Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 20

Lazio-Sampdoria: despite a fairly muted performance, the Biancocelesti came out on top versus Napoli last week, for the second week in a row propelled by a late Ciro Immobile goal. The capocannoniere keeps producing and has already reached the 20-goal threshold. He has scored their last three goals. Joaquin Correa will be limited, so Felipe Caicedo might get another chance to start and he has posted three goals and two assists in limited action in the last five appearances. Luis Alberto will be looking to pad his assist numbers (12), while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has reverted back to his less efficient self after a hot stretch. Senad Lulic will be suspended, so Jony is set to play on the left wing and he is a willing crosser. The Eagles have been airtight at home. Continue reading

Fiorentina hire Iachini after ousting Montella

Fiorentina announced Saturday morning that they have relieved Vincenzo Montella from his duties as head coach following the Friday night’s 1-4 romp against Roma. La Viola have not won since October 30th and have accumulated five losses and two draws in the past seven rounds. They are currently 14th in the standings, four points above the last three places and 11 away from the Europa League zone. On Monday, the club announced to have reached agreement with Giuseppe Iachini on a 18-month contract, which reportedly includes an out clause at the end of the season.

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PREVIEW: Fiorentina-Roma

A huge Friday night game awaits at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, AS Roma travelling north to take on a Fiorentina side in desperate need of a positive result. Having lost their four previous Serie A fixtures, La Viola bounced back with a stunning draw against Inter on Sunday, Dusan Vlahovic’s late strike securing a share of the points for Vincenzo Montella’s men.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 17

Fiorentina-Roma: with Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli at half service due to physical problems, Dusan Vlahovic stepped up and saved the day against Inter. The Serbian prospect had gotten some decent run before but without doing much with it and instead delivered off the bench. Chiesa and Castrovilli are considered day-to-day and they are their two most best contributors, so their level of competitiveness will hinge on their recoveries. Kevin-Prince Boateng got the start after a while and had only minor chances, but they might have to rely him a lot in this one and he is listed as a midfielder, which makes him a bit intriguing depending on their injury situation. The other okay elements like Marco Benassi and Erick Pulgar have been silent for a long while. Dalbert has outplayed Pol Lirola as far as fullbacks are concerned. Continue reading

Three Midfield Options for Juventus

Four months into the Maurizio Sarri era and Juventus remain undefeated, both in domestic and European play. While most of the bianconeri’s wins have been close affairs, there have been glimpses of Sarriball in full flow. Paulo Dybala has returned to his typical lofty standards while Gonzalo Higuain has redeemed himself following indifferent loan spells. At the back, Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt have formed a formidable partnership, backstopping the Italian champions. In midfield, however, concerns remain.

Beyond Miralem Pjanic, Sarri has rotated Blaise Matuidi, Sami Khedira and Rodrigo Bentancur among others but is yet to establish his best midfield three. After all, other than the Bosnian international, they all lack the necessary quality to play for Sarri. As a result, Juventus need reinforcements in the middle of the park. Here are three names within Serie A they can target when the window reopens in January.

Sandro Tonali (Brescia) - The midfield maestro has been in sensational form since making the step up to the top flight and would fit like a glove in Sarri’s possession-based system. In many ways, Tonali could play in the Jorginho-role as a regista while Pjanic is pushed higher up the pitch, making further use of his creativity. While many have likened his play to that of Andrea Pirlo due to his passing range, he’s no slouch defensively and is tenacious without the ball.

Given his quality on the ball and his desire to win it back off it, he should be a no-brainer for Juve. Factor in that he hasn’t even hit 20 years old yet and he’s the ideal long-term solution to the bianconeri’s midfield woes. Juventus are said to be keeping tabs on the midfielder and will reportedly pursue his signature this summer.

Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma) - While the Roma midfielder isn’t for sale, he’s exactly the type of player Juventus need in the middle of the park. Equally capable of covering ground as he is picking a deadly ball, Pellegrini is the definition of a modern midfielder. This season, Pellegrini already has registered six assists in eight Serie A games and has taken his game to the next level under Paulo Fonseca.

At just 23 years of age, Pellegrini has a long career ahead of him both domestically and internationally. Juventus were reportedly keeping tabs on the player in the past and their sporting director Fabio Paratici is said to be a big fan of the Roma man. Juventus and Roma have done business in the past and have demonstrated they are willing to work together on the transfer market. It may be unlikely, but few players fit Sarri’s Juve better than Pellegrini.

Gaetano Castrovilli (Fiorentina)Sticking with the theme of technical Italian midfielders, Fiorentina’s Castrovilli is another player Juventus should seriously consider. Rather than focusing their efforts and budget on his teammate, Federico Chiesa, the bianconeri would be wise to monitor Castrovilli’s progression. Since emerging onto the scene, the 22-year-old has won over the viola faithful with his industrious nature and is slowly evolving his game.

While he still has improvements to make across his game, Castrovilli is a good dribbler and could hurt the opposition in possession. Without the ball, the Fiorentina man is responsible and is eager to put in a shift. In many ways, his game is eerily reminiscent of young Claudio Marchisio. However, let’s pump the brakes for now. For one, he has a long way to go and most importantly, Fiorentina are unlikely to give Juve another one of their home-town boys.

All three players are youthful, technical players who would allow Sarri to further implement his footballing philosophy at Juve and are arguably available for the right price. Tonali may be the likeliest of the three given his team, but Juve would be foolish not to consider Pellegrini or Castrovilli.

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Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 14

Thomas Strakosha: Lazio have one of the best statistical home defenses in the League and, in this round, they will host Udinese, which have instead scored the second-least goal thus far. The Albanian goalkeeper is not very talked about, but he is as reliable as they come.

Matthijs De Ligt: he is coming off his two best performances in black-and-white and could keep it rolling against Sassuolo, which are feisty but not indomitable. Juventus have allowed multiple goals at home just once. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic lost the appeal so he will serve the second game of his suspension. Ruslan Malinovskyi is disqualified as well. Duvan Zapata is not ready after missing time with a thigh strain despite the early optimism, while Luis Muriel and Remo Freuler, who picked up some muscular ailments with their national teams, should be fine. 

Bologna: Mattia Bani and Danilo are banned. Takehiro Tomiyasu is poised to come back from a thigh strain, while Federico Santander suffered the same injury few days ago and will miss three weeks. Roberto Soriano and Mitchell Dijks will miss another one due to a knee and toe edema respectively, also Mattia Destro remains on the shelf due to knee soreness. Continue reading

One to Watch: Riccardo Sottil

With the international break upon us and plenty of U-21 football on deck, it gives us time to reflect on some of Italy’s budding talents. Chief among them is Fiorentina winger Riccardo Sottil. Since Rocco Commisso has taken over, la Viola have been committed to producing Italian players and are keen on giving these players a platform to express themselves. Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli are but two examples of Fiorentina’s success with youth and represent a clear direction in place in Tuscany. Sottil appears to be the next Azzurrini in line to take Fiorentina by storm. 

The 20-year-old is a natural winger by trade and joined Fiorentina’s youth ranks from Torino in 2016. He first featured for Montella’s men as a sub in 2018 against Sampdoria, coming on for Chiesa. This season, Sottil has featured with more regularity and has demonstrated signs that he’s ready to take the next step in his career. Montella, a manager notorious for his handling of youth, has entrusted the young winger this season, as evidenced by his seven appearances this season.

His most impressive outing was undoubtedly against Napoli in the first match-day of the season, where Sottil got deployed from the start. The 20-year-old was a constant menace and terrorized Mario Rui until the Portuguese fullback was inevitably subbed off. Using his incredible turn of pace, Sottil took on his man every opportunity he got and earned six fouls, the most of anyone on the pitch. This performance was a glimpse of what Sottil is capable of.

Beyond his directness, Sottil is a versatile winger. Whether Montella instructs him to increase the depth of the side or stretch the opposition wide, Sottil is eager to listen to his manager’s instructions. However, the Fiorentina man is at his best when hitting the opponent on the counter and thrives when there’s space to run into. Moving forward in his career, Sottil will need to diversify his game and develop the qualities needed to break down low blocks. Currently, the 20-year-old is largely used off the bench but could feature with more regularity with a bit more consistency.

Sottil also represents the Italy U-21 sides and has thrived on the wide right of their front-three. Most recently, the 20-year-old found the back of the net against Ireland in a 3-0 win. Despite his goal, Sottil is yet to regularly contribute in the final third and will need to add end-product to his game. The Fiorentina man is one of the league’s paciest customers and is able to get himself in dangerous areas, but needs to be better at finding the final ball. Once that happens, both Italy and Fiorentina will add yet another mercurial winger to their ranks.

Alongside Chiesa and Castrovilli, Sottil has the opportunity to take Fiorentina forward into a new era. An era that predicates the importance of Italian youth and an era that, hopefully, will bring more silverware than the last. Despite his clear talent, he remains one to watch as there are areas of improvement for the young winger. Regardless, it appears that Sottil is ready to take Serie A by storm.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 12

Inter-Verona: while Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku continue to be very reliable, the Beneamata are getting additional pieces back, as Matias Vecino scored in Champions League and Stefano Sensi looked pretty good in his stint off the bench. The two are certainly better fantasy options than Roberto Gagliardini, who filled in while they were sidelined, and the ex Sassuolo player, in particular, was fantastic at the beginning of the season. Valentino Lazaro was okay against Brescia and his skill-set is interesting, especially against the minnows where he would not need to defend a lot. Matteo Politano got hurt in Dortmund, so the first man up off the bench in the attack would be Salvatore Esposito. Verona have scored just nine times so far, so their back-line is certainly in play despite the ongoing clean sheet-less run. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Ten

Standings implications: it took them 96 minutes, but Juventus downed Genoa therefore replied to Inter, which looked tired but withstood Brescia’s assault. Napoli and Atalanta shared the spoiled in the most anticipated match of the round. The Roma teams dominated, with the Giallorossi trashing Udinese away and Lazio doing the same to Torino at the Olimpico Stadium. Cagliari continue to march on and upended Bologna. Fiorentina staged a comeback to defeat Sassuolo. Verona blitzed Parma on the road, while Sampdoria and Lecce tied one-one. Milan have a pulse and squeaked by SPAL. Continue reading