Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 26 – Late Games

CROTONE-TORINO

Crotone: Simy bagged his eighth goal of the season, in pretty lovely fashion too, in the Atalanta game, but that was about it for their offensive production in a very demanding match-up. Adam Ounas, who was their top guy lately, and Samuel Di Carmine were late scratches and it is unclear whether they will be available for this one. Sans Ounas, they would lean hard on Junior Messias, who is seeking to snap out of a scoring slump. They lack punch in the midfield as Salvatore Molina, Ahmad Benali and Milos Vulic are all banged up, as Niccolò Zanellato, Jacopo Petriccione and Eduardo Henrique are not as offensively gifted. If one recovered, he would be among the top three options, instead the spot goes to Arkadiusz Reca (1 goal, 3 assists), who continues to wreak havoc down the left flank. Pedro Pereira is not as flashy, but he too has set up three teammates. Continue reading

Spinazzola makes amends for error to keep Roma on course for Champions League qualification

It was a week in which Roma realised that they wouldn’t be winning the Serie A title this season despite their earlier efforts in the campaign which had suggested that they could be contenders.

However at the same time no one but Inter looks like claiming the league title now not even 9 time champions Juventus who have themselves slipped 10 points behind Antonio Conte’s side.

For Roma now their objective has to be about qualifying for the Champions League and currently they are just 2 points from that target with Atalanta directly in their way. Roma played two games during this past week one was a defeat and one was a win.

The Giallorossi’s first match was at home to Milan, in 2nd place. It was a game that ended in a 2-1 defeat. By far at least in the 1st half Milan was the superior team, inventive and full of hunger for the win and it was a difficult moment for Paulo Fonseca’s side. However they almost went in at half time at 0-0.

But Roma gave away a penalty after a challenge by Federico Fazio. At first the referee saw nothing in the challenge but VAR did and upon review he changed his mind. Franck Kessie who has been on form for Milan made no mistakes from the spot and Milan went in at half time in the lead.

Just five minutes into the 2nd half however Jordan Veretout made it 1-1. Leonardo Spinazzola assisted for the goal and Veretout shot from the edge of the area. It wasn’t the most powerful shot and 8 times out of ten it would have been stopped, but it made its way through the crowd of defenders and beat the keeper and suddenly Roma, who had not played so well were level.

However Milan would get the final say as just past the hour mark Ante Rebic made it 2-1 with a clean powerful shot from the edge of the area and it was a fine goal. Roma would play better in the second half but the match just went away from them and petered out in the end. It was a bad loss from Roma and they needed to bounce back quickly, and thankfully for them they did.

The match up was against Fiorentina, always a tricky encounter and with Roma losing 2-1 to Milan, they made amends here and won this game by the same score line. The talk of the match though was about Leonardo Spinazzola who scored an own goal but later made amends by scoring for his club and helping them to earn 3 points.

Spinazzola opened the scoring early in the 2nd half but by the hour marked had levelled up the game for the home side. Roma were far the better side and were motivated to win the game but it looked destined to finish as a draw. However Amadou Diawara scored his 1st goal of the season for the club in the 90th minute and what a time to open his scoring account for the club. The players were overjoyed and the game was won.

Roma’s next match is at home to Genoa at the weekend and they will be the odds on favourites to win that. The last time the clubs met at Stadio Olimpico the game finished 3-3 and earlier in the season in the reverse fixture Roma won 3-1. Genoa have not beaten Roma in Serie A since 2014.

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Three Players Outside of Italy’s Top Six That Could Be on The Move

Italian football has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening the very livelihood of many of calcio’s sides. In most cases, the lack of revenue from ticket sales has meant subdued transfer windows. Nowadays, the very best players command a premium – prices most Italian clubs simply can’t afford.

As a result, sporting directors are forced to look within Italy to bolster their sides with a number of budding talents catching the eye.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at three players Italy’s giants should be taking a look at.

Gaetano Castrovilli (Fiorentina): The 24-year-old broke onto the scene last year as a relatively unproven talent and has since established himself as a regular for la Viola. Fiorentina’s instability has not helped Castrovilli, but the midfielder has still managed to stand out with five goals and two assists in 21 appearances.

Despite his side’s struggles, Castrovilli continues to dominate play and take his game to the next level. While he has impressed this season, it may be time for the Italian international to reconsider his future and leave his boyhood club. Federico Chiesa did so this summer and is benefitting as a result of it, thriving at Juventus.

Fiorentina’s pursuit of Maurizio Sarri can tilt the balances in their favour, but as of right now, Castrovilli should weigh all his options. If la Viola’s top brass are not serious about making wholesale changes, he might just be available come the summertime.

Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese):  Where would Udinese be without Rodrigo De Paul? It feels as if the Argentine maestro has singlehandedly saved the Zebrette from the drop zone in recent seasons. An all-action midfielder by nature, any club in Italy would be lucky to have De Paul in the middle of the park. The Udinese midfielder is versatile enough to play as the side’s regista, shielding the back four, or as the side’s number 10.

Juventus and Inter have both been heavily linked with a move over the years, with the former emerging as favourites. Inter’s midfield trio of Christian Eriksen, Marcelo Brozovic and Nicolo Barella is among the very best in Italy, making it difficult for De Paul to breakthrough. At Juventus, by contrast, the 26-year-old would slot in directly into the starting 11 and offer some much-needed creativity and industry in the middle of the park.

Italian clubs will have to act fast, however, as recent reports have suggested both Liverpool and Leeds United are keeping tabs on him. Both sides are expected to ramp up their pursuit in the coming weeks.

Mattia Zaccagni (Hellas Verona): Hellas Verona continues to surprise in Italy and punch above their weight. When looking at their starting 11, it is difficult to pinpoint one big name that consistently makes the difference. Upon closer inspection, however, that player just happens to be Mattia Zaccagni.

The 25-year-old has been a revelation under Ivan Juric, making a name for himself cutting in from the left-hand side of Hellas Verona’s 3-4-3. Operating in a free-roam role, Zaccagni combines to devastating effect with Verona’s frontline, drifting between the lines dangerously. The Verona man has shown no signs of slowing down this season, registering five goals and five assists in 20 appearances.

Napoli has been linked with a move for Zaccagni in January, but never pulled the trigger. Milan has reportedly kept tabs on the 25-year-old as well, given his ability to slot in anywhere across the frontline. Zaccagni has proven he can play on the left or through the middle, making him a great fit for either side. Given Hellas Verona’s low-profile, Zaccagni’s price should be modest.

Anywhere between 10-15 million euros should be enough to secure him, making him an intriguing fit for any side looking for some help in the final third.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 24 – Late Games

CROTONE-CAGLIARI

Crotone: as expected the Juventus clash proved to be too hard for them to overcome, even though Junior Messias got few shots off and Adam Ounas tried to get something going with his mazing runs. The duo will lead the way again here in a much easier fixture. Messias has bagged seven goals thus far, while Ounas scored on his second appearance with the Squali and will be facing his former team, which did not trust him too much. Samuel Di Carmine has quickly unseated Simy but has not really shined thus far. The coach initially tweaked his system in the past game, but the changes were not that profound. Salvatore Molina returned from a lengthy absence and he was dynamic early in the season (one goal, four assists). Milos Vulic has not made the stat-sheet but he has been very busy over the last couple of matches and could be due. Left-back Arkadiusz Reca (one goal, three helpers) has been one of their most consistent players. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23 – Early Matches

FIORENTINA-SPEZIA

Fiorentina: to nobody’s surprise, Dusan Vlahovic was again Fiorentina’s lone scorer in the past round, notching his seventh goal in the past 11 rounds. Franck Ribery was ruled out late and replaced by Christian Kouame, who had a decent but unfruitful display. With the Freshman still sidelined, that spot is up for grabs between Kouame, Valentin Eysseric and Jose Maria Callejon as neither has really separated himself from the pack. Kouame is the one with the highest break-out potential. Giacomo Bonaventura is coming on as he has posted one goal and one assist in the past four rounds, while Gaetano Castrovilli is continuing his disappearing act even though they rely on him a lot. Cristiano Biraghi (one goal, four helpers) has been a nice weapon throughout the season but he has not picked up bonuses in a long while. Kevin Malcuit and Aleksandar Kokorin would have some value if the coach decided to give him good minutes as they are in dire need of an offensive spark. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 22 – Remaining Games

BOLOGNA-BENEVENTO

Bologna: the time and effort put into turning Musa Barrow into a striker is starting to pay off as the youngster resurfaced after some quiet rounds with a clinical brace versus Parma. He now has five goals in the season. The move is working out also because Nicola Sansone has been very solid out on the left wing after shaking off an injury and he is coming off his best outing of the season as he dished two assist last week. Roberto Soriano (six goals, five helpers) also picked up offensive bonuses after a while as he set up Riccardo Orsolini, who came off the bench but still delivered. He is clearly on the rise as he has hit the net twice in the last four matches, on top of furnishing strong performances. Nicolas Dominguez should have an increased role with Mattias Svanberg suspended and Takehiro Tomiyasu is worth a flier now that it looks like he is going to stay at right-back. Continue reading

Juventus knock Inter out of the Coppa Italia as Conte clashes with Juve president

Inter are out of the Coppa Italia after their 2nd leg semi-final clash ended 0-0 against Juventus. The first leg was won by Juventus 2-1 and so Juventus have made the final.

After the final whistle though it appeared that Inter coach Antonio Conte had raised his middle finger to Juventus officials, some have pointed out that it was directed at the Juventus president. However there have been claims that Andrea Agnelli swore at Conte and tensions boiled over.

The game itself had its moments but as the time ran down and Inter who needed to attack more got few chances the writing looked on the wall that they wouldn’t be able to conjure up a great comeback. The game as a whole felt level and even though Inter had created 18 goal chances only 4 of those were on target.

In the early exchanges as expected Inter attacked and Lautaro Martinez felt he should have had a penalty but it was waved away. Soon after Romelu Lukaku came close with a thundering header which wasn’t too far off of its target. With nine minutes of the game to go Achraf Hakimi who has been very impressive in attack even if he is a defender came close to scoring with a superb shot and had that gone in it would certainly have changed the complexion of the game and we would have been in for quite an exciting last 10 minutes or so.

Inter coach Conte had this to say after the game, “ We paid for the first leg, for some gifts we gave them. We tried to score until the end, because with one goal, they would have had more difficulty. I’m sorry because these are matches that are played in 180 minutes. Today we tried in every way with desire and determination. You make mistakes you have to learn from mistakes and then start over and try again.”

While the disappointment of going out of the cup at the semi-final stage has dampened spirits throughout the Inter squad they will now have to refocus for their next league game at the weekend and it won’t be easy as it is against Lazio.

As for the league the title is still on and Inter are in 2nd place on 47 points and just 2 points behind Milan who keep winning. Last weekend Inter recorded their 14th win of the season from 21 games played as they beat Fiorentina 2-0 away from home.

Nicolo Barella opened the scoring for the visitors after an Alexis Sanchez pass and his curling shot from the edge of the area was a stunner. That was Barella’s third goal of the season.

Early in the second half Ivan Perisic made it 2 after Hakimi broke free down the right wing and squared it to Perisic who was unmarked and it was an easy slot in. Lukaku missed a few good chances but this was a game that was never in doubt and Fiorentina were quite toothless.

Inter’s will play Lazio next on Sunday evening at San Siro while Milan are away to Spezia a day earlier.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 21 – Early Games

FIORENTINA-INTER

Fiorentina: the news for them is that somebody not named Dusan Vlahovic managed to hit the net, as Franck Ribery bagged his first goal of the season with a pretty play against Torino. The Frenchman had indeed started to show better recently: he also has four assists in the season, but he has had an hiccup in practice, which could allow Jose Callejon or Christian Kouame to get the nod in this one. Giacomo Bonaventura has been their only other scorer in recent games and he showed up versus Torino with an assist, thus picking up bonuses in two matches in a row. His role will be bigger due to the suspension of Gaetano Castrovilli. Erick Pulgar, who is first in line to replace the teammate, has some value due to PK duties, but he has not done much this year, while Sofyan Amrabat could move to a more dynamic position. Cristiano Biraghi is a secondary option as he has tallied one goal and four assists thus far. Their defense has been quite stingy but the match-up is complicated. Continue reading

Federico Chiesa coming good under Andrea Pirlo

When Juventus announced they had signed Federico Chiesa from Fiorentina this past summer, it left many scratching their heads. The Italian international is undoubtedly one of Italy’s most promising young talents, however, his inconsistencies left a lot to be desired. Juventus had no doubts and wasted no time bringing in Chiesa, securing him with a crafty deal in place.

The Italian champions agreed to sign Chiesa on a two-year loan deal and pay Fiorentina 40 million euros over four years. While it may seem a hefty price-tag for a player who is not yet world-class, his signing is now looking like the bargain of the summer. Chiesa has taken his game to the next level since joining Juventus, establishing himself as one of the first names on Andrea Pirlo’s team-sheet. the 22-year-old has also become a regular with the national team and will likely make the trip to Euro 2021 with an important role, barring any setbacks.

Equally capable of playing on either wing, Chiesa has carved out an important role for himself in Pirlo’s hybrid setup, offering some much-needed speed and unpredictability in the final third. The 22-year-old’s best game in a Juventus shirt could not have come at a better time, leading the Bianconeri to a crucial victory over Milan.

Chiesa combined to devastating effect with Paulo Dybala, slotting home his side’s opener past a helpless Gianluigi Donnarumma. When Milan found the equalizer, the Azzurri winger got right back at it, tormenting Theo Hernandez. Chiesa  would inevitably find the winner, completing his brace and stepping up an a crucial moment. Hernandez will not soon forget about Chiesa, with the former Viola man consistently getting the better of him.

Chiesa has since built off that impressive performance with goals in back-to-back games against SPAL and Sampdoria and is starting to look like the real deal. The 22-year-old has put his past struggles behind him and has significantly improved on his end product. Whether he’s bursting past his man or looking to filter in a dangerous cross, Juventus – without a doubt – is a better team with Chiesa on the pitch.

What is most encouraging for Juventus beyond his recent progress is his performances in big games. Cheese has demonstrated an ability to make the difference when it matters – something Juventus will be counting on as the month of February rolls around. The Italian champions lock horns with Inter, Napoli, Roma and make their highly-anticipated return to the Champions League against Porto.

There will be plenty of opportunities for the 22-year-old to further assert himself in Pirlo’s preferred lineup and continue his development. Juan Cuadrado’s recent rebirth has meant Chiesa has to fill in a left midfield, at times, but it hasn’t stopped him one bit. The Italian international most recently found the back of the net from that position, getting on the end of Alvaro Morata’s cross to tap home.

While 40 million euros may seem like a lot, the crafty setup of the deal makes Chiesa’s arrival affordable. Regardless, his price-tag is slowly fading into the background as his top performances continue to pile up. A move to Juventus is exactly the type of transfer Chiesa arguably needed to make the leap into an elite winger, with the 22-year-old taking full advantage of life under Pirlo. As of right now, Chiesa is Juve’s X-factor in the final third and Pirlo will be turning to him to provide the goods. Whether he continues to do so remains to be seen, but as a plethora of big games coming up, Chiesa will be raring to go.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19 – Remaining Games

BENEVENTO-TORINO

Benevento: they surely had a weird faux pas versus Crotone for a team that had been mostly steady so far. Moreover, their most prolific guy as of late, Marco Sau, got sent off from the bench and the always lively Roberto Insigne hurt his ankle, which makes him very questionable for this match. The only positive note was that Iago Falque managed to return after a long time on the shelf and bagged a lovely goal, the first of his campaign, but he has generally fared well whenever available to play. He remains an option even though the coach stated that he is not ready to start. The injuries could thrust him into a major role this one, while Gianluca Caprari, who was banged up going into the previous contest, will surely return to the XI: he is their leading scorer with four goal. Gianluca Lapadula is their tip of the spear but has not hit the net since early November. With Pasquale Schiattarella and Gaetano Letizia missing, Riccardo Improta and Artur Ionita are set to be their secondary playmakers, but they have not picked up many bonuses so far. Aggressive midfielder Andres Tello could have a big role as well. Continue reading