Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 33

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Thomas Strakosha: fresh off a saved penalty in the Udinese game, he could be able to take home few more bonus points against Chievo, which have scored just nine times on the road.

Jens Larsen: the two-game trip to the Nation’s Capital went poorly for Udinese, which were handled by both Roma and Lazio. However, they have had much success at home, while Sassuolo are pedestrian away and the fullback has been able to haul in points in six of the last eight tilts at the Friuli stadium. Continue reading

Lazio Face Top Four Setback Following Milan Defeat

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After narrowly succumbing to Milan by a score of 1-0 on the weekend, Lazio find themselves languishing in eighth place, six points back of fourth place; albeit with a game in hand. The good news is that they’re still very much in the race for top four. Unfortunately for them, however, so are the other five teams alongside them.

Lazio went into the game in relatively poor form dropping points against SPAL and Sassuolo prior, yet only found themselves three points adrift Milan. Against the rossoneri, Inzaghi’s men started relatively well and were unlucky not to find the back of the net first, with Ciro Immobile hitting the post. As fate would have it, Milan were awarded a penalty with just over ten minutes to play, and Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie converted it with aplomb.

With just over seven games left, and with only six points separating fourth place from eighth, the race for Champions League football has never been closer. As a result, the biancocelesti are going to have to win out their remaining games, if they want a chance. In their next clash, they’ll be taking on a relegation threatened Udinese, a clash that will be harder than the table suggests.

Following the game with Udinese, Inzaghi’s men then have Sampdoria, Atalanta, and Cagliari on the agenda. While Lazio will be the favourites with the odds-makers for these clashes, it is typically in these types of games that Inzaghi’s men struggle. Moreover, Sampdoria and Atalanta have proven they can go toe-to-toe with just about any side in Italy, and will prove to be an equal match for Lazio. After all, there’s a reason these sides are still alive in the race for European football this late in the season.

In the past, Serie A’s provinciali have been Lazio’s bogey sides, and were a major reason behind their failed qualification to last season’s Champions League. If they win their game in hand, Lazio join Roma, and Atalanta in the pack behind Milan, and are in it with a chance. If they don’t, they might as well forget top four altogether.

With Roma experiencing a resurgence of sorts under Claudio Ranieri’s guidance, it will be important for Lazio to exhibit consistency in order to pip their fierce rivals to Champions League football. Roma, however, still have to take on Inter, and Juventus and will be travelling to the Stadio Luigi Ferrari to take on Genoa, which is never easy. Then, of course, there’s Milan.

While the rossoneri had shown signs of slowing down in recent weeks, dropping points against Inter, Sampdoria, Udinese and Juventus in their last four, their win against Lazio will undoubtedly spur them on. With clashes coming up against Parma, Torino and Bologna, there’s no reason why Milan shouldn’t pick up, at the very least, seven points out of their next nine, and continue their march for top four football. Their fate is very much in their own hands.

Lazio’s focus should be on overtaking Milan and Roma, however, they shouldn’t forget about Atalanta either. Even if they win their game in hand, gli Orobici will still have one point more than Lazio. As a result, they must beat them in their head-to-head game on May 5, and win out. Luckily for Lazio, Atalanta have one of the most difficult run-ins taking on Napoli, and Juventus.

While Lazio’s game in hand still gives them hope for top four football, they will have to be at their very best over the next couple of weeks, otherwise they can forget about top four football. Factor in their semi-final clash in the Coppa Italia against Milan, and their schedule is complicated further. In any case, Inzaghi’s men will be hungry to return Champions League football to the nation’s capital; something that hasn’t been done in over a decade at Lazio.

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Serie A Club of the Round – Milan vs Lazio

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There was not really any proper cracker in this round, so let’s go with the most influential clash, Milan-Lazio, which had very heavy points on the line, as the two sides are right in the middle of the battle to secure a Champions League berth.

Both sides were looking to bounce back after unsatisfactory results, as the Rossoneri had not won in four rounds in a row, the Biancocelesti in the last two, which were quite feasible against SPAL and Sassuolo.

Coach Gennaro Gattuso trotted out the same XI used in the previous match, so with Fabio Borini completing the trident next to Suso and Krzysztof Piatek and Hakan Calhanoglu in the midfield. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 32

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SPAL-Juventus: after winning three games in a row, against Roma, Frosinone and Lazio, SPAL were bested by Cagliari, but their recent streak gave them a little breathing room over the last three positions. Juventus toppled Milan last week, winning for the eighth time in the last nine matches and they are one point away from clinching the title. For the Estensi, Andrea Petagna has been a rock all year long, showing to be a much more prolific striker compared to his time at Atalanta. Manuel Lazzari is their main playmaker off the right flank and has picked up eight assists thus far. Jasmin Kurtic is also occasionally able to collect some bonus points, while they have not got much out of the second-striker role, as Mirco Antenucci, Andrea Paloschi and Sergio Floccari have combined for just six goals. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 31

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Marco Sportiello (7 points): few unexpected clean sheets in this round, which had some extraordinary saves, but not by goalkeeper that managed to keep the goal locked up. Among them, Pierluigi Gollini had probably the best performance, but he was docked one point because he was booked. So the shout-out goes the Frosinone player for his alert work in Florence against a pretty good offence.

Erick Pulgar (13 points): the reigning player of the month confirmed his proficiency from the penalty spot by convering two in the span of three minutes.
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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 31

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Standings implications: Juventus outlasted Milan on Saturday and are now one point away from the title since Napoli were held to a draw by Genoa. Roma were the only ones to succeed among the teams gunning for a Champions League berth and have pulled closer to the Rossoneri and Atalanta, who have just more point. Inter kept the suitors at bay by drawing against the Orobici, while Lazio salvaged a point at the buzzer against Sassuolo. A slow round in the Europa League race too, as Torino could not find a way to perforate Parma and the Blucerchiati were bested at home by the Giallorossi. Fiorentina keep slipping and Stefano Pioli is on the hot seat after the loss to Frosinone. In the relegation zone, Udinese capped off a big week by topping Empoli and moving four points clear of Bologna, which responded and got out of the final three spots on Monday night by trashing Chievo. Cagliari are almost save after sinking SPAL, which stay in precarious position. Frosinone are trying to mount a late comeback that would be quite incredible: the two consecutive Ws put them five points behind Empoli.

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Ciro Immobile must rediscover swagger to launch Lazio’s Champions League charge

Lazio vs Roma - Serie A TIM 2018/2019

One step forward, two steps back. That would be a simple way of reviewing the last few days for Lazio, who secured a massive win away to Champions League rivals Inter on Sunday only to fall to an exasperating defeat at lowly SPAL three days later.

The race for the top four spots is far from over and Simone Inzaghi’s side can still count on having a game in hand to gain ground on their rivals, not to mention an easier run-in, but there was no mistaking what a momentous missed opportunity the game in Ferrara was.

You can’t escape the feeling that Lazio may look back on that performance with regret come the end of the season, but perhaps the most concerning lesson to take from the loss was that Ciro Immobile is still showing no sign of turning around his stuttering form. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 31

Scudetto Juve: Buffon immortale, Dybala 22 gol / SPECIALE

Juventus-Milan: the Bianconeri are coming off a convincing outing in Cagliari, where they notched their second shutout win in a row and in general their seventh victory in the last eight fixtures. On the other hand, the Rossoneri failed to take home the full loot for three matches in a row as they lost to Inter and Sampdoria and then tied with Udinese. The Old Lady is likely to have back both Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala for this game, while Cristiano Ronaldo is slated to sit one more out. Some players could be spared in the Ajax game, in any case Moise Kean and Federico Bernardeschi are in terrific form and have lead them scoring-wise. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 29

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Juventus-Empoli: the Bianconeri are coming off their first Serie A loss this season, against Genoa, while they dropped points just twice at home thus far. The Azzurri defeated Frosinone in Aurelio Andreazzoli’s return match, nabbing the second win in the last 13 rounds. They have lost in five of the last six away games. The Old Lady will be without Cristiano Ronaldo, who got hurt while playing with Portugal, and Douglas Costa, who remains sidelined. Therefore, Federico Bernardeschi, Moise Kean, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic will lead the charge and try to alleviate the absence of the Portuguese star. They could be helped by the fact that the Tuscans have one of the leakiest defenses in the League. Continue reading

Three Azzurri Standouts Against Finland

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Italy started their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in the best possible fashion, dispatching Finland comfortably 2-0, handing senior debuts to a number of the nation’s budding superstars. While Roberto Mancini is still fiddling with his best starting eleven, certain newbies stood out from the rest.

1) Moise Kean

Every time Kean is given minutes, be it for Juventus or at the international level, the 19-year-old scores. It’s simple; it’s in his nature. Since breaking onto the scene in Turin, the young striker has made the most of his limited opportunities, and has consistently found the back of the net.

When Allegri started him for the first time in the Coppa Italia against Bologna, Kean marked his debut with a goal. Similarly, when the Juventus tactician fielded him from the get-go in the league against Udinese, Kean netted a brace with ease, and could have even had a hat-trick.

Just last week, Mancini gave the 19-year-old his first start for the senior national team, albeit in an unfamiliar right wing position, and Kean impressed. Despite being played out of position, the Juventus man looked dangerous throughout and was a constant menace to the Finnish rearguard.

It wasn’t, however, until the 74th minute that Kean made his mark after a wonderful run and through ball from Ciro Immobile put him through. Much like it has been the case his entire career, Kean didn’t think twice and slid it home effortlessly past a helpless Lukás Hrádecky.

As the Azzurri are looking for their undisputed number nine, Kean might just prove to be their best bet.

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2) Nicolò Barella

In just his fifth start at the international level, Cagliari midfielder Barella dominated proceedings, and netted his first goal for Gli Azzurri, in what was an overall accomplished performance. Since Mancini has assumed the reigns of the national team, Barella has been a regular in the midfield alongside Marco Verratti and Jorginho, and will likely be a key asset at the upcoming Euros.

Considering his diverse skill-set, Barella acts as the perfect foil in Mancini’s midfield, and has gone from strength to strength for Cagliari this season. Equally capable of defending as he is attacking, Barella epitomizes today’s modern midfielder, and will command a massive figure on the market when Cagliari decide to sell.

At the moment, Chelsea, Inter, and Napoli are all said to be interested in the 22-year-old and will all go head-to-head for the young midfielder’s signature come summertime. Mature beyond his years, Barella is already captaining Cagliari, and is ready to become a mainstay in azzurro blu. 

3) Fabio Quagliarella

The veteran striker made his return to the fold for the first time in nine years since the debacle in 2010, and almost scored with his first touch of the game. Given just over ten minutes to prove his worth, Quagliarella demonstrated his predatory instinct and struck the bar after an incisive run.

On another night, and given more minutes, the former Napoli hitman could have easily scored a few. This season, the 36-year-old has had a career year and a renaissance of sorts, netting 21 goals and seven assists in 27 league appearances, which right now, is good for the capocannoniere lead.

While Quagliarella clearly won’t be a part of Mancini’s long-term plans as he’s nearing 40, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t feature at next summer’s tournament. Capable of finding the back of the net with limited touches, the veteran talisman could make quite the impact off the bench in a tight game.

With Italy taking on Liechtenstein tomorrow in their second qualifier of their campaign, expect Mancini to reward Quagliarella with a start. After all, he’s more than earned it.

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While it’s still early days, Mancini has demonstrated signs that he’s the right man to lead the national team into their next phase. Blending youth and experience, the former Inter tactician has no prejudices when it comes to his squad selection and has shown that he will take the best player available, no matter their age or reputation.

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