Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 37

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Juventus: Leonardo Bonucci has recovered from his ankle sprain, Daniele Rugani from hamstring soreness and even Mario Mandzukic was able to practice fully late in the week after dealing with a patellar tendon problem for a while. Moise Kean has shaken off the flu. Giorgio Chiellini has picked up yet another calf ailment, but he is available. Miralem Pjanic is fine after twisting his ankle last week.

Napoli: Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have good chances to return after skipping one with muscle fatigue. Nikola Maksimovic and Amadou Diawara are close to healing from their foot infractions. David Ospina is still in Colombia for personal reasons, while Adam Ounas remains questionable after missing one. Continue reading

Allegri addresses the media before the Inter tilt

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Massimiliano Allegri held the traditional pre-game presser today: “We do not feel scrutinized. We had a good game in Ferrara, Juventus-Inter is always important. We will play in front of 70k people in a marvelous stadium, we will try to do our best to come away with a satisfying result. We can not have gaffes, we are Juventus, we aim to make more points and have some stimulating fixtures coming up.”

On the meeting with Andrea Agnelli: “Our motivation will be the same as previous years. We will plan to create new goals growing-wise for everybody involved and to be as competitive as we should be. We will analyze what went well and what poorly. You need to evaluate the seasons properly in order to lay the foundations to be successful in the future. We have not set a date, there have been some holidays after the Fiorentina game. We are already ahead of schedule since we usually sat down in June.” Continue reading

Who are the most important players on the top Serie A teams?

With May around the corner it’s not surprising to see the amount of transfer rumors increasing as fast as the box office figures for the new “Avengers” film. Team’s sporting directors have already worked on Bosman signings as well as the early stages of transfer negotiations, but while looking for additions is what excites the fans, having a strong sense of what the squad needs is equally important.

While we’ll look at the specific teams needs for all of the top Serie A clubs in next couple of weeks, let’s first focus on who the most irreplaceable player is on each squad (which is by no means necessarily the best player). This exercise will give us a good sense of where each top Serie A team needs to focus in the summer

chiellini 

Juventus

 

Giorgio Chiellini

 

Mehdi Benatia’s surprising departure in January highlighted Chiellini’s importance to Allegri’s squad. While Leonardo Bonucci did improve Juventus’ passing game, which shouldn’t be understated when you consider that aside from Pjanic the rest of the midfielders are below average in this regard, the former Milan captain was responsible for most of the goals Juventus conceded so far this season. 

For the second season in a row, Rugani received significant opportunities to play, but despite getting a contract extension it’s hard to argue he made the most of them. Simply put, Juventus was a different team without Chiellini, who will turn 35 in August- upgrading the center back position maybe even more important than in the midfield when you consider Emre Can’s improvements in second half of the season and Aaron Ramsey’s imminent arrival.

 

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Napoli

 

Kalidou Koulibaly

While Chiellini isn’t Juventus’ best player, its hard to argue against Koulibaly being both the best and most important player at Carlo Ancelotti’s disposal. The center back has arguably been the best player at his position in the league the past two seasons and he’s become even more important in light of Raul Albiol’s recent injury. 

Considering Napoli’s ability to find quality midfielders, both in Italy and abroad, they are much better off trying to replace someone like Allan and Zielinski than Koulibaly, a player who has completely embraced the city and looks likely to stay for years to come despite being courted by numerous top clubs. While Maksimovic has shown improvements this season, Napoli still needs to focus further on finding Koulibaly a long term partner in the middle of the defense.

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Inter

 

Marcelo Brozovic

Borja Valero’s biological age and Radja Nainggolan’s lifestyle which makes him older than he is, make the Croatian international Spalletti’s most important player. Last summer Inter did try to bolster their midfield by pursuing Luka Modric and Arturo Vidal, a pursuit they’ll have to resume in the coming weeks.

Look for Marotta and Ausilio to monitor Brozovic’s teammate on the Croatian national team Ivan Rakitic, should he fail to  sign an extension, Inter could make a strong push to acquire him. 

 

Atalanta

 

Remo Freuler

No team in Serie A had a more devastating offensive trio than Zapata, Ilicic and Papu Gomez this season but for a team to do as well as Atalanta has you also need someone who can cover for them. Freuler was already considered one of the most underrated defensive midfielders in Serie A going into the season, but he has elevated his stock to go along with his team’s rise.

Numerous clubs in Serie A and abroad will be testing the Percassi’s family resolve this summer when it comes to their jewels, but when you consider Gasperini has to exciting prospects in Castagne and Barrow at wing back and striker, keeping the Swiss international will be more important than others.

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Milan

 

Paqueta’

 

Just a few months ago the story line was that investing substantially on a young Brazilian with no experience in Europe at a time that the club was facing FFP restrictions was a huge gamble. Fast forward to the last few weeks and Milan’s game plan and offensive strategy has been described as “il nulla” (nothingness) since Paqueta’ suffered an injury.

While Romagnoli and Bakayoko are better players at this stage of their careers, Milan does have some options at their positions and Piatek has a more than adequate backup in Cutrone- but both strikers suffer from a significant lack of service when Paqueta is out. Bonaventura’s expected return will help, but Milan needs more creative players to improve next season.

 

Roma

 

Kostas Manolas

 

The giallorossi have numerous intriguing options in the midfield and while Dzeko has had a down season, Ranieri does have a few options offensively especially when you consider El Shaarawy’s consistency and brilliance. But the back line is a whole other story especially since Monchi didn’t sign any new additions in January leaving the squad with Fazio, who has become a liability in a 4 man defense while Marcano and Juan Jesus are backups at best.

To make things worse, Manolas has a very reasonable exit clause worth 36 million euro (which is also valid in Italy) making the center back position a massive priority for whoever is named as the club’s next sporting director.

Lazio v SPALSerie A4/11/2018. 

Lazio 

 

Francesco Acerbi

 

While the former Sassuolo center back’s name has been in the headlines recently for the incident with Kessie’ and Bakayoko, his performances on the pitch had already made him into one of the story lines of the season. Acerbi proved to be a brilliant replacement for De Vrij, but he is simply not enough if Lazio wants to continue being in the mix for a Champions League spot- none of the other center backs on Inzaghi’s squad can be described as above average at their position.

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 34

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Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini has good chances to be back from a calf contracture and Martin Caceres from a thigh strain, while Douglas Costa (calf). Paulo Dybala (quad) and Mario Mandzukic (knee) will not be back this week. Rodrigo Bentancur has been ruled out with muscle fatigue.

Napoli: Raul Albiol is expected to return after missing time following a knee clean-up surgery. Vlad Chiriches hurt his shoulder in the last game and will undergo surgery, while Nikola Maksimovic and Amadou Diawara are nursing foot issues. Adam Ounas skipped the last two games due to a muscular ailment, but he is back in the squad list. Allan and Lorenzo Insigne are both fatigued and have been ruled out.  Continue reading

Juventus and Ronaldo break new records

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Juventus improved some of their previous records and shattered some others by securing their eighth title in a row with a 2-1 win over Fiorentina on Saturday. They are the first Italian team to prevail for this many consecutive years, but they already held that since the closest domestic streaks stopped at five. However, it became the longest one in the top six European leagues, besting Lyon’s run in Ligue 1 that went on between 2002 and 2008. Bayern Munich’s top stretch finished with six, Real Madrid and Porto’s one at five, while there the historically stiff competition in Premier League limits the possibility to repeat, so the most productive team was Manchester United with three straight in two separate occasions.

Continue reading

Crucial Summer Ahead for Juventus

After wrapping up their eighth consecutive Scudetto following their 2-1 win over Fiorentina, Juventus will now focus their efforts on addressing the issues plaguing their roster. While the bianconeri added two trophies to their haul this season, they failed in Europe losing to a superior Ajax side over the two ties, and were sent packing in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta. Both defeats spoke volumes of this Juventus side and demonstrated just how fragile the Italian champions are when pressed. Here are three fundamental questions they must answer come summertime if they are to achieve European glory.

allegrirugani

1) Massimiliano Allegri: In or out? 

Since their collapse in Cardiff, Juventus have not been the same, and look a side devoid of an identity. This season much of the same problems persisted. The bianconeri strolled to the Scudetto, barely challenging themselves in the process as their competitors consistently shot themselves in the foot. Frankly, most Serie A tacticians would have won the title with this roster.

What’s more frustrating for Juve is that Allegri has completely failed at instilling a consistent style of play, and largely depends on individual brilliance to see him through. And when all else fails, the Italian champions typically bombard the box with crosses, and hope for Mandzukic or Ronaldo to come through. When opposing sides pressed the bianconeri high, and played without fear, by contrast, Juventus struggled to put three passes together.

When the board meets with Allegri to discuss the past season, they should replay the Ajax and Atalanta games. In both instances, Juventus cowered deep in fear, while the bolder team was rewarded for their self-confidence. If Juve are to win the Champions League, they need a fearless leader, and one thing’s for certain: Allegri is not that. It’s the end of the Allegri era, as we know it.

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2) Project Fix The Defence. 

Since Antonio Conte brought back Juve from consecutive seventh place finishes, the bianconeri’s defence was always their foundation and backbone for success. With Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini, Juventus possessed arguably the strongest backline in the world, and kept opponents at bay with ease.

However, with Barzagli nearing retirement and Bonucci looking like a shadow of his former self since his controversial return, Juventus’ defence has been a weak point for the side and has held the team back. Factor in Alex Sandro’s continued struggles, and it’s clear to see: Without Chiellini, Juventus are a mess at the back.

Considering Daniele Rugani’s stagnation, and Bonucci’s regular lapses in concentration, it’s time Juventus revamp their defence. First of all, they shouldn’t hesitate to sell Rugani and Alex Sandro as soon as a good offer arrives. The former has been a disaster when called upon, and shirks at the first sight of a physical battle. Alex Sandro, by contrast, has lost most of his pace, and offers close to nothing in the final third.

With Cristian Romero already on his way from Genoa, and Leonardo Spinazzola improving with every week, the state of Juventus’ defence remains decent. However, they will need at least two reinforcements: a centre-back and a left back.

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3) Project Fix the Midfield.

Much like the defence, Juventus’ midfield is in complete disarray, and lacks a true leader. Since dismantling their midfield in 2015 by selling Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, the bianconeri are yet to bolster the midfield sufficiently. At the moment, only Miralem Pjanic and potentially Emre Can are worthy starters, while the others are solid bench options at best.

Even Pjanic and Can, who on their day are world beaters, struggle to impose themselves, and aren’t meant to lead the midfield as seen through the Ajax clashes. Despite Aaron Ramsey’s arrival, Juventus are still lacking one profile in their midfield. A ball-winner capable of maintaining possession. What they would do for a prime Claudio Marchisio again? But Juventus could settle for Lyon’s Tanguy N’Dombele.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 32

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Juventus: Blaise Matuidi subbed off against Ajax due to a calf problem, but the injury is not believed to be severe. Emre Can (ankle) and Giorgio Chiellini (calf) will sit Saturday’s game too but they are not distant from returning. Juan Cuadrado is back after knee surgery, while Douglas Costa suffered a new calf problem. Miralem Pjanic, Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo have not been called up for rest purposes.

Napoli: Simone Verdi was scatched late for the previous match due to muscle fatigue, but he was called up for the London trip. Raul Albiol (knee) and Amadou Diawara will miss another one, but at least of them could be back next week.

Inter: Marcelo Brozovic suffered a pull of the semitendinosus muscle in the right pull and will miss the Frosinone game and perhaps one more after that. Lautaro Martinez and Stefan De Vrij are set to be called up after being sidelined by thigh ailments. Continue reading

Rugani and Allegri preview the Ajax tilt

allegrirugani

Daniele Rugani, who will start for the injured Giorgio Chiellini, and Massimiliano Allegri addressed the press late yesterday. The defender had the floor first: “We all know the value of Chiellini, I will do my best to make up for his absence. It is a very nice moment for me, I am going through it with enthusiasm. These are the kinds of game you dream about where you are a kid.”

On Matthijs De Ligt: “I know him, I faced him with the national team. We might play together in the future, why not? It is always a good thing to feature next to strong players. They have several of them, it is natural that there is some interest around them.” Continue reading

Cancelo speaks and injury updates

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Joao Cancelo talked to Sky Sport about the upcoming Ajax game: “I am fine, I had some calf muscle fatigue, that is why I did not play in the last two games. But I have recovered and I am ready to play on Wednesday. Cristiano Ronaldo is practicing, he is an exemplary professional and he is doing everything in his power to be ready and help the team. I think he will be in the squad list, then it will be up to the coach to decide whether he will start or not.”

“Ajax are a really strong side. I have watched their game in Madrid. They have several talented youngsters, we have to be very focused. However, we are ready to play at the top of our abilities and take home a W that would better our chances to advance to the semifinals.” Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 29

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Juventus sleepwalked through the first half on Saturday night, but somehow avoided conceding and, after intermission, turned up the volume just enough to topple Empoli and move one win closer to Scudetto.

Giorgio Chiellini (5 points): if the squad survived after a horrid showing in the first 45 days minutes, that is primarily thanks to a very diligent performance by both centre-backs, who did their best to plug the plethora of holes in that makeshift initial XI. Daniele Rugani celebrated the extension with a near immaculate showing, but the captain gets nod due to his involvement in the game-winning goal, where he uncorked a Leonardo Bonucci-esque long ball and for a key intervention to thwart a dangerous counter in the second half. Continue reading