Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 24

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Juventus: Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini have been called up, while Douglas Costa remains out with a quad problem. Daniele Rugani has a sore thigh, but he is in the squad list. Alex Sandro is suspended.

Napoli: Dries Mertens and Simone Verdi missed the midweek Europa League clash due to a contracture and a bruised knee respectively, but they might be able to recover in time. Raul Albiol underwent a clean-up surgery on the patellar tendon of the left knee and will miss six-to-eight weeks. Mario Rui suffered a thigh pull and will be sidelined this week.

Inter: Sime Vrsaljko had season-ending knee surgery. Balde Keita’s recovery from a thigh strain has had a hiccup and he might not be available this week. Mauro Icardi has a sore knee.  Continue reading

Allegri Must Make Amends With Dybala

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With Juventus entering a crucial stretch in their season, Massimiliano Allegri must put aside his differences with Paulo Dybala and find a place for him in his lineup. Immediately. 

When the bianconeri took on Parma last weekend, La Joya was left on the bench and stormed off in frustration after Allegri used his third and final substitute. The former Palermo man has since apologized for his outburst and was constrained to the sidelines once more in Juventus’ most recent win against Sassuolo, coming on in the 83rd minute.

This season, Dybala has seen a change in his role and has typically operated from deeper, as per Allegri’s instructions. The Juventus tactician even went so far as to dub him a “box-to-box” midfielder in a press-conference earlier this season. Adapting to a completely new role, Dybala has experienced some growing pains and has struggled to influence games from the midfield.

All too often, the 25-year-old wanders wide in hopes of carving out space for himself. What this leads to, however, is Dybala getting less touches near the opposition’s goal and far less chances to use his creativity to dictate play.

With Ronaldo occupying the sole striker position, it doesn’t leave much room for the Argentine international in the final third. Factor in Mario Mandzukic’s importance and ability to combine with the former Real Madrid star, and you quickly realize Dybala is an awkward fit in Allegri’s current setup. While the obvious solution would be to field Dybala behind Mandzukic and Ronaldo, it would take away from the Croatian’s aerial threat – something Juventus could ill afford.

Since being fielded on the left wing, Mandzukic has been able to bully the opposition’s fullback and take advantage of the notable height difference to head home crucial goals. Fielding him centrally again would make the former Bayern Munich man face off in the air against centre-backs and would reduce his aerial presence. This season, Mandzukic has been immense for the bianconeri and has established himself as their big-game player, scoring against Napoli, Inter, Milan, Roma and Lazio. Moving him positions at this point in the season would not only be detrimental to his game, but to Juventus’ overall play. So where does all this leave Dybala?

Over the course of his career, the Juventus playmaker has been at his most dangerous playing behind a striker as a trequartista. In this role, he’s capable of playing between the opposition’s lines and play off his teammate. Last year, Dybala scored 22 goals in league play when playing alongside Higuain – something that Allegri should not banish from his memory just yet.

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A

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Allegri talks ahead of Sassuolo-Juventus

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri begun by addressing the talk of the week, which was Paulo Dybala leaving the bench early against Parma: “He apologized and it was the only right thing to do since he is an intelligent guy. The club gave him the no.10, which is a big responsibility, and he is the vice-captain. His behavior was not aligned to that, but he understood and the case is closed.”

On Dybala’s role: “It has not changed, it is just a matter of skills of who plays alongside him. Cristiano Ronaldo is different from Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic. He has always had few chances, even though he did not score. He plays in the same position, it is not like he is used as fullback. He has always been involved in the build-up of the action and always tried to finish it as well. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 23

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Juventus: Federico Bernardeschi will be good to go after leaving the last game with a chest injury. On the other hand, Douglas Costa is iffy due to a bruised quad and Leonardo Spinazzola has a sore ankle. Giorgio Chiellini (calf) will be out again, while Leonardo Bonucci (ankle) is making a late push to be in the squad list.

Napoli: Amin Younes is having troubles with the surgically repaired Achilles tendon. Raul Albiol is reportedly dealing with a patellar tendon issue that could turn out to be a very serious one.

Inter: Matteo Politano will serve the final game of his suspension. Balde Keita has been called up despite the coach saying that he is not ready. Borja Valero is out with knee soreness.

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Juventus injury updates, Ronaldo turns 34 and Kean speaks

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The squad resumed practicing today after a two-day break following the tie with Parma: Federico Bernardeschi practiced regularly after bowing out on Saturday due to a knock on the ribs and therefore avoided a fracture. On the other hand, Leonardo Spinazzola has a bruised ankle. Douglas Costa wrecked his car in an accident on a motorway yesterday, but he was unscathed. He still did not train because of a quad ailment that forced him to sub off at half time against Parma and has been labelled as day-to-day.

Cristiano Ronaldo turns 34 today and, as a gift, he returned on top of the scorers’ chart on his own, since he bagged a brace and the players ahead of him, Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata and Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella, did not find the target in this round. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 22

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Napoli-Sampdoria: the Partenopei had a disappointing two-game meeting with Milan, as they did not manage to beat them in the weekend and then got got in Coppa Italia. They are undefeated at home, where they have won four games in a row, often scoring multiple goals. The Blucerchiati are coming off a thumping against Udinese, their fourth W in the last six fixtures and they lost only to Juventus since the beginning of December. While Lorenzo Insigne is stuck in a prolonged drought, Arek Milik has done most of the damage for the Azzurri up front, with Dries Mertens chipping in from time to time and some contribution from José Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Piotr Zielinski, but not in a consistent way. Continue reading

Time for Allegri to take off the handbrake at Juventus

Last night Juventus put in arguably their worst performance of the Massimiliano Allegri era and still, somehow, walked away with all three points. Throughout the first hour of play, the bianconeri’s midfield trio looked devoid of any ideas moving forward and got pinned back to perfection by Simone Inzaghi’s aggressive setup.  As a result, Juventus’ front-line were starved of any service, until Blaise Matuidi made way for Federico Bernardeschi.

Had it not been for Wojciech Szczesny’s impressive exploits combined with some poor finishing, Allegri’s side could have easily found themselves down three or four. In fact, at one point in the game Lazio outshot Juventus 12 to zero. With a roster as powerful as Juve’s, this is hardly the type of performance you come to expect from the Italian champions. Right now, Juventus are a Ferrari being driven like a Prius.

Without Miralem Pjanic in the lineup, Juventus struggled in the first phase of the buildup and were quite literally pressed off the pitch at times. A superior opponent would have undoubtedly punished Juventus with a couple of goals. With Emre Can deputizing as the side’s regista, the bianconeri were unable to establish a rhythm and rarely got forward. While the German international is a talented midfielder in his own way, last night’s nightmare at the Olimpico highlighted his shortcomings in progressing play under pressure.

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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

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 20

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Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is suspended, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) are banged up after the Supercoppa, but they could recover by Monday. Mario Mandzukic will be on the mend for a couple more weeks and Medhi Benatia remains iffy with a sore groin.

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne, Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Dries Mertens is trying to shake off an ankle sprain and his presence is not 100 percent certain. Marek Hamsik is not expected to come back from his thigh strain. Raul Albiol is fatigued, but available.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 20

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Roma-Torino: the Giallorossi are on the up and up with three wins in the last four games, over Genoa, Sassuolo and Parma and have re-entered the Champions League fray. The Granata continue to be a little uninspiring, they have prevailed just twice in their last seven games, but they are still undefeated on the road and have shared the spoils in the majority of away matches. Patrick Schick has had a resurgence is the last month and the duel with Edin Dzeko is legitimate now. They have also recovered Lorenzo Pellegrini, who was having a great season before getting hurt and makes them very menacing up front, since Cengiz Under, Bryan Cristante, Nicolò Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert have all been productive before the break and even Javier Pastore showed some life in Coppa Italia. Continue reading