Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 21

Bartlomiej Dragowski: after a long period of time where they always conceded, Fiorentina have kept two clean sheets in a row and their young goalie shined. They will host Genoa this week, which have scored more than once in just one of the last five rounds. Among their defenders, Pol Lirola is finally on the up-and-up.

Matthijs De Ligt: the starlet has been impressive in the last few matches and, while the Juventus defence has had troubles blanking opponents, they rarely give up multiple goals and could be able to contain Napoli’s stammering attack in check. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 21

Brescia-Milan: the Rondinelle will not have Mario Balotelli for a couple of matches, but Ernesto Torregrossa has actually carried the load scoring-wise recently and he and Alfredo Donnarumma formed a formidable partnership last season in Serie B, so they might be able to survive the blow. They have added two intriguing pieces in January in Birkir Bjarnason, who was very dangerous for a midfielder in his time in Pescara, and Simon Skrabb: they should both have their chances because Nikolas Spalek at no.10 has been pretty inconsistent. Sandro Tonali is coming off a two-assist performance and also Stefano Sabelli and Romulo have been decently proficient in a supporting role. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 20

Bartlomiej Dragowski (7 points): quite amazingly, there was only just one clean sheet in this round and it belonged to Fiorentina, who were stout defensively against Napoli, which are in a tough sledding still have weapons and talent up front. La Viola are finally tightening it up in the back, showcasing the solidity of their young goalie.

Pol Lirola (7 points): he outpaced his fellow teammates, who all racked up five points, since he fed Dusan Vlahovic prior to the second goal, although most of the credit goes to the teammate for that missile. He has been a non-factor so far this season, perhaps the assists will get him going.   Continue reading

Serie A Club of the Round – Lazio

Lazio had a field day against Sampdoria and took home the coveted award despite giving up a consolation goal, as they pushed their winning streak to 11 in commanding fashion.

Simone Inzaghi had Joaquin Correa available this week, but he kept him initially on the bench coming off a calf injury, so Felipe Caicedo partnered Ciro Immobile up front, while Jony replaced the suspended Senad Lulic on the left wing. Claudio Ranieri kept the slightly banged up Fabio Quagliarella on the bench, which pretty much tipped how things were going to unfold. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 20

Standings implications: Juventus gained a couple of points on Inter as they eked out a W over Parma, while the Nerazzurri were held to a tie by Lecce. Lazio romped their way to their 11th win in a row against Sampdoria. Roma bounced back with a pretty decisive success in Genoa put three points between them and Atalanta, which were stunned at home by SPAL. Milan outlasted Udinese to move closer to the top six and Fiorentina’s turnaround is starting to feel real after a fairly impressive display in Naples, with the Partenopei instead still in the doldrums. Cagliari at least got a point out of the trip to Brescia, while Bologna and Verona shared the spoils. Sassuolo came back to life by upending Torino.

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Lazio face test of squad depth as fixtures, injuries and suspensions pile up

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Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi is currently undergoing one of his biggest tests of the season.

That may seem like an odd thing to read, given that his team have forgotten how to lose; last weekend’s victory over Napoli marked a club record 10th league win in a row.

In that time, they’ve ended a 30-year wait to beat AC Milan at San Siro in Serie A, a 16-year winless run at home to Juventus in the league and most recently a six-match losing run against Napoli.

It’s tempting to think Lazio can just plug in and play at the moment, that Inzaghi has little more to do than send his team out on the pitch with the instructions: “Same again, lads”.

But the coach’s skill in keeping this run going shouldn’t be underestimated – and his biggest challenge could be just around the corner.

Lazio aren’t blessed with a squad boasting enormous strength in depth, and the loss of one undisputed starter can have a big impact on the way they perform.

Inzaghi already lost his hugely influential midfield pair Lucas Leiva and Luis Alberto through suspension for the trip to Brescia at the start of the year, and their absence was felt as Lazio toiled before snatching another late win.

Captain Senad Lulic is suspended for Sampdoria’s visit on Saturday, while Francesco Acerbi and Stefan Radu will miss the following weekend’s Rome Derby if they pick up another booking.

Danilo Cataldi, who is also one yellow card away from suspension, has been ruled out for almost three weeks with an injury sustained during the midweek Coppa Italia win over Cremonese, while Joaquin Correa hasn’t recovered in time to face Samp and joins long-term absentees Adam Marusic and Jordan Lukaku in the stands.

With the injuries and suspensions piling up, much is being asked of few.

Saturday’s clash with Claudio Ranieri’s side will be the third game in a run of six matches in 15 days for the Biancocelesti, and another five are yet to come before 9 February.

The routine 4-0 win over Serie B opposition on Tuesday evening highlighted the lack of quality in depth that Inzaghi has available to him, regardless of the handsome scoreline.

Ciro Immobile, Acerbi and Luiz Felipe were all handed starting spots yet again, despite clearly being in a position where they would benefit from some rest.

The reserve players brought in to the Lazio XI from the bench included the likes of Bastos, Patric and Bobby Adekanye. They all performed well, but they are expected to be comfortable against this level of opposition.

Comparatively, some of the squad rotations rolled out by Inter and Juventus this week included bringing in Alexis Sanchez, Diego Godin, Valentino Lazaro, Gonzalo Higuain, Daniele Rugani and Federico Bernardeschi.

That, in a nutshell, is why any talk of Lazio competing for the Scudetto is premature.

Lazio’s strongest XI is the third-best in Serie A, but these players aren’t superhuman and they’ll be running on fumes or risking injury if they are made to continue at this frantic pace for much longer.

This is where Lazio’s early elimination from the Europa League may turn out to be a blessing in disguise; this busy stage of the season has tripped them up before, but now they have more time between league games to recover and work on details.

The question now is whether Claudio Lotito will choose to do something very uncharacteristic and open his chequebook during the January transfer window.

Lazio’s attack is threadbare in terms of options, and always has been. Immobile’s sensational form over the last three-and-a-half seasons has helped gloss over this fact, but the recent injury to Correa has highlighted the lack of options once again: Felipe Caicedo and Adekanye are the only other natural attackers in the squad.

Striker Lamin Jallow has been heavily linked with a move from Salernitana, Lotito’s other club, but how the 24-year-old will adapt to the demands of a Serie A Champions League race is a complete unknown.

Inzaghi is a fan of SPAL’s Alberto Paloschi, but he is another player who is unlikely to get fans off their seats in excitement.

Matias Vecino of Inter is perhaps the most interesting, high-profile player Lazio are considering for a mid-season move, but the signing would make little sense as it would only increase options in what is already the most competitive area of the squad, central midfield.

For now, this incredible wave of momentum should hopefully be enough to carry Lazio forward.

Inzaghi’s skill in the rotation and selection of his squad so far shouldn’t be underestimated, but the biggest test is yet to come.

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Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 20

Thomas Strakosha: the Biancocelesti held up against Napoli’s attack, confirming their solidity at home, and the goalie answered the bell when he was required. It is not a particularly great round for defences on paper, so it is better to stick with safe picks.

Matthijs De Ligt: the injury of Merih Demiral will allow him to return to the XI on a consistent basis and he did look good against Roma and in Coppa Italia. Juventus have allowed nine goals at home (second-best in Serie A), so their defenders can be deployed even though Parma are the quintessential sneaky team. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 20

Lazio-Sampdoria: despite a fairly muted performance, the Biancocelesti came out on top versus Napoli last week, for the second week in a row propelled by a late Ciro Immobile goal. The capocannoniere keeps producing and has already reached the 20-goal threshold. He has scored their last three goals. Joaquin Correa will be limited, so Felipe Caicedo might get another chance to start and he has posted three goals and two assists in limited action in the last five appearances. Luis Alberto will be looking to pad his assist numbers (12), while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has reverted back to his less efficient self after a hot stretch. Senad Lulic will be suspended, so Jony is set to play on the left wing and he is a willing crosser. The Eagles have been airtight at home. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 19

Standings implications: Juventus leapfrogged Inter atop of the table as the Bianconeri squeezed past Roma, while the Beneamata equalized with Atalanta. Lazio keep finding ways to prevail and got their tenth win a row, downing Napoli. Cagliari continue to spiral and they were handed their fourth straight loss by a surprisingly convincing Milan. Torino held on despite Bologna’s game-long assault, bringing home three quality points and closing in on the sixth spot. Udinese keep surging and rattled off the third W in a row against Sassuolo. Fiorentina finally returned to winning ways by nipping SPAL. Sampdoria distanced themselves from the danger zone with a dominating display against Brescia. The rough day for the bottom three clubs was capped by Genoa suffering a comeback at the hands of Verona.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19

Cagliari-Milan: the Rossoblù played their worst game of the season against Juventus and will be eager to bounce back here and snap out of a three-game losing streak. Their last two goals were scored by Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone and obviously the Brazilian forward, who has tallied 11 in the season, remains their most appealing player, while the ex-Fiorentina man is more inconsistent, but has his moments in the sun. Radja Nainggolan has not been done a lot in the past four games and that has caused a decline in their offensive efficiency. They lack reliable fantasy option behind those because Nahitan Nandez and Marko Rog are not involved in the offense on a regular basis and their yield there is spotty. Their fullbacks, Luca Pellegrini in particular, have picked up few assists. Continue reading