Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 26

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Cagliari-Inter: the Sardinians are coming off a 0-1 loss to Sampdoria, where they were offensively challenged, and have prevailed just once in the past seven games, where they have been beaten five times. Inter had a crazy one with Fiorentina last week, where they were pipped at the post due to a questionable penalty. They had defeated Parma and the Blucerchiati in the two previous fixtures and need point to stave off Milan and Roma’s comeback. The Rossoblù have found the net in just one of their last five games and only with one player, Leonardo Pavoletti. They will have back Joao Pedro in this one, who has been their second banana all year long and tends to pick up bonus points in weird spots. Since Valter Birsa and Cyril Thereau are poised to remain on the shelf, Nicolò Barella and Artur Ionita are their other two biggest weapons, but as mentioned, goals have been hard to come by around here. From that standpoint, Inter are getting more of a collective effort with Mauro Icardi out of the lineup: Ivan Perisic, Mattia Politano and Matias Vecino have all broken out of considerable slumps last week and the Croatian winger’s role in particular is larger now. Lautaro Martinez might not be as prolific as his compatriot, but he always finds himself in position to score once or twice during a game. The Beneamata defenders are worth considering here.

Milan-Sassuolo: the Rossoneri are enjoying the best moment of their season, as they have won three in a row, burying a grand total of nine goals. They have also survived against Lazio in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-finals. The Neroverdi picked up a point against SPAL after a pair of pitiful showings, while they have been able to bring home the full loot just once in the past nine fixtures. Krzysztof Piatek keeps carrying the water and he has found the target in four straight games. They are also finally getting improved performances by Hakan Calhanoglu, while Lucas Paqueta has been a stud right away. Suso has not hit the net in a while, but Sassuolo are rather permissive defensively. Samu Castillejo filled him for him last week and was superb. Roberto De Zerbi is rotating the squad and testing different looks quite a bit as of late: Khouma Babacar is decent, but they miss Kevin-Prince Boateng, Jeremie Boga is getting more playing time over Federico Di Francesco, but the results have been so-so. Domenico Berardi used to be a Milan killer and Filip Djuricic has been their most consistent contributor recently.

Lazio-Roma: the Biancocelesti did not play last week and prior to that they were topped at the buzzer by Genoa after squeezing past Frosinone and Empoli to halt a dangerous slide. The Giallorossi have made the day three times in a row and in six of the last eight rounds, where they have remained undefeated. The Eaglies have recovered all their most important players, but neither between Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Luis Alberto and Ciro Immobile is in particularly good form as they are looking for the right conditioning and Joaquin Correa has not been able to take the baton while they were navigating through injuries. Roma’s back-line has been far from perfect recently though, so Lazio will have their chances. Felipe Caicedo, Romulo and Senad Lulic have been bright spots for them in the last month. On the other hand, La Lupa’s attack is clicking with Edin Dzeko scoring consistently, but always on the road, Stephan El Shaarawy fully healthy and always a meaningful input by Nicolò Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini, who bagged one last week after a lengthy drought.

Atalanta-Fiorentina: hopefully it will be an encore of the Coppa Italia shoutout. In Serie A play, the Goddess came crashing down in the last two weeks after a torrid Winter as they have being torpedoed twice in a row, by Milan and Torino, losing all the momentum that had carried them close to the Champions League zone. Fiorentina are two points behind them and they have equalized in five of their last seven games, winning in the other two. Duvan Zapata has suddenly stopped producing and it is no coincidence that they have been limping, so they need to get him going again because Josip Ilicic and Alejandro Gomez, albeit positive, are not consistent enough scorers. La Viola’s German Pezzella-les back-line has let up recently, so it could be a decent spot also for their occasional presences in the scoresheet like Hans Hateboer, Timothy Castagne, Remo Freuler and their defenders. The Gigliati have been relying on Luis Muriel, who has been nothing short of amazing since coming back to Serie A, and Federico Chiesa, as per usual. Gerson and Giovanni Simeone have both knocked it on goal recently, but they have yet to find the ideal third fiddle for their dynamic duo. Jordan Veretout has scored only on penalties so far, but they have been awarded a good amount of those.

Napoli-Juventus: the game of the year has lost a lot of its luster because the Partenopei have dropped points in three of their last five games, with the Bianconeri taking full advantage of the chaser’s missteps to move up to +13 in the standings. The Azzurri have never been beaten at home, while Juventus are undefeated in Serie A play this season and have tied just thrice, even though they do not look in particular great shape. Arkadiusz Milik has been on a tear basically since the start of December, netting 11 goals in the last 14 appearances and showing his full range, not only cherry-picking in the box. Lorenzo Insigne has snapped out of his funk two weeks ago, but probably things would have gone differently if he and Dries Mertens were as prolific as in the first part of the season. On a positive note, José Callejon and Piotr Zielinski are in fine form and Fabian Ruiz always pulls the strings in the midfield. Cristiano Ronaldo is coming off two subpar outings, which had never happened this season, so he will look to atone here, but he is dealing with an ankle injury, while Mario Mandzukic has yet to bag one in 2019. Paulo Dybala has scored twice in a row and also Federico Bernardeschi has been playing well lately despite the inconsistent playing time.

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