Serie A Match of the Round – Torino vs Sassuolo

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There is a lot of filler in these last few rounds as some teams have no real objective in sight, but when one of those put up a fight against a foe actually fighting for something, it can turn out to be a thrilling match-up, like it was the case for Torino-Sassuolo.

The Granata are in the hunt for the sixth place and were coming off a draw in the Derby della Mole, while they had taken home the full loot in the previous two contests against Genoa and Milan. The Neroverdi had stayed undefeated for six rounds, prevailing twice, and are right in the middle of the standings. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 35

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Juventus-Torino: the Bianconeri have no more achievements to pursue in Serie A, but they still showed up at San Siro last week and equalized in the second half after a poor start. They have yet to drop one at home. The Granata continue to be in the hunt not only for a Europa League berth: the fourth spot is four points away. They have defeated Milan and Genoa in their last two contests and have lost just once in the past 14. Cristiano Ronaldo scored last week and Miralem Pjanic has contributed with two assists recently. Federico Bernardeschi and Moise Kean are alternating next to the Portuguese ace, but neither is in supreme form, while Juan Cuadrado is starting to look sprier and Joao Cancelo is coming back on too. Continue reading

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

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 30

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Samir Handanovic: the Inter defense has not been super stingy on the road, but this week they will tangle against Genoa that has scored just once in their last five fixtures. The veteran goalkeeper always gives his contribution.

Joao Cancelo: he could have a massive role on offense since Juventus will be down few attackers and they will also need a big performance out of their defense to topple Cagliari. Alex Sandro is in lesser form could be a good selection too.

Rogerio: Sassuolo are not very trustworthy defensively, but the date with Chievo is usually a good medicine for those problems. The young left back has sometimes done damage scurrying down the flank. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 29

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Standings implications: they did it in opposite fashion, but Juventus and Napoli both took home the full spoils in this round. Inter were bested by Lazio, Milan by Sampdoria and therefore the Biancocelesti and Atalanta moved closer to the fourth spot. The Orobici leapfrogged Roma, while Sampdoria now share the eight spot with Torino, which tied in Florence. Cagliari prevailed for the third time in the last four fixtures, this time versus Chievo, and are eight point clear of the 18th spot, which is now occupied by Empoli that have been overtaken by Bologna as result of a dramatic victory. Udinese and SPAL kept their slim lead with Ws against Genoa and Frosinone.

Confirmations: Duvan Zapata took advantage of few elite strikers being shut out to pull closer to the top of the scorers’ chart thanks to a brace.  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

Walter Mazzarri Is Back At His Best

Liverpool v Torino - Pre-Season Friendly - AnfieldWhen Walter Mazzarri was appointed as Torino boss last January, I Granata were languishing on the outskirts of the mid-table and were a side without a clear identity. Fast forward a year later and Torino have become one of the toughest teams to break down in the peninsula and are now pushing for a spot in next year’s Europa League. While Atalanta have received all the plaudits for their offensive football, Mazzarri’s 
side are their antithesis, and sit on 38 points alongside Gli Orobici. 

After a failed stint in England that saw his contract terminated at the end of his first season, Mazzarri’s reputation took a hit. Long gone were the memories of his Napoli side  that, along with Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani, pushed the envelope beating the likes of Juventus, Inter, and Chelsea in the process. Instead, unsuccessful tenures with Inter and Watford came to define the Italian tactician. That’s why his move to Torino was so important. Back with the familiarity of the Italian mid-table, Mazzarri could finally be himself again after years of trying to be someone he wasn’t.

Since assuming the reigns at the club, Mazzarri has steadied the ship and has made the most of the roster at his disposal. Using his trademark 3-5-2, the former Napoli tactician has transformed Andrea Belotti into a more complete striker, beyond what the stat-sheet might show. At the back, Armando Izzo, who arrived in the summer from Genoa, has been Mazzarri’s undisputed leader and has led by example. Alongside Nkoulou and Moretti, the trio have formed one of the league’s most solid partnerships at the back and have only conceded 22 goals – a feat only bested by the current top four.

In fact, in their last five games I Granata have managed five clean sheets beating the likes of Inter and Atalanta, and held Napoli to a stalemate. Torino also have their keeper Salvatore Sirigu to thank in large part, as the Italian international has played his best football since his Palermo days. After an inconsistent couple of years in Paris and a few loan moves, Sirigu has once again emerged as one of the nation’s top shot-stoppers and has been in top form this season.

Factor in Chelsea loanee Ola Aina’s industry and creativity from the left wing along with De Silvestri’s experience and veteran leadership, and Torino are one tough side to score on, let alone beat.

Mazzarri’s Torino is very similar to any of his past sides that he’s had success with. A compact trio in the midfield, a dangerous duo up top complimenting each other, all-while relying on a resolute defence. We’ve seen this before. With Tomas Rincon acting as the midfield hard-man, as his ten yellow cards would suggest, Daniele Baselli and Soualiho Meité are able to get forward to supply Iago Falque and Belotti. As a whole, Mazzarri’s Torino come together as a real force, and are proof that the sum could be greater than its parts.

Whether or not they qualify for the Europa League remains to be seen as the competition is fierce, however, if Torino have showed us anything this season, it’s that Walter Mazzarri is truly back at his best and it’s wonderful to see.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 24

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Juventus-Frosinone: the Bianconeri quickly bounced back in Sassuolo after the 3-3 draw with Parma and have won four times in the last five fixtures, fortifying their lead in the standings. The Ciociari have been pesky recently and they are coming off a surprise win over Sampdoria, their second in a row on the road, and they are now within striking distance from the 17th spot. With Champions League just around the corner, Cristiano Ronaldo might be rested for the second time in Serie A, which would mean more scoring opportunities for Mario Mandzukic, Federico Bernardeschi and Paulo Dybala, or whoever will compose the front-line. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 21

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Juventus: Mario Mandzukic is trying to come back from high strain, but it might be too early. Miralem Pjanic and Joao Cancelo are dealing with minor calf ailments, while Sami Khedira has a sore knee: they are unlikely to be available this week, but the fullback has a shot. Medhi Benatia (groin), Andrea Barzagli (thigh) and Juan Cuadrado (knee) remain out.

Napoli: Marek Hamsik will return from a thigh strain, while Allan is experiencing some back pain and has been ruled out.

Inter: Balde Keita (thigh) will not be able to come back this week, while Sime Vrsaljko is under the weather and also nursing an achy knee. Matteo Politano is fatigued.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 21

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Sampdoria-Udinese: the Blucerchiati were pipped at the post in Florence last week, in a game that turned on its head a thousand times. They have won three straight at home. After three positive, or semi-positives, results Udinese took a tumble at home against Parma. They have managed to prevail just once on the road thus far. Fabio Quagliarella has found the target in ten straight appearances and is one shy of tying the record, so he is obviously a must-start, considering that the match-up is not that hard. Gaston Ramirez is suspended, so Riccardo Saponara will draw the start and could be worth a look. Even Jakub Jankto showed some life in the last game, but Karol Linetty might be able to return in the midfield. Continue reading