Europa League Race: Contenders, Pretenders and Dark-Horses

As the season draws to a close, the race for European places intensifies. If the season were to end today, Juventus, Inter, Lazio, and Atalanta would represent Italy in the Champions League while Roma and Napoli would have to content themselves with Europa League football.

Currently, the table could not be tighter as just four points separate sixth-place from eleventh. Let’s now take a look at the main contenders, pretenders and dark-horses for the Europa League.

Contenders: 

Roma and Atalanta: As it stands right now, one of Atalanta and Roma are pretty much guaranteed to occupy one of Italy’s two Europa League spots. Gasperini’s men are six-points ahead of the giallorossi in the fourth and final Champions League place and will be eager to maintain their advantage to qualify for Europe’s elite competition. Given Roma’s recent form, they may slide further down the table, but it’s difficult to see them finish outside the top six. As a result, expect Roma to make the Europa league leaving one last spot for the rest of the pack.

Napoli and Milan: After rough starts to the season, Napoli and Milan sacked their managers and almost immediately witnessed an upturn in their fortunes. Napoli have now won four of their last five and seem primed for a strong finish while Milan are finally playing with an identity. With Roma almost surely occupying the first Europa League spot, Napoli and Milan will likely duke it out for the remaining place. Napoli, however, will need to be better against sides under them as they have demonstrated complacency in those clashes. Milan, on the other hand, have taken care of Italy’s provinciali, but struggle against Italy’s elite.

Pretenders: 

Parma and Cagliari: Both sides got off to the season in fine form, but have recently struggled for results. Rolando Maran’s Cagliari haven’t won any of their last five clashes while Parma have proven to be far too inconsistent. In addition to their goal-scoring woes, Parma lack creative depth across the midfield, which will come back to haunt them in their hunt for European football. Cagliari, by contrast, benefitted by some incredible finishing earlier in the year; exploits that cannot be sustained throughout a full season. Expect both sides to slide further down the table as the season wears on.

Dark-Horses: 

Bologna-Hellas Verona: These two are here for vastly different reasons. On one hand, Hellas Verona have one of the league’s best defences propelling them into the race for European football while Bologna have scored freely all season and have shown no signs of slowing down. While Mihajlovic’s men have struggled in their last two games, they possess more quality in the final third than their counterparts and could go toe-to-toe with anyone in Italy. The same applies to Verona, who recently overcame Juventus in a game where they largely dominated. Milan and Napoli may be favourites for the last European spot, but Verona and Bologna will make it interesting over the next 12 match-days.

How well do you know Italian football? Do you want to battle the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? Play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

 

Cagliari 0-2 AC Milan: Ibrahimovic on target as Rossoneri claim three important points

AC Milan finally managed to claim all three points, beating Cagliari at the Sardegna Arena this afternoon. The Rossoneri quite convincingly secured a 2-0 scoreline against the Sardinia side, thus grabbing their first win in three games. 

However, there is still a long way to go for Pioli’s side, although today’s clash was certainly a step in the right direction. Above all, the players looked very confident, which we haven’t seen much in the first half of the season. There is no doubt that Ibrahimovic’s arrival has made a big difference. Continue reading

Cagliari vs. AC Milan: Team news, stats and prediction

Following a very disappointing start to the year, managing just one point at home against Sampdoria, AC Milan have a lot to prove as they take on Cagliari at the Sardegna Arena tomorrow afternoon. Certainly, the pressure is on them to show that they really are on the right track. 

The Rossoneri’s performance last time out was dreadful overall, and although there were some positive glimpses, they will need to drastically improve as tomorrow’s clash won’t be an easy one. Sure, Cagliari’s impressive start has hit a roadblock as of late, but Milan have enough of their own problems to deal with.  Continue reading

Mid-Season Awards: Fantasy Serie A’s Best XI

With the New Year on the way, let’s take a look back at the first half of the season and highlight Fantasy Serie A’s top performers. Without further ado, here’s your XI!

Goalkeeper - 

Samir Handanovic (Inter): The experienced shot-stopper has been in exceptional form for Inter this season and is Fantasy Serie A’s top goalkeeper, registering 73 fantasy points so far. The 35-year-old is a big reason behind the nerazzurri’s league-leading defence and has shown no signs of slowing down. 19.23M to slot him into your teams today!

Defenders -

Robin Gosens (Atalanta): The 25-year-old has picked up from exactly where he left off last season and has been a driving force behind Atalanta’s success. While he’s categorized as a defender in Fantasy Serie A, Gosens has made a name for himself as a wing-back in Gasperini’s 3-4-3, and already has four goals and three assists on the season, which is good for 68 points. Could be yours for 17.91M.

Stefan de Vrij (Inter): While Handanovic gets much of the praise for Inter’s steady defence, the shot-stopper would not have as many clean sheets if it weren’t for Stefan de Vrij. Since joining the nerazzurri, the Dutchman has taken his game to another level and is arguably the best defender in Italy at the moment. His impressive exploits on the season have earned him 71 fantasy points, the third-most among defenders. 18.7M if you want de Vrij in your teams.

Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus): After an indifferent year, Bonucci has returned to his past form and has been exceptional in Giorgio Chiellini’s absence. While Juventus’ defence have been more vulnerable than in recent seasons, Bonucci’s experience and calmness in possession have proven crucial. He’s even chipped in with a few goals, bringing him to 76 points on the season. You can add him into your teams today for 20.02M.

Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma): Kolarov has notched five goals on the season and has undoubtedly established himself as the undisputed best free-kick taker in Italy. In addition, the veteran defender has registered two assists and has lead Roma to five clean sheets with him on the pitch. Given his impressive exploits, it’s no surprise Kolarov has earned the most points among defenders with 79. Along with his output, comes his hefty price-tag of 20.81M.

Midfielders - 

Joao Pedro (Cagliari): While the Cagliari man is listed as a midfielder in Fantasy Serie A, Rolando Maran has deployed him mainly as a forward; a decision most fantacalcio players will be looking to take advantage of. Currently, the Brazilian is on 11 goals on the season and has earned the second-most fantasy points with 102, behind only Ciro Immobile. In fact, he’s scored six goals in his last six games and is well worth a punt even at 24M.

Luis Alberto (Lazio): Simply put, the Lazio man is an assist machine. Since joining the capital club, Luis Alberto has taken his game to another level, putting past inconsistencies well behind him. With just under half the season played, the Spaniard leads the league with 11 assists and may just be the deadliest final-ball specialist in the world. His three goals and his impressive assist tally bring him to 90 fantasy points on the year. At 23.71M, Luis Alberto is worth a shot.

Alejandro Gomez (Atalanta): What kind of a fantasy team would it be without Papu Gomez? The diminutive play-maker does it all for Atalanta, whether it’s splitting open the defence or finding the back of the net himself. This season, Gomez is already on five goals and six assists and has continued to be Atalanta’s creative hub. His output is good for 86 fantasy points and he’s currently available at 22.65M.

Forwards - 

Ciro Immobile (Lazio): Undoubtedly this season’s fantacalcio king so far with an astonishing 113 points. After all, that’s what 17 goals and five assists get you. Beyond being in sensational form in front of goal, Immobile has lead the line wonderfully alongside Joaquin Correa and has Lazio in an unlikely title race. You’d be missing out if you don’t have him in your teams…cough up 24M!

Romelu Lukaku (Inter): After a rough end to life in Manchester, Lukaku joined forces with Antonio Conte and has not looked back since. Alongside Lautaro Martinez, the Belgian international has been in fine form notching an impressive 12 goals. Without him, Inter would not been in the conversation for the Scudetto and Lukaku will look to continue his goalscoring exploits as the season wears on. He’s currently racked up 93 fantasy points and would run you 24M.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus): The Portuguese superstar got off to a poor start to the season, but has since turned it on for Juventus with goals in his last five Serie A games. Given his recent form, expect Ronaldo to hit the ground running in 2020 and build on his 79 fantasy points. While he’s arguably already in your teams based on name alone, he’ll prove to be well worth his 20.81M price-tag.

Join the most popular Fantasy Serie A game here: www.fantasyseriea.com

Fantacalcio Watch: Joao Pedro

Every season, Serie A springs new surprises on its faithful and this year has been no different. Whether it’s Atalanta’s continued rise, Cagliari’s astonishing run of results or the newly-promoted Hellas Verona’s solidity, this season has seen no shortage of head-scratchers. Cagliari’s Joao Pedro falls under this list.

Before this season, the Brazilian forward was a relatively unknown name to most Serie A fans, but has since established himself as one of the league’s deadliest forwards in front of goal. Averaging a goal every 139 minutes this season, the 27-year-old has eclipsed his past exploits with his 11 goals on the year.

In fact, he’s currently third in the capoconniere race, only behind the in-form Ciro Immobile and Serie A newcomer Romelu Lukaku. While his goal-scoring exploits may not last the entire season, he’s currently ahead of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. What’s important to note from the scorer’s table, however, is not only their tallies but shots taken. Immobile, for example, has 51. Lukaku, the other striker ahead of Joao Pedro, has 40 while Ronaldo has a league-leading 58.

Unlike his competitors, the Cagliari man does not need too many opportunities to score and has 11 goals from 29 shots, for an impressive 38 percent conversion rate. No striker in Italy has a better rate currently and only Immobile comes close at the moment with 33 percent. Joao Pedro’s run of form has Cagliari dreaming of European football and rightfully so. The Sardinian club currently sit comfortably in sixth place, four points ahead of Parma, having beaten the likes of Napoli and Atalanta among others.

Before the year came to a close, Joao Pedro was arguably the league’s most in-form forward, scoring six goals and registering one assist in his last six games in league play. With a clash against Juventus on the cards, expect the Brazilian to be raring to go. After all, the bianconeri haven’t exactly looked solid at the back and have already conceded 17 goals on the season.

While Joao Pedro wasn’t the first name in your fantasy teams ahead of the new season, he is surely on everyone’s radar now. He may not have the name appeal of a Ronaldo or a Mertens in the final third, but he has proven to be more effective than both thus far.

In fact, the Brazilian has earned the second-most fantasy points on the season with 102, only behind the dazzling Immobile. His price-tag of 24 million euros may prove to be too steep, but given his recent run of form, he’s definitely worth considering.

Currently, Cagliari’s 33 goals are joint for fourth-best in the league for now and don’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. In Rolando Maran’s set-up, Radja Nainggolan plays behind the Brazilian and Giovanni Simeone and have established themselves as one of the league’s most in-sync trios.

Given their technical midfield and bombing fullbacks, chances are never hard to come by in Sardinia. And Joao Pedro has proven he doesn’t need too many of them to be effective either. For this reason, the Cagliari man features on this edition of fantacalcio watch and is arguably worthy of further consideration in your teams. With a game against Juventus on deck, keep your eyes peeled for Cagliari’s number ten. He may just impress you enough for you to add him on your team.

Join the most popular Fantasy Serie A game here: www.fantasyseriea.com

 

 

 

Winners of Summer Transfer Window in Serie A

With seventeen Serie A matches as well as the first phase of the Champions and Europa Leagues in the books, we have a large enough sample size to draw some conclusions on the summer transfer window. Some Italian teams benefitted tremendously by the moves they made in June, July and August and have been rewarded with the positions in the standings starting with:

 

Inter- the nerazzurri made the best of their Financial Fair Play restrictions coming to an end in June by breaking their transfer record not once (Barella) but twice (Lukaku) and being able to afford to ship out Icardi, Perisic and Nainggolan on loan rather than haggling over a transfer fee when their value had plummeted.

Barella and Lukaku have more than lived up to their price tag, the former Cagliari midfielder was eased into the starting lineup and has performed at the level we’ve seen on the Azzurri, while Lukaku has proven to be devastating against provinciali types, which used to be the types of teams Inter squandered the most points against- if that weren’t enough, the Belgian international has proven to be an ideal partner for Lautaro Martinez who has made a massive leap this season.

In addition to hits with Lukaku and Barella, Stefano Sensi was considered to be the best new addition on any Serie A club prior to his injury last October. While Diego Godin has struggled a bit to get used to a new formation and league, keeping Alessandro Bastoni after a successful summer retreat has proven to be a great move- he was vastly improved after spending a season on loan at Parma

 

Cagliari- the Sardinian club have so far been this season’s version of Atalanta despite selling their best player (Barella) and losing their starting keeper (Cragno) and best goal scorer (Pavoletti) to injuries. While Radja Nainggolan is rightfully getting a lot of praise for his strong comeback season after returning to his former club for mainly personal reasons, his midfield partner Nahitan Nandez has been just as impactful- the former Boca Juniors player looks ready to give president Giulini another massive plusvalenza down the road.

Giovanni Simeone has helped make up for Pavoletti’s production along side Joao Pedro, who ended up staying after being very close to joining Atalanta, but the real revelation has been Robin Olsen who arrived as a last second replacement for the injured Cragno, the former Roma keeper is arguably the most improved player in all of Serie A

 

Atalanta- many expressed concern over the Bergamaschi qualifying for the Champions League as their thinking was they would be embarrassed on the biggest stage after selling some of their best players. Instead Atalanta retained all of their starters except for Gianluca Mancini and miraculously qualified out of the group stage of the Champions League.

Last summer, president Percassi bolstered the team’s depth with some fairly significant signings in Luis Muriel, Ruslan Malinovsky and by trying to replace Mancini first with Skrtel, who ran back to Turkey after experiencing Gasperini’s brutal training sessions and later Kjaer.

The bets compliment you can give Muriel is that he’s played so well, you would barely notice Atalanta has been without Duvan Zapata for quite some time, while Malinovsky is just the latest excellent discovery from a secondary league after Freuler, Gosens and De Roon. Atalanta has also been rewarded for extending Pasalic’s loan and sending Kulusevski on loan to a team like Parma which was perfect for getting the most out of his talent.

 

Roma- in addition to hitting a home run with coach Paulo Fonseca, the giallorossi managed to make some significant improvements to the squad despite missing out on Champions League revenue. Chris Smalling has been one of the best center backs in all of Serie A this season, Gianluca Mancini has been an excellent partner for the English defender and also excelled as a midfielder when the team was ravaged by injuries.

Resigning Dzeko to a long term deal has risks considering his age, but for the first few months of the season he carried the team on his back. After a slow start because of an injury, Amadou Diawara has shown enough to remind people why he was so highly rated when he was at Bologna, his performances have so far given Roma a win over Napoli in the Manolas deal. While Olsen has had a resurgence at Cagliairi, his replacement Pau Lopez has lived up to the expectations of being the highest paid keeper in the club’s history.

 

Hellas Verona- even the biggest Calcio junkie would have had a hard time recognizing many of the names on the gialloblu’s squad at the start of the season, but the newly promoted club created a team in their manager’s image. Prior to his disastrous spells at Genoa, Juric was considered one of the best up and coming coaches in Italy following his time at Crotone, this summer he was given midfielder Miguel Veloso whom he previously managed, staunch defender Amir RRahmani and Sofyan Amrabat- these last two players are already linked to Napoli for substantially higher transfer fees than what Verona paid to acquire them.

 

From scapegoat to super-sub: How Felipe Caicedo became an unlikely Lazio talisman

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In Italy, it’s called the ‘Zona Cesarini’. In Rome, it’s fast becoming known as the ‘Zona Caicedo’.

The expression refers to the dying moments of a game, and derives from former Juventus midfielder Renato Cesarini’s knack for scoring very late goals back in the 1930s.

Ninety years later, Lazio striker Felipe Caicedo is becoming comparably synonymous with a special ability to put the ball in the net when all seems lost.

The Ecuadorian has three goals in his last three Serie A games. That’s good form for a striker by any standards, but it becomes an exceptional return when you consider that the earliest he entered any of those matches was the 79th minute.

Continue reading

Serie A Player of November – Radja Nainggolan

With a little delay due to the ongoing round, the results are in for the Player of the Month and Radja Nainggolan was the only Serie A representative to crack the EuroFantasyLeague XI in November.

It took him a while to gain an acceptable physical level following his sentimental decision to move back to Cagliari after Inter kicked him to the curb, but he has been uncontainable once he hit his stride.  Continue reading

Serie A Round 14 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

With another action-packed match-day in store for us, it’s time to look ahead and get your fantacalcio sides ready. Juventus will be hosting Sassuolo as Inter take on SPAL. With just one point separating the two sides, Antonio Conte’s men will be looking to maintain the pace with the Italian champions.

With match-day 14 upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your elevens. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Robin Olsen (GK, Cagliari, Value 13.65) – The former Roma goalkeeper has been in sensational form to begin the season, putting last year’s woes behind him, but has since been suspended for the next four match-days. It comes at an unfortunate time for both him and Cagliari as the Sardinians are competing for European places.

In addition, the Swedish international has been rock solid between the posts and has established himself as a crucial piece to Rolando Maran’s setup. For the time being, use the 13M on a backup keeper and perhaps a creative midfielder.

Federico Chiesa (FWD, Fiorentina, Value 13.99) – There’s currently a power struggle going on between Federico Chiesa and Fiorentina. The Italian international has reportedly set his sights on a move to one of Italy’s top dogs, with Inter and Juventus both expressing interest. Determined to make Chiesa the face of their rebuild, however, Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso is reluctant to sell the young winger. Chiesa was frozen out of the side in their most-recent defeat, with Montella claiming that he was out of shape mentally and physically.

This week, Montella confirmed that Chiesa will miss the side’s upcoming clash against Lecce with a thigh injury, as well. The 22-year-old has not been at la viola’s training ground all week, fuelling speculation that he may be on his way out. At 13.99M, you would be wise to freeze Chiesa out of your fantacalcio sides yourself. I hear Atalanta have a few interesting forwards…

Sami Khedira (MID, Juventus, Value 10.92) – The former German international started the season well, but has since slowed down, with many calling for him to be benched. In Juventus’ most recent Serie A win against Atalanta, Khedira was anonymous and was a constant liability down the bianconeri’s right-hand side. While the penalty he conceded was rather unfortunate, it was merely the tip of the iceberg of his poor performance.

With Rodrigo Bentancur impressing in mid-week and Emre Can eager to prove himself, it may be  time for Sarri to look elsewhere in Juventus’ midfield ranks and bench the much-maligned Khedira. Regardless, his price-tag is still too high for a player who simply does not produce. For example, you can afford Juan Cuadrado for the same price. Are you braver than Sarri?

Rodrigo De Paul (MID, Udinese, Value 9.21) – Continuing with the theme of struggling midfielders, Udinese’s Rodrigo De Paul makes this week’s list. The Argentine international was supposed to break through this season, emerging as a crucial player for the Zebrette, but nothing of the sort has taken place. With Udinese hovering over the relegation zone, De Paul is going to need to step up. In his 10 appearances this season, the 25-year-old has one goal and one assist – a far cry from last season’s impressive tally of nine goals and eight assists.

Given the side’s lack of creativity in the middle of the park, the Udinese man is burdened with much of the offensive work in the final third. While his fortunes should change, Udinese take on a high-flying Lazio side this weekend. As a result, it would be wise to keep De Paul out of your elevens for the time being.

Kalidou Koulibaly (DEF, Napoli, Value 8.53) – Since establishing himself as one of the league’s elite defenders, Koulibaly’s stock has never been lower. With the ongoing player mutiny at Napoli, the partenopei have struggled for results and their rearguard has suffered. In fact, Napoli have only managed to keep one clean sheet in their last eight games – a scoreless draw against Genoa. While Koulibaly has largely been solid over this stretch, he hasn’t been blameless either and has been committing mistakes with more regularity, indicating that his head may be elsewhere.

Napoli’s performance against Liverpool was encouraging and could serve as a turning point in their season, but with the tense atmosphere at the club unlikely to change, it could go either way. Despite his immense quality, I would temporarily swap Koulibaly out of my side, especially considering the threat Bologna pose on the counter through Riccardo Orsolini.