Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 20

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Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is suspended, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) are banged up after the Supercoppa, but they could recover by Monday. Mario Mandzukic will be on the mend for a couple more weeks and Medhi Benatia remains iffy with a sore groin.

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne, Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Dries Mertens is trying to shake off an ankle sprain and his presence is not 100 percent certain. Marek Hamsik is not expected to come back from his thigh strain. Raul Albiol is fatigued, but available.  Continue reading

Serie A Injury Report – Round 17

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Juventus: Sami Khedira should be back to the squad list after missing time with an ankle sprain. Joao Cancelo, Juan Cuadrado (knee) and Andrea Barzagli are not expected to return in 2018.

Napoli: Simone Verdi is likely to be called up as he has been working with the rest of the team for a week now. Mario Rui missed the last game due to muscle fatigue and has been excluded from the squad list again. Alex Meret has a sore shoulder that needs to be monitored. Allan has been ruled out due to back pain.

Inter: Kwadwo Asamoah is suspended. Matias Vecino (thigh) and Dalbert (calf) have been on the sidelines for the last few games, but they will be available. Joao Miranda is fatigued and is very likely to miss the game. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 14

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Standings implications: Juventus continue to roll and toppled Fiorentina, but Napoli outlasted Atalanta away. Roma showed great character against and the big match of the round ended in a 2-2 draw. Milan put together a gritty comeback against Parma: a valuable result that allowed them to leapfrog Lazio, which got halted by Chievo. Sampdoria finally got a win trouncing Bologna, which are officially in trouble. SPAL and Empoli shared the spoils in a very well played game, similarly to Frosinone and Cagliari. Torino downed Genoa with two quick goals at the end of the first half, while Sassuolo-Udinese was scoreless. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 14

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Wojciech Szczesny: the Polish goalkeeper has been a major contributor in two of the last three Juventus wins. They have the best scoring defense in the League, which usually tightens up in the more difficult matches, and will square off against a team that has failed to score more than once in their past seven fixtures.

Francesco Acerbi: Chievo are showing signs of improvements, but they have been dismal offensively so far, netting just ten total goals and finding the target only in three of their seven home games. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Udinese vs Milan

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Most of the fixtures were lopsided in the weekend, but Udinese-Milan, albeit decided by a single goal, was intense and certainly a ton of fun. The Bianconeri were coming off a 2-2 tie against Genoa on the road, which gave Julio Velazquez some breathing room after four losses in a row. The Devil prevailed in the midweek make-up game against the Griffon and therefore racked up four wins in the past five games.

The Argentinian coach tinkered with his system, using Ignacio Pussetto as trequartista, giving Hidde Ter Avest his first start on the flank and deploying Rodrigo De Paul in the midfield over a more defensive option. Continue reading

Serie A Game of the Round – Milan vs Atalanta

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The most enthralling game of the weekend was certainly Milan-Atalanta, which was hard fought until the final whistle. The Devil came into the game after a disappointing draw in Cagliari, where they did not play well and were lucky to come away with a point. Atalanta were eager to bounce back as well, since they were coming off two bitter losses to SPAL and Cagliari.

Gennaro Gattuso deployed his usual line-up, with Mateo Musacchio retaining his starting job because Mattia Caldara got hurt. Gian Piero Gasperini instead continued to tinker with his formation, sending out Mario Pasalic in the hole and Musa Barrow as centre-forward. Continue reading

Is Lucas Biglia really irreplaceable for AC Milan?

“Biglia? It may seem like Lucas is my son, but these are players with precise characteristics. When I say that he is irreplaceable, I say it strongly. I’m not biased, he has the specific qualities I need. He is a fundamental player on a tactical level: he filters, he gives compactness and closes many lines of passing. He can make a few mistakes, but he has characteristics that few in this team have.’’ Those were views of Gennaro Gattuso when quizzed about the performance of Lucas Biglia after the 2-1 defeat of AS Roma.

Not a lot of Rossoneri fans will be enthused by Gattus’s remarks about Lucas Biglia been irreplaceable, because more is expected from the Argentine. Biglia endured a challenging first year at Milan last season as he struggled to influence games from his position. Instead, he was guilty of costly errors either from a back pass or an inability to shield the ball when press by two opposing attackers. Mistakes that opponents used to punish Milan. These miscalculations was once again witnessed when Milan played Napoli at the San Paolo as Piotr Zieliński  pulled one back after Biglia lost control of the ball in front of the 18yard box.

Truth be told the 32 year-old Argentine did creditably well in the first half of that game, it was actually his pass that found Suso on the right before the Spaniards cross was headed down for Bonaventura to volleyed home. But it is worth noting that, Biglia was substituted for Tiémoué Bakayoko in the 58th minute in the second period of the Napoli game.

So has Lucas Biglia suddenly find form, and if so, what does Gattuso’s irreplaceable comment mean?

Certainly, Gattuso has shown Biglia is replaceable if he fails to perform to his expectation and he proved it when he hurled him out of the first game in Naples. Meaning the Argentine must continue to produce a higher consistent performance to enjoy the current found love of his coach. Rino did also issue a warning thatWhen I see players who don’t believe in what I say then I’ll go home.”

Biglia has not failed to show his quality as a player and what he can offer Milan on a good day, but his lack of consistency has become a source of frustration for many Milanisti. The Argentine does not affect games quite like Miralem Pjanić does for Juventus or Jorginho previously for SSC Napoli. At least not with his passes. There is considerable concern about his sideways balls to colleagues, his lack of competence to thread balls through the middle to find a player in open space and his timing to pick a pass.

The position of a deeper lying player maker has been clearly defined by Italian Legend and Midfield Maestro Andrea Pirlo since his days at San Siro, and he has become the paragon by which others are judged. In recent times Jorginho who just joined Chelsea from Napoli has performed in somewhat equal measure, but perhaps, no one may exhibit the class and vision of Andrea Pirlo on the ball, someone who controls the game from behind. And Milan is yet to find someone who would produce anything close to what their former midfielder yielded during his 10years stint with the Diavolo. It never happened with former Captain Riccardo Montolivo.

These days, defenders such as Leonardo Bonucci, Jerome Boateng, Segio Ramos, Kalidou Kolibaly Giorgio Chiellini are showing the quality of driving forward and providing passes from deep to create scoring opportunities in attack. AC Milan is missing that from Biglia. Another downside to his game is the obvious lack of pace he shows when Milan is under siege. He is easily bypassed by attacking opponents, maybe needs more protection from Franck Kessie because he is not a ball winner.

Gattuso remark about Biglia been indispensable could also be looked at from another perspective which could be justified. And that is there is a lack of quality replacement for the Argentine. In the absence of Biglia, the only player capable of playing satisfactorily in that role is Riccardo Montolivo. A player whose name sparks derision from a lot of Rossoneri fans, and that’s partly because just like the current occupant of that position, he failed to meet the demands of that role. Manual Locatteli deputised for Biglia last season, but has been sent on loan to Sassuolo to gather more experience and Andrea Bertolacci will require a leap of faith from Gennaro Gattuso to have a look into the starting eleven.

Despite the visible potential of Tiémoué Bakayoko, the Frenchman is currently finding it difficult to convince fans outside France that his outstanding performance for AS Monaco in the 2016/17 title winning season wasn’t deceptive. Last night, at the Sardegna Arena against Cagliari, Bakayoko came on for Giacomo Bonaventurar, and once again failed to have a telling effect from midfield. The on loan Chelsea midfielder may thrive as the season grows, but he needs a bit of Serie A education during training sessions.

Lucas Biglia may be irreplaceable for Gattuso, but that’s because there is no quality substitute on the bench.

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Serie A Match of the Week – Milan vs Roma

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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

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 2

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After some flashes in the first match day, the second one is more intriguing on paper.

Juventus-Lazio: the Old Lady had to toil to defeat Chievo, but the attack confirmed to be deep and hard to contain, even though few players had an off game, while the defence needs some fine-tuning. Cristiano Ronaldo was electric, but teammates had troubles finding him and Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa suffered from the fact that the spaces were all clogged up. Among the forwards, Federico Bernardeschi certainly looked the most in-form. Perhaps things will be a little more open against better competition. The Portuguese was devastating on the wing, which is good news for Mario Mandzukic, his ideal partner in crime, and for Alex Sandro as well because he had much more room to operate. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 37

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Welcome to the second edition of the Serie A recap.

Standings implications. Juventus are now mathematically champions, but there was no doubt about that following the previous weekend’s results. Roma had already locked up a Champions League berth before even playing thanks to Inter’s loss. The undermanned Lazio salvaged a point in Crotone and have now a three-point margin heading into next week’s showdown with the Nerazzurri. Milan qualified to Europa League, Atalanta almost certainly because they hold a three point and seven-score advantage in the goal difference over Fiorentina. Sampdoria are out of the running. Next week’s games will determine who will have to go through the exhausting playoffs starting in July. Continue reading