Inter Reinforcing Ahead Of Scudetto Push

Before the season started, many expected Inter to challenge Juventus for the Scudetto, but few foresaw the nerazzurri going toe-to-toe with the Italian champions like this. After seventeen match-days just eight goals and their head-to-head encounter separates the two at the top of the table. Since his arrival, Antonio Conte has already imprinted a clear identity at the San Siro, something that was lacking for years at the club.

Along with his trade-mark 3-5-2 and defensive solidity, the former Chelsea tactician has ensured his Inter side are among the toughest to break down in the peninsula. However, their lack of squad depth has been pegged as the defining factor in their title bid. As a result, Inter sporting director Giuseppe Marotta appears to be dipping into their war-chest and taking to the January mercato aggressively.

Reports suggest that former Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal is on his way to the club, but Inter will reportedly not stop there. In recent times, they have also been linked with Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam, Marcos Alonso, Olivier Giroud and Marcos Acuna among many other names, highlighting clearly Inter’s intent. While their list of targets grows as the mercato is set to open, Inter’s needs are clear: Midfield depth, another wing-back to compete with Asamoah and Biraghi, and a striker to provide Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez with some much-needed rest. Alexis Sanchez is also expected to return to action shortly, giving Conte another weapon in the final third. Beyond bolstering the side in key areas, Inter’s reported winter activity highlights one thing clearly: The title is there for the taking this season and they’re going for it.

When Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi went down injured, Conte’s men struggled to create chances and Inter barely overcame their opponents in tight affairs. Recognizing this, Inter loosened their purse strings. That’s where the experience of Vidal comes into play. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, the Chilean remains one of football’s elite box-to-box midfielders and will add some valuable experience in the middle of the park, in what is a relatively young midfield trio.

Up front, Lukaku and Martinez deserve a break. Up until now, the former Manchester United man has featured in all of Inter’s 17 Serie A clashes while his Argentine counterpart has appeared in 16 of the nerazzurri’s domestic affairs. While Sanchez’s injury complicated things, Conte will be eager to add another forward to his offensive ranks. Given he’s already familiar with Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman’s arrival makes perfect sense. The former Arsenal man still has plenty to offer as a link-up man in the final third and could form quite the partnership with any of the nerazzurri’s front-men.

While adding another fullback is a luxury more than a necessity given Inter’s depth out wide, it demonstrates Conte and Marotta won’t stop until they’ve built a comprehensive side capable of competing on multiple fronts. With the title race likely going down to the wire this season for the first time in years, Inter are reinforcing significantly and won’t go down without a fight. Brace yourselves, we’ve got a title race.

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Transfer Watch: One Player For Each of Italy’s Big Six

With the transfer window set to re-open, Serie A clubs are taking to the mercato with differing objectives. While some will be looking for that one missing piece of the puzzle, others are in need of significant retooling. In any case, the January window tends to be quiet, but may present unique opportunities; opportunities clubs simply can’t turn down. Zlatan to Milan, for example.

Here’s one player for each of Italy’s big six.

Juventus - Arturo Vidal: The Italian champions are off to a relatively good start in the Maurizio Sarri era and are looking primed for a deep European run. Despite this, their midfield options leave a lot to be desired and are in dire need of reinforcement. Sami Khedira will spend most of the season sidelined while his stunt-double Emre Can appears to be on his way out.

New signings Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey haven’t exactly hit the ground running and will need more time to adapt to their new surroundings. As a result, the Chilean midfielder is an ideal target as he is already familiar with the club and will add some much-needed industry in the middle of the park. Juventus, however, will have to stave off significant interest from Inter. After all, it was Giuseppe Marotta who initially brought Vidal to Italy in the first place.

Inter – Dejan Kulusevski: The Atalanta loanee has been in great form this season and has emerged as a significant creative threat in the final third. While Parma will be reluctant to terminate his loan and Atalanta will be looking for an inflated fee, the Swedish international is everything Antonio Conte needs. Industrious off the ball and creative on it.

Currently, the nerazzurri are running with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, but will need to add depth if they want to compete with Juve’s deep squad. If he’s available, Inter should be all over it.

Roma – Andrea Petagna: Roma go into the New Year in a comfortable position, four points ahead of fifth-place Atalanta and into the knockouts of the Europa League. While Paulo Fonseca has done an incredible job with the tools at his disposal, the giallorossi could use some reinforcements in the January mercato, most notably at backup striker.

Nikola Kalinic frankly has not worked as Roma need someone more reliable in Dzeko’s absence. SPAL’s Andrea Petagna has demonstrated he’s worthy of a shot and has an abundance of experience in Serie A. Other options are Premier League newcomers Patrick Cutrone and Moise Kean. Both have struggled to adjust to life in England, but the latter is unlikely to move now with Ancelotti’s hiring. Cutrone, however, may be worth a punt.

Napoli – Sandro Tonali: While the Brescia midfielder is arguably on everyone’s Christmas wish-list, Napoli should do whatever it takes to acquire Tonali. Whether they secure him and loan him back directly to his parent club for the rest of the season, or slightly overpay to acquire him immediately, Tonali is exactly the type of player the partenopei need.

He is equally capable of dictating play as he is breaking it up and is a self-proclaimed Gattuso fan-boy. Many may liken him to Andrea Pirlo, but Tonali himself admits his style of play is closer to that of the Napoli tactician. Who knows if that plays into his decision? Regardless, it’s worth a shot.

Milan – Jeremie Boga: Milan have been crying out for a creative force down the left for years now and have yet to see anyone of note arrive. The Sassuolo midfielder is a constant menace in the final third and is regularly beating his man with ease, averaging 4.1 successful dribbles per game. At just 22, Boga would fit in with Milan’s supposed youth movement and should be available for a decent price.

In addition to playing on the left, he can also slot in as a trequartista should a new manager arrive in the summer and shake up the system. Boga to Milan is a no-brainer.

Lazio – Daniele Rugani: This seems like a long-shot, but Lazio could use another defender, especially if they want to compete with Juve and Inter for the Scudetto. Rugani desperately needs a change of scenery and could benefit from playing under the inspiring Simone Inzaghi. The biancocelesti could use another ball-playing centre-back alongside Francesco Acerbi, something Rugani proved to be at Empoli.

The Juventus man is currently out-of-favour in Turin and could be available on a short-term loan with an option to buy. Under the right conditions, Rugani to Lazio may just make enough sense.

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Week 35: Best 11 Players of the Weekend in Fantasy La Liga

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Barcelona are champions! It is the teams 26th La Liga win and incidentally it is Lionel Messi’s 10th championship in a quite remarkable career. Barcelona beat Levante to claim the title with 3 games left to play.

Four of the six teams lost including Real Madrid’s shock defeat against Rayo Vallecano. With that said let’s see which players were the top performing this past weekend.

Formation 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: Bono – Girona

A few goalkeepers earned 7 points but we have given the nod to Girona’s Bono on the basis that he kept a clean sheet and his team won 1-0 against the mighty Sevilla. Girona moved out of the relegation zone with this massive win and Bono made some important saves. He is valued at 6.5m

Defender: Paulo Oliveira- Eibar

Paulo Oliveira had to be at his best for Eibar who pulled off a terrific result at the weekend to beat Valencia away from home 1-0. He has played 22 times for his club this season and is great value at just 5m.

Defender: Kenneth Omeruo- Leganes

Kenneth Omeruo put in a strong performance to earn 5 points at the weekend as Leganes kept a clean sheet against Celta Vigo in a match that ended 0-0. Omeruo has been personally consistent this season which has been a difficult one for his club. His value is 5.5m.

Defender: Clement Lenglet- Barcelona

The Barcelona defender has risen to the occasion once again when he has been given the chance by Barca. He has started 21 times and helped to keep a clean sheet against Levante, as Barcelona won the Spanish league title at home. He can be brought into your team for 6.5m.

Defender: Stefan Savic- Atletico Madrid

A lot of Atletico players could have made this list as they all got 5 points required. But Savic was a delight to watch in the back four and was full of confidence as Atletico went on to to beat Valladolid 1-0 and he kept another clean sheet in the process.

Midfielder: Portu- Girona

Portu earned 6 points at the weekend as his goal was enough for his club Girona to beat Sevilla 1-0. Portu has been hailed as a hero by local press, and it could be a result that eventually saves his team from relegation. He is 8.5m to buy and has got 46 points overall.

Midfielder: Adri Embarba- Rayo Vallecano

Embarba also earned 6 points at the weekend and makes our selections of best midfielders. He played maturely in midfield and will remember beating Real Madrid the whole of his career. It was a penalty in the end and he scored it and his team won a very famous 1-0 victory over Zidane’s team.

Midfielder: Pere Pons- Girona

Pere Pons was part of the Girona side that beat Sevilla 1-0 and he was a key player. Pons assisted for the goal which ended up being the only one and winning one. It was his first assist all season and such an important one.

Midfielder: Arturo Vidal- Barcelona

Vidal doesn’t get much games or as much as he would like with Barca, but he was played at the weekend when they sealed the deal and won the league. And he contributed the winning goal setting up none other than Lionel Messi for it, to cap off a terrific day and another 4 points earned in Fantasy La Liga.

Striker: William Jose- Real Sociedad

William Jose picked up the most points as strikers were concerned with 6. Jose helped his side beat Getafe, first by opening the scoring and then assisting for the teams winning goal, in a memorable weekend for the forward. It was his 11th goal of the season and he is valued at 8m.

Striker: Lionel Messi- Barcelona

To be fair it was a poor weekend as strikers and goals were concerned in La Liga. Messi made this cut earning just 4 points. Messi is here not just on name but because he came off the bench to get the winning goal over Levante which sealed Barcelona’s 26th La Liga title, it is just another example of how brilliant the player is. He now has an incredible 164 points for this season and that was his 47th goal/assist combined so far.

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Barcelona’s four unsung heroes of 2018/19

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Barcelona stand on the cusp of another La Liga title. Their dominance in 2018/19 domestically mirrors that of the previous season, with Ernesto Valverde having lost only three league games to date as coach.

As ever during the summer months, each club is looking to improve their squad, so when Barca added Arturo Vidal, Clement Lenglet, Arthur and, at the 11th hour, Malcom, supporters were a little underwhelmed.

They’d heard a lot about Arthur but he wasn’t tested in Europe, Vidal wasn’t a ‘Barca type player,’ Lenglet had been part of the Sevilla side that had just lost 5-0 to the Catalans in the Copa Del Rey final and Malcom was an unknown quantity at the top level. Continue reading

Why Arturo Vidal is so important for Barcelona

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In a team that relies on the highest levels of technical ability, the sight of Arturo Vidal at FC Barcelona is a surprising one.

A real warrior, the Chilean’s roughhouse style shouldn’t feel at home in the Catalans’ midfield but… well, it just works.

Vidal has gone above and beyond in his debut season with the Blaugrana and, after an inauspicious start when a social media rant could’ve derailed his career there before it had started, he’s become a valued member of the squad. Continue reading

Crucial Summer Ahead for Juventus

After wrapping up their eighth consecutive Scudetto following their 2-1 win over Fiorentina, Juventus will now focus their efforts on addressing the issues plaguing their roster. While the bianconeri added two trophies to their haul this season, they failed in Europe losing to a superior Ajax side over the two ties, and were sent packing in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta. Both defeats spoke volumes of this Juventus side and demonstrated just how fragile the Italian champions are when pressed. Here are three fundamental questions they must answer come summertime if they are to achieve European glory.

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1) Massimiliano Allegri: In or out? 

Since their collapse in Cardiff, Juventus have not been the same, and look a side devoid of an identity. This season much of the same problems persisted. The bianconeri strolled to the Scudetto, barely challenging themselves in the process as their competitors consistently shot themselves in the foot. Frankly, most Serie A tacticians would have won the title with this roster.

What’s more frustrating for Juve is that Allegri has completely failed at instilling a consistent style of play, and largely depends on individual brilliance to see him through. And when all else fails, the Italian champions typically bombard the box with crosses, and hope for Mandzukic or Ronaldo to come through. When opposing sides pressed the bianconeri high, and played without fear, by contrast, Juventus struggled to put three passes together.

When the board meets with Allegri to discuss the past season, they should replay the Ajax and Atalanta games. In both instances, Juventus cowered deep in fear, while the bolder team was rewarded for their self-confidence. If Juve are to win the Champions League, they need a fearless leader, and one thing’s for certain: Allegri is not that. It’s the end of the Allegri era, as we know it.

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2) Project Fix The Defence. 

Since Antonio Conte brought back Juve from consecutive seventh place finishes, the bianconeri’s defence was always their foundation and backbone for success. With Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini, Juventus possessed arguably the strongest backline in the world, and kept opponents at bay with ease.

However, with Barzagli nearing retirement and Bonucci looking like a shadow of his former self since his controversial return, Juventus’ defence has been a weak point for the side and has held the team back. Factor in Alex Sandro’s continued struggles, and it’s clear to see: Without Chiellini, Juventus are a mess at the back.

Considering Daniele Rugani’s stagnation, and Bonucci’s regular lapses in concentration, it’s time Juventus revamp their defence. First of all, they shouldn’t hesitate to sell Rugani and Alex Sandro as soon as a good offer arrives. The former has been a disaster when called upon, and shirks at the first sight of a physical battle. Alex Sandro, by contrast, has lost most of his pace, and offers close to nothing in the final third.

With Cristian Romero already on his way from Genoa, and Leonardo Spinazzola improving with every week, the state of Juventus’ defence remains decent. However, they will need at least two reinforcements: a centre-back and a left back.

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3) Project Fix the Midfield.

Much like the defence, Juventus’ midfield is in complete disarray, and lacks a true leader. Since dismantling their midfield in 2015 by selling Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, the bianconeri are yet to bolster the midfield sufficiently. At the moment, only Miralem Pjanic and potentially Emre Can are worthy starters, while the others are solid bench options at best.

Even Pjanic and Can, who on their day are world beaters, struggle to impose themselves, and aren’t meant to lead the midfield as seen through the Ajax clashes. Despite Aaron Ramsey’s arrival, Juventus are still lacking one profile in their midfield. A ball-winner capable of maintaining possession. What they would do for a prime Claudio Marchisio again? But Juventus could settle for Lyon’s Tanguy N’Dombele.

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Vidal will get his chance for revenge

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After not being able to overcome eternal rivals, Real Madrid, in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, Barcelona were dealt a further blow with the news that Arthur Melo has been ruled out for 3-4 weeks.

The Brazilian has been an incredible success story since his arrival from Gremio, to the extent that there are now genuine concerns as to how successful Barca will be in his absence.

He has given the Catalans an extra layer of security thanks to his ball retention and willingness to set the tempo and rhythm of a game, and they’ll certainly miss his input. Continue reading

Barcelona perform U-Turn on Denis Suarez to Arsenal

Denis Suarez

La Liga leaders Barcelona have reopened the door on Denis Suarez’s loan move to move to Arsenal, after the transfer had looked to be dead in the water just last week.

Rumours of disagreements over the specific terms of the deal, primarily Arsenal’s unwillingness to agree on a compulsory purchase clause on the midfielder at the end of the season, had looked to have killed off the move.

However the Catalan side have now given Suarez the green light to make the move to the Premier League.

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Barcelona keen on PSG star Adrien Rabiot

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La Liga leaders Barcelona have confirmed their interest in signing French international Adrien Rabiot from Ligue 1 side Paris Saint Germain.

The midfielder’s contract expires at the end of the 2018-19 season, and he is free to confirm terms with non French teams during the January transfer window, with a view to sealing a move in the summer.

His situation has become increasingly tense with the French giants, with widespread reports that he has been banned from the club’s dressing room on match days by the club’s hierarchy.

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Barcelona looking for Coutinho improvement in 2019

Barcelona head into 2019 as La Liga leaders, with Ernesto Valverde chasing a second successive league title since taking over.

They lead rivals Atletico Madrid by three points, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss knows his players will have to go up a gear if they are to compete domestically and in Europe in the second half of the season.

Many of the squad are having solid, but unspectacular seasons, with the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele often making the key differences in recent weeks.

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