Empoli Trio Set for Big Moves

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Despite being relegated to Serie B in heart-breaking fashion, Empoli’s roster contained many up and coming talents. Following their relegation many Serie A side are looking to claim their best players on the cheap.

Just last week, Napoli signed Giovanni Di Lorenzo – who had his best season yet, scoring five goals and registering three assists – while Empoli’s underrated midfield trio has since been dismantled.

Today, it was reported that Juventus signed Hamed Traore for 12 million euros and will loan him out immediately to Sassuolo. Fiorentina reportedly signed him in the January transfer window, but forgot to deposit his contract with the league. Juventus took full advantage of their mistake, and snapped up the midfielder immediately.

The 19-year-old had a phenomenal season under Aurelio Andreazzoli, and established himself as one of the league’s most enticing midfield prospects. Equally capable of defending as he is attacking, Traore looks to be a complete midfielder, and will undoubtedly make the move to Juventus in the near future if he keeps developing.

At Sassuolo, Traore finds himself in an ideal situation and will play under yet another progressive manager in Roberto De Zerbi. As a result, expect Traore to continue his progression next season.

Outside of Traore, Rade Krunic also made the move to one of Italy’s elite. Milan signed the Bosnian midfielder for 8 million euros, and will reunite with his former manager Marco Giampaolo. While Krunic isn’t exactly the big-money move Milan fans wanted in the midfield, he will offer some much needed depth and creativity to the side. Capable of playing as a mezz’ala or behind the striker, if need be, Krunic will get plenty of minutes to prove himself.

In his 33 appearances this season, the midfielder scored five goals – two of which were wonder-strikes against Sassuolo and SPAL. Other than his ability to find the back of the net, the former Empoli midfielder registered seven assists, highlighting his directness and ability to pick a defence apart at will. At just 25 years old, and given he’s already familiar with Giampaolo, expect Krunic to only improve from here, and make the most of his move to Milan.

Ismael Bennacer, on the other hand, is still at the club for the time being, but it’s only a matter of time before the midfielder leaves. Currently, Genoa are favourites for his signature, however, it’s important to note that Arsenal hold the right to match any accepted offer. In the past, a number of English and French clubs have been linked with the Algerian midfielder, therefore don’t rule out foreign interference yet.

Playing at the base of the midfield, Bennacer dictated tempo at will for Empoli. His five assists are but one indicator of his immense talent, and range of passing. While signing with Genoa would represent a lateral move, it’s only a matter of time before the 21-year-old makes the leap to a big club. In addition, reuniting with Andreazzoli, would give him a sense of familiarity he’ll need to keep developing.

With Krunic and Traore already gone, it hasn’t taken long for Empoli to cash in on their talents. As the summer transfer window rolls on, expect the Tuscan-based outfit to continue profiting on their scouting exploits.

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Roberto Mancini Puts Italy on the Right Track

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Since being appointed as Italy boss, Roberto Mancini has set Gli Azzurri on the right path, and has guided them to four wins out of four in their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign thus far. 

In their most recent clashes, Italy travelled to Athens to take on Greece, and dispatched their European counterparts within thirty-three minutes, by a score of 3-0.

In their next game against Bosnia, Mancini’s men fell behind early, but mounted a second half comeback to prevail by a score of 2-1. Under Gian Piero Ventura, the side lacked character, and would have likely dropped points in a game like this. With these two wins, Italy now find themselves comfortably in first place, scoring 13 goals, and conceding one in the process. In addition to getting results, this is the best football Italy have played in recent memory, and have demonstrated an identity.

Once again, Mancini was rewarded for sticking with the highly technical midfield of Nicolo Barella, Jorginho, and Marco Verratti, and now has his side well on their way to the upcoming Euros. Together, the trio provide a blend of youth, experience and quality on the ball, and offer the national team some much needed creativity in the final third.

While many initially doubted the midfield’s defensive awareness given their smaller frames, Verratti, Jorginho and Barella have demonstrated they are capable of offering solidity to their back four. Given their similar profiles, Verratti and Jorginho often interchange roles at the base of the midfield, and don’t give their opponents a reference point.

With Barella making late, unmarked, runs into the box, it makes for a truly malleable midfield; something the Azzurri have sorely lacked over the past four years. The Cagliari captain’s drive has been rewarded, and already has two goals on the qualifying campaign.

Much like it’s the case in the midfield, Mancini has not shied away from taking risks with his front three. Since his appointment, the former Inter tactician has called up a number of up and coming talents, including the likes of Moise Kean and Federico Chiesa among others.

In the past, Ventura was afraid to take risks, and typically stuck with Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti up front, despite their struggles. When both strikers were misfiring, Italy did not have a plan B, and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. Rather than having set starters, like his predecessor, Mancini has mixed and matched at will, and has used a plethora of forwards across the front line. This keeps the Italian forwards on their toes, and ensures no one gets complacent. Moreover, if Italy are struggling in the final third, Mancini is able to turn to different solutions.

One player that has benefitted immensely from Mancini’s reign has been Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne. The diminutive forward was reduced to a bit-part role under Ventura, and largely struggled to make an impact on the pitch when called upon. Under Mancini, Insigne has established himself as a crucial player, and has scored two goals in his last two games. In addition, his assist to Verratti against Bosnia helped Gli Azzurri seal all three points.

On the defensive end, on the other hand, Mancini has decided to maintain the status quo and has typically gone with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. However, the Italian tactician has tinkered with his fullbacks, alternating between Leonardo Spinazzola, Emerson and Gianluca Mancini. While Mancini is a centre-back, he offers the Azzurri tactical flexibility from the right-hand side of defence, and often drops as a third centre-back when in possession. With the Atalanta man dropping centrally, it allows the left-back to get forward and overload with his winger.

While it’s still early days for Gli Azzurri, the future looks bright under Roberto Mancini. Using a blend of experience, and youth, the Italian tactician has demonstrated character both in his selections, and tactical setups. With no one’s place in the team secured, Italy have – for the first time in a while – shown hunger, and a desire to return to the top.

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Three Players Lazio Are Set to Target

After yet another indifferent season in the nation’s capital, Lazio are now turning to the transfer window to bolster their roster. Following Simone Inzaghi’s contract extension, Lazio president Claudio Lotito is ready to reward his loyalty with a few signings. Over the past few days, a number of names have been linked with the biancocelesti. This season, their squad lacked depth, and inevitably cost them top four; a prospect Lotito and co. are looking to avoid next season.

1) Wesley Moraes – Club Brugge

Lazio have been linked with the Brazilian for the last couple of transfer windows, and seem to be closing in on him this coming summer. In recent times, Gianluca Di Marzio has reported that Lazio have offered Club Brugge 15 million euros plus an additional 5 million in bonuses. Barring any hitches, the deal should be closed shortly.

The target man would provide some much needed depth to Lazio’s front-line, and could act as the perfect foil to Ciro Immobile and Felipe Caicedo. At times this season, the Italian international was tasked with leading the line on his own, and could use the rest. Moraes is capable of holding up play as a target man or take on his defender.

Give his physical stature, Wesley will slot in wonderfully into the Italian game, and he’ll be able to impose himself on his new surroundings.

2) Manuel Lazzari – SPAL

The SPAL wingback had a phenomenal season with the Ferrara-based club, and is now attracting interest from Italy’s bigger clubs. In 33 appearances this season, Lazzari registered eight assists, and was a true force down the right, earning his first call-up to the senior national team.

This season, Lazio desperately needed depth at the wingback position, and generally deployed Adam Marusic down the right. However, after a bright debut season, the 25-year-old slowed down, and much like Immobile, needed rest. In his 40 appearances in all competitions, the Montenegrin scored three goals and added one assist; a far cry from his first season with Lazio.

Signing Lazzari would go a long way as it would not only offer some much needed fresh legs, but would also encourage competition.

3) Daniele Baselli – Torino 

Another player that has recently been linked to a move to Lazio is Torino’s Daniele Baselli. Since joining I Granata, Baselli’s game has stagnated, and he arguably needs a move away to further his development. Before joining Torino, Baselli was one of Italy’s most highly-rated youngsters, due to his impressive technique and wide range of passing.

While Lazio’s midfield ranks are deep enough for the time being, Marco Parolo, Lucas Leiva and Milan Badelj aren’t getting any younger, and could use some refreshing. Moreover, Baselli has a different skill-set to Inzaghi’s current midfielders, and could offer some much needed invention from the middle of the park.

His five goals in all competitions demonstrate that the talent’s there for Baselli, but he may need a change of scenery to continue his progression. Inzaghi might just prove to be the right manager for the 27-year-old, as he has a positive track record with players ready to take the next step.

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Where next for Federico Chiesa?

With the summer transfer window now open, Fiorentina winger Federico Chiesa is attracting interest from Italy’s elite, as well as a host of other European giants. Coming off his best season with la viola, it’s only natural that the 21-year-old is turning heads. However, in recent times, Fiorentina’s brass have come out and denied rumours linking their star with a move away.

The statement is as follows, as per Football Italia: 

“We have read continuous news about Chiesa’s future and where he will play next season. The current owners would like to point out that Federico is a Fiorentina player, linked to the club by a long contract, and therefore, as far as we are concerned, Chiesa will play in Florence next season. He must be a symbolic player for the team we will build.”

This season Chiesa had his most productive season in Florence, scoring 12 goals and registering three assists in all competitions. The Italian international mostly featured on the right wing as an out-and-out winger or in a deeper role as a wing-back, but also made cameos on the opposite wing and even centrally.

Due to his versatility, Inter and Juventus have enquired about the 21-year-old but are yet to submit a formal bid to Fiorentina. Bayern Munich are also said to be interested in Chiesa. Let’s now assess the Fiorentina man’s options going into this summer.

1) Inter

After recently appointing Antonio Conte, Inter are now ready to begin their summer transfer window, and have reportedly identified Chiesa as one of their targets. Given Conte will introduce his trademark 3-5-2 shortly, the Inter tactician will need two-way wide players capable of making the difference. Chiesa represents exactly this, and will likely slot in wonderfully on the right-hand side in Milano.

While the winger has demonstrated that he’s capable of delivering the goods in his final third all-while remaining defensively responsible, he’s always played his best football when tracking back wasn’t his priority. Currently, neither Matteo Politano or Antonio Candreva fit the bill of a traditional Conte wide man, hence the Chiesa links remain in play. Riddled of their Financial Fair Play concerns, except Inter to emerge as a major player in the Chiesa sweepstakes.

2) Juventus

Juventus have been keeping tabs on the Fiorentina winger for the better part of one year now, and will reportedly use the summer transfer window to lure him to Turin. However, with Douglas Costa, Federico Bernardeschi and Juan Cuadrado still at the club, Juve’s wide areas are heavily populated and Chiesa will find playing time hard to come by.

Given Juve’s need to bolster their midfield and defence, 70 million euros on a winger would be money poorly spent. Moreover, the bianconeri are still without a manager, and will hold off on any major purchases for the time being. In any case, Juventus are arguably not the best fit for the young winger as he’ll need consistent playing time to progress his game. Despite this, much like Inter, the Italian champions will likely table a bid for Chiesa shortly.

3) Bayern Munich 

According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, the German giants have recently seen their offer  rejected by Chiesa, as the winger prefers to remain in Serie A. As Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are set to hang up the boots in Bavaria, Bayern Munich are now targeting a number of wingers to bolster their ranks.

Bayern are said to be interested in Manchester City’s Leroy Sane, but are keeping tabs on Fiorentina’s Chiesa, as well. While Bayern’s offensive style of play would suit Chiesa, leaving Italy at this stage in his career may not be the best bet. Despite the early rejection, don’t rule them out just yet.

In any case, Chiesa would be wise on holding off a move for the time being, and use the following year to develop his game further. Currently, there are concerns over the winger’s decision-making and end product, and he could really use another season in Tuscany.

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Rugani set to benefit from Sarri appointment

Recently, it’s been heavily reported that Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is nearing an exit, and is close to signing a contract with Italian champions Juventus. This comes following a successful season in London, that saw the Italian tactician steer the English giants back into the Champions League after a solid third-place finish, and claim the Europa League in emphatic fashion.

Despite his success, Sarri intends on leaving, and is likely returning to Italy with the bianconeri as front-runners for his signature. According to Italian media outlets, the former Napoli boss feels his work at Chelsea went under-appreciated, and is leaving as a result of this. While Juventus’ offensive players will be licking their lips at the prospect of Sarriball, including a certain Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, one player to keep an eye on is Daniele Rugani.

The defender had a torrid season under Massimiliano Allegri, and failed to take his game to the next level, as many expected him to. Every time he featured, Juventus’ rearguard looked shaky, and never had any sense of cohesion. However, Rugani is a player Sarri has valued for a long time now, and even pushed for his signing when he was at Napoli. Even if it never materialized, it shows Sarri holds the defender in high regard.

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When the pair were together at Empoli, the young defender was a crucial part in the tactician’s setup, and played an integral part to his possession-based buildup out of the back. Outside of his confidence on the ball, Rugani was a lockdown defender in Tuscany, something that he has since failed to translate to Juventus.

At Juventus, it’s been a complete different story for the centre-back. Often playing second fiddle to Leonardo Bonucci, Mehdi Benatia or Giorgio Chiellini, Rugani has struggled for consistency, and has looked a shade of his former self when called upon. This season, the former Empoli man was regularly bested by physical opposition, and often looked timid in possession. With Bonucci and Chiellini on the wrong side of thirty, it’s time Rugani steps up and delivers on the hype.

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While question marks remain over his ability due to his recent exploits, Rugani was fantastic at Empoli under Sarri, and proved to be one of the league’s top defenders. Should Sarri join the bianconeri, as it’s largely being reported by the ever reliable Romeo Agresti, expect Rugani to have a bigger role at the club. In addition to the added responsibility, the 24-year-old will have the complete faith of his manager, something that might have been lacking under Allegri.

With his newfound confidence, Rugani will experience a resurgence of sorts, and could potentially develop into the defender many expected him to be. Under Sarri, much like it was the case at Empoli, Rugani could continue his progression as a ball-playing defender. In recent times, this aspect to Rugani’s game has stagnated, as he has focused solely on defending.

With his risk-averse mentality holding him back, Rugani hasn’t been able to demonstrate his complete ability, and has since been labelled a flop. That being said, expect the tune to change under Sarri’s guidance and witness Rugani reborn. After all, it may just be his last shot at redemption in Turin.

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Roma’s Hot Seat: The Contenders

With Roma on the prowl for a new manager following a disappointing season in the nation’s capital, many of Italy’s tacticians have been linked with a move to the giallorossi. After missing out on the Champions League, the Roma brass are looking for fresh ideas, and start anew once more. Here are the current contenders for the job, including the favourites, a couple long-shots, and everyone in between.

1) Sinisa Mihajlovic (Bologna) 

The Bologna manager is arguably the likeliest to become Roma’s boss next season, and has demonstrated he has the personality to coach one of the league’s top clubs in the future. After replacing Pippo Inzaghi half-way through the season, the Serbian tactician steered Bologna to safety with ease, and made the most of their limited roster.

Instilling an offensive 4-2-3-1, Mihajlovic took Bologna to another level, and inevitably catapulted them from the relegation zone to a respectable tenth place finish. Prior to his arrival, Bologna looked a side devoid of an identity, and appeared set to go down to Italy’s second division.

Under his guidance, offensive talent Riccardo Orsolini stepped up, scoring four goals and registering one assist in his last six appearances, and gave a glimpse of what’s to come to the rest of the calcio world. Following his strong finish, Bologna exercised their option to purchase him completely from Juventus.

Other than getting Bologna firing on all cylinders in the final third, Mihajlovic, much like it has been the case his entire managerial career, introduced new-found solidity in the midfield with his double pivot, and laid the foundations at the club for next season. Should he join Roma, as it’s largely being reported, expect the Serb to do the same and continue his progression as a young manager.

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2) Marco Giampaolo (Sampdoria) 

The Sampdoria boss has long been regarded as one of the peninsula’s up and coming tacticians, and has continued his development at Sampdoria this past year. While this season ended in disappointing fashion for the blucerchiati finishing outside the European places, Giampaolo made strides forward, and continued to implement his possession-based game in Genoa.

Bringing his trademark 4-3-1-2 no matter the club he’s at, he may prove to be a good fit for a stuttering giallorossi side. This season, Roma lacked invention in the final third, and played much of the season looking lethargic in possession. However, just like Mihajlovic, Giampaolo is relatively untested at the highest level, and is yet to prove himself in the upper echelon of Italian football. With Roma looking to get back into the Champions League as early as next season, hiring Giampaolo is a risk they may not be able to afford.

It’s also important to note that Milan are also in the running for the tactician, and are arguably the front-runners for his signature. In any case, don’t expect Giampaolo to be the man to restore Roma to their former heights.

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3) The outsiders

Outside of Mihajlovic and Giampaolo, a host of other names have been linked to the Roma hot-seat, albeit less seriously. If recent reports are to be believed, Shaktar’s Paulo Fonseca has been coveted by the Roma management, and could be brought in this coming summer. Like Giampaolo, Fonseca values possession-based football, and has done wonders with his Ukrainian outfit in recent years, especially in the Champions League. Despite being a long shot for the time being, he’d be an impressive appointment, all things considered.

Another name linked to the side is Sassuolo’s Roberto De Zerbi. After impressing at Benevento in his first season in Serie A, De Zerbi was appointed as Sassuolo’s manager. Despite the neroverdi’s limited roster, the Italian tactician guided them comfortably to a 12th place finish, all-while playing progressive football with a strong Italian base. Much like the other candidates, De Zerbi is unproven but has demonstrated he’s one of the nation’s most forward-thinking managers.

Other names that have been vaguely linked to Roma are former Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso, who Francesco Totti is reportedly pushing for, and Jose Mourinho. However, these links should be taken with a heavy grain of salt, and are arguably meant more to sell papers than anything else.

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Where next for Simone Inzaghi?

Simone Inzaghi

Since being appointed as Lazio’s interim head coach in 2016, Simone Inzaghi has transformed the biancocelesti into one of the league’s most compact sides, and has consistently delivered silverware, winning the Supercoppa in 2017 against Juventus, and most recently claiming the Coppa Italia this season after dispatching Atalanta. The two trophies are indicative of Inzaghi’s good work at the club, but it may be time for the Italian tactician to consider his future, and evaluate the possibility of joining one of Italy’s elite.

With both Juventus, and Milan considering him for their managerial vacancy, Inzaghi would be wise to wait before committing his future to Lazio. While club president Claudio Lotito and Inzaghi have an excellent rapport – to a point where the former views his tactician as ‘his son’ – it’s time Inzaghi demands more.

Given the current roster at his disposal, it’s clear Inzaghi’s gotten the most out of them, and has arguably seen his side peak. If they are to build off their two trophies, and consistently qualify for the Champions League, an aspiration shared by the entire club, they will undoubtedly need reinforcements. Going into next season, Lazio could arguably use another centre-back, a wing-back, and another striker to compete with Immobile and Caicedo.

Since Inzaghi’s hiring, Lotito has been conservative in the transfer market, and has opted for minor reinforcements rather than a complete squad upheaval. While this helps build chemistry, Lazio will need to dip into their transfer funds if they want to compete with the Milan clubs, and fierce rivals Roma. As the competition grows, so does their need to spend.

If Lotito guarantees Inzaghi a higher salary and more say on the transfer market, the Italian tactician should heavily consider remaining at Lazio for the foreseeable future. However, the managerial vacancy at Juventus may complicate affairs.

The bianconeri are far and away the best side in Italy, and don’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Armed with Cristiano Ronaldo, coaching Juventus is an enticing prospect for any manager, let alone an up and coming Italian one like Inzaghi. Given his positive relationship with Fabio Paratici that goes back to their childhood, the Lazio tactician could emerge as a front-runner for the role. His experience in Serie A will undoubtedly put him near the top of Juve’s list, but he’s not there alone.

In recent times, Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino have also been linked to the vacancy. In any case, joining Juventus would allow Inzaghi to take the next step in his career, and is a unique opportunity to grow his trophy case and reputation within the peninsula.

Milan, on the other hand, are frankly a less enticing option at the moment, but their appeal cannot be discounted. Despite their recent struggles, the rossoneri remain one of the league’s sleeping giants, and have improved significantly since last season. A lot, however, will depend on Champions League qualification, and whether or not, they will pip Inter or Atalanta to the final spot.

If they manage to claim top four, and promise to reinforce in key areas notably centre-back and left-wing, Inzaghi may be tempted to abandon his Lazio post for greener pastures.

While managing the biancocelesti has given Inzaghi the exposure and the necessary experience to take the next step from the primavera, managing one of Juventus or Milan may be an opportunity he can’t afford to turn down at this point in his career. After all, there aren’t many top class managers currently on the market, and by mere process of elimination, Inzaghi may find himself in contention for the jobs.

Much like he has done his entire career, expect Inzaghi to seize the opportunity and continue to propel his managerial career forward. That is, unless, Lotito makes him an offer he can’t refuse…

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Champions League Race: A Comprehensive Breakdown

With the Champions League race going down to the wire in Serie A, the final match-day promises to make for exciting viewing. Atalanta, Inter and Milan are separated by a mere point, while the possibility of Roma sneaking in can’t be discounted either.

At the moment, it is Gasperini’s men, and Spalletti’s nerazzurri that control their own fate, while the other two sides are on the outside looking in – albeit a little too close for comfort. As entry to Europe’s elite competition promises a pitfall of cash and prestige, achieving Champions League football is of the utmost importance, and could have serious repercussions on any of these sides’ transfer windows.

Let’s being with Gasperini’s Atalanta. Against all odds, gli Orobici find themselves in third, and control their own destiny in their final game. Win, and they qualify for the Champions League. After an impressive season that saw them play high-flying football, and reach the Coppa Italia final, Atalanta could cap it off with a berth in next season’s Champions League.

While technically they are the home side for this clash, Atalanta have recently been remodelling their stadium, conveniently relocated all their remaining home games to Sassuolo. As luck would have it, Atalanta’s last game is, of course, against Sassuolo.

The neroverdi have nothing to play for, but have always proven to be a difficult opposition. However, in their first game, Gasperini’s men dispatched them rather easily, pumping six past Sassuolo. With Duvan Zapata, Alejandro Gomez, and Josip Ilicic firing on all cylinders, they should have enough to beat the “visitors”.

Inter, on the other hand, take on Empoli at the San Siro. With Empoli languishing in and around the relegation zone, the Tuscan-based outfit will be fighting for their life, and won’t be easy to overcome. In fact, Aurelio Andreazzoli’s men have been one of the league’s most in-form sides, winning their last three games. As a result, this clash won’t be as straightforward as the table suggests, and the nerazzurri will need to be at their best.

Inter’s cross-town rivals, Milan, will be travelling to the Stadio Paolo Mazza to take on SPAL 2013. After months of being in the top four, the rossoneri now find themselves in fifth, however, just one point back of Atalanta and Inter. Should Gattuso’s men claim the victory, and either of their competitors drops points, Milan will be making their long-awaited return to Champions League football. If they don’t, however, they will be kicking themselves, as they were in the driver’s seat for the most part of the season.

While Milan will need some help to qualify, at the very least, their odds are better than Roma’s. Ranieri’s men will need a small miracle to qualify on the final match-day. They’ll need to beat Parma by five clear goals, while Milan and Inter lose, and Atalanta avoid defeat. Unlikely.

Otherwise, they’ll need to win, while all of their other competitors lose their games. Another unlikely scenario. Much like Milan, Roma have themselves to blame for this, and have been dropping points to the league’s provinciali all season.

In any case, whichever way this race ends, there will be fireworks. Either Gasperini’s Atalanta cap off their phenomenal cinderella season in impressive fashion, or both Milan giants will be returning to Europe’s elite competition together. And Roma, well, best of luck. You’ll need it.

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Juventus 2018-2019: Player Ratings

With the Serie A season coming to a close, and Massimiliano Allegri on his way out, it’s time to evaluate the season that was and have a look at how Juventus’ players have fared.

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Goalkeepers: 

Wojciech Szczęsny – 9/10: In his first full season without Gianluigi Buffon, the Pole did wonderfully, and was arguably Juve’s most consistent performer. Proved to be the ideal replacement for Gigi.

Mattia Perin – 5/10: Well, only one goalkeeper can play and the former Genoa man was a victim of Szczęsny’s phenomenal form. Otherwise saw his season derailed by injury problems. Could use a move away.

Carlo Pinsoglio – N/A: Did not play a single minute. Mostly there for the training pictures.

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Defenders: 

Mattia De Sciglio – 5/10: Was one of Allegri’s favourites, and was his typical solid but unspectacular self. However, the Italian didn’t offer much going forward, and had some lapses in concentration when called upon.

Giorgio Chiellini – 7.5/10: Would have a higher grade if it weren’t for injuries, but the hard-nosed defender was Juventus’ best without a doubt. Without him, the team struggled, and largely missed his presence and physical stature. Showing no signs of slowing down.

Martin Caceres – 4/10: Brought in due to an injury crisis at the back in January, and rarely featured. When he did play, however, he showed exactly why the club moved on from him.

Alex Sandro – 5/10: Where is the Brazilian of two seasons ago? Much like De Sciglio, Alex Sandro was unspectacular throughout most of the season, and often lost his marker in the defensive third. Showed close to nothing in the final third, and will need to adjust his game moving into next season. Mediocre.

Andrea Barzagli – 6/10: The veteran defender rarely featured throughout this year, and saw his final season ravaged by injury problems. Regardless, any time he saw the pitch he did his job with aplomb. Farewell, la Roccia. 

Leonardo Bonucci – 6/10: The defender returned to Juventus in controversial fashion, however, didn’t do much to win the fans back this season. Was a shadow of his former self, and outside of a few impressive performances, it appears that Bonucci has regressed significantly. Lost his man or was beat in the air more times than I can count.

Joao Cancelo – 6.5/10: You get the feeling he was held back by Allegri. After a blistering start to the season where the Portuguese defender was Juve’s best player, Cancelo was reduced to a bench role and struggled for consistency in the second half of the year. While he still needs to improve defensively, Cancelo demonstrated, on his day, he’s among the best fullbacks in the league.

Daniele Rugani – 5/10: Many expected more from the former Empoli man, however, once again, Rugani disappointed. Was beat by almost every physical threat he came up against, and looked hesitant in every game he played. He will need to improve, or will likely be shuffled out of the rotation.

Leonardo Spinazzola – 6/10: Like Cancelo, his grade would be higher if not for Allegri. Despite Alex Sandro’s indifferent performances, the Italian international was mostly used off the bench, until the return leg against Atletico where he was a constant menace. Expect Spinazzola to have a much bigger role next season.

pjanic

Midfielders: 

Miralem Pjanić – 6/10: The Bosnian international had his worst season in bianconero, and was inconsistent throughout the entire campaign. Despite flashes of brilliance, Pjanić was a bystander throughout most games, and arguably needs to play higher up the pitch. Gets a pass as Juve’s midfield as a whole was a mess, but shouldn’t be considered untouchable in any way.

Sami Khedira – 4/10: When he wasn’t in the infirmary, the German was labouring on the pitch and struggled to impose himself. It’s time Khedira leaves Juventus, and starts fresh elsewhere.

Blaise Matuidi – 6.5/10: The Frenchman was a crucial part to Juventus’ midfield, and did the dirty work for his teammates. While his skill-set and technique in general are limited, his industrious ways meant he always played an important role in big games. For that alone, there’s value in keeping him next season, albeit in a subdued role.

Emre Can – 6/10: Like his teammates, the German international was consistently inconsistent. His performance against Atletico Madrid was a masterclass in versatility and awareness, but the former Liverpool man was unable to recreate that on a weekly basis. Like Matuidi, expect him to feature regularly next season.

Rodrigo Bentancur – 5/10: Juventus expected much more from the Uruguayan this season, but Bentancur appeared to stagnate. Needs to cut out the silly fouls, and play more direct with the ball at his feet. Should get another season to figure it out as the talent is there, otherwise Bentancur should expect to be put on the chopping block.

Forwards: 

Cristiano Ronaldo – 9/10: The Portuguese international was among the few consistent performers this season, and almost dragged Juventus deep into the Champions League on his own. Simply put, Ronaldo showed up. His teammates did not.

Paulo Dybala – 5/10: Another victim of Allegriball. The Argentine international looked lost all season, and failed to adapt to a deeper role. While Allegri’s tactics will get much of the blame, Dybala himself could have been much, much better. Expect to see him reborn next season under a new manager.

Douglas Costa – 5/10: Spit-gate, injuries, and overall inconsistency kept the Brazilian out of the eleven, but he did relatively well when called upon. With Allegri gone and the shackles off, Douglas Costa is another player that is set to benefit.

Juan Cuadrado – 5.5/10: The Colombian international saw his playing time limited due to injuries, and only featured regularly towards the tail end of the season. Expect Juve to shop him around, as they cannot afford yet another inconsistent performer in the final third.

Mario Mandzukic – 6.5/10: A tail of two halves. In the first half of the season, the Croatian was as crucial as Ronaldo, scoring important goals every other week. After the winter break, however, fatigue caught up to him, and Mandzukic struggled to impose himself. Will benefit from a much needed break this summer.

Moise Kean – 7/10: The youngster played a crucial role in Juventus’ eighth consecutive Scudetto, scoring important goals against Udinese, Cagliari and Milan among others. With a mini-revolution on the cards, Kean’s importance at the club will only grow.

Federico Bernardeschi – 6/10: Bernardeschi had his best season yet at Juventus, however, that’s not saying much. His heroics against Atletico Madrid and his strong start to the season did a lot for his general perception, but it doesn’t change the fact that the former Fiorentina man was often ineffective in the final third. He’s clearly very talented but for a player with over 2000 minutes of football in all competitions, Juve expect more than three goals and four assists. In any case, he made positive strides forward.

Coach: 

Massimiliano Allegri: 4.5/10: Had the keys to a Ferrari, but drove it like a Prius. The former Milan boss will be kicking himself for not doing more with the squad at his disposal, which led to his sacking. Juventus’ heartbreaking defeat in Cardiff seems to have gotten the better of him therefore a sabbatical should serve him well. 4.5 points for winning the Scudetto, zero elsewhere.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Fantasy Football Managers? If you want to test your knowledge of Italian football then play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

 

 

Bargain Hunting: Three Relegation Bound Players

With the Serie A season coming to a close, many of the league’s relegation-bound sides will be putting their best players on the market. Needing to trim their wage bill, some players will be available cheaply, opening the room for bargains. Every year there’s a few players that stick out from the rest, and frankly deserve better than a season in Italy’s second division. Here are three players who might be worth a look into for Italy’s mid-table sides.

Chievo – Mariusz Stepinski (Striker)

In his second season in Italian football, Stepinski has grown immensely as a forward, and has done his best to lead Chievo’s misfiring front-line. While goals proved hard to come by in Verona this season, the Polish forward found the back of the net six times, two of which came in the early goings of the year against Juventus and Roma.

At just 24 years old, Stepinski deserves another shot at top flight football, albeit with a more progressive side. Simply put, any side in the bottom half of the table could make do with his services.

Midfielder Sofian Kiyine could also be of interest to sides looking to bolster their midfield with youth, and has demonstrated he’s more than capable of holding his own.

Empoli – Ismael Bennacer (Center Midfield) 

The Empoli midfielder has been in sensational form this season, and has done exceptionally well at the heart of the Tuscan’s midfield. Bennacer has proven equally capable of shielding the back four, as he is spreading the ball as evidenced through his five assists, and is undoubtedly ready for a bigger club. With many of Serie A’s sides missing a link between attack and defence, the Algerian could prove to be an under-the-radar, low-cost option.

However, English giants Arsenal reportedly have a lowly 6 million euros buy-back clause in the 21-year-old’s contract, and are worth monitoring themselves. With Empoli’s Serie A status in doubt, expect Bennacer to be on the move come summertime.

Teammate Francesco Caputo, and his 15 goals, are also worth mentioning, but his age may prove to be a deterrent for most sides. In any case, the striker could prove to be an interesting option for the newly-promoted sides.

Frosinone – Camillo Ciano (Attacking Midfielder)

With Frosinone going down to Serie B, many of their players will be available rather cheaply. While loanees Francesco Cassata, and Andrea Pinamonti are of great interest, they will return to their parent clubs Sassuolo and Inter respectively. If either is available again, they should definitely be made priorities. However, Serie A’s mid-table to lower tier sides would be wise to focus their attention on attacking midfielder Camillo Ciano. 

The 29-year-old has proven effective in a front two, and is versatile enough to play behind the striker as well. His seven goals and four assists illustrate he’s worthy of Italy’s top flight, and will undoubtedly be on the radar of the newly-promoted outfits looking for goals, and creativity in the final third. As he is nearing 30 years old, Ciano could prove to be a bargain.

Sportiello is worthy of consideration, as well, but is coming off one of his poorer seasons since establishing himself as a number one within Italy.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Fantasy Football Managers? If you want to test your knowledge of Italian football then play www.fantasyseriea.com now!