Federico Chiesa: Italy’s Latest Controversial Superstar

ACF Fiorentina v AC Milan - Serie A

Italian football are no strangers to their misunderstood and controversial superstars. Before Mario Balotelli emerged on the scene, there was Antonio Cassano. And before them came Roma’s iconic bad-boy Francesco Totti. While calcio’s latest exploit, Federico Chiesa, has done nowhere near enough to steal the headlines alongside these players, the Fiorentina winger is attracting attention for all the wrong reasons at the moment.

Since emerging through the ranks at Fiorentina, Chiesa has established himself as one of Italy’s elite talents and will undoubtedly become a cornerstone of Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri setup moving forward. Comfortable with playing on either wing, the 21-year-old has arguably developed into la Viola’s most important player in the final third, and has even added end product to his game this season.

Deploying him alongside Giovanni Simeone, and Luis Muriel, Fiorentina boss Stefano Pioli has been able to get the most out of his talented winger. Currently, Chiesa has scored five goals and registered three assists in league play, all-while propelling Fiorentina into a race for the Europa League and deep into the Coppa Italia – a competition in which, alone, he’s got six goals.

Outside of his ability to find the back of the net, Chiesa has also been effective at feeding his teammates. At the moment, the Italian international is averaging 1.8 key passes per game and has been a constant menace on the counter attack with his impressive turn of pace.

Despite his recent exploits, the press surrounding Chiesa has never been worse. While the 21-year-old is capable of the extravagant on the ball, he’s also developed a reputation for diving, and manipulating the referees. If it were a one-off occurrence, it wouldn’t be an issue. However, just this season alone Chiesa’s antics have infuriated the masses, and he’s been labelled as enemy number one from rival fan-bases.

Most recently, Chiesa undeservedly earned Fiorentina another penalty shot, this time coming in their Coppa Italia clash against Atalanta. It would inevitably prove to be the difference as La Viola earned a 3-3 draw going into the second leg. Earlier this season, the Fiorentina winger Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini had some select words for Chiesa after the game.

“Chiesa? The penalty was a farce. It’s an episode that hurts the player’s reputation more than anything,” said Gasperini to Quotidiano.net. 

With a number of suitors, both abroad and within Italy, heavily after Chiesa including Roma and Tottenham Hotspur among others, the young winger will have to curb this bad habit. Otherwise, it may prevent him from reaching the very top.

There’s no denying Chiesa’s talent and versatility in the final third, however, clubs will think twice before making him their marquee signing if his diving antics persist. As Chiesa is about to enter a crucial stage in his career – a point where many Italian talents in the past have tailed off – it’s time for Chiesa to put the theatrics behind him once and for all and put his footballing development first. If not, calcio fans may be witnessing Domenico Berardi 2.0; a scary prospect indeed.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Fantasy Football Managers? If you want to test your knowledge of Italian football then play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Lazio 0-0 AC Milan: Everything to play for in second leg after defensive display

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AC Milan were held to a goalless draw at the Olimpico by Lazio, making things very interesting ahead of the second leg at San Siro, though Rossoneri fans would’ve hoped for an away goal. 

With the likes of Calabria and Suso returning to the starting eleven, many expected Gattuso’s men to be much more of a threat than what they actually were. Throughout the game, Milan struggled to create chances up front, more or less sending the ball towards a very isolated Piatek every attack. As you can imagine, this proved unsuccessful, though the alternatives didn’t do much more for the guests.

Lazio had the right desire to force their way forward, managing to test Donnarumma a few times. However, no major chances were created for Inzaghi’s men either, even though one could argue that they deserved a goal in the first half. In any case, it was a defensive-minded affair, just like the games last season (also in the Coppa Italia semi-final).

Then, both games ended 0-0, taking the two-legged tie to penalties. This time out we could certainly have the same scenario come April, when the second leg will be played. With that said, it’s clear that Milan will have to step up their game plan ahead of next time. The Biancocelesti managed to deal with the Rossoneri quite easily in many aspects of the game, which is something Gattuso shouldn’t be happy with, given the players he has at his disposal.

In addition to the game plan, some of the players that Milan usually rely on didn’t turn up today, at least if we’re talking in an attacking perspective. Bakayoko failed to live up to his usual standards, getting dispossessed several times, which affected the entire midfield trio. Kessie was also forced to leave with an injury in the first half, certainly not making things better.

Milan’s tricky winger, Suso, was a huge disappointment as he barely created anything up front. In fact, the Spaniard never seemed to settle properly, and was rightfully taken off in favour of Castillejo, who immediately showed that he can be of use in the second leg. Then again, most of the attackers were isolated during long periods of the game, as Lazio continued to look for an opener.

Looking at the big picture, 0-0 is certainly not a bad result for Gattuso’s men, especially given how today’s match developed. On the other hand, Lazio only need one away goal to really put the Rossoneri under pressure, meaning that the defence will once again be key. Hopefully, Gattuso will be able to combine these two in a better game plan, also perhaps looking over the starting eleven once more.

However, for now, he’ll have to shift focus back to the league, as Sassuolo will visit the San Siro on Saturday evening. A very important game for AC Milan in the race for a top-four finish.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Fantasy Football Managers? If you want to test your knowledge of Italian football then play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Moment of truth arrives as toothless Lazio face season crossroads

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

February has not been a month to remember for Lazio.

After January ended on the high of a penalty shoot-out victory over Inter in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals, fatigue and niggles combine to produce a destructive injury crisis that has left the club facing a crossroads in their campaign.

Simone Inzaghi managed to squeeze his depleted team through wins over relegation strugglers Frosinone and Empoli, but defeats in both legs of their Europa League last 32 meeting with Sevilla, either side of surrendering a lead in the final 15 minutes to lose against Genoa, has left the club in a make-or-break situation when they face AC Milan and Roma this week. Continue reading

Inter must clinch Coppa semi-final spot or Spalletti’s position will be at risk

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According to the latest reports from Rome-based newspaper Corriere dello Sport, senior figures within Inter’s hierarchy are worried by the inconsistency of their side this season. While the Nerazzurri are comfortably positioned in third place, they are eight points behind Napoli and a further eleven off top spot. Indeed, the most worrying aspect of the team’s recent run of poor form is the fact that they have scored just four goals in their last seven Serie A matches – the Beneamata have yet to score a league goal in 2019. Continue reading

Piatek’s inspiring AC Milan debut bodes well for the future

Although they didn’t grab all three points, AC Milan managed to keep an offensive-minded Napoli eleven from scoring last night, earning a well-deserved point to keep hold of fourth place in the standings.

The game itself was very much end-to-end stuff, with both sides looking dangerous on the counter-attacks, though failing to keep their composure in the vital moments. In other words, the game could certainly have gone either way, and thus one could argue that a draw is a fair result.

Of course, the Rossoneri would’ve hoped to snatch all three points, but the composure needed just wasn’t there, although the game offered some promising signs ahead of the remainder of the season. Naming one, Gattuso’s men are looking more and more solid at the back after a rocky start to the season in that aspect, with Romagnoli being the captain Milan so badly need.

In addition to this, the attack is more energetic than it was just a few weeks ago, New signing Paqueta has been linking up perfectly with Calhanoglu, and although the latter has received a lot of criticism, he certainly offered a lot to the team last night. However, there is still some work to be done in regards to the end product, though there’s no doubt this will come with time.

Up front, Cutrone had a tough game last night, though he wasn’t by any means poor, just not as effective as he can be with the ball. Therefore, Gattuso brought on another new signing, Piatek, who got roughly 20 minutes to show for his worth. To the delight of the Rossoneri fans, he proved how lethal he can be when receiving the ball in the box.

Just five minutes after coming on, Piatek created some space for himself with a great first touch to bring the ball into his stride. However, Koulibaly made a great tackle to deny the Polish striker’s attempt. On the following corner, Piatek was once again on the end of the ball, heading it through to Musacchio. The defender was forced to try an acrobatic shot which Ospina denied brilliantly.

In other words, the €35m man was thrown straight into the action, and really took the opportunity to impress coach Gattuso. In fact, as reported by Sky Italia, the 40-year-old will most likely field the same lineup against Napoli on Tuesday (Coppa Italia), with the exception being Piatek, who could replace Cutrone upfront.

Likely AC Milan XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Bakayoko, Paqueta; Suso, Piatek, Calhanoglu.

Hopefully, the Rossoneri will have learned from Saturday’s encounter, using this in their advantage on Tuesday evening. After all, a spot in the semi-finals of Coppa Italia is on the line, making it an important game.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Fantasy Football Managers? If you want to test your knowledge of Italian football then play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Politano: “We’re focused and determined to do well”

Politano

During an exclusive interview with Sky Sport, Inter winger Matteo Politano looked ahead to this weekend’s match against Sassuolo. Saturday’s encounter with the Neroverdi does of course hold special significance for the 25-year-old given the fact he spent three years playing for them in Reggio Emilia. Here is what he had to say as he prepares to face his former teammates at San Siro: Continue reading

Clinical finishing masked Inter’s defensive instability versus Benevento

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“I’m happy. I think that it was an excellent team performance, even if we did allow them more room in the second half. But this is normal given what the scoreline was. We’re happy that we put in a good performance. In addition to our excellent attitude, we were really clinical today: we didn’t manage to score against Pordenone. The important thing was our performance, even if we did concede two goals. From my point of view, it was important to get myself ready after not playing a competitive match for such a long time.” Continue reading

Kean Proves Worthy of More Minutes

Juventus started the new year with a convincing win against Bologna in the Coppa Italia, a competition they have now won four times in a row. With many of the bianconeri’s starters watching from the sidelines including the likes of Ronaldo and Dybala, the side’s fringe players got some much needed minutes to prove themselves and largely impressed in the win. Leonardo Spinazzola was a constant threat down the left, Emre Can was tidy in the midfield alongside Pjanic, and Bernardeschi was even able to pocket himself a goal. Yet the real storyline was undoubtedly Italian wonder-kid Moise Kean. 

The 18-year-old got his first start of the season, and made the most out of it snatching a goal early in the second half off a ricochet on Douglas Costa’s shot. Demonstrating his killer instinct within the 18-yard-box, Kean made no mistake and poked it past a helpless Da Costa before he could intervene. It was his second goal in a Juventus shirt, both coming against Bologna. After just over an hour of leading the line, the U-21 Italian international made way for Ronaldo, and will be pleased overall with his performance.

Continue reading

Five New Year’s resolutions for Lazio in 2019

Lazio v Salzburg - UEFA Europa League - Quarter Final - First Leg - Stadio Olimpico

Lazio enter the new year with a spring in their step, having rediscovered a winning formula and returned to the top four in time for bells.

But before they return to competitive action with the visit of Novara in the Coppa Italia on Saturday, here are some suggested resolutions that would make the year ahead a memorable one for Simone Inzaghi and his players.

Reach the Champions League

The undisputed No.1 target for the club is to achieve the goal that so agonisingly eluded them on the final day of the 2017/18 season: qualify for the Champions League. It has been 11 years now since the club’s fans have been able to hear the famous anthem ring around the Stadio Olimpico in the group stage, with some near misses coming in the interim period. Continue reading

Juventus crowned Serie A Champions for 6th consecutive season!

Juventus not only made history but reaffirmed the club’s status as Italy’s best club after securing a sixth consecutive Serie A title. Frankly, there was never a doubt about Juve’s status as Italy’s best during this season, or as Serie A’s premier club for that matter.

It would be wrong to single out one or even two players as this was a group effort and almost every single Juve starter played a key role in this success. To begin with, Gianluigi Buffon was exemplary both as a goalkeeper and as a leader of the team. He did have a couple of mishaps with both the Azzurri and Juve, yet in typical fashion he responded with some impressive displays, particularly against Lyon in the Champions League.

Buffon

Defensively, it would be hard to find any football pundit who would argue against the Old Lady’s defensive unit being the best in the world. While Leonardo Bonucci has many admirers, among them Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, his fellow centre-back Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli are as good if not better when it comes to fulfilling their defensive duties. Chiellini often dives first in to challenges and does not hesitate to sacrifice his well-being for the good of the team while Barzagli, even at 36-years-old, remains one of the best at anticipating the opponent as well as reading one-on-one situations.

It is perhaps in midfield where many expected Juve to crumble but the returning Claudio Marchisio has slowly but steadily returned to his consistent best while growing in stature with every game he plays. Juve’s management will be pleased to know that Marchisio will have a full summer to rest, recover & then train properly to return to his best. He is almost like a new signing. Speaking of new signings, former Roma schemer Miralem Pjanic has been one of the most underrated midfielder in both Italy & Europe this season.

While his stats, 5 goals and 8 assists in league action, do not scream at you, Pjanic has been pivotal for Juve’s success, particularly the club’s return to the final of the Champions League two years after the defeat to Barcelona. What makes Pjanic even more instrumental is the fact he sticks to playing simple football, keeps this Juve side ticking with his fast and slick passing while also remaining deadly from set-pieces.

In attack, Juve spent a fortune to secure Gonzalo Higuain’s signing and he repaid the club’s faith with 24 league goals along with some critical goals away at both Monaco, in Europe, and Napoli in Coppa Italia. Without Higuain, Juve might not be talking Treble today… And he still has the opportunity to silence his critics one more time in Cardiff when Juve take on Real Madrid.

As for Juve’s other attacking options, Paulo Dybala has matured into one of world’s best young attackers while Mario Mandzukic remains, as per his coach Massimiliano Allegri’s words, pivotal for the success of the formation employed since the defeat to Fiorentina in Serie A. Mario’s willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the squad has served not just as an example for his teammates to follow, but has also given Juve’s starting XI a sense of balance. Fans have seen Mandzukic track back countless times and that in itself is the greatest sign of how dedicated the Croatians striker has been to the Juve cause.

It would be wrong to end without mentioning the two flying Brazilian full-backs Alex Sandro and Dani Alves. The duo have become two of the most dynamic and important full-backs in the world. While Sandro continues to improve and grow into perhaps the world’s best left-back, Alves has proven his critics wrong and reaffirmed himself as the world’s best right-back at the moment.

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While Barcelona felt his time was up, Alves eagerly took on the new challenge of playing in a different league for one of the world’s elite clubs. While he stumbled early on and struggled to adjust, it was perhaps his injury which served to reignite the fire in the Brazilian. Prior to his injury, Barca might have felt justified in letting him ago, yet ironically Alves returned stronger than ever post-injury & gave Man of the Match performances on more than one occasion, particularly in the Champions League.

Juve fans will not forget his contribution against former club Barca, and will certainly remember his role in the two matches against Monaco in the semi-final of the Champions League. Alves scored from a stunning volley in the return leg against Monaco, a 2-1 victory for Juve, and then followed that up with another volley in the 2-0 win versus Lazio in the Coppa Italia.

While Alves deserves a lot of credit for his efforts and bounce back after early season struggles, no man deserves more respect and appreciation than coach Massimiliano Allegri. Mad Max was an unwelcome figure when he first joined Juve yet he has worked diligently the past three years not only to earn the respect of the fans but to prove to his critics that he is more than a capable coach.

To win the domestic double for three seasons in a row is an achievement we might not witness again in our life-time. It is truly the stuff of legends. Allegri’s legend continues to grow and if Juve do complete the treble in Cardiff, then it would be difficult not to consider him as the world’s best coach at the moment while solidifying his status as one of Juve’s best coaches in history.

While many stress on his willingness to change and his tactical flexibility, as highlighted by the change in formation following the league defeat to Fiorentina, Allegri’s greatest attributes are too many to recount. For one, he stepped in to replace Antonio Conte, an act in itself deemed to be foolish as in hindsight it would have been impossible to envision enjoying so much success under Allegri.

It is unlikely that the most optimistic of Juve fans would have expected Allegri’s Juve to win the domestic double for three seasons in a row. Add to that a Champions League final in 2015 and another final to be played in Cardiff, and it becomes even more difficult to express how great Juve has been since Allegri took over.

Pick you Juve stars, including Buffon, Bonucci, Dybala and others when you play www.fantasy-champions-league.com

Will Juve fulfill Buffon’s dream by winning the Champions League? All eyes will be on Cardiff on June 3rd…