Paratici Did Sarriball No Favours This Summer

Two months have come and gone with Maurizio Sarri at the helm in Turin and it’s desperately clear that Juventus’ midfielders are simply not adept to Sarriball. Bar Miralem Pjanic, the bianconeri’s midfielders lack technique and struggle to execute their manager’s footballing philosophy week-in, week-out. The former Napoli tactician’s setup is based on quick interplay between the midfield and attack combined with directness. Until now, we’ve seen shades of this in games against SPAL and Bayer Leverkusen, but not much beyond flashes in the pan.

Make no mistake about it, this ultimately falls on Fabio Paratici’s squad-building skills more than anything else. At the end of the day, Sarri could only do so much with the squad he has at his disposal. Aware of the technical requirements of Sarriball, Paratici opted not to add to Juventus’ midfield depth beyond an injury-prone Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot – a midfielder who barely featured in the entirety of last season.

Given their need for an extended adaptation period, Sarri has been forced to turn to the likes of Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi in the midfield. The reality is, however, that former is on his last legs to put it mildly while the latter lacks the technique required to progress the ball in the final third. While Matuidi is crucial in the pressing and recovery phases of play, build-up play has regularly been slowed down as a result of a poor touch. Considering he plays on the same side as Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s not doing Sarriball any favours.

Moving forward, the former PSG man could be useful off the bench, but lacks the quality to feature as regularly as he is now. In addition to their unbalanced midfield, the way Juventus’ attack was assembled this past summer resembled an accident.

For the entirety of the month of August, Paratici was pushing Paulo Dybala out in favour of Romelu Lukaku while simultaneously failing to sell the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain despite having many offers. In the end, Paratici’s hand was forced and due to Financial Fair Play constraints, he sold the bianconeri’s most promising young forward Moise Kean to Everton for pennies on the dollar with no buy-back clause. Today, Sarri’s left with two want-aways in Dybala and Higuain alongside Ronaldo, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi.

Despite how talented both players are, neither of them were in Paratici’s plans in the first place, highlighting a bigger issue at play here. Remember, Dybala’s been Juve’s best player this season thus far and should have never been on the chopping block – which leads us to another question. What exactly was Paratici trying to do this summer?

In any case, Sarri’s now left with an unbalanced side and is faced with immense pressure to keep producing results all-while trying to instil his footballing philosophy. Tough spot, indeed. Since the international break, Juve have struggled and have started to show signs that their lacklustre summer transfer window may just come back to haunt them.

While they may be in first place in Serie A and in their Champions League group, eight of their ten wins this season in all competitions have been by one-goal margins. Factor in Kalidou Koulibaly’s freak own goal and a last-gasp penalty against Genoa and the table would look very different by now. It’s also important to note that Juventus’ backline doesn’t compare to years past.

As the season wears on and the pressure intensifies, Juve’s failure to address their recurring midfield issues in addition to their incoherent transfer window will arguably cost them silverware. After all, it may just be the wake-up they need after seven years of domestic domination.

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Serie A Best XI – Round Ten

Marco Silvestri (7 points): Hellas Verona has been a well-oiled defensive machine so far, conceding the fewest goals out of anybody in the League, even the top dogs. They were one of the only four teams to keep a clean sheet in the midweek round, stymieing Parma, and their goalie gets the nod for everybody.

Aleksandar Kolarov (11 points): after a mini slump, which would have been perfectly normal for any defender but him, he roared back with another successful penalty and setting up the first goal with an outstanding long ball. Continue reading

AC Milan 1-0 SPAL: Suso saves lacklustre Rossoneri with lovely free-kick

AC Milan just about managed to grab their first three points in almost a month, thanks to a wonderful free-kick by Suso. However, Pioli’s side looked far from convincing and there is still a lot that needs to be worked on. 

In the early stages of the game, Milan looked just as lost as they did against Roma, misplacing several passes and failing to keep hold of the ball. Furthermore, SPAL managed to put their opponents under pressure with ease, just by holding up their positions. Continue reading

Serie A Club of the Round – Roma

Both Roman teams would have been deserving of a spot in this round, but there is place just for one club so La Lupa gets it as they obtained the same result as Lazio but on the road.

They approached the contest looking to build on a quality win over Milan last week and to take advantage of the tie between Napoli and Atalanta. Paulo Fonseca welcomed back Justin Kluivert from suspension and selected him over Diego Perotti, while Davide Santon got the nod over Alessandro Florenzi and Leonardo Spinazzola at right back. Continue reading

Serie A Game of the Round – Napoli vs Atalanta

The best match of the round was rather predictable this time, as Napoli-Atalanta had excellent premises in terms of entertainment and it delivered.

The Partenopei had tied in the match versus SPAL, furthering their trend of not being a supremely consistent side, while Atalanta had walloped Udinese to garner their fourth win in the last five fixtures. The two sides came in separated by three points in the standings. Continue reading

Why does Sergio Ramos continue to hit Real Madrid’s penalties?

Real Madrid were 2-0 up and cruising when they were awarded a penalty kick against Leganes on Wednesday night. Rodrygo and Toni Kroos had already found the net and so this was a chance to further boost the confidence of one of their struggling players. Eden Hazard should have been the prime candidate. Instead, Sergio Ramos took it. And missed.

Ultimately, Ramos was given a second chance to convert from the spot after the VAR spotted that Juan Soriano had strayed off his line in making the save, but in having his first attempt saved the Real Madrid captain had already raised the question – why does he continue to hit his team’s penalties?

Ramos has held first refusal on most goalscoring set pieces since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in the summer of 2018, boosting the centre back’s numbers to a career high of six goals in La Liga over the course of last season. But Ramos isn’t an especially strong penalty taker and he certainly isn’t an expert freekick taker.

As captain, Ramos should have the self-awareness to recognise there are better candidates around him to take freekicks and penalties. By claiming them for himself, the defender is only acting out of selfishness and egotism. While it didn’t against Leganes, it could cost Real Madrid.

Ramos has always carried a goal threat. He is a potent presence in the box, getting on the end of freekick and corner kick deliveries. There are few as good as him at attacking a cross whipped right on top of the opposition goalkeeper. Ramos also knows how to act as an emergency striker when his team is desperately looking for a winner.

That is enough for a centre back. Ramos’ primary function on a football pitch isn’t to score goals, it’s to stop them from being scored against Real Madrid. Taking penalties and freekicks is only a distraction to Ramos and Real Madrid as a whole. As club captain, delegation should be among his duties.

It’s somewhat surprising that Zidane hasn’t handed penalty duties to someone like Karim Benzema over Ramos. Maybe Hazard will take more of them once he regains match sharpness, but such is the influence of Ramos in the Santiago Bernabeu dressing room it might not be easy to wrestle the ball off his captain.

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Predicting the lineups for this weekend’s EPL games

Here’s a quick look at all the upcoming games and the predicted lineups for each team, to help you with your EPL fantasy picks.

Bournemouth Vs Manchester United

Bournemouth XI: Ramsdale, Smith, Steve Cook, Ake, Rico, Harry Wilson, Billing, Lerma, Fraser, King, Callum Wilson

Manchester United XI: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young, Pereira, McTominay, Fred, James, Martial, Rashford Continue reading

AC Milan vs. SPAL: Team news, stats and prediction

Third time’s the charm, right? This evening, Stefano Pioli will look to grab his first win with the Rossoneri, having collected just one point from his first two games in charge. However, given how poor the team has performed as of late, it certainly won’t be an easy task. 

The defeat against Roma last weekend highlighted Milan’s main issue: individual mistakes. Both of the Giallorossi’s goals were created by Pioli’s men, who could have conceded more if the home side had been a bit more composed. For the Rossoneri faithful, it was painful to watch, as the players threw away the game.


As a result of the most recent outing, Pioli is expected to make four significant changes to the line-up, hoping to get a reaction from his squad this evening. In defence, he will experiment with a new solution, putting Duarte at the right-back position. Most likely, this means that they will play with a back-three when in possession.

Calabria and Conti have failed to impress on the right flank and you can understand Pioli’s decision. However, it remains to be seen if it will be an improvement, although it’s certain that Hernandez will get even more freedom to move forward down the left-hand side.

Further up the pitch, Bennacer will finally get the nod ahead of Biglia. The latter has been the preferred starter under both Giampaolo and Pioli. Therefore, it will be an important opportunity for the young Algerian to prove his worth this evening, expected to add a more dynamic touch to the midfield.

Just like the initial report suggested this week, Suso will be on the bench for the first time this season. The Spaniard hasn’t been able to replicate his performances from last season, failing to find the back of the net in the first nine games. Instead, Pioli will opt for Castillejo, who isn’t exactly a fan favourite either. However, it might be enough to motivate Suso to try harder.

In addition to the former Liverpool man, Leao will also start tonight’s clash on the bench. The Portuguese striker has been one of the few highlights for Milan thus far. However, since being moved to the centre-forward role, he has struggled to get his finishing right. Therefore, Piatek will play from the first minute this evening, ready to build on his goal against Lecce.

Likely AC Milan XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Duarte, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Paqueta, Bennacer, Kessie; Castillejo, Piatek, Calhanoglu.


At this point, we can’t rely too much on stats. The Rossoneri have been consistently poor at the start of the season and of course, this matters a lot more than what happened last campaign, when they were actually quite good. Down below is a list of the top five facts and stats about the fixture, so make what you will from it.

  • SPAL have won only one of their 36 Serie A encounters against AC Milan (2.8%): their lowest win percentage against a single opponent in the competition (min. 6 games played).
  • AC Milan have lost only one of their last five Serie A games played on a Thursday (W2 D2), whilst they have been managed by five different managers in this run.
  • AC Milan have lost five games in Serie A this season (W3, D1), only twice in their history have they lost six of their opening 10 league games of a season: in 1938/39 and in 1941/42.
  • Franck Kessié has scored three goals in four Serie A appearances against SPAL, including a brace back in May: against no side has he scored more in the competition.
  • Andrea Petagna made his Serie A debut with Milan in August 2013, against Verona – he scored in his last league game against Milan at San Siro (December 2018).


Normally, Milan would be the favourites in this fixture, and they still probably are to some extent. However, an upset certainly can’t be ruled out, given how the Rossoneri have performed as of late. That said, though, I think that Pioli will be able to claim his first three points by a narrow margin.

AC Milan 1-0 SPAL

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Ten

Standings implications: it took them 96 minutes, but Juventus downed Genoa therefore replied to Inter, which looked tired but withstood Brescia’s assault. Napoli and Atalanta shared the spoiled in the most anticipated match of the round. The Roma teams dominated, with the Giallorossi trashing Udinese away and Lazio doing the same to Torino at the Olimpico Stadium. Cagliari continue to march on and upended Bologna. Fiorentina staged a comeback to defeat Sassuolo. Verona blitzed Parma on the road, while Sampdoria and Lecce tied one-one. Milan have a pulse and squeaked by SPAL. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round Ten vs Genoa

Juventus replicated the exact same performance they had in Lecce on Wednesday and it almost ended with the same result, if it was not for a blatant mistake by an opponent and a perfect Cristiano Ronaldo penalty to save the day.

Leonardo Bonucci (3 points): the back-line produced a goal with the interim captain, who was very foxy in cashing in on an uncertainty by Andrei Radu for a pretty comfortable header. However, they gift wrapped another goal to the enemies, this time with Alex Sandro being the culprit with a schoolboy error, as those errant passes should never even considered, let alone actually made, in that area. Daniele Rugani was rusty and it showed and he risked being sent off way too often. He could be a reclamation project down the line, but this was not the right game to trot him out. Continue reading