Fantasy Football News

Spalletti satisfied by Inter’s second half performance against Roma

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Luciano Spalletti spoke to the media in the aftermath of last night’s 1-1 draw between Inter and Roma at San Siro. The Tuscan tactician was irritated by his side’s lack of control throughout the first half, but was encouraged by what he saw after the interval. He was also full of praise for veteran midfielder Borja Valero, who was excellent throughout the entire 90 minutes. Here is what he said during an interview with Sky Sport: Continue reading

Torino Hang Around and Enter Top Four Race

With much of the attention surrounding the top four race going to Milan, Roma, and Lazio, Walter Mazzarri’s plucky Torino side have flown under the radar, but are still in it with a chance. With just five games to go, I Granata are in seventh place, however, sit just three points back of fourth place Milan. Playing in Mazzarri’s patented 3-5-2 with veteran leadership spread evenly across the pitch, Torino have proven to be one of the harder sides to break down within the peninsula, and hurt the opposition on the break through Andrea Belotti, and Iago Falque.

Torino are undefeated in their last five clashes, and are currently in good form ahead of a crucial stage. Next week, Torino’s top four credentials will be put to the ultimate test when they take on Milan in a direct clash for European football. A win against the struggling rossoneri would put them on equal points awaiting other clashes, and would signal their Champions League intent to the rest of the pack.

While Champions League football is unlikely given that there are five teams vying for one spot, all sides in the top four race have displayed a propensity to shoot themselves in the foot at crucial points. Just this past weekend, Roma, Milan, and Lazio all dropped points in games they should have won. As a result, the likes of Atalanta and Torino have been able to stick around the top four, and have a legitimate chance going into the final match-days.

After taking on Milan, Torino will travel down the street to take on their fierce rivals Juventus at the Allianz Stadium. While the bianconeri have regularly bested Torino over the years, they have already clinched the Scudetto, and will already be thinking of their summer vacation. After his side’s triumph over Fiorentina, Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri admitted himself today that he will try new schemes in the remaining five games. With Juve experimenting, they will likely field a wealth of their youngsters and try to blood them through. This gives Torino a unique opportunity to use their experience, and claim,what would be, a crucial three points to their top four aspirations.

Following their clash with Juve, Torino then close the season against Sassuolo, Empoli, and Lazio. While the first two opponents should be straightforward, it’s their last clash that will determine their fate.

Right now, Torino are spreading responsibility in the final third wonderfully, and don’t simply rely on one player to see them through. In fact, there are seven players on their roster this season with at least three goals or more. This includes defenders, defensive midfielders, wingers and of course, their highly rated talisman Andrea Belotti. Factor in Salvatore Sirigu’s exploits, and it’s clear to see why Torino have been hard to beat this season.

With their side firing on all cylinders, Torino could just be this season’s surprise package in Serie A and snatch Champions League football under from everyone’s noses. Until now, they haven’t received many plaudits for their efforts, but expect that to change if they were to overcome Milan.

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Crucial Summer Ahead for Juventus

After wrapping up their eighth consecutive Scudetto following their 2-1 win over Fiorentina, Juventus will now focus their efforts on addressing the issues plaguing their roster. While the bianconeri added two trophies to their haul this season, they failed in Europe losing to a superior Ajax side over the two ties, and were sent packing in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta. Both defeats spoke volumes of this Juventus side and demonstrated just how fragile the Italian champions are when pressed. Here are three fundamental questions they must answer come summertime if they are to achieve European glory.

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1) Massimiliano Allegri: In or out? 

Since their collapse in Cardiff, Juventus have not been the same, and look a side devoid of an identity. This season much of the same problems persisted. The bianconeri strolled to the Scudetto, barely challenging themselves in the process as their competitors consistently shot themselves in the foot. Frankly, most Serie A tacticians would have won the title with this roster.

What’s more frustrating for Juve is that Allegri has completely failed at instilling a consistent style of play, and largely depends on individual brilliance to see him through. And when all else fails, the Italian champions typically bombard the box with crosses, and hope for Mandzukic or Ronaldo to come through. When opposing sides pressed the bianconeri high, and played without fear, by contrast, Juventus struggled to put three passes together.

When the board meets with Allegri to discuss the past season, they should replay the Ajax and Atalanta games. In both instances, Juventus cowered deep in fear, while the bolder team was rewarded for their self-confidence. If Juve are to win the Champions League, they need a fearless leader, and one thing’s for certain: Allegri is not that. It’s the end of the Allegri era, as we know it.

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2) Project Fix The Defence. 

Since Antonio Conte brought back Juve from consecutive seventh place finishes, the bianconeri’s defence was always their foundation and backbone for success. With Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini, Juventus possessed arguably the strongest backline in the world, and kept opponents at bay with ease.

However, with Barzagli nearing retirement and Bonucci looking like a shadow of his former self since his controversial return, Juventus’ defence has been a weak point for the side and has held the team back. Factor in Alex Sandro’s continued struggles, and it’s clear to see: Without Chiellini, Juventus are a mess at the back.

Considering Daniele Rugani’s stagnation, and Bonucci’s regular lapses in concentration, it’s time Juventus revamp their defence. First of all, they shouldn’t hesitate to sell Rugani and Alex Sandro as soon as a good offer arrives. The former has been a disaster when called upon, and shirks at the first sight of a physical battle. Alex Sandro, by contrast, has lost most of his pace, and offers close to nothing in the final third.

With Cristian Romero already on his way from Genoa, and Leonardo Spinazzola improving with every week, the state of Juventus’ defence remains decent. However, they will need at least two reinforcements: a centre-back and a left back.

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3) Project Fix the Midfield.

Much like the defence, Juventus’ midfield is in complete disarray, and lacks a true leader. Since dismantling their midfield in 2015 by selling Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, the bianconeri are yet to bolster the midfield sufficiently. At the moment, only Miralem Pjanic and potentially Emre Can are worthy starters, while the others are solid bench options at best.

Even Pjanic and Can, who on their day are world beaters, struggle to impose themselves, and aren’t meant to lead the midfield as seen through the Ajax clashes. Despite Aaron Ramsey’s arrival, Juventus are still lacking one profile in their midfield. A ball-winner capable of maintaining possession. What they would do for a prime Claudio Marchisio again? But Juventus could settle for Lyon’s Tanguy N’Dombele.

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Juventus Top Performers – Round 33

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Juventus survived a lifeless first half again Fiorentina, where they could have found themselves in a big hole, cranked it up in the second 45 minutes and took home the points they needed to wrap up the title race, which for the first time in Serie A history is over before Easter.

Alex Sandro (4 points): not an overly impressive showing by the Brazilian left back, but the goal, a pretty header attacking the first post on a corner kick, massively helped the Bianconeri, who started to play convincingly only after that goal. As for the others, Wojciech Szczesny did not have an easy day between a knock on the wrist and a near laughable blunder in the first half, but came out perfectly late on the uncovered Bryan Dabo to prevent the equalizer. Continue reading

Dzeko at a crossroads, should Roma try to repeat Nainggolan deal?

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The saying Rome wasn’t built on a day also applies to one of the local football teams. Last summer the giallorossi started an aggressive rebuild project despite making the Champions League, the club’s ownership thought they had the right man to oversee the creation of a young team in Monchi who cashed in on Alisson while also moving Strootman and Nainggolan since they were on the down side of their careers.

While Roma were able to qualify out of their group in the Champions League, they suffered an embarrassing loss in the Coppa Italia against Fiorentina and find themselves in serious jeopardy of not getting back to the Champions League which would be disastrous to the club’s already fragile balance sheet. 

Regardless of where they finish in the Serie A standings, we can expect Roma to continue their rebuild as they look to shed some significant wages- the only difference is they’ll have someone other than Monchi overseeing the project. The new sporting director is likely to however try to repeat the Nainggolan deal with Inter, which turned out to be arguably be the most move Monchi made at the club.

With just one year left on his contract Edin Dzeko is at a cross roads, especially since he’s the giallorossi’s highest paid player at a time where every expense is taken into account. The Bosnian striker hasn’t been as effective as demonstrated by the fact he hadn’t scored at the Olimpico in close to a year, but he’s also a player that can make the difference in big moments and whose value can’t be measured in goals alone. 

Roma will have to make a decision on what to do with Dzeko before he can leave on a Bosman deal- they simply cannot afford to lose a prized asset even if he’s 33. The decision would be easier to make if his heir apparent Patrik Schick hadn’t been such a bust, but while they don’t have a ready replacement on the squad they are likely to move on.

Dzeko has some leverage thanks to an offer from West Ham as well as interest from Germany and Turkey, but probably not enough to convince Roma’s he’s worth his current wages of close to 5 million euro net of taxes on a deal that will take him to his mid 30s. Dzeko however does have an ace up his sleeve since his preference is to stay in Italy- Inter are looking at him as the ideal mentor for their promising attacker Lautaro Martinez- another striker whose value cannot be measured on goals alone.

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Regardless of who is managing Inter next season, there will almost certainly be someone on their bench who values Dzeko’s skills between his former coach at Roma Luciano Spalletti and his rumored replacement Antonio Conte, who loves strikers who can create space for scoring opportunities from the midfield.

In addition to a manager who values Dzeko, an ownership group with deep pockets who can meet his financial demand, Inter has also a player to offer Roma, who value Dzeko at 20 million euro, to fill a very clear need. Replacing Alisson with Olsen has turned out to be the equivalent of going from Ferguson to Moyes at Manchester United and Roma now find themselves once again on the market for a keeper.

Inter are set at the position with Handanovic for at least the next two seasons so they could offer Andrei Radu who is having an excellent season on loan at Genoa. Radu would be cheap wages wise and would have a lot of upside since he’s 21 in addition to already having at least one season as a starter in Serie A. 

 

While it would be unfair to expect a Zaniolo like impact from Radu, he would certainly be a massive upgrade over Olsen and could learn from Roma’s other keeper Mirante. Roma would also receive cash as part of this deal that could be used to either improve the defense or to partly found the acquisition of a striker, there would of course also be the huge savings on Dzeko’s wages.

Roma are currently going through the process of finding Monchi’s replacement, while the identity of the person is still a mystery, we do know they’ll have to make some important decisions from jump street- trying to repeat the success of the Nainggolan-Zaniolo deal would be a great place to start.

 

 

Parma 1-1 AC Milan: Scrappy performance results in useless draw for the Rossoneri

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AC Milan failed to do what was needed, as Parma managed to find an equaliser at the death. However, one could argue that the home side deserved the point, as Gattuso’s men looked uninspired for the entire game. 

The Rossoneri had a chance to make a leap in fourth place, increasing the distance between themselves and Roma as well as Atalanta, who will face Inter and Napoli respectively this round. However, in classic Milan fashion, they failed to do so, putting in a terrible display overall.  Continue reading

De Ligt and a summer of change at Barcelona

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After capturing the mercurial talent of Frenkie De Jong, it appears that Barcelona are in pole position to sign his current Ajax team-mate, Matthijs De Ligt.

The 19-year-old centre-back is wanted by all of Europe’s top clubs but has allegedly told those close to him that he ‘only wants Barcelona.’

That’s a real coup for the Catalans, who see De Ligt as a future captain of the club and a player who’ll be a mainstay in their defence for the next decade. Continue reading

From rejecting Italy to attracting Tottenham, Lazio’s Luiz Felipe is a player on the rise

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A win for Lazio over Udinese in their rearranged Serie A match this week has kept Simone Inzaghi’s side hanging on by their fingernails in the agonisingly tight race for Champions League qualification.

There is much still to play for this season, with a Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against AC Milan approaching next week (the first leg finished 0-0) after a must-win league meeting with relegated Chievo on Saturday.

Lazio’s summer transfer market activity is likely to be dictated largely by how the next month or so plays out; Champions League football would raise expectations and possibilities, no European football at all would have the opposite effect.

That hasn’t stopped speculation from swirling, though, and this week the Daily Mail reported that Tottenham Hotspur have taken an interest in Biancocelesti defender Luiz Felipe.

Vague reports of ‘interest’ from Premier League clubs in Lazio players are nothing new, but it did at least serve to highlight what an eventful season this has been for the young Brazilian who, while yet to emerge as an undisputed first choice or develop into one of Serie A’s best young defenders, has shown plenty of signs that he is capable of doing both.

Born in Colina, near Sao Paulo, on 22 March 1997, Felipe was whisked over to Italy in 2016 after being spotted playing for Brazilian Serie D side Ituano in his home country.

He had barely unpacked his bags before being diverted south to Salernitana, where he spent the 2016/17 season on loan but struggled to break into the team or impress when handed opportunities.

However, Felipe soon benefitted from Inzaghi’s faith in youth as the former Lazio youth team coach brought him into the Aquile first team squad last season, where he made 31 appearances in his first experience of top-flight and Europa League football.

The youngster would’ve been forgiven for looking a bit daunted, or even out of his depth, at being thrust into this elite echelon of football with just seven disappointing games in Serie B on his CV. However, he soon established a reputation as a technically gifted, intelligent defender with great potential.

Felipe appears most comfortable in the centre of Inzaghi’s back three, where he deputised for Stefan De Vrij on occasion last season before doing the same at times for Francesco Acerbi this term – including during Wednesday’s win over Udinese, when Acerbi was shifted out to the left.

The immovable status of De Vrij and subsequently Acerbi meant that Felipe’s chances more regularly came on the right of the three-man defence, the position that has seen the most chopping and changing of all in Inzaghi’s Lazio; Wallace, Bastos, Martin Caceres, Felipe and Patric have all taken turns at being considered first choice in the role.

Felipe himself insisted after the Udinese match that he doesn’t have a preferred position. “I just like playing,” he said. “If it’s in the centre, on the right or left it matters little. There’s no problem, I respect the decision of the coach.”

A quick, agile and smart player, Felipe’s style of defending has had some of the more excitable fans describing him as in the Alessandro Nesta mould. While he still has lightyears to go before being talked of in the same bracket as one of Lazio’s greatest ever defenders, you can understand where the comparison comes from.

Felipe is blessed with instinctive timing and judgement. He is a graceful defender, who has a knack for anticipating the right moment to go off his feet, step forward to intercept a pass or throw himself into a block. He is not a physically dominant bully of a defender by any stretch of the imagination, but looks every inch the modern-day centre-back; a player comfortable with the ball at his feet but who understands the art of defending.

At the start of the season, after his regular involvement last term, hopes were high that Felipe would cement his place in Inzaghi’s team. Injury niggles have interrupted his progress, with the Brazilian twice facing spells on the sidelines, but he has done enough to find himself at the centre of a national team debate.

Luigi Di Biagio called the defender up to the Italy Under-21 squad during the last international break in March, but Felipe soon left the training retreat after reflecting on his situation and deciding he would prefer to represent Brazil. You can’t fault his ambition.

“It was a difficult choice because Italy is also a great national team, but football is about the heart and my desire is to play for the Selecao,” he said.

“I didn’t accept because I want to continue to follow the dream I’ve had since I was a child, to wear the green and gold shirt. I will continue to work to improve every day, to make this desire a reality.”

The Brazilian Olympic team appears to be a more realistic prospect for Felipe at this stage, with the Tokyo Olympics coming up next year, but everything depends on whether the youngster can nail down a regular place in Inzaghi’s team and finally make the right centre-back spot his own.

There will certainly be defensive changes at the club this summer, regardless of their final position in the table. Dusan Basta is leaving at the end of his contract, Jordan Lukaku looks destined to follow, while Wallace is widely reported to be heading out and the likes of Bastos or Patric could realistically depart if a suitable offer arrives.

As for Felipe, he is seen as one of the great young hopes of this Lazio side and is in a good place to achieve his goal of representing his country, repaying the faith shown in him by Inzaghi in the process.

He may not be Nesta, but the Brazilian possesses the tools to make real waves in a Lazio shirt. It’s now up to him to prove that his hopes of pulling on a green and gold shirt aren’t farfetched.

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Spalletti expecting a big performance from Inter vs. Roma

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Luciano Spalletti held his traditional pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s crucial Serie A match against Roma. Here is what he said to the journalists who gathered at the Suning Training Centre earlier this afternoon: Continue reading

How La Liga side Getafe spent under €25m and are aiming for a top 4 finish

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Not many pundits, journalists and fans could have expected to see Getafe in 5th place in Spain’s La Liga in the middle of April with just 6 games left to play, but that is how this season has transpired.

Getafe are aiming of course for a Champions League finish and Sevilla are the only club that currently stand in their way. Forget about the top 3- Barcelona are 23 points in front, Atletico Madrid are 14 points and Real Madrid have 9 points more. But Sevilla are just one point to the advantage of the club.

Directly below Getafe the fight is not finished to overtake them and they may have to fend off threats from Valencia and to a lesser extent Athletico Bilbao who are currently 5 points off of Getafe’s blistering pace.

With 13 games won so far this season and a plus goal difference of 11 the club have taken everyone by storm, but just how has this improvement happened this season?

The club had a big summer clear out last summer and brought in over 20 players, most of these were loans and loan backs and they actually spent just over 20m euros in the window.  Vitorino Antunes for 2.5m euros arrived from Dynamo Kiev and Mauro Arambarri from Argentinian side Boston River for 2m euros. Ivan Alejo from Eibar came for 4m euros and the teams biggest expenditure was on Valencia’s Nemanja Maksimovic for 5m euros.

And it has been interesting. Antunes has impressed in defence and has picked up 49 points so far this season in Ligue 1 Fantasy football, he is the 3rd best performing player for Getafe. In first place for the club is David Soria, the 26 year old goalkeeper also joined the club from Sevilla last summer.

Goals have come from Angel Luis Rodriguez Diaz, simply known as Angel, which makes buying a shirt with his name on the back more cost effective. The Spaniard has scored 12 goals this season and is the clubs leading goal scorer, but he has also assisted a further 7 times, this is his 2nd season with the club and from 57 games he has 18 in total. But this has been far his most impressive season after his switch from Real Zaragoza.

A lot of the credit has to go to coach Jose Bordalas who at 55 and mostly coaching 2nd and 3rd tier clubs got his break in 2016 when he was appointed head coach from Alaves after he had guided the club to the Segunda Division title.

Last season Getafe finished 8th with 55 points, that points total will surely be passed this season and the club have properly progressed in the last couple of seasons. What has helped is that goals have been spread over 3 different players. The aforementioned Angel, but also Jorge Molina has weighed in with 9 goals and Sebastian Cristoforo even in a  midfield role has 10. It means that Getafe for the first time in years are not reliant on just one player.

The club continue to play the game within their means, and if that means Champions League qualification in the process then their success will not just be on the pitch but in their accounts too.

For now Getafe look good for at least the Europa League and they will be hoping to continue their great level and their capacity to shock the bigger teams as the league’s end draws in.

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