Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four

Juventus-Verona: the Old Lady had a subpar performance in Florence but obviously will be in a much better spot this week at home against a relegation struggler. Cristiano Ronaldo usually does not go scoreless for long and Gonzalo Higuain is not a bad pick either, as for now the coach has refrained from using Paulo Dybala there. Douglas Costa, who was their go-to-guy so far, will miss time, so Federico Bernardeschi and Juan Cuadrado will return to prominence. Until the coach entrusts one of the newcomers, Aaron Ramsey in particular, Sami Khedira remains the most appealing midfielder for his offensive dexterity. Their defenders are surely worth consideration.

As predictable, the Scaligeri are not much of a fantasy haven considering that their style is mainly defensive and they do not have a big-ticket striker. Furthermore, their main addition there, Mariusz Stepinski, is disqualified in this one: he will be replaced by either Samuel Di Carmine or by Gennaro Tutino serving as false-nine, but they will tangle with a vaunted defense. They do have some interesting pieces in the midfield, such as Mattia Zaccagni, Darko Lazovic and Valerio Verre, who could have some intrigue in easier match-ups. They have scored twice thus far, thanks to Miguel Veloso on a free kick and on a cut by Matteo Pessina in Lecce.

Milan-Inter: the Rossoneri scraped two wins against easy opponents but actually showed little improvements on the offensive phase. Krzysztof Piatek was aided by a penalty but remains poorly fed and has been poor technically so far and Lucas Paqueta does not have a precise role yet. Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu have been their two most reliable players thus far and the Spaniard in particular has adjusted quickly to Marco Giampaolo’s schemes. Ante Rebic was a bit messy but provided a good amount of juice against Verona and could be in the lineup here. Andrea Conti is expected to fill for Davide Calabria and, despite his defensive shortcomings, he could do some damage scampering up and down the flank.

On the other side of the Navigli, Antonio Conte has been able to install his system way more seamlessly and, while they are unlikely to become a particularly spectacular side, they are extremely efficient and solid. Stefano Sensi has been a star to open the season and has already found the target twice, like Romelu Lukaku, but that is not really a surprise. He was quiet in the last two games and also a little banged up. Lautaro Martinez is set to be back in the XI on Saturday and he has been very active and menacing. Matteo Politano has been bouncy when given the opportunity to start last week but he will likely have more a super-sub role this year. Their two wingbacks are dependable but not super appealing, while they have not gotten much from their third midfielder in Serie A, but the goal in Champions League will surely help Nicolò Barella.

Lecce-Napoli: the Giallorossi picked a tough spot to the get their first W and against Torino confirmed they can be a plucky team if the newcomers can integrate properly and reach an adequate level of fitness in a limited amount of time. Diego Farias was a weapon in Empoli, Khouma Babacar and Gianluca Lapadula are okay if given room. Marco Mancosu was great last season and, after a summer injury, he sunk the Granata off the bench.

The Partenopei are getting the whole band together as Arkadiusz Milik and Lorenzo Insigne have shaken off their injuries. The Polish striker will likely soon get a good run in order to gain some conditioning, but the XI will likely be a week-to-week proposition and Fernando Llorente has exceeded expectations thus far. The biggest question marks are how much Hirving Lozano will feature and in what position, since he is very versatile, and what will be the go-to pair up front. Dries Mertens has been terrific thus far, but using him and Milik together most of the time could be a little ambitious balance-wise. It is a healthy problem to have though. Now that few forwards have returned, Fabian Ruiz and Piotr Zielinski are unlikely to get many chances to play in an offensive role, but they can be dangerous even as pivots in cozy matches when the Azzurri are set to pepper the goal. Eljf Elmas showed very well last week and could take advantage of some rotation.

Bologna-Roma: the Felsinei have not dominated in any of their fixtures, but they brought home seven points with a pair of gritty wins. They certainly do not lack firepower even though they probably should have upgraded the no.9 spot. However, on his day, Rodrigo Palacio is still good and the supporting cast is very effective, as Riccardo Orsolini, Nicola Sansone and Roberto Soriano have all been able to score once. The right winger is set to be the most productive considering he is a better finisher. Their fullbacks, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Mitchell Dijks, have been up and down but could be a significant part of the equation, unlike the duo of pivots, which this year have more prominent defensive tasks.

The Giallorossi looked outstanding against Sassuolo and did not skip a bit despite having to replace a significant piece like Cengiz Under. Henrikh Mkhitaryan can thrive in contests where he has the chance to attack the space behind the back-line and Lorenzo Pellegrini is tremendous as no.10. That will likely force Nicolò Zaniolo to play on the right wing, but that should not hurt him that manage if they manage to keep playing like this. It is only a matter of time for him to bag one. Edin Dzeko has already left a disappointing campaign in rearview mirror by netting two pretty ones. Bryan Cristante scored on a corner kick, but he and Jordan Veretout have a limited presence on the final third. Aleksandar Kolarov has hit the net twice on set pieces and he and Alessandro Florenzi are not shy when it comes to attacking and Dzeko’s resurgence will help them in the assist department. Neither side has been stingy in the back, so this could be a lively match.

Atalanta-Fiorentina: the Goddess have not diverted from what is was expected from them, which is last year’s design plus a potentially devastating weapon off the bench such as Luis Muriel, who has already made an impact twice. Duvan Zapata is in midseason form and buried a pearler against Genoa, while Alejandro Gomez and Josip Ilicic have not found their groove yet, so they have room for improvement. Their wingbacks have been helped them a lot and they are getting arguably the best one, Timothy Castagne, back from a knee injury. Their central axis has not been on point, as also Remo Freuler and Marten De Roon has failed to impress and Ruslan Malinovskyi has not adjusted to his new surroundings, nor he has been given much playing time.

Vincenzo Montella put together a very light 3-5-2 that partly caught Juventus by surprise in the last round. Franck Ribery had a dazzling performance in a creative role and Federico Chiesa has gotten a lot of reps as second-striker in the past, but it is unlikely to be their final destination tactically considering they two have two and a half centre-forwards on the roster and with such formation they employ few playmakers but not a proper finisher. It could be a fine short-term solution until they sort it out defensively though. Other than the star Frenchman, Gaetano Castrovilli and Erick Pulgar have been their other two best performers, so the new-look midfield is working very well with Milan Badelj anchoring it. Pol Lirola has not been the same as in his Sassuolo days so far and Dalbert’s real value remains a doubt, but they would have plenty of room to attack if the scheme was confirmed.

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