Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Four

Atalanta: Aleksey Miranchuk is set to be available after missing the first three matches with a thigh strain. Cristiano Piccini and Matteo Pessina have resumed practicing regularly following knee injuries and they too will return soon. Josip Ilicic is getting closer and closer, but the information on him is not always solid. Rafael Toloi is out of the quarantine after skipping the previous game, while Marco Carnesecchi has COVID. Mattia Caldara partially tore the patellar tendon in the left knee and will not be back before 2021.

Benevento: Andres Tello is be back after missing some time with ailments, but Federico Barba is still out. Gabriel Moncini will skip a game or two due to an adductor strain. Nicolas Viola needs more time to recover from a meniscus tear. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Three – Top Matches

ATALANTA-CAGLIARI

Atalanta: the Bergamaschi took it to Lazio as well, making the second game in a row with four goals scored, as the machine is still working like a charm. Alejandro Gomez not only pulled the strings, but also scored twice and was joined in the stat-sheet by Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens. Hateboer has already matched his entire production for the 2019/2020 campaign, while Gosens opened his tally. Ruslan Malinovskyi got the start this time and dished an assist, while Luis Muriel almost hit the net off the bench. The only negative aspect of the young season is that Duvan Zapata has not really looked dominant and might need some time to be in peak shape, but they surely have the manpower to work around that. The flank game has been particularly terrific so far. Mario Pasalic might feature in a less offensive position going forward since they are stacked with attackers but short on midfielders and his output could suffer.

Suggested picks: Gomez, Muriel, Gosens. Continue reading

Aaron Ramsey looks to continue resurgence against Roma

When Aaron Ramsey joined Juventus from Arsenal last summer, much was expected from the Welshman. The 29-year-old was brought in to address the Bianconeri’s continued midfield woes but failed to make an impact under Maurizio Sarri. This season, however, Ramsey looks rejuvenated and is ready to hit the ground running. 

Ramsey is your prototypical mezz’ala and thrives playing on the outside of a midfield three. The former Arsenal man is at his best roaming dangerously in the final third and making late, unmarked runs deep into the opposition’s territory. After arriving last summer, Ramsey struggled in Sarri’s rigid system and was largely tasked with relaying possession in predictable patterns.

It may only be one game under rookie manager Andrea Pirlo, but the former Juventus legend appears to have completely shaken things up in Turin. The Italian champions defend in a compact 4-4-2, and commit many men forward, ultimately transforming their setup into a hybrid 3-2-5 of sorts. Ramsey has been among the biggest benefactors in this setup, and looked extremely dangerous in Juventus’s season opener against Sampdoria.

Operating from the left-hand side of the midfield three, the former Arsenal man was a constant threat and wandered dangerously in support of Cristiano Ronaldo and Dejan Kulusevski. Ramsey arguably played his best football since joining the club, creating four clear-cut chances throughout. Ronaldo was not his typical lethal self in front of goal, otherwise, the former Arsenal man would have finished the game with three assists.

Beyond contributing in the final third, Ramsey’s newfound freedom ensures he’s present in Juve’s pressing schemes high up the pitch. The Welshman regularly led the Bianconeri’s press, forcing the Blucerchiati into many unnecessary turnovers. Last season, Ramsey was constrained to sitting deep on the right-hand side of the midfield three, and largely let games pass him by.

Pirlo’s footballing philosophy remains mostly unknown until this point, but one thing’s for certain: The Juventus tactician relies heavily on the mobility of his midfielders and asks them to be constantly on the move. Ramsey thrives in similar setups and played his best football at Arsenal when given the license to get forward in support of their front-line.

Ramsey was interviewed by Sky Italia this week and touched upon the recent changes under Pirlo.

“We have a new coach, a new staff, new ideas, and the players are very involved in this,” Ramsey said. “I think we have more fun than last year. The training sessions are hard but there is also a little bit of joy. We started well but we still need to improve.”

While he may be deployed in the midfield on paper, Ramsey acts as a defacto trequartista for most of the game in Pirlo’s setup. Ronaldo lingers dangerously around the 18-yard box occupying the opposition’s defense, while Kulusevski and Ramsey are largely tasked with linking it all together. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see where exactly the Welshman fits in Pirlo’s plans when the whole roster is fully fit.

“In this team, there are many great players, we call all play and help the team reach their goals. I’m happy to be able to play together with these top-quality attackers,” added the Welshman.

It may have taken him a full season to acclimate himself to his new surroundings, but Ramsey appears reborn under Pirlo. The 29-year-old is slowly carving an important role for himself in the middle of the park and will only improve as the season wears on. Pirlo’s fluid system offers his midfielders the ability to get forward, all-while contributing to the press.  The biggest question mark, however, remains Ramsey’s fitness issues. If the Welsh international manages to stay fit, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a crucial piece to Pirlo’s formation.

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Fantasy Serie A Gameweek Two Picks

Serie A returned in style last weekend and promises yet another matchday of exciting action, as Gian Piero Gasperini’s high-flying Atalanta make their highly anticipated debut on Saturday against Torino. Inter will host Fiorentina in Saturday’s final game as Antonio Conte’s men look to pick up where they left off last season and emerge as title contenders.

Elsewhere, Roma takes on Juventus on Sunday and will be hoping to get their season back on track after their surprising forfeit to Hellas Verona.

Without further ado, here are your fantasy Serie A picks ahead of gameweek two:

Gianluigi Donnarumma: The Milan shot-stopper may have conceded twice against Bodo-Glimt, but he should be a safe pick ahead of the Rossoneri’s clash against the newly-promoted Crotone. Donnarumma kicked off the season in fine form against Bologna and will be looking to continue his good start against Crotone.

Achraf Hakimi: The former Borussia Dortmund man is available for a mere 4.5 million and should hit the ground running in Inter’s season opener. Hakimi is a match made in heaven for Conte’s 3-5-2 and will be looking to replicate last season’s impressive exploits in Italy. With Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez combining dangerously, expect the Moroccan international to fit right in at Inter.

Omar Colley: Sampdoria lost their season opener in convincing fashion against Juventus, but Colley was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing performance. The Blucerchiati will be welcoming Benevento to the Luigi Ferraris and should be good value for a clean sheet.

Kalidou Koulibaly: The Senegalese international ultimately remained at Napoli amidst heavy Premier League interest and should be a crucial piece to Gennaro Gattuso’s setup moving forward. Koulibaly will be eager to thwart Genoa’s momentum after I Grifoni emerged 4-1 winners over Crotone in their season opener.

Theo Hernandez: The former Real Madrid man was in sensational form against Bologna, registering his first assist of the season. Hernandez has established himself as one of Milan’s biggest offensive threats, getting forward at will down the left-hand side. Crotone has just conceded four against Genoa and shouldn’t find it easier against the Rossoneri.

Luis Alberto: The Spanish international is coming off his best season yet in a Lazio shirt and is great value for money at 4.5 million. Luis Alberto emerged as one of the league’s elite creators last season, forming a deadly partnership with Ciro Immobile. Simone Inzaghi’s men will be eager to hit the ground running against Cagliari and expect Luis Alberto to be at the heart of it.

Aaron Ramsey: Ramsey struggled last season in Maurizio Sarri’s rigid 4-3-3, but looked reborn in Andrea Pirlo’s fluid system. The Welshman only registered one assist against Sampdoria, but had it not been for his teammates’ profligacy in front of goal, it could have been two or three. Expect Ramsey to continue his fine form against Roma.

Hakan Calhanoglu: The Turkish international has been at the heart of Milan’s resurgence under Stefano Pioli, carving out an important role for himself as the Rossoneri’s trequartista. Calhanoglu has combined his incredible vision with a keen eye for goal and has since become Milan’s difference-maker in the final third. The 26-year-old is coming off yet another influential performance and should continue his impressive run against Crotone.

Domenico Berardi: The Sassuolo winger got off to a disappointing start to the season against Cagliari, but should put his goalscoring woes behind him against Spezia. The Neroverdi’s dynamic front three has proven too much to handle for most of Italy’s backlines in the past and should have what it takes to claim an important three points against the newly-promoted outfit.

Ciro Immobile: Last season’s capocannoniere will be eager to repeat the feat once more, starting with Lazio’s opener against Cagliari. Immobile has proven to be a consistent goalscorer in league play in recent years and is always good value to find the back of the net. Alessio Cragno is one of Serie A’s best shot-stoppers, but Immobile and co. possess enough firepower to get the job done.

Victor Osimhen: The Nigerian international changed the complexion of his game shortly after his introduction and should feature from the start against Genoa. Osimhen will be raring to go after an impressive debut and should open his account for the season against I Grifoni.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Two – Top Matches

TORINO-ATALANTA

Torino: the Granata did really not show anything new in the Fiorentina game even though Marco Giampaolo is supposedly going to bring a ton of changes, but that will take time and likely a couple of new players to come to fruition. They created just a pair of changes, with Andrea Belotti fully in the thick of it as per usual, while Simone Zaza rubbished a tasty one. They might be better off signing a new striker. The coach went with Alex Berenguer in the hole and then voiced doubts about Simone Verdi’s playing in that position, however there is not really any other place for him in the formation, so he will have to adapt. Soualiho Meite and Karol Linetty were not very involved offensively, mostly because the match-up was not easy, but this upcoming one is worse.  Continue reading

Juventus’ Top Three Mercato Priorities

With the season just ten days away, Juventus are scrambling to rejuvenate their roster and offer rookie manager Andrea Pirlo significant reinforcements. As the season approaches, Fabio Paratici will be eager to conclude all his mercato business sooner rather than later, starting with the hunt for a new number nine.

Let’s take a deeper look at Juventus’ mercato priorities going into the new season:

1) Sell the deadwood. 

The common theme this transfer window for almost any Italian team has been ‘buy before you sell’. Weston McKennie arrived from Schalke for virtually nothing, while Arthur was swapped for Miralem Pjanic. This indicates that Juventus’s transfer kitty is limited this year unless they can move on unwanted players.

Blaise Matuidi has already joined Inter Miami while Gonzalo Higuain will soon follow, according to reports. Sami Khedira is another player Juventus are eager to part ways with, but the German international is determined to prove his worth to Pirlo. Beyond the former Real Madrid man, Paratici has been unable to move on Douglas Costa, who has spent the better part of the last two seasons sidelined with injuries. Aaron Ramsey is yet another Juventus man whose future is worth monitoring, after failing to make an impact last season despite high wages.

Before the Juventus faithful can dream of a big signing, these are exactly the types of players they need to move on. It won’t be easy and the clock is ticking for Paratici.

2) A new number nine

Juventus parted ways with both Mario Mandzukic and Moise Kean last summer and have failed to replace either ever since. With Higuain declining and on his way to Major League Soccer, Pirlo requested a new number nine for his setup. Edin Dzeko and Luis Suarez are the two most recent strikers linked with a move to Turin, with the Uruguayan emerging as the favorite.

Juventus will reportedly pay Barcelona three million euros with potential bonuses rising to 16 million euros, and will offer Suarez a three-year deal. The entire operation will reach around 45 million euros between wages and transfer fees if recent reports are credible. While Juventus need a number nine and Suarez fits the bill, this is a move that reeks of desperation and resembles the Bianconeri’s past mishaps on the transfer window.

There is currently a dearth of quality number nines available, making Suarez one of Juve’s only realistic options. Paratici’s hands may be tied, but he may regret this move a year or two down the line.

3) One surprise signing? 

After securing a number nine, Juventus could use another profile, be it at fullback or in the midfield. Reinforcing at fullback seems to be down Paratici’s list of priorities, but Real Madrid’s Sergio Reguilon could be an interesting opportunity. The Spanish giants have made it clear he’s available and he could be available at a decent price. Reguilon’s arrival could make Alex Sandro expendable, freeing up some much-needed transfer budget.

Beyond their fullback needs, Juventus could arguably use another creative midfielder. The likes of Rodrigo De Paul and Luis Alberto have been previously linked with a move to Turin, indicating a move for a midfield maestro may be on the cards. In this sense, Lyon’s Houssem Aouar should be a priority and is reportedly available at a decent price. If Juventus can broker a deal for the French international, it would go a long way at addressing their lack of dynamism and creativity in the middle of the park.

However, let’s be clear – any surprise move is completely contingent on selling their deadwood, something Paratici has struggled with since assuming his position.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 38

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic will miss another one and will be probably joined by José Palomino, who picked up a thigh problem in the last game.

Bologna: Mattia Bani (calf) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (thigh) will not be back for the season finale. Mitchell Dijks and Ladislav Krejci (thigh) have been ruled out. 

Brescia: Jhon Chancellor and Simon Skrabb are out, while Jesse Joronen, Alfredo Donnarumma and even Andrea Cistana are in the squad list, but that is not necessarily an indication they are certainly going to play.   Continue reading

Three Takeaways From Sarri’s First Season At Juventus

Maurizio Sarri’s first season with Juventus did not exactly go to plan, with the Bianconeri losing two finals and stumbling to their ninth consecutive Scudetto. After securing the league title against Sampdoria, the Italian champions now have their sights set on overturning a narrow first-leg deficit against Lyon in the Champions League.

With the season officially behind us, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on Sarri’s first year in charge. Here are three takeaways from the season that was:

1) Individual brilliance reigns supreme. 

Much was expected from Sarri in his first season, but the veteran tactician disappointed and was regularly bailed out by individual brilliance in the final third. Beyond some encouraging signs of ‘Sarriball’ at different stages in the season, Juventus often relied on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala to lead them to the title. Moving forward, Sarri will be hoping the Bianconeri acquire technical players, which will help him further implement his playing philosophy. The additions of Dejan Kulusevski and Arthur will help in this respect, but Juventus arguably need another midfielder.

If Juve’s top brass is hopeful of every seeing Sarriball at the Allianz Arena, they will need to bolster the side and the midfield in particular, starting with this summer.

2) Shaky defense responsible for dropped points. 

Juventus have struggled at the back this season, conceding 38 goals on the season with two games to play. In fact, no Bianconeri side has conceded more over the last ten years, dating back to Luigi Del Neri’s Juventus, who finished 7th place. Their lapses in concentration have cost Sarri’s men crucial points throughout the year, dropping a league-leading 18 points from winning positions.

Sarri has had to make do with middling fullbacks and even converted Juan Cuadrado to right back at the beginning of the season. With Alex Sandro failing to hit his former heights and Danilo struggling when called upon, Juve’s defense was as vulnerable as they have ever been. Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci formed an uncompromising partnership at the heart of defense, but were often let down by their fullbacks. Next season, Sarri will be hoping for a more solid Juve side, otherwise, their domestic dominance may just come to an end.

3) Juventus need to cut their deadwood. 

If one thing was made clear this season, it’s that few teams around the world have more deadwood than Juventus. The Bianconeri have a number of players on inflated wages contributing little to nothing on the pitch. Sami Khedira featured under 1000 minutes on the season, collecting 6 million euros a year. Bosman signings Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot make 14 million euros between them and combined for a mere four goals on the season. Gonzalo Higuain, the side’s third-highest earner, regressed significantly this year, netting seven goals.

Moving forward, this is something Juventus are going to have to address and cut ties with mediocre players on increased wages. Recent reports suggest that the club is pondering a mutual termination of Khedira’s contract while Higuain is weighing a return to Argentina. Beyond them, the Bianconeri’s top brass has important decisions to make in the middle of the park. Ramsey has not looked sharp when called upon while Rabiot has kicked into another gear in recent weeks. Given their high wages, it may be difficult to find a suitor, just one season after acquiring them.

In any case, Paratici will  be a busy man this summer as he will be looking to rejuvenate this Juventus side and decrease their wage will significantly. The former Sampdoria director is off to a strong start so far, but is arguably just getting started.

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Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 26 – Second Half

A surreal Serie A round still had a good dose of action and some massive results. Here are the top performers from the weekend.

Juan Musso (7 points): five teams managed to earn a clean sheet and, out of all the goalies involved, Udinese’s one had the most meaningful save, on a Federico Chiesa potent cross-shot that could have swung the Fiorentina match late.

Nikola Milenkovic (5 points): Fiorentina’s defence held up well versus Udinese, allowing limited chances, and the Serbian defender also had one of the biggest chances for his side with a strikingly quick volley that went just wide. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 26 vs Inter

Juventus broke through with a fairly flucky goal in the second half after a balanced first 45 minutes and actually for once gained steam after getting the lead and managed to control the remaining portion of the contest, gaining a monumental W and returning on top of the standings.

Matthijs De Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci (5 points): no separation between the two centre-backs, who perfectly tag-teamed to stymie one of the most vaunted striking duo in the League. They matched Romelu Lukaku’s physicality and contained Lautaro Martinez’s movements, and, as a matter of fact, even in the Nerazzurri’s best moments, the chances came from the ancillary players. Wojciech Szczesny answered the bell on the lone dangerous daisy-cutter from distance, while Alex Sandro put in the usual decent but not superb shift. Continue reading