Juventus Top Perfomers – Round 20 vs Parma

Juventus did not offer the cleanest nor the most inspiring performance versus Parma, but managed to take home three vital points once again propelled by Cristiano Ronaldo’s scoring prowess.

Matthijs De Ligt: another game, another key block for the Dutch starlet, who got in the way of a sure-fire attempt by Mattia Sprocati that Wojciech Szczesny probably would not have not been able to save. He also trucked and outjumped few opponents, as per usual. The Bianconeri gave up an avoidable goal, this time on a corner kick, so not only the defenders were at fault and also a lot of the credit goes to Andreas Cornelius’ gorgeous header. The goalkeeper responded well when challenged, especially on long-range attempts. Danilo entered the game with a purpose after Alex Sandro subbed off and had a flashy performance, hitting the post on an offensive incursion. More of the same understated brilliance instead out of Leonardo Bonucci. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 20

Standings implications: Juventus gained a couple of points on Inter as they eked out a W over Parma, while the Nerazzurri were held to a tie by Lecce. Lazio romped their way to their 11th win in a row against Sampdoria. Roma bounced back with a pretty decisive success in Genoa. Milan outlasted Udinese to move closer to the top six and Fiorentina’s turnaround is starting to feel real after a fairly impressive display in Naples, with the Partenopei instead still in the doldrums. Cagliari at least got a point out of the trip to Brescia, while Bologna and Verona shared the spoils. Sassuolo came back to life by upending Torino.

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AC Milan 3-2 Udinese: Pioli’s men claim three important points as Rebic comes up big

AC Milan claimed three important points at the San Siro earlier this afternoon, beating Udinese by three goals to two. The scoreline reflected the game quite well and thankfully the Rossoneri got the final word, putting more pressure on the teams above them in the standings. 

The Champions League zone is now just seven points away for Pioli’s men, although Atalanta and Roma have a game in hand. In any case, the Milan fans can at least look at the upcoming games with a bit of hope, as certainly wasn’t the case at the start of the season.  Continue reading

Three Things Napoli Should Do to Get Back on Track

Going into the new season, much was expected from Napoli under Carlo Ancelotti. Having added Kostas Manolas, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Hirving Lozano among others, the partenopei were expected to make a Scudetto push after consecutive seasons as runners-up. However, nothing of the sort has taken place and Napoli are currently languishing below mid-table and have replaced Ancelotti with Gennaro Gattuso. Here are three things Napoli should consider to get back on track.

1) Squad revolution: Sell, sell, sell! 

Most of the current Napoli side have been with the club for the greater part of the decade, and have experienced incredible highs and lows. For example: Winning 1-0 in a title decider against Juventus away from home, only to lose the following game to Fiorentina and squander their lead at the top. This undoubtedly remains in the psyche of most of their players.

After a rough start to the season, the club’s veterans turned against Ancelotti and demanded change from the upper hierarchy. Moreover, many of their ageing stars on expiring deals are asking for pay-rises due to their past exploits with the club. Exploits they probably won’t be able to recreate, if we’re being honest. Football works in cycles and one thing is clear: This cycle is over for Napoli and it’s time for a rebuild. Sell Insigne, Mertens, Hysaj and anyone in between. Out with the old and in with the new. That sounds equally exciting as it sounds scary.

2) Stick with Gattuso

This may seem like a stretch especially after the rough start to his tenure, losing four of his first five games, but Napoli would be wise to stay with Gattuso. With a full pre-season under his belt and an entire summer to sign players he wants, the former Milan tactician will have the weapons he needs to make a push for the title next season. In addition, most of his current players appear to have their heads elsewhere and could use a move away and start fresh.

While this season won’t amount to much, it will be a good opportunity for Gattuso to acclimate himself to his new surroundings and establish players he can count on. This will undoubtedly come in handy moving into the new season. In his final season at Milan, the World Cup winner almost got the rossoneri into the Champions League with a far worse roster. Given time and a roster upheaval, Gattuso will prove to be a good fit for Napoli.

3) Establish your core. 

Speaking of finding players to count on, Napoli’s top brass should use the rest of the season and evaluate their squad. Who is sellable and who is untouchable? After this year’s shocking performances, you can argue only Meret, Koulibaly, Di Lorenzo and the newcomers are off-limits. The rest should and arguably will be on the market for the right price. Fabian Ruiz, for example, has shown signs of brilliance but doesn’t look as implicated as he could be for the Napoli cause. Reports suggest Barcelona and Real Madrid are keeping tabs on the Spanish international and could present a bid upwards of 50M for the midfielder.

Another player’s future to consider is Lorenzo Insigne. While the diminutive playmaker is one of the last true bandiere in Italy, it may be time for a move away. After all, he did lead the mutiny against Ancelotti and hasn’t exactly performed on the pitch. As a result, the list of sellable players should far exceed the “untouchables.” In any case, Napoli’s season does present a silver lining: A unique opportunity to reboot and start a new cycle. Hopefully, for them, this one will be filled with silverware and that elusive Scudetto.

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

After the important away win at Cagliari, AC Milan managed to grab yet another win on Wednesday evening as they took on SPAL in the Coppa Italia. Once again, the Rossoneri looked very confident and won the game without too many issues, putting three goals past the goalkeeper. 

In other words, after the attacking struggles at the start of the season, Pioli’s men have now scored five goals in their last two games. This certainly is a sign of improvement and they have the results to show for it. On Sunday afternoon, they will have the opportunity to make it three in a row. Continue reading

Player Focus: Jeremie Boga

This season Serie A has seen a number of breakout stars make a name for themselves and attract interest from Europe’s elite. Sassuolo attacking midfielder Jeremie Boga is no different, and has established himself as one of the peninsula’s creative threats. Capable of beating the opposition with skill or finishing from range, Boga is a multi-faceted forward and is versatile enough to occupy multiple positions.

Under Roberto De Zerbi, the former Chelsea youth product has primarily featured from the left-wing but often drifts in centrally, interchanging positions with Juventus loanee Hamed Junior Traorè. Most recently, Sassuolo’s front-four combined to devastating effect against Torino, scoring two quick-fire goals and propelling them to victory over the Granata.

Boga would finish the game with a wonderfully taken goal and an assist on Berardi’s winner. Playing alongside Traorè and Berardi, Boga has really come into his own and has since been shortlisted by Italy’s elite, including Napoli and Milan among others.

While his end-product was a concern in the past, the Ivorian international has taken the step up this season and has already notched five goals for the neroverdi. Among those five goals is a carefully dispatched chip over the legendary Gianluigi Buffon in a draw against Juve and a perfectly-hit top corner effort against Torino’s Salvatore Sirigu most recently.

In addition to his increasing output, no player in Italy beats their man with as much ease as Boga does. Currently, the 23-year-old is averaging 4.3 successful dribbles per game and is proving to be a constant menace, be-it on the wing or through the middle. For context, Fiorentina Gaetano Castrovilli is the next player on the list with 3.1 successful dribbles per game. While his incredible turn of pace helps him on the counter, Boga’s main success with the ball at his feet comes from his innovation. Whether he has a tight angle or he’s given time and space, Boga is regularly scanning the field for the most dangerous option.

In the past, consistency has been an issue for the Sassuolo forward, but he has since hit his stride with Sassuolo. Playing under a progressive manager in De Zerbi, Boga has made the most of the freedom afforded to him and has filtered between the lines with regularity.

Francesco Caputo, Sassuolo’s number nine, is extremely mobile and often swaps positions with Boga, affording the winger further room in the eighteen-yard box. In this case, the player’s tactical versatility comes to the fore. Whether he’s stretching the opposition’s defence wide on the counter or finding a pocket of space in behind the midfield, Boga’s positional awareness is proving to be his ultimate asset.

Moving forward, many teams will be keeping tabs on Boga’s progress and will shortly be knocking at Sassuolo’s door with official bids. The important thing for the 23-year-old now is maintaining this level week in, week out and demonstrate he’s ready to take the next step in his career. Then it’s all about picking the right team to continue his development. While it’s still early days for Sassuolo and Boga, all the signs are pointing to a big-money move this summer.

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Sarri not looking ahead before Parma match

Maurizio Sarri opened the presser ahead of the Parma game by remembering Juventus great Pietro Anastasi, who passed away on Friday: “He was a very important player for this club and for the national team. It feels right to me to pay homage to a great footballer and man. The 1968 European championship final is one of the first games I recall and he was starring there.”

On the trident: “I would rather have abundance issues than the opposite thing. We will see how they are feeling today. The most important aspect is to dominate while being balanced, without taking risks. Continue reading

PREVIEW: Napoli-Fiorentina a match between two sides looking to recover

The wait finally ended on Sunday, Fiorentina recording their first Serie A win at home since October 6 as they held off a resilient SPAL to notch a 1-0 victory. The delight on boss Beppe Iachini’s face reflected the relief felt in the stands of the Stadio Artemio Franchi, and four days later they would grab another victory that arguably meant even more.

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Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap: Young, Milan, Barrow…

Inter have been scouring the market for new flank players and, even though the Matteo Politano-Leonardo Spinazzola swap fell through, they still got one as they acquired Ashley Young from Manchester United. The 34-year-old Englishman, who signed a six-month contract with an optional second year and has amassed over 260 appearances with the Red Devils over the last nine years, has turned into a full-fledged fullback late in his career, primarily on the left, so he will immediately push Cristiano Biraghi for the starting job. He registered five assists in his best year in that position. Continue reading