Inter-Verona: while Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku continue to be very reliable, the Beneamata are getting additional pieces back, as Matias Vecino scored in Champions League and Stefano Sensi looked pretty good in his stint off the bench. The two are certainly better fantasy options than Roberto Gagliardini, who filled in while they were sidelined, and the ex Sassuolo player, in particular, was fantastic at the beginning of the season. Valentino Lazaro was okay against Brescia and his skill-set is interesting, especially against the minnows where he would not need to defend a lot. Matteo Politano got hurt in Dortmund, so the first man up off the bench in the attack would be Salvatore Esposito. Verona have scored just nine times so far, so their back-line is certainly in play despite the ongoing clean sheet-less run. Continue reading
Pau Lopez: Roma have not given up more than one goal in four consecutive contests and they will face the least productive offense on the League, Udinese’s, which has scored just five times so far. The Spaniard goalie is not very flashy but he gets the job done.
Matteo Darmian: Parma have a plus match-up on the docket versus Verona, which famously have trouble hitting the net. Their back-line is down to bare bones after the injuries to Bruno Alves and Riccardo Gagliolo, but it should be enough in this one and Darmian also participates actively to the offense. Continue reading
Alex Meret (7 points): Napoli would have found themselves in an early hole if it was not for his spectacular triple save in the span of ten seconds on point-blank attempts by Darko Lazovic, Matteo Pessina and Mariusz Stepinski.
William Troost-Ekong (5 points): if Udinese are rock-solid at home a lot of the credit goes to their defensive linchpin and to his quiet leadership, which contributed to holding in check the likes of Andrea Belotti and company. Continue reading
Parma were clearly the best team of the week as they rolled the reeling Genoa, even though a cheap goal ruined a glorious fantasy haul.
The Gialloblù were coming off a road loss to SPAL but had beaten Torino and Sassuolo in the last two home fixtures, climbing up the standings. Roberto D’Aversa lost Bruno Alves the day before the match and gave Kastriot Dermaku a chance in the heart of the defence, keeping Riccardo Gagliolo on the left flank, while Matteo Darmian returned from injury on the other one. In the midfield, Matteo Scozzarella and Antonino Barillà were chosen over Hernani, while the trident was the usual one. Continue reading
Robin Olsen: he is putting together a nice bounce-back season after having a rough go with Roma in the previous campaign. He is not as good as Alessio Cragno, but he could take advantage of the fact that SPAL are still scoreless after three road games.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo: the move to a bigger club has not hurt him, on the contrary it has raised his profile and helped him earn an Azzurri call-up. He has scored once and provided one assist so far, entrenching himself as a valuable part of the offense. It does not hurt that Verona usually have trouble scoring. Continue reading
When Dejan Kulusevski was loaned to Parma from his parent club Atalanta not much was made of the move. Given gli Orobici’s wide array of attacking talents, many thought the young Swede was just another player who would go out on perennial loan spells before being sold. However, since joining Parma, the 19-year-old has established himself as a set starter and is a crucial piece to their front-three. But who exactly is Kulusevski?
Having grown up in Atalanta’s youth ranks after joining from his boyhood club Brommapojkarna, the 19-year-old got a comprehensive footballing education in Bergamo for three years. After all, Atalanta’s youth system is highly regarded and is viewed as one of the best in Italy. Last January, Kulusevski made his debut for Gian Piero Gasperini’s men in a 5-0 drubbing of Frosinone. The 19-year-old would make another two appearances before the season came to a close.
Given his lack of playing time and gli Orobici’s depth in the final third, Atalanta decided it was best to loan him out to Parma. With I Crociati, Kulusevski has been able to play regular minutes and has impressed this season. Typically fielded on the right-wing alongside Roberto Inglese and Gervinho, the 19-year-old is able to combine his pace and keen eye for goal to devastating effect.
In many ways, Roberto D’Aversa’s counter-attacking system suits Kulusevski’s qualities and makes the most of his talents. Given his success in this system, it’s only a matter of time before Gasperini calls him back and adds him to his arsenal of weapons.
In addition to being a goalscoring threat, Kulusevski has been Parma’s main creator this season, averaging 2.1 key passes per game. Given the freedom to roam between the lines and filter in centrally, the Parma man is able to make the most of his vision. After all, when he first started his career, he was initially an attacking midfielder.
In his seven appearances this season, Kulusevski is already up to three assists and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Moreover, he’s currently responsible for over 30 per cent of his side’s key passes and expected assists, highlighting his importance to D’Aversa.
In the most recent international break, the young forward played as a striker in U21 Sweden’s 5-0 win. From a central position, Kulusevski punished the Icelandic defence, continuing his impressive form and notching a brace. In the past, he also represented Macedonia at the youth levels but eventually chose Sweden.
Currently, Parma sit in 12th place on nine points and will be taking on Genoa after the international break comes to a close. I Grifoni have struggled this season and will be a good opportunity for Kulusevski to keep the positive streak going.
Beyond this season, Kulusevski appears primed for a return to his parent club Atalanta and join Gasperini’s free-scoring side. Given his qualities, the young Swedish international seems a match made in heaven with Gasperini.
As it is the case for any young talent, it’s all about maintaining this level of play beyond a few games. If his recent displays are anything to go by, it shouldn’t be a problem for Kulusevski.
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Standings implications: the top three teams in the standings were all successful on Saturday. The one that had to combat the most was Inter, which run into some trouble against Sampdoria but still prevailed, while Juventus and Atalanta easily disposed of SPAL and Sassuolo. The Roman sides kept up as La Lupa nipped Lecce on the road, while Lazio trucked Genoa. Fiorentina earned their second W in a row with a splendid display against a dwindling Milan. Cagliari came back to earth with a draw versus Verona. Udinese returned to winning days after four rounds by defeating Bologna. Parma outlasted Torino on Monday night. Continue reading
Alex Meret: he got the day off during the weekend, so he will be back between sticks in his one as Napoli will host Cagliari, which might be satisfied with the two wins they got recently and therefore not push the opponents too much.Giovanni Di Lorenzo is in the same situation.
Stefan De Vrij: it is not great round for the top defences, so it could be a wise move to pick out the best one, as Inter have conceded just once, even though they have a difficult match-up against Lazio on the docket. He is an ex-Biancoceleste, so you never know. Continue reading
The most significant game this week was the bout between Atalanta and Milan with the fourth spot on the line. The Goddess came into the fixture having won four of five, while the Rossoneri were coming off their most convincing win of the season, against Cagliari, and riding a six-match undefeated streak, where they had tied three times.
Both coaches confirmed the XIs they have been using consistently for few weeks: the only tweak by Gian Piero Gasperini was picking Berat Djimsiti to anchor the back-line and moving José-Luis Palomino to left centre-back, over Gianluca Mancini, while Gennaro Gattuso marshaled his usual 4-3-3. Continue reading