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

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 26

Lazio-Bologna: the only game between two teams that actually played last week. The Biancocelesti extended their superb run by grinding out a W versus Genoa, thanks to the usual Ciro Immobile goal and two unlikely heroes coming through, Adam Marusic, who has started over Manuel Lazzari in two matches in a row, and Danilo Cataldi. While Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored against Inter, the bonuses for their other two fantasy stars, Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa, have not been there in recent rounds, leaving Felipe Caicedo as the only serviceable option besides the capocannoniere. Jony has taken over for the injured Senad Lulic and, while he is a high-volume crosser, he has come up with just one assist so far. It could be another ripe day for their offense considering that the Felsinei have a soft defence. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – UCL – First leg vs Lyon

Juventus fell into a coma for about 20 minutes in the first half in Lyon and that was enough to ruin a game that they for the most part conducted, or at least tried to, as the adversaries withstood a late push that could have easily led to a goal. The Bianconeri will have their work cut out for them in Turin against a very diligent team.

Matthijs De Ligt: the Old Lady keeps finding ways to give up wacky goals and the latest instalments was conceding while the back-line was all discombobulated because the Dutch starlet was on the sidelines getting treatment for a deep cut. It was a tidy performance besides that, but a goal is often enough to swing the qualification in this competition. De Ligt, with heavy bandage on his head, had almost a vintage Giorgio Chiellini performance in the second half and his recuperations deep into enemy territory set the tone. Danilo and Alex Sandro had plenty of room to attack but they did not take advantage of it due to a host of misplaced passes and crosses. Continue reading

Champions League: Lyon vs Juventus Preview

Champions League resumes on Wednesday, so Juventus will be back in the competition where they had the most success in so far, as they cruised during the group stage. If it was not for a late two-goal comeback by Atletico Madrid back in the first game, they would have prevailed in each of the six matches in the group stage.

Finishing in first position allowed them to land a fairly cosy match-up with Lyon in the round of 16, an opponent they have familiarity with, since they have faced them four times in recent years, winning in three occasions. The French club is also not having a particular great season as they are in 7th position in Ligue 1 and do not boast a particularly good record at home. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 25

Pau Lopez (5 points): the Spaniard did not have a particularly busy performance in the Lecce game, but he was the only goalie to keep a clean sheet over the week and therefore the lone point-getter at his position. Roma had not blanked an opponent since the beginning of December.

Aleksandar Kolarov (9 points): the Serbian fullback, who is usually a fantasy stud, had gone through a sticky patch where he even lost the starting job for a minute, but he roared back versus the Salentini with a strong display and a pretty strike to round up the score. He still has not patched things up with the fan base though. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 25

Standings implications: unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak took its toll on Serie A and forced the postponement of four matches. In the ones that did happen, Juventus and Lazio confirmed their leadership by defeating SPAL and Genoa in hard-fought contests. Roma came back to life with a roar and torched Lecce.

Back on Friday, Napoli completed the comeback in Brescia and momentarily caught Milan in the standings, entering the Europa League zone after a long while, however few teams in that neighbourhood did not play. The Rossoneri instead shared the spoils with Fiorentina despite playing for a while in 11 vs 10men. Bologna pipped Udinese at the post, preventing the Friulani to gain some cushion over the relegation area. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 25 vs SPAL

The usual defensive slip-up led to a tenser-than-necessary final part in the SPAL game, but Juventus, after an encouraging hour right in the middle of the game, managed to land the plane, returning to winning ways after two road tumbles.

Alex Sandro: the Brazilian left back was move vivacious than usual in Ferrara, uncorked a pair of tasty crosses that could have easily earned him an assist. The left chain worked looked well-oiled, as he, Blaise Matuidi and Cristiano Ronaldo often moved in unison. Danilo was less active than Sandro, but the team had even more success on the other flank, so the 4-3-3 scheme yielded good profits. As for the rest of the defenders, Giorgio Chiellini looked rusty to open the game but got increasingly confident as the minutes went by. Daniele Rugani was fine but he was just a fraction of a second late on a tackle, causing a penalty and soiling his display. Matthijs De Ligt was dominant in the air when he subbed in, while ordinary business for Wojciech Szczesny. Continue reading