Juventus Top Performers – Round Five vs Verona

Same as in previous Serie A weeks, Juventus did not fully push the envelope until it was too late and the team got smacked in the face. It still almost worked, as the final siege could have easily yielded another goal, but ultimately the Old Lady was held to another disappointing tie.

Danilo: after a pair of ho-hum displays, the Brazilian international returned to the excellent levels he exhibited at the beginning of the campaign, both as hybrid centre-back and as a pure one once Leonardo Bonucci subbed off. The Italian veteran had a confusing performance as he often ventured forward since he was unguarded, but that did not produce anything good, if not some imbalances when he tracked back. Since when it rains, it pours, he picked up an injury and the back-line is down to bare bones. Usual hustle out of Merih Demiral, who however was not as dominant as in other circumstances. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Five

Standings implications: Roma managed to at least slow down Milan in the Monday night thriller. Napoli stayed perfect in the matches they actually played but they had to dig deep to sink a plucky Benenevento. Juventus lost some more ground as they could not get past Verona. Inter and Lazio both bounced back after multiple winless rounds, as the Nerazzurri patiently worked their way around Genoa’s defence, while the Biancocelesti bested Bologna. Sassuolo and Sampdoria are the surprises of the early season: the Neroverdi were again the comeback kids against Torino, but their rally stopped short this time, while the Blucerchiati handed Atalanta their second tough L in a row. Fiorentina held on two dear life this time in order to beat Udinese and return to winning ways. Cagliari defeated Crotone, keeping the opponents on the down low, while this time Spezia were on the wrong end of a two-goal comeback in Parma.

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Juventus Top Performers – Round Two versus Roma

In a game of many faces, Juventus’ plans felt overambitious from the get-go and they were almost completely undone by the glaring lack of balance, but they showed great resilience after the red card in the second half and came away with a tie against Roma.

Danilo (1 points): if Cristiano Ronaldo had not scored a brace, he would have been the man of the match, not only for the precise lob that set up the second goal, but also for full ninety minutes of very energetic defending as for long stretches he looked the only really apt for such an aggressive style in the back.  Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round One

Antonio Mirante (7 points): the Roma coach picked him over Pau Lopez, who was really uneven in the resumption, and the veteran had a pair of big-time saves that preserved the result in the challenging game against Verona, keeping his first clean sheet of the season. Unless Paulo Fonseca did it just to send a message to the Spaniard, it will be tough to take the starting job away from him on a performance basis alone.

Leonardo Bonucci (9 points): he looked re-energized and uber confident featuring in something similar to a three-man defence and with his buddy Giorgio Chiellini next to him. He stymied multiple attempts with great timing, launched a pair of interesting long balls and scored the pivotal second goal for his side with a tap-in on a corner kick. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 36

Standings implications: Juventus did not squander the second chance to wrap up the title race and took home the ninth Scudetto in a row with a two-nil win against Sampdoria. Inter leapfrogged Atalanta in second position with a comfortable win over Genoa, while the Goddess shared the spoils with Milan. Roma gained two points over the Rossoneri in the race to the fifth spot as they topped Fiorentina. Napoli helped those two team out by defeating Sassuolo in a bizarro game and there are no longer doubts regarding who will qualify to Europa League, it is just a matter of positioning. Parma eked out one in Brescia. With Lecce losing to Bologna in heart-breaking fashion, everybody is safe besides Genoa, even tough Torino could not beat SPAL, while Udinese bested Cagliari.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 33


Atalanta: their supersonic offense spiked Juventus, with Duvan Zapata returning to the stat-sheet after three games, Ruslan Malinovskyi smashing one home in brilliant fashion and Alejandro Gomez and Luis Muriel setting up their teammates. Josip Ilicic is not all the way back but looked a bit better. It is an embarrassment of riches and, in a pristine match-up, a lot could come down on who rests and who gets to start, but Muriel being out all but assures Zapata will be in the XI. Robin Gosens quickly recovered from a thigh injury but might still be spared, however Timothy Castagne and Hans Hateboer are as big fantasy weapons as the Dutchman. Mario Pasalic would be palatable if starting.

Suggested picks: Zapata, Malinovskyi, Ilicic. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 28 – Sunday Games

Milan-Roma: the Rossoneri had an excellent performance against Lecce, although the quality of the opponents, especially in the back, needs to be taken into consideration. The light front-line worked out wonderfully as Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Giacomo Bonaventura all scored and Hakan Calhanoglu dished out two assists. Even Rafael Leao netted one off the bench. It is set to be confirmed as a whole because Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be at most be ready for a brief stint. Rebic and Bonaventura have the biggest chances to take home bonuses and Roma are not particularly stingy, while Calhanoglu runs most of the offense. Theo Hernandez picked it up where he left off and was one of their engines.

Suggested picks: Rebic, Bonaventura, Calhanoglu. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 21

Standings implications: in a pretty surprising round, Napoli upset Juventus, Cagliari held Inter to a tie, while Roma and Lazio equalized. The Nerazzurri are now three points behind first place, the Biancocelesti potentially two. Atalanta return within one point from the Champions League zone after the complete annihilation of Torino. Cagliari surely got a positive result but they were caught in the standings by Milan, which nipped Brescia, and Parma, which instead outplayed Udinese and so there is now a three-way tie in sixth position. Verona are not far behind after torpedoing Lecce, Bologna instead prevailed in the Derby with SPAL. Sampdoria and Sassuolo shared the spoils in a snooze-fest and thus maintain a little cushion over the last three positions. Genoa were the only team to get a point in the relegation zone as they survived the meeting with Fiorentina. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 19

Emil Audero: Sampdoria have tightened it up in the back since Claudio Ranieri took over, allowing multiple goals just twice in the past nine fixtures, to Cagliari and Juventus, so their goalie is unlikely to do harm against a depleted Brescia squad that has never scored more than twice so far on the road.

Francesco Acerbi: Lazio are quietly tied with Juventus for the second-best statistical defence in the League behind Inter and have surrendered just seven goals at home thus far. Their leader could be a decent selection against the ever-underwhelming Napoli.  Continue reading

Kulusevski to Juventus: all the angles in the deal

The January window started with a bang in Serie A with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to Milan and Juventus closing the deal for Dejan Kulusevski. The players arrive to their new teams with very different priorities- Ibrahimovic will hopefully be an immediate shot in the arm to help get the rossoneri off the canvas, while Kulusevski is by definition an addition for the long term since he isn’t expected to be part of Juventus’ squad this season.

Interestingly Ibrahimovic is going to essentially replace a player who this time last year was viewed in a very similar fashion to the way we perceive Kulusevski today. Piatek took Serie A by storm in the first half of last season, he was linked to clubs in the Premier League before Milan won the race to sign him by offering Genoa 35 million payable in one installment (the same amount Juventus is paying but over five years with addition bonuses of up to 9 million).

But while there is risk with paying substantially for a player who has a small sample size of great performances at the professional level and Juventus has a more immediate need for an established midfielder, there are many reasons why Juventus fans should be very pleased with this acquisition.

While PIatek is a one dimensional player who relies on service for his teammates to excel, Kulusevski has shown great speed, durability, dribbling ability and ability to elevate his performances on the biggest stages and against the top teams. While in recent years, quite a few clubs have regretted doing business with Atalanta, at least Kulusevski didn’t become a household name playing in Gasperini’s system which has made quite a few players look better than they were.

A lot has been made about Juventus spending so much on a player that doesn’t address an immediate need, but that could be seen as a flawed argument when you take into account that Kulusevski came up as a central midfielder before playing as an offensive winger at Parma. Interestingly Juventus referred to him as a midfielder twice in the opening paragraphs of the press release to announce his arrival and there are scouts who believe Kulusvski could develop into the next De Bruyne.

As previously mentioned, 35 million plus 9 million in bonuses is certainly a gamble and if we go by transfer fee alone, Kulusevski is the most expensive midfielder Juventus ever acquired. But that is a flawed way to look at cost when you account for fact his wages (a reported 2 million net of taxes in the first few years) which are considerably lower than the likes of Ramsey, Rabiot and Can whose annual cost is individually superior to Kulusevski’s despite coming in as Bosman signing with no transfer fee to amortize.

A more rightful concern than cost, is however Juventus’ track record with young talents. In recent years we’ve seen many of them acquired only to be used as financial tools down the road- the sales of Audero, Mandragora and Orsolini helped finance the Ronaldo acquisition while we’ve seen the likes of Leali, Caldara and Gabbiadini never contribute to the bianconeri on the pitch after being sent out on loan.

However, if you look closely at the track record of other young players on Juventus in recent years there are also reasons for optimism that at bare minimum Kulusevski will get a fair chance to establish himself. Paulo Dybala had become a starter under Allegri by the middle of his first season in Turin despite being in his early 20s, and while he was almost sold last summer, he’s now once again a key player at the club. Rodrigo Bentancur went from being a throw in the Tevez deal to a full time starter under Sarri and arguably part of Juventus’ long term core alongside De Ligt and now Kulusevski.

Even though both Daniele Rugani and Federico Bernardeschi have flopped at Juventus, they were both given ample opportunities to become starters at the club. Rugani got first crack at replacing Bonucci a few years ago, while Bernardeschi played regularly under Allegri and has often found himself in the starting lineup this season.

Regardless of which position you envision Kulusevki playing in Turin, there are plenty of opportunities for his skill sets to make an impact since Juventus lacks fresh legs who bring pace and game changing moments. As a winger or trequartista, he’s more reliable that the often injured Douglas Costa and Ramsey and he’s been way more productive than Bernardeschi this season. Kulusevski also has the tools to be an option as a mezzala alongside Bentancur and Pjanic.

The acquisition would also likely be seen in a different light had Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici not had such a difficult stretch. Ramsey, Rabiot and Danilo have flopped, two players he tried to sell in Higuain and Dybala had strong first halves of the season while De Ligt has had his fair of struggles- the final straw was the way Mandzukic was handled in recent months, so it’s easy to understand why Paratici currently doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt from the fan base- but Kulusevski is a gamble worth taking.