Lazio adding impressive depth ahead of Champions League return

Lazio surprised the masses last season with an unlikely title push, but ultimately fell short when it mattered, sliding down to fourth place. In many ways, the Biancocelesti’s lack of depth hurt the side after the restart. Simone Inzaghi’s men played some of the best football in Italy when playing once a week, but will need to adapt quickly as their return to the Champions League approaches.

The capital-based club has wasted no time bolstering their ranks and addressing their needs. Vedat Muriqi has arrived from Fenerbahçe S.K and will offer some crucial depth up front. Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa start the season as Inzaghi’s undisputed starters but will benefit from sitting out some games. Felipe Caicedo impressed early on in the year but tailed off towards the tail end of the season while Bobby Adekanye is still young for a bigger role.

At 26 years old, Muriqi offers experienced depth and is a proven goalscorer. The Kosovo international netted 15 goals and 6 assists last season in Super Lig action, indicating he is deadly in front of goal. Beyond his impressive goalscoring repertoire, Muriqi has demonstrated he can play in a two-striker setup and could form a dangerous partnership with either Immobile or Correa. It may have taken Lazio some time to get this deal over the line, but Muriqi’s arrival is a big one.

Other than Muriqi, Lazio has also signed Mohamed Fares from the relegated SPAL. Last season, Jony started most of the Biancocelesti’s games from left wingback and faced no competition from Jordan Lukaku. Fares’s arrival creates competition for the starting role, all-while offering Inzaghi depth off the bench. Fares is an experienced Serie A player and comes at a relatively low price.

SPAL may have disappointed last season, but Fares was regularly a bright spot for the Ferrara-based club and was a constant menace down the left-hand side. As the new season approaches, expect Fares to start off the bench and slowly stake a claim for the starting spot. His signing is yet another one that may go under the radar but could prove to be one of the bargains of the summer.

Gonzalo Escalante has also been added from Eibar and has looked decent in the midfield in the early goings of preseason. A more pressing need for Inzaghi’s men, however, is at centreback. The Biancocelesti have previously been linked with Hellas Verona’s Marash Kumbulla and are reportedly monitoring Torino’s Armando Izzo. 

According to recent reports, Izzo does not fit into Marco Giampaolo’s plans next season, as the former Sampdoria tactician looks to transition I Granata to a back four. In this sense, Izzo would be an ideal signing for Inzaghi’s men and much like Fares, has plenty of Serie A experience in a similar system.

Kumbulla is another player who impressed in a back three this season but may be unrealistic given his price-tag. Inter has recently pulled out of the race for the defender, giving Lazio the opportunity to swoop in. As the new season approaches, Inzaghi will be eager to add another center-back to his side, with Izzo or Kumbulla both representing great options.

It would appear the Biancocelesti are gearing up to compete on all three fronts going into next season, adding impressive depth across the board. With the new season kicking off in just ten days, it remains to be seen if Lazio will add another centre-back, despite the recent links. Inzaghi’s men may not contend for the Scudetto this season, but if last season was anything to go by, underestimate them at your own risk. Lazio has bolstered their roster and will be raring to go upon their Champions League return.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 36

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is again sidelined due to lack of form. Duvan Zapata (ankle), José Palomino and Berat Djimsiti (toe) picked up knocks in the last game but they are all available. The most at risk of being rested is the last one.

Bologna: Takehiro Tomiyasu closes his season in advance due to a biceps femoris strain. Jerdy Schouten is unlikely to be back here from the same injury.

Brescia: Stefano Sabelli is suspended. Simon Skrabb is nursing an ankle sprain. Jesse Joronen, Birkir Bjarnason, Jhon Chancellor and Alfredo Donnarumma will get the day off.

Cagliari: Christian Oliva and Luca Pellegrini  will stay on the shelf again with their ankle sprains.

Fiorentina: Gaetano Castrovilli is suspended. Dalbert subbed off versus Inter but it was just fatigue, Bartlomiej Dragowski missed some time with back spasms.

Genoa: Lukas Lerager is out due to yellow-card accumulation. Cristian Romero bowed out in the Derby, Francesco Cassata, Stefano Sturaro and Antonio Sanabria are dinged up but they have been pretty secretive with their injuries.

Inter: Nicolò Barella is suspended. Stefan De Vrij left the last game with a knee sprain but it is not believed to be a major issue.

Juventus: Mattia De Sciglio is expected back soon from his thigh strain. Giorgio Chiellini (calf) and Gonzalo Higuain (back) are day-to-day. Douglas Costa suffered a grade two thigh strain that will likely cost him the rest of the season, Champions League included. 

Lazio: Manuel Lazzari is banned. Luis Alberto (knee), Joaquin Correa (knee), Jony (thigh) and Adam Marusic (thigh) all came back in the last game, while Djavan Anderson missed it with fatigue. Stefan Radu (calf) might be back maybe in the season finale. Francesco Acerbi is questionable with knee soreness.

Lecce: Marco Calderoni  returns from a contracture, while Khouma Babacar and Diego Farias were late scratches for the past game and are questionable, but at least they are available this time around. Luca Rossettini has shaken off his worrying illness.

Milan: Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer are suspended. Simon Kjaer is not 100 percent but should gut it out, especially because Alessio Romagnoli pulled his calf and will miss the remaining matches. Andrea Conti hurt his knee but the exams ruled out structural damages. Samu Castillejo and Leo Duarte (thigh) are available after spending time on the shelf. 

Napoli: David Ospina missed the last game with fatigue, but shook it off quickly, while Mario Rui will be rested.

Parma: Gaston Brugman is out due to yellow-card accumulation and also strained his calf, so he is done for the season. Bruno Alves (hip) came back in the previous game, while Riccardo Gagliolo might miss another one with a similar ailment. Hernani suffered a quad strain and he too will skip the remaining fixtures. Matteo Scozzarella (calf) and Andreas Cornelius (thigh) are trying to come back but face an uphill battle.

Roma: Roger Ibanez is likely to miss another one due to a thigh injury, while Cengiz Under is being assessed after being ruled out late for the previous match. Federico Fazio (ankle), Antonio Mirante (calf), Juan Jesus (hip) and Davide Santon (calf) are nursing minor stuff that cost them some time.

Sampdoria: Omar Colley and Ronaldo Vieira are suspended. Albin Ekdal subbed off in the last game after hurting his ankle and he is out.

Sassuolo: Mehdi Bourabia was sent off versus Milan. Jeremie Boga picked up a muscular injury and he is being evaluated. Pedro Obiang (thigh), Gregoire Defrel (thigh) and Vlad Chiriches (calf) will probably sit out another one.

SPAL: Kevin Bonifazi was red carded from the bench against Roma. Andrea Cerri fractured a phalanx in the left hand that will cost him some time. Jacopo Sala sprained is ankle and is iffy, while Sergio Floccari and Lucas Castro have been ruled out in advance. 

Torino: Armando Izzo is expected to return from his mild knee sprain, while Lorenzo De Silvestri is out for the season due to an AC joint sprain in the right shoulder.

Udinese: Kevin Lasagna was ruled out very late against Juventus due to a thigh issue. Walace has a shoulder problem but he is good to go, William Troost-Ekong is suspended.

Verona: Giampaolo Pazzini (thigh), Pawel Dawidowicz (pec) and Claud Adjapong are trying to come back from their minor physical problems, while it is probably too early for Marash Kumbulla. Alan Empereur, Salvatore Bocchetti, Valerio Verre and Matteo Lovato are out with last-minute issues. 

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Serie A Injuries and Suspensions Report – Round 35

Atalanta: Hans Hateboer is suspended, while Josip Ilicic again was left out to work on his conditioning.

Bologna: Mitchell Dijks is disqualified, Jerdy Schouten (thigh) remains sidelined.

Brescia: Nikolas Spalek is out due to yellow-card accumulation, Simon Skrabb is questionable with a bruised ankle. Jesse Joronen returned in the last game. Time is running out for Andrea Cistana. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Supension Report – Round 31

Atalanta: José Palomino is suspended.

Bologna: Roberto Soriano was red-carded in the last game and has been suspended for two matches. Gary Medel was a late scratch for the last game due to back spasm, but he is in the squad list. Ibrahima Mbaye and Andreas Skov Olsen (thigh) recovered enough to be called up. Andrea Poli and Federico Santander are nursing thigh strains.

Brescia: Andrea Cistana (lower leg surgery), Jhon Chancellor (thigh) and Dimitri Bisoli (patellar tendon) remain sidelined, Emanuele Ndoj and Enrico Alfonso are questionable.  Continue reading

Serie A Top Fantasy XI – Round 27

Robin Olsen (7 points): four clean sheets in the 27th round and therefore four goalies managed to rack up points, as David Ospina, Salvatore Sirigu and Wojciech Szczesny join the Cagliari player in such list. Sirigu had a very strong outing as well, but Olsen just edges him thanks to a fantastic late save on Andrea Petagna, where he threw himself in front of the striker to deny a clear-cut opportunity. It is not outlandish to think that he will supplant Alessio Cragno.

Faouzi Ghoulam (7 points): only one defender scored in this matchday, Fiorentina’s German Pezzella, but they conceded once, therefore the three spots are reserved to members of the teams that blanked their opponents. Ghoulam played just a handful of minutes but picked up an assist with a venomous corner kick towards the far post, which was successful met by Hirving Lozano for the two-nil against Verona. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 24

Atalanta: newcomer Tomas Sutalo is the only sidelined player, due to an edema in his right foot.

Bologna: Musa Barrow sprained his ankle and Riccardo Orsolini picked up a cut on the knee last week, but they both practiced fully in the last couple of days and should be a full go. Roberto Soriano instead is out due to a bruised thigh. No returns among their previously injured players: Nicola Sansone, Gary Medel, Federico Santander (thigh), Ladislav Krejci (knee) and Mitchell Dijks (foot). Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 22

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is dealing with some thigh soreness but there is optimism it is nothing serious. Timothy Castagne resumed practicing after some knee pain and Lennart Czyborra is available as well following a contracture. Tomas Sutalo will miss time with a navicular bone edema. 

Bologna: Takehiro Tomiyasu is suspended. Nicola Sansone should be fine after some muscle fatigue and Stefano Denswil is on track to return from a thigh problem. Gary Medel (thigh) and Ladislav Krejci (knee) are poised to remain on the shelf.

Brescia: Mario Balotelli will finish serving his two-game suspension. Continue reading

Serie A Round 22 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

Match-day 21 saw Italy’s top three all drop points with Juventus picking up their second loss of the season against Napoli. Despite this, Lazio and Inter weren’t able to capitalize and drew their games against Roma and Cagliari respectively. This week, Italy’s top sides will all be looking to return to winning ways as Juve will host Fiorentina and Lazio take on SPAL. Inter, by contrast, will look to beat Udinese.

With match-day 22 upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your elevens. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Gonzalo Higuain (FWD, Juventus, Value 15.43 ) – After a storming start to the season, the former Real Madrid man has slowed down and has looked fatigued when given a starting role. Against Fiorentina, expect Sarri to use Higuain off the bench rather than from the start. The Juve hitman failed to create anything of note against Napoli on the weekend and looked sluggish in and out of possesion. As a result, a spell on the sidelines could prove to be exactly what the doctor ordered.

At 15.43M, let’s face it, you can do better than Higuain. After all, he’ll feature mostly off the bench as the season draws to a close.

Armando Izzo (DEF, Torino, Value 13.00 ) – The Torino man had an outing to forget against Gian Piero Gasperini’s high-flying Atalanta and got sent off in a 7-0 defeat. Izzo, a defender typically known for his solidity and imposing physique, has looked off the pace recently and could use the weekend off. With the red, he frankly has no choice.

Torino have also had a week to forget conceding a further four goals against Milan in their most recent Coppa Italia defeat. That’s eleven goals in two games. As a result, you would be wise to temporarily swap out the veteran defender out of your sides.

Domenico Criscito (DEF, Genoa, 7.93 Value ) – Much like Izzo, Criscito had a weekend to forget. While Genoa’s scoreless draw against Fiorentina wasn’t the worst result all things considered, it could have been much more for the Grifoni. Criscito was handed a golden opportunity from the spot to gift his side a crucial three points, but much to his dismay spurned the spot-kick. It was his first penalty miss of the season and came at a painfully unfortunate time.

With Genoa stuck in the relegation zone, Criscito will need to rise to the occasion and deliver captain-like performances. For now, however, his stock is low.

Lautaro Martinez (FWD, Inter, Value 18.95 ) – Despite his goal on the weekend, Martinez makes the list. The month of January has been a frustrating one for Conte’s men as they have dropped points against Cagliari, Lecce, and Atalanta. All draws that might come back to haunt them at the end of the season.

The frustration arguably hit a boiling point against the Sardinians as Martinez let his anger get the best of him and was sent off deep into stoppage-time. He was subsequently suspended for Inter’s next two games. The nerazzurri will now have to make do without his services for the foreseeable future at a crucial time in their season. While Martinez features in most fantacalcio sides and rightfully so, keep an eye on the Argentine international’s progression over the next few weeks.

Rodrigo De Paul (MID, Udinese, Value 13.44) – The Udinese man has failed to follow up last season’s impressive exploits and has struggled in Friuli. While Udinese lack creativity and alternative options in the final third, De Paul has shied away from responsibility and was anonymous in his side’s most recent defeats against Parma and Milan.

While Udinese are relatively safe from the drop, De Paul will need to step up if he foresees a big-money move in the summer.

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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 21

Standings implications: in a pretty surprising round, Napoli upset Juventus, Cagliari held Inter to a tie, while Roma and Lazio equalized. The Nerazzurri are now three points behind first place, the Biancocelesti potentially two. Atalanta return within one point from the Champions League zone after the complete annihilation of Torino. Cagliari surely got a positive result but they were caught in the standings by Milan, which nipped Brescia, and Parma, which instead outplayed Udinese and so there is now a three-way tie in sixth position. Verona are not far behind after torpedoing Lecce, Bologna instead prevailed in the Derby with SPAL. Sampdoria and Sassuolo shared the spoils in a snooze-fest and thus maintain a little cushion over the last three positions. Genoa were the only team to get a point in the relegation zone as they survived the meeting with Fiorentina. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 19

Thomas Strakosha (7 points): there were some high-quality goalkeeping in this round, where six teams managed to keep a clean sheet. Udinese’s Juan Musso and Fiorentina’s Bartlomiej Dragowski were fine, but nod goes to Lazio’s goalie for a pair of sure-handed saves on threatening attempts by Lorenzo Insigne.

Simone Iacoponi (9 points): he untangled a game that was starting to become pretty complicated for Parma with a well directed header on a corner kick. Continue reading