Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four

Juventus-Verona: the Old Lady had a subpar performance in Florence but obviously will be in a much better spot this week at home against a relegation struggler. Cristiano Ronaldo usually does not go scoreless for long and Gonzalo Higuain is not a bad pick either, as for now the coach has refrained from using Paulo Dybala there. Douglas Costa, who was their go-to-guy so far, will miss time, so Federico Bernardeschi and Juan Cuadrado will return to prominence. Until the coach entrusts one of the newcomers, Aaron Ramsey in particular, Sami Khedira remains the most appealing midfielder for his offensive dexterity. Their defenders are surely worth consideration. Continue reading

Fiorentina Wish For Easier Opponent In Week Three

Having started the season with two defeats, the last thing Fiorentina needed this weekend was a meeting with Juventus. A heart-breaking 4-3 loss to Napoli was followed up with a dire display away to Genoa, but Vincenzo Montella must now prepare his side for a clash against their bitter rivals from Turin.

With the international break giving him two weeks to prepare, the Viola boss could be forgiven for wishing they were facing an easier opponent but the new Fiorentina President insists he is calm about the situation.

“We’ll have to win a game sooner or later,” owner Rocco Commisso told La Gazzetta dello Sport recently. “Now what matters is that the lads work well during the break, in a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone, from Montella to the last of our players. I have to be supportive and not put any pressure on them. I’ll be back for the match against Juve, but if it goes badly then I’ll watch our next few matches on TV!”

The break also saw the end of the transfer window, and Fiorentina were very busy, working the market until the last second to strengthen their squad as much as possible. Montella is expected to keep the 4-3-3 formation he used in the first two games, with many of those new faces – including Martin Caceres, Pedro, and former Leicester City man Rachid Ghezzal – only earning a place among the substitutes.

Franck Ribery is likely to make an appearance from the bench too, meaning the attack will once again feature Kevin-Prince Boateng, Federico Chiesa and Riccardo Sottil. The midfield is filled with the kind of gritty, dynamic players who often cause Juve problems as Milan Badelj will be flanked by impressive youngster Gaetano Castrovilli and set piece specialist Erick Pulgar,

The defence now looks complete, Brazilian left-back Dalbert providing a good balance with Pol Lirola on the opposite flank as German Pezzella and Nikola Milenković marshal the centre of the field. But the latter pair know their hands will be full on Saturday afternoon. Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo have both already been among the goals for the Bianconeri, while Douglas Costa looks reborn under Maurizio Sarri’s more attacking approach.

This match is also expected to see Adrien Rabiot get his first start in Juve colours following his summer move from Paris Saint-Germain, the Frenchman featuring alongside Miralem Pjanić and Sami Khedira in midfield.

Giorgio Chiellini’s absence will be huge for both sides, and his injury might be a major factor in the coming weeks as the Old Lady takes on some difficult opponents. Matthijs de Ligt showcased his huge potential at Ajax, but against Napoli last time out the Netherlands international looked lost as the Partenopei mounted a spectacular comeback.

Without their skipper De Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci will need to be vastly improved in the face of a testing Stadio Artemio Franchi atmosphere, and Fiorentina will certainly look to push Juventus from the opening whistle.

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Three

Fiorentina-Juventus: despite the two tough losses, la Viola showed some intriguing stuff up front against both Napoli and Genoa. The potential is there, but the whole team needs to tighten up and build up some chemistry. Franck Ribery is primed to get more minutes after the break and they should finally counter-balance a line-up that is always too reliant on Federico Chiesa. The ones that will benefit the most are the centre-forwards and for the time being Kevin-Prince Boateng will likely be the top option until Dusan Vlahovic and Pedro find their footing. Gaetano Castrovilli has already shown that he can be dangerous with his cuts, while Erick Pulgar hit the net twice on penalties and will have more opportunities to put his shooting prowess to good use in a slightly modified role. Continue reading

Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

A tranquil week on the transfer market, as the team gear up for their Serie A debut and for the final torrid days of the session, but it still included some meaningful transfers especially among the minnows. The biggest signings were made of by Fiorentina, which convinced Franck Ribery, and Napoli that found their new offensive weapon in Hirving Lozano.

Roma instead added Davide Zappacosta on an initial six-month loan from Chelsea, with an option to extend it until the end of the season. Continue reading

Fiorentina sign Franck Ribery

Franck Ribery has agreed to a two-year, €8M contract with Fiorentina, as announced on Wednesday. A move the shows the ambitions of La Viola’s new ownership, as the former Bayern start was a still coveted free agent even in the twilight of his career.

Ribery left the German giants after 12 years, where he amassed over 400 appearances and scored 124 goals. In Munich, he won the Champions League in 2013, alongside the UEFA Supercup and the Club’s World Cup, and prevailed in Bundesliga nine times, six in the domestic cup and five in the supercup. He was named UEFA’s player of the year when they triumphed in Champions League. He racked 81 caps with France over his 12-year run. Continue reading

Sleeping giant Bayern Munich are planning for dominance next season

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The season in Germany is of course not over but it has been an awkward one for the giants of the country Bayern Munich.

Usually dominant in the Bundesliga Bayern simply haven’t had it all their own way this season and have had to play second fiddle to Borussia Dortmund for most of it. True as they go into this weekend Bayern are on top, but that’s only on goal difference. Either Dortmund or Bayern will win the league this season and that looks like it will go right down to the wire.

Bayern’s Champions League exit at the hands of Liverpool underlined that the team needs refreshing. Stars such as Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, loyal servants are too old and they will need to be moved on in the summer. Nico Kovac the young Croatian manager has been under intense pressure this season with even Arsene Wenger linked to the job. Truth is Kovac has inherited an aging team who at times haven’t always been hungry for success.

The good news for Bayern is that club President Uli Hoeness has promised that the club will spend big in the summer, and he’s not lying. Indeed Bayern have already splashed the cash with the confirmation of Lucas Hernandez for an incredible £68m. Hernandez will join from Atletico Madrid in July and be ready for next season.

It does appear that Hoeness who has been famous in the past for tightening  the clubs purse strings is putting his mouth where the money is and delivering on his promise and Bayern fans will be excited to hear what he had to say. Hoeness recently said: “If only you knew (the names) we have lined up for next season. We can’t make announcements right now. Everyone here would go mad and we still have goals to reach in the current campaign. We’ve saved. We’re well prepared for the summer. Our director of sport (Hasan Salihamidzic) has it all under control.”

Exciting times look to be around the corner for Bayern who have not won the Champions League since 2013, and since the rebranding took place in 1993 have only won the competition twice despite appearing in numerous finals. But also the current domestic season has not been good enough even if they win it, because just being able to win it is very un Bayern like. Think, for example, PSG winning Ligue 1 on the last day of the season.

Bayern mean business and it will be interesting if they will be able to attract the players they want. With Real Madrid reportedly having a huge spending package this summer it could turn into quite a transfer tussle between the two teams this summer- whoever is selling will benefit.

Are Bayern Munich in crisis?

It looked to have been a mere blimp in Bayern Munich’s season but picking up just one Bundesliga point from an available nine has raised questions around the Säbener Straße. A 1-1 draw against Bavarian rivals FC Augsburg was followed by a 2-0 defeat to Hertha Berlin and a 3-0 hammering against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday evening.

Just one goal in three games isn’t your typical Bayern Munich. This is an elite European club that has won six consecutive Bundesliga titles and if things don’t change imminently, there could be real problems ahead. Continue reading

Have Bayern Munich had a poor transfer window?

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With just weeks remaining in the Germany transfer window, there’s a sense around the Bundesliga that the champions haven’t quite recruited as well as many predicted. With Serge Gnabry returning from a loan spell at Hoffenheim and Leon Goretzka joining on a free transfer from Schalke, there’s a strong argument suggesting that Bayern have had a poor summer.

Granted, Bayern Munich once again dominated the league after they finished 21 points ahead of closest challengers Schalke but teams around them have strengthened immensely, while Niko Kovac’s side perhaps have not.

Under new management, Borussia Dortmund lost Andriy Yarmolenko, Sokratis, Gonzalo Castro and Andre Schurrle who all had mediocre campaigns while they’ve added to their squad with the arrivals of Abdou Diallo, Thomas Delaney and Axel Witsel, all of whom will strengthen areas that had come under criticism last season. Should Favre & Co. add a striker to their squad in the closing weeks, then there’s no reason as to why they can’t challenge Bayern Munich this season.

Schalke have strengthened their squad even with the departures of Max Meyer and Goretzka, both on free transfers. Salif Sane arrives in Gelsenkirchen from Hannover to shore up Schalke’s impressive defence while they’ve added Mark Uth from Hoffenheim on a free transfer, who scored 14 Bundesliga goals last season. Both players add further experience to Schalke’s squad while the duo will likely slot straight into Domenico Tedesco’s starting XI. Add to that the signings of Suat Serdar, Omar Mascarell and Hamza Mendyl, it’s fair to suggest that the Royal Blues have had an impressive summer window.

Elsewhere, while Bayer Leverkusen have added Germany right-back Mitchell Weiser and 18-year-old Brazilian Paulinho to the squad for a combined £26 million, Heiko Herrlich and sporting director Rudi Völler have done well to keep Julian Brandt, Kai Havertz and Leon Bailey at the club, all of whom had been linked with a move to the Premier League.

Lastly, with both Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig also boasting a relatively impressive summer transfer window while keeping hold of their key players, it’s fair to suggest that Bayern Munich may just have a bit of competition this season as their look to retain their Bundesliga crown.

Given Bayern Munich’s stature, they’re not afraid of spending €40 million on a player and with Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge suggesting that they spend €100m on a player should the right one become available, it comes as a surprise to some fans that they haven’t splashed out as many had hoped.

Even more so given that Franck Ribery nor Arjen Robben are getting any younger. There’s no denying the duo have been Bayern’s most consistent players over the past 5-10 seasons but there comes a point in life when it’s time to move on. With Champions League football and a good cup run on the agenda, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to play on a Saturday and then again midweek, which provides Kovac with a problem.

They appear to be short in the wide areas and it comes as no surprise that fans were disappointed when Bayern Munich sold Douglas Costa to Juventus. The Brazil international is just the wide player that the Allianz Arena outfit should be looking to keep, with Kinglsey Coman and Gnabry used intermittently. Of course, the deal for Alphonso Davies to join the Bundesliga champions in January is a smart move, but just 18 when he joins Bayern, he’s another player who isn’t yet in his prime which could prove costly in vital fixtures.

Add to that the departure of Arturo Vidal and potential transfer of Sebastian Rudy to either RB Leipzig or Schalke, Bayern Munich also look short in midfield, with James Rodriguez, Thiago, Javi Martinez and Corentin Tolisso the only viable options, with Renato Sanches yet to prove his worth.

Reports also suggest there’s also a deal in place for World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard to join Bayern Munich in 2019, but they really should be looking to make that move this window, given the poor form of Jerome Boateng while the Frenchman can also provide cover for Joshua Kimmich at right-back.

And thus, it comes as no surprise that Bayern Munich fans feel rather disappointed with how this transfer window has gone. The signing of Leon Goretzka was a statement of intent but failure to act on that could prove costly for the reigning champions with their rivals strengthening in key areas.

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