One of the standout performers from Fiorentina’s superb display during their 0-0 draw with Juventus last weekend isn’t exactly a household name in Italian football circles. At just 22 years old, Gaetano Castrovilli had spent time in the youth ranks of Cagliari and Bari before making the move to Tuscany in 2017.
Juventus-Verona: the Old Lady had a subpar performance in Florence but obviously will be in a much better spot this week at home against a relegation struggler. Cristiano Ronaldo usually does not go scoreless for long and Gonzalo Higuain is not a bad pick either, as for now the coach has refrained from using Paulo Dybala there. Douglas Costa, who was their go-to-guy so far, will miss time, so Federico Bernardeschi and Juan Cuadrado will return to prominence. Until the coach entrusts one of the newcomers, Aaron Ramsey in particular, Sami Khedira remains the most appealing midfielder for his offensive dexterity. Their defenders are surely worth consideration. Continue reading
Having started the season with two defeats, the last thing Fiorentina needed this weekend was a meeting with Juventus. A heart-breaking 4-3 loss to Napoli was followed up with a dire display away to Genoa, but Vincenzo Montella must now prepare his side for a clash against their bitter rivals from Turin.
With the international break giving him two weeks to prepare, the Viola boss could be forgiven for wishing they were facing an easier opponent but the new Fiorentina President insists he is calm about the situation.
“We’ll have to win a game sooner or later,” owner Rocco Commisso told La Gazzetta dello Sport recently. “Now what matters is that the lads work well during the break, in a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone, from Montella to the last of our players. I have to be supportive and not put any pressure on them. I’ll be back for the match against Juve, but if it goes badly then I’ll watch our next few matches on TV!”
The break also saw the end of the transfer window, and Fiorentina were very busy, working the market until the last second to strengthen their squad as much as possible. Montella is expected to keep the 4-3-3 formation he used in the first two games, with many of those new faces – including Martin Caceres, Pedro, and former Leicester City man Rachid Ghezzal – only earning a place among the substitutes.
Franck Ribery is likely to make an appearance from the bench too, meaning the attack will once again feature Kevin-Prince Boateng, Federico Chiesa and Riccardo Sottil. The midfield is filled with the kind of gritty, dynamic players who often cause Juve problems as Milan Badelj will be flanked by impressive youngster Gaetano Castrovilli and set piece specialist Erick Pulgar,
The defence now looks complete, Brazilian left-back Dalbert providing a good balance with Pol Lirola on the opposite flank as German Pezzella and Nikola Milenković marshal the centre of the field. But the latter pair know their hands will be full on Saturday afternoon. Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo have both already been among the goals for the Bianconeri, while Douglas Costa looks reborn under Maurizio Sarri’s more attacking approach.
This match is also expected to see Adrien Rabiot get his first start in Juve colours following his summer move from Paris Saint-Germain, the Frenchman featuring alongside Miralem Pjanić and Sami Khedira in midfield.
Giorgio Chiellini’s absence will be huge for both sides, and his injury might be a major factor in the coming weeks as the Old Lady takes on some difficult opponents. Matthijs de Ligt showcased his huge potential at Ajax, but against Napoli last time out the Netherlands international looked lost as the Partenopei mounted a spectacular comeback.
Without their skipper De Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci will need to be vastly improved in the face of a testing Stadio Artemio Franchi atmosphere, and Fiorentina will certainly look to push Juventus from the opening whistle.
Fiorentina-Juventus: despite the two tough losses, la Viola showed some intriguing stuff up front against both Napoli and Genoa. The potential is there, but the whole team needs to tighten up and build up some chemistry. Franck Ribery is primed to get more minutes after the break and they should finally counter-balance a line-up that is always too reliant on Federico Chiesa. The ones that will benefit the most are the centre-forwards and for the time being Kevin-Prince Boateng will likely be the top option until Dusan Vlahovic and Pedro find their footing. Gaetano Castrovilli has already shown that he can be dangerous with his cuts, while Erick Pulgar hit the net twice on penalties and will have more opportunities to put his shooting prowess to good use in a slightly modified role. Continue reading
Results: Juventus emerged victorious in a wild bout with Napoli with a big assist from the opponents, while Roma and Lazio shared the spoils in an equally hard-fought Derby. Inter and Torino are the only two other teams at six points, as the Nerazzurri squeezed past Cagliari, while the Granata grabbed a quality victory against Atalanta. Milan found their first W scraping by Brescia. Genoa defeated Fiorentina, Sassuolo ragdolled Sampdoria, Bologna downed SPAL in the final minutes and Verona escaped Lecce with three valuable points. Continue reading
Jesse Joronen (7 points): some imperfections for the newcomer, but also, and more importantly, two massive and decisive saves on menacing attempts by Joao Pedro and Artur Ionita late in the game that secured a surprising Brescia win in Cagliari.
Giorgio Chiellini (9 points): the grizzled veteran decided the Juventus’ season-opener in Parma with a sly deflection in a scrum on a botched shot by a teammate. Then the usual reliable work on the other end.
Rodrigo Becao (9 points): he could not have asked for a better Serie A debut as he often bounced Krzysztof Piatek off his tracks with his physicality and buried the game-winning goal with a tremendous header. Continue reading
Straight up fireworks on Friday night as Napoli paid a visit to Fiorentina. Vincenzo Montella unleashed the youth movement, fielding Gaetano Castrovilli, Riccardo Sottil and Dusan Vlahovic together from the get-go, while Carlo Ancelotti, who could not use Arkadiuz Milik and Hirving Lozano, deployed Dries Mertens as false-nine, supported by Fabian Ruiz, José Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne, while Mario Rui was picked over Faouzi Ghoulam on the left flank. Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Kostas Manolas, Pol Lirola and Erick Pulgar debuted with their respective teams. Continue reading
Results: Juventus and Napoli started with three points as the Bianconeri nipped Parma, while the Partenopei outlasted Fiorentina in a crazy match. Atalanta staged a glorious comeback against SPAL, Milan took a tumble in Udine and Roma were too naïve versus Genoa. Lazio thrashed Sampdoria and Inter did the same against Lecce. Torino edged out Sassuolo. Verona hanged on to dear life versus Bologna and Brescia caught Cagliari off guard on the road.
Confirmations: Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile, Luis Muriel and Simone Zaza got off to a flier thanks to their braces. The Colombian striker had the most impressive one, sigle-handedly turning the SPAL bout. Kevin-Prince Boateng, José Callejon and Joaquin Correa bagged terrific cross-shots, while Erick Pulgar remains deadly on penalties. Continue reading
After two sleepy weeks, Serie A teams have resumed dealing and wheeling with some very interesting purchases over the last few days. Inter finally landed Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United, while Juventus cashed in on Joao Cancelo in a swap with Manchester City, getting back Danilo in the deal. Cagliari pulled off an unexpected one by adding Radja Nainggolan from Inter, then successfully completed the chase for touted prospect Nahitan Nandez from Boca Juniors and, all of a sudden, they have a very crowded and well-assorted midfield despite losing Nicolò Barella.
Milan continue to work on the roster and acquired young centre-back Leo Duarte from Flamengo. He emerged over the last year and a half in Brazil and will contribute to holding down the fort until Mattia Caldara returns later in the year. He will compete with solid but unspectacular Mateo Musacchio to play next to Alessio Romagnoli to open the season.
The week was pretty much dominated by midfielders: a year after letting him go for free, the new Fiorentina management brought back Milan Badelj on loan with option to buy from Lazio, then they snatched Erick Pulgar away from Bologna by exercising the relatively low release clause. The Chilean international was a standout last season and was deadly on penalty, which will come in handy considering the departure of Jordan Veretout. Despite the age difference, the two are pretty similar, so it will be interesting to see whether Vincenzo Montella will tweak his system to accommodate both and perhaps deploy one more attacker.
Genoa have found their new technical leader in Lasse Schone from Ajax who, despite the rather defensive position as pivot, put up great numbers thanks to his ability on set pieces and therefore will be one to look out for in the fantasy game. The Griffon also signed Riccardo Saponara on loan from Fiorentina, whom coach Aurelio Andreazzoli will try to turn into an offensive box-to-box in the Rade Krunic mold, and Colombian youngster Kevin Agudelo from Atletico Huila.
For one brilliant midfielder joining Serie A, another one left as Sampdoria agreed to sell Dennis Praet to Leicester City, who has been a linchpin of their squad over the last three seasons and grew constantly year after year. They acquired Morten Thorsby from Heerenveen and could gamble on a Jakub Jankto resurgence on top of obviously reinvesting the funds on a newcomer.
For once, Atalanta decided to go with an experienced guy rather than bet on potential and brought in Martin Skrtel from Fenerbahce to fill in the gap after Gianluca Mancini left. Gian Piero Gasperini is now back to having five reliable centre-backs to rotate.
A decent coup for Verona, as they won the race for free agent Darko Lazovic, who was pretty good last year at Genoa, where he notched three goals and four assists. He reunites with coach Milan Juric and will be able to play in a number of positions on both flanks. They also grabbed two of the best Serie B players from last season: Gennaro Tutino, on loan from Napoli, who had a terrific year in Cosenza, and Valerio Verre from Sampdoria, who shined in Perugia. They both reached the double-digit threshold and could be significant parts of the 3-4-2-1 tactic Milan Juric is currently using.
Brescia got busy too and signed two presumptive starters in Jaromir Zmhral from Slavia Prague and Giangiacomo Magnani from Sassuolo. The midfielder could be a sneaky fantasy asset, while the centre-back started last season very well but was eventually overshadowed by more talented teammates. Lecce instead added Cristian Dell’Orco, who was serviceable as left centre-back at Empoli in 2018/2019 and will probably end up playing left back for them, alternating with other buzzed about newcomer Brayan Vera.
A pair of players departed from Serie A: Roma sent Rick Karsdorp back to Feyenoord on loan, while Bologna shipped Adam Nagy to Bristol City. The Dutch right back had some okay stretches and at times challenged Alessandro Florenzi, but ultimately he could not stay healthy, while Nagy had become merely a back-up. The Felsinei will have to address the midfield in a meaningful manner.
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Gianluigi Donnarumma: Milan have not been great when it comes to keeping clean sheets, but they had a decent shot this week against the short-circuiting Fiorentina, which have managed to score just once in their last five fixtures.
Erick Pulgar: Bologna have won five games in a row at home, giving up a goal in just two of them, and more importantly the Chilean metronome has been a force of destruction on set pieces and could help them put the finishing touches on their late-season run to avoid relegation. Continue reading