Serie A Injury Report – Round 18

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Juventus: Federico Bernardeschi has a thigh ailment and he is likely to miss the next two games. Juan Cuadrado will not undergo knee surgery, but his timetable is uncertain. Blaise Matuidi is under the weather and out for the Bergamo trip. Moise Kean has a hamstring ailment. 

Napoli:  Allan is set to return after missing one due to back pain. Mario Rui is back to the squad list.

Inter: Radja Nainggolan has been suspended by the team for disciplinary reasons. Joao Miranda is out again due to muscle fatigue.

Lazio: Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are fatigued and might sit initially. Luis Alberto subbed off against Cagliari, but just for cramps. Milan Badelj is iffy with a muscular problem. Valon Berisha and Riza Durmisi will not be available.  Continue reading

Three Keys for Napoli vs Liverpool

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Champions League Group C is a tight one between leaders Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain and last year’s runner-up Liverpool entering the final round of play. As things stand, the Partenopei lead PSG by a single point, while holding a three point cushion over the English giants who they will pay a visit tonight at Anfield.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli can qualify for the Round of 16 through one of the following scenarios: 1) win or draw vs Liverpool, 2) lose by a goal, but score at least once (2-1, 3-2) and PSG wins/loses. Continue reading

Serie A Team of Season (So Far)

The last international break of the year takes place with about a third of the Serie A season in the books, enough time to come up with an ideal eleven with what we’ve seen so far. Suffice to say this is a subjective exercise that is likely to cause a lot of second guessing. But let’s put fear of criticism aside and focus on picking the ideal starting eleven:

Keeper- Alessio Cragno

 

We have a seen a significant turnover at the position for top teams. Buffon is now shockingly at Paris St Germain, Pepe Reina is now a backup at Milan and Roma cashed in on Alisson, the best player at the position last season.

While the more hyped Alex Meret hasn’t been able to play for Napoli yet after suffering an injury to his arm during the summer retreat, Alessio Cragno has become a regular on Mancini’s selections for the Azzurri thanks to his strong performances for Cagliari. He received significant competition from Parma’s Luigi Sepe for the vaunted starter spot on Amoyal’s top 11, leading me to wonder if Napoli would have been just better off starting him dating back to last season.

Honorable mentions- Sirigu, Sepe

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Right Back- Cancelo

When the former Inter “defender” arrived in Turin, his agent Jorge Mendes just smiled when a fan asked him if Cristiano Ronaldo would be joining him at Juventus. That started the narrative that Cancelo was essentially the tax Juventus had to pay to the super agent to land CR7, but now the Portuguese international is rightly considered one of the best wing backs in all of Serie A- he’s the player Juventus was looking for when they signed Mauricio Isla from Udinese and later Dani Alves.

Spal’s Lazzari is now more than ready for a top team, while De Silvestri has been one of Torino’s most consistent players of the season so far.

Honorable mention- Lazzari, De Silvestri

 

Left Back- Cristiano Biraghi

The former Inter youth team product has strived playing for Pioli and is the current starter on the Italian national team. He edges out Asamoah, who has slowed down after a great start at Inter and Alex Sandro who is showing signs he’s regaining the form from his first season at Juventus. 

Honorable mention- Asamoah, Alex Sandro

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Center Backs- Kalidou Koulibaly, Stefan De Vrij

I was recently asked who is the best Bosman signing of the past ten years in Serie A, and while Pirlo is still the obvious answer, we could see De Vrij get in the conversation pretty soon. It’s very rare to sign a defender of his caliber who is just at the beginning of his prime without paying a transfer fee, and his performances this season have shown his trademark elegance and efficiency- he’s an ideal partner for Skriniar, who continues to be one of the elite defenders in Italy.

After losing Higuain because Juventus exercised his exit clause a few years ago, Napoli’s president De Laurentiis decided there was no way he was going to lose Koulibaly during the same window. It’s starting to look like losing the Senegalese defender would have been an even bigger loss than Higuain.

You all know about Chiellini, so let’s highlight fact that Sampdoria has done great work grooming Joaquim Andersen- the Danish center back sat out his first season in Serie A and is now starting to be linked to clubs like Juventus and Inter.

Honorable mention- Skriniar, Chiellini, Andersen, Acerbi

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Midfield- Allan, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo’ Barella

We’ve seen a changing of the guard here with Hamsik, De Rossi and Nainggolan slowing down. While Allan had already emerged as a force for Napoli under Sarri, the fact that Jorginho is gone is giving him more of a spotlight. He’s become the best box to box midfielder in Serie A since Arturo Vidal’s first two seasons at Juventus.

The injury to Pastore gave Lorenzo Pellegrini an opportunity to play in a more advanced position and he couldn’t have done more to take advantage of it. Cagliari must be thrilled they decided to hang on to Barella for another season, his value has skyrocketed because of his performance in Serie A as well as the Italian national team where he looks like a good compliment to Jorginho and Verratti.

Benassi has managed to score as many goals as Chiesa/Pjaca/Simeone combined, as Brozovic goes so does Inter and former Monaco midfielder Meite’ has more than doubled his transfer value since arriving in Italy.

Honorable mention- Meite’, Brozovic , Benassi

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Strikers- Ciro Immobile, Krzysztof Piatek, Lorenzo Insigne

While Piatek hasn’t been able to score since Ballardini was sacked, he has been one of the best story lines in all of Calcio this season. Immobile has kept Lazio afloat despite De Vrij’s departure and more importantly Milinkovic Savic and Luis Alberto getting off to dreadful starts. For the last starting spot I was very undecided between Suso, who has adapted to Gattuso’s style brilliantly after a tough second half to last season, and Insigne but I give a slight edge to the Neapolitan striker since he also adapted to a new role under Ancelotti.

Honorable mention- Suso, Ronaldo, Icardi, El Shaarawy

 

Squad rotation continues to pay dividends for Carlo Ancelotti and Napoli

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Napoli turned around their UEFA Champions League Group C bout with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, earning a 1-1 draw with strong second half efforts from Kalidou Koulibaly and Allan, as well as a cold-blooded penalty strike from Lorenzo Insigne.

As things stand, the Partenopei sit joint-first with Liverpool, and cling to a slight advantage on goal differential over the English outfits. Much of this success can be attributed to the individual efforts of many in the squad under manager Carlo Ancelotti. But, without question, the sharpness in play and positive results stem from the Italian’s meticulous approach towards tactical modifications and rotation. Continue reading

Allan shines for Napoli in big UCL win over Liverpool

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Napoli’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool last night inside a vibrant San Paolo was one to remember for Neapolitans. Manager Carlo Ancelotti outclassed Reds boss Jürgen Klopp, executing his tactical game-plan down to its finest details and stifling the Champions League Final runner-ups with unwavering pressure and energy throughout the entire 90 minutes of play. The 59-year old Italian showed exactly why he is a three-time winner of the competition yesterday and further validated his ability to tinker with his tactics at his current job.

While local boy Lorenzo Insigne eventually became the hero when he latched onto and finished off his 90th minute winner, there was plenty of praise to go around amongst the Partenopei for the inspiring team effort, specifically for midfield enforcer Allan. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Juventus vs Napoli

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The most anticipated match-up of the early portion of the season did not disappoint and, for a change, was played at a fast pace and with a proactive attitude by both sides. Juventus came out on top by overwhelming Napoli led by their big-ticket summer acquisition, but the Partenopei confirmed their competitivity on Saturday, even though it will be tough for anybody to keep up with the seven-time Italian Champions in the standings.

The Old Lady came into the game having won every fixture, while Napoli dropped points just once as they were defeated by Sampdoria. Continue reading

Ancelotti, Napoli look to rebound on home turf against Fiorentina

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Napoli entered the recent international break with a sour taste in their mouth as the defeat away to Sampdoria 3-0 at the Marassi opened the Partenopei up for criticism.

While Fabio Quagliarella’s awe-inspiring back-heel goal went viral and stole most of the attention, the Scudetto hopefuls were lambasted for their collective effort, and now Carlo Ancelotti’s men enter must-win mode this weekend at home against a hot Fiorentina side in order to keep pace with Juventus at the top. Continue reading

Serie A Club of the Week – Sampdoria

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Inter had a dominating performance against Bologna, but obviously Sampdoria get the nod because they outfaced a much better opponent like Napoli. The Blucerchiati had a shaky debut against Udinese, but bounced back beautifully at home against one of the title contenders.

Marco Giampaolo made a couple of changes to his previous starting XI, picking ex-Napoli Lorenzo Tonelli over newcomer Omar Colley, Riccardo Saponara over Gaston Ramirez as trequartista and Albin Ekdal as deep-plying playmaker, with Edgar Barreto moving to box-to-box replacing Jakub Jankto. Continue reading

Napoli Coach Carlo Ancelotti Should Consider Building His Midfield Around Jorginho

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After months of speculation in the media surrounding his future at the club, manager Maurizio Sarri’s era as Napoli boss came to an end earlier this past week as president Aurelio De Laurentiis announced the chainsmoking Italian tactician would no longer be in charge.

Sarri, who has been at the helm of the Partenopei since 2015, transcended the way Napoli football was played with an aesthetically pleasing brand that earned widespread praise and plaudits across continental Europe.   Continue reading