This weekend’s latest installment of the Derby della Capitale will feature two sides both fighting for European football as both Roma and Lazio find themselves Continue reading
Juventus: Mario Mandzukic is trying to come back from high strain, but it might be too early. Miralem Pjanic and Joao Cancelo are dealing with minor calf ailments, while Sami Khedira has a sore knee: they are unlikely to be available this week, but the fullback has a shot. Medhi Benatia (groin), Andrea Barzagli (thigh) and Juan Cuadrado (knee) remain out.
Napoli: Marek Hamsik will return from a thigh strain, while Allan is experiencing some back pain and has been ruled out.
Roma-Genoa was pretty much the only back and forth game of the weekend and it had plenty of storylines in it, so it is an easy choice for match of the round. The Giallorossi were coming off two straight 2-2 ties, with different flavor, against Inter and Cagliari and had prevailed just once in the past seven fixtures. Genoa drew in Cesare Prandelli’s debut versus SPAL and have not won since September 30th.
Eusebio Di Francesco, who has been on the hot seat for a while, made the bold move of benching Patrik Schick after two wasteful outings and opted for a three-man defense and a light front-line composed by Cengiz Under, Nicolò Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert. Genoa were without the suspended Domenico Criscito, replaced here by Ervin Zukanovic, but pretty much stuck with their usual XI, with Romulo and Darko Lazovic wide and Sandro anchoring the midfield. Continue reading
Standings implications: Juventus squeezed past Torino in the Derby della Mole, but Napoli maintained the distance with a late gem in Cagliari. Inter continue to rack up home wins as Udinese were their latest victim. Atalanta edged Lazio, confirming their high ambitions for the season. Roma prevailed in a rollercoaster of a game versus Genoa. Fiorentina and Sassuolo were able to pop Empoli and Frosinone, snapping out of their lengthy droughts. Sampdoria also got a win down in the Europa League morass. SPAL and Chievo shared the spoils in a more intense match than what the result indicates. Continue reading
Juventus: Emre Can made the squad list, approximately two months after suffering the thyroid issue. Rodrigo Bentancur is dealing with a back problem, but he was called up. Alex Sandro (thigh) and Sami Khedira (ankle) have been ruled out, same for Andrea Barzagli, who is rumoured to have suffered a severe quad injury, and Moise Kean, who has some muscle fatigue.
After things appeared to be nearing disaster, AS Roma have made a U-turn and, for now, seem to have turned their season around. After having dropped 10 points Continue reading
Three teams won both of their fixtures this week, Juventus, Inter, Genoa and Roma, and none was more impressive than the Giallorossi, who bounced back after a rocky stretch, where they had failed to pick up a win for four consecutive Serie A games and were demolished by Real Madrid in Champions League.
Getting to face Frosinone is healthy for everybody at this point, but La Lupa smoked them. Cengiz Under broke the deadlock after just two minutes with a great central run capped off by a robust shot from distance that bended the goalie’s gloves. Continue reading
An action-packed Serie A round is almost completely in the books, here is what happened in the fantasy world.
Standings implications: Juventus downed Napoli in convincing fashion, extending their lead over the pack to six points. Roma are now fully back after triumphing in the Derby della Capitale. Inter extended their winning streak to four games by topping Cagliari. Milan finally played a complete game in Sassuolo. Fiorentina were not that great on Sunday but escaped with a win on a pair of set pieces against Atalanta. Genoa and Torino blitzed Chievo and Frosinone on their own turfs, while Bologna and Parma got two quality home wins versus Udinese and Empoli. Continue reading
In the first half of last season, Milan were shambolic in defense, conceding ridiculous goals at the wrong place at the wrong time and struggled to make the difference at the other end of the field. Despite winning against AS Roma, there are a few pressing concerns in defense this season.
There were some mitigating factors in the previous year. The infusion of new players and the formation of a new defensive set up. Leonardo Bonucci’s arrival prompted the then manager Vincenzo Montella to opt for a three back because of the defender’s familiarity with that system. Effectively laying the platform for one man.Ricardo Rodríguez, Mateo Musacchio and Alessio Romagnoli had to adapt to this new organization and in most instances they wilted. Among some of the embarrassing displays were the two zero defeat to Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris and the 4-1 debacle at the hands of Lazio at the Stadio Olympico.
But Milan did improve in the second half of the season after Gennaro Gattuso was installed as the head coach. Gattuso steadied the ship and change the structure of the team to a back four. The Rossoneri conceded 15 goals in 19 games before the end of May 2018. After such improve, you would expect that the Diavolo would demonstrate some level of resilience and reliability at the back, but it hasn’t been the case so far.
The season is just two games old, but there are worrying defensive weaknesses that must be addressed. Milan continue to bleed in defense after shipping in four goals in their first two matches. What is more frustrating is the systemic errors committed by players. The reckless concession of possession in Milan’s half and the inability of players to deal with shots from distance. In the two games against Napoli and AS Roma, we saw how Gattuso’s men struggled against their opponent during set pieces.
A bit of narration.
In the 2-1 win over Roma, the manner in which Milan reacted to Javier Pastore’s conner kick is very telling. Pastore sent the cross into the mixer, hoping to find the height of either Dzeko or Fazio, Gianluigi Donnarumma comes out to parry the ball out, it fall to Stephan El Shaarawy close to the edge of the 18yard box, the little Pharaoh sends in a pass which deflects off the foot of Daniele De Rossi, marked by Mateo Musacchio, the ball gets to Davide Calabria with his arms around Patrik Schick, the young Italian kicks the ball with his weaker foot to Federico Fazio, and the Argentine hits in the rebound to put Roma on level pegging.
Now let’s cast our mind back to the 3-2 defeat at the San Paolo against Napoli. The home side equalized the second goal from a corner kick. Jose Callejon hits the ball in from the left side flag, Tiémoué Bakayoko heads the ball out of the box, which fall to Piotr Zieliński, the Napoli midfielder shoots right from the edge of the 18yard and the ball finds its way into the back of the net.
Dissecting the problem.
Milan are failing to pick up these players who patrol outside the 18yard box. And they are mostly players with the ability to provide an incisive pass to create goal scoring opportunities. In the two instances narrated above, there was no sense of closing down both El shaawary and Zielinski when they received the ball.
The positioning of the defenders when a cross is sent in the box. Given Patrick Schick’s height and strength, it’s quite perplexing to see Calabria trying to put a brake on the Czech International. This should have been the job of Kessie or Bonaventura. Calabria invested his strength in his arm around the Roma forward, weakening his position to attack the ball as precisely as he should.
It must also be noted that Steven Nzonzi’s VAR disallowed goal also resulted from a corner kick.
Milan have a relatively youthful defense with a 19year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma in the post so the lack of experience almost always bites them. It will take time and patience for them to grow strong and mature together. Gattuso still needs to sort out the best center back partnership for Alesio Romagnoli. Mateo Musacchio is not the most popular in defense whiles Caldara is yet to start a game this season, but could be crucial in redefining the Rossoneri’s defensive identity. He may be the lynchpin in the defense.
Conceding four goals in two games is not the best way to kick start a campaign, It gives opponents confidence when anytime they are on the offensive and set jitters among the defenders. Milan must get the basic rules of defending right.
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Milan-Roma had the most buzz approaching the round and ended up being a pretty entertaining game. Another candidate could have been Sassuolo-Genoa, but, even though it was extremely high scoring, it was one-sided after the Rossoblù first goal. On the other hand, the San Siro clash was up for grabs until literally the final second.
Milan approached the fixture trying to shake off a disappointing final half an hour in Naples, where they squandered a two-nothing lead. La Lupa garnered four points so far, thanks to a clutch Edin Dzeko goal against Torino and then a spirited comeback versus Atalanta, where they had allowed three goals. Continue reading