Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 16

Napoli-Parma: there is great curiosity to see what immediate changes Gennaro Gattuso will bring to the table. In his introductory presser, he hinted that he is going to use 4-3-3, which would lead to few duels up front. The first order of business will have to be reviving Lorenzo Insigne, who has not fared well in a long time, while Dries Mertens is in a domestic slump but has done some damage in Europe. Arkadiusz Milik came back midweek and he looked like a million bucks and he was en fuego before getting injured. He should be front and center in the new project. The new tactic would see José Callejon and Hirving Lozano alternate and the Mexican winger has abated after a decent stretch. It would give Piotr Zielinski and Fabian Ruiz more freedom and the Polish midfielder finally broke through last week. Giovanni Di Lorenzo is trending back up after a period of lull.

Besides Roberto Inglese, who is nursing an ankle injury, the other top Parma forwards, Gervinho and Andreas Cornelius, have not been very healthy lately and it has reflected on their performances on the pitch. The Ivorian speedster has not scored in a month, the Danish one in three weeks, but it does not take him long to get going and Napoli have not been very good defensively. Their hot prospect Dejan Kulusevski is coming off two quiet performances in a row and perhaps the rumours are weighing on him, but this could be the right kind of match-up for him to deliver, since they should have soon room for fast-break, where they thrive. Juraj Kucka snapped out of his slump with a key goal against Sampdoria, but he picked up another ailment and will be out again. Hernani has dished a pair of assists over the last few weeks and he is taking on a bigger role.

Juventus-Udinese: after an unusual period, the Bianconeri are going back to their usual offense, which primarily caters to Cristiano Ronaldo, so the duel with Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain will return. La Joya is a bit flashier, El Pipa more clinical. They could get Aaron Ramsey or Douglas Costa back at least for a cameo, which would be a big boost considering the continuously lacklustre outings of Federico Bernardeschi, despite they crucial role and the ample playing time. The Welshman in particular could be used in a pair of roles and would be a intriguing pick if indeed fit. With Juan Cuadrado and Miralem Pjanic both suspended and Rodrigo Bentancur hurt, there will be a shake-up in the midfield and Adrien Rabiot and Emre Can could both drew the start, but they have not done much of note so far. The Frenchman has the potential to be a meaningful offensive presence, but it is tough to trust him before he proves it. Same for their likely duos of fullbacks, Danilo and Alex Sandro.

Kevin Lasagna found the target last week and this game could have similar traits, with the opportunistic Friuliani accommodating the pressure and always looking to counter. The Zebrette have scored just twice in the past four games though, with the other goal coming from Ilija Nestorovski, who generally alternates with Lasagna. Stefano Okaka is a very important reference point for them but he has not hit the net in six rounds, while their primary ball handler, Rodrigo De Paul, is putting up pedestrian numbers, having tallied just one goal and one assist. Seko Fofana dished a pretty helper last week, which should allow him to keep a spot in the XI, moving Rolando Mandragora to pivot. They have not gotten much help from their flanks, especially since Ken Sema went down with a muscular injury.

Roma-SPAL: the Giallorossi could not perforate Inter’s back-line last Friday, playing mostly sans Edin Dzeko, but will obviously be in a much better spot this week. The big Bosnian is in a bit of a funk, having put his name in the stat-sheet just once in the past six matches, but this could be a nice bounce-back opportunity. Nicolò Zaniolo has been their most consistent attacker scoring-wise in the last two months, while Lorenzo Pellegrini picked it up where he left off in terms of assists after his injury. Justin Kluivert is dealing with a small ailment and if he were held out again, Henrikh Mkhitaryan would most likely get the chance to start and he played pretty well against Inter, better than Diego Perotti, and he does have a nose for the goal, but the playing time is a big factor, so keep an eye on the probable lineups.

The Estensi managed to score their first away goal versus Inter last week, but were then stymied at home by Brescia in a must-win situation. Leonardo Semplici is on the hot seat and this could be his last chance, so they might have an extra pep in their step. Since they were down all their wing-backs, he revolutionized his scheme, fielding Thiago Cionek and Igor wide and Mattia Valoti and Marko Jankovic supporting Andrea Petagna. The returns were not great, especially because the centre-forward missed a penalty and in general has regressed this season (four goals), but the two young midfielders could benefit if they took that route again. Valoti bagged his first goal versus Inter and he is slated to be a major cog in any case because Jasmin Kurtic is disqualified. Alessandro Murgia and Simone Missiroli could be more involved offensively, but they have not made a peep so far this year.

Fiorentina-Inter: the struggling Viola is unlikely to see Franck Ribery return any time soon, but at least Federico Chiesa came back last week and showed up with a late assist. Vincenzo Montella, who is on shaky ground, switched to a trident against Torino and, while that may seem counter-intuitive, being further away from the goal could actually help their star, as he is more at ease on the wing and with more room to do his thing. A three-headed attack means that Dusan Vlahovic, Kevin-Prince Boateng and even Pedro will have their opportunities. The Serbian forward has been gotten the most run recently, but he has been underwhelming besides a meaningless brace in Cagliari, even though he does posses an enticing skill-set. Rachid Ghezzal flopped in a rare start, so they might turn to the lively Riccardo Sottil in this one. Marco Benassi replaced Milan Badelj in the XI after faring well in Coppa Italia but could not replicate his success. Such decision moved to Erick Pulgar to deep-lying midfielder, which would limit his fantasy appeal, but he had not done much besides converting penalties anyway. They surely need somebody else beside Gaetano Castrovilli to step up and carry the team.

The Nerazzurri did not capitalize on their chances in the Roma game, but the bout further confirmed their current design, as Lautaro Martinez is in a better moment than Romelu Lukaku, who, differently from El Toro, occasionally disappears despite his strong numbers, and Matias Vecino has fully filled Stefano Sensi’s offensive role out of the midfield. Marcelo Brozovic does have a little more freedom with Borja Valero next to him, but he has not hit the net since late September. With Antonio Candreva banged up, Valentino Lazaro might draw the start and he has the most upside fantasy-wise out of their crop of wing-backs, even though Cristiano Biraghi occasionally uncorks a high number of crosses.

Cagliari-Lazio: the Rossoblù seemingly never die and the final confirmation is that they equalized late against Sassuolo with Daniele Ragatzu, who had been slugging off in the lower leagues for six years before being kept in the roster for some reasons this summer. Alberto Cerri did the same last week, so beware of their subs. Joao Pedro has been nothing short of stellar and he is putting up numbers that have not been seen since Gigi Riva in Sardinia. Radja Nainggolan is not as consistent but he is capable of huge performances, while Giovanni Simeone is the poster child for a hit-and-miss striker. Marko Rog is suspended, which would give either Lucas Castro or Artur Ionita a chance to get the nod and the former is always frisky offensively, but also usually dinged up. They have pretty dynamic full-backs, while Nahitan Nandez has not been super sharp lately and some off-the-field stuff might be bothering him.

The Biancocelesti hit Juventus with their best shots and prevailed on the heels of another splendid display by Luis Alberto, who set up the first two goals, and a great and seminal goal by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The Serbian midfielder is on the up-and-up with two goals and two assists in the last five matches. Ciro Immobile got his streak snapped, but since they produce so much offense, chances are he will be back in the box score very soon. Cagliari are not been very stout defensively lately and the Eagles have scored against the best of them, so there is no reason to shy away from their attackers. Two other players on the rise are Manuel Lazzari, who did not garner points versus Juventus but provided a key contribution, and Felipe Caicedo, who found the target in two of the past three contests coming off the bench.

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