Martin Odegaard/Fede Valverde midfield is in Real Madrid’s future

As if it was in any doubt that Martin Odegaard has been one of La Liga’s most consistent stars this season, the Norwegian served us all with a reminder of his quality against Barcelona on Saturday. The Catalans couldn’t cope with the on-loan Real Madrid midfielder as he contributed to a 2-2 draw for Real Sociedad.

The sight of Odegaard running at Sergio Busquets was almost unfair. The Barca midfielder had no way to keep up the Norwegian, frequently leaving his back four exposed as Odegaard drove towards them. Busquets certainly isn’t the only midfielder to have struggled against the 20-year-old this season, though.

Odegaard has sparkled to such an extent that some have speculated that Real Madrid could recall him early from his two-year loan deal at the Anoeta. Indeed, the Norwegian would give Zinedine Zidane another option through the centre of the pitch at a time when he is trying to revitalise his squad at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The introduction of Fede Valverde has already done this to a certain extent. The Uruguayan has become a key figure for Real Madrid over the past few months, both protecting their defence and also giving them another supply line to the attacking line. Valverde will be one of the first names on the team sheet when Real Madrid face Barcelona in the first Clasico of the season next week. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will have to fit around him.

In theory, Odegaard should make for a good midfield partner. The Norwegian operates between the lines of transition, particularly between the midfield and the attack, and it’s Valverde’s job to deliver the ball into this area. They could be the basis upon which Real Madrid build their future on.

Zidane must be careful not to recall Odegaard too early, though. The Norwegian is clearly thriving playing first team football on a weekly basis. While Odegaard would surely receive significant game time back in the Spanish capital he would face more of a fight for his place. His development could feasibly be stunted if he returns at the wrong time.

But a midfield unit of Odegaard and Valverde is almost certainly in Real Madrid’s future. Both players are already showing themselves to be among La Liga’s best this season. One can only imagine how effective they might be as a duo.

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

Following two consecutive wins, for only the second time this season, AC Milan seem to be on the up. Certainly, the performances have improved over the last few weeks and on Sunday, they will be hoping to make it three consecutive wins for the first time this season. 

The Rossoneri will take on Sassuolo at San Siro in front of 60K fans, celebrating the club’s 120th anniversary. Hopefully, as it will be a special occasion, they can make it even better with three points, which would further see them climb the standings after a tough start. Continue reading

Serie A players to watch during January window

The end of the group stages in the Champions League, a better sense of who is a contender and who is a pretender in Serie A , a slew of injuries and some recent coaching changes have impacted clubs’ plans for the January window.

With that in mind, which players are now more likely to change teams during the upcoming winter market?

 

Ricardo Rodriguez/Frank Kessie’- with Theo Hernandez breaking out and Pioli favoring other midfielders, both are struggling to find playing time and could find a home with their former manager Rino Gattuso taking over at Napoli. The partenopei are looking at potential replacements for Allan who hasn’t been the same player since being heavily linked to Paris St Germain at the beginning of the year, Kessie’ would be a more natural defensive midfielder than Zielinski and was a Gattuso favorite at Milan while Rodriguez could replace either Mario Rui or Ghoulam.  

Allan- you have to wonder if De Laurentiis regrets not accepting Paris St Germain’s offer last January since the Brazilian midfielder’s form has dipped considerably and he was identified as one of the leaders of the player mutiny after the Salzburg match. Leonardo still holds Allan in high regard and De Laurentiis has previously sold Cavani and Lavezzi to the Ligue 1 champions.

Rodrigo de Paul- while we usually should take anything said publicly about transfers with a grain of salt, Udinese’s sporting director Marino recently stated that his club would be hard pressed to turn down a big offer for the Argentine international despite recently signing him to an extension. For his part, De Paul has used the Romelu Lukaku playbook and has stated his admiration for Conte in numerous occasions and even volunteered to play as a mezzala, a position Inter are looking to reinforce. De Paul is also a target for Napoli were he could be used as a replacement for either Mertens or Callejon.

Emre Can- the recent injury to Sami Khedira which will keep him out for about three months may have a significant impact on the former Liverpool midfielder who hasn’t hidden his displeasure from being kept off the Champions League squad. But Can has struggled to make an impact when getting an opportunity to play and with Sarri committed to giving Rabiot more opportunities after helping Bentancur develop significantly, he could still be sold which would net a significant plusvalenza for Juventus after signing him on a Bosman deal.

Can should at least take solace in the fact he has been linked to numerous big clubs including Barcelona in a potential swap deal for Ivan Rakitic, Paris St Germain who could offer Paratici favorite Leandro Paredes in exchange as well as Bayern Munich.

Matteo Politano- after thriving under Luciano Spalletti, the former Sassuolo winger has almost been an after thought for Antonio Conte. Fiorentina had pursued him last summer and can now offer him a chance for significant playing time to give Politano a chance to make the Azzurri’s squad at the upcoming Euros, he also could be used a sweetener to convince Parma to let Dejan Kulusevki go prior to his loan deal expiring next June.

Alessadro Florenzi- the giallorossi’s captain has found himself often behind Santon in Fonseca’s pecking order for the right back position and could leave in January to keep himself in shape for the upcoming Euro. Fiorentina are looking to make a significant statement during the January window and signing a starter on the Azzurri at a position of need would certainly fit Commisso’s modus operandi, Inter could also look to leverage their good relationship with Roma to give Conte a further reinforcement. You do have to wonder if however Roma, who are negotiating the potential sale of the club, are willing to let go of the last Roman institution on the squad following Totti and De Rossi’s departures.

Moise’ Kean- just like Mattia Caldara and Joao Cancelo, the promising striker struggled significantly after Juventus sold him. There has been already talk of Kean returning to Serie A on loan after a disastrous half of the season at Everton with Roma and Milan as potential destinations.  

Dejan Kulusevski- the new version of Milinkovic Savic has taken Serie A by storm after joining Parma on loan from Atalanta’s youth system. Kulusevski has made it clear he wants to keep playing regularly but his performances have been so convincing that he could do so at a top club like Inter immediately. In addition to the nerazzurri, the Swedish prospect has also been linked to Juventus as well as some top Premier League clubs.  

Mehdi Demiral- the Turkish defender struggled to find consistent playing time following a disastrous start against Hellas Verona at the start of the season, but during Juve’s recent Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen, he reminded everyone why he was so highly rated after a successful spell at Sassuolo.

Juventus would much rather sell Daniele Rugani, who also has a much lower amortized value remaining, but there is just much more demand for Demiral, from Premier League clubs as well as Milan, who maybe itching to play more often especially with Giorgio Chiellini expected back in March.  

Sarri updates on injuries and comments on Rabiot and Can

Maurizio Sarri was back in front of the reporters for the usual pre-game presser ahead of the Udinese tilt: “We need to improve mentally after the Champions League matches since they are draining. Luca Gotti is highly intelligent, I am happy for him to receive this big opportunity even though he was reluctant about it.”

On possibly using a more aggressive lineup: “That has nothing to do with being offensive. A mentality is offensive, it does not matter the numbers of forwards that are on the pitch. I think that the most defensive scheme in the world in 3-4-3. We need certain conditions to deploy all three strikers together.” Continue reading

Man Utd vs Everton; three key battles to look out for ahead Sunday’s game at Old Trafford

Ahead of gameweek 17, Manchester United sit in fifth-place and five points away from the top four positions as they take on an Everton side that are looking to turnaround their season with a new coach in Duncan Ferguson. With only seven points separating one side from another, it does sum up how the Premier League has been incredibly competitive and unpredictable so far this season.

For sure, both sides will be playing with a lot energy, movement as well as with pace, as the attacking option that the hosts and visitors have are capable of deciding the outcome of the fixture. The Red Devils will be looking to improve their record at Old Trafford, having picked up 15 points out of a potential 24, whilst the Toffees have won only one game away from home in eight attempts.

It’s time to look at the three vital battles that could help to decide the fate of this fixture…

Marcus Rashford vs Djibril Sidibe

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford just happens to be one of the most inform players and one of the top goal-scorers within the Premier League so far this season, as he continues to pose a dangerous threat from the left flank through his burst of pace and incredible movement. Despite the departure of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku with no replacements coming in, the 22-year-old is proving a lot of his critics wrong by showing that the club and the manager can depend on him.

Rashford will be in for a close and tight encounter with Djibril Sidibe, who his currently on loan from Ligue 1 side AS Monaco and has become a regular starter for Everton in recent weeks. Given that Seamus Coleman is a huge doubt for the game at Old Trafford, there’s no doubt that the Frenchman will keep his place in the team and attempt to stamp his presence on both sides of the pitch.

Richarlison vs Harry Maguire

It’s no secret that Everton’s most deadly and influential player in the final third of the pitch is none other than Richarlison at the moment, an individual who may not be clinical and consistent against the mid-table teams but will always put on a convincing performance against the big sides. With his ability to take on two to three players with ease whilst being an aggressive predator in the box, he has the capability of hurting United on the counter or by winning the second balls in the key areas.

Richarlison has the intelligence and versatility to play on either flank or through the middle, and will be coming up against no one else but Harry Maguire, who has started to show his actual quality for the team when required and is also proving himself to be one of the main leaders within the squad. With United’s defence still conceding a few cheap goals here and there, Maguire will be hoping that they can become more stable and solid, as well as work on completing clean sheets regular basis.

Scott McTominay vs Gylfi Sigurdsson

Given the lack of quality midfield options that Solskjaer has available, as well as Paul Pogba still being on the sidelines for a couple of weeks, it means that Scott McTominay has to step up once again and be the main man for the midfield and for the team. Looking at the performances he has produced and how he commands the team around him from the middle of the pitch, he has surely been one of the United’s best players so far this season, especially given the lack of quality the team actually has.

Meanwhile for Everton, Gylfi Sigurdsson has started to play a deeper role and could be utilised in the central midfield position within Duncan Ferguson’s 4-4-2 setup, which may suit him well as he is known for his types of passing and his ability to feed the ball into the attackers. The 30-year-old has been seen as a number ten type of player throughout his time at Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City, but with Everton’s ongoing midfield injuries, he will have to play in a role he may not be totally comfortable in, considering the defensive duties and the amount of distance he will have to cover.

Leo Messi doesn’t need awards to know he’s the best ever

There isn’t a season that goes past when Lionel Messi doesn’t win an award of some description.

He already has 35 team titles to his name with Barcelona, a club record, but the individual accolades just keep on coming.

Ever since the start of his Barcelona career in 2005, he’s been hoovering up gongs left, right and centre, and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. Continue reading

What to Watch for in Serie A: Round 16

In the wonderfully enthralling world of Serie A calcio, it can be incredibly difficult to keep up with the current news, developing storylines, team performances and individual efforts on a weekly basis. This is where we come in.

As we head into round 16 of play on Italian soil, and rapidly approach the midway point of the 2019/20 season, we will begin to establish what is worth keeping an eye on and what should be less of a priority.

Here are five things to watch for in Serie A this weekend. Continue reading

Serie A Round 16 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Up

Ciao ragazzi! We are back to deliver more of the fantacalcio content you love and need ahead of round 16 Serie A action on the peninsula, but let’s briefly recap what happened last weekend.

Friday pitted Inter and Roma against one another, kicking things off in Milano at the San Siro where the two outfits played to a scoreless stalemate. Saturday’s bout between Lazio and Juventus at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome followed up and was every bit as advertised; thrilling, chippy, and filled with impressive individual displays leading to goals. The Biancocelesti would stun the visitors with a 3-1 defeat thanks to standout performances from Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Elsewhere, AC Milan managed to see out a 3-2 win away to Bologna in what can be considered one of the Rossoneri’s best showings on the season under Stefano Pioli.

Now, our list reveals the five players you should consider adding to your rosters this weekend.
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PREVIEW: Fiorentina-Inter is a fixture not to be missed

A game not to be missed on Sunday as Inter visit the Stadio Artemio Franchi for the latest meeting with Fiorentina, a side who have repeatedly caused problems for the Nerazzurri in recent seasons. Indeed, La Viola have won three of their last six – and two of the last three – home games against the Milanese giants, a record they will be looking to extend this weekend.

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Lazio won’t win the Scudetto – but that doesn’t mean their herculean efforts don’t deserve celebration

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Lazio’s win over Juventus on Saturday was a statement.

Coming from behind to become the first team to beat Maurizio Sarri’s side this season certainly peaked the attention of any dozy onlookers who hadn’t noticed the momentum building on the blue side of Rome.

The result spoke volumes about the progress this team is making. And it spoke loudly.

It said that Simone Inzaghi’s side are no flat-track bullies, that this is a team capable of beating anyone on their day.

It said that the days of flopping on the big occasion, of failing to respond to adversity, of choking at crucial moments, are behind them. Continue reading