Ramsey and Sandro ready to begin and Pellegrini to Cagliari

Juventus finished off his pre-season last night with a 1-0 win over Triestina, where Paulo Dybala scored a gem and then missed a penalty. Aaron Ramsey finally managed to get on the pitch after skipping the previous friendlies due a hamstring issue and commented to Sky Sport: “I am very proud for my debut and very happy for the minutes I played. I can help the team now.”

“I am fine, I have recovered very well, now I can focus on improving to support my teammates. I am very pumped for this experience in a completely new League for me. Continue reading

Serie A Wishlist: One Player Each For Calcio’s Top Four

With the mercato closing in just under two week’s time, many of Italy’s top sides are scrambling to complete their sides. Inter have been linked with every striker remotely available, Roma desperately need a defender while Napoli are looking at a number of James Rodriguez alternatives. But who exactly should these sides be targeting before the window shuts? Let’s have a look starting with the Italian champions, Juventus.

1) Juventus

Juventus started the transfer window in swash-buckling fashion securing the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and Matthijs de Ligt, but have recently taken a back seat focusing on player sales. While their roster is arguably the strongest in Italy, there’s no denying it still has a few holes. For one, Danilo has to come good or they’re without a top class right back. On the other hand, the bianconeri could really use another midfielder. That being said, both positions are extremely unlikely and Juventus seem intent on going into the season with what they have.

Otherwise, if Juve are able to sell Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic, and those remain big ifs, they should go all out for Inter’s Mauro Icardi. After all, they could use fresh legs in the final third and have recently sold Moise Kean. You just feel if the Italian champions don’t sign Icardi, they’d have sacrificed Kean for nothing. A player like Icardi, while he comes with personal baggage, is extremely hard to find. As a result, Fabio Paratici should do all he could to be in a position to sign the Inter man come the end of August.

2) Napoli

At the time of writing this, Napoli have reportedly signed PSV’s Hirving Lozano. The Mexican is a versatile forward capable of playing anywhere across the front-line but will likely feature on the wing. Despite his signing, the partenopei are still lacking something in the final third. All too often last season, they dropped points as a result of their own profligacy in front of goal, costing them on their ultimate Scudetto objective.

While Icardi would arguably do wonders under Carlo Ancelotti, the player Napoli should be looking at is James Rodriguez. The Colombian remains on Real Madrid’s chopping block and would add some much needed creativity in the final third. With Insigne and Lozano on either wing and Rodriguez in the hole, Napoli’s front-line would be truly devastating.

3) Roma 

Where to begin with Roma? The giallorossi could arguably use another winger and right back but for the time being will have to settle for a new central defender. Right now, Roma’s centre-backs consist of Juan Jesus, Federico Fazio, Gianluca Mancini and the newly-acquired Mert Cetin.

Out of them, Mancini is of starting quality, but none of the other three names inspire confidence as regular starters. While Cetin is reportedly a top talent, it would almost be too much to ask of the 22-year-old. As a result, Roma would be wise to secure another centre-half. Recently, it’s been reported they’ve been in the market for Daniele Rugani or Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren.

Either would frankly add some much-needed depth at the heart of defence, but what Roma need is a long-term solution. Someone like Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld would be ideal. Before the end of July, he was available for just under 30 million euros, yet the giallorossi refused to meet the Belgian’s release clause. A decision that might come back to haunt them.

4) Inter

The truth is Inter, much like Roma, could use a few players: a left-back to challenge Asamoah, a right back in case Valentino Lazaro flops and another striker for depth. While they could use all three and will likely make a push for three more players, their most pressing need remains a vice-Lukaku. Currently, Inter only possess Lautaro Martinez that they can rely on besides the Belgian.

As Conte typically deploys two strikers and Inter will be competing in three competitions, adding another striker is vastly important. Recently, they’ve been linked with Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik, Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez and Fernando Llorente among others.

Of the three names Inter would be wise to sign the Chilean. Despite his struggles since moving to Old Trafford, moving to Inter could revitalize his career. Under Conte, Sanchez will have new-found motivation and will find a familiar partner in Romelu Lukaku.

Bonus: 

Milan: Angel Correa

Lazio: Bas Dost

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Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

It was a dull week as Italians do not bother working around the 15th of August, but Roma dominated the news in the last two days, announcing three extensions: Nicolò Zaniolo, Cengiz Under and Edin Dzeko. The first two were expected, as Zaniolo had been playing on a minimal contract after last summer’s move directly from Inter’s youth academy, and Under is a big part of the plan, while the third one came out of the blue since Dzeko has been long expected to move to Inter, but he will stick around instead, removing one end of the supposed strikers’ carousel. Continue reading

Barcelona need Messi back as they lose first game of La Liga season against Bilbao

Barcelona don’t usually lose too many games and in recent seasons they have gone 4 or 5 months into the season without a defeat but they opened up their La Liga campaign with a 1-0 loss against Athletic Bilbao last night.

Barca were expected to cruise as ever to a win and pick up three points and though they were the better team having a lot of attacking intent, there was always a feeling with the clock running down and the match still at 0-0 that Bilbao would get their one good chance to put this game to bed, and they did.

It happened in the 88th minute and it wasn’t just any old scrappy goal. No this was a thing of beauty and it was scored by Artiz Aduriz. That the winning goal would go to him was extra special given that he is a legend at Bilbao and he is 38 and probably playing his last season with the club. Nobody beforehand could have written the script and believed that Aduriz would be the matchwinner. For Bilbao the party went into the night and this will be a very special result for them.

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid who are expected to challenge Barca this year for the title would have been looking on at that result- could this be one of those seasons where the football doesn’t click for Barca?

Well Lionel Messi wasn’t playing and it is fair to say that at least with his club he is THAT good that when he doesn’t play he is missed. Messi currently has a calf strain and could miss all of the games this month, which is terrible news for the current La Liga champions.

This is when new signing Antoine Griezmann is expected to step up but that didn’t happen and the club will now be focusing on returning back to the Nou Camp, the question though in everyone’s minds afterwards is is this is a one off blip or is it a sign of things to come?

As usual Barca had the more possession bringing in over 70% but at the end of the day they only had 2 shots on target, that simply isn’t good enough.

Barcelona will play Real Betis next weekend at home and that will gage for us just how strong this team will be, they usually score a few goals against them, but Betis have bought well this season including getting in Nabil Fekir who has been brilliant with Lyon for several seasons.

What is clear is that the pressure is now immediately on Barcelona not to drop any more points in the next few months, that is how consistent it can be in Spain, and they will be praying that Messi can come back sooner rather than later.

Lazio’s investment in two of Europe’s top crossers solves a major headache for Simone Inzaghi

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It’s been quite the summer of spending in Serie A, with many of the league’s big guns splashing out large sums to overhaul their squads ahead of the 2019/20 season.

That has never been Lazio’s style during Claudio Lotito’s presidency and although a reasonable amount of money has been invested in the market this summer, it has been put towards just three players: Denis Vavro, Jony and Manuel Lazzari.

The capital club’s dealings have been an example of intelligently conducted business in a market that so often leans more towards emotion and desperation than prudence and planning. Continue reading

Why Ernesto Valverde is right to keep Ivan Rakitic at Barcelona

As the Neymar to Barcelona rumours intensify, it appears that Paris Saint-Germain are softening their stance towards the Catalans and will accept players in part-exchange for the Brazilian.

One name that is repeatedly mentioned as a makeweight is midfielder, Ivan Rakitic.

The vastly experienced Croatian has made it known that he wishes to stay at the Camp Nou and has no intention of moving, and coach, Ernesto Valverde, has once again sung his praises. Continue reading

Man City face first test of their Premier League title defence

In some ways, Manchester City strolled to the Premier League title last season. They might have had Liverpool keeping pace with them for the majority of the way, but nonetheless Pep Guardiola’s team still went much of the season unchallenged by the rest of the English top flight.

By doing this, City managed to retain a Premier League title for the first time and now there are signs that what Guardiola has built could become a dynasty. The 2019/20 Premier League season started last week and there’s no suggestion that City won’t be the frontrunners to win a third-straight title.

Only Liverpool and possibly Tottenham Hotspur can challenge Guardiola’s defending champions. We will find out more about Spurs this weekend when Mauricio Pochettino’s team travel north to take on Man City at the Etihad Stadium. It’s the first marquee, top-of-the-table clash and do a lot to determine the title race for the season ahead.

However, we will also learn a lot about City and whether they can be potentially caught. Spurs have made progress over the summer, signing Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso to significantly strengthen what was already a strong squad. Pochettino led his team to the Champions League final last season, but he wants even more this season.

City were mightily impressive in the opening Premier League fixture of the season, putting five past West Ham away from home. This will be more of a test, though. Spurs aren’t just a strong team, but a group of players with the golden carrot of a piece of silverware still in front of their nose, leading them on. They are a motivated bunch.

There is a certain pressure that comes with being the chased. Man City, as the two-time defending Premier League champions, now play every week with a target on their back. Opposition sides up their game to take on Guardiola’s men and this will certainly be the case when Spurs come to visit this weekend.

What’s more, this is a side that caused City problems at the Etihad as recently as April, when Spurs knocked out the Premier League leaders on their way into the final four of the Champions League. Guardiola and his players cannot afford to take their challenge lightly. We will learn more about the dynamic between the two teams after Saturday.

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Eden Hazard already has doubters to prove wrong at Real Madrid

He was Real Madrid’s marquee summer signing. Eden Hazard had been trailed by the Spanish giants for a number of years and this summer they finally got their man, paying Chelsea around £100 million to sign the Belgian. He was, in the eyes of many, the natural successor to Cristiano Ronaldo who left the Santiago Bernabeu one year previously.

On his day, Hazard is indeed one of the best players in world football. He demonstrated this over ____ years at Chelsea. It was little surprise that Real Madrid prioritised his signing. Hazard has the sort of X factor that players need to succeed in the Spanish capital.

He hasn’t shown that so far, though. The 2019/20 season has yet to start in Spain, but Hazard is already finding that he has more than a few doubters to prove wrong. Pre-season has been difficult for Real Madrid and the Belgian has become the embodiment of these struggles.

For starters, questions have been asked about Hazard’s weight since he returned from his off-season break. The Belgian has always been a little stocky, but it’s true that over pre-season he looked a little heavier than usual. Whether this was enough to compromise his performances on the pitch is another matter, but it has provided critics with ammunition.

There are also questions over where the former Chelsea man will fit into Zinedine Zidane’s team. Vinicius Junior broke through last season and looked to have nailed down a place as a regular starter for Real Madrid. But surely there’s no place for both the Brazilian teenager and Hazard in the same side given that they play off the same wing?

What’s more, Hazard has picked up a hamstring injury that will rule him out of action for the first few weeks of the new season. With Marco Asensio already on the sidelines, set to miss the whole season with a torn ACL, this leaves Zidane somewhat short on attacking options following a summer when close to £300 million was largely spent on attackers.

It already feels like Real Madrid’s season is spiralling out of control and they haven’t even played a competitive game yet. Defeat to Celta Vigo this weekend would see the pressure heaped on Zidane and Hazard could also find himself a target. Some believe his lack of professionalism is a problem.

The Belgian will likely come good in Spain. It’s far too early to make any firm judgements, but Hazard already has his doubters and such is the nature of the football scene in the Spanish capital it will take a lot to silence them.

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Three Bargains For Your Fantasy Serie A Team

With the Serie A season kicking off in just nine days time, fantasy season is well and truly upon us. While the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Krzysztof Piątek will feature in most teams, it’s the bargain buys that make all the difference. In many instances, it could separate the winners from the losers. Here are three players you should consider adding to your fantacalcio side ahead of the new season. Note: They won’t take up too much of your budget.

1) Kevin-Prince Boateng (Fiorentina) 

Currently, the 32-year-old is valued at 4.8 million on our official Fantasy Serie A game and could prove to be quite a shrewd addition to your team. Last season, Boateng returned to Italy with Sassuolo and largely impressed as a false nine. Leading the line, the former Milan man notched four goals in 11 starts and was a constant menace in the final third. While he didn’t play much on his, frankly bizarre, six-month loan spell with Barcelona, the Ghanaian still has a lot to offer in Serie A.

Another important aspect to consider is that Boateng is listed as a midfielder in the game and will likely feature in Fiorentina’s front-line. This season, he will look to establish himself as a crucial piece to Vincenzo Montella’s new-look Fiorentina and form a deadly partnership with Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone. And he could be yours for less than 5 million of your 120 million euro budget!

2) Douglas Costa (Juventus)

After a torrid season riddled with injuries and indiscipline, the Brazilian is valued at a mere 4.6 million on our fantasy game. Under Massimiliano Allegri, Douglas Costa’s creativity and innovation in the final third were shackled and the winger had his worst season yet.

This season, however, the former Bayern Munich man is seen as an integral part to Maurizio Sarri’s plans and will be eager to redeem himself. Given his electric nature and devastating pace, Douglas Costa is in for quite the season with Sarriball in full effect in Turin. When the new season kicks off, expect the winger to be raring to go.

Much like Boateng, the 28-year-old is listed as a midfielder and at under five million, could rack up many points for your side.

3) Romelu Lukaku (Inter) 

After months of negotiations and numerous reports, the Belgian international finally joined Inter. Nerazzurri boss Antonio Conte had pushed hard for Lukaku and has been extremely keen on working with the striker since his Chelsea days.

While the former Manchester United man struggled last season and was often wasteful in front of goal, he’s tailor-made for Conte’s 3-5-2 and will be among the goals regularly. Whether he’ll start alongside Lautaro Martinez or Roma’s Edin Dzeko, as it’s been recently reported, moving to Inter under Conte will prove to be Lukaku’s best career choice to date.

With Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic feeding him, expect the 26-year-old to have many chances. Given his physicality and ability to adapt, it shouldn’t be long before Lukaku is scoring for fun in Italy.

At 6.7 million, just about anyone could afford to add the bomber to their fantacalcio teams.

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Operation Departures: Paratici’s Dilemma

After securing the signing of Matthijs de Ligt, many lauded Juventus’ mercato and showered their sporting director, Fabio Paratici, with praise. After all, they had just signed one of Europe’s elite young defenders, fighting off Barcelona and a host of other clubs in the process.

However, in recent weeks, in an effort to balance the books, Juventus have looked to offload their high-prized assets on the cheap. First, Moise Kean left for Everton with no buy-back clause inserted in the deal. Then, Joao Cancelo was off to Manchester City for 30 million euros and Danilo, after just a season in Turin. Now, the bianconeri’s top brass are actively listening to offers for their jewel, Paulo Dybala. 

With Financial Fair Play restrictions in place, clubs, at the very least, must show they are spending as much as they’re making; generally speaking. Following the signature of Cristiano Ronaldo and de Ligt, sales were always going to be necessary.

Factor in that Juventus haven’t progressed deep into the Champions League since making the final in 2017 missing out on crucial revenue, it’s clear players were going to be sold. Let’s not forget, the Turin-based giants also reported a significant financial operating loss in their last fiscal year. Fabio Paratici is the man largely responsible with dealing with this, largely through high-profile sales. 

While, in an ideal world, Paratici would find buyers for Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic, Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi among others, reality is a different beast altogether. Currently, all of these players are on the wrong side of 30 and are on massive wages in comparison to their output.

Many of them have got a host of offers, but have regularly refused to leave the club. And why should they? Most, if not all, of the offers received for the bianconeri’s wantaways include lower salaries at less prestigious clubs. This has forced Paratici’s hand in his first mercato at the helm and has dictated which players he can and cannot sell. Simply put, there’s a bigger buying market for Dybala than there is for Higuain, for example.

Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri recently alluded to this in a press conference.

As I said before, I can talk to Dybala all I like, but the market goes in a certain direction and my opinion counts for zero. We have to cut six players, that’s all there is to it,” said the former Napoli boss, as reported by Football Italia.

When thinking about Sarriball, you would expect Dybala to be one of the first names of the team-sheet. After a season in Massimiliano Allegri’s rigid setup, the Argentine could explode in a false-nine role. In Sarri’s first press conference at the club, the veteran tactician mentioned La Joya alongside Douglas Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo as players he was hoping to count on.

If Juventus are forced to sell Dybala this summer to balance the books, they will undoubtedly regret their decisions to hand Mandzukic and Khedira extensions while failing to definitively offload Higuain. Quite frankly, neither of these three players fit into Sarri’s tactics as well as Dybala does.

Sarri elaborated on this situation further and lashed out against Juventus’ current state.

It puts me in a difficult position. The last 20 days of the market will be difficult for us, it’s an embarrassing situation, because we risk having to leave out players of a very high level,” said Sarri.

It has also affected his pre-season preparation. Given the uncertainty surrounding the transfer window, Sarri has largely rotated between Higuain, Mandzukic and Dybala. Rather than sticking with one preferred front-line and implementing his mechanisms with them, Sarri has been forced to adapt. As a result, it may be long before we see Sarriball fully introduced in Turin.

With just over two weeks left to the mercato, it will be interesting to see who Juventus decide to move. Reports suggest Higuain will join Roma while Mandzukic favours a Bundesliga move. However, as we’ve seen, there are no guarantees and we can just as easily see, fan favourite, Dybala on his way out. Whether you like it or not, buckle your seat-belts Juventus fans, you’re in for a bumpy end to the summer transfer window.

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