Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Five – Other Games

SASSUOLO-TORINO

Sassuolo: the Neroverdi were tested by Bologna, but they reacted vigorously and nabbed another win thanks to goal by their usual difference-makers, Francesco Caputo (fourth in the season), Domenico Berardi (third) and Filip Djuricic. The Serbian attacker started off slowly but found the target in the last two outings. Gregoire Defrel and Lukas Haraslin have hampered by injuries, while Jeremie Boga and Nicolas Schiappacasse had to deal with COVID, so the final spot in their front-line is up for grabs. Hamed Traore has first dibs if the absentees do not return, but Maxime Lopez could be an option as well. At some point they will have to start using Boga, but he missed a lot of practice time because of the virus. Mert Muldur and Georgios Kyriakopoulos have yet to turn it on this season, while Manuel Locatelli and Mehdi Bourabia have both hit the net once despite their role. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four – Other Games

BOLOGNA-SASSUOLO

Bologna: the Felsinei have been unconvicing in their two road games, against Benevento and Milan, while they hanged four goals on Parma on their lone home one. They had their chances against the Sanniti but could not knock one through. They lost Andreas Skov Olsen for significant time during the break and so Riccardo Orsolini will recapture the starting job, but he will have to watch out for Emmanuel Vignato if he does not wake up. Musa Barrow has taken a bunch of shots but has yet to score, the leading man in that regard has been Roberto Soriano and also Rodrigo Palacio has notched one. The absences of Gary Medel and Andrea Poli will force them to field either Mattias Svanberg or Nicolas Dominguez, who carry more value because they participate more in the final third. Sassuolo tend to leave some room to counter and they have a pair of speedsters. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Three

Results: COVID-19 took away two fixtures in this round, including the much anticipated Juventus-Napoli. In the other crunch game, Lazio weathered the early storm produced by Inter and came away with a quality. Atalanta keep rolling and bagged five goals against Cagliari, while Milan throttled Spezia in the second half and the they are the only two perfect teams in the season. Right behind them in the standings there is Sassuolo, which rag-dolled Crotone. Roma snatched their first W of the season over the point-less Udinese, same feat for Sampdoria, which upset Fiorentina on the road. Benevento is now up to six points after squeaking by Bologna.

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Sassuolo demonstrating European credentials early on

Since Roberto De Zerbi’s appointment, Sassuolo has played a scintillating brand of football, predicated on heavy possession and the intricate movement of their front three. The veteran tactician has successfully imparted his footballing philosophy on the Neroverdi in recent years and have since emerged as legitimate contenders for Europa League football. Sassuolo has already picked up seven out of a possible nine points to start the season, recording consecutive 4-1 wins in league play, indicating their European credentials.

While Jeremie Boga has missed his side’s first three games through injury, Sassuolo have not missed a beat. Last season’s standouts – Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo – have picked up from where they left off, scoring goals in their last two games. The latter most recently recorded a brace against Crotone, fresh off receiving yet another Azzurri callup.

Caputo joined Sassuolo last season from a relegated Empoli side for a mere 7.5 million euros and is proving to be the bargain of the summer. The veteran hitman notched a record 21 goals last season, trailing only Romelu Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile. Caputo has carved out an important role for himself in De Zerbi’s system, regularly interchanging with Sassuolo’s wingers both in and out of possession.

Caputo has demonstrated his keen eye for goal and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Most recently, Caputo’s deadly finishing was on display after being played through on goal against Crotone. The 33-year-old made no mistake, lobbing the keeper with great aplomb and bringing his tally to three on the season already.

Berardi, on the other hand, opened the scoring against the newly-promoted outfit on Saturday and was dominant throughout. The Sassuolo winger has emerged as one of the league’s most consistent creators from out wide and is coming off a career year, in which he scored 14 goals and registered 10 assists. Berardi is on pace for a similar season already and will surely begin attracting interest from Italy’s top sides.

The 26-year-old has been courted by Italy’s traditional giants in the past but has regularly rejected them in favor of staying with Sassuolo. As De Zerbi’s men look to return to Europe, Berardi may just remain for the long run and establish himself as a club legend.

Beyond Sassuolo’s dynamic frontline, Manuel Locatelli has stood out in the early goings of the season. The former Milan midfielder was heavily linked with a move to Juventus earlier in the summer but has since decided to remain with Sassuolo. Locatelli’s passing range was on display once again against Crotone, delivering an inch-perfect switch of play on the Neroverdi’s first goal. Locatelli was later rewarded for his dominant performance, notching Sassuolo’s fourth and final goal.

De Zerbi relies on Locatelli to dictate the tempo in the middle of the park and supply his front three regularly. The Italian international has demonstrated he’s more than ready to take the next step in his career and dominate the proceedings in the middle of the park, week in, week out. As the season wears on, expect Locatelli’s name to emerge atop many sides’s mercato wishlists.

While Sassuolo’s start is encouraging, it’s important to exhibit caution. After all, they’ve beaten the two newly promoted sides and played out to a draw against Cagliari. Regardless, there is no reason why De Zerbi’s men shouldn’t be aiming for Europa League football at the very minimum and have a talented foundation in place for years to come. It may be early days, but Sassuolo are establishing themselves as the Serie A’s latest darlings and have shown no signs of slowing down.

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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Two

Results: Roma and Juventus shared the spoils in an entertaining fixture to cap off the Sunday slateNapoli demolished Genoa, Milan easily got past Crotone, while Verona nipped Udinese to stay perfect in the season. Inter furiously rallied back late against Fiorentina, while Lazio breezed past Cagliari and Atalanta toyed with Torino, so the three ‘top four’ teams that had their opener delayed were all successful. Among the newly promoted teams, Benevento got off to a brilliant start as they mounted a glorious comeback against Sampdoria, tough sledding instead for Spezia, which run into an in-form Sassuolo. Bologna trounced Parma on Monday night.  Continue reading

Fantasy Serie A Gameweek Two Picks

Serie A returned in style last weekend and promises yet another matchday of exciting action, as Gian Piero Gasperini’s high-flying Atalanta make their highly anticipated debut on Saturday against Torino. Inter will host Fiorentina in Saturday’s final game as Antonio Conte’s men look to pick up where they left off last season and emerge as title contenders.

Elsewhere, Roma takes on Juventus on Sunday and will be hoping to get their season back on track after their surprising forfeit to Hellas Verona.

Without further ado, here are your fantasy Serie A picks ahead of gameweek two:

Gianluigi Donnarumma: The Milan shot-stopper may have conceded twice against Bodo-Glimt, but he should be a safe pick ahead of the Rossoneri’s clash against the newly-promoted Crotone. Donnarumma kicked off the season in fine form against Bologna and will be looking to continue his good start against Crotone.

Achraf Hakimi: The former Borussia Dortmund man is available for a mere 4.5 million and should hit the ground running in Inter’s season opener. Hakimi is a match made in heaven for Conte’s 3-5-2 and will be looking to replicate last season’s impressive exploits in Italy. With Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez combining dangerously, expect the Moroccan international to fit right in at Inter.

Omar Colley: Sampdoria lost their season opener in convincing fashion against Juventus, but Colley was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing performance. The Blucerchiati will be welcoming Benevento to the Luigi Ferraris and should be good value for a clean sheet.

Kalidou Koulibaly: The Senegalese international ultimately remained at Napoli amidst heavy Premier League interest and should be a crucial piece to Gennaro Gattuso’s setup moving forward. Koulibaly will be eager to thwart Genoa’s momentum after I Grifoni emerged 4-1 winners over Crotone in their season opener.

Theo Hernandez: The former Real Madrid man was in sensational form against Bologna, registering his first assist of the season. Hernandez has established himself as one of Milan’s biggest offensive threats, getting forward at will down the left-hand side. Crotone has just conceded four against Genoa and shouldn’t find it easier against the Rossoneri.

Luis Alberto: The Spanish international is coming off his best season yet in a Lazio shirt and is great value for money at 4.5 million. Luis Alberto emerged as one of the league’s elite creators last season, forming a deadly partnership with Ciro Immobile. Simone Inzaghi’s men will be eager to hit the ground running against Cagliari and expect Luis Alberto to be at the heart of it.

Aaron Ramsey: Ramsey struggled last season in Maurizio Sarri’s rigid 4-3-3, but looked reborn in Andrea Pirlo’s fluid system. The Welshman only registered one assist against Sampdoria, but had it not been for his teammates’ profligacy in front of goal, it could have been two or three. Expect Ramsey to continue his fine form against Roma.

Hakan Calhanoglu: The Turkish international has been at the heart of Milan’s resurgence under Stefano Pioli, carving out an important role for himself as the Rossoneri’s trequartista. Calhanoglu has combined his incredible vision with a keen eye for goal and has since become Milan’s difference-maker in the final third. The 26-year-old is coming off yet another influential performance and should continue his impressive run against Crotone.

Domenico Berardi: The Sassuolo winger got off to a disappointing start to the season against Cagliari, but should put his goalscoring woes behind him against Spezia. The Neroverdi’s dynamic front three has proven too much to handle for most of Italy’s backlines in the past and should have what it takes to claim an important three points against the newly-promoted outfit.

Ciro Immobile: Last season’s capocannoniere will be eager to repeat the feat once more, starting with Lazio’s opener against Cagliari. Immobile has proven to be a consistent goalscorer in league play in recent years and is always good value to find the back of the net. Alessio Cragno is one of Serie A’s best shot-stoppers, but Immobile and co. possess enough firepower to get the job done.

Victor Osimhen: The Nigerian international changed the complexion of his game shortly after his introduction and should feature from the start against Genoa. Osimhen will be raring to go after an impressive debut and should open his account for the season against I Grifoni.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Two – Remaining Games

SAMPDORIA-BENEVENTO

Sampdoria: the Blucerchiati tried to stay close in the Juventus clash but, despite a moderate surge at the beginning of the season half, they were not threatening. The coach kept initially Fabio Quagliarella and Gaston Ramirez on the bench and that was costly. The Uruguayan had some good plays upon subbing in and he is generally the stick that stirs the pot for them, as they do not have much creativity throughout the roster. Federico Bonazzoli struggled as main reference point, Fabio Depaoli, Mehdi Leris and Jakub Jankto did not much of note. However, in an easier match-up, Jankto and Morten Thorsby could be more proactive. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round One

FIORENTINA-TORINO

Fiorentina: despite not changing all that much, the Viola have brought in some new interesting pieces during the transfer market window, such as Sofyan Amrabat, who is suspended in this one, Giacomo Bonaventura and Cristiano Biraghi, who seems poised to stay after a solid season at Inter. However, their coach and attack are the same, which means we can expect something akin to what happened in the restart, where Franck Ribery and Gaetano Castrovilli served as the main playmakers, Federico Chiesa was the most consistent scorer, while Christian Kouame, Dusan Vlahovic and Patrick Cutrone, all capable but otherworldly strikers, fight for one spot. The ex-Genoa forward seems to have separated himself from the pack a little during the summer. Bonaventura is supremely sneaky.

Suggested picks: Chiesa, Ribery, Kouame. Continue reading

Scouting Report: Manuel Locatelli

Manuel Locatelli has adapted wonderfully to life under Roberto De Zerbi at Sassuolo and has since attracted interest from Italy’s giants, including Juventus. According to recent reports, however, the Neroverdi are reluctant to part ways with their midfield maestro and have slapped a 40 million euros price-tag on Locatelli. But who exactly is the Sassuolo man?

Player profile:

Age: 22

Position: Centre midfielder

Height: 185 cm

Nationality: Italy

Locatelli has emerged as one of Italy’s premier talents this season, dominating the proceedings in the middle of the park. Despite his imposing physique, the former Milan man is extremely technical and thrives with the ball at his feet. Locatelli combines a wide range of passing with impressive vision and has since established himself as one of Serie A’s finest registas. The 22-year-old has regularly proven to be a willing runner in the midfield and is unafraid to jump into a tackle.

In fact, Locatelli was recently called up by Roberto Mancini to Italy’s senior national team setup, rewarding his good season at Sassuolo. Locatelli initially came through Milan’s youth ranks, breaking into the first team in 2016. The 22-year-old spent three years with the Rossoneri, making 48 appearances before being loaned out to Sassuolo.

His move to Sassuolo helped Locatelli get his career back on track and develop into one of Italy’s finest midfielders. Roberto De Zerbi’s possession-based system has undoubtedly helped him in this respect and makes the most of Locatelli’s qualities. The former Milan man averaged an impressive 88% pass completion percentage last season and registered five assists, indicating he’s slowly adding end product to his game. In addition, Locatelli averaged 1.5 key passes per game last season and combined wonderfully with Sassuolo’s dynamic front three.

Jeremie Boga, Francesco Caputo, and Domenico Berardi formed one of the league’s deadliest frontlines last season, interchanging dangerously at will in the final third. With Locatelli and Pedro Obiang behind them, the Neroverdi emerged as one of Italy’s most intriguing sides, imposing their style of play wherever they went. As next season approaches, Sassuolo will be eager to retain their star men, especially Locatelli.

Locatelli has played an integral role in their recent rise, acting as the anchor in midfield. While the links to Italy’s giants persist, it will be interesting to see if the former Milan man will take the leap. If his recent form is anything to go by, however, Locatelli has proven he has all the qualities to do so and carve an important role out for himself at his future club.

Juventus have reportedly been keeping tabs on the 22-year-old and have had several meetings with Sassuolo. The Bianconeri are currently in the midst of rejuvenating their midfield, adding the likes of Weston McKennie and Arthur. Locatelli’s arrival would represent a continued shift in transfer policy for the Italian champions, highlighting their desire to revolutionize their ageing roster and reduce the wage bill.

While Locatelli may not be ready for a starting role with Andrea Pirlo’s men, the Sassuolo man is more than ready to play significant minutes and offer some much-needed quality in the midfield. Juventus struggled last season in the middle of the park and could use a midfielder of Locatelli’s ilk.

Locatelli’s recent call-up indicates he’s ready to take the next step in his career and become a regular with Gli Azzurri. The midfielder has represented Italy across all youth levels and has demonstrated he can cut it at the highest level. As a move to Juventus beckons, Locatelli will be eager to translate his recent form with Sassuolo to a bigger club and keep establishing himself as one of Italy’s most promising young midfielders.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 38 – Sunday Games

SPAL-FIORENTINA

SPAL: they were thumped early against Verona and failed to generate any semblance of offense, interrupting a mini-streak of consecutive matches where they had managed to score. Their agony will finally end here after a terrible season. Marco D’Alessandro has been their best player in the resumption, while Andrea Petagna and Gabriel Strefezza were the most reliable ones in the first part of the season. Mattia Valoti and Federico Di Francesco came back from their injuries and they could be worth a flier-

Suggested picks: D’Alessandro, Petagna, Valoti. Continue reading