The last week prior to the official start of the transfer market was understandably quiet: Sampdoria pulled off the most interesting move by adding another talented youngster, Gonzalo Maroni from Boca Juniors, who can feature in few positions up front and has the potential to be electric. Genoa made a sizeable investment to have Andrea Pinamonti from Inter, who had a very promising rookie season in Frosinone and is set to be their featured guy up front moving forward. Fiorentina are giving the keys to their goal to Barlomiej Dragowki, who blossomed in Empoli last season, and thus sent Alban Lafont to Nantes on a two-year loan. Sassuolo permanently signed left back Rogerio from Juventus after the 18-month loan, Brescia did the same with Ales Mateju, who belonged to Brighton.
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
Sassuolo-Roma: the Neroverdi were handed their first loss since April last week by Torino, even though they certainly put up a fight, despite not being in need of points. The Giallorossi defeated Juventus with a late surge, garnering their fourth win in the last six rounds, tying in the other two and staying close to the fourth spot. Sassuolo have found the target in five of the last six rounds and La Lupa have not been great defensively on the road: they have spread the wealth around since Domenico Berardi was the only one to bag one in multiple matches. Jeremie Boga, Stefano Sensi, Manuel Locatelli and all the defenders contributed scoring-wise: Boga and Sensi have been their most lively contributors in the last few fixtures. The Giallorossi are getting a lot from Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko, while the latest tactical change, if confirmed, would help the likes of Nicolò Zaniolo, Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert, as the last two would see more minutes. Lorenzo Pellegrini is iffy due to a thigh ailment and his absence could allow Bryan Cristante to have a big role.
With the Serie A season coming to a close, many of the league’s relegation-bound sides will be putting their best players on the market. Needing to trim their wage bill, some players will be available cheaply, opening the room for bargains. Every year there’s a few players that stick out from the rest, and frankly deserve better than a season in Italy’s second division. Here are three players who might be worth a look into for Italy’s mid-table sides.
Chievo – Mariusz Stepinski (Striker)
In his second season in Italian football, Stepinski has grown immensely as a forward, and has done his best to lead Chievo’s misfiring front-line. While goals proved hard to come by in Verona this season, the Polish forward found the back of the net six times, two of which came in the early goings of the year against Juventus and Roma.
At just 24 years old, Stepinski deserves another shot at top flight football, albeit with a more progressive side. Simply put, any side in the bottom half of the table could make do with his services.
Midfielder Sofian Kiyine could also be of interest to sides looking to bolster their midfield with youth, and has demonstrated he’s more than capable of holding his own.
Empoli – Ismael Bennacer (Center Midfield)
The Empoli midfielder has been in sensational form this season, and has done exceptionally well at the heart of the Tuscan’s midfield. Bennacer has proven equally capable of shielding the back four, as he is spreading the ball as evidenced through his five assists, and is undoubtedly ready for a bigger club. With many of Serie A’s sides missing a link between attack and defence, the Algerian could prove to be an under-the-radar, low-cost option.
However, English giants Arsenal reportedly have a lowly 6 million euros buy-back clause in the 21-year-old’s contract, and are worth monitoring themselves. With Empoli’s Serie A status in doubt, expect Bennacer to be on the move come summertime.
Teammate Francesco Caputo, and his 15 goals, are also worth mentioning, but his age may prove to be a deterrent for most sides. In any case, the striker could prove to be an interesting option for the newly-promoted sides.
Frosinone – Camillo Ciano (Attacking Midfielder)
With Frosinone going down to Serie B, many of their players will be available rather cheaply. While loanees Francesco Cassata, and Andrea Pinamonti are of great interest, they will return to their parent clubs Sassuolo and Inter respectively. If either is available again, they should definitely be made priorities. However, Serie A’s mid-table to lower tier sides would be wise to focus their attention on attacking midfielder Camillo Ciano.
The 29-year-old has proven effective in a front two, and is versatile enough to play behind the striker as well. His seven goals and four assists illustrate he’s worthy of Italy’s top flight, and will undoubtedly be on the radar of the newly-promoted outfits looking for goals, and creativity in the final third. As he is nearing 30 years old, Ciano could prove to be a bargain.
Sportiello is worthy of consideration, as well, but is coming off one of his poorer seasons since establishing himself as a number one within Italy.
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Emiliano Viviano (7 points): he contributed to SPAL’s impressive victory with a solid save on a Ciro Immobile’s shot and a rather lucky rejection with the help of the post on Lucas Leiva point-blank attempt.
Merih Demiral (13 points): he almost ruined a perfect night with a silly penalty foul late, but Emanuele Giaccherini missed and so his fantasy haul remains the best of the season for a defenders thanks to two outstanding headers.
Leonardo Bonucci (9 points): a commanding performance by the Juventus defense in Cagliari and the veteran centre-back embellished it with a great header on a corner kick.
Pol Lirola (7 points): a dominating performance for the energetic fullback, who was no match for the opponents on the right flank and set up two goals for Sassuolo
Josip Ilicic (10 points): he single-handedly knocked out Bologna in the span of ten minutes, punishing them with two venomous lefty strikes and then teeing up Hans Hateboer three-nothing goal. Continue reading
Standings implication: Juventus overwhelmed Cagliari, while Napoli fell to Empoli and therefore the Bianconeri could potentially clinch the title in the weekend. In the Champions League race, it was a positive round for Inter, which thumped Genoa on the road, and Atalanta that demolished Bologna, while Milan had a disappointing tie with Udinese and Lazio were outlasted by SPAL. The Biscione built a little lead while the Orobici are one point behind the Rossoneri.
Torino returned to winning ways against Sampdoria, while Roma again failed to take home the W as they equalized with Fiorentina. The Granata pulled even with the Nation’s Capital teams and distanced Sampdoria. As it is often the case in this time of the year, the relegation strugglers are starting to get some surprise victories: SPAL and Empoli gained points on Udinese and Bologna. Frosinone snatched their first home win of the season, but it might be too late for them as they are * behind the 17th position. Continue reading
Juventus: Cristiano Ronaldo picked up a thigh strain while playing with Portugal and is unlikely to play in the next three games. Sami Khedira has been cleared to practice after a heart problem, but it will take him a little longer before playing. Douglas Costa (quad, calf), Juan Cuadrado (knee) and Andrea Barzagli (calf) remain sidelined, while Mattia De Sciglio has recovered from a thigh pull.
Napoli: Fabian Ruiz will be available after a tough flu. Lorenzo Insigne was on track to play but suffered a relapse of a thigh contracture. Continue reading
Standings implications: the top two teams, Juventus and Napoli, both prevailed, albeit in opposite fashion, against the Emilian teams Bologna and Parma, and so the gap remains untouched going into their clash. Milan and Roma stayed hot: the Rossoneri smoked Empoli, while the Giallorossi won it at the buzzer in Frosinone and they are now both within striking distance from Inter, who tied in a crazy one in Florence. Torino upended Atalanta and are now tied at the sixth position in the ever-changing Europa League race, where Sampdoria return in the picture thanks to a narrow victory over Cagliari. SPAL gained a point over the relegation strugglers in the Derby with Sassuolo and Genoa and Chievo shared the spoils too. Continue reading
Milan-Empoli: the Rossoneri are coming off a humungous win over Atalanta, the second in a row after they had disposed of Cagliari and they have not lost since in 2019, maintaining a slim advantage over Roma in the Champions League race. The Azzurri snapped an eight-game famine on Sunday, where they had picked up only two points and lost seven times. The Devil will not have Suso due to a suspension, which opens up minutes for either Samu Castillejo or Fabio Borini. Needless to say, Krzysztof Piatek continues to be amazing and his clutchness is remarkable because he does not get as many feeds as other top Serie A strikers. Hakan Calhanoglu finally bagged one last week and they will rely more on their playmaking with Suso on the stands. Continue reading
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