Lazio’s sensational form is no coincidence – they’ve fixed two long-standing issues

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Nothing beats a late winner.

That’s what Lazio have learned lately, most recently when Felipe Caicedo swivelled his hips and fired a shot into the bottom corner to snatch victory at Sassuolo last weekend.

It was a crucial goal, one that saw the capital club pull two points clear of Roma and Cagliari in third place and continue their outstanding domestic form with a fifth consecutive Serie A victory.

But after the dust settled, there was another great positive to take from the game. Continue reading

Fiorentina-Lecce Preview: Chiesa left out of the squad

The season has not gone well so far for Fiorentina, last week’s dire loss to Hellas Verona pushing them down to 10th in the table. Injuries have certainly played their part, but at this stage there is no denying the fact that both Vincenzo Montella and his squad have underperformed up to this point of the Serie A campaign.

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Serie A Round 14 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

With another action-packed match-day in store for us, it’s time to look ahead and get your fantacalcio sides ready. Juventus will be hosting Sassuolo as Inter take on SPAL. With just one point separating the two sides, Antonio Conte’s men will be looking to maintain the pace with the Italian champions.

With match-day 14 upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your elevens. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Robin Olsen (GK, Cagliari, Value 13.65) – The former Roma goalkeeper has been in sensational form to begin the season, putting last year’s woes behind him, but has since been suspended for the next four match-days. It comes at an unfortunate time for both him and Cagliari as the Sardinians are competing for European places.

In addition, the Swedish international has been rock solid between the posts and has established himself as a crucial piece to Rolando Maran’s setup. For the time being, use the 13M on a backup keeper and perhaps a creative midfielder.

Federico Chiesa (FWD, Fiorentina, Value 13.99) – There’s currently a power struggle going on between Federico Chiesa and Fiorentina. The Italian international has reportedly set his sights on a move to one of Italy’s top dogs, with Inter and Juventus both expressing interest. Determined to make Chiesa the face of their rebuild, however, Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso is reluctant to sell the young winger. Chiesa was frozen out of the side in their most-recent defeat, with Montella claiming that he was out of shape mentally and physically.

This week, Montella confirmed that Chiesa will miss the side’s upcoming clash against Lecce with a thigh injury, as well. The 22-year-old has not been at la viola’s training ground all week, fuelling speculation that he may be on his way out. At 13.99M, you would be wise to freeze Chiesa out of your fantacalcio sides yourself. I hear Atalanta have a few interesting forwards…

Sami Khedira (MID, Juventus, Value 10.92) – The former German international started the season well, but has since slowed down, with many calling for him to be benched. In Juventus’ most recent Serie A win against Atalanta, Khedira was anonymous and was a constant liability down the bianconeri’s right-hand side. While the penalty he conceded was rather unfortunate, it was merely the tip of the iceberg of his poor performance.

With Rodrigo Bentancur impressing in mid-week and Emre Can eager to prove himself, it may be  time for Sarri to look elsewhere in Juventus’ midfield ranks and bench the much-maligned Khedira. Regardless, his price-tag is still too high for a player who simply does not produce. For example, you can afford Juan Cuadrado for the same price. Are you braver than Sarri?

Rodrigo De Paul (MID, Udinese, Value 9.21) – Continuing with the theme of struggling midfielders, Udinese’s Rodrigo De Paul makes this week’s list. The Argentine international was supposed to break through this season, emerging as a crucial player for the Zebrette, but nothing of the sort has taken place. With Udinese hovering over the relegation zone, De Paul is going to need to step up. In his 10 appearances this season, the 25-year-old has one goal and one assist – a far cry from last season’s impressive tally of nine goals and eight assists.

Given the side’s lack of creativity in the middle of the park, the Udinese man is burdened with much of the offensive work in the final third. While his fortunes should change, Udinese take on a high-flying Lazio side this weekend. As a result, it would be wise to keep De Paul out of your elevens for the time being.

Kalidou Koulibaly (DEF, Napoli, Value 8.53) – Since establishing himself as one of the league’s elite defenders, Koulibaly’s stock has never been lower. With the ongoing player mutiny at Napoli, the partenopei have struggled for results and their rearguard has suffered. In fact, Napoli have only managed to keep one clean sheet in their last eight games – a scoreless draw against Genoa. While Koulibaly has largely been solid over this stretch, he hasn’t been blameless either and has been committing mistakes with more regularity, indicating that his head may be elsewhere.

Napoli’s performance against Liverpool was encouraging and could serve as a turning point in their season, but with the tense atmosphere at the club unlikely to change, it could go either way. Despite his immense quality, I would temporarily swap Koulibaly out of my side, especially considering the threat Bologna pose on the counter through Riccardo Orsolini.

Hellas Verona Vs. Fiorentina: Preview

With the last international break of the year in the rearview mirror, Fiorentina return to action against Hellas Verona on Sunday looking to bounce back from a string of poor results. A win over Sassuolo is the only victory Vincenzo Montella’s men have recorded in their last five outings, held to draws by Brescia and Parma while suffering defeats to Lazio and Cagliari.

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Serie A Round 13 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

The international break came and went and it’s now time to look ahead at this weekend’s clashes with a particular focus on your fantacalcio sides. In this weekend’s big clashes, Juventus are travelling to Bergamo to take on Atalanta while a struggling Napoli side will be locking horns with Milan. Otherwise, Antonio Conte’s Inter will be looking to keep the pressure on Juve with a win against Torino.

With match-day 13 upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Adrien Rabiot (MID, Juventus, Value 4.5) – The French midfielder has struggled for playing time and continuity since joining Juventus and will likely be sidelined for a couple more games through injury. When the former PSG man joined the Italian champions, much was expected from him. With Juventus struggling for technical options in the middle of the park, many thought Rabiot was a perfect fit for Sarri. Since the beginning of the season, however, the former Chelsea tactician has opted for the veteran presences of Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira in his place.

As a result of his lack of playing time, rumours have surfaced that Rabiot is looking at alternatives across Europe. Despite his low price-tag, keep him out of your sides for the foreseeable future.

Dries Mertens (ST, Napoli, Value 13.93) – The Napoli hitman started off the season in sensational form but has since slowed down in recent weeks. With a player revolution on the cards in southern Italy, expect Napoli’s woes to continue. While Milan haven’t exactly epitomized defensive solidity, their most recent performance against Juventus was encouraging and they’ll look to continue that against Napoli.

Given Ancelotti’s wide range of options on the bench, be-it through Fernando Llorente or Arkadiusz Milik, it’s possible Mertens is subbed out early if his indifferent form continues. At 13.93M, it’s a good idea to look elsewhere for now.

Nikola Milenkovic (DEF, Fiorentina, Value 18.69) – After a good run of form, Vincenzo Montella’s viola have been brought back down to earth. Following their 1-1 draw against Parma, Fiorentina took on a high-flying Cagliari side and got dominated from the first minute, losing 5-2. While they are favourites on paper against Hellas Verona, the newly-promoted side have demonstrated that they are no pushovers scoring goals against Inter and Juventus.

Factor in their defensive commitment and this won’t be an easy game for Fiorentina. Given Milenkovic’s elevated price-tag and his side’s recent struggles at the back, you would be wise to temporarily swap him out of your fantacalcio sides.

Luis Muriel (ST, Atalanta, Value 16.49) – The Colombian striker, much like Mertens, started the season in top form and was finding the back of the net with ease. However, in recent times, his goalscoring touch has left him and he hasn’t scored in his last three games. With a game against Juventus on deck, it won’t get much easier for Muriel.

The bianconeri have conceded the least amount of goals in Italy and have looked increasingly solid at the back as the weeks have passed. Despite Atalanta’s free-scoring nature, expect this game to be a tight affair. As a result, it’s difficult to justify Muriel’s 16.49M price-tag.

Mario Balotelli (ST, Brescia, Value 6.96) - Supermario hasn’t enjoyed the best of times since his homecoming and has struggled to find the back of the net this season. In addition to his goalscoring woes, Balotelli was recently racially abused by Hellas Verona’s faithful; abuse that has reportedly weighed on the former Milan man even beyond the pitch. 

This week, Balotelli also had a training dispute with new manager Fabio Grosso and was sent home early. Considering all these factors, it appears Balotelli needs time to regain his focus. At 6.96M, it’s worth looking into other low-cost options.

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Time for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to wake up from hibernation and join in the fun at Lazio

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Lazio passed their autumn test with flying colours.

A demanding run of league fixtures between the October and November international breaks, interspersed with Europa League outings, promised to be the make-or-break moment of the season for Simone Inzaghi’s side after a mixed start.

It’s safe to say that taking 13 points from a possible 15 in games against Atalanta, Fiorentina, Torino, Milan and Lecce exceeded expectations.

Not only that, but it left the Biancocelesti in third place, albeit on goal difference, restoring their Champions League dream. Continue reading

One to Watch: Riccardo Sottil

With the international break upon us and plenty of U-21 football on deck, it gives us time to reflect on some of Italy’s budding talents. Chief among them is Fiorentina winger Riccardo Sottil. Since Rocco Commisso has taken over, la Viola have been committed to producing Italian players and are keen on giving these players a platform to express themselves. Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli are but two examples of Fiorentina’s success with youth and represent a clear direction in place in Tuscany. Sottil appears to be the next Azzurrini in line to take Fiorentina by storm. 

The 20-year-old is a natural winger by trade and joined Fiorentina’s youth ranks from Torino in 2016. He first featured for Montella’s men as a sub in 2018 against Sampdoria, coming on for Chiesa. This season, Sottil has featured with more regularity and has demonstrated signs that he’s ready to take the next step in his career. Montella, a manager notorious for his handling of youth, has entrusted the young winger this season, as evidenced by his seven appearances this season.

His most impressive outing was undoubtedly against Napoli in the first match-day of the season, where Sottil got deployed from the start. The 20-year-old was a constant menace and terrorized Mario Rui until the Portuguese fullback was inevitably subbed off. Using his incredible turn of pace, Sottil took on his man every opportunity he got and earned six fouls, the most of anyone on the pitch. This performance was a glimpse of what Sottil is capable of.

Beyond his directness, Sottil is a versatile winger. Whether Montella instructs him to increase the depth of the side or stretch the opposition wide, Sottil is eager to listen to his manager’s instructions. However, the Fiorentina man is at his best when hitting the opponent on the counter and thrives when there’s space to run into. Moving forward in his career, Sottil will need to diversify his game and develop the qualities needed to break down low blocks. Currently, the 20-year-old is largely used off the bench but could feature with more regularity with a bit more consistency.

Sottil also represents the Italy U-21 sides and has thrived on the wide right of their front-three. Most recently, the 20-year-old found the back of the net against Ireland in a 3-0 win. Despite his goal, Sottil is yet to regularly contribute in the final third and will need to add end-product to his game. The Fiorentina man is one of the league’s paciest customers and is able to get himself in dangerous areas, but needs to be better at finding the final ball. Once that happens, both Italy and Fiorentina will add yet another mercurial winger to their ranks.

Alongside Chiesa and Castrovilli, Sottil has the opportunity to take Fiorentina forward into a new era. An era that predicates the importance of Italian youth and an era that, hopefully, will bring more silverware than the last. Despite his clear talent, he remains one to watch as there are areas of improvement for the young winger. Regardless, it appears that Sottil is ready to take Serie A by storm.

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Lazio are flying high again – but are they too dependent on Ciro Immobile?

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It never ceases to amaze how quickly moods shift and narratives change in football.

This time last week, the critics were sharpening their knives as Lazio headed back from Glasgow, having thrown away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 for the third time this season against Celtic.

It extended the club’s winless run to three games and left the Biancocelesti with a fairly bleak outlook in Serie A and in the Europa League.

But a 2-1 win away to Fiorentina on Sunday was followed by the capital club’s best performance of the season on Wednesday, as they blew away Torino with a magnificent 4-0 victory in Rome. Continue reading

What to Watch For in Serie A: Round 8

Round 8 sees a jam-packed schedule of Serie A fixtures coming our way out of the international break, with plenty of fascinating storylines to sort through.

Let’s break down what you should be watching for this weekend around Italy’s top flight. Continue reading

On the Rise: Gaetano Castrovilli

Every Serie A season a new wave of talents break onto the scene and steal the headlines. This season has been no different as countless youngsters have staked their claim to make a name for themselves. Fiorentina’s Gaetano Castrovilli is one of these players. Making the most of his regular minutes under Vincenzo Montella, the 22-year-old has now established himself as a key member of la Viola’s eleven.

Typically fielded as a mezz’ala (outside of the midfield three), Castrovilli is able to make the most of his enterprise and drive his team forward. Currently, the midfielder’s 2.6 dribbles per game is the fourth most in Serie A and is a clear sign Montella turns to him to progress the ball in the midfield. 
When he’s not driving with the ball at his feet, Castrovilli has proven to be a willing runner without it. In many ways, his game is eerily similar to that of Juventus legend Claudio Marchisio. He’s at his most dangerous making late, unmarked runs into the box and has proven to have a knack for being at the right place at the right time.
In possession, the Fiorentina man is equally as impressive and plays positively whenever given the chance. Castrovilli is currently averaging 1.4 key passes per game and is becoming a creative threat in the middle of the park. Alongside Milan Badelj and Erick Pulgar, the 22-year-old has carved out a role for himself as the ‘runner’ of the midfield trio, offering industry both in and out of possession. In Badelj, Castrovilli and Pulgar, la Viola currently possess one of the league’s most technical midfield units, capable of covering ground and protecting their defence in the process. 
Most recently, the young midfielder notched his first goal in Serie A in Fiorentina’s 3-1 win over Milan. Castrovilli was excellent against the rossoneri and gave the viola faithful a glimpse of what’s hopefully to come from him.
Considering newly-appointed Fiorentina president Rocco Commisso wants to usher in a new era in Tuscany, predicating the importance of quality and youthful Italians, expect Castrovilli to become a center-piece of his vision. Alongside Federico Chiesa, the 22-year-old can help his side put last season’s woes behind them and kick off a new era. 
Montella has had success with young players in the past and we’re already starting to see his impact on the side. Currently, Fiorentina sit two points out of fourth place having already played Napoli, Juventus, Atalanta and Milan. Moreover, despite the results not always going their way, Montella’s men have looked the better side in most, if not in all, of these games. As their schedule gets easier, expect la Viola to keep climbing up the table with Castrovilli emerging as a key man.
If the 22-year-old is able to maintain this level, a national team call-up shouldn’t be too far away. While Italy’s midfield ranks are currently congested with the likes of Stefano Sensi, Marco Verratti and Jorginho, gli Azzurri lack a true mezz’ala beyond Inter’s Nicolo Barella. Having already qualified to Euro 2020, expect Mancini to experiment and Castrovilli to get a chance with the senior setup.
After all, he’s earned it. 
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