Sarri edges closer to Roma head coach and best performers of the club so far

Former Chelsea and Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri has edged closer to becoming the new coach for Roma according to reports.

Of course Paulo Fonseca is still in charge of the Giallorossi but it is as clear as daylight that if the club do not qualify for the Champions League then Fonseca will lose his job.

Currently Roma are in 6th place and are 5 points behind 4th place Atalanta. All is not lost but it has become increasingly clear that the club are struggling of late and have lost 3 games from their last five, this includes losing their last two in a row. Apart from Atalanta the Giallorossi will also be battling with Napoli and the emerging Lazio for 4th.

It is thought that Sarri has conducted talks with Roma and that it is now in an advanced stage. With Sarri’s extensive experience this could be a great move for Roma. There are also rumours that Fonseca just can’t win given that he may be replaced even if the club end up in the top four. This is a story that could run for the next 2 months so watch this space.

Roma’s best performers so far in 2020/21

Domestic football has taken a two week break for internationals but the action returns this weekend. Roma will play Sassuolo away from home. Whilst Fonseca’s side will be the favourites to win that game looks tricky and could be very close.

With the break in place we haven’t seen any action for 14 days so we will take a look at the best performing players for the club so far.

- Henrikh Mkhitaryan with 70 points is the best overall player for the club so far. He has scored 9 goals and assisted in another 8. He started the season in brilliant form although faded in the middle. Despite Roma’s recent woes he has played some good football and will be hoping to finish the season in style.

- Lorenzo Pellegrini is a superb player when he is on his game. The one worry is he hasn’t been consistent enough but he usually steps up for the big games. His value is worth 7m and he has been involved in 10 goals so far with 6 of those coming from assists.

- Special mention should go to Rick Karsdorp in defence because with 36 points he is ranked as the best Roma defender. His value is just 5m so he would have been a real bargain this season and he has assisted in 5 goals and even scored one. The important statistic for him though is always going to be clean sheets and he has managed 8 so far.

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Roma fall 5 points from Champions League qualification with back to back defeats

Roma already knew the league was over for some time but still held out hope for a top 4 place finish and entry into next seasons Champions League but that now looks in doubt after the Giallorossi lost their 8th game of the season.

Eight games just seems like too many to lose by this stage of the season if you have dreams of playing in Europe’s most elite competition but this is where Paolo Fonseca’s team stand.

Roma lost 2-0 at home to Napoli to record their 3rd defeat in 5 games and to make it back to back losses for the Giallorossi.

Dries Mertens was the thorn in Roma’s side as the player scored two goals within three first half minutes. The first was a sublime free kick and the second was from his head. That was Mertens sixth and seventh goals of the campaign and with 58 points so far the midfielder has the most of any Napoli player.

After the game Roma coach Paulo Fonseca was puzzled by the clubs slow start but saw encouraging signs in the second half, he said: “ This is not the way we wanted to play. We didn’t do anything in the first half because the team was lacking courage. We are all responsible, because when we are afraid of playing and afraid of losing, it becomes too difficult. The fact we saw the second half being completely different, that means it is a psychological issue and we could only really get going once we’d fallen behind. If the team was bad all the way through, I’d say we were incapable. If the team was bad in every game, I’d say that was an issue. The fact we had a totally different attitude in the second half means it is the mentality that was at fault.”

The worry for Fonseca is that his job could be on the line if the club do not at least finish in 4th place. The favourite person to step in if Fonseca is sacked looks to be Massimiliano Allegri who has taken some time away from the game and could be the perfect candidate.

To summarise Roma have 50 points and are 3 behind 5th place Napoli and 5 points adrift of Atalanta who now occupy the final Champions League spot. Five points isn’t the end of the world given that there are still 30 left to play for but Roma will be mindful that Napoli, who leap frogged them with this win also have a game in hand which just complicates matters further still.

Roma’s next game is after the international break where they will play 8th placed Sassuolo away from home. Whilst they are 11 points behind Roma they also have a game in hand and last season they beat Roma 4-2 in this very fixture. Indeed Roma have only beaten Sassuolo once in the league from the last four matches played.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan out of form but Roma’s best player

It’s clear as daylight that Henrikh Mkhitaryan looks like the shadow of the player that graced Serie A at the start of the season and one has to wonder if the midfielder is fatigued? Still he is the best player Roma have according to the fantasy Serie A points and he currently has 70 so far.

The Giallorossi will need his form to turn around if they have any hopes of finishing in the top 4. Mkhitaryan has been good value for money for the fantasy teams with his value at 7.5m and he has scored 9 goals which is very impressive from his position.

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Inter stay six points clear of Milan with 19th win of the season against Atalanta

Inter are on course to win their first Serie A title since 2010 after they beat Atalanta on Monday evening to keep the gap between themselves and Milan at 6 points.

Attention was drawn to this game as it was thought to be a tricky one for the league leaders even if they were at home. Atalanta have been impressive in the league for the past 18 months and that form got the club into the Champions League. The game ended just 1-0 to Antonio Conte’s team who had to fight for all three points, but what a huge win it was for the club in the end. Inter are used to sticking 3 goals or more past their opponents but on this occasion they would have been more than happy to get a single goal, collect the points and move on to the next game.

For Inter this victory would be the clubs 8th win in a row and it would be hard fought. The goal eventually arrived 10 minutes into the second half and it was through the most unlikeliest of players in defender Milan Skriniar who pounced on a loose ball in the area to slot home. If not for that this game could have ended 0-0 and that would have been a huge 2 points dropped at home considering that both Milan and Juventus claimed wins at the weekend.

Atalanta had chances to equalise late on and the game was summed up by the fact that Inter’s goal was the only strike on target they had the whole game that is how close and nervous this 90 minutes had been for them. Both Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez were kept quiet by a well organised back four for Atalanta.

For Atalanta they remain in 5th place as they try and chase down a Champions League qualification position. The good news for them is that they are just a point shy of that target with Roma in 4th on 50 points and themselves currently on 49.

Inter have 62 points while Milan have 56 in 2nd and Juventus are in 3rd place with 52 though the champions have a game in hand and could go to 55. The ball is still in Inter’s courts but at this time it remains uncertain if they can pull off what would be a fantastic league title.

Coach Conte had this to say about the game.” Let’s not forget we have the best attack and tonight we played against the second best attack. Beyond the defensive solidity, the right balance has been found. Today, the players recognise the different phases of the game, there are moments in which we choose which type of area to wait and then attack, while then we decide to push higher and change our attitude. We were good at finding the right mix. At the beginning we always went forward, a bit like what Atalanta always does.”

Inter’s next game is away to Torino on Sunday. Milan are at home to Napoli and Juventus will play Cagliari away from home.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23 – Late Games

PARMA-UDINESE

Parma: they did manage to score against Verona, thanks to a successful penalty kick by Juraj Kucka, but they lost again and their offense left a lot to be desired. The midfielder has tallied their last three goals. Yann Karamoh looked decently spry in his return to the XI, while Gervinho and Andreas Cornelius are stuck in an endless slump and the former is in pretty lackluster form. Joshua Zirkzee had a pair of chances after subbing in but did not exploit them. Valentin Mihaila was the liveliest out of their youngsters, but so far the coach has been very conservative in giving minutes to them. Jasmin Kurtic has hit the net a couple of times in the season and he is not shy when it comes to bomb away from distance. If they somehow managed to play more proactively, their fullbacks Andrea Conti and Giuseppe Pezzella would have some interest. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 22 – Top Matches

SPEZIA-MILAN

Spezia: Vincenzo Italiano shook things up against Sassuolo, going with Kevin Agudelo as false-nine over Andrej Galabinov and, while the bouncy attacker did not score, the solution worked out pretty well as he added an element of unpredictability and a ton more pace. It could be the solution here again as it does not look like M’Bala Nzola will be ready to start. Diego Farias is likely to be sidelined, which will allow Daniele Verde to stay in the XI, but so far he has had success mostly in Coppa Italia. Emmanuel Gyasi’s starting job instead has never really been in question and he returned to the stat-sheet after months in the previous match: he is now up to two goals and four assists. Their second leading scorer Tommaso Pobega (three goals) is back from suspension and their midfield does not have the same punch without him, even though Matteo Ricci has been a nice assist-man and Giulio Maggiore is decently involved in their offense, but not as effective as the Milan loanee. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 21 – Early Games

FIORENTINA-INTER

Fiorentina: the news for them is that somebody not named Dusan Vlahovic managed to hit the net, as Franck Ribery bagged his first goal of the season with a pretty play against Torino. The Frenchman had indeed started to show better recently: he also has four assists in the season, but he has had an hiccup in practice, which could allow Jose Callejon or Christian Kouame to get the nod in this one. Giacomo Bonaventura has been their only other scorer in recent games and he showed up versus Torino with an assist, thus picking up bonuses in two matches in a row. His role will be bigger due to the suspension of Gaetano Castrovilli. Erick Pulgar, who is first in line to replace the teammate, has some value due to PK duties, but he has not done much this year, while Sofyan Amrabat could move to a more dynamic position. Cristiano Biraghi is a secondary option as he has tallied one goal and four assists thus far. Their defense has been quite stingy but the match-up is complicated. Continue reading

Atalanta show first signs of struggles without Papu Gomez

Atalanta’s rapid rise to prominence has sent shockwaves throughout the footballing world, with Gian Piero Gasperini’s men taking Europe by storm. Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez has been at the heart of everything good in Bergamo in recent years but has since left the club after falling out with Gasperini.

Gomez made his move to Sevilla official on Thursday, joining the Andalusian side for just under six million euros. While Atalanta will be hoping its next-man-up mentality can help replace the departed Argentine, Gomez represented far more than just a playmaker. In many ways, Papu made Gasperini’s side tick and always looked to get on the ball in the final third. Gli Orobici has largely impressed since Gomez was frozen out of the team, picking up convincing wins against Sassuolo, Roma, Lazio, and Milan among others.

Atalanta’s most recent defeat, however, is cause for concern. Lazio completed dominated the battle in the middle of the park, emerging 3-1 winners against the Bergamo-based outfit. Without Gomez pulling the strings in between the lines, Atalanta struggled to create chances and looked toothless for much of the affair. Atalanta’s recent triumphs over Italy’s big sides are encouraging, but if Gasperini’s men are to reach last season’s heights, they will need players to step up.

Matteo Pessina has done well since returning to Atalanta, establishing himself as Gasperini’s first-choice attacking midfielder. The former Hellas Verona man has done well linking up play in the final third but does not yield the same influence Gomez held. Pessina is not a traditional trequartista and mostly relies on his keen sense of positioning to get in good areas.

Gasperini has also turned to Josip Ilicic and Aleksei Miranchuk in attack. The former has done exceptionally well since Gomez’s falling out and has largely picked up the slack in the offensive third. The Slovenian is arguably Atalanta’s best bet at replacing the Argentine’s creativity without having to dip into their transfer kitty. Against Lazio, however, Ilicic’s limitations were brought to light. The former Palermo man is one of the league’s most creative outlets, however, he has undoubtedly benefitted from Gomez’s ability to progress the ball into dangerous areas. Without him, Ilicic must drop back often, reducing his ability to hurt the opposition inside the box.

Miranchuk is another player that will be looking to take his game to the next level. The Russian international is the most similar to Gomez in terms of playing style but lacks consistency. Miranchuk has only made two starts thus far in league action and will likely benefit from a run of games in the starting lineup.

Should Miranchuk struggle with a bigger role, Gasperini could always turn to Malinovskiy. The Ukrainian international thrives from the base of midfield but has featured regularly behind the strikers. Blessed with a wicked shot on both feet, Malinovskiy could offer Gasperini’s side some much-needed end product. However, much like Pessina, the 27-year-old is not an out-and-out number 10 and cannot be expected to deliver on Gomez’s level.

Atalanta’s recent victories have papered over the cracks, but make no mistake about it: Gli Orobici are a completely different team without Gomez and will soon need to adapt. Gasperini has demonstrated a unique ability to make the most of the squad at his disposal and continue to deliver beyond expectations. The Italian tactician has a number of options he can turn to in Gomez’s absence, with all players offering him something a little different.

Whether it is Ilicic, Miranchuk, Pessina, or Malinovskiy, Atalanta boasts impressive depth in the creative department. However, as much as depth is useful, Papu Gomez is not easily replaceable. With Gasperini forced back to the drawing board and a two-legged affair with Real Madrid looming, things are about to get interesting in Bergamo.

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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.

Continue reading

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