Sarri ponders some changes for Verona game

Sarri was back in front of the journalists today to preview the game against Hellas Verona. He hinted at some lineup changes on Saturday and looked back at the Atletico Madrid clash: “Within a good performance, there were few moments where we were superficial and we must eliminate that. We paid the price on set pieces. I do not like to throw away something that works, I want to analyse it and fix it. There were some lapses in focus and aggressiveness that would have been costly also with man marking.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four

Juventus-Verona: the Old Lady had a subpar performance in Florence but obviously will be in a much better spot this week at home against a relegation struggler. Cristiano Ronaldo usually does not go scoreless for long and Gonzalo Higuain is not a bad pick either, as for now the coach has refrained from using Paulo Dybala there. Douglas Costa, who was their go-to-guy so far, will miss time, so Federico Bernardeschi and Juan Cuadrado will return to prominence. Until the coach entrusts one of the newcomers, Aaron Ramsey in particular, Sami Khedira remains the most appealing midfielder for his offensive dexterity. Their defenders are surely worth consideration. Continue reading

Higuain delighted to remain in Turin

Gonzalo Higuain expressed his satisfaction for staying at the club through the summer in an interview with Sky Sport. He began by addressing the last game against Napoli, where he scored a lovely goal to gave the Old Lady a two-nothing lead in the first half: “It was a thrilling match. We got off to a great start and put our stamp on it, but we had a mental black-out and they rallied back in ten minutes. We always tried to win during the contest, we deserved the three points even though the opponents were unlucky with that late own goal.” Continue reading

Fiorentina Wish For Easier Opponent In Week Three

Having started the season with two defeats, the last thing Fiorentina needed this weekend was a meeting with Juventus. A heart-breaking 4-3 loss to Napoli was followed up with a dire display away to Genoa, but Vincenzo Montella must now prepare his side for a clash against their bitter rivals from Turin.

With the international break giving him two weeks to prepare, the Viola boss could be forgiven for wishing they were facing an easier opponent but the new Fiorentina President insists he is calm about the situation.

“We’ll have to win a game sooner or later,” owner Rocco Commisso told La Gazzetta dello Sport recently. “Now what matters is that the lads work well during the break, in a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone, from Montella to the last of our players. I have to be supportive and not put any pressure on them. I’ll be back for the match against Juve, but if it goes badly then I’ll watch our next few matches on TV!”

The break also saw the end of the transfer window, and Fiorentina were very busy, working the market until the last second to strengthen their squad as much as possible. Montella is expected to keep the 4-3-3 formation he used in the first two games, with many of those new faces – including Martin Caceres, Pedro, and former Leicester City man Rachid Ghezzal – only earning a place among the substitutes.

Franck Ribery is likely to make an appearance from the bench too, meaning the attack will once again feature Kevin-Prince Boateng, Federico Chiesa and Riccardo Sottil. The midfield is filled with the kind of gritty, dynamic players who often cause Juve problems as Milan Badelj will be flanked by impressive youngster Gaetano Castrovilli and set piece specialist Erick Pulgar,

The defence now looks complete, Brazilian left-back Dalbert providing a good balance with Pol Lirola on the opposite flank as German Pezzella and Nikola Milenković marshal the centre of the field. But the latter pair know their hands will be full on Saturday afternoon. Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo have both already been among the goals for the Bianconeri, while Douglas Costa looks reborn under Maurizio Sarri’s more attacking approach.

This match is also expected to see Adrien Rabiot get his first start in Juve colours following his summer move from Paris Saint-Germain, the Frenchman featuring alongside Miralem Pjanić and Sami Khedira in midfield.

Giorgio Chiellini’s absence will be huge for both sides, and his injury might be a major factor in the coming weeks as the Old Lady takes on some difficult opponents. Matthijs de Ligt showcased his huge potential at Ajax, but against Napoli last time out the Netherlands international looked lost as the Partenopei mounted a spectacular comeback.

Without their skipper De Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci will need to be vastly improved in the face of a testing Stadio Artemio Franchi atmosphere, and Fiorentina will certainly look to push Juventus from the opening whistle.

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Three

Fiorentina-Juventus: despite the two tough losses, la Viola showed some intriguing stuff up front against both Napoli and Genoa. The potential is there, but the whole team needs to tighten up and build up some chemistry. Franck Ribery is primed to get more minutes after the break and they should finally counter-balance a line-up that is always too reliant on Federico Chiesa. The ones that will benefit the most are the centre-forwards and for the time being Kevin-Prince Boateng will likely be the top option until Dusan Vlahovic and Pedro find their footing. Gaetano Castrovilli has already shown that he can be dangerous with his cuts, while Erick Pulgar hit the net twice on penalties and will have more opportunities to put his shooting prowess to good use in a slightly modified role. Continue reading

Juventus Wages Revealed and Douglas Costa Rubbishes Rumours

Today’s issue of Gazzetta dello Sport detailed Juventus’ pay roll, which amounts to €294M and is the highest in Serie A by a significant margin, as Inter come in second at €139M. Cristiano Ronaldo leads the way with his €30M, followed by Matthijs De Ligt with €8M, Gonzalo Higuain with €7.5M, Paulo Dybala with €7.3M, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot with €7. In the €6M range there are Miralem Pjanic (€6.5M), Douglas Costa, Mario Mandzukic, Sami Khedira and Leonardo Bonucci (€5.5M). The next tier includes Alex Sandro and Emre Can (€5M), while Federico Bernardeschi and Danilo earn €4M per year. It transpires that the management was pretty lavish with the newcomers. Continue reading

Bernardeschi downplays slow start and Cuadrado looking for extension

Federico Bernardeschi shrugged off his lack of playing time to open the season in yesterday’s interview with Rai Sport: “It is a problem, but it is part of the game. I always work in order to be ready. We know that Juventus have grown into one of the top three clubs in the world, so there is a lot of competitions. We have few champions and some players that are as strong as I am, so the coach fields whomever he sees better during the week. It is a normal thing that always happens in the best teams, where several quality footballers are left on the bench.” He featured for just eight minutes in the opener against Parma, while he did not enter the Napoli clash. Continue reading

Matuidi refutes PSG links, news from pratice and financial updates

Blaise Matuidi denied he was close to returning to PSG in the summer: “It was all false. I have always said that I am fine at Juventus. I have been a PSG fan since I was kid and playing for them allowed me to fulfill a dream of mine. However, I am proud to play in one of best clubs in the world now.” The 32-year-old Frenchman has begun the season with an expiring contract after inking a two-year one last summer.

On the competition in the squad: “It stimulates me. Nobody gifts you anything in football, you have to earn your spot. If I am here it is because I have always been ready on the pitch.” Continue reading

Virgil van dijk is the favourite to win world player of the year- but does he deserve it?

The FIFA world player of the year now known as the childish title of ‘The Best’ has been announced. The nominated players have been whittled down to 3 players, 2 attackers and one defender. Liverpool’s Virgil van dijk is the favourite to scoop the award and he will have to fend off competition from the usual suspects in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but who out of the three of them deserve the award, and does van dijk deserve it overall anyway?

Messi and Ronaldo seem to have won the award more than me and you have had hot dinners. This year was partly successful for both. Messi won the league with Barcelona and scored 36 goals in the league, his 4th best record and 51 goals in all competitions. He had some wonderful memorable games both in the league and the Champions League, but ultimately Barca came undone, their fall from grace against Liverpool will live in the memory for some time, 3-0 up in the first leg they went to Anfield and lost 4-0. All of this plays against Messi’s greatness, and it’s fair to say that even though he is the best player in the world techincally, in 2019 this wasn’t his best year.

Ronaldo made the switch to Serie A to play for Juventus and the old lady as they are known romped home to an 8th Italian title in a row. Ronado helped that cause and was a major factor. He scored 21 goals in the league, which was good for Italy but still his lowest league total in 10 years. He boosted his chances of winning this competition when Portugal won the first ever UEFA Nations League beating the Netherlands in the final. But there would still be disappointment as Juventus mainly brought in Ronaldo to win their first Champions League since 1996, he was not able to achieve that as Juventus were knocked out in the quarter finals against a young Ajax side.

And now to Virgil van dijk who was utterly brilliant for Liverpool last season, not only did he defend in a world class manner he also knew how to pop up and score the odd goal too. Liverpool won the Champions League and came 2nd in the league, only by 1 point as 97 points and losing just 1 game all season was not good enough to beat Manchester City in a quite epic battle.

Liverpool conceded just 22 goals in the league last season which was the best defensive record in the top tier. Out of the 3 players chosen for the award it seems clear that van dijk deserves it, just over Ronaldo. But let’s look more into this, and wonder if FIFA have got the top 3 players chosen wrong and why is van dijk being chosen out of the Liverpool’s other defenders?

When we look at the Fantasy statistics from last season, the three chosen should have been Lionel Messi, Dusan Tadic and Mohamed Salah, with Messi winning. Although one must remember that these points are based on league form only. Virgil van dijk on league form only would have finished in 13th place. Though it should be noted he was No.1. in the category of defenders.

van dijk finished with 119 points whilst his team mate and defender Andrew Robertson finished with 118 points, and yet both had 21 clean sheets and Robertson had an incredible 11 assists to van dijk’s 2, although van dijk garnered a lot of points from scoring 4 goals. Still the case for Robertson to be included as one of the nominee’s in player of the year is strong, and one can wonder with all validity why he wasn’t.

We could go one better and wonder why Liverpool goal keeper Alisson wasn’t included. He got more points than van dijk last season and was surely instrumental in Liverpool’s fantastic league run and Champions League win. Given it was his debut season with the Reds he was superb and kept 21 clean sheets. Does he get punished because he didn’t score enough goals? That sounds as silly as it seems.

Anyway van dijk has been chosen to represent the Liverpool team and he probably does deserve the award. He has been more consistent and will be a top player for a good 5-6 years yet. Even Messi and Ronaldo won’t be able to stop him winning the award this year.

 

Serie A Match of the Round – Juventus vs Napoli

Juventus-Napoli fitted right into the high scoring nature of the first two Serie A rounds, as the whole leagues seems to have forgotten his defensive pedigree, much to the delight of the audience. A bizarre game, as the Bianconeri utterly dominated for an hour, but then gave the lead away in a 15-minute black-out. In an incredible twist though, Kalidou Koulibaly scored an own goal in the stoppage time. Continue reading