Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Five

Atalanta: Matteo Pessina returned in Champions League from a late-season patellar dislocation. Ruslan Malinovskyi had an old scar in his adductor flare up and missed the previous game, but he is set to be available SaturdayCristiano Piccini (knee) could return sooner rather than later, while Pierluigi Gollini (knee) is at least two weeks away.

Benevento: Nicolas Viola has resumed practicing after his meniscus surgery and made the squad list. Gabriele Moncini and Federico Barba are out again to muscular problems and are joined in that regard by Iago Falque.  Continue reading

Why a return to a back three makes sense for Juventus

Juventus took the controversial decision to sack Maurizio Sarri and replace him with the relatively unproven Andrea Pirlo this past summer, after a disappointing season. The Bianconeri may have retained their Scudetto, but ultimately fell short against Lyon in the Round of 16 of the Champions League.

Sarri was a firm believer in his preferred 4-3-3 and rarely budged from his playing philosophy, despite his side’s lackluster play. While not much is known about Pirlo’s coaching style or formation, all signs are pointing to some form of a return to a back three. Media outlets have speculated that Pirlo will deploy a back three in possession, which will later transform into a back four when they lose the ball.

As of right now, this is Juve’s reported XI going into their season opener against Sampdoria:

Szczęsny; Danilo, Bonucci, Chiellini; Cuadrado, Bentancur, Arthur, Rabiot, Pellegrini; Kulusevski, Ronaldo.

In theory, Pellegrini would drop at left back when Juventus lose the ball, with the remaining midfielders forming a bank of four ahead of their backline. Matthijs de Ligt’s return would hand the Bianconeri a huge boost, as well, while Merih Demiral will slowly be eased into action following his injury.

The back three ensures Pirlo gets the most out of Bonucci and Chiellini, who have thrived in this system before while giving de Ligt and Demiral the license to get forward in possession. Danilo struggled last season, but could benefit from a deeper role, as the Brazilian will no longer be tasked with contributing offensively.

Beyond the back three, this formation offers a crafty solution to Juve’s fullback conundrum. The Italian champions simply do not have the quality out wide to compete with Europe’s elite, but the 3-5-2 helps remedy this. Cuadrado has typically excelled in this position, while Luca Pellegrini will be raring to go on Sunday. The former Cagliari man will be looking to make the most of Alex Sandro’s recent setback and cement himself as Juve’s starting leftback. Pellegrini has demonstrated he can get forward with ease and with Chiellini behind him, he will have all the guidance he needs in his defensive third.

Federico Bernardeschi and Alex Sandro are two players who will be hoping to get their careers back on track after mediocre seasons and the 3-5-2 could just revitalize the duo. The former has experience in this setup during his time at Fiorentina, while Sandro was at his very best as a wingback under Conte.

The midfield is where it gets interesting for Pirlo. As of right now, Rodrigo Bentancur, Arthur, and Adrien Rabiot are his preferred trio, but Juve’s latest signing Weston McKennie is worth monitoring. Arthur will reportedly start as the side’s regista after convincing Pirlo in training and will largely be tasked with dictating play. Rabiot, on the other hand, finished the season in exceptional form and will be eager to hit the ground running once more.

The biggest question mark, however, remains Bentancur. The Uruguayan international has played his best football at the base of the midfield, but Arthur is currently the preferred man there. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see Pirlo juggle the two and potentially introduce McKennie into the fold for one of them.

Up front, Ronaldo and Dybala enter the season at the preferred duo, but the latter’s latest injury will hand Dejan Kulusevski a chance to stake a claim for a spot in the eleven. The Swedish international has emerged as one of the league’s brightest young talents and could force Pirlo’s hand with a strong start. As Kulusevski gains familiarity in his system, the rookie tactician may just be forced to deploy a three-man attack to accommodate him alongside Dybala and Ronaldo.

Given his propensity to work hard without the ball, a 3-4-3 with Kulusevski tracking back, similar to Gian Piero Gasperini’s system, is not entirely out of the question. Edin Dzeko’s reported move to Juve will also prove crucial, as the Bosnian international offers a much-needed physical and creative presence in the final third.

If last season showed us anything, it’s that tactical rigidity got Juve nowhere. The Bianconeri played mediocre football and struggled to create chances. Pirlo’s appointment is by no means a sure thing, but at the very least, the rookie tactician is ready to experiment, starting with their opener against Sampdoria.

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Breaking down the latest Italy roster

Roberto Mancini announced his latest Azzurri squad on Thursday, giving many talents their first call-up to the senior national team. Regardless, familiar faces still figure in the former Inter tactician’s setup, including the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci among others.

Let’s now take a deeper look at Mancini’s side.

Goalkeepers: Donnarumma, Meret, Cragno, Sirigu.

No surprises here as Italy’s four best goalkeepers all get a shot to prove their worth. Gianluigi Donnarumma goes into the camp as Italy’s undisputed number one while Cagliari’s Alessi Cragno finished the season in incredible form. Salvatore Sirigu is largely there for his experience and has always proven to be a trustworthy backup when needed.

The biggest question mark is Napoli’s Alex Meret. The young shot-stopper found himself relegated to the bench following Gennaro Gattuso’s appointment but has typically impressed when thrust into the limelight – notably in the Coppa Italia final against Juventus.

Verdict: Overall, Mancini made the right picks between the posts, even though Atalanta’s Pierluigi Gollini might feel short-changed. 9/10.

Defenders: Acerbi, Bastoni, Bonucci, Biraghi, Caldara, Chiellini, D’Ambrosio, Di Lorenzo, Florenzi, Luca Pellegrini, Spinazzola.

Mancini has tried to integrate many promising talents at the back, calling up Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni and Juventus-owned Luca Pellegrini. Napoli’s Giovanni Di Lorenzo features once more in the roster and is arguably the favourite for the rightback spot. Inter’s Danilo D’Ambrosio proved his worth under Antonio Conte last season, playing as a right wingback or on the right side of the back three. In this sense, the former Torino man offers Mancini versatility and can challenge Di Lorenzo.

Mancini has turned to a blend of experience and youth at center-back. While Giorgio Chiellini has been a great servant for the national team, the veteran defender was sidelined for most of this season with recurring injuries and should not take minutes away from an emerging talent. The same goes for Alessandro Florenzi, whose best years are behind him.

Francesco Acerbi and Leonardo Bonucci offer some much-needed leadership while Bastoni and Caldara will have their opportunities to crack the eleven. Expect Alessio Romagnoli to stake his claim for a starting spot when he returns from injury.

Verdict: Interesting blend of youth and experience, but Mancini could do without Florenzi and Chiellini. 7/10.

Midfielders: Barella, Bonaventura, Castrovilli, Cristante, Jorginho, Gagliardini, Locatelli, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Sensi, Tonali, Zaniolo.

The midfield is where it arguably gets the most interesting. Inter’s Nicolo Barella rightfully makes the team after an impressive debut season and deserves to start for Gli Azzurri. His teammate, Stefano Sensi, makes his return to the national team fold and has battled injuries for the most part of the second half of the season. If he can return to his early-season form, Sensi can play an important role under Mancini.

Emerging talents Gaetano Castrovilli, Nicolo Zaniolo and Sandro Tonali all make the team and will all be looking to take the next step. Zaniolo may feature in attack while Tonali will have to battle it out with Marco Verratti and Jorginho for the regista position.

Manuel Locatelli is also rewarded for his good season with Sassuolo but may find minutes hard to come by in the long run given how congested Italy’s midfield options are. The most intriguing inclusion, perhaps, is Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini. The Roma man established himself as a creative force in the midfield and offers something different from Italy’s midfield ranks.

Roberto Gagliardini and Giacomo Bonaventura are the only questionable inclusions, leaving one to wonder where exactly the duo fit in Mancini’s plans.

Verdict: As Verratti is missing through injury, these are the best midfielders available. Remove Gagliardini and Bonaventura and Mancini’s on to something here. 8/10.

Forwards: Belotti, Bernardeschi, Caputo, Chiesa, El Shaarawy, Immobile, Insigne, Kean, Lasagna, Orsolini.

Italy’s forward options leave a lot to be desired, bar a few names, but ultimately Mancini does a good job with his latest call-ups. Francesco Caputo gets his debut call-up after netting 21 goals. At 33 years old, the veteran hitman has at least another tournament in him and could be useful at Euro 2021.

Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti make the cut once more alongside Moise Kean and Udinese’s Kevin Lasagna. Immobile will be hoping to translate his domestic form to the national team with Belotti closely behind him in the pecking order. Kean and Lasanga round off Mancini’s ‘number nines’ but as of right now, remain outsider options.

Out wide, Mancini called up familiar faces – Insigne, Chiesa, Bernardeschi, Orsolini and El Shaarawy. The one glaring ommission is Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi, who deserves to be there ahead of El Shaarawy and Bernardeschi.

What will be interesting is who Mancini deploys in his starting eleven. Insigne, Chiesa and Orsolini have arguably been in the best form while Bernardeschi has struggled. El Shaarawy offers experienced depth but will be hoping to return to playing football that matters. Otherwise, he should not be on the plane to Euro 2021.

Verdict: The Berardi exclusion is a tough one to swallow, but beyond the Sassuolo man, these are good call-ups. 7/10

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 38

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic will miss another one and will be probably joined by José Palomino, who picked up a thigh problem in the last game.

Bologna: Mattia Bani (calf) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (thigh) will not be back for the season finale. Mitchell Dijks and Ladislav Krejci (thigh) have been ruled out. 

Brescia: Jhon Chancellor and Simon Skrabb are out, while Jesse Joronen, Alfredo Donnarumma and even Andrea Cistana are in the squad list, but that is not necessarily an indication they are certainly going to play.   Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 36

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is again sidelined due to lack of form. Duvan Zapata (ankle), José Palomino and Berat Djimsiti (toe) picked up knocks in the last game but they are all available. The most at risk of being rested is the last one.

Bologna: Takehiro Tomiyasu closes his season in advance due to a biceps femoris strain. Jerdy Schouten is unlikely to be back here from the same injury.

Brescia: Stefano Sabelli is suspended. Simon Skrabb is nursing an ankle sprain. Jesse Joronen, Birkir Bjarnason, Jhon Chancellor and Alfredo Donnarumma will get the day off.

Cagliari: Christian Oliva and Luca Pellegrini  will stay on the shelf again with their ankle sprains.

Fiorentina: Gaetano Castrovilli is suspended. Dalbert subbed off versus Inter but it was just fatigue, Bartlomiej Dragowski missed some time with back spasms.

Genoa: Lukas Lerager is out due to yellow-card accumulation. Cristian Romero bowed out in the Derby, Francesco Cassata, Stefano Sturaro and Antonio Sanabria are dinged up but they have been pretty secretive with their injuries.

Inter: Nicolò Barella is suspended. Stefan De Vrij left the last game with a knee sprain but it is not believed to be a major issue.

Juventus: Mattia De Sciglio is expected back soon from his thigh strain. Giorgio Chiellini (calf) and Gonzalo Higuain (back) are day-to-day. Douglas Costa suffered a grade two thigh strain that will likely cost him the rest of the season, Champions League included. 

Lazio: Manuel Lazzari is banned. Luis Alberto (knee), Joaquin Correa (knee), Jony (thigh) and Adam Marusic (thigh) all came back in the last game, while Djavan Anderson missed it with fatigue. Stefan Radu (calf) might be back maybe in the season finale. Francesco Acerbi is questionable with knee soreness.

Lecce: Marco Calderoni  returns from a contracture, while Khouma Babacar and Diego Farias were late scratches for the past game and are questionable, but at least they are available this time around. Luca Rossettini has shaken off his worrying illness.

Milan: Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer are suspended. Simon Kjaer is not 100 percent but should gut it out, especially because Alessio Romagnoli pulled his calf and will miss the remaining matches. Andrea Conti hurt his knee but the exams ruled out structural damages. Samu Castillejo and Leo Duarte (thigh) are available after spending time on the shelf. 

Napoli: David Ospina missed the last game with fatigue, but shook it off quickly, while Mario Rui will be rested.

Parma: Gaston Brugman is out due to yellow-card accumulation and also strained his calf, so he is done for the season. Bruno Alves (hip) came back in the previous game, while Riccardo Gagliolo might miss another one with a similar ailment. Hernani suffered a quad strain and he too will skip the remaining fixtures. Matteo Scozzarella (calf) and Andreas Cornelius (thigh) are trying to come back but face an uphill battle.

Roma: Roger Ibanez is likely to miss another one due to a thigh injury, while Cengiz Under is being assessed after being ruled out late for the previous match. Federico Fazio (ankle), Antonio Mirante (calf), Juan Jesus (hip) and Davide Santon (calf) are nursing minor stuff that cost them some time.

Sampdoria: Omar Colley and Ronaldo Vieira are suspended. Albin Ekdal subbed off in the last game after hurting his ankle and he is out.

Sassuolo: Mehdi Bourabia was sent off versus Milan. Jeremie Boga picked up a muscular injury and he is being evaluated. Pedro Obiang (thigh), Gregoire Defrel (thigh) and Vlad Chiriches (calf) will probably sit out another one.

SPAL: Kevin Bonifazi was red carded from the bench against Roma. Andrea Cerri fractured a phalanx in the left hand that will cost him some time. Jacopo Sala sprained is ankle and is iffy, while Sergio Floccari and Lucas Castro have been ruled out in advance. 

Torino: Armando Izzo is expected to return from his mild knee sprain, while Lorenzo De Silvestri is out for the season due to an AC joint sprain in the right shoulder.

Udinese: Kevin Lasagna was ruled out very late against Juventus due to a thigh issue. Walace has a shoulder problem but he is good to go, William Troost-Ekong is suspended.

Verona: Giampaolo Pazzini (thigh), Pawel Dawidowicz (pec) and Claud Adjapong are trying to come back from their minor physical problems, while it is probably too early for Marash Kumbulla. Alan Empereur, Salvatore Bocchetti, Valerio Verre and Matteo Lovato are out with last-minute issues. 

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Serie A Injuries and Suspensions Report – Round 35

Atalanta: Hans Hateboer is suspended, while Josip Ilicic again was left out to work on his conditioning.

Bologna: Mitchell Dijks is disqualified, Jerdy Schouten (thigh) remains sidelined.

Brescia: Nikolas Spalek is out due to yellow-card accumulation, Simon Skrabb is questionable with a bruised ankle. Jesse Joronen returned in the last game. Time is running out for Andrea Cistana. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 34

Atalanta: Luis Muriel quickly resumed practicing after suffering a fortunately mild head injury in a domestic accident. Josip Ilicic will be held out as he keeps working on his fitness. 

Bologna: Andrea Poli and Federico Santander were available for the last game after some time on the shelf. Mattia Bani (calf) is done for the season, Jerdy Schouten (thigh) will try to return for the final couple of matches.

Brescia: goalie Jesse Joronen is back, unlike Enrico Alfonso (hip). Andrea Cistana is ramping up his activity in practice and might be back soon. Emanuele Ndoj is back on the shelf.  Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Supension Report – Round 31

Atalanta: José Palomino is suspended.

Bologna: Roberto Soriano was red-carded in the last game and has been suspended for two matches. Gary Medel was a late scratch for the last game due to back spasm, but he is in the squad list. Ibrahima Mbaye and Andreas Skov Olsen (thigh) recovered enough to be called up. Andrea Poli and Federico Santander are nursing thigh strains.

Brescia: Andrea Cistana (lower leg surgery), Jhon Chancellor (thigh) and Dimitri Bisoli (patellar tendon) remain sidelined, Emanuele Ndoj and Enrico Alfonso are questionable.  Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 30

Atalanta: José Palomino was announced to be out for the past game, but he actually recovered last-minute and played few minutes, so no worries for Gian Piero Gasperini.

Bologna: Ibrahima Mbaye has missed some time with a minor injury. Andrea Poli, Federico Santander and Andreas Skov Olsen are out with thigh strains.

Brescia: same as usual as Andrea Cistana (lower leg), Jhon Chancellor (thigh) and Dimitri Bisoli (knee) are out long-term. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 29

Atalanta: Ruslan Malinovskyi is suspended for yellow-card accumulation. Josip Ilicic is not 100 percent after an ankle sprain but he is at his coach’s disposal. José Palomino is out with a thigh injury. 

Bologna: Federico Santander and Andreas Skov Olsen remain out with thigh strains. Andrea Poli will miss up to ten days with a thigh pull. 

Brescia: Andrea Cistana (lower leg) and Jhon Chancellor (thigh) will be back in mid-July at the earliest, Dimitri Bisoli (patellar tendon) is out until December. Continue reading