Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 22

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Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini suffered a calf pull that should force him to miss a couple of games. Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira returned in Coppa Italia, while Mario Mandzukic (ankle) is expected to be available this week. Emre Can is ill but available.

Napoli: Fabian Ruiz is suspended. Raul Albiol and Elseid Hysaj are fatigued, while Adam Younes is banged up: the first two have called up, the winger has not.

Inter: Matteo Politano was slapped with a two-game ban. Stefan De Vrij is dealing with some muscle fatigue, but he has been called up, while Balde Keita remains out.  Continue reading

Atalanta and Sampdoria: Serie A’s Party Crashers

Every season there’s one team in Serie A that pushes above their weight and vies for European football among the league’s elite. With Lazio, Milan and Roma all fighting for top four this year, they all seem to have forgotten about Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta and Marco Giampaolo’s Sampdoria. Both sides have been in excellent form playing impressive football and have now entered the Champions League race without making too much of a fuss. Right now, the five teams are separated by a mere three points going into a crucial stage of the season.

Led by the eternal Fabio Quagliarella, who has now scored in 11 consecutive games equalling Gabriel Batistuta’s record in the process, Sampdoria find themselves just two points back behind fourth place Milan. Giampaolo has been able to get the most out of his men in his preferred ‘Christmas Tree’ formation (4-3-1-2) and has since attracted interest from the peninsula’s elite for his good work. Insisting on possession football and building patiently, the blucerchiati have dominated the opposition at times, and have proven to be a match for any team in the league.

While Quagliarella is the one bagging the goals, the impressive work done by midfield dynamos Dennis Praet and Karol Linetty should not go unnoticed. Juventus loanee Emil Audero has also manned the sticks wonderfully in his debut season in Serie A, especially with the veteran presence of Lorenzo Tonelli in front of him.

Atalanta, on the other hand, have played some explosive football this season and lead the league in scoring with 47 goals. In fact, gli Orobici have found the back of the net 16 times in their last four league games, three of which coming most recently in their comeback against Roma on the weekend. With Duvan Zapata flanked by Alejandro Gomez and Josip Ilicic, Gasperini’s side posses arguably one of the world’s most underrated front-lines. Zapata is currently on 15 goals on the season and has now scored in Atalanta’s last nine games in all competitions.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 21

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Sampdoria-Udinese: the Blucerchiati were pipped at the post in Florence last week, in a game that turned on its head a thousand times. They have won three straight at home. After three positive, or semi-positives, results Udinese took a tumble at home against Parma. They have managed to prevail just once on the road thus far. Fabio Quagliarella has found the target in ten straight appearances and is one shy of tying the record, so he is obviously a must-start, considering that the match-up is not that hard. Gaston Ramirez is suspended, so Riccardo Saponara will draw the start and could be worth a look. Even Jakub Jankto showed some life in the last game, but Karol Linetty might be able to return in the midfield. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 20

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Samir Handanovic: Inter have managed to not concede in six straight games, versus Cagliari, Milan, Genoa, Frosinone, Udinese and Napoli. Sassuolo are a decent offensive team, but the Nerazzurri back-line has earned the benefit of the doubt at San Siro.

José Luis-Palomino: Atalanta will travel to Frosinone and therefore take on a side that has failed to hit the net in four of their last fixtures. The Orobici defenders are also always a menace on set pieces, so either the Argentinian, Rafael Toloi or Gianluca Mancini are worth considering in this round. 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 Club of the Week – Roma

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Just two teams were successful in both matches this week: Roma and Inter. The Beneamata did it by topping Napoli and Empoli with two 1-0 win, so the Giallorossi were certainly a little more impressive, despite conceding one late versus Sassuolo.

La Lupa so far have had all kinds of troubles, from chemistry and consistency problems to defensive leakiness, but at least they have solved the injury crisis, as Edin Dzeko, Stephan El Shaarawy, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Diego Perotti and Javier Pastore recovered from their ailments and three of them were able to get meaningful minutes. They should all be up and running after the break, giving Eusebio Di Francesco a vast array of weapons to choose from, considering that Cengiz Under, Nicolò Zaniolo, Justin Kluivert and even Patrik Schick have shown some flashes. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 19

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Standings implications: nothing changes in the upper echelon after the final game of 2018, as the top three teams did not look particularly impressive, but all came away with wins as Juventus and Napoli outlasted Sampdoria and Bologna and Inter beat Empoli on the road. Lazio and Torino shared the spoils in a very nervous games and this result allows Milan, who finally came through against SPAL, and Roma, which blitzed Parma, to close the gap for the fourth spot. In the Europa League race, Atalanta pummeled Sassuolo, while Fiorentina drew with Genoa. In the lower districts, Udinese outfaced Cagliari and Chievo finally earned their first win of the season by besting Frosinone in a battle of sad sacks.   Continue reading

Roma in desperate need of reinforcements as January transfer window approaches

Zaniolo-Brozovic-Roma-Inter

The final whistle sounded late Saturday evening in Turin as Roma lost their fifth match of the season thanks to their 1-0 defeat against Juventus. The defeat dropped the Giallorossi to 10th place in Serie A and marked another negative chapter in the horror novel that has been their 2018/2019 campaign.

While the performance was certainly better than what was on display in recent weeks, there was very little consolation for Roma as they’re four points off the final Champions League place.

Despite the season being nothing short of a nightmare, Roma somehow still find themselves within striking distance of that Champions League place. With crucial upcoming clashes against Parma and Sassuolo, anything short of six points would be disastrous for Eusebio Di Francesco’s men.

And the Italian tactician has shouldered the majority of the blame for the team’s struggles this season, there is no doubting that the team’s lack of depth has been a major issue — something sporting director Monchi must absolutely be held accountable for.

There’s several reasons why Roma find themselves in the position they’re currently in, but it’s certainly acceptable to point to last summer’s underwhelming transfer campaign as a major reason.

The Giallorossi waived goodbye to Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman and Alisson in the summer yet still brought in big names such as Steven Nzonzi, Bryan Cristante and Javier Pastore for the midfield, while Robin Olsen was tabbed as Roma’s new #1 in goal.

Despite extremely poor seasons from Nainggolan and Strootman in 2017/2018, Roma don’t seem to miss their abilities on the pitch as much as their character and personality in the dressing room.

Manager Eusebio Di Francesco has constantly cited the team’s poor mental approach, attitude and character throughout the season — leaving many to wonder why Monchi didn’t bring in players with characteristics similar to those of the departed Belgian and Dutchman.

With the January transfer market officially opening in just a few days, Monchi now finds himself in a peculiar position: it’s obvious Roma need solutions in every area of the pitch, however, he’s essentially working with a zero budget as the club continues to spend conservatively due to their books still being in the red.

While you could make the argument that every single position needs an upgrade, the Spanish director already has his sights set on two key roles — striker and defensive midfielder.

Monchi has been holding talks for over a month to try and find a player to who can play the mediano role in Di Francesco’s 4-2-3-1. In recent days, though, talks for a new striker have been increasing dramatically. The Spaniard is ready to waive the white flag on the disastrous campaign of Patrik Schick, Roma’s most expensive purchase, and allow the Czech to leave on loan to find calm and continuity.

With Schick potentially leaving, one name Monchi has his eyes on is Michy Batshuayi. The Belgian striker, who has been enduring a nightmare loan spell with Valencia, is ready to end his tenure in Spain early and one option is joining Roma. Batshuayi would bring a much-needed scoring presence after the Giallorossi have been lifeless in attack all season — which hasn’t been helped by the long injury layoff of Edin Dzeko.

So with the January transfer just days away and lasting only for one month, Monchi will be forced to work both diligently and quickly to bring in the needed reinforcements for Roma. Should he fail to bring in the proper firepower that the Giallorossi are clearly yearning for — Roma just may see themselves miss out on the Champions League for the first time since the 2012/2013 season.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 17

ACF Fiorentina v AC Milan - Serie A

Lazio-Cagliari: after four draws in a row, the Biancocelesti came a cropper in Bergamo, following another subpar performance. The Sardinians have been unable to win in the past six weeks and they caught on Sunday their first L at home versus Napoli. So both teams are reeling, one more of the other considering their seasonal targets. Simone Inzaghi is giving Sergej Milinkovic-Savic every opportunity to get off his schneid, but he keeps misfiring. Luis Alberto is showing some signs of life, but he is far away from last year’s level of brilliance. So Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa remain their only two productive fulcrums, with Marco Parolo at times able to chip in. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Roma vs Genoa

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Roma-Genoa was pretty much the only back and forth game of the weekend and it had plenty of storylines in it, so it is an easy choice for match of the round. The Giallorossi were coming off two straight 2-2 ties, with different flavor, against Inter and Cagliari and had prevailed just once in the past seven fixtures. Genoa drew in Cesare Prandelli’s debut versus SPAL and have not won since September 30th.

Eusebio Di Francesco, who has been on the hot seat for a while, made the bold move of benching Patrik Schick after two wasteful outings and opted for a three-man defense and a light front-line composed by Cengiz Under, Nicolò Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert. Genoa were without the suspended Domenico Criscito, replaced here by Ervin Zukanovic, but pretty much stuck with their usual XI, with Romulo and Darko Lazovic wide and Sandro anchoring the midfield. Continue reading