AC Milan 0-3 Atalanta: Rossoneri register second loss of season after lackluster performance

Milan aimed to grab another three points this evening after the comfortable 2-0 win against Cagliari on Monday evening. However, it wasn’t a good night for the Rossoneri as Atalanta put three past Gigio Donnarumma. And therefore, they failed to extend their lead at the top of the standings. 

As a result of Milan’s loss, Inter had the chance to overtake them on goal difference (until the reverse fixture, at least) but Antonio Conte’s men failed to score against Udinese this evening. Stefano Pioli and his players are still in the lead, therefore, but their margin has shrunk to two points.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19 – Top Matches

MILAN-ATALANTA

Milan: the Rossoneri keep navigating their several absences in brilliant fashion and Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to the XI with a bang in Cagliari, putting together a brace and moving to 12 goals in the season in just eight appearances. The COVID outbreak is getting resolved as Rade Krunic and Ante Rebic tested negative, but their conditioning will have to be assessed in practice and Theo Hernandez was a false positive, so only Hakan Calhanoglu is out, which is a major loss, but at least they are in a better spot numerically and they recovered their stud fullback. Rafael Leao (three goals, one assist in the last five games) will be back from suspension and will likely supplant Jens Petter Hauge that has been pretty quiet despite seeing good minutes. Franck Kessie let Zlatan take the PK in the past game but he will probably re-gain those duties in this one: he has notched six goals and two assists in the season. Davide Calabria is trending up as he provided a great helper in the past game and also hit the net recently.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 18 – Top Matches

LAZIO-ROMA

Lazio: Ciro Immobile took a little back-seat in the Parma game, where two other fellow attackers shined, Luis Alberto, who broke the deadlock with his third goal in the last five matches, and Felipe Caicedo, who found the target for the second round in a row, moving to six total in the season. The Golden Boot recipient had scored in all the previous five tilts. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic dished his fifth assist to add to his two goals, as his role is slightly different this year, but he has maintained a decent level of production. Manuel Lazzari cashed in on his good moment with his second assist of the season, catching up with fellow wing-back Adam Marusic in that regard. Joaquin Correa (one goal, one assist) could be back at least in limited fashion in this one, but Caicedo has filled in admirably. The Sergeant tends to deliver in big matches.

Recommended picks: Milinkovic-Savic, Immobile, Alberto.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 15 – Top Matches

INTER-CROTONE

Inter: Lautaro Martinez snapped out of his scoring slump against Verona, bagging a lovely volley and moving to six goals in Serie A in the season. He has been streaky one way or the other. It was a rare game where Romelu Lukaku (11 goals) did not find the target, while Achraf Hakimi dished his fourth assist and he has been en fuego in the recent matches. Marcelo Brozovic picked up a helper as well on the Milan Skriniar goal, while Ivan Perisic did not a whole lot despite playing in a more offensive role than usual. With Arturo Vidal now fully healthy, that tactical solution probably will not be presented again and in any case the Croatian international has not showed well enough to be an option. Nicolò Barella has been pretty quiet recently but he too has four assists in the season, but his activity in the final third depends on how the midfield is composed. Stefano Sensi and Ashley Young are secondary options.

Recommended picks: Lukaku, Martinez, Hakimi. Continue reading

Alejandro Gomez to Lazio: A perfect fit?

Atalanta’s ascent to stardom has taken Italian football by storm this season, punching above their weight season after season. The Bergamo-based outfit has shown no signs of slowing down this year and has since qualified for the Round of 16 of the Champions League. As an intriguing matchup with Real Madrid awaits them in February, Atalanta may have to take the field against Los Galacticos without their star man, Alejandro Papu Gomez. 

The diminutive playmaker has reportedly fallen out with Gian Piero Gasperini and as a result, has been frozen out of the first team. Italian clubs have circled like vultures following the reports, with Roma, Lazio, and Milan all being linked with a move for the playmaker. Rumours quickly surfaced that Gomez would appreciate a move to Lazio, adding further fuel to the story.

In many ways, Gomez is a perfect fit for Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio. While his setup may be far more rigid than Atalanta’s free-flowing system, the Argentine playmaker is extremely familiar with the 3-5-2 formation and could slot in seamlessly alongside Ciro Immobile. Gomez has demonstrated he can be devastating alongside a more physical presence in the final third and will almost certainly strike a deadly partnership with the Italian international.

Alternatively, Inzaghi can alter his 3-5-2 to include a trequartista behind the strikers. The Italian tactician has flirted with this possibility in the past but has never used it over a sustained period of time. A front three of Gomez, Correa and Immobile could open up any rearguard and would be worth tinkering with.

Luis Alberto acts as a defacto attacking midfielder despite slotting into the midfield three and regularly looks to get forward between the lines. Gomez’s arrival would take the creative burden off the Spanish international, who is largely tasked with linking up play in the final third. Luis Alberto excelled in that position last season, registering six goals and 15 assists in 36 appearances. The former Liverpool man has since slowed down this season and is yet to record an assist. Regardless, Luis Alberto continues to create countless chances and remains an integral piece to Inzaghi’s attack.

When the 28-year-old is struggling, Lazio is not nearly as dangerous in the final third and often look toothless. Available at around 10 million euros, Gomez would be an ideal alternative to Luis Alberto’s creativity. With Gomez roaming dangerously between the lines, much of the focus would be off the Spaniard in the final third, allowing him to use his vision to hurt the opposition backline.

Gomez may be turning 33 in February, but the Atalanta man is a bonafide gamechanger. In Italy, countless players on the wrong side of 30 – notably Zlatan Ibrahimovic – have proven they can still contribute. If anything, Gomez has only gotten better with age and has, at the very least, another two or three productive years ahead of him. If he is available at the right price, Lazio would be foolish not to pull the trigger on a deal for him.

The Biancocelesti took Italy by storm last season, competing against Juventus for the Scudetto and qualifying for the Champions League. Should Lazio want to replicate last year’s exploits, they will need quality reinforcements. Their summer arrivals have failed to make an impact since joining, forcing Inzaghi to rely on his usual suspects despite competing on three fronts.

Lazio’s Round of 16 encounter with Bayern Munich is a tall ask for the capital-based club, but in a season unlike any other, they may just spring a surprise. Gomez could be the inspired piece of business the Biancocelesti need to get themselves over the line and into the next round alongside Europe’s elite.

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Reality check against Atalanta but Roma stay in Serie A title hunt

Football isn’t always plain sailing even if you are experiencing good form and Roma were. Before Paolo Fonseca’s team faced Atalanta they had won back to back games and scored 8 goals as they lay charge to put pressure on both Inter and Milan.

Then of course came Atalanta. The game in which Roma imploded and lost the game 4-1. What was perplexing is that not only did Roma take the lead through Edin Dzeko as early as the 3rd minute but just before the hour mark they were still leading the game.

Atalanta had just 1 shot on target in the first half and it seemed as if Roma were going to have a routine win and add a second. Then the crumble happened in the space of 25 minutes and the home side scored 4 goals. Duvan Zapata scored the equaliser and three different goal scorers followed to stun the Giallrossi.

Paolo Fonseca had this to say after the game: “The team was stretched out, not aggressive, and that is fatal against a side like Atalanta. It wasn’t physical, it was psychological, a question of attitude. We played well for 25 minutes, then changed attitude completely. That cannot happen.”

Fonseca continued: “We want to win every game and if the team had kept the attitude of the first half, we may well have won. However, playing like we did in the second half makes it extremely difficult to take points off big opponents. It was just totally different after the break. The team went too deep, showed no aggression, no determination. There was no reason for it. We must make sure the players understand they cannot change their attitude like that. We made it too easy for Atalanta. Without aggression, you cannot win this type of match.”

Win before the Christmas break

The Giallorossi’s next match was a home one against Cagliari and they had the chance to forget about the poor Atalanta result and get back to winning ways, and they done just that with a 3-2 victory.

Jordan Veretout who has come back to form in recent weeks gave the home side the lead on 12 minutes and the half ended 1-0. Joao Pedro equalised for Cagliari early on in the second half . But on the 71st minute the in form Edin Dzeko put Roma in front and just a few minutes later Gianluca Mancini sealed the game, the defender scoring a rare goal. Cagliari pulled one back in injury time for a couple of tense minutes but Roma were fine.

Roma now has 27 points and are seven points behind Milan and six points behind Inter. The Christmas break is here and Roma’s next game will be at home against Sampdoria.

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Serie A’s most intriguing storylines going into 2021

The past year has been unlike any other across the footballing world, forcing clubs to play in empty stadiums and tackling unprecedented challenges. Italian football has not disappointed, regularly delivering excitement and unlikely surprises at every turn.

Once Wednesday’s final games are played, Serie A will take a much-needed break, halting action until the new year. Without further ado, here are three things to look out for in 2021 in Serie A:

1) The Alejandro Gomez saga: 

When reports surfaced that Gian Piero Gasperini and his star man, Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez, had a falling out, it shocked the entire calcio world. The two have proven to be a match-made in heaven in Bergamo, firing the side to newfound heights. Just last season, Gli Orobici were painfully close to booking their place into the Champions League final four, but eventually lost a narrow affair against PSG.

Gasperini’s relationship with Gomez was a special one, claiming he would resign if ever the club sold the diminutive playmaker. The veteran tactician got the most out of Gomez, with the Atalanta man establishing himself as one of Italy’s elite creative threats. Fast forward to today, and Gomez is very much on his way out, with reports saying the damage is irreparable.

Milan and Roma among others have queued up for his signature, in hopes of adding an elite player on the cheap. At 32-years-old, Gomez can still play a crucial role in any team and has shown no signs of slowing down. While his inevitable transfer is intriguing in itself, the Atalanta man has claimed he will reveal exactly what went down once he leaves. It will also be interesting to see just how Gian Piero Gasperini’s men cope without him in the lineup.

Atalanta is coming off a vintage 4-1 win over Roma with Gomez out, but sustaining it over an entire season is a completely different story. Beyond one of Serie A’s best players moving on mid-season, this story is far from over.

2) Can Andrea Pirlo turn it around? 

Andrea Pirlo has struggled since assuming the reins in Turin, stumbling out of the gates in Serie A. Juventus has drawn six of their 13 games and most recently saw their unbeaten run snapped in emphatic fashion against Fiorentina.

Pirlo may have led the Bianconeri to an impressive Champions League group stage campaign, but desperately needs to turn it around, as soon as the season restarts. Juventus has dropped points in countless games they should have won, including draws against Crotone and Benevento, and can no longer afford to fall further behind.

The Italian champions sit seven points behind Milan and have an incredibly tough schedule to kickstart the new year. As a two-legged affair with Porto looms, Juventus need to achieve some form of consistency and begin stringing results together. One of the biggest storylines going into the new year will be to see if Pirlo can bounce back from an indifferent start – otherwise, we might just have a new champion heading into next season.

3) Are Milan legit Scudetto contenders? 

Well, we’ve been asking this for the better part of 13 matchdays now and the answer seems to be yes. However, Milan will need to demonstrate its resolve heading into the new year, welcoming Juventus into San Siro on January 6. As we approach the half-way point of the season, Milan can announce themselves as serious contenders, especially with a statement win against Juventus.

Stefano Pioli’s men have played some sensational football in recent months, navigating a tricky schedule diligently, despite a number of injuries – including one to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. As we enter 2021, the Rossoneri will need to confirm their contender status and demonstrate they can handle the pressure that comes with it. If their recent run is anything to go by, Milan will be up for it.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 13 – Top Matches

PARMA-JUVENTUS

Parma: they were pretty underwhelming in the Cagliari game, where Gervinho (four goals, one assist) confirmed to be in a pretty good run of form, but the prolonged drought of both Andreas Cornelius and Roberto Inglese is starting to hurt. The midfielders have picked up some of the slack, Hernani and Jasmin Kurtic in the particular as they have hit the net respectively three and two times, but it is not a sustainable model. Neither Yann Karamoh nor Juan Brunetta have fully exploited the increased role the coach has given them, maybe they will go with a more conservative option in this one since Juraj Kucka is available and he played in an attacking position in the past. However, he has not been convincing from the fantasy standpoint so far this season. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 12

Atalanta: Aleksey Miranchuk has cleared the COVID protocol and has been called up. Mario Pasalic will undergo sport-hernia surgery and return in January. Matteo Ruggeri (fatigue) and Josip Ilicic (strep throat) are questionable.

Benevento: Nicolas Viola has returned after some physical problems, while Gabriele Moncini (ankle), Christian Maggio (calf) and Luca Caldirola (knee) remain sidelined. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 12 – Top Matches

JUVENTUS-ATALANTA

Juventus: Alvaro Morata was cleared from his suspension, but the coach still went with Paulo Dybala against Genoa and the La Joya finally scored his first goal in Serie A with a lovely play. The Spaniard continues to appear a better partner for Cristiano Ronaldo and will probably start in this one, but the coach used all three together for a bit and that may become a trend moving forward, although probably in easier tilts. Par for the course for Cristiano Ronaldo, who converted two PKs and reached the double-digit threshold. No bonuses this time, but Juan Cuadrado had another game-winning play: he has notched three assists so far, while Federico Chiesa (four helpers) was again pretty good, but he is not atop of their list of assets. After his recent success in the box, they used Weston McKennie in a more offensive role, with mixed returns. One between Aaron Ramsey and Dejan Kulusevki will likely make the XI in this one, but they have not performed consistently enough to be on the fantasy map. Continue reading