Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Ten – Remaining Games

VERONA-CAGLIARI

Verona: as usual, a date with a top team brought the best out of the Scaligeri, who withstood Atalanta for an hour and then got the W thanks to a PK by Miguel Veloso and an outstanding goal by Mattia Zaccagni, his first of the year after he had dished four assists. Samuel Di Carmine did not exploit his chance to lead the front-line and Andrea Favilli was more dangerous when he subbed in, so he will probably get the nod relieving the injured Nikola Kalinic is this one. Antonin Barak is in great form and he is their leading scorer with three goals. Darko Lazovic is most likely going to be sidelined again, but Marco Faraoni returned and Federico Dimarco has been a weapon on the left flank. Despite some absences, their pecking order has become pretty clear and Ebrima Colley and Eddie Salcedo have not shown well enough to be promoted from their bench role.

Recommended picks: Barak, Favilli, Zaccagni.

Cagliari: after a rough start, they looked like their normal selves versus Spezia, actually throwing away a win they had in hand despite the major voids left by that Diego Godin, Nahitan Nandez, Gaston Pereiro and Giovanni Simeone contracting COVID and Adam Ounas joined the list late. That leaves them with very limited options on the wings behind Riccardo Sottil, who has pretty lively, and it is possible Gabriele Zappa moves up from full-back, as he has done in Serie B but also in some previous games: he has set up three teammates thus far. The good news is that Leonardo Pavoletti bagged a great goal in his first start in forever and is going to be able to hold down the fort while Simeone goes to through the protocol. Joao Pedro delivered again, scoring his sixth goal in nine matches, on top of two assists. On the other flank Alessandro Tripaldelli and Andrea Carboni do not provide the same punch as Charalampos Lykogiannis, who is nursing a calf injury. Marko Rog and Razvan Marin have very limited opportunities to attack in their role as pivots.

Recommended picks: Pedro, Pavoletti, Sottil. 

 

PARMA-BENEVENTO

Parma: coach Fabio Liverani did switch to a more offensive scheme after a suggestion from above, but not to the diamond formation they used to open the season, but to a 4-3-3 with Gervinho and Yann Karamoh together, which worked out pretty well as the former scored his second brace of the season and the latter was pretty exuberant, but that has often been the case this season. Andreas Cornelius returned to the XI but he did not do much and neither him or Roberto Inglese have been effective so far, as both are still looking for the best form after some injuries. In theory, Cornelius should be the more prolific of the two. Juraj Kucka served a great assist and both him and Jasmin Kurtic are secondary weapons as box-to-box. Hernani returned from a rib injury and he has been surprisingly involved in the final third as he has notched two goals and one assist, but his role is TBD. Maxime Busi looked overwhelmed in his first start and they have lost both Riccardo Gagliolo and Giuseppe Pezzella on the left, so Vincent Laurini should be the next man up.

Recommended picks: Gervinho, Karamoh, Cornelius/Inglese.

Benevento: they came away with a great point versus Juventus thanks to a smasher by right-back Gaetano Letizia, who found the target for the second time in the campaign. Gianluca Caprari was held in check in his first game back from a suspension, like Gianluca Lapadula, but that was to be expected in a tough match-up and they will be in a better spot this week. They both have three goals and two assists to their names. Riccardo Improta has been the surprise of the last couple of matches, he decided the Fiorentina one, and it looks like he is here to stay, either as offensive-minded box-to-box or supporting the strikers. Roberto Insigne has notched one goal and one assist but he has been hurt a little by Improta’s rise. They have started to move Artur Ionita around the formation more, but he has remained pretty underwhelming. Marco Sau has registered two assists off the bench.

Recommended picks: Lapadula, Caprari, Improta.

 

UDINESE-ATALANTA

Udinese: a late COVID outbreak forced them to field an experimental lineup against Lazio and it worked wonders as the light front-line feasted on open spaces, with both Ignacio Pussetto and Fernando Forestieri finding the target. They will be in the same position this week and the only available alternative up front is Gerard Deulofeu as Kevin Lasagna, Stefano Okaka and Ilija Nestorovski and are unlikely to be cleared in time. They will face a side with comparable characteristics as well. Their leader Rodrigo De Paul has notched two goals and one assist in the past four matches, while Roberto Pereyra is finally turning it up with two straight helpers after a so-so start of the season. Wing-backs Jens Larsen and Marvin Zeegelaar are decent parts of the offense but that yet to yield a bonus.

Recommended picks: Pussetto, De Paul, Forestieri.

Atalanta: the Orobici’s offense continued to sputter in the past two matches and so many of their linchpins are not in great form. Duvan Zapata has looked the worst with multiple misses and also Alejandro Gomez’s stocks are plummeting. Josip Ilicic and Luis Muriel have been a little better eye test-wise, but neither has been a consistent scorer. Robin Gosens has arguably been their best weapon lately but he had to do deal with a pair of injuries. With Ruslan Malinovskyi and Aleksey Miranchuk out with COVID, the coach is giving some playing time to Amad Diallo as change-of-pace guy and he has actually done pretty well and a goal could be forthcoming. Despite their lack of goals, the chances have been there so they could snap out of it at any time. There could be some rotation with the pivotal Ajax match-up coming up, which could lead to major minutes for Sam Lammers and Matteo Pessina.

Recommended picks: Ilicic, Gosens, Lammers/Zapata.

 

CROTONE-NAPOLI

Crotone: another futile effort for the Squali’s attack last Sunday in Bologna, a team that had always conceded in the previous 41 fixtures. They have collectively struck out in three matches in a row and they will now run into a buzzsaw. Their target man Simy has three goals in the season, but he has not been fed regularly over the last few matches. Their secondary weapons Junior Messias and Ahmad Benali are banged up, Emmanuel Riviere, who had scored in the opener is hurt, so the lineup is pretty much up in the air. At least Salvatore Molina returned pretty decently from COVID and Milos Vulic continues to progress in his role as playmaker, but the lack of end product makes them a team to avoid. Arkadiusz Reca has provided two assists.

Recommended picks: Simy, Molina, Vulic.

Napoli: they had their best display of the season versus Roma, which was accompanied by the return of a scheme utilizing three central midfielders, although it was not a straight 4-3-3. Piotr Zielinski featuring freed up Fabian Ruiz, who not coincidentally scored his first goal of the season with a superb daisy-cutter, then the Giallorossi’s defensive woes did the rest. Dries Mertens is back after a little lull as he has found the target in two consecutive matches, Lorenzo Insigne made the stat-sheet after a five-game absence, although he had an assist in the previous round, while Matteo Politano continues to be pretty consistent even though he has to split time with Hirving Lozano, who has slowed down significantly. Therefore, all their weapons are humming even though they are likely going to miss the biggest of ‘em all, Victor Osimhen.

Reccomended picks: Mertens, Insigne, Politano.

 

FIORENTINA-GENOA

Fiorentina: the turnaround has yet to arrive despite the coaching change and they have failed to score in the past four matches. They have one of the easiest match-ups on the docket, so it would be very troublesome if their struggles continued this week as well. The situation has brought everybody down, including Gaetano Castrovilli (four goals, one assist), their lone productive player up to this point. Cesare Prandelli is tinkering with the tactics and gave José Callejon the start against Milan but neither him or Franck Ribery appear to be in acceptable shape and Dusan Vlahovic is engulfed by defenses way too easily, but Patrick Cutrone has not done much better in his cameos. Giacomo Bonaventura might get a shot this week to have more zing, either as winger or as box-to-box. Even though he has not look great, most of their offense is engineered by Ribery.

Recommended picks: Castrovilli, Ribery, Bonaventura.

Genoa: Gianluca Scamacca had a big chance versus Parma but did not deliver this time, while Eldor Shomurodov got the start, fared well and found the target on a good-looking play. However, the coach has gone back to 3-5-2, so there is room for just one between the Uzbek, Goran Pandev and Marko Pjaca (two goals). He has also decided to rely on a grittier midfield, sidelining Nicolò Rovella and Miha Zajc for Stefano Sturaro and Lukas Lerager. Hierarchies obviously are not set in stone and he will be scrambling for every possible solution since he is on the hot seat and Rovella has been one of their top performances up to this point, while the ex-Empoli man has been unimpressive this season. The scheme surely boosts wing-backs Luca Pellegrini and Paolo Ghiglione (two assists), who have a high ceiling in the offensive phase.

Recommended picks: Scamacca, Shomurodov, Ghiglione.

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AC Milan 2-0 Fiorentina: Three things we learned as Rossoneri comfortably secure three points

Milan continued their good run of form with an important win this afternoon, beating Fiorentina courtesy of goals from Alessio Romagnoli and Franck Kessie. Several big teams, such as Atalanta, Juventus and Lazio, all dropped points and therefore, it was important to further extend the lead at the top.

The Rossoneri are now five points ahead of Inter in second place and the extent of their lead will be decided this evening with Napoli-Roma. Not many would have predicted Stefano Pioli’s men to sit at the top of the standings at this stage of the season, but it’s not a big surprise either. Continue reading

Fiorentina fire Iachini and bring back Prandelli

Seven rounds into the season, Serie A has its first coaching change as Fiorentina announced on Monday the sacking of Giuseppe Iachini and the return of Cesare Prandelli. The Viola have obtained just two wins so far, versus Torino and Udinese, drew with Spezia and lastly Parma and lost to Inter, Sampdoria and Roma. They sit in 12th position, five points away from the Europa League zone. Continue reading

Wins over Fiorentina and Cluj boost Roma as Fonseca hails the Chris Smalling effect

Roma have recorded two good wins over the week, one in Serie A where they put in a solid performance beating Fiorentina and the other in the Europa League which was a crushing 5-0 win against CFR Cluj.

The victory over Fiorentina means that Roma are in 8th place and are unbeaten in their last five games earning 11 points in that time. Form has been good with 3 wins from their past four matches.

Leonardo Spinazzola opened the scoring for Roma and he was effectively set up by a huge kick from goal keeper Antonio Mirante. But Spinazzola still had much work to do and kept the ball well before a deft turn in the Fiorentina area found him his desired space and he slotted home with ease. It was a great goal to get the game going.

Late in the second half Pedro scored from a few yards out and the ex Barcelona man was never going to miss from that range. That gave the game to Roma who ran out 2-0 winners. Roma had 7 shots on target to Fiorentina’s one  and so the result was never going to be in doubt.

Roma are looking good in the Europa League too and they beat CFR Cluj 5-0 and it has been reported that Cluj’s coach Dan Petrsucu will immediately leave the job after the game. Having lost 5-0 that may well speed up the process.

The game was set in stone within just a few seconds of kick off after Henrik Mkhitaryan opened the scoring for the hosts and Borja Mayoral scored a brace before Pedro popped up to finish the game off in a very easy win for Paulo Fonseca’s team.

Smalling doing the business in Italy

Paolo Fonseca has hailed the importance of having Chris Smalling at Roma. The player initially joined the club on a loan from Manchester United but the Italians have now signed him on a permanent deal. Fonseca said: “We have three young lads in defence, so it’s important to have someone like Chris who is more experienced and more of a leader. It’s a very important figure to have. The whole team put in a good performance against a strong opponent (Fiorentina). We were solid in defence today, doing well to break quickly on the counter. Lorenzo Pellegrini is a very intelligent player who can take on different roles, just as we can play with three at the back or four.”

As for fantasy points Jordan Veretout leads the way and he has amassed 20 points so far. Next weekend Roma will play Genoa away from home.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Seven – Other Games

CAGLIARI-SAMPDORIA

Cagliari: they were again productive on the offensive end as Giovanni Simeone and Joao Pedro both found the target, registering respectively the fifth and the fourth goal of their campaigns, but some defensive problems did them in versus Bologna. While Riccardo Sottil had scored in the previous game, Adam Ounas came off the bench really well and could get an opportunity to start in this one. Nahitan Nandez has enjoyed a more offensive role but has yet to post goal or an assist, while Marko Rog and Razvan Marin’s contribution in the final third is limited, even though the ex-Ajax could make up for it with his set piece prowess. Their fullbacks have both been very good, as Charalampos Lykogiannis has found the net once and Gabriele Zappa has provided two assists. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Six – Top Matches

INTER-PARMA

Inter: Romelu Lukaku suffered a thigh injury that will cost him at least one game and the Nerazzurri will have to make up for the loss of their target man, something that rarely happened last year. Alexis Sanchez is dealing with a small problem as well, therefore Lautaro Martinez, who has slowed down after opening the campaign with three straight goals, will have to shoulder the attack, then they will hope Andrea Pinamonti can be decent right away. They also briefly used Ivan Perisic as second-striker in the last game. Stefano Sensi is back on the shelf with his customary muscular problems: Christian Eriksen had some flashes last week, but so far him and Marcelo Brozovic have produced nothing too exciting. Their best midfielder has been Nicolò Barella (two assists), while Arturo Vidal has mostly taken care of the dirty work. At some point Radja Nainggolan will get in on the action, but it has not happened yet. Fortunately, Achraf Hakimi (one goal, two assists) was a false positive and he will resume plowing the flank from the start here, while Ashley Young has shaken off the virus and will challenge Ivan Perisic, who has been solid (two assists) but has not really taken off. Their back-line has improved with Alessandro Bastoni back in the fold.

Recommended picks: Martinez, Perisic, Hakimi.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Player of the Week: Gaetano Castrovilli

Fiorentina has been a talent hub in recent seasons, producing a number of top quality players from its youth academy. La Viola has not shied away from giving young players a platform to shine and have reaped the rewards, selling their stars for significant transfer fees. Most recently, Federico Chiesa made the move to Juventus for a reported fee of 50 million euros, leaving a gaping hole in the final third for Beppe Iachini’s men. Gaetano Castrovilli has since stepped up wonderfully in Chiesa’s absence leading Fiorentina to a narrow win over Udinese.

As a result of his man-of-the-match performance, Castrovilli is our Serie A fantasy player of the week.

Gaetano Castrovilli vs. Udinese: 

Goals: 2

Assists: 1

Fantacalcio points: 15

Castrovilli was deployed on the left-hand side of the midfield three, alongside Sofyan Amrabat and Giacomo Bonaventura. The Italian international excelled from this role and got forward to devastating effect against Udinese. Castrovilli opened up the scoring shortly after the ten-minute mark, connecting wonderfully with Cristiano Biraghi. The Viola midfielder made a late, unmarked run into the box and quickly pounced on Biraghi’s cut-back into the box.

Castrovilli’s impressive passing range was on display for Fiorentina’s second goal when the midfielder found himself in space with the ball at his feet. The 23-year-old scanned his options and delivered an inch-perfect cross to a welcoming Nikola Milenkovic. The towering defender headed home with ease into an empty net, doubling Fiorentina’s lead.

Castrovilli would not be done there and was once again at the heart of the action after Udinese pulled one back via Stefano Okaka. This time around, Castrovilli picked up possession deep into midfield and drove forward at the Udinese rearguard at will. The 24-year-old spread possession wide to Biraghi and unmarked himself at the top of the box. Castrovilli wasted no time with the ball at his feet and fired a curling effort into the top corner, and put the tie to bed. Once again, the midfielder demonstrated he is capable of adding end product to his repertoire and he can take the game to the opposition.

Last season, Castrovilli showed glimpses of his potential and dazzled with the ball at his feet, but often left a lot to be desired at the final step. This season has been a completely different story for the young midfielder. In fact, Castrovilli has already surpassed last season’s tally of three goals, already registering four on the season. In addition, the 24-year-old has demonstrated he is ready for a new challenge and is ready to emerge as a crucial piece to Iachini’s setup, even in Chiesa’s absence.

The Juventus man played an integral role in Fiorentina’s attack last season, but Castrovilli’s recent emergence is encouraging. While the two players occupy very different positions, Castrovilli has shown he can contribute significantly to the side’s attack and is ready to become a creative force in the final third.

Fiorentina will now shift their attention to Padova in the third round of the Coppa Italia before taking on Roma next weekend. For now, Castrovilli is your Serie A fantasy player of the week for matchday five.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Five – Other Games

SASSUOLO-TORINO

Sassuolo: the Neroverdi were tested by Bologna, but they reacted vigorously and nabbed another win thanks to goal by their usual difference-makers, Francesco Caputo (fourth in the season), Domenico Berardi (third) and Filip Djuricic. The Serbian attacker started off slowly but found the target in the last two outings. Gregoire Defrel and Lukas Haraslin have hampered by injuries, while Jeremie Boga and Nicolas Schiappacasse had to deal with COVID, so the final spot in their front-line is up for grabs. Hamed Traore has first dibs if the absentees do not return, but Maxime Lopez could be an option as well. At some point they will have to start using Boga, but he missed a lot of practice time because of the virus. Mert Muldur and Georgios Kyriakopoulos have yet to turn it on this season, while Manuel Locatelli and Mehdi Bourabia have both hit the net once despite their role. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four – Other Games

BOLOGNA-SASSUOLO

Bologna: the Felsinei have been unconvicing in their two road games, against Benevento and Milan, while they hanged four goals on Parma on their lone home one. They had their chances against the Sanniti but could not knock one through. They lost Andreas Skov Olsen for significant time during the break and so Riccardo Orsolini will recapture the starting job, but he will have to watch out for Emmanuel Vignato if he does not wake up. Musa Barrow has taken a bunch of shots but has yet to score, the leading man in that regard has been Roberto Soriano and also Rodrigo Palacio has notched one. The absences of Gary Medel and Andrea Poli will force them to field either Mattias Svanberg or Nicolas Dominguez, who carry more value because they participate more in the final third. Sassuolo tend to leave some room to counter and they have a pair of speedsters. Continue reading

Do Juve really need Federico Chiesa?

In the end, Juventus got their man, just. Only hours remained of the transfer window when it was officially announced that the club had signed Federico Chiesa from Fiorentina.

Juve had to shift some pieces of the jigsaw around in order to get the 22-year-old; a Douglas Costa loan move to Bayern Munich here and a Daniele Rugani loan move to Rennes there, freed up the necessary funds in order to get the Chiesa deal finalised.

As has been the story of this Covid-influenced transfer window, Juve signed Chiesa on a two-year loan deal, but in reality it’s just a creative method of staggering the payments for the winger.

So everyone was happy: Juve got their man, Chiesa got the move he wanted a year ago, and Fiorentina offloaded a player who clearly didn’t want to be there for a cool €50m. But is Chiesa actually what the champions need?

There is no doubting Chiesa’s talent. The son of Parma and Sampdoria legend Enrico has seemingly unlimited barrels of energy, and can skip past players at will, when in the mood. Yet since his graduation to the first team at Fiorentina, Chiesa’s decision-making has been questionable. Too often he has beaten an opposing defender in a one vs. one situation, only to produce an inadequate cross or fail to pick out the correct pass. On occasion he’s simply been guilty of supreme selfishness, aiming for goal when a colleague was in a better position.

Chiesa posted 10 goals and six assists in Serie A last season for the Viola, a respectable record for a player in a side that finished 10th. Yet it should also be pointed out that he took more shots on goal than any of his teammates, with an average of 3.3 per game. Next in line was striker Dusan Vlahovic, with 2.2.

On the verge of his 23rd birthday, Chiesa is still incredibly raw. His development has been hampered by a succession of coaches at Fiorentina utilising him in a myriad of different positions, thus denying him the possibility to hone his ability in one position. Vincenzo Montella, Paulo Sousa, Stefano Pioli and now Beppe Iachini have shifted Chiesa everywhere from right wing-back to left winger, via stints as a second striker and attacking midfielder. It’s left the player as a non-accomplished jack-of-all-trades, and certainly a master of none. It’s a wonder Chiesa hasn’t been tried out at centre back, given the poor performances of Federico Ceccherini recently.

So where does Juve’s new €50m signing fit in Andrea Pirlo’s starting XI, and was Chiesa an essential purchase?

Due to the lack of pre-season games, Pirlo has been given little margin for experimentation as Juve boss thus far. In their opening game of the season against Sampdoria, Juve lined out in a 3-5-2 formation. A week later Pirlo changed to a 4-4-2 in order to accommodate the returning Alvaro Morata, but the switch didn’t work, and Juve played like the ghost of Maurizio Sarri had returned for one final game.

Speaking of ghosts, for the game that wasn’t against Napoli on Sunday, Pirlo had intended to line up in a 3-4-1-2 system. Should Pirlo return to this set-up in matches that actually happen, then this could be where Chiesa is set to play, replacing Juan Cuadrado on the right-hand side.

Chiesa’s arrival also gives Pirlo the option to utilise a 3-4-3 system, with Chiesa either being deployed as a right-winger, or on the right in the four-man midfield.

Whilst plotting theoretical positions for Chiesa is all well and good, do Juve actually need him? The answer is no, they don’t. Sporting director Fabio Paratici should’ve prioritised signing a right-back, with Danilo fluctuating somewhere between injury and unconvincing since joining the club from Man City a year ago. Cuadrado has done fine job as a makeshift right-back, but the Colombian is now 32, and defensively suspect, as is the case with someone who spent the majority of their career playing as a right winger.

Midfield is still another fragile position that’s been underfunded over the last half decade, with the shadows of Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal still looming large. It’s early days in Weston McKennie’s Juve sojourn, but the American produced a positive display against Sampdoria on his debut. Is he the Vidal-replacement the team has required for five years? Only time will tell. The signing of Arthur may alleviate the creative burden from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Dejan Kulusevski, but the Brazilian lacks the dynamism the midfield area so badly requires.

Bringing things round to Chiesa once more, recent history isn’t on his side. Giorgio Chiellini, signed by Juve in the summer of 2005, remains the last player to arrive from Florence and succeed. Since then, the likes of Felipe Melo, Neto, Valeri Bojinov and Federico Bernardeschi have all made the switch and failed to make an impact, and in the case of Melo, damagingly so.

There are similarities between Chiesa and Bernardeschi, the most recent player to make the jump. Like Chiesa, Bernardeschi arrived at Juve as the Viola’s brightest star in the summer of 2017 with a price tag of €40m. Furthermore, Bernardeschi, again like Chiesa, possessed some degree of versatility. This has proved to be his downfall at Juve, with the Carrara-native operating in various positions in the final third of the pitch, and in the process blunting his own skillset. The club would’ve accepted an offer to offload him during the transfer window, but there were no serious takers.

The pressure is firmly on Chiesa now to make the qualitative leap that playing for Juve demands. He wanted the big move for over a year, and now he’s got it. His father Enrico never got to play for Italy’s biggest club, it’s up to Federico to demonstrate that he’s more Roby Baggio or Chiellini, than Melo or Bojinov.

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