Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 21

Brescia-Milan: the Rondinelle will not have Mario Balotelli for a couple of matches, but Ernesto Torregrossa has actually carried the load scoring-wise recently and he and Alfredo Donnarumma formed a formidable partnership last season in Serie B, so they might be able to survive the blow. They have added two intriguing pieces in January in Birkir Bjarnason, who was very dangerous for a midfielder in his time in Pescara, and Simon Skrabb: they should both have their chances because Nikolas Spalek at no.10 has been pretty inconsistent. Sandro Tonali is coming off a two-assist performance and also Stefano Sabelli and Romulo have been decently proficient in a supporting role. Continue reading

Sarri mum on lineup ahead of Coppa Italia clash

Maurizio Sarri kept his cards close to the vest regarding the XI in the presser ahead of the Coppa Italia tilt against Roma: “I expect a very difficult game, you just need to look at Roma’s results on the road to have proof of that. They conceded little and score as much as at home. They are a quality team. We would lose sight of reality if we thought we are not going to have some challenging moments against them.” Continue reading

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

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

Juventus Top Performers – Coppa Italia vs Udinese

Juventus did not mess about in the Coppa Italia round of 16, utterly dominating an Udinese team that offered very little resistance and punching their ticket to the next stage, where they will face either Roma or Parma.

Matthijs De Ligt: Gianluigi Buffon had just one minuscule save and so the rear-guard fully did his job, keeping the opponents at distance. The rest of the squad played a big part in achieving that through incessant possession. The centre-backs saw more action on the opponent’s box than in their one, as De Ligt almost propitiated a goal and Daniele Rugani hit the post. The Dutchman was slightly tidier than the teammate. Alex Sandro instead was in energy-saving mode and did not bother motoring down the flank and Danilo was not very very active either.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 20

Lazio-Sampdoria: despite a fairly muted performance, the Biancocelesti came out on top versus Napoli last week, for the second week in a row propelled by a late Ciro Immobile goal. The capocannoniere keeps producing and has already reached the 20-goal threshold. He has scored their last three goals. Joaquin Correa will be limited, so Felipe Caicedo might get another chance to start and he has posted three goals and two assists in limited action in the last five appearances. Luis Alberto will be looking to pad his assist numbers (12), while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has reverted back to his less efficient self after a hot stretch. Senad Lulic will be suspended, so Jony is set to play on the left wing and he is a willing crosser. The Eagles have been airtight at home. Continue reading

Sarri gears up for Roma bout

Coach Maurizio Sarri set the stage for the Roma clash in the usual pre-game presser: “It is a difficult game where we will be looking for consistency. We have often had different stretches with different interpretations. We are getting better, we have to follow up what we did against Cagliari. The level of the opponent is very high, so it will be a diverse game.  Some rotation could be in order considering the busy schedule, they will come naturally with three matches in a week.” Continue reading

Rabiot Excelling Ahead of Crucial Stretch

When Adrien Rabiot was picked up on a free transfer this past summer, the Frenchman was expected to play an integral role in Maurizio Sarri’s midfield. After all, he’s an adept dribbler and can progress play nicely from a mezz’ala role. The former PSG man, however, struggled in the early goings of the season and failed to adapt to Italian football, showing signs of rust. As a result, Sarri opted for the experience of Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi in the midfield, much to the dismay of the Juventus faithful.

Khedira, much like it has been the case his entire career, has since been sidelined with an injury, leaving a spot in the midfield alongside Pjanic and Matuidi up for grabs. While it seemed Rodrigo Bentancur was inching closer to making it his own in recent times, the Uruguayan picked up a three-game suspension in Juventus’ Supercoppa defeat. This presented Rabiot with the opportunity he’s been looking for.

The 24-year-old made the most of his start against Cagliari and was a driving force in Juventus’ midfield in the second half. Rather than his typical left-centre midfield role, Sarri deployed him on the right and instructed him to connect with Cuadrado and Dybala. The Frenchman did so with great aplomb and put in his best performance in a Juventus shirt.

For the first time this season, Rabiot showed signs of his technique and ability to carry the ball forward at will. If he continues on this path, Sarri will have no choice to accommodate the former PSG man into his eleven, even when Bentancur returns.

When asked about his recent performances and rumours linking him away from the club after the Cagliari clash, Rabiot was clear.

“I feel the confidence of the club and of coach Sarri. 2019 was not easy for me, I came to Juve after a long time without playing,” said the Frenchman. I’m looking to adapt to a new league, a new environment and a new coach. I hope 2020 will be better for me and be able to help Juventus by exploiting my full potential. I am finding the rhythm,” added Rabiot.

With Inter and Juventus duking it out for the Scudetto, the bianconeri will need all the help they can get and will be counting on Rabiot in the midfield. Before his impressive run, the Italian champions struggled for creativity in the middle of the park and relied heavily on Pjanic to provide the spark. Carrying a significant portion of the creative load, the Bosnian international struggled going into the new year. However, with Rabiot excelling and Bentancur starting to deliver on his promise, Juventus may just have the midfield trio they’ve been looking for all along. 

While the trio is still a far cry from Juventus’ illustrious past of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio, they are still technical enough for Sarriball and can dominate possession for sustained portions of the game. In fact, since Bentancur and Rabiot have been featuring regularly, Juventus have seen a spike in their offensive production, having scored nine goals in their last three games. As the knockout stages approach in the Champions League, this will be crucial.

Factor in the necessity for Matuidi’s pressing and industry off-the-ball, however, and Sarri will likely have to leave one of Rabiot or Bentancur out every other game. Despite this, it’s a positive headache for Sarri to have and for once since his appointment, he can rely on someone other than Pjanic in the midfield to implement his playing philosophy.

With Rabiot excelling and Juventus scoring at will, the bianconeri are primed for a strong second-half of the season. It’s now time for their other Bosman signing Aaron Ramsey to follow in Rabiot’s footsteps and pick up the slack. Can he do it?

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19

Cagliari-Milan: the Rossoblù played their worst game of the season against Juventus and will be eager to bounce back here and snap out of a three-game losing streak. Their last two goals were scored by Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone and obviously the Brazilian forward, who has tallied 11 in the season, remains their most appealing player, while the ex-Fiorentina man is more inconsistent, but has his moments in the sun. Radja Nainggolan has not been done a lot in the past four games and that has caused a decline in their offensive efficiency. They lack reliable fantasy option behind those because Nahitan Nandez and Marko Rog are not involved in the offense on a regular basis and their yield there is spotty. Their fullbacks, Luca Pellegrini in particular, have picked up few assists. Continue reading

Sarri assesses few players in pre-game presser

Maurizio Sarri began the presser before the Cagliari tilt by detailing what they did during the break: “We worked on several mistakes we made. We focused on ourselves before studying the Sardinians late in the week. We need to improve our mentality, because in most game we made more error there than tactical or technical ones.”

On Matthijs De Ligt: “He had a complicate period because of a shoulder and adductor issues. He played a lot, he is super young, while Merih Demiral was in optimal shape, so we were in position to rest him. De Ligt is improving, we will see tomorrow.” Continue reading