Fantasy Football News

Mancini Makes Questionable Choices in The Final Third

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Since being appointed Italy boss after the World Cup debacle, Roberto Mancini has done well to implement a distinct style of play, and identify key players for his setup moving forward. With the defence and midfield all but set, barring a few adjustments, the attack remains Mancini’s last puzzle. While the former Inter tactician has introduced the likes of Federico Chiesa and Moise Kean into the fold, some of Mancini’s choices in the final third have been questionable, to say the least.

In Mancini’s latest selections, Vincenzo Grifo and Leonardo Pavoletti both got the call to represent their nation. The latter, a 30-year-old mid-table journeyman, won’t be on the international scene for much longer and failed at the only big club he was at, while Grifo has only played eight games in league action this season thus far for Freiburg and has never demonstrated to be anything more than a decent squad player.

After years of struggling for options in the final third, Mancini is finally blessed with various talents in the attacking department, be it with Bernardeschi, Chiesa, and Kean among others. Now is not the time to experiment with players who are on the wrong side of 30 or haven’t been consistent in front of goal.

Regardless of their form this season, neither Pavoletti or Grifo will represent Italy next summer, and neither deserves to take valuable experience away from the nation’s budding forwards. What is more puzzling is that the in-form Andrea Belotti was left home, despite his recent resurgence.

The Torino forward has lead the line exceptionally well, and has propelled I Granata into an unlikely race for European football. While he’s had better goal tallies in past seasons, Belotti has become a more well-rounded forward under Walter Mazzarri and is ready for another go on the international scene. At 25 years old, Il Gallo is about to enter the prime of his career, and is an excellent option for Mancini.

Another player who could have also gotten the call ahead of Pavoletti and Grifo was Mario Balotelli. Despite some previous attitude concerns, Supermario’s has been Italy’s most consistent forward over the years, and has done well in Marseille, scoring four goals in his last six games. Mancini had this to say about Balotelli’s exclusion.

“Balotelli still isn’t in peak condition, he’s improving but I expect a lot from him and he can improve further. In general, all of the technical players are improving and this is comforting for me.” (Source: Twitter – @Azzurri)

The reality is that, much like Balotelli, Grifo hasn’t played much for Freiburg, and yet still received a call-up. Had Mancini cited previous indiscipline as his reason, it would have made Balotelli’s exclusion understandable. Regardless, Supermario deserves one more run with the Nazionale, and will likely get the chance next time around.

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While Mancini has done relatively well at blending youth with experience, another player who should have, at the very least, been part of the training camp is Milan’s Patrick Cutrone. Since breaking onto the scene, the Milan forward has demonstrated all the raw abilities of a top forward, and has a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

At just 21 years old, Cutrone, alongside Juventus’ Moise Kean, are easily Mancini’s best long-term bets. Since Krzysztof Piatek’s arrival, however, Cutrone has found playing time hard to come by. Despite this, he deserves a shot with the national team, and could prove useful at the upcoming Euros if given consistent playing time.

Moving forward, Mancini can’t keep turning to the likes of Pavoletti and Grifo as they are taking away development time from Italy’s potential, long-term number nines. Let’s face it, neither will make the final squad while Belotti, Balotelli and Cutrone all have a great shot. The ball’s now in Mancini’s court.

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Serie A Team of the Week – Round 28

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Andrei Radu (7 points): there was just one clean sheet in this round and amazingly it was the top scoring offence, Juventus’ one, that got shackled, so the Genoa goalie was the only one to bring home seven points and he did not even had to sweat too much to do it.

Domenico Criscito (5 points): he gets the token spot for the Griffon’s back-line, which featured all the highest earners among defenders, for his diligent work on both phases. He has been a crossing machine after switching to left back. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Milan vs Inter

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Goals galore in few matches in a very exciting Serie A weekend, which culminated in a riveting Derby della Madonnina that easily took home the coveted shout-out.

Milan approached the game looking to carry on the momentum that led them to snatching the third position away from the crosstown rivals with five straight wins. Inter prevailed in the last two Serie A matches, but just endured a bitter elimination from Europa League by the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Gennaro Gattuso confirmed his go-to XI, with Davide Calabria, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Hakan Calhanoglu returning to the lineup after being rested last week. Continue reading

Controversy in Ligue 1: PSG v Marseille- a sending off, a missed penalty and 4 goals

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This past weekend in Ligue 1 was always going to be dominated by one: PSG v Marseille the fiercest rivalry in Ligue 1 that is more than just a game. In the end it was a game yet again won by PSG who ran out 3-1 winners in Paris and went 20 points ahead of 2nd placed Lille as a result and still have a game in hand of them.

Marseille were aiming not only for a top 3 place which would give them Champions League automatic qualification plus of course there would be bragging rights about becoming the first team to beat PSG in Paris in the league. It wasn’t to be but we were entertained to a thrilling game nonetheless, which as normal had its controversy.

In total 7 yellow cards were shown and in the 2nd half Marseille’s Steve Mandanda who has had an impressive season was shown the red card and sent off. Kylian Mbappe had opened the scoring but the hero for PSG in the absence of Neymar’s injury was Angel Di Maria who scored a fantastic brace.

Even with the game won at 3-1 there was still controversy to be had when Saki tripped Mbappe for a penalty which delayed the game somewhat. Mbappe then stepped up to take the penalty…… and missed! Nobody could have seen that coming, least Mbappe who was looking for his 26th goal of what has been an incredible season for the 20 year old.

Marseille coach Rudi Garcia had this to say about the game. “We have nothing to be ashamed of in this defeat. Up until Steve [Mandanda]‘s sending off we were playing a coherent match. We didn’t let PSG impose their game and we didn’t concede chances. But we didn’t have enough chances in the second half, and that’s where my regrets lie. We could have been more clinical and more enterprising in the final 30 metres. It was also tough to play an excellent first 45 minutes and then go into the break a goal down – it happened to us last season here in Paris as well.”

Garcia continued, “The negative point is that the lads who were here last season   haven’t learnt the lesson and that’s a shame. We need to grow in experience as we have a young team. Still, they did extremely well to equalise early in the second half, but unfortunately we couldn’t hang onto the 1-1 score line for long enough.”

Marseille are still in the hunt for a top 4 place but after Lyon’s win they have slipped 6 points behind with just 9 games remaining.

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Week 28: Best 11 Players in Fantasy La Liga

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Week 28 in La Liga saw Barcelona extend their lead at the top of the standings to 10 points after they destroyed Real Betis 4-1 whilst Atletico Madrid lost at Athletic Bilbao. Zinedine Zidane’s spectacular return to Real Madrid saw the club win 2-0 as their objective will be to finish as runners up. Below we take a look at the best 11 players who performed over this past weekend.

Goalkeeper: Iago Herrerin

Athletic Bilbao’s Iago Herrerin gets the vote for best goalkeeper of the weekend not only picking up 7pts but because the opposition was Atletico Madrid who are in 2nd place and this was the first time that they could not score a goal in over a month with Herrerin keeping a clean sheet. Herrerin is 4th in the goalkeeper standings and can be bought for just 5m.

Defender: Marcelo

Marcelo has been the forgotten player at Real Madrid starting just 13 games this season. But with the return of Zidane, he is back and got the most points for a defender this week with 7. Not only did he help keep a clean sheet in Real Madrid’s 2-0 victory over Celta Vigo but he assisted in Gareth Bale’s goal. Marcelo can be brought into your team for 8m and could well return as a regular under Zidane’s wing.

Defender: Sergio Ramos

Ramos was disciplined for Real Madrid’s latest victory and needed to be as yellow cards and reds has frequently lost him points. But he put in a solid mature display and picked up 5pts at the weekend. He is valued at 9m and is 3rd in the defender rankings.

Defender: Vitorino Antunes

Antunes was one of the best defenders in La Liga for week 28 and picked up 5pts with his club Getafe who drew 0-0 with Valencia. It was  a massive result as it kept Getafe in 4th place. He has been solid all season and is just 6m to buy.

Defender: Damian Suarez

The reason that Getafe have conceded just 24 goals this season is mostly down to Suarez’s leadership at the back. And he earned 5pts by keeping Valencia quiet. The player can be brought into your team for 8.5m.

Midfielder: Portu

Portu, the Girona midfielder had a weekend to remember as he scored both goals in his teams 2-0 win over Leganes. He earned a whopping 10pts at the weekend by doing so and his team kept a clean sheet. He is 9th in the rankings for midfielders and can be brought in for 8.5m which looks a bargain.

Midfielder: Mario Suarez

Mario Suarez scored Rayo Vallecano’s only goal to earn 4pts at the weekend despite his team losing 3-1 to Villarreal. At the same time Suarez earned amongst the most points of midfielders at the weekend  as he scored his first goal of the season. He is valued at 3m.

Midfielder: Borja

Borja saw his team Girona win 2-0 and move up the table. He has been reliable this season and has scored a few goals with some assists. He could be a shrewd transfer and comes in at 7m.

Midfielder: Adrian Januzaj

Januzaj scored the opening goal for Real Sociedad which ended up earning his team a point and moving into 10th spot. He is valued at 6.5m and assists more (3 this season) than scores, and this was his first goal of the season. But with 4pts he has made the team of the week.

Striker: Lionel Messi

No player even comes close to the great Lionel Messi this week as he scored a fantastic hattrick against Real Betis to earn a whopping 14pts. He now has 143pts in Fantasy La Liga standings and is 60pts ahead of 2nd placed Luis Suarez. If you can afford him Messi will unsurprisingly set you back 20m.

Striker: Karl Toko Ekambi

Villarreal have struggled this season but perhaps Ekambi has found his scoring boots as the forward scored twice at the weekend against Vallecano. His goals could save the club from relegation. He has 6 goals this season and can be snapped up for 6m.

How well do you know Spanish football? Want to challenge the best La Liga Fantasy Managers? Play www.liga-fantasy.com now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serie A Club of the Round – Lazio

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Despite failing to earn a shutout win due to a schoolboy error, Lazio had by far the most dominating performance in the round and vanquished Parma with a magnificent first half.

They came into the game looking to redeem themselves after a slightly disappointing tie in Florence, where they could have easily won the game with more precision and more intensity, especially in the second half, while they squashed Roma in the Derby two weeks ago. Continue reading

EPL Best XI – Week 31

nobleThere was only half a round of games in the Premier League this past weekend, what with FA Cup action also going on, and so with just ten teams taking part picking a best XI may be slightly different to usual. Sunday’s action was fun-packed, as Everton raised some eyebrows by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Goodison Park – their first home victory since mid-January – putting a big dent in Chelsea’s top-four ambitions. Liverpool were tested more than many will have been expecting at Craven Cottage, a late James Milner penalty putting them top of the table with a 2-1 win against Fulham. On Saturday, Bournemouth played out a 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle, Leicester won 2-1 at Burnley and West Ham beat Huddersfield in a 4-3 thriller.

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AC Milan 2-3 Inter: Gattuso’s men punished for the first 55 minutes

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The long-awaited derby ended in misery for AC Milan and all of its fans, as Inter edged the designated home side in front of a big crowd at San Siro. This is the Rossoneri’s first loss in the league since December. 

Given both sides’ recent form, not many would’ve expected Inter to get away with a 3-2 win, and especially not how they managed to do so. Despite their poor spell, Spalletti’s men completely dominated the game for the first 55 minutes, which turned out to be costly for Milan.

In that period, Inter could’ve scored 3-4 goals, both ‘only’ managed to put two past Donnarumma in goal. The first one came after just three minutes, as Perisic picked out Martinez at the back post. The Argentinian did brilliantly to find Vecino, who slotted it home.

Gattuso’s men managed to ride the storm until the half-time break, but they were reminded of Inter’s brilliance straight away in the second half, as de Vrij headed in the second just five minutes into the last 45. Milan got a lifeline as Calhanoglu picked up Bakayoko with a brilliant free-kick, and the Frenchman scored his first goal for Milan with a fantastic header. 1-2, and game on.

Just before the second half started, Castillejo was brought on to replace Paqueta, and more changes took place after their first goal. In fact, Cutrone replaced Rodriguez, which saw they Rossoneri switch to a 4-4-2 formation with the youngster and Piatek forming a duo up front. Calabria was moved to the left side while Kessie slotted in at right back.

The pressure started to mount on Inter but perhaps Gattuso changes were a bit naive. Politano was clipped by Castillejo just inside the penalty box, resulting in the referee blowing his whistle. Martinez stepped up and scored the third, but the game wasn’t over just there.

Gattuso decided to send on Conti instead of Kessie to get some structure to the play, and straight away the response came. Suso, for once, was responsible for a fantastic cross into the box, which eventually fell to Musacchio. The Argentinian made no mistakes to bring Milan back into the game once again, with just under 20 minutes remaining.

However, even though Gattuso’s men racked up a few dangerous chances, nothing more came of it. The loss means that Inter are now ahead of Milan in the standings, although only one point separates the two sides.

So, were there any positives to take out of the game? Despite the lacklustre performance, a few players stood out. Starting at the back, Musacchio looked very secure even though the team conceded three goals. Many would’ve seen him as the weak link ahead of the game, but surprisingly Romagnoli performed worse than his colleague, by quite some margin.

Bakayoko also put in a good display, for the most part, and his first goal for the club is something he will remember, although the result didn’t go his team’s way. During a spell of the game, he played as a deep-lying midfielder along with Calhanoglu, who was brilliant this evening. The Turk International was forced to move around a lot due to Gattuso’s changes, but did brilliantly in adjusting to the circumstances, running the show for Milan. For me, he certainly was the man of the match, which hopefully can inspire him to continue like this.

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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 28

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Standings implications: Juventus dropped their first game in Genoa, while Napoli tamed Udinese and so the lead yo-yoes back to 15 points. Inter resurrected at the most opportune time and torpedoed Milan in the Derby della Madonnina, reclaiming the third spot. Roma did not take advantage as they had a poor showing in Ferrara. It was a good week for Lazio, as they demolished Parma, while Atalanta got stymied by Chievo and Torino came up empty-handed against Bologna. In the lower districts, mammoth wins for the Felsinei, SPAL and Empoli, who sunk Frosinone in the head-to-head bout. Udinese fell back in the mud, as they are now just two points above the Felsinei. Cagliari kept the opponents at bay with a precious W against Fiorentina.

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