Results: Roma and Juventus shared the spoils in an entertaining fixture to cap off the Sunday slate. Napoli demolished Genoa, Milan easily got past Crotone, while Verona nipped Udinese to stay perfect in the season. Inter furiously rallied back late against Fiorentina, while Lazio breezed past Cagliari and Atalanta toyed with Torino, so the three ‘top four’ teams that had their opener delayed were all successful. Among the newly promoted teams, Benevento got off to a brilliant start as they mounted a glorious comeback against Sampdoria, tough sledding instead for Spezia, which run into an in-form Sassuolo. Bologna trounced Parma on Monday night. Continue reading
Sampdoria: the Blucerchiati tried to stay close in the Juventus clash but, despite a moderate surge at the beginning of the season half, they were not threatening. The coach kept initially Fabio Quagliarella and Gaston Ramirez on the bench and that was costly. The Uruguayan had some good plays upon subbing in and he is generally the stick that stirs the pot for them, as they do not have much creativity throughout the roster. Federico Bonazzoli struggled as main reference point, Fabio Depaoli, Mehdi Leris and Jakub Jankto did not much of note. However, in an easier match-up, Jankto and Morten Thorsby could be more proactive. Continue reading
Fiorentina: despite not changing all that much, the Viola have brought in some new interesting pieces during the transfer market window, such as Sofyan Amrabat, who is suspended in this one, Giacomo Bonaventura and Cristiano Biraghi, who seems poised to stay after a solid season at Inter. However, their coach and attack are the same, which means we can expect something akin to what happened in the restart, where Franck Ribery and Gaetano Castrovilli served as the main playmakers, Federico Chiesa was the most consistent scorer, while Christian Kouame, Dusan Vlahovic and Patrick Cutrone, all capable but otherworldly strikers, fight for one spot. The ex-Genoa forward seems to have separated himself from the pack a little during the summer. Bonaventura is supremely sneaky.
Suggested picks: Chiesa, Ribery, Kouame. Continue reading
Manuel Locatelli has adapted wonderfully to life under Roberto De Zerbi at Sassuolo and has since attracted interest from Italy’s giants, including Juventus. According to recent reports, however, the Neroverdi are reluctant to part ways with their midfield maestro and have slapped a 40 million euros price-tag on Locatelli. But who exactly is the Sassuolo man?
Position: Centre midfielder
Height: 185 cm
Locatelli has emerged as one of Italy’s premier talents this season, dominating the proceedings in the middle of the park. Despite his imposing physique, the former Milan man is extremely technical and thrives with the ball at his feet. Locatelli combines a wide range of passing with impressive vision and has since established himself as one of Serie A’s finest registas. The 22-year-old has regularly proven to be a willing runner in the midfield and is unafraid to jump into a tackle.
In fact, Locatelli was recently called up by Roberto Mancini to Italy’s senior national team setup, rewarding his good season at Sassuolo. Locatelli initially came through Milan’s youth ranks, breaking into the first team in 2016. The 22-year-old spent three years with the Rossoneri, making 48 appearances before being loaned out to Sassuolo.
His move to Sassuolo helped Locatelli get his career back on track and develop into one of Italy’s finest midfielders. Roberto De Zerbi’s possession-based system has undoubtedly helped him in this respect and makes the most of Locatelli’s qualities. The former Milan man averaged an impressive 88% pass completion percentage last season and registered five assists, indicating he’s slowly adding end product to his game. In addition, Locatelli averaged 1.5 key passes per game last season and combined wonderfully with Sassuolo’s dynamic front three.
Jeremie Boga, Francesco Caputo, and Domenico Berardi formed one of the league’s deadliest frontlines last season, interchanging dangerously at will in the final third. With Locatelli and Pedro Obiang behind them, the Neroverdi emerged as one of Italy’s most intriguing sides, imposing their style of play wherever they went. As next season approaches, Sassuolo will be eager to retain their star men, especially Locatelli.
Locatelli has played an integral role in their recent rise, acting as the anchor in midfield. While the links to Italy’s giants persist, it will be interesting to see if the former Milan man will take the leap. If his recent form is anything to go by, however, Locatelli has proven he has all the qualities to do so and carve an important role out for himself at his future club.
Juventus have reportedly been keeping tabs on the 22-year-old and have had several meetings with Sassuolo. The Bianconeri are currently in the midst of rejuvenating their midfield, adding the likes of Weston McKennie and Arthur. Locatelli’s arrival would represent a continued shift in transfer policy for the Italian champions, highlighting their desire to revolutionize their ageing roster and reduce the wage bill.
While Locatelli may not be ready for a starting role with Andrea Pirlo’s men, the Sassuolo man is more than ready to play significant minutes and offer some much-needed quality in the midfield. Juventus struggled last season in the middle of the park and could use a midfielder of Locatelli’s ilk.
Locatelli’s recent call-up indicates he’s ready to take the next step in his career and become a regular with Gli Azzurri. The midfielder has represented Italy across all youth levels and has demonstrated he can cut it at the highest level. As a move to Juventus beckons, Locatelli will be eager to translate his recent form with Sassuolo to a bigger club and keep establishing himself as one of Italy’s most promising young midfielders.
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No major surprises among the 11 selections, which mirror pretty well how the fantasy season has gone.
Samir Handanovic (63 points): it has been a pretty challenging year for defenses, especially in the restart, and nobody really put up elite numbers when it comes to conceded goals. Inter surrendered the least, 36, which is pretty pedestrian if we compare it with previous seasons, but six fewer than any other team, as Lazio allowed 42 and Juventus 43. Handanovic came in second with his 13 clean sheets, on a par with Gianluigi Donnarumma, trailing Udinese’s Juan Musso by a single unit. Continue reading
SPAL: they were thumped early against Verona and failed to generate any semblance of offense, interrupting a mini-streak of consecutive matches where they had managed to score. Their agony will finally end here after a terrible season. Marco D’Alessandro has been their best player in the resumption, while Andrea Petagna and Gabriel Strefezza were the most reliable ones in the first part of the season. Mattia Valoti and Federico Di Francesco came back from their injuries and they could be worth a flier-
Suggested picks: D’Alessandro, Petagna, Valoti. Continue reading
Parma: Dejan Kulusevski willed them to victory, again, versus the lowly Brescia with an assist and a scorcher and he is finishing his stay in style, while Gervinho has been pretty paltry in recent matches, scoring just once in the last seven. Gianluca Caprari took advantage of his increased minutes and converted a PK, while among the other back-ups Luca Siligardi has been the liveliest. Roberto Inglese is tough to trust since his minutes are still spotty. Juraj Kucka returned from a short absence and he and Jasmin Kurtic are surely capable of doing damage offensively. Matteo Darmian is coming off his first goal of the season and also Riccardo Gagliolo notched one lately but their fullbacks will have their hands full defensively in this one.
Suggested picks: Kulusevski, Kucka, Caprari. Continue reading
Milan: the Rossoneri came out on top again versus Sassuolo, exploiting the one-man advantage like the veteran team they are. Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted a brace to snap out of a short slump and Hakan Calhanoglu continued to do his thing with two more assists. The Turk has been raining hellfire for a while now, while Ante Rebic’s scoring binge has abated a little bit, but he obviously remains a strong option. They will not have two key men in Ismael Bennacer and Theo Hernandez and their replacements are not on the fantasy radar. Alexis Saelemaekers and Franck Kessie also found the target recently, but in easier match-ups. Giacomo Bonaventura has picked up few bonuses but he is a risky play because of his sporadic minutes.
Suggested picks: Calhanoglu, Ibrahimovic, Rebic. Continue reading
Atalanta: they were stymied a bit by their mini clones of Verona, but Duvan Zapata still came through, scoring for the third game in a row, and they had few chances to win it especially with Mario Pasalic, who was coming off a hat-trick. Ruslan Malinovskyi was not as effective in the Josip Ilicic’s role, while he had shined as pure no.10, in lieu of Alejandro Gomez, and that is something to monitor because El Papu does not rest often, while Ilicic is in poor conditions and will be managed cautiously. Luis Muriel might be a better candidate for that spot, while Pasalic is always very involved offensively whenever he is fielded. No doubts on the flanks this round around since Hans Hateboer is suspended and both Robin Gosens and Timothy Castagne are strong options.
Suggested picks: Zapata, Gomez, Muriel. Continue reading
Standings implications: Juventus topped Lazio, not without some troubles, and moved considerably closer to Scudetto, as the other chasers slowed down since Inter shared the spoils with Roma and Atalanta could not make Verona bend the knee. Napoli and Milan stay at the same level as they were both successful, the Rossoneri versus Bologna, the Partenopei against Udinese. While that is inconsequential with Napoli taking home the Coppa Italia, the Devil got closer to Roma and built a sizeable cushion over Sassuolo, which were held to a tie in Cagliari. Fiorentina kept it going against Torino.