Serie A Match of the Round – Torino vs Sassuolo

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There is a lot of filler in these last few rounds as some teams have no real objective in sight, but when one of those put up a fight against a foe actually fighting for something, it can turn out to be a thrilling match-up, like it was the case for Torino-Sassuolo.

The Granata are in the hunt for the sixth place and were coming off a draw in the Derby della Mole, while they had taken home the full loot in the previous two contests against Genoa and Milan. The Neroverdi had stayed undefeated for six rounds, prevailing twice, and are right in the middle of the standings. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 28

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Standings implications: Juventus dropped their first game in Genoa, while Napoli tamed Udinese and so the lead yo-yoes back to 15 points. Inter resurrected at the most opportune time and torpedoed Milan in the Derby della Madonnina, reclaiming the third spot. Roma did not take advantage as they had a poor showing in Ferrara. It was a good week for Lazio, as they demolished Parma, while Atalanta got stymied by Chievo and Torino came up empty-handed against Bologna. In the lower districts, mammoth wins for the Felsinei, SPAL and Empoli, who sunk Frosinone in the head-to-head bout. Udinese fell back in the mud, as they are now just two points above the Felsinei. Cagliari kept the opponents at bay with a precious W against Fiorentina.

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Serie A Player of the Month – Salvatore Sirigu

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A couple of Serie A strikers were consistently productive in the last month, Krzysztof Piatek and Arkadiusz Milik, but not enough to crack the EuroFantasyLeague Team of the Month. However, it might be cliché, but the Italian league is still very well represented in the most recent edition thanks to a plethora of defenders and Torino’s goalie Salvatore Sirigu, who trailed only to Sergio Aguero in the monthly tally.

Walter Mazzarri has always been known for his defensive style, which sometimes is even a little excessive and takes away from the other side of the ball, but they painted a masterpiece this month with four clean sheets, a total of five straight considering also the final game of January, and there were not many freebies either because they stymied Inter, SPAL, Udinese, Napoli and Atalanta. Continue reading

Walter Mazzarri Is Back At His Best

Liverpool v Torino - Pre-Season Friendly - AnfieldWhen Walter Mazzarri was appointed as Torino boss last January, I Granata were languishing on the outskirts of the mid-table and were a side without a clear identity. Fast forward a year later and Torino have become one of the toughest teams to break down in the peninsula and are now pushing for a spot in next year’s Europa League. While Atalanta have received all the plaudits for their offensive football, Mazzarri’s 
side are their antithesis, and sit on 38 points alongside Gli Orobici. 

After a failed stint in England that saw his contract terminated at the end of his first season, Mazzarri’s reputation took a hit. Long gone were the memories of his Napoli side  that, along with Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani, pushed the envelope beating the likes of Juventus, Inter, and Chelsea in the process. Instead, unsuccessful tenures with Inter and Watford came to define the Italian tactician. That’s why his move to Torino was so important. Back with the familiarity of the Italian mid-table, Mazzarri could finally be himself again after years of trying to be someone he wasn’t.

Since assuming the reigns at the club, Mazzarri has steadied the ship and has made the most of the roster at his disposal. Using his trademark 3-5-2, the former Napoli tactician has transformed Andrea Belotti into a more complete striker, beyond what the stat-sheet might show. At the back, Armando Izzo, who arrived in the summer from Genoa, has been Mazzarri’s undisputed leader and has led by example. Alongside Nkoulou and Moretti, the trio have formed one of the league’s most solid partnerships at the back and have only conceded 22 goals – a feat only bested by the current top four.

In fact, in their last five games I Granata have managed five clean sheets beating the likes of Inter and Atalanta, and held Napoli to a stalemate. Torino also have their keeper Salvatore Sirigu to thank in large part, as the Italian international has played his best football since his Palermo days. After an inconsistent couple of years in Paris and a few loan moves, Sirigu has once again emerged as one of the nation’s top shot-stoppers and has been in top form this season.

Factor in Chelsea loanee Ola Aina’s industry and creativity from the left wing along with De Silvestri’s experience and veteran leadership, and Torino are one tough side to score on, let alone beat.

Mazzarri’s Torino is very similar to any of his past sides that he’s had success with. A compact trio in the midfield, a dangerous duo up top complimenting each other, all-while relying on a resolute defence. We’ve seen this before. With Tomas Rincon acting as the midfield hard-man, as his ten yellow cards would suggest, Daniele Baselli and Soualiho Meité are able to get forward to supply Iago Falque and Belotti. As a whole, Mazzarri’s Torino come together as a real force, and are proof that the sum could be greater than its parts.

Whether or not they qualify for the Europa League remains to be seen as the competition is fierce, however, if Torino have showed us anything this season, it’s that Walter Mazzarri is truly back at his best and it’s wonderful to see.

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Serie A Team of the Week – Round 25

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Mattia Perin (7 points): several clean sheets in this round and among the goalkeepers that managed to do so, the Juventus one had the most impactful performance, denying a strike by Nicola Sansone with an eye-popping save.

Armando Izzo (9 points): Torino once again stymied their opponents with a great collective effort and, on top of that, the centre-back broke the deadlock pouncing on a loose ball in the box.

Elseid Hysaj (7 points): he is generally not particularly flashy on offence, but he delivered on Sunday with a terrific touch with the outside of his foot to spring Piotr Zielinski free. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 25

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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

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 24

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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

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 21

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Once again lots of goals in the Serie A weekend: here’s the best XI.

David Ospina (7 points): the Colombian goalkeeper drew a surprising start and helped his team with a fantastic save late on a close-range attempt by Mateo Musacchio.

Armando Izzo (9 points): the Torino back-line not only stonewalled Inter, but also two defenders combined for the game-winning goal. Izzo is not much of a goal scorer, he had just four in over 150 appearances, but one header was more than enough to bring home the full spoils on Sunday. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 20

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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

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 11

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Standings implications: the top three teams did not stutter in favourable match-ups. Inter and Napoli pummeled Genoa and Empoli, while Juventus had to dig deeper against Cagliari, but maintained their lead. Fiorentina and Roma shared the spoils in a result that helps neither. Lazio smoked SPAL, but Milan kept up with an improbable late goal in Udine. Torino looked very impressive again on the road as Sampdoria were their latest victims. Sassuolo tamed Chievo very easily despite being away. Atalanta keep climbing the standings and mounted a comeback against Bologna.  Continue reading