Euro 2020 draw: A group-by-group guide to next summer’s tournament

The draw for the group stage of the 16th edition of the European Championship took place in Bucharest on Saturday, as the 20 already-qualified countries learned their fate. There are still four spots to be determined at next March’s play-offs, but we now know who the vast majority of sides will be playing in the first round of next summer’s pan-European competition.

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

After an impressive 1-1 draw against Napoli, AC Milan will be looking to build on that display as they take on Parma in the 14th round. However, even though the performance was good last weekend, it still didn’t give the Rossoneri what they so desperately need: three points. 

Thanks to the point, Pioli’s men went from 14th to 13th place in the standings, but there is still a long way to go. As the winter break is just four games away, it would be good to finish off the first half of the season strong. In Milan’s case, it might be better to replace good with necessary in that sentence.

TEAM NEWS

Compared to the game against Napoli, Pioli will have a few more players at his disposal. In addition to Bennacer and Calhanoglu, who are back from suspension, the likes of Borini, Castillejo and Suso have recovered from their respective injury struggles.

Given that they did perform well against Napoli, the manager will be looking to make as few changes as possible, and this shows in the probable line-ups that have been reported in the media as of late. In fact, there won’t be any changes in the defence, as Conte remains ahead of Calabria in the pecking order.

In the middle, on the other hand, we will see some rotation, mostly because Bennacer and Calhanoglu are back. According to Sky Italia, Paqueta isn’t fully fit and could miss out on the game, likely to be replaced by the Turkish international (who usually plays on the wing). Krunic or Kessie will complete the trio.

As a result of this, Bonaventura looks set to keep his spot on the left-wing, which really shouldn’t even have been a question given how crucial he was for the Rossoneri against Napoli. Once again, Piatek will get another chance to redeem himself from a very poor start, hoping to get the right service from the Italian and Suso.

Likely AC Milan (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Calhanoglu, Bennacer, Krunic (Kessie); Suso, Piatek, Bonaventura.

STATS

As you can imagine, Milan are clear favourites to win this game, at least based on the stats. Then again, their start to the season has been far from good, which makes it hard to justify their position with numbers that are based on previous season (during which they have done well, most of the time). Down below are the top five facts and stats.

  • Milan have found the net in each of their last 12 Serie A meetings against Parma: the Rossoneri have won eight of those matches (D2 L2).
  • Parma have won four of their seven league games at Tardini Stadium this season (L3) – in the 21st century only twice have they won more games at this stage of the season at home in Serie A.
  • Milan have picked up only one point in their last three games, they could go four league games without a win for the first time this season.
  • Milan have lost the most points (six) with goals conceded in the last 20 minutes of play in Serie A this season. Parma are yet to lose a point during this period of play.
  • Giacomo Bonaventura has been directly involved in three goals in his last three Serie A games against Parma (two goals, one assist).

 

PREDICTION

Even though I got last week’s prediction right (1-1 against Napoli), it’s very tough to get things right with Milan this season. Under Giampaolo, it was more or less impossible to understand the team’s form, but I must admit that Pioli has managed to shake things up. With that in mind, although tomorrow’s game will be tough, the Rossoneri should be able to grab the win.

Parma 1-2 AC Milan

Real Madrid growing into title race after shaky start to season

Had Real Madrid made the trip to the Basque Country to face Alaves even just a few weeks ago it’s likely they would have been dealt some sort of blow. Before the visit of Zinedine Zidane’s side on Saturday, Alaves had lost just one game at home (to Sevilla) all season long. They were in good form and fancied their chances of taking something from Real Madrid.

By full time, though, the capital club were celebrating a well-earned three points. The conditions at Mendizorrotza were atrocious, with heavy rain making the pitch a difficult surface to play on. This was the sort of game Real Madrid would have drawn or lost earlier in the season, but they are a different sort of group of players now.

Real Madrid have made real progress in recent weeks. The defeat to Real Mallorca at the end of October has proved to be a watershed for the club. Since then, the capital club have gone eight games without suffering defeat. They have played well over that spell, but they have also dug deep when required. It was required to claim the victory against Alaves on Saturday.

The result took Real Madrid to the top of La Liga and with Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano to face Atletico Madrid on Sunday night there’s a real chance that Zidane’s men will make that position stick beyond the weekend. This could prove to be a real turning point in their season.

While the malaise at Barcelona seems to grow with every match, with Ernesto Valverde coming under increasing pressure, Real Madrid are becoming more and more comfortable in their own skin. Zidane looked to be something of a dead man walking, in managerial terms, earlier in the season. Now, his squad appear to be fighting for him again.

Of course, there is a long way to go until the end of the season, but Real Madrid are more than playing their part in a title race that will surely witness many more twists and turns. They have absorbed a lot since the summer and look to be a better team and a stronger group of characters for it. That might serve them well as their contest with Barca at the top of La Liga goes down to the wire.

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Sarri previews the Sassuolo game

Coach Maurizio Sarri opened the presser before the Sassuolo game with some injury updates: “Alex Sandro practiced fully yesterday so he is fine medically, we will evaluate his form. Federico Bernardeschi is okay and he is very useful for his defensive work. He has great technical skills, that is why we want more from him.”

On Cristiano Ronaldo and the attack: “Those who have three bad strikers are in trouble, not us. Cristiano is an immense resource, he has to improve from a conditioning standpoint, but that is normal. Continue reading

Lazio’s sensational form is no coincidence – they’ve fixed two long-standing issues

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Nothing beats a late winner.

That’s what Lazio have learned lately, most recently when Felipe Caicedo swivelled his hips and fired a shot into the bottom corner to snatch victory at Sassuolo last weekend.

It was a crucial goal, one that saw the capital club pull two points clear of Roma and Cagliari in third place and continue their outstanding domestic form with a fifth consecutive Serie A victory.

But after the dust settled, there was another great positive to take from the game. Continue reading

Fiorentina-Lecce Preview: Chiesa left out of the squad

The season has not gone well so far for Fiorentina, last week’s dire loss to Hellas Verona pushing them down to 10th in the table. Injuries have certainly played their part, but at this stage there is no denying the fact that both Vincenzo Montella and his squad have underperformed up to this point of the Serie A campaign.

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Is centre-forward a problem position for Barcelona?

There’s already been a suggestion that this season could be Luis Suarez’s last at Barcelona.

That hasn’t come from the player himself, or his club, though the rumours are gathering pace with Inter Miami apparently interested in taking the Uruguayan at the end of the current La Liga season.

By then Suarez will be 33 and a half, and, although not quite ready to be put out to pasture, will surely relish the opportunity to rest during the season should he stay. Continue reading

Serie A Round 14 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Up

Last weekend saw Italian calcio resume for Serie A round 13 on the peninsula. With that, came plenty of noteworthy results and performances to support them.

Argentine duo Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain carried a lackluster Juventus to a 3-1 win over Atalanta in Bergamo, while Giacomo Bonaventura and Hirving Lozano arrived on the scoresheet in a 1-1 stalemate between AC Milan and Napoli at San Siro. Inter’s strike-force Lautaro Martínez and Romelu Lukaku lead the attacking assault as Antonio Conte’s side smooth sailed to a 3-0 win v Torino to keep pace with the Bianconeri at the top of the table.

For round 14, we take a look at who could be poised for a strong weekend and give you five players to consider adding to your fantacalcio roster. Here they are. Continue reading

Serie A Round 14 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

With another action-packed match-day in store for us, it’s time to look ahead and get your fantacalcio sides ready. Juventus will be hosting Sassuolo as Inter take on SPAL. With just one point separating the two sides, Antonio Conte’s men will be looking to maintain the pace with the Italian champions.

With match-day 14 upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your elevens. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Robin Olsen (GK, Cagliari, Value 13.65) – The former Roma goalkeeper has been in sensational form to begin the season, putting last year’s woes behind him, but has since been suspended for the next four match-days. It comes at an unfortunate time for both him and Cagliari as the Sardinians are competing for European places.

In addition, the Swedish international has been rock solid between the posts and has established himself as a crucial piece to Rolando Maran’s setup. For the time being, use the 13M on a backup keeper and perhaps a creative midfielder.

Federico Chiesa (FWD, Fiorentina, Value 13.99) – There’s currently a power struggle going on between Federico Chiesa and Fiorentina. The Italian international has reportedly set his sights on a move to one of Italy’s top dogs, with Inter and Juventus both expressing interest. Determined to make Chiesa the face of their rebuild, however, Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso is reluctant to sell the young winger. Chiesa was frozen out of the side in their most-recent defeat, with Montella claiming that he was out of shape mentally and physically.

This week, Montella confirmed that Chiesa will miss the side’s upcoming clash against Lecce with a thigh injury, as well. The 22-year-old has not been at la viola’s training ground all week, fuelling speculation that he may be on his way out. At 13.99M, you would be wise to freeze Chiesa out of your fantacalcio sides yourself. I hear Atalanta have a few interesting forwards…

Sami Khedira (MID, Juventus, Value 10.92) – The former German international started the season well, but has since slowed down, with many calling for him to be benched. In Juventus’ most recent Serie A win against Atalanta, Khedira was anonymous and was a constant liability down the bianconeri’s right-hand side. While the penalty he conceded was rather unfortunate, it was merely the tip of the iceberg of his poor performance.

With Rodrigo Bentancur impressing in mid-week and Emre Can eager to prove himself, it may be  time for Sarri to look elsewhere in Juventus’ midfield ranks and bench the much-maligned Khedira. Regardless, his price-tag is still too high for a player who simply does not produce. For example, you can afford Juan Cuadrado for the same price. Are you braver than Sarri?

Rodrigo De Paul (MID, Udinese, Value 9.21) – Continuing with the theme of struggling midfielders, Udinese’s Rodrigo De Paul makes this week’s list. The Argentine international was supposed to break through this season, emerging as a crucial player for the Zebrette, but nothing of the sort has taken place. With Udinese hovering over the relegation zone, De Paul is going to need to step up. In his 10 appearances this season, the 25-year-old has one goal and one assist – a far cry from last season’s impressive tally of nine goals and eight assists.

Given the side’s lack of creativity in the middle of the park, the Udinese man is burdened with much of the offensive work in the final third. While his fortunes should change, Udinese take on a high-flying Lazio side this weekend. As a result, it would be wise to keep De Paul out of your elevens for the time being.

Kalidou Koulibaly (DEF, Napoli, Value 8.53) – Since establishing himself as one of the league’s elite defenders, Koulibaly’s stock has never been lower. With the ongoing player mutiny at Napoli, the partenopei have struggled for results and their rearguard has suffered. In fact, Napoli have only managed to keep one clean sheet in their last eight games – a scoreless draw against Genoa. While Koulibaly has largely been solid over this stretch, he hasn’t been blameless either and has been committing mistakes with more regularity, indicating that his head may be elsewhere.

Napoli’s performance against Liverpool was encouraging and could serve as a turning point in their season, but with the tense atmosphere at the club unlikely to change, it could go either way. Despite his immense quality, I would temporarily swap Koulibaly out of my side, especially considering the threat Bologna pose on the counter through Riccardo Orsolini.

LaLiga predictions – Barcelona face big test at Atletico Madrid while Real Madrid look to continue good run of form

It’s another busy weekend in Spain’s LaLiga. There is a full schedule of games to look forward with one particular highlight being the meeting of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday night.

Here’s our brief preview of every single LaLiga game taking place over the coming days.

Celta Vigo Vs Real Valladolid

Key men: Denis Suarez (Celta Vigo); Oscar Plano (Real Valladolid) Continue reading