Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 23

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Standings implications: Juventus’ led atop of the table swelled up again as the Bianconeri routed Sassuolo, while Napoli could not break through in Florence and had to settle for a nil-nil tie. Inter returned to winning ways in Parma after three rounds. All the teams involved in the Champions League race won this week: Milan outfaced Cagliari, Roma did the same with Chievo on Friday, Atalanta successfully came back at home versus SPAL and Lazio squeezed past Empoli. Sampdoria lost steam in the Europa League zone with the second loss in a row, an appalling one to Frosinone in this case, while Torino are now eighth after nipping Udinese. Frosinone’s victory drags few more clubs into the mud: there are six teams in six points, with two going down. Bologna was the only other side that brought home a relatively positive result in those neighborhoods as they tied with Genoa. Continue reading

Can reflects on first months with Juventus and looks ahead

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Emre Can gave an interview to Sky Sport yesterday: “The first months in Italy have not been easy for me. I have had few physical problems, then I got surgery. I feel better know that I have been able to return on the pitch. I certainly need to find some rhythm and get used to Italian football, but I feel like I am in good shape. I am ready to give my best.”

On the Parma game: “In Italy, teams are more prepared tactically. Football is maybe faster in England, but here at times it is really hard to score. We can learn a lot from a match like that. We played well, we controlled the ball, we netted three goals, but we can not allow to concede three. We need to defend better as a team. We must learn, but is better to make those mistakes now rather than later in the season.” Continue reading

Squad Overhaul on the Horizon at Juventus

With Juventus conceding six goals in their last two games, question marks have been raised about Massimiliano Allegri and his side’s ability to deliver the Champions League for the first time in 23 years. In just over two weeks time a clash against La Liga giants Atletico Madrid awaits where the stakes could not be higher. A round of sixteen exit would be a disastrous end to an indifferent campaign for the bianconeri; a campaign in which European success was stressed from day one at Villar Perosa. Despite signing Mr. Champions League himself – Cristiano Ronaldo – the Italian champions look no closer to winning Europe’s elite competition than they were last season. In fact, you could argue their chances at winning it all are lower. If Juventus’ recent woes are anything to go by, it means a squad overhaul is on the horizon.

After whimpering out of the Coppa Italia in embarrassing fashion against Atalanta, Juventus hosted newly-promoted Parma. For the first time since March 2012, the bianconeri lined up without one member of their famous ‘BBC’ trio and fielded a hardly inspiring centre-back partnership of Daniele Rugani and latest acquisition Martin Caceres. Since Mehdi Benatia’s departure, reports have surfaced that the Juventus brass would entrust Rugani with a bigger role moving forward, however, it’s safe to say, the defender failed in his first real test.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 22

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Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini suffered a calf pull that should force him to miss a couple of games. Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira returned in Coppa Italia, while Mario Mandzukic (ankle) is expected to be available this week. Emre Can is ill but available.

Napoli: Fabian Ruiz is suspended. Raul Albiol and Elseid Hysaj are fatigued, while Adam Younes is banged up: the first two have called up, the winger has not.

Inter: Matteo Politano was slapped with a two-game ban. Stefan De Vrij is dealing with some muscle fatigue, but he has been called up, while Balde Keita remains out.  Continue reading

Allegri: “We are looking for continuity in our results”

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A pretty spirited Massiliamo Allegri talked to the press early on Saturday and addressed the upcoming arrival of Martin Caceres to replace Medhi Benatia: “He is certainly not a second choice, we strongly wanted him. Benatia asked to leave, he made a different decision than what we wanted and the management decided to let him go. We evaluated few profiles and we are lucky that Caceres accepted. I am glad because he knows the environment and he is reliable and will complete an already strong department. Andrea Barzagli will return in three or four weeks, then we will be all set. Caceres can give us a lot, he is ready and does not have to learn the language. When he left, I said that he was as good as our own. He can easily play as centre-back, I think he is better there at this point of his career. He is also a positive guy and that helps.” Continue reading

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

Juventus Top Performers – Round 20

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A perfect result for Juventus, which easily tamed an opponent that had proven to be feisty recently but never really posed a serious threat on Monday.

Daniele Rugani (9 points): not a very busy night for the defender, who obviously got a big boost from the late goal, where he was left all alone in the six-yard box. It was a very attentive display by the whole back-line, with the contribution by the two midfielders as well, and scoring early helped the squad maintain the balance, since it never needed to attack recklessly. While Giorgio Chiellini and Alex Sandro have generally always been rock-solid thus far, the most positive indications come from Mattia De Sciglio and Mattia Perin, who had some problems in their respective last performances, but were pretty much perfect in this one. Continue reading

Is Aaron Ramsey Juventus’ Missing Piece?

Earlier this month it was announced that Juventus secured Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey on a free transfer at the end of the season. The Welshman’s arrival isn’t the bianconeri’s first bosman dealing, and has come to be a defining feature of the club on the transfer market in recent times. In the past, Juventus signed the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Kingsley Coman, Paul Pogba  and most recently Emre Can among others.

While in the past these transfers helped the Italian giants boost their depth, Ramsey’s signing represents something entirely different. This time around, Juventus are turning to Ramsey to complete their midfield ranks and to give them some much needed creativity and drive from deep. But does the 28-year-old fit the bill?

Since breaking onto the scene with Arsenal, a defining characteristic of Ramsey’s game has been his ability to get forward and create space for himself in the opposition’s box. Last season, the player made the most of his chances in close and registered seven goals and eight assists. Juventus are expecting him to bring this aspect of his game to Turin and take some creative burden off Miralem Pjanic in the midfield. You could even argue Juventus haven’t had a player with Ramsey’s characteristics since Pogba. As of right now, Allegri’s side don’t have a single midfielder with more than two goals, and could use some production from deep.

In Pjanic and Rodrigo Bentancur, the bianconeri have two deep-lying playmakers with a pass-first mentality. In Matuidi and Can, Allegri finds the defensive responsibility he seeks without compromising his team’s balance. With Sami Khedira’s output dropping significantly, it’s normal Juventus are in the market for a progressive midfielder; someone to pick up the slack and drive the team forward in tight affairs. Ramsey is different to what Juventus already have, and will act as an ideal foil alongside Pjanic and Matuidi.

Capable of playing anywhere down the middle, Ramsey’s versatility will undoubtedly be a welcomed addition in Allegri’s setup. However, expect him to make the mezz’ala spot – outside of the midfield three – his own rather quickly upon his arrival. With Pjanic pulling the strings from deep and Matuidi doing much of the dirty work, Ramsey will have the freedom he seeks to push forward.

While the Welsh international, at times, has held onto the ball for too long, expect this to change quickly in Juventus’ extremely structured setup. Simply put, he won’t be afforded minutes if this persists. That being said, over the years the bianconeri have demonstrated an uncanny ability to iron out a player’s weaknesses and quickly turn them into strengths.

Despite arriving on a free transfer, Ramsey is expected to make around £300,000-a-week; a wage typically given to top players. Moreover, his salary indicates that he’s likely going to be Juventus’ only midfield reinforcement in the upcoming summer as it would simply be unfeasible to commit similar money to another player. Given his increased wage and Juventus’ desire to get the deal done as quickly as possible, it highlights the club’s belief in the player.

Over his Arsenal career, Ramsey has polarized opinion, especially in his early days, but has since established himself as a fan favourite. At Juventus, the 28-year-old will be armed with both the proper coaching, a clear system and the teammates to take his game to the next level, competing for Europe’s top honours in the process. This on its own should motivate Ramsey to succeed and hit the ground running upon his arrival.

Juventus are putting many of their eggs in one basket with this investment, but Ramsey will prove to be the midfielder the club are missing. For one, he’s got all the characteristics they’re looking for and have lacked since Khedira’s drop. Secondly, considering Juventus’ rigorous system, Ramsey’s job will be clear. While this signing has all the makings of a good one, only time will tell if Ramsey will be the man to finally solve Juventus’ midfield conundrum.

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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

Kean Proves Worthy of More Minutes

Juventus started the new year with a convincing win against Bologna in the Coppa Italia, a competition they have now won four times in a row. With many of the bianconeri’s starters watching from the sidelines including the likes of Ronaldo and Dybala, the side’s fringe players got some much needed minutes to prove themselves and largely impressed in the win. Leonardo Spinazzola was a constant threat down the left, Emre Can was tidy in the midfield alongside Pjanic, and Bernardeschi was even able to pocket himself a goal. Yet the real storyline was undoubtedly Italian wonder-kid Moise Kean. 

The 18-year-old got his first start of the season, and made the most out of it snatching a goal early in the second half off a ricochet on Douglas Costa’s shot. Demonstrating his killer instinct within the 18-yard-box, Kean made no mistake and poked it past a helpless Da Costa before he could intervene. It was his second goal in a Juventus shirt, both coming against Bologna. After just over an hour of leading the line, the U-21 Italian international made way for Ronaldo, and will be pleased overall with his performance.

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