Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Two

Results: Roma and Juventus shared the spoils in an entertaining fixture to cap off the Sunday slateNapoli demolished Genoa, Milan easily got past Crotone, while Verona nipped Udinese to stay perfect in the season. Inter furiously rallied back late against Fiorentina, while Lazio breezed past Cagliari and Atalanta toyed with Torino, so the three ‘top four’ teams that had their opener delayed were all successful. Among the newly promoted teams, Benevento got off to a brilliant start as they mounted a glorious comeback against Sampdoria, tough sledding instead for Spezia, which run into an in-form Sassuolo. Bologna trounced Parma on Monday night.  Continue reading

Fantasy Serie A Gameweek Two Picks

Serie A returned in style last weekend and promises yet another matchday of exciting action, as Gian Piero Gasperini’s high-flying Atalanta make their highly anticipated debut on Saturday against Torino. Inter will host Fiorentina in Saturday’s final game as Antonio Conte’s men look to pick up where they left off last season and emerge as title contenders.

Elsewhere, Roma takes on Juventus on Sunday and will be hoping to get their season back on track after their surprising forfeit to Hellas Verona.

Without further ado, here are your fantasy Serie A picks ahead of gameweek two:

Gianluigi Donnarumma: The Milan shot-stopper may have conceded twice against Bodo-Glimt, but he should be a safe pick ahead of the Rossoneri’s clash against the newly-promoted Crotone. Donnarumma kicked off the season in fine form against Bologna and will be looking to continue his good start against Crotone.

Achraf Hakimi: The former Borussia Dortmund man is available for a mere 4.5 million and should hit the ground running in Inter’s season opener. Hakimi is a match made in heaven for Conte’s 3-5-2 and will be looking to replicate last season’s impressive exploits in Italy. With Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez combining dangerously, expect the Moroccan international to fit right in at Inter.

Omar Colley: Sampdoria lost their season opener in convincing fashion against Juventus, but Colley was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing performance. The Blucerchiati will be welcoming Benevento to the Luigi Ferraris and should be good value for a clean sheet.

Kalidou Koulibaly: The Senegalese international ultimately remained at Napoli amidst heavy Premier League interest and should be a crucial piece to Gennaro Gattuso’s setup moving forward. Koulibaly will be eager to thwart Genoa’s momentum after I Grifoni emerged 4-1 winners over Crotone in their season opener.

Theo Hernandez: The former Real Madrid man was in sensational form against Bologna, registering his first assist of the season. Hernandez has established himself as one of Milan’s biggest offensive threats, getting forward at will down the left-hand side. Crotone has just conceded four against Genoa and shouldn’t find it easier against the Rossoneri.

Luis Alberto: The Spanish international is coming off his best season yet in a Lazio shirt and is great value for money at 4.5 million. Luis Alberto emerged as one of the league’s elite creators last season, forming a deadly partnership with Ciro Immobile. Simone Inzaghi’s men will be eager to hit the ground running against Cagliari and expect Luis Alberto to be at the heart of it.

Aaron Ramsey: Ramsey struggled last season in Maurizio Sarri’s rigid 4-3-3, but looked reborn in Andrea Pirlo’s fluid system. The Welshman only registered one assist against Sampdoria, but had it not been for his teammates’ profligacy in front of goal, it could have been two or three. Expect Ramsey to continue his fine form against Roma.

Hakan Calhanoglu: The Turkish international has been at the heart of Milan’s resurgence under Stefano Pioli, carving out an important role for himself as the Rossoneri’s trequartista. Calhanoglu has combined his incredible vision with a keen eye for goal and has since become Milan’s difference-maker in the final third. The 26-year-old is coming off yet another influential performance and should continue his impressive run against Crotone.

Domenico Berardi: The Sassuolo winger got off to a disappointing start to the season against Cagliari, but should put his goalscoring woes behind him against Spezia. The Neroverdi’s dynamic front three has proven too much to handle for most of Italy’s backlines in the past and should have what it takes to claim an important three points against the newly-promoted outfit.

Ciro Immobile: Last season’s capocannoniere will be eager to repeat the feat once more, starting with Lazio’s opener against Cagliari. Immobile has proven to be a consistent goalscorer in league play in recent years and is always good value to find the back of the net. Alessio Cragno is one of Serie A’s best shot-stoppers, but Immobile and co. possess enough firepower to get the job done.

Victor Osimhen: The Nigerian international changed the complexion of his game shortly after his introduction and should feature from the start against Genoa. Osimhen will be raring to go after an impressive debut and should open his account for the season against I Grifoni.

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Lazio season preview: Will the Aquile fly again in 2020/21?

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It’s time to go again already? Well yes, and Lazio are actually arriving late to the party.

Simone Inzaghi’s men are back in action on Saturday when they hop across the Mediterranean to Sardinia to take on a Cagliari side led by former Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco.

Lazio’s delay in getting underway was down to the fact that their week one fixture with Atalanta was postponed by 10 days; La Dea were allowed some extra preparation time due to their late 2019/20 finish on Champions League duties.

Where were we?

Lazio’s 2019/20 campaign was a story of two parts: pre-coronavirus and post-coronavirus. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Two – Top Matches

TORINO-ATALANTA

Torino: the Granata did really not show anything new in the Fiorentina game even though Marco Giampaolo is supposedly going to bring a ton of changes, but that will take time and likely a couple of new players to come to fruition. They created just a pair of changes, with Andrea Belotti fully in the thick of it as per usual, while Simone Zaza rubbished a tasty one. They might be better off signing a new striker. The coach went with Alex Berenguer in the hole and then voiced doubts about Simone Verdi’s playing in that position, however there is not really any other place for him in the formation, so he will have to adapt. Soualiho Meite and Karol Linetty were not very involved offensively, mostly because the match-up was not easy, but this upcoming one is worse.  Continue reading

Lazio adding impressive depth ahead of Champions League return

Lazio surprised the masses last season with an unlikely title push, but ultimately fell short when it mattered, sliding down to fourth place. In many ways, the Biancocelesti’s lack of depth hurt the side after the restart. Simone Inzaghi’s men played some of the best football in Italy when playing once a week, but will need to adapt quickly as their return to the Champions League approaches.

The capital-based club has wasted no time bolstering their ranks and addressing their needs. Vedat Muriqi has arrived from Fenerbahçe S.K and will offer some crucial depth up front. Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa start the season as Inzaghi’s undisputed starters but will benefit from sitting out some games. Felipe Caicedo impressed early on in the year but tailed off towards the tail end of the season while Bobby Adekanye is still young for a bigger role.

At 26 years old, Muriqi offers experienced depth and is a proven goalscorer. The Kosovo international netted 15 goals and 6 assists last season in Super Lig action, indicating he is deadly in front of goal. Beyond his impressive goalscoring repertoire, Muriqi has demonstrated he can play in a two-striker setup and could form a dangerous partnership with either Immobile or Correa. It may have taken Lazio some time to get this deal over the line, but Muriqi’s arrival is a big one.

Other than Muriqi, Lazio has also signed Mohamed Fares from the relegated SPAL. Last season, Jony started most of the Biancocelesti’s games from left wingback and faced no competition from Jordan Lukaku. Fares’s arrival creates competition for the starting role, all-while offering Inzaghi depth off the bench. Fares is an experienced Serie A player and comes at a relatively low price.

SPAL may have disappointed last season, but Fares was regularly a bright spot for the Ferrara-based club and was a constant menace down the left-hand side. As the new season approaches, expect Fares to start off the bench and slowly stake a claim for the starting spot. His signing is yet another one that may go under the radar but could prove to be one of the bargains of the summer.

Gonzalo Escalante has also been added from Eibar and has looked decent in the midfield in the early goings of preseason. A more pressing need for Inzaghi’s men, however, is at centreback. The Biancocelesti have previously been linked with Hellas Verona’s Marash Kumbulla and are reportedly monitoring Torino’s Armando Izzo. 

According to recent reports, Izzo does not fit into Marco Giampaolo’s plans next season, as the former Sampdoria tactician looks to transition I Granata to a back four. In this sense, Izzo would be an ideal signing for Inzaghi’s men and much like Fares, has plenty of Serie A experience in a similar system.

Kumbulla is another player who impressed in a back three this season but may be unrealistic given his price-tag. Inter has recently pulled out of the race for the defender, giving Lazio the opportunity to swoop in. As the new season approaches, Inzaghi will be eager to add another center-back to his side, with Izzo or Kumbulla both representing great options.

It would appear the Biancocelesti are gearing up to compete on all three fronts going into next season, adding impressive depth across the board. With the new season kicking off in just ten days, it remains to be seen if Lazio will add another centre-back, despite the recent links. Inzaghi’s men may not contend for the Scudetto this season, but if last season was anything to go by, underestimate them at your own risk. Lazio has bolstered their roster and will be raring to go upon their Champions League return.

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Breaking down the latest Italy roster

Roberto Mancini announced his latest Azzurri squad on Thursday, giving many talents their first call-up to the senior national team. Regardless, familiar faces still figure in the former Inter tactician’s setup, including the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci among others.

Let’s now take a deeper look at Mancini’s side.

Goalkeepers: Donnarumma, Meret, Cragno, Sirigu.

No surprises here as Italy’s four best goalkeepers all get a shot to prove their worth. Gianluigi Donnarumma goes into the camp as Italy’s undisputed number one while Cagliari’s Alessi Cragno finished the season in incredible form. Salvatore Sirigu is largely there for his experience and has always proven to be a trustworthy backup when needed.

The biggest question mark is Napoli’s Alex Meret. The young shot-stopper found himself relegated to the bench following Gennaro Gattuso’s appointment but has typically impressed when thrust into the limelight – notably in the Coppa Italia final against Juventus.

Verdict: Overall, Mancini made the right picks between the posts, even though Atalanta’s Pierluigi Gollini might feel short-changed. 9/10.

Defenders: Acerbi, Bastoni, Bonucci, Biraghi, Caldara, Chiellini, D’Ambrosio, Di Lorenzo, Florenzi, Luca Pellegrini, Spinazzola.

Mancini has tried to integrate many promising talents at the back, calling up Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni and Juventus-owned Luca Pellegrini. Napoli’s Giovanni Di Lorenzo features once more in the roster and is arguably the favourite for the rightback spot. Inter’s Danilo D’Ambrosio proved his worth under Antonio Conte last season, playing as a right wingback or on the right side of the back three. In this sense, the former Torino man offers Mancini versatility and can challenge Di Lorenzo.

Mancini has turned to a blend of experience and youth at center-back. While Giorgio Chiellini has been a great servant for the national team, the veteran defender was sidelined for most of this season with recurring injuries and should not take minutes away from an emerging talent. The same goes for Alessandro Florenzi, whose best years are behind him.

Francesco Acerbi and Leonardo Bonucci offer some much-needed leadership while Bastoni and Caldara will have their opportunities to crack the eleven. Expect Alessio Romagnoli to stake his claim for a starting spot when he returns from injury.

Verdict: Interesting blend of youth and experience, but Mancini could do without Florenzi and Chiellini. 7/10.

Midfielders: Barella, Bonaventura, Castrovilli, Cristante, Jorginho, Gagliardini, Locatelli, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Sensi, Tonali, Zaniolo.

The midfield is where it arguably gets the most interesting. Inter’s Nicolo Barella rightfully makes the team after an impressive debut season and deserves to start for Gli Azzurri. His teammate, Stefano Sensi, makes his return to the national team fold and has battled injuries for the most part of the second half of the season. If he can return to his early-season form, Sensi can play an important role under Mancini.

Emerging talents Gaetano Castrovilli, Nicolo Zaniolo and Sandro Tonali all make the team and will all be looking to take the next step. Zaniolo may feature in attack while Tonali will have to battle it out with Marco Verratti and Jorginho for the regista position.

Manuel Locatelli is also rewarded for his good season with Sassuolo but may find minutes hard to come by in the long run given how congested Italy’s midfield options are. The most intriguing inclusion, perhaps, is Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini. The Roma man established himself as a creative force in the midfield and offers something different from Italy’s midfield ranks.

Roberto Gagliardini and Giacomo Bonaventura are the only questionable inclusions, leaving one to wonder where exactly the duo fit in Mancini’s plans.

Verdict: As Verratti is missing through injury, these are the best midfielders available. Remove Gagliardini and Bonaventura and Mancini’s on to something here. 8/10.

Forwards: Belotti, Bernardeschi, Caputo, Chiesa, El Shaarawy, Immobile, Insigne, Kean, Lasagna, Orsolini.

Italy’s forward options leave a lot to be desired, bar a few names, but ultimately Mancini does a good job with his latest call-ups. Francesco Caputo gets his debut call-up after netting 21 goals. At 33 years old, the veteran hitman has at least another tournament in him and could be useful at Euro 2021.

Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti make the cut once more alongside Moise Kean and Udinese’s Kevin Lasagna. Immobile will be hoping to translate his domestic form to the national team with Belotti closely behind him in the pecking order. Kean and Lasanga round off Mancini’s ‘number nines’ but as of right now, remain outsider options.

Out wide, Mancini called up familiar faces – Insigne, Chiesa, Bernardeschi, Orsolini and El Shaarawy. The one glaring ommission is Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi, who deserves to be there ahead of El Shaarawy and Bernardeschi.

What will be interesting is who Mancini deploys in his starting eleven. Insigne, Chiesa and Orsolini have arguably been in the best form while Bernardeschi has struggled. El Shaarawy offers experienced depth but will be hoping to return to playing football that matters. Otherwise, he should not be on the plane to Euro 2021.

Verdict: The Berardi exclusion is a tough one to swallow, but beyond the Sassuolo man, these are good call-ups. 7/10

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Breaking down Lazio’s Mercato Needs

Lazio will be making its highly anticipated return to the Champions League next season and will be eager to hit the ground running in Europe’s elite competition. Simone Inzaghi’s men surprised Italy this season, springing an unlikely title challenge, but ultimately fell short. In many ways, their lack of depth hurt them late and caused the Biancocelesti to drop unnecessary points. With Lazio competing on three fronts next year, Igli Tare and Claudio Lotito will use this summer to retool the side and offer Inzaghi more flexibility.

According to recent reports, Lazio are in the market for another striker. Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa formed a deadly duo in the final third this season, but Lazio lacked quality depth when either was out of the lineup. Felipe Caicedo finished the season with nine goals but left a lot to be desired at crucial moments while Bobby Adenkanye failed to break through Inzaghi’s starting eleven.

Lazio have since been linked with former Real Madrid striker Borja Mayoral. In recent times, however, Fenerbahce’s Vedat Muriqi has emerged as the favorite up front. The Kosovo international will reportedly join Lazio for 18 million euros and will give Inzaghi some much-needed depth.

Beyond Muriqi, Lazio are closing in on SPAL’s Mohamed Fares for the left wingback role. Jony struggled to make an impact when called upon while Senad Lulic is beginning to slow down out wide. As a result, reinforcements are needed to offer Lazio some width and pace in the wide areas. Jordan Lukaku never got going in Inzaghi’s system and could very well be on his way out this summer. Fares is already familiar with Serie A and was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for SPAL. At eight million euros, Fares could offer Lazio great value, similarly to Manuel Lazzari down the right-hand side.

While Fares and Muriqi offer depth and will largely be used in rotation, Lazio have set their sights on a huge free agent signing. Manchester City’s David Silva is reportedly heavily considering moving to the nation’s capital and joining forces with his compatriot Luis Alberto in the middle of the park. The duo will undoubtedly form one of the league’s most creative midfield units and will thrive supplying Immobile and Correa.

Silva may be approaching 35 years old, but the Spaniard could offer Lazio another season or two at the highest level. Lazio struggled to break sides down towards the tail end of the season and could benefit from Silva’s presence in their lineup. The former Valencia man, however, is currently weighing an offer from Qatar and will give Lazio his final answer shortly. In any case, Silva would be a major coup for Tare and would offer the side a wealth of experience going into the Champions League.

Fares, Muriqi, and Silva would represent a phenomenal summer for Lazio, but if Inzaghi’s men want to take the next step, they arguably need another centreback. Francesco Acerbi, Luis Felipe, and Stefan Radu formed an uncompromising trio at the back this season, but they could benefit from an injection of youth.

The Biancocelesti were previously linked to Hellas Verona’s Marash Kumbulla, but the defender is now Inter bound. In many ways, the Verona man is an ideal profile for Lazio and would have refreshed their rearguard. Beyond Kumbulla, Lazio could inquire about Juventus wantaway Daniele Rugani. The former Empoli man desperately needs a move away and could rekindle his best form away from Juve. In any case, another defender would help reduce Acerbi’s workload significantly and tighten up their back three ahead of Thomas Strakosha.

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Lazio’s 2019/20 end of season report card

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What a year it’s been for Lazio. The 2019/20 season will never be forgotten due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but for Aquile fans a whirlwind league campaign and long-awaited return to the Champions League will stick in the memory too.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to grade the efforts of the capital club.

The Serie A campaign: A-

A bitterly disappointing season finale is still fresh in the memory. Lazio were a shadow of their former selves when they returned from the three-month break and fell from one point off the Serie A summit to fourth place. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Team of the Year

No major surprises among the 11 selections, which mirror pretty well how the fantasy season has gone.

Samir Handanovic (63 points): it has been a pretty challenging year for defenses, especially in the restart, and nobody really put up elite numbers when it comes to conceded goals. Inter surrendered the least, 36, which is pretty pedestrian if we compare it with previous seasons, but six fewer than any other team, as Lazio allowed 42 and Juventus 43. Handanovic came in second with his 13 clean sheets, on a par with Gianluigi Donnarumma, trailing Udinese’s Juan Musso by a single unit. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 38

Standings implications: Inter saved best for last as they sunk Atalanta, securing the second place and closing one point shy of Juventus, which did not bother showing up against Roma. Lazio stayed in fourth as they were bested by Napoli. In the relegation zone, Lecce went down in typical chaotic fashion versus Parma, while Genoa’s win over Verona was never in doubt and so the Salentini are the final team to move back to Serie B.

In the meaningless portion of the schedule, Milan kept it going against Cagliari, Udinese picked up a quality win over Sassuolo, Bologna shared the spoils Torino, Sampdoria with Brescia.

Continue reading