Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 24

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Juventus-Frosinone: the Bianconeri quickly bounced back in Sassuolo after the 3-3 draw with Parma and have won four times in the last five fixtures, fortifying their lead in the standings. The Ciociari have been pesky recently and they are coming off a surprise win over Sampdoria, their second in a row on the road, and they are now within striking distance from the 17th spot. With Champions League just around the corner, Cristiano Ronaldo might be rested for the second time in Serie A, which would mean more scoring opportunities for Mario Mandzukic, Federico Bernardeschi and Paulo Dybala, or whoever will compose the front-line. 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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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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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 23

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The next Serie A round will start very early, on Thursday, and stretch throughout the weekend.

Lazio-Empoli: it was not necessarily pretty, but the Biancocelesti returned to winning ways against Frosinone after three unsatisfactory results and now are in the fifth spot, tied with Roma and Atalanta, one point away from Champions League. The Azzurri came back against Chievo, collecting the second draw in the last three fixtures after a slew of losses, but behind them Bologna have gotten closer. The Biancocelesti are really banged up and, considering the minuscule turnaround, there is growing pessimism about the presence of Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto, who got hurt on Monday. Joaquin Correa should be able to play and in this scenario he and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic become very attractive fantasy assets and Felipe Caicedo could be a cheap plug considering he has scored in the last round. Valon Berisah and Riza Durmisi might be unlikely protagonists.  Continue reading

Serie A Top Performers – Coppa Italia Quarter-Finals

Soccer: Italy's Cup; Atalanta - Juventus

Juventus this time could not overcome their own struggles in all the facets of the game and got deservedly eliminated by Atalanta in the round of eight of Coppa Italia, which they had won in the previous four editions. A very pedestrian showing that ends the often manifested target of winning the treble and represents an alarming signal for the challenges ahead.

Alex Sandro: when you give up three goals, clearly no defenders performed well. Sandro was the only who did not actively took part in one of the goals, two caused by misplaced passes by Joao Cancelo and Mattia De Sciglio, while Daniele Rugani and Wojciech Szczesny did not look great in the second one. A two-minute black-out at the end of the first half, the Bianconeri were unable to recover from. The squad had already started off poorly, but the back-line in particular was plagued by mental mistakes after Giorgio Chiellini was forced out of the game by a calf injury. The officials might have to revisit their stance about not signing a centre-back.

Sami Khedira: again the three-man midfield looked completely idea-less without Miralem Pjanic leading them and the situation did not change when he got into the game. Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi spent the night chasing after the much more energetic Atalanta players and, alongside the rest of the ball club, were very sloppy in the passing game. The German world champion did not perform much better, but he had one of the few chances with a header on a corner.

Federico Bernardeschi: he was almost the only one who tried to drag the team out of its funk, making plays in multiple positions, but without being effective. At least he put in a modicum of effort in a game where the squad just did not have it. Paulo Dybala had a slew of turnovers and was thrown around by the opponents all night long. In the last couple of games it was evident why the coach prefers Cristiano Ronaldo wide, as it become too easily to engulf him and cut off the feeds for him when he is surrounded by centre-back. Douglas Costa was affected by the general apathy and imprecision of his teammates. It is the first time this season that the front-line fails to score a goal and it is the first loss on the road in a domestic game since 2017.

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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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Juventus Top Performers – Round 21

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A very sloppy and uninspired Juventus still managed to come away with a win against Lazio despite being severely outplayed for the first hour of the game. Here are the top performers in each position.

Joao Cancelo (4 points): undoubtedly the man of the match for the Bianconeri. He put his fingertips all over both goals, slotting the first home on a rebound and drawing a penalty with a terrific cut. He was deployed as right winger when the Old Lady was looking to push and the move could have looked like a head-scratched, but that position simply unleashed all his offensive prowess and he looked like consummate attacker in both the key actions. 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

Bernardeschi Shines in Mandzukic’s Absence

With Mario Mandzukic out indefinitely, Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri turned to Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi to provide the width against Chievo. While the Brazilian would steal the headlines with his thundering strike in the first half, it was Bernardeschi’s performance that stood out from the rest. The Italian made the most of his second start in three games, and dominated proceedings from the left wing, adding an assist to Daniele Rugani from a dead-ball late in the game.

The former Fiorentina man got the start in an unfamiliar left midfield role, yet proved to be a consistent threat against the visitors, combining with his teammates wonderfully. Whether he was taking on his man one on one or splitting the defence with an inch perfect through ball, Bernardeschi pulled the strings for Juventus. As Miralem Pjanic was rested, someone needed to pick up the creative burden; Bernardeschi did exactly that.

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Allegri, Bonucci, Dybala, Bernardeschi and Szczesny preview the Supercoppa

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Since the game is being held abroad and the coverage is enhanced, more players than usual talked ahead of the Supercoppa against Milan. Massimiliano Allegri spoke the club’s TV: “It will be a great night and we will be looking to bring home this cup that has eluded us few times recently. We have lost on penalties twice and once late against Lazio. It will be a good game between two storied franchises and with a trophy on the lead. In this type of games, the point-difference in the League does not matter. It will be a nice test for us to get things going after the break, and we have already started doing that in Bologna, but also to measure ourselves ahead of the clashes with Atletico Madrid.” Continue reading