Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 34

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Salvatore Sirigu: he is having a brilliant season and Milan’s attack has sputtered quite a bit lately, failing to score more than once in five straight contests.

Aleksandar Kolarov: the Giallorossi will be down some offensive pieces on Saturday, so they might rely more than usual on the veteran left back, who has often popped up in the stat sheet. Cagliari also have the second-worst road offense in the League.

Gianluca Mancini: he is poised to have an even more significant role since Rafael Toloi went down with an ankle injury. Udinese have bagged just 12 goals in away games thus far and the Italian youngster has already done a lot of damage attacking on set pieces. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 34

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Roma-Cagliari: the Giallorossi collected their fourth good result in a row last week in San Siro versus Inter, showing pretty well against the mighty opponent. They topped Sampdoria and Udinese in the previous two games. They are in the hunt of the fourth place, one point behind Milan and Sampdoria. The Sardinians have lost only once in the last six games, to Juventus, which allowed them to reach the 10th position and seal the permanence in Serie A, not mathematically but de facto, considering the 11-point lead. They have struggled all year on the road up before this recent sprint. La Lupa will be without Bryan Cristante and Nicolò Zaniolo, which will pave the way to the XI to two between Cengiz Under, Patrik Schick, Diego Perotti, Justin Kluivert and Javier Pastore. Continue reading

AC Milan 0-1 Lazio: The Rossoneri fail to reach Coppa Italia final

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Gattuso’s men didn’t create anything up front and were subsequently punished by Lazio, who snatched the ticket to the Coppa Italia final. Another disappointing result for Milan, who have a lot to work on ahead of Sunday’s clash with Torino. 

The early stages of the game offered poor play from both sides, as neither of them managed to get a grip of the game, which resulted in a lot of wasteful passes. However, eventually, Milan got a hold of the possession but failed to create chances up front, while Lazio looked dangerous on the counter attacks.

The Rossoneri’s first chance came after nearly 30 minutes of play. Calabria tried his luck with a left-footed effort on the edge of the box, and Strakosha had to stretch to reach the ball, which was destined for the bottom corner. In addition to this, Suso had an opportunity in the latter stages of the first half, but completely failed to hit the target with a disappointing effort.

Lazio had the final say of the first 45 as Correa linked up brilliantly with Immobile, starting on the left side. The former, however, was stopped by Pepe Reina in goal, who made a great save to keep his team in the game. The first half ended with everything still to play for in the second.

Both teams suffered two tough injuries, as Milinkovic-Savic and Calabria were subbed off. The latter received a knock and was replaced by Conti, while the Lazio star slipped and twisted his ankle in a nasty situation. For the Biancocelesti, it could potentially be devastating in the race for Champions League, should Milinkovic-Savic miss several games.

In the second half, Lazio really showed why they deserved to go through this evening. Reina kept Milan in the game on several occasions, making a few impressive saves in the process. Despite the warning signs, the Rossoneri were unable to respond, as Correa gave Lazio the lead after 58th minutes. A brilliant counter-attack was finished off by the Argentinian, and so Milan needed to score two goals.

Evidently, they failed to do so. In fact, they didn’t even get close, bar an offside goal by Cutrone. In other words, the performance was very disappointing, and the Rossoneri are clearly lacking creativity in the attacking phase. The formation change really didn’t help them either, as Lazio were able to run down the clock with ease, while Gattuso’s men tried to attack without any success.

Given that Juventus won’t be in the Coppa Italia final this year, it’s certainly a big chance missed for Milan. A trophy would’ve done the team well, even though Champions League obviously would’ve remained the primary target in any case. However, that is no excuse for putting in a poor display, especially when a spot in a final is on the line. Now a tough away clash against Torino awaits, one which is decisive for the target mentioned above.

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Khedira relishes Scudetto and new kit leaked

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Sami Khedira attended the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart yesterday and briefly commented on Juventus’ season: “Champions League is unpredictable and was certainly our goal considering the investments. Seven or eight teams dream to win it, so we must accept this elimination, even though it is tough.”

“We have won the title for eighth time in a row, which is something special and that should not be taken for granted. I do not consider it a consolation prize, but a great success. We must continue to win the league while trying to take home the Champions League after 20 years. That is how you work with the right perspective.” Continue reading

Vecino insists Derby d’Italia is a great opportunity for Inter

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During an interview with Sky Sport, Matías Vecino discussed the forthcoming Derby d’Italia between Inter and Juventus. Here is what the Uruguayan had to say ahead of a potentially decisive match in the race to secure UEFA Champions League football next season: Continue reading

Dybala replies to kids’ questions and Mandzukic rumours

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Paulo Dybala answered to some questions coming from kids through a Tuttosport initiative. He began by addressing who his childhood idols were: “I liked Juan Riquelme a lot, but I have never seen him play in person. I admired Ronaldinho too.”

On playing other sports: “I have tried out tennis and basket, but for a limited amount of time. I have always played football. I started really young, when I was 4 or five, in an academy. When I look back at those times, I always remember having a ball between my feet.”

On his dream: “I wanted to play football, that was my goal and my dream. I have made a lot of sacrifices, but I pulled it off by debuting with Instituto de Cordoba when I was 17.” Continue reading

What Inter’s pursuit of Danilo says of market for wingbacks

In recent years we saw the value of center backs sky rocket on the market. The old adage that you should only spend significantly on goal scorer was turned over its head with the prices paid for David Luiz, John Stones and finally when Virgil Van Dijk’s transfer set the record for highest fee paid for a player at his position.

It has now become an expectation that above average center backs will go for very significant prices since they are now viewed as must haves for clubs that want to win. This same phenomenon is expected to now also start applying to a position that is even more scarce on the market, especially for Serie A clubs, with fullbacks/wingbacks becoming the “IT” position- everyone wants them but few have them.

The rule of supply and demand certainly also applies to football transfers. If there are very few quality players at a certain position and have multiple teams bidding on them, their price will increase faster than Salah flies down the pitch. The domino effect of this is that even lesser players will start going for fees that will surprise the average fan- I was thinking about all these factors when we first heard Inter are strongly pursuing Danilo.

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The nerazzurri have had a revolving door at the right back position. They would have liked to keep Cancelo last summer, but their Financial Fair Play restrictions made it next to impossible so they brought Sime Vrsaljko back to Serie A on a loan with option to buy deal but the former Sassuolo defender struggled after suffering an injury during Croatia’s impressive run in the World Cup.

To their credit, Inter acted quickly to fill the void during the January window by acquiring Cedric Soares in January (on you guessed it, a loan with option to buy deal) but the Portuguese international failed to impress leaving Danilo D’Ambrosio as Spalletti’s more reliable option at right back. Inter are already looking to the future and have identified Danilo as their top target.

The Brazilian failed to establish himself at Manchester City and is now looking for a new opportunity. But there’s an issue- his enormous wages. The scarcity at the right back position helped Danilo land a contract with annual wages of around 5 million euro net of taxes including substantial bonuses. To put things in perspective, that is more than Skriniar received on his recent extension and about what Inter’s top earners make.

Are Inter desperate enough to fill the void at the right back position that they’ll come close to offering Danilo his current wages to entice him to come? While Danilo does have serious defensive liabilities, you would probably get the most out of his offensive abilities by using him as a right wing back on a defense that features three stud center backs- something Inter will have once they announce the signing of Diego Godin. In addition, when Inter scan the market, they’ll see that there aren’t enough options to fill the needs of all the teams in the market for a right back- including many of their rivals in Serie A.

It wasn’t long ago that Napoli had one of the best wingback duos in Serie A in Hysaj and Ghoulam. While the Albanian right back’s struggles can be partly justified by the fact Sarri left (the two were together at Empoli before reuniting at Napoli), he went from being arguably the most complete player at his position in Serie A to a total liability. Ghoulam on the other hand has never been the same player since his second knee injury.

To replace Hysaj, Napoli are looking for a player to compliment Malcuit who has shown to be quite adept offensively. The partenopei’s first target is Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier, who would certainly be an intriguing option for Ancelotti- it remains to be seen if Napoli can convince him to leave the Premier League (where he’s also being pursued by Manchester United) and if they can meet Tottenham’s price. In addition to Napoli, bot Roma and Lazio could use upgrades at both wing back positions while Milan could consider looking to improve from Ricardo Rodriguez.

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Considering how competitive the wing back market has become in recent years, it’s not surprisingly to have seen Juventus invest so much at the position. The bianconeri gave a substantial raise to Alex Sandro despite his fairly significant drop in performance in the past two season and then invested 40 million euro in Joao Cancelo. Juventus didn’t stop there since they also acquired De Sciglio last summer and decided to bring Spinazzola back to Turin.

Trying to bridge the gap with the bianconeri at the wing back position will be a priority for Serie A clubs this summer- considering the lack of quality options, one thing is for sure- it will be very expensive to try and make it happen.

 

What should Juventus do with Paulo Dybala?

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With reports linking Juventus to moves to up and coming offensive stars like Fiorentina’s Federico Chiesa, and Benfica’s Joao Felix, it begs the question: Where does Paulo Dybala fit in Massimiliano Allegri’s plans for next season? La Joya is coming off his worst season in bianconero, and has largely struggled to fit into Allegri’s tactical schemes this year. When he isn’t dropping deep into the midfield, Dybala often finds himself wide on the right looking for time and space.

What his inevitably leads to is the Argentine international picking up the ball far away from the goal, with little possibility to make the most of his creativity in the final third. With Cristiano Ronaldo occupying a central position, Dybala has found it hard to carve out a consistent place for himself in the starting eleven, and will need to adapt moving forward. While his output and overall play suffered immensely, Juventus would be foolish to give up on the 25-year-old at the first sign of adversity, and instead re-think his best position.

After all, Dybala was dubbed the heir to Alessandro Del Piero, and was awarded the number ten jersey with this in mind. In 36 appearances in all competitions this season, the former Palermo man notched 10 goals, and four assists; his worst return since his first season in Serie A back in 2012.

While it would be easy to discard him and sell him to the highest bidder, Juventus should avoid that at all costs, and look to incorporate him more into their setup. Basic economics state that it’s foolish to sell an asset at their lowest value. Following this indifferent season, the only way for the Juventus man is up.

This season Dybala’s role was largely on the periphery of the first team, and he was rarely given the license to dictate play. At times, he cut a frustrated figure and disappeared in games, however, Juventus should not forget about the natural talent he has at his disposal. We’re still talking about a player that scored 19 goals in league play in his first season, and a further 22 last season. In addition, the Juventus board would be suffering from short-term memory loss if they have already forgotten his man-of-the-match displays in the Champions League against Barcelona, and Tottenham.

Given the results-oriented nature at Juventus, Allegri opted not to take any risks, and rather than letting Dybala play through his struggles, the former Milan tactician went with Mario Mandzukic and Federico Bernardeschi. While both players are crucial pieces to the Juventus machine, neither possess the natural talent Dybala does. Given that they are willing runners, both featured consistently in Juve’s big games, yet fail to offer what Dybala could in the final third. If Juventus are to hit that next level, something they failed to do this season, they will need La Joya playing his best football.

Even though Mandzukic and Bernardeschi are arguably better fits alongside Ronaldo in Allegri’s current setup, the Juventus boss didn’t bother trying any alternatives, and instead trying fitting in a circle in a square peg. When that didn’t work, Dybala was relegated to a bench role, and his struggles continued. Next season, Allegri will either need to change his tactical setup or he will risk wasting Dybala’s talents two years running.

At Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane got the best out of Ronaldo alongside Benzema with Isco behind them pulling the strings in a 4-3-1-2. Allegri should take notes, and use Dybala in similar fashion to the Spaniard. While it is increasingly difficult to incorporate a trequartista into modern tactical schemes, Juventus cannot afford to leave Dybala out of the lineup consistently.

On Dybala’s end, on the other hand, he’ll need to improve. That goes without saying. At times, the former Palermo man looked tuned out of games, and let his frustrations get the better of him. If Fabio Paratici’s words are anything to go by, however, Dybala and Allegri will need to coexist next season, and thrive together once more.

“Of course Dybala will stay. He is a Juve player and it’s obvious he will certainly remain,” said the Juventus sporting director.

Following one of their worst seasons in recent times, Juventus and Allegri will need to go back to the drawing board, and re-evaluate Dybala’s best position. Otherwise, it’ll only be a matter of time before Dybala is moved, and Juventus are back to square one.

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!

 

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 33

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Salvatore Sirigu (7 points): in the post-game, his coach Walter Mazzarri called him the #1 goalkeeper in Serie A and he has certainly been pound-by-pound the best performer between the sticks thus far. He further built his case with two tremendous dives on menacing headers by Lukas Lerager and Christian Kouame.

Erick Pulgar (9 points): his lethal right foot created the first two Bologna goals on Saturday on free kicks, as the first one led to Emil Audero’s deflection on Andrea Tonelli’s leg and into the net after rattling the crossbar, while the second one, from near the corner kick spot, had an insane trajectory that surprised the goalie. Continue reading