Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 29

Juan Musso (7 points): only three teams managed to keep a clean sheet in another goal-filled round and the Udinese goalie did against the opponents with the higher profile, accompanying it with few decent saves.

Danilo D’Ambrosio (9 points): the veteran defender benefitted from some heavy rotation to get in the XI and, as he has often done in the past couple of seasons, managed to shake free in the box and knock one on goal with a header. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 24

SPAL-Juventus: Luigi Di Biagio devised a new system in his debut, arraying his men with a 4-3-3. While they failed to get the win, they attacked more than usual and Andrea Petagna bagged the ninth goal of his campaign. Federico Di Francesco has always been playing in very offensive role, but he is more comfortable out wide and the trident was completed by Mattia Valoti in that case, although Gabriel Strefezza will have his chances too. The duo gets a bump thanks to the coaching change, likewise Mirko Valdifiori, who resurfaced and can be a decent weapon on set pieces, as a matter of fact he picked up an assist with a corner kick. Simone Missiroli is back at box-to-box like earlier in his career, joining the sneaky Lucas Castro. On the downside, Arkadiusz Reca, and Mohamed Fares when he will be ready, will feature as fullback, so few meters behind what they were accustomed to doing. Scoring has been one of their main issues so far, as they have no reliable contributors behind Petagna. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Lazio vs Inter

Lazio-Inter was the most anticipated match going into round 24: it was pretty tight but still had a decent amount of action, so it takes home the shout-out in combination with its potentially huge significance in the title race.

The Biancocelesti were handed their last loss in the first meeting between the two sides back in September and then proceeded to go on a still ongoing terrific run, although they had slowed down a bit lately with two draws in the past four contests. The Nerazzurri were instead coming off two Ws, the first versus Udinese and then a crazy one in the Derby. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 24

Standings implications: Lazio emerged victorious in the crunch game with Inter, thus surpassing the Nerazzurri in second position and staying one point behind Juventus, which did their job versus Brescia. Roma put up a fight in Bergamo, but Atalanta still rallied back and took home a monumental victory in the Champions League race as they have built a six-point lead over the direct rival.

Parma re-entered the conversation for the sixth spot by railroading Sassuolo and caught Verona in the standings, then Milan answered on Monday night. The Scaligeri and Udinese did not get in the way of the respective targets with a nil-nil tie, but it will not be long before the Zebrette will have to resume watching underneath them. Genoa and Lecce continue streaking by toppling Bologna and SPAL, putting all the other relegation zone competitors in high alert, especially Sampdoria, which were trounced by Fiorentina and are now in 17th position, so sandwiched between the two.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23

Atalanta-Roma: the Goddess continue to add to their offensive arsenal, as Duvan Zapata is returning two his usual pre-injury numbers (two goals and three assists in the last four games) and Ruslan Malinovskyi came through last week. The Ukrainian attacker seems to have surpassed Luis Muriel as first option off the bench. Josip Ilicic did not score against Fiorentina, but still had a great performance and he has been en fuego for a while. The one small negative is that, with their front-line now featuring two quality scorers, Alejandro Gomez is back at looking more to feed them rather than finishing on his own: as a matter of fact he set up two goals last week and has not hit the net since in six weeks. Timothy Castagne came back and he is a bigger offensive weapon than the more diligent Hans Hateboer, but they will likely continue to alternate, while Robin Gosens on the opposite flank is slowing down a bit after a gorgeous January. Mario Pasalic fumbled away a pair of sitters in Florence. Rafael Toloi (one goal and six assists) has been their most intriguing defender. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 22

Sassuolo-Roma: an early red card took the Neroverdi out of the Sampdoria game pretty early, but they still came away with a decent point, even though they were understandably unable to do much on offense. In the previous round, Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga propelled them past Torino the previous week and they have an intriguing front-line when everybody is healthy and on his day, since they are quite moody, the concerns are more on the other end and the suspension of Federico Peluso adds to those. Francesco Caputo has not scored since mid-December after a fast start, while their duo of no.10s Hamed Traore and Filip Djuricic, who generally alternate, have been able to do a decent amount of damage. Manuel Locatelli and Pedro Obiang/Francesco Magnanelli rarely attack due to their defensive position, they have combined for just one goal, while Jeremy Toljan and Grigoris Kyriakopoulos are decent fullbacks, but the match-up is pretty hard. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 21

Brescia-Milan: the Rondinelle will not have Mario Balotelli for a couple of matches, but Ernesto Torregrossa has actually carried the load scoring-wise recently and he and Alfredo Donnarumma formed a formidable partnership last season in Serie B, so they might be able to survive the blow. They have added two intriguing pieces in January in Birkir Bjarnason, who was very dangerous for a midfielder in his time in Pescara, and Simon Skrabb: they should both have their chances because Nikolas Spalek at no.10 has been pretty inconsistent. Sandro Tonali is coming off a two-assist performance and also Stefano Sabelli and Romulo have been decently proficient in a supporting role. Continue reading

Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap: Young, Milan, Barrow…

Inter have been scouring the market for new flank players and, even though the Matteo Politano-Leonardo Spinazzola swap fell through, they still got one as they acquired Ashley Young from Manchester United. The 34-year-old Englishman, who signed a six-month contract with an optional second year and has amassed over 260 appearances with the Red Devils over the last nine years, has turned into a full-fledged fullback late in his career, primarily on the left, so he will immediately push Cristiano Biraghi for the starting job. He registered five assists in his best year in that position. Continue reading

How Barcelona will beat Man Utd

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They might be favourites to win the tie over two legs, but there’s no way that Barcelona will be taking Manchester United lightly, particularly at Old Trafford.

Playing at the Camp Nou for the second leg may seem to afford the Catalans an advantage of sorts, but Ernesto Valverde and his team will want to make that a formality.

In order to do so, they’ll need to take the game to the Red Devils and quieten the expected 75,000 crowd.

But just how are they going to manage it?

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Manchester United have to be ruthless in the summer by selling their beloved old guard

Old Guard

Manchester United have without a doubt suffered a huge downfall over the last six years, where they have failed to challenge for the Champions League and Premier League effectively in that time. On top of that, the ongoing problems on and off the pitch have been clear for quite some time now, which could not be fixed or solved by the likes of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

A lot of managers and players have come in throughout the last couple of seasons or so, however, not many of the deadwood individuals have actually been shipped out of the club since the departure and retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. From then till now, players such as Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones continue to play regularly for the team despite not being good enough.

Each one of the coaches have had their good and bad moments at Old Trafford, but have not been able to match the club’s style of play as well as produce the consistent results that you expect from a big club like Manchester United. Also, the same goes for the big signings that have come through, who have not been able to rally the side on or create the big moments that were badly needed.

Now, it’s time to focus back on the old guard and to why the board and Ed Woodward should be blamed for the situation the club are currently in at this moment of time. Many still remember the days of when Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young were the side’s main starters at full-back, two players who used to play as wingers week in and out but used in a position they are not experts in.

Thanks to the arrival of Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw being more injury-free this season, it has led Valencia to only play in the league on five occasions as he is expected to leave in the summer on a free transfer. Meanwhile, Young has been playing a lot this season either at left-back or right-back, where he is a defensive liability and is a huge burden in terms of progressing forward with the ball.

And in the heart of defence, both Jones and Smalling have played too many games than necessary in a United jersey, where they have committed constant mistakes whilst not showing enough intelligence and quality on the ball. Victor Lindelof has been at the club for nearly two seasons, and is already proving to be the side’s best defender, summing up the severe problems in defence.

Once upon a time, Jones and Smalling were brought into to be the long-term replacement for Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, but have been unable to reach the top tier level that many of the football experts had predicted them to reach for both club and country. Fast forward the clock, the English duo have spent more than seven seasons at the club and are yet to show consistent displays.

Potentially, United may have to take a page out of Pep Guardiola’s book in his second campaign at Manchester City, where the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager got rid of individuals such as Aleksandar Kolarov, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta, players who were no longer crucial or useful enough despite spending a number of years at the Etihad stadium.

The club may feel they will miss out on the experience and leadership of the old guard, on the other hand, the hungry and younger player will strive on the opportunity of playing regular football and also in their natural position. Not only that, it will allow the side’s style of play to be more fluid and unpredictable, as it currently looks to be limited and lethargic through the middle and the flanks.

Overall, the Old Trafford faithful will be hoping that the hierarchy are bitterly seeing the rivals in Liverpool and Manchester City challenge for the league whilst United are sat in sixth-place and are attempting to finish in the top four to save their season. If the people in charge truly care about the club, they would be making their plans for the summer window, including on how to get rid of the deadwood.