won’t be too long until I can return to full duty. I’m happy with how it feels at the moment, and I’m confident it’ll get even better.

“I know the qualities I have when I’m fully fit. It’s reassuring and keeping me calm through all of this.”

Schweinsteiger last featured for Bayern in the Champions League match against Viktoria Plzen early in November.

Shaqiri: No player thinks twice about joining Bayern

The Swiss is thrilled with the news that Robert Lewandowski will join the club in the summer and says they do not have a strategy of trying to weaken rivals

Bayer Munich midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri believes no player can turn down the chance to join the club after Robert Lewandowski signed a deal to move in the summer.

The Borussia Dortmund striker penned a five-year contract and will join on a free transfer at the end of the season, following former BVB team-mate Mario Gotze’s move to the Allianz Arena, and Shaqiri is thrilled to see a player of the Poland international’s calibre set to join.

“I think it’s great that Lewandowski’s coming to us. His qualities are indisputable. He’ll help us to win even more titles,” the Swiss winger told TZ.

“Nobody [can reject Bayern], especially not now. We play successful football and we have won many titles, which makes Bayern even more attractive. No player thinks twice about it.”

Shaqiri went on to insists the club do not follow a transfer method aimed at simply weakening their closest rivals.

“You can’t see it as a strategy. The club will carry on making new transfers. I don’t think other clubs are jealous,” he said.

“They will go on their way and Bayern will try to assemble the best team. But no one can be surprised the best players come to us.”

Shaqiri also highlighted the slight differences in approach between Pep Guardiola and previous coach Jupp Heynckes and says die Roten are determined to become the first side to defend the Champions League since it changed from the European Cup.

“It’s exhausting, but in a different way,” he said of working under Guardiola. “Like last year, our goal is to win as much as possible this year. The primary goal is the Bundesliga and the cup, and then you look at the Champions League, too.

“Still no club have managed to defend it, so it’s a great incentive for us this year.”

Neuer ends Casillas' reign as World's Best Goalkeeper

The Bayern Munich ace beat Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon to the annual award, which had been won by Real Madrid’s out-of-favour shot-stopper for the past five years

Manuel Neuer has been named as the World’s Best Goalkeeper by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS).

The 27-year-old shot-stopper, who won five trophies with Bayern Munich in 2013, while at the same time helping Germany qualify for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, was the clear victor of the vote, which brings together editors and experts from 70 countries.

Neuer finished with 211 points, a staggering 133 clear of his closes rival, Italy and Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon, who has four previous triumphs to his name.

Chelsea’s Petr Cech finished third, just ahead of the Blues’ Thibaut Courtois, who is currently on loan at Atletico Madrid.

Victor Valdes, who is to leave Barcelona at the end of the season, came home fifth, with Real Madrid’s out-of-favour goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who had won the award for the past five years, claiming sixth place.

Bayern legend Matthaus hails Lewandowski signing

The former Germany captain believes the Bavarians have pulled off a major coup by landing the prolific Poland striker on a free transfer from rivals Borussia Dortmund

Lothar Matthaus has hailed the recruitment policy of Bayern Munich following the European champions’ announcement of the signing of Robert Lewandowski.

The Poland international will join up with Pep Guardiola’s side once his Borussia Dortmund contract expires during the summer, with the 25-year-old following in the footsteps of Mario Gotze in swapping Signal Iduna Park for the Allianz Arena.

The switch looks set to cement Bayern’s position as the dominant force in the Bundesliga, prompting Matthaus to praise the club’s recent transfer activity.

“The Lewandowski move is a king transfer for Bayern,” the former Germany captain told reporters. “But every transfer they have made over the past two or three years has been very useful.

“Previously, there were a couple of bad investments, but since then the purchasing policy has changed and all arrivals have either had experience of the Bundesliga or the coach has specifically asked for them.”

Matthaus also believes that the Lewandowski capture will cause further deterioration in the relationship between Bayern and Dortmund.

“Too much has happened with Lewandowski, Gotze and other disputes between the two clubs,” he conceded. “The relationship is professional and co-operative but far from super.”