Sarri previews the Coppa Italia match against Udinese

Coach Maurizio Sarri was back in front of the journalists to discuss the tomorrow’s Coppa Italia game against Udinese: “Matthijs De Ligt is coming back to peak form and the Roma match is a proof of that. Daniele Rugani is an important player and I hold him in high regard.”

“It is not easy to recover after a big game but we have to do that, we spent a lot physically and mentally on Sunday. We want to move forward, so we have to find the proper motivations and strength to recharge the batteries. Every competition we are in is an objective of ours.” Continue reading

Transfer Watch: One Player For Each of Italy’s Big Six

With the transfer window set to re-open, Serie A clubs are taking to the mercato with differing objectives. While some will be looking for that one missing piece of the puzzle, others are in need of significant retooling. In any case, the January window tends to be quiet, but may present unique opportunities; opportunities clubs simply can’t turn down. Zlatan to Milan, for example.

Here’s one player for each of Italy’s big six.

Juventus - Arturo Vidal: The Italian champions are off to a relatively good start in the Maurizio Sarri era and are looking primed for a deep European run. Despite this, their midfield options leave a lot to be desired and are in dire need of reinforcement. Sami Khedira will spend most of the season sidelined while his stunt-double Emre Can appears to be on his way out.

New signings Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey haven’t exactly hit the ground running and will need more time to adapt to their new surroundings. As a result, the Chilean midfielder is an ideal target as he is already familiar with the club and will add some much-needed industry in the middle of the park. Juventus, however, will have to stave off significant interest from Inter. After all, it was Giuseppe Marotta who initially brought Vidal to Italy in the first place.

Inter – Dejan Kulusevski: The Atalanta loanee has been in great form this season and has emerged as a significant creative threat in the final third. While Parma will be reluctant to terminate his loan and Atalanta will be looking for an inflated fee, the Swedish international is everything Antonio Conte needs. Industrious off the ball and creative on it.

Currently, the nerazzurri are running with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, but will need to add depth if they want to compete with Juve’s deep squad. If he’s available, Inter should be all over it.

Roma – Andrea Petagna: Roma go into the New Year in a comfortable position, four points ahead of fifth-place Atalanta and into the knockouts of the Europa League. While Paulo Fonseca has done an incredible job with the tools at his disposal, the giallorossi could use some reinforcements in the January mercato, most notably at backup striker.

Nikola Kalinic frankly has not worked as Roma need someone more reliable in Dzeko’s absence. SPAL’s Andrea Petagna has demonstrated he’s worthy of a shot and has an abundance of experience in Serie A. Other options are Premier League newcomers Patrick Cutrone and Moise Kean. Both have struggled to adjust to life in England, but the latter is unlikely to move now with Ancelotti’s hiring. Cutrone, however, may be worth a punt.

Napoli – Sandro Tonali: While the Brescia midfielder is arguably on everyone’s Christmas wish-list, Napoli should do whatever it takes to acquire Tonali. Whether they secure him and loan him back directly to his parent club for the rest of the season, or slightly overpay to acquire him immediately, Tonali is exactly the type of player the partenopei need.

He is equally capable of dictating play as he is breaking it up and is a self-proclaimed Gattuso fan-boy. Many may liken him to Andrea Pirlo, but Tonali himself admits his style of play is closer to that of the Napoli tactician. Who knows if that plays into his decision? Regardless, it’s worth a shot.

Milan – Jeremie Boga: Milan have been crying out for a creative force down the left for years now and have yet to see anyone of note arrive. The Sassuolo midfielder is a constant menace in the final third and is regularly beating his man with ease, averaging 4.1 successful dribbles per game. At just 22, Boga would fit in with Milan’s supposed youth movement and should be available for a decent price.

In addition to playing on the left, he can also slot in as a trequartista should a new manager arrive in the summer and shake up the system. Boga to Milan is a no-brainer.

Lazio – Daniele Rugani: This seems like a long-shot, but Lazio could use another defender, especially if they want to compete with Juve and Inter for the Scudetto. Rugani desperately needs a change of scenery and could benefit from playing under the inspiring Simone Inzaghi. The biancocelesti could use another ball-playing centre-back alongside Francesco Acerbi, something Rugani proved to be at Empoli.

The Juventus man is currently out-of-favour in Turin and could be available on a short-term loan with an option to buy. Under the right conditions, Rugani to Lazio may just make enough sense.

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Sarri provides injury updates and more ahead of Bologna game

Maurizio Sarri was back in front of the press today to discuss few topics ahead of the Bologna game. He started off by assessing the form of Douglas Costa and the other injured players: “I do not know where the news about his return came from because he has always been practicing on his own so far. The question about the scheme will be relevant at a later time. Danilo, Aaron Ramsey and Mattia De Sciglio all re-joined the group in the last few days.” Continue reading

Serie A Wishlist: One Player Each For Calcio’s Top Four

With the mercato closing in just under two week’s time, many of Italy’s top sides are scrambling to complete their sides. Inter have been linked with every striker remotely available, Roma desperately need a defender while Napoli are looking at a number of James Rodriguez alternatives. But who exactly should these sides be targeting before the window shuts? Let’s have a look starting with the Italian champions, Juventus.

1) Juventus

Juventus started the transfer window in swash-buckling fashion securing the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and Matthijs de Ligt, but have recently taken a back seat focusing on player sales. While their roster is arguably the strongest in Italy, there’s no denying it still has a few holes. For one, Danilo has to come good or they’re without a top class right back. On the other hand, the bianconeri could really use another midfielder. That being said, both positions are extremely unlikely and Juventus seem intent on going into the season with what they have.

Otherwise, if Juve are able to sell Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic, and those remain big ifs, they should go all out for Inter’s Mauro Icardi. After all, they could use fresh legs in the final third and have recently sold Moise Kean. You just feel if the Italian champions don’t sign Icardi, they’d have sacrificed Kean for nothing. A player like Icardi, while he comes with personal baggage, is extremely hard to find. As a result, Fabio Paratici should do all he could to be in a position to sign the Inter man come the end of August.

2) Napoli

At the time of writing this, Napoli have reportedly signed PSV’s Hirving Lozano. The Mexican is a versatile forward capable of playing anywhere across the front-line but will likely feature on the wing. Despite his signing, the partenopei are still lacking something in the final third. All too often last season, they dropped points as a result of their own profligacy in front of goal, costing them on their ultimate Scudetto objective.

While Icardi would arguably do wonders under Carlo Ancelotti, the player Napoli should be looking at is James Rodriguez. The Colombian remains on Real Madrid’s chopping block and would add some much needed creativity in the final third. With Insigne and Lozano on either wing and Rodriguez in the hole, Napoli’s front-line would be truly devastating.

3) Roma 

Where to begin with Roma? The giallorossi could arguably use another winger and right back but for the time being will have to settle for a new central defender. Right now, Roma’s centre-backs consist of Juan Jesus, Federico Fazio, Gianluca Mancini and the newly-acquired Mert Cetin.

Out of them, Mancini is of starting quality, but none of the other three names inspire confidence as regular starters. While Cetin is reportedly a top talent, it would almost be too much to ask of the 22-year-old. As a result, Roma would be wise to secure another centre-half. Recently, it’s been reported they’ve been in the market for Daniele Rugani or Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren.

Either would frankly add some much-needed depth at the heart of defence, but what Roma need is a long-term solution. Someone like Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld would be ideal. Before the end of July, he was available for just under 30 million euros, yet the giallorossi refused to meet the Belgian’s release clause. A decision that might come back to haunt them.

4) Inter

The truth is Inter, much like Roma, could use a few players: a left-back to challenge Asamoah, a right back in case Valentino Lazaro flops and another striker for depth. While they could use all three and will likely make a push for three more players, their most pressing need remains a vice-Lukaku. Currently, Inter only possess Lautaro Martinez that they can rely on besides the Belgian.

As Conte typically deploys two strikers and Inter will be competing in three competitions, adding another striker is vastly important. Recently, they’ve been linked with Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik, Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez and Fernando Llorente among others.

Of the three names Inter would be wise to sign the Chilean. Despite his struggles since moving to Old Trafford, moving to Inter could revitalize his career. Under Conte, Sanchez will have new-found motivation and will find a familiar partner in Romelu Lukaku.

Bonus: 

Milan: Angel Correa

Lazio: Bas Dost

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New Juventus away kit, De Ligt speaks and Rugani agent’s doubts

Juventus unveiled their away kit yesterday in Shanghai and this year Adidas went with a simple white kit with bright red details, which has been inspired by the buildings surrounding the Allianz Stadium.

Matthijs De Ligt talked with Gazzetta dello Sport: “We have many good players and everybody will have to compete for the starting job since only two out five can feature. I am surprised by the level, they are all focused. It will be hard to be a starter, but I will try to achieve that through my usual way of playing. My teammates are funny and we have few veterans. I learn every day here.” Continue reading

Juventus announce Sarri as their new coach

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It took longer than anticipated, but Juventus finally have their new coach: former Chelsea and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri, who has reportedly penned a three-year, €18M contract. Sarri is coming off a third-placed finish with the Blues and recently won the first trophy of his career by beating Arsenal in the Europa League final. It took a small financial compensation in order to release him from his deal with the English club. Despite the relative success of his tenure, Sarri butted heads with the players and the management and was never embraced by the fans during his time in London and at some point was at risk of being axed mid-season. Continue reading

Allegri takes a sabbatical, Rugani eyes extension and Barzagli talks

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Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri confirmed yesterday that he will have a sabbatical during an event in Milan: “I will take a break for a year because I need to regain control of my personal life. I have been in the whirlwind for the last 16 years, so I neglected a little my family, my kids and my friends. I will use this opportunity to recharge ahead of next season.” He had a year left on his contract and so far there have been no news about its conclusion with a severance package.

Daniele Rugani’s agent Davide Torchia spoke to Radio Bianconera about a potential new extension for his client that appears to be in the works: “We had the last one in March, but it was just a technicality, we had discussed it way back. Continue reading

Opinion: Juventus can reload with Serie A players alone

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No matter what coach will be chosen, Juventus will have to address some glaring needs in the upcoming transfer market session, but they might be able to fill them with the usual modus operandi: plucking players from other Serie A teams. Here are some of the three biggest holes.

A heir to Giorgio Chiellini: the Old Lady had a good thing going in the first half of last season, where for a while they were able to rotate two well-assorted duos, Leonardo Bonucci-Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani-Chiellini, and go with Bonucci-Chiellini in the most demanding fixtures. Eventually, the Moroccan centre-back grew tired for the lack of consistent playing times and asked to leave and Martin Caceres was a temporary cheap patch. Continue reading

Rugani set to benefit from Sarri appointment

Recently, it’s been heavily reported that Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is nearing an exit, and is close to signing a contract with Italian champions Juventus. This comes following a successful season in London, that saw the Italian tactician steer the English giants back into the Champions League after a solid third-place finish, and claim the Europa League in emphatic fashion.

Despite his success, Sarri intends on leaving, and is likely returning to Italy with the bianconeri as front-runners for his signature. According to Italian media outlets, the former Napoli boss feels his work at Chelsea went under-appreciated, and is leaving as a result of this. While Juventus’ offensive players will be licking their lips at the prospect of Sarriball, including a certain Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, one player to keep an eye on is Daniele Rugani.

The defender had a torrid season under Massimiliano Allegri, and failed to take his game to the next level, as many expected him to. Every time he featured, Juventus’ rearguard looked shaky, and never had any sense of cohesion. However, Rugani is a player Sarri has valued for a long time now, and even pushed for his signing when he was at Napoli. Even if it never materialized, it shows Sarri holds the defender in high regard.

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When the pair were together at Empoli, the young defender was a crucial part in the tactician’s setup, and played an integral part to his possession-based buildup out of the back. Outside of his confidence on the ball, Rugani was a lockdown defender in Tuscany, something that he has since failed to translate to Juventus.

At Juventus, it’s been a complete different story for the centre-back. Often playing second fiddle to Leonardo Bonucci, Mehdi Benatia or Giorgio Chiellini, Rugani has struggled for consistency, and has looked a shade of his former self when called upon. This season, the former Empoli man was regularly bested by physical opposition, and often looked timid in possession. With Bonucci and Chiellini on the wrong side of thirty, it’s time Rugani steps up and delivers on the hype.

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While question marks remain over his ability due to his recent exploits, Rugani was fantastic at Empoli under Sarri, and proved to be one of the league’s top defenders. Should Sarri join the bianconeri, as it’s largely being reported by the ever reliable Romeo Agresti, expect Rugani to have a bigger role at the club. In addition to the added responsibility, the 24-year-old will have the complete faith of his manager, something that might have been lacking under Allegri.

With his newfound confidence, Rugani will experience a resurgence of sorts, and could potentially develop into the defender many expected him to be. Under Sarri, much like it was the case at Empoli, Rugani could continue his progression as a ball-playing defender. In recent times, this aspect to Rugani’s game has stagnated, as he has focused solely on defending.

With his risk-averse mentality holding him back, Rugani hasn’t been able to demonstrate his complete ability, and has since been labelled a flop. That being said, expect the tune to change under Sarri’s guidance and witness Rugani reborn. After all, it may just be his last shot at redemption in Turin.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 37

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Juventus: Leonardo Bonucci has recovered from his ankle sprain, Daniele Rugani from hamstring soreness and even Mario Mandzukic was able to practice fully late in the week after dealing with a patellar tendon problem for a while. Moise Kean has shaken off the flu. Giorgio Chiellini has picked up yet another calf ailment, but he is available. Miralem Pjanic is fine after twisting his ankle last week.

Napoli: Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have good chances to return after skipping one with muscle fatigue. Nikola Maksimovic and Amadou Diawara are close to healing from their foot infractions. David Ospina is still in Colombia for personal reasons, while Adam Ounas remains questionable after missing one. Continue reading