Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 38

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Juventus: Blaise Matuidi and Federico Bernardeschi are suspended, while Joao Cancelo and Mario Mandzukic both fractured their nose in the same week and are unavailable for Sunday. Alex Sandro is dealing with a rib contusion. Douglas Costa (calf), Mattia Perin (shoulder) and Sami Khedira (knee) remain sidelined as expected. Cristiano Ronaldo will be rested, while Wojciech Szczesny has suffered a knee injury.

Napoli: Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Amadou Diawara looked close to returning from a foot fracture for a pair of weeks, but he was again unable to make the squad list, like Adam Ounas that is banged up and David Ospina, who is still in Colombia. Mario Rui is out with an undisclosed injury.  Continue reading

Assessing the Midfielder Market in Serie A

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After previously reviewing the market for goal keepers and defenders in Serie A, let’s now focus on the midfielders. First let’s take stock of the situation at the position for the top Italian clubs

 

Juventus- on the bright side Bentancur gained experience, Emre Can vastly improved in the second half while Ramsey will bring attributes the team has lacked since prime Marchisio. On the flip side, Khedira was given a rich extension, Pjanic could be sold and it’s unlikely Matuidi can be a starter for a Champions League contender at this stage of his career.

Napoli- Fabian Ruiz joins the list of impressive midfielders- Jorginho, Allan, Zielinski, Diawara- acquired by the club in recent years, but the partenopei have lacked depth since Hamsik’s departure. There could be some fairly significant changes in the midfield this summer…

Inter- Nainggolan didn’t live up to expectations, Borja Valero is set to retire, Joao Mario had a spark when he started the season and now he’s just garbage and Gagliardini is ideally your first midfielder off the bench. The fact that Brozovic may have become the club’s most important player probably highlights fact club needs to work on their midfield. 

Atalanta- while Ilicic, Zapata and Papu Gomez get all the accolades, Freuler and De Roon are the unsung heroes of Gasperini’s team. The team however lacks depth especially since Pasalic only joined the Bergamaschi on loan.

Milan- compared to a few weeks ago, it appears less likely that Milan will redeem Bakayoko’s rights. Kessie’ has attracted interest from the Premier League and Luca Biglia could return to Argentina . Bertolacci and Montolivo will both leave the club once their contracts expire at end of June.

Roma- with Daniele De Rossi’s departure we now have a full turn over of the giallorossi’s midfield. On the bright side Cristante, Zaniolo and Pellegrini constitute and intriguing trio while N’Zonzi improved once Ranieri replaced Di Francesco 

Lazio- Parolo and Lucas Leiva are now 32 and 35 respectively, Badelj and Berisha struggled in their season at the club and describing Milinkovic Savic as inconsistent would be generous. Lotito will likely make some significant changes to this unit during the summer.

 

Which current Serie A midfielders can we expect in the transfer news headlines

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Allan- while the Brazilian midfielder kissed the badge after scoring a goal recently, he struggled for a few months after his transfer to Paris St Germain collapsed in January. Allan performed well in the Champions League last fall and has arguably been the best box to box midfielder in Serie A since prime Vidal, so it’s not surprising to see his valuation in 70 to 80 million, considering Napoli’s track record of finding excellent midfielders, they’d much rather sell him than Koulibaly. 

Sergej Milinkovic Savic- following an uneven World Cup which was the perfect platform to seal his value in the 100 million range after a brilliant Serie A campaign last season, the Lazio midfielder struggled significantly in the first half of the 2018/19 campaign. SMS returned to his usual self with the new year and scored Lazio’s first goal in the Coppa Italia. While he did improve over the course of the season, it’s unlikely a club would be willing to come close to making an offer in the triple digits. Considering that Lazio are in  solid financial shape, have an aging midfielder around him, Lazio may decide to hold on to Milinkovic Savic for another year since he’s still only 24.

Steven NZonzi- the World Cup champion was dreadful for most of the season and was towards the top of the list of busts acquired during the ill fated Monchi era. NZonzi did perform better under Ranieri and with De Rossi abruptly leaving the club he could end up being an important piece for next season, also because it maybe hard to find a club willing to pay his exorbitant remaining amortized value for a player his age.

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Nicolo’ Zaniolo- while NZonzi’s high remaining amortized value makes him hard to move, the fact that Roma could have a massive plusvalenza on their uber talent because they acquired him for such a low price (around 6 million) gives him a lot of leverage when negotiating a contract extension with the club. Odds are Zaniolo will sign his new deal and stay at least one more year in Italy’s capital.

Miralem Pjanic- speaking of potential profits, the Bosnian midfielder could net a huge one since Juve has had a few season to amortize his already under market value transfer fee. Pjanic did receive an extension last year, but in a recent interview in France did leave the door open on a departure from Turin this summer. 

Nicolo’ Barella- the 22 year old had a break out season at Cagliari and established himself as a starter on the Italian national team. Barella was heavily linked to both Chelsea and Napoli in January but could end up at Inter in the summer where he would be a great fit in the Vidal role should Conte (as expected) become the nerazzurri’s manager.

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Stefano Sensi- Sassulo’s playmaker has been the extension of manager De Zerbi on the pitch and could be a good fit as Biglia’s replacement at Milan. While Sensi has also been linked to other teams, the rossoneri could include Sassuolo’s forced option to buy for Locatelli in the deal which would also help them with their FFP restrictions.

 

Dennis Praet- while the Belgian international may not be the sexiest name in this column, he was also the pick of the litter at Sampdoria for Juventus sporting director Paratici over the highly rated Torreira. Praet is now 25 and has multiple seasons as a starter in Serie A under his belt- he could be a good fit at both Milan based clubs or follow the path of his former teammates Bruno Fernandes and Torreira and head abroad. 

 

Amadou Diawara- the adage that the former Bologna midfielder deserves more playing time made a lot more sense when Sarri was his coach since his successor Ancelotti hasn’t been afraid to rotate a lot and give playing time to the hot hand. But even after Hamsik’s departure, Diawara struggled to play frequently and when he did very rarely stood out. Might be better for all involved if Diawara leaves in the summer, but don’t expect Napoli to sell at a cheap price either.

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 36

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Antonio Mirante (7 points): he prevented Roma from going down in the score time and time again in the Juventus clash, superbly rejecting Juan Cuadrado and Paulo Dybala’s point-blank finishes.

Alessio Romagnoli (5 points): just three clean sheets in this round, so all the top point-getters among defenders come from Roma and Milan. The Rossoneri captain did not necessarily have the most imposing outing, but led the back-line in Florence, contributing to holding La Viola scoreless.

Cedric Soares (5 points): Inter easily stopped Chievo on Sunday night, allowing their defenders to haul in five points, which are enough to make the TOTW in this round. The right back contributed to the second goal by hitting the post, then Ivan Perisic cashed in on the rebound.

Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 35

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Juventus: Paulo Dybala (quad), Douglas Costa (calf), Mario Mandzukic (knee) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) remain on the shelf and have been joined by Daniele Rugani and Alex Sandro due to new thigh injuries. Martin Caceres has recovered. Emre Can was removed late from the squad list due to a muscular ailment.

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne and Allan have both recuperated. Nikola Maksimovic (toe) and Amadou Diawara (foot) stay sidelined.

Inter: Matias Vecino has been ruled out due to a thigh contracture.  Continue reading

Which Serie A players can increase their appeal on transfer market in stretch run of the season?

With six matches to go this season, plenty of teams have a lot at stake between the races for the remaining Champions League spots and the one to avoid relegation in Serie A. The stretch run of the 2018/19 season is also a great opportunity for some players to increase their appeal on the transfer market as they seek new opportunities, let’s take a look at those who can move the needle with some strong performances

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Edin Dzeko

 

The Bosnian striker came close to leaving Roma during the January window in 2018 but ultimately ended up staying because Chelsea never met the giallorossi’s asking price and he never really pushed for the move since he loves living in Italy’s capital. But now financial reasons are bringing to a fork in the road- he has just one year left on his contract and Roma can’t afford to lose him for nothing- he’ll either sign an extension or be sold during the summer.

Regardless of if they qualify for the Champions League or not, Roma are also eager to lower their wage and Dzeko so happens to be their highest paid player. The Bosnian striker has struggled this season as demonstrated by the fact that he just ended an almost 12 month long goalless streak at the Olimpico- with a strong finish to the season he can increase his options. 

Being able to count on the Champions League revenue would make it easier for Roma to offer him close to his current wages and more goals in the last six matches could make Dzeko even more appealing to West Ham (who have already made him a susbstantial offer) or to Inter who see him as a potential replacement for Mauro Icardi, especially should Antonio Conte take over in the summer.

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Manuel Lazzari

 

If you watch SPAL you may start to think their entire offensive game is to give the ball to Lazzari and see if he can create something from the right flank. The 25 year old has had a break out season, he even made his debut for the Italian national team and has drawn comparisons to the first version of Florenzi we saw at Roma.

Lazzari is almost guaranteed to move to a bigger club this summer especially when you consider the lack of quality options at the wing back position. It however remains to be seen if sporting directors and managers see him as someone who can only succeed as wing back in a three man defense, which would limit him to a team like Lazio (assuming they keep Simone Inzaghi) or Inter should Conte arrive. Napoli have also been previously linked to him and considering Ancelotti’s tactical flexibility and Hisaj’s struggles, it’s not out of the question they pursue him once again.

 

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Keita Balde’/Rodrigo De Paul

 

Last year Inter weren’t able to retain Joao Cancelo because of Financial Fair Play despite having an option to buy him. While the nerazzurri’s financial situation has improved, it will still be significantly expensive to retain both Keita Balde’ and Politano despite their positive seasons. 

Keita Balde recently hired agent Federico Pastorello, who is very close to both Inter and Monaco since he works with a few of their players- it will be interesting to see if he can broker a deal that works for all involved, which certainly would be easier to do if Balde’ finishes the season on a high note. 

Inter have also been heavily linked to De Paul, who this summer will be coming off his best season at Udinese which also featured his debut with the Argentine national team. De Paul does have the tactical flexibility to play along side Balde’ but he also could be his replacement since it’s not out of the question Inter could negotiate a deal with Udinese involving some of their own young players which would be more in line with their FFP restrictions.

 

Allan/Nicolo’ Barella

 

Allan’s outstanding performance at the Parc des Prince substantially increased Paris St Germain’s interest in the Brazilian midfielder so much so that they come close to acquiring him in the January window. Since then Allan’s performances dipped a bit, don’t get me wrong he still was very effective but he also no longer was in the conversation for the best midfielder of the season in Serie A.

A strong end to the season, especially should Napoli be able to come back against Arsenal, could bring him closer to the exorbitant price (over 70 million) De Laurentiis is looking for as a return- it certainly doesn’t hurt that he has a great relationship with PSG after the Cavani and Lavezzi sales. 

Should Napoli decide to cash in on Allan, especially considering that because he’s 28 his value won’t increase, they could go all out for Barella who has similar characteristics to the Brazilian and would cost substantially less wages wise.

 

Alessio Cragno

 

Certainly Alex Meret deserves all the praise he’s received this season- his performances have made me wonder if he’s the best Napoli goalkeeper of my lifetime (which is saying a lot since I go back to the Maradona days) but I feel he’s overshadowed who I consider to be the best goal keeper in Serie A this season- Cagliari’s back stop Alessio Cragno.

Cragno has drawn comparisons to Angelo Peruzzi and is more than ready to take the next step at a bigger club- he would be a massive upgrade for Roma or could be Handanovic’s long term replacement at Inter. With a strong end to the season, Cragno could also start drawing interest from clubs outside of Italy.

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Federico Chiesa

 

Fiorentina’s recent struggles which resulted in Stefano Pioli being replaced by Vincenzo Montella could make their star player more eager to leave in the summer. While Chiesa’s talent is indisputable, he has also been known just as much for his diving than his goals this season, in addition Montella has publicly stated that he plans on having him play as a winger in a 3 man defensive formation.

As all of you know Chiesa comes with a  great pedigree and there is no shortage of suitors for him both in Italy and abroad- but he’ll need a strong finish to garner an offer that will make the Della Valle brothers budge.

 

Four Talking Points Ahead of Napoli’s Clash with Juventus

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Stars collide on Sunday in Naples at the Stadio San Paolo as Juventus and Napoli will author another chapter in their heated rivalry.

Back in late September, the Partenopei, led by Carlo Ancelotti, leapt out of the gates early with a Dries Mertens strike 10 minutes into proceedings in Turin. From there on however, ‘the Old Lady’ established dominance once again over their league rivals, as Mario Mandžukić equalized then grabbed the lead before Leonardo Bonucci put the bow on the victory with Juve’s third in the final quarter-hour.

Entering this tie, the Bianconeri hold a firm grasp of first place with a 13 point advantage over Napoli and sit in pole position to make it eight straight Serie A titles. Despite that, Ancelotti men will press on and look to exact revenge from earlier in the season against a Juventus side hoping to catch fire again after a rough patch of form.

Here are four talking points ahead of Napoli vs Juventus: Continue reading

Four Takeaways From Napoli’s Draw with Torino

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For the second week in a row, Napoli dominate the opposition and create the bulk of the chances, yet fail to capitalize as they were forced to settle with another 0-0 draw at home versus Torino Sunday evening.

With the Partenopei dropping four points over these previous two matchdays, they are now -13 from league leaders Juventus who basically have the Scudetto in the bag.

Here are four takeaways from the Partenopei’s scoreless stalemate. Continue reading

Four Takeaways From Napoli’s 0-0 Stalemate with Milan

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Familiar faces met yet again last night at the San Siro as Gennaro Gattuso and his mentor Carlo Ancelotti squared off in a clash between Milan and Napoli.

The first half of action saw the Rossoneri assert themselves and threaten to go ahead, while the visitors swung momentum in their favor after the break only to see several attempts go awry.

In the end, the two played to a 0-0 draw. Here are four takeaways from the Partenopei’s stalemate in Milano: Continue reading

Serie A’s burning questions for last week of January window

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Will Napoli hold on to Allan?

Paris St Germain have been enthralled with the Brazilian midfielder ever since they faced him in the group stage of the Champions League. The French club also have a great relationship with Napoli dating back to their deals for Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi and after offering to more than double what Allan currently makes, the player is quite intrigued by the move.

Napoli are notorious for being tough negotiators and considering they have no debt or Financial Fair Play issue, they can hold firm in demanding a Godfather like offer to let Allan go in January. Napoli have to also feel good about their great track record with finding midfielders on the market, Fabian Ruiz has been one of the best newcomers to Serie A this season and has ensured the midfield unit didn’t skip a beat despite Jorginho’s departure and Marek Hamsik being a year older.

Napoli have targeted Cagliari’s Nicolo Barella, Villareal’s Pablo Forlans and Celta Vigo’s Stanislav Lobotka as players who could help offset Allan’s departure. Considering that the former Udinese box to box midfielder is now 28 this would be the ideal time to sell and a massive transfer fee could make it easier to keep Koulibaly in the summer.

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Does Allegri trust Rugani enough to let Benatia leave?

Many assumed that Juventus policy of letting the player’s will reign supreme with transfer moves would end with Beppe Marotta’s departure. But despite the more aggressive stance on market that came with the Cristiano Ronaldo signing, it looks like the bianconeri will continue to be open to letting players who want to leave go.

The newest player to do is Mehdi Benatia, who has seen his role reduced after Leonardo Bonucci’s arrival. The Moroccan center back is pushing to join Qatari club Al Duhail who are offering him a rich contract. While Juventus tried to convince him to stay, they are now looking for veteran alternatives with old friend Martin Caceres as the favorite with Ivanovic and Skrtel as alternatives.

The fact that sporting director Paratici is looking for a veteran could be seen as a lack of faith in Daniele Rugani who has never started in a significant Champions League and tends to play against the lower table teams. The former Empoli defender has long been seen as a potential long term to Chiellini, but he wasn’t able to capitalize on the opportunities given to him during the season Bonucci spent at Milan.

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 Will Milan be able to further bolster Gattuso’s squad? 

Despite their strict Financial Fair Play parameters, the rossoneri have been able to add two expensive new additions in Paqueta and Piatek, whom they were able to pay in one installment. The rossoneri had the wiggle room to do so because of the significant savings on Higuain’s wages and the fact that Chelsea is paying half of the 18 million loan fee they owed Juventus for the Argentine striker.

While the moves they’ve made are already impressive, can Leonardo pull a rabbit out of his hat during the days of the Condor as they were called when his mentor Galliani used to run Milan’s mercato? The rossoneri are doing all they can to bring Yannick Carrasco back to Europe, but they can only acquire him on loan with option to buy and with the Belgian international taking a pay cut on his current wages.

 

Which wing back will return to Serie A?

 

They don’t call Italy “Il bel paese” (the beautiful country) for no reason. While players often leave Serie A to chase bigger pay checks, they are more than happy to return. This January we have seen Muriel, Gabbiadini, Sansone and Kucka come back and there’s a chance at least one between Matteo Darmian and Davide Zappacosta follows their path.

Lazio have been linked to Zappacosta for some time, but they are faced with some tough demands from Chelsea who are determined to include a forced option to buy in a potential loan deal. While Lazio maybe a bit more motivated to get a deal done now that Jordan Lukaku is heading to Newcastle, they will likely rely on Zappacosta’s agent Alessandro Lucci to work as a mediator with Chelsea to get better terms.

Darmian on the other hand has been a transfer target for Juventus dating back to his time at Torino, and now that Inter have closed the deal for Cedric Soares they are the only feasible Italian destination for him. So far Manchester United have been asking for a loan with financial considerations with a hefty option to buy to let Darmian, but now that there’s less of a market for him, they may just lower their demands.

 

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 20

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Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is suspended, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) are banged up after the Supercoppa, but they could recover by Monday. Mario Mandzukic will be on the mend for a couple more weeks and Medhi Benatia remains iffy with a sore groin.

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne, Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Dries Mertens is trying to shake off an ankle sprain and his presence is not 100 percent certain. Marek Hamsik is not expected to come back from his thigh strain. Raul Albiol is fatigued, but available.  Continue reading