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
Before the season started, many expected Inter to challenge Juventus for the Scudetto, but few foresaw the nerazzurri going toe-to-toe with the Italian champions like this. After seventeen match-days just eight goals and their head-to-head encounter separates the two at the top of the table. Since his arrival, Antonio Conte has already imprinted a clear identity at the San Siro, something that was lacking for years at the club.
Along with his trade-mark 3-5-2 and defensive solidity, the former Chelsea tactician has ensured his Inter side are among the toughest to break down in the peninsula. However, their lack of squad depth has been pegged as the defining factor in their title bid. As a result, Inter sporting director Giuseppe Marotta appears to be dipping into their war-chest and taking to the January mercato aggressively.
Reports suggest that former Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal is on his way to the club, but Inter will reportedly not stop there. In recent times, they have also been linked with Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam, Marcos Alonso, Olivier Giroud and Marcos Acuna among many other names, highlighting clearly Inter’s intent. While their list of targets grows as the mercato is set to open, Inter’s needs are clear: Midfield depth, another wing-back to compete with Asamoah and Biraghi, and a striker to provide Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez with some much-needed rest. Alexis Sanchez is also expected to return to action shortly, giving Conte another weapon in the final third. Beyond bolstering the side in key areas, Inter’s reported winter activity highlights one thing clearly: The title is there for the taking this season and they’re going for it.
When Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi went down injured, Conte’s men struggled to create chances and Inter barely overcame their opponents in tight affairs. Recognizing this, Inter loosened their purse strings. That’s where the experience of Vidal comes into play. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, the Chilean remains one of football’s elite box-to-box midfielders and will add some valuable experience in the middle of the park, in what is a relatively young midfield trio.
Up front, Lukaku and Martinez deserve a break. Up until now, the former Manchester United man has featured in all of Inter’s 17 Serie A clashes while his Argentine counterpart has appeared in 16 of the nerazzurri’s domestic affairs. While Sanchez’s injury complicated things, Conte will be eager to add another forward to his offensive ranks. Given he’s already familiar with Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman’s arrival makes perfect sense. The former Arsenal man still has plenty to offer as a link-up man in the final third and could form quite the partnership with any of the nerazzurri’s front-men.
While adding another fullback is a luxury more than a necessity given Inter’s depth out wide, it demonstrates Conte and Marotta won’t stop until they’ve built a comprehensive side capable of competing on multiple fronts. With the title race likely going down to the wire this season for the first time in years, Inter are reinforcing significantly and won’t go down without a fight. Brace yourselves, we’ve got a title race.
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Fiorentina-Roma: with Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli at half service due to physical problems, Dusan Vlahovic stepped up and saved the day against Inter. The Serbian prospect had gotten some decent run before but without doing much with it and instead delivered off the bench. Chiesa and Castrovilli are considered day-to-day and they are their two most best contributors, so their level of competitiveness will hinge on their recoveries. Kevin-Prince Boateng got the start after a while and had only minor chances, but they might have to rely him a lot in this one and he is listed as a midfielder, which makes him a bit intriguing depending on their injury situation. The other okay elements like Marco Benassi and Erick Pulgar have been silent for a long while. Dalbert has outplayed Pol Lirola as far as fullbacks are concerned. Continue reading
Napoli-Parma: there is great curiosity to see what immediate changes Gennaro Gattuso will bring to the table. In his introductory presser, he hinted that he is going to use 4-3-3, which would lead to few duels up front. The first order of business will have to be reviving Lorenzo Insigne, who has not fared well in a long time, while Dries Mertens is in a domestic slump but has done some damage in Europe. Arkadiusz Milik came back midweek and he looked like a million bucks and he was en fuego before getting injured. He should be front and center in the new project. The new tactic would see José Callejon and Hirving Lozano alternate and the Mexican winger has abated after a decent stretch. It would give Piotr Zielinski and Fabian Ruiz more freedom and the Polish midfielder finally broke through last week. Giovanni Di Lorenzo is trending back up after a period of lull.
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
Roma and Inter were the two most dominating sides in this round and, while the Giallorossi could have easily scored four of five goals, the Nerazzurri gets the coveted weekly trophy because they trampled a better team on the road.
The Nerazzurri came in riding a three-game winning streak where they had topped Brescia, Bologna and Verona and were looking for further success in away fixtures, where they have always prevailed. Antonio Conte could not count again on Stefano Sensi, Roberto Gagliardini and Kwadwo Asamoah and fielded Matias Vecino in the midfield, Danilo D’Ambrosio over Antonio Candreva on the right wing and Diego Godin in the back, instead of giving him the usual pre-Champions League day off. Continue reading
Atalanta-Juventus: after producing at an historic pace through the first ten weeks, the Goddess failed to score in their last two matches against Sampdoria and Cagliari. Josip Ilicic and Ruslan Malinovskyi are suspended, but the Slovenian attacker has appealed, but they will get a boost from the return of Duvan Zapata, who is expected to feature at least in limited capacity. He notched six goals in seven appearances before getting hurt. Luis Muriel is no longer red-hot, as he has not found the target in the last three rounds, but he will be again their main scoring option from the jump. Alejandro Gomez is going through something similar, but he always has loads of potential as an assist-man. Mario Pasalic is likely to move to the hole and he can pretty sneaky there. Robin Gosens has been their best wing-back so far, but also Timothy Castagne has hit the net once. Continue reading
Brescia-Inter: Eugenio Corini has had some reservations in using Alfredo Donnarumma and Mario Balotelli together, but Florian Aye, while tactically precious, has not been productive and so the more predictable duo should be the way to go moving forward. However, they have combined for just one goal in the last three matches and they will face one of the best back-lines in the League. Daniele Dessena’s injury ended up hurting Romulo’s fantasy stocks in the short-term, since he is being used as box-to-box, at least until one between Emanuele Ndoj and Jaromir Zmhral manages to unseat Nikolas Spalek, who has not been effective as no.10. Sandro Tonali is coming off his first Serie A goal and constitutes is half of their offense. Continue reading
Samir Handanovic (7 points): very strong goalkeeping in the midweek round, in particular by Udinese’s Juan Musso, Atalanta’s Pierluigi Gollini and Cagliari’s Robin Olsen, but the Inter veteran outdid them with few monster saves where it looked like he had glue on his gloves.
Danilo D’Ambrosio (8 points): he was unlucky not to score in the Derby, but he found a massive goal on Wednesday as he easily beat Jony on a long delivery and headed it home. Either as centre-back or as wing-backs, he has been very useful to the cause. Continue reading
The midweek round was not particularly electric, so the choice falls on the most anticipated match-up of the slate, which was eventful albeit being low-scoring, also because Atalanta got the nod as best club.
Inter came into the match looking to improve to 5-0 in the season, while Lazio had redeemed themselves for the horrible loss to SPAL with a commanding with over Parma. Antonio Conte rotated the squad and rested some of his key guys like Stefano Sensi and Lautaro Martinez, replaced by Matias Vecino and Matteo Politano, and Cristiano Biraghi drew his first start relieving Kwadwo Asamoah. Continue reading