Juventus Top Perfomers – UCL Round Three vs Lokomotiv Moscow

Almost one of those nights for Juventus against an extremely diligent Lokomotiv Moscow, but two flashes in the dark by Paulo Dybala allowed them to down the adversary, paving the way for a serene continuation in the Champions League group stage.

Alex Sandro: conceding in this one was inexcusable considering that the Russian side barely attacked. The Brazilian fullback was the only one not to take part on the collective mistake that led to the goal, where Matthijs De Ligt was beaten in the air and especially Leonardo Bonucci was too soft. Continue reading

Genoa hire Thiago Motta to replace Andreazzoli

After a dismal display against Parma that led to the third loss in a row and the fifth one in the last six matches, Genoa decided to move on from Aurelio Andreazzoli and appointed Thiago Motta as their new coach. They have collected just five points so far, thanks to two draws against Roma and Bologna and an early win over Fiorentina, and are second-to-last in the standings. Continue reading

When is the right time to say goodbye? Juventus and Napoli have big decisions to make

The recent transfer window showed us how tricky extensions for veteran players can be for clubs. Even a team like Juventus, who are usually universally praised for the way they handle themselves on the market, found themselves with numerous older players they couldn’t move. The trick is ensuring you aren’t paying someone just to reward them for their past performances, you also have to be sure they’ll be able to perform in the future.

Inter learned this lesson the hard way- following their impressive treble run, president Massimo Moratti decided to keep his nucleus, which was for the most part on the back nine of their careers, even though he had lost the manager that made it all work. This approach is the main reason they found themselves in Financial Fair Play jail for quite some time.

While Juventus didn’t win a treble, they locked up Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira last year to new contracts that left many people puzzled. Once Max Allegri left Mario Mandzukic dropped in the depth chart faster than Apple stock following Steve Jobs’ passing and finding him a new home has been rather challenging. At least Khedira found a new fan in Maurizio Sarri, but having so many older players on big contracts (Higuain, Matuidi are also on the list) put Juventus in such a financial bind that they were doing all they could to make a plusvalenza on Paulo Dybala after previously sacrificing Joao Cancelo and Moise Kean.

Now Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici finds himself at another crossroads with Juan Cuadrado and Blaise Matuidi who have expiring contracts. Both have become surprising full time starters under Maurizio Sarri- Cuadrado has performed so well that there has been no drop off from Joao Cancelo and Matuidi has been constantly praised by his new manager for his tactical intelligence.

Will Paratici be scared off from what happened this summer? He would be hard pressed to find a better right back than Cuadrado on the market, the Colombian’s ability to cover multiple roles is especially valuable to a club competing on multiple fronts like Juventus so at least a one year extension seems reasonable. Matuidi is a bit more complicated since the bianconeri signed two starting caliber midfielders on substantial Bosman deals with Emre Can and Rabiot.

At least Juventus have a decent margin for error when it comes to these decisions because of their enormous revenues. Napoli on the other hand have to continue to be very prudent when it comes to veterans, it’s no surprise that when it comes to adding new players they tend to always go with young players who have the upside to at least bring a plusvalenza down the road with the added benefit that they tend to have lower wages.

De Laurentiis and sporting director Giuntoli are in a very tough spot with Jose’ Callejon and Dries Mertens- two players who have massively outperformed the transfer fees needed to acquire them. Napoli have tried to prepare for life after these two brilliant players- they brought in Simone Verdi last year to see if he could replace Callejon and more recently Lozano to become the new Mertens, but so far this hasn’t worked out.

On paper you have to admire the thought process here- Napoli spent significantly to acquire Verdi and Lozano essentially a year earlier that they were needed to see if they could move on from Callejon and Mertens. Verdi ended up being a significant bust and has also struggled significantly since joining Torino at the very end of the last transfer window, while so far Lozano has been the least brilliant new addition to the team (this is a nice way to say he’s been flat out bad but needs to be given way more time since he just arrived in Serie A).

De Laurentiis wasn’t afraid to take the negotiations with Mertens and Callejon to the public sphere recently by stating that if “Mertens and Callejon won’t to go live a shitty life in China” to essentially get paid it wasn’t his problem. While that wasn’t exactly diplomatic, especially when you consider how much Mertens has embraced the Neapolitan life style to the point of earning the “Ciro” nickname”, he also isn’t exactly wrong, but because he has such a small margin for error with this decision he has to use the tools at his disposal.

Everyone loves beginnings- hope always springs eternal, when a new addition arrives, fans tend to focus on all the positives they can bring to the table- but once you’ve had a player for awhile, deciding to continue to the relationship can have far reaching consequences. Napoli and Juventus are now on the clock…

Serie A Best XI – Round Eight

Alex Meret (7 points): Napoli would have found themselves in an early hole if it was not for his spectacular triple save in the span of ten seconds on point-blank attempts by Darko Lazovic, Matteo Pessina and Mariusz Stepinski.

William Troost-Ekong (5 points): if Udinese are rock-solid at home a lot of the credit goes to their defensive linchpin and to his quiet leadership, which contributed to holding in check the likes of Andrea Belotti and company. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Lazio vs Atalanta

Games are often described as tales of two halves in any sport, but what went down in Lazio-Atalanta pushed the concept to the extreme. The Goddess completely dominated in the first 45 minutes and deservedly built a three-nothing lead. However, after intermission, the Biancocelesti little by little clawed back into the game, riding the white hot Ciro Immobile, and earned themselves a point. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Round – Parma

Parma were clearly the best team of the week as they rolled the reeling Genoa, even though a cheap goal ruined a glorious fantasy haul.

The Gialloblù were coming off a road loss to SPAL but had beaten Torino and Sassuolo in the last two home fixtures, climbing up the standings. Roberto D’Aversa lost Bruno Alves the day before the match and gave Kastriot Dermaku a chance in the heart of the defence, keeping Riccardo Gagliolo on the left flank, while Matteo Darmian returned from injury on the other one. In the midfield, Matteo Scozzarella and Antonino Barillà were chosen over Hernani, while the trident was the usual one. Continue reading

Ronaldo and Sarri talked ahead of Lokomotiv Moscow clash

Cristiano Ronaldo held a rare presser, a year later after his last one, joining Maurizio Sarri in the usual proceedings before the Champions League game against Lokomotiv Moscow: “I think we are playing better now, we have more confidence in ourselves, our style is different. We are more offensive and have more precise positions. My role is similar, maybe I have a little more freedom, I can go where I am most comfortable. I am happy because little by little we are moving towards where we want to be. We have a new coach and new players, but we changed in order to get better. We are doing that gradually.” Continue reading

AC Milan 2-2 Lecce: Wasteful Rossoneri have themselves to blame in Pioli’s debut

AC Milan once again disappointed their fans as Lecce managed to snatch one point at the San Siro, scoring the equaliser with just a few minutes left on the clock. A nightmare for Stefano Pioli, therefore, who didn’t get the birthday that he wished for.

The Rossoneri came out flying in the first half as Rafael Leao got two good chances within the first two minutes, both assisted by Calhanoglu. However, the Portuguese youngster failed to get his finishing right as Lecce managed to avoid conceding early on. A promising start, in other words. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Eight

Standings implications: the top two teams prevailed as Juventus defeated Bologna, while Inter survived Sassuolo’s late rally. Napoli got closer to the third spot after besting Verona since Atalanta three away a three-nothing lead against Lazio. Roma stumbled away against Sampdoria. Cagliari remain in the high-end district thanks to an easy win over SPAL and they have now put together the best start in their history. Milan got halted at the one-yard line by Lecce despite a decent debut for Stefano Pioli. Fiorentina’s winning streak was stopped by Brescia. Parma humilated Genoa, while Udinese grabbed another home win. Continue reading

Pjanic delighted for personal and team’s form

Miralem Pjanic discussed the state of the team and his stellar moment in a Sunday’s interview with Sky Sport: “I feel great, I had a strong start. I am confident and in my prime. The team is playing well and I am having fun. The goals are surely nice, but what matters the most is to be in first position in the Champions League group and in the league. We have to maintain that during the upcoming stretch of matches and maybe increase the gap.” Continue reading