Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 18

Samir Handanovic: the match-up against Napoli is not that inviting fantasy-wise, but Inter boast the best statistical defence in the League by a decent margin and the Partenopei had not bagged two goal in a game in a long while before the last fluky one versus Sassuolo. It could be a low-scoring affair, giving an edge to defences and goalkeepers.

Chris Smalling: Roma have not conceded more than once in the past five fixtures and they will tangle with Torino this weekend, which are not a very explosive side. Smalling is also always a threat on set pieces. Continue reading

PREVIEW: Fiorentina-Roma

A huge Friday night game awaits at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, AS Roma travelling north to take on a Fiorentina side in desperate need of a positive result. Having lost their four previous Serie A fixtures, La Viola bounced back with a stunning draw against Inter on Sunday, Dusan Vlahovic’s late strike securing a share of the points for Vincenzo Montella’s men.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 16

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is out due to a thigh pull and their president confirmed that Duvan Zapata will be back in early 2020. Alejandro Gomez is out because of a knock. 

Bologna: Ladislav Krejci and Roberto Soriano have resumed practicing after their knee problems and could be in the squad list over the weekend.

Brescia: Andrea Cistana is suspended, Alfredo Donnarumma is fatigued but should be available. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 15

Luigi Sepe (7 points): just four clean sheets in this round and two of the goalie combined that with a key save on a penalty, Parma’s one and Brescia’s Jesse Joronen. However, the Finnish international was also booked, so the unheralded #1 of the Ducali gets the nod by default. Antonio Mirante had a terrific outing in relief, denying two clear-cut attempts by Lautaro Martinez and Matias Vecino with superb dives and one-handed saves.

Cristian Ansaldi (6 points): Torino conceded late, but Ansaldi still paced all defenders with his contribution on the other end, as he set up Simone Zaza’s goal with a great cross after a delightful action down the left wing and scored in the second half by picking his way to the box centrally and slotting it home from just outside of it. Continue reading

Smalling to Roma on a permanent basis- the case study for a perfect deal

Universities use case studies to illustrate the various aspects of a subject and sometimes we can use a single player’s situations to cover so many details that go into a transfer. With the winter window just a few weeks away, Chris Smalling’s situation at Roma allows us so to cover so many topics that will be relevant through the end of January.

After Roma’s sporting director Petrachi failed to sign his top targets at center back- on paper the weakest position on his squad despite Gainluca Mancini’s arrival- in the last days of the summer transfer window, he struck a deal with Manchester United for Chris Smalling.

Because Roma’s financial situation didn’t allow them to add another fairly substantial transfer fee on their books during the current fiscal year, they had no choice but to structure the deal on the basis of a loan. However their preference was to include an option to acquire the English defender on a permanent basis during the following fiscal year.

But because the closure of the summer transfer window was looming in Italy and Roma was desperate to reinforce their defense, they agreed to a dry loan for a fee of €3 million with no future option or obligation ( a formula Roma also used to acquire Mkhitaryan). The thinking was they would explore later on what to do if Smalling adapted well to Serie A. For his part, Smalling needed some convincing to accept the transfer on such short notice to a new league, but his conversation with the giallorossi’s manager, Paulo Fonseca, energized him.

While Smalling has his doubts on the move at first, many Manchester United fans were more than happy to see Smalling go (at least if you go by my Twitter feed) as a matter a fact they were disappointed it wasn’t already on a permanent basis since they felt it was almost inevitable Smalling would return to England.

But then something rather surprising happened, Smalling not only performed like one of the best players at his position this season by even exceeding the standards Kostas Manolas showed in his last season in Italy’s capital and upon joining Napoli, he also fully embraced living in his new city despite being a vegan in the carbonara capital of the world.

Fast forward to this week, besides the color of his skin, Smalling has played so well that he was one of the subjects of the extremely controversial “Black Friday” headline alongside his former teammate Lukaku (if he wasn’t considered a top player this season he wouldn’t have been on it) which prompted Manchester United’s current manager to say he expected him back at Old Trafford next June.

Now aside from the fact that Solksjaer won’t likely still be Manchester United’s manager by next summer, his statement is a great reminder that what is said publicly about transfers is very rarely important. One of his predecessors, Van Gaal, swore up and down that he would continue to be Manchester United’s manager and Paul Pogba started he was staying at Juventus a few days before boarding a plane to rejoin his former club.

Following Solksjaer’s press conference, Gianluca Di Marzio reported that talks between Roma and Manchester United were ongoing. The Italian club were willing to increase their initial offer of €15 million from a few weeks ago, with a deal likely to be completed around €20 million.

While this figure may seem low in light of Smalling’s performances in Serie A, he’s also a thirty year old player who will have little resale value down the road- a very important factor for a club like Roma who have to often sell before they buy.

You could make the case Manchester United could receive more should other clubs express interest in Smalling, but in this case the will of the player is key. Smalling has had a rebirth at Roma, enjoys the city and has let it be known he wants to stay- it also doesn’t hurt that Roma already paid €3 million just for a loan.

When you consider that Smalling has no amortized value remaining to offset for Manchester United because he’s been on the club’s books since 2010, the €20 million (or whatever figure they agree to) would be a pure capital gain. In addition, completing this deal without many hiccups could also likely garner some good will for all involved which could benefit Manchester United down the road if they tried to pursue one of Roma’s most exciting players like Zaniolo or Pellegrini.

They say that with the best deals everyone involved leaves the negotiation table slightly unhappy because it’s a give and a take, but in this case Smalling staying at Roma permanently would make everyone better off.

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 14

Juventus-Sassuolo: Cristiano Ronaldo came back midweek and now it will be interesting to see whether or not he will be load managed in Serie A player after the knee injury. Nevertheless, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala have been excellent in relief and have been able to contribute also when coming off the bench in their standard configuration. Douglas Costa got hurt again, which takes away their most explosive option at no.10, so it will Federico Bernardeschi and Aaron Ramsey running the show there for a while, but they both have not done damage in a while. Ramsey has the most upside in the duo. Khedira is fading and, while Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi are serviceable contributors, they are not strong fantasy options. It could be instead the right kind of match-up for Miralem Pjanic to have a meaningful offensive role, while Juan Cuadrado has been a pretty good fullback for a while now. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 13

Samir Handanovic (7 points): just three clean sheets in this round and finally Inter managed to keep one, with the usual solid contribution from their captain, who somehow batted away tap-in in the first half that could have perhaps reopened the game.

Chris Smalling (11 points): Roma risked very little in the back against Brescia, but really shined on the other end, as he scored one on a corner kick and also assisted his defensive partner with a quality flick-on. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 13

Standings implications: Juventus and Inter continue to forge ahead at the same pace, as the Bianconeri successfully turned around late the demanding match-up against Atalanta, while the Beneamata had an easy time handling Torino. Lazio extended his winning streak to five matches in dramatic fashion, thus defending the third spot from the ambitions of Roma, which instead housed Brescia. Milan and Napoli shared the spoils in a predictably underwhelming contest. Verona’s strong season continued with a one-nil win over Fiorentina, while Bologna and Parma shared the spoils in a thrilling Derby. Sampdoria outlasted Udinese. Cagliari lost some ground since they threw away a two-nothing lead against Lecce. SPAL and Genoa drew in the Monday night game, which really left nobody satisfied.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 13

Juan Musso: it is not a particularly appealing round for the top defenses, so it might be time to think outside of the box. Udinese have rediscovered some stinginess with Luca Gotti at the helm and will tangle with Sampdoria, which are tied with SPAL as least productive attack in the League and have never scored more than one goal. The Argentinian goalkeeper is a certainty at this point.

Chris Smalling: the Roma back-line has not been particularly airtight, but they have one of the better match-ups on hand against the cratering Brescia, which have not found the target more than once since late September. The English defender has been quite the surprise with his imposing physicality and he is a menace on set pieces too. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Week – Round 11

Roma-Napoli had the right combination of magnitude coming in and action on the field and therefore easily gets the choice this week.

The Giallorossi approached the tilt looking to build on their two recent wins over Milan and Udinese and to continue climbing in the standings, while Napoli had prevailed just once in the last four, sharing the spoils three times and therefore losing ground.

Paulo Fonseca confirmed most of what has been his go-to XI, replacing the suspended Federico Fazio with Mert Cetin in the back, thus keeping Gianluca Mancini in the midfield, next to Jordan Veretout. Continue reading