Juventus-Frosinone: the Bianconeri quickly bounced back in Sassuolo after the 3-3 draw with Parma and have won four times in the last five fixtures, fortifying their lead in the standings. The Ciociari have been pesky recently and they are coming off a surprise win over Sampdoria, their second in a row on the road, and they are now within striking distance from the 17th spot. With Champions League just around the corner, Cristiano Ronaldo might be rested for the second time in Serie A, which would mean more scoring opportunities for Mario Mandzukic, Federico Bernardeschi and Paulo Dybala, or whoever will compose the front-line. Continue reading
Sampdoria-Udinese: the Blucerchiati were pipped at the post in Florence last week, in a game that turned on its head a thousand times. They have won three straight at home. After three positive, or semi-positives, results Udinese took a tumble at home against Parma. They have managed to prevail just once on the road thus far. Fabio Quagliarella has found the target in ten straight appearances and is one shy of tying the record, so he is obviously a must-start, considering that the match-up is not that hard. Gaston Ramirez is suspended, so Riccardo Saponara will draw the start and could be worth a look. Even Jakub Jankto showed some life in the last game, but Karol Linetty might be able to return in the midfield. Continue reading
“Meglio l’uovo oggi che la gallina domani” is what Enrico Preziosi must have been thinking when pondering what to do with Krzysztof Piatek during the January window. The Italian saying which translates to “better an egg today than a hen tomorrow” could also be seen as a play on Andrea Belotti’s nickname “Il Gallo”- the rooster, whose dip in transfer value was likely a stark reminder to Genoa’s president that it’s better to sell a player a (half) season too soon than a full season too late.
After a meteoric start to his Serie A tenure in which his goal scoring streak saw him match records of players like Zico and Shevchenko, Piatek was already being linked to Premier League clubs. In addition, if you believe Preziosi and De Laurentiis’ public quotes, Napoli’s bid of around 40 million was rejected since Genoa wanted to see what the Polish striker could do over the course of a full season before establishing his transfer value.
Then came Preziosi’s stunning decision to sack Davide Ballardini, despite the fact that the manager had the team close to the Champions League zone and oversaw Piatek’s incredible start. The Polish scoring machine stalled under Ballardini’s replacement Juric and some wondered if the real gem on Genoa’s attack was actually Piatek’s partner Christian Kouame’.
So when Gonzalo Higuain pulled a Bonucci and pushed to leave Milan as soon as possible, Preziosi decided that he would not pass on another opportunity to turn a massive profit on Piatek after investing under 5 million euro to acquire him last summer from Cracovia. The framework of the deal with Milan was agreed to on Friday and the transaction is expected to be completed after the two teams face each other on Monday.
Piatek will try to end the striker curse at Milan which in just the past 18 months has seen the up an coming Mendes jewel Andre Silva, the functional to Montella’s system Kalinic and now the bona fide big name Higuain fail to live up to expectations. This is a daunting task to say the least, especially when arriving mid season.
To get a better gauge of the odds on Piatek ending this curse for the rossoneri, I asked Marco Bovicelli- who covers Genoa for Sky Sport- how he would describe the Polish striker and this is what he told me “He’s like a bolt of lightning, very fast with his feet and mind. He gets the ball and if situation allows it within one two seconds he shoots. If he only gets three good balls in a match he’ll score at least once. He’s young, works hard and has significant margins for improvement”
While seeing Genoa sell their best players is nothing new and will continue in the summer when standout defender Cristian Romero and Kouame’ also move on, Torino tried to take a different approach with Andrea Belotti a few years ago. The granata rewarded their main striker with a significant raise, in exchange they were able to insert an exit clause worth 100 million euro in his contract- they also made it valid only outside of Italy to ensure Juventus wouldn’t try to weaken their cross town rivals.
Now many interpreted this as Torino setting his value at 100 million, but in reality the clause was there to ensure their best player would stay short of an indecent offer. While now it’s easy to mock Torino for over valuing Belotti, those who follow Serie A often complain that the level of the league would improve further if clubs tried harder to keep their best players- the problem is Torino may have picked the wrong one.
After receiving substantial profits for Darmian, Glik and Maksimovic, Torino’s president Urbano Cairo decided he would change course and try to elevate his team. Considering how hard it is for mid table teams to find consistent goal scorers, Cairo turned down substantial bids from Atletico Madrid and Milan to keep Belotti. While we can admire his ambition and desire to not be like many other Serie A clubs, a series of injuries to Belotti, followed by some poor performances, made that decision seem foolish.
Last summer Torino decided to go all in with Belotti. They kept Iago Falque and added Roberto Soriano and Simone Zaza to give him even more support, but so far the results haven’t lived up to expectations. Soriano already left while Zaza has yet to make a real impact.
You have to wonder if West Ham’s recent interest in Belotti to potentially replace Arnautovic who has been linked to a move to China, will make Cairo decide that an egg today is worth sacrificing his rooster over during the January window.
Roma-Torino: the Giallorossi are on the up and up with three wins in the last four games, over Genoa, Sassuolo and Parma and have re-entered the Champions League fray. The Granata continue to be a little uninspiring, they have prevailed just twice in their last seven games, but they are still undefeated on the road and have shared the spoils in the majority of away matches. Patrick Schick has had a resurgence is the last month and the duel with Edin Dzeko is legitimate now. They have also recovered Lorenzo Pellegrini, who was having a great season before getting hurt and makes them very menacing up front, since Cengiz Under, Bryan Cristante, Nicolò Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert have all been productive before the break and even Javier Pastore showed some life in Coppa Italia. Continue reading
Coppa Italia, Round of 16
Returning from the Winter Break, the Coppa Italia has thrown up an interesting last 16 tie as Fiorentina take on Torino, a club their supporters are “twinned” with. That often leads to a strange, muted atmosphere inside the ground, yet this fixture offers both teams a chance to progress to the quarterfinals. Continue reading
Standings implications: nothing changes in the upper echelon after the final game of 2018, as the top three teams did not look particularly impressive, but all came away with wins as Juventus and Napoli outlasted Sampdoria and Bologna and Inter beat Empoli on the road. Lazio and Torino shared the spoils in a very nervous games and this result allows Milan, who finally came through against SPAL, and Roma, which blitzed Parma, to close the gap for the fourth spot. In the Europa League race, Atalanta pummeled Sassuolo, while Fiorentina drew with Genoa. In the lower districts, Udinese outfaced Cagliari and Chievo finally earned their first win of the season by besting Frosinone in a battle of sad sacks. Continue reading
Juventus-Sampdoria: after a string of close wins over fierce enemies, the Bianconeri draw against Atalanta, in a game where they came back in ten men. It is just their second tie in Serie A. The Blucerchiati are in a marvelous moment, as they have not lost in the last six games and have won in four of their last five. The offensive production remained the same for Juventus in the last four matches, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic were the only one to hit the net. Paulo Dybala is stuck in a playmaking role, while Douglas Costa has always been more of an assist man. They are awaiting for some goals out of the midfield and Emre Can and Sami Khedira have some potential there, while Rodrigo Bentancur will be suspended in this one. On the other hand, Sampdoria’s attack is humming as Fabio Quagliarella has scored for eight matches in a row and Gaston Ramirez, Gianluca Caprari and Riccardo Saponara have all found the target recently and even Karol Linetty and Dennis Praet have done some damage. The only one not playing well is Gregoire Defrel, but this could be a decent match-up for his skillset, should he be given the start. Continue reading
Thomas Strakosha: Lazio have conceded at least a goal in few matches in a row, but they were a little unlucky against Cagliari and the match-up versus Bologna is favorable in that department, since the Rossoblù have scored just seven times at home, the second fewest of any Serie A team, and have had very little juice offensively lately.
Alex Sandro: a trip to Bergamo is never too comfortable for any team, but the Juventus back-line has repelled even better opponents on their way to six consecutive clean sheets. The fullback, fresh off a contract renewal, always makes his presence felt on offense. Continue reading
Standings implications: Juventus edge past Roma and they are now officially Winter champions. Napoli are not in a prolific stretch, but they eked out another win, this time squeaking by SPAL. Inter was pipped at the post in Verona. Lazio returned to winning ways by squashing Cagliari, re-claiming the fourth spot, since Milan got beat at home by Fiorentina. Sampdoria soared past Empoli late, defending their sixth position and building some separation over Sassuolo and Torino, which shared the spoils. Genoa outlasted Atalanta, giving Cesare Prandelli his first win since coming back to Serie A. Marco Baroni salvaged a decent point in Udine in his debut. Parma and Bologna settled for a nil-nil tie. Continue reading
The next round features one of the games of the season, Juventus-Inter, and few other juicy match-ups.
Juventus-Inter: the Bianconeri got the better of Fiorentina, extending their winning streak to five fixtures, but in that occasion they were not as dominant as the final score showed. Against Roma, Inter dropped points for the second time in a row on the road and, despite scoring twice, they never looked in control. The same thing happened in Bergamo, but they are extremely opportunistic, so they can never be counted out. Cristiano Ronaldo added one to his tally with a penalty in Florence, while Rodrigo Bentancur continues to impress. Mario Mandzukic is generally money in big matches, while Douglas Costa has the potential to be a factor off the bench. Despite being useful in other areas, Paulo Dybala’s offensive stats in Serie A have been subpar. Continue reading