Reality check for Roma with crushing defeat at Napoli as Giallorossi aim to finish 1st in Europa League group

Roma lost their ‘first’ league game of the season as they were crushed by Napoli 4-0 at the weekend. Of course the Serie A standings will have made this the clubs 2nd defeat of the season, which it is, although in theory their game v Verona was defaulted.

Let’s be honest and say that the Giallorossi were simply overwhelmed by Napoli and a higher plane rising above any other player who was on that pitch on Sunday. That man was of course Diego Armando Maradona, perhaps the greatest player to have ever played the game, and certainly the greatest to have played for Napoli. His sudden passing last week was a shock and will live in the memory for all football fans for as long as the game is played.

There was no mistake that at San Paolo Stadium, which looks soon to be renamed after Maradona that the Argentine’s brilliance was not influencing the game. For Napoli who haven’t won Serie A since Maradona guided them to two titles in 1987 and 1990, they had an extra determination, extra passion and dare it be said an extra power to them at the weekend, this was all about honouring El Diego, and they rightly did.

Lorenzo Insigne opened the scoring for Napoli and there was always only going to be one winner here. Indeed whilst Napoli had 9 shots on target Roma had just 1 and the Giallorossi were never in the game.

Most of the players did see this match as a one off, they simply were not at the races, out fought by a team that wanted so desperately to honour their hero. This is what football does, and the game can work on such a higher psychological level that even if we say that man for man Roma have a better team than Napoli, at times that can simply pale into significance.

Roma coach Paulo Fonseca had this to say about the defeat which leaves the club in sixth place and six points behind the current leaders AC Milan. “We couldn’t string three passes together. Quite simply, we didn’t show enough courage and did not do anywhere near enough to earn a result against Napoli. We weren’t the best team in the world before this game and we are not the worst now. Every match is a test for this team, not just against the biggest opponents. It certainly wasn’t a good performance, as we lacked aggression, lacked courage, so we need to learn from this and correct our mistakes next time.”

Six Roma players earned minus points at the weekend, with the best having to share zero points, that’s how bad the performance was. The worst affected player was goalkeeper Antonio Mirante who lost 6 points. The worst affected outfield player was Ibanez who lost 4 points.

The knock out stages of the Europa League await Roma

Roma have already qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League- that’s the good news. But it could get even better when the Giallorossi clash with Young Boys on Thursday evening. If Roma win then they are guaranteed first position which usually means an easier path and a so called easier fixture in the first knock out round. Roma will be at home to Young Boys and in the reverse fixture Roma won 2-1.

Next league game v Sassuolo

Roma’s next Serie A game will take place at home against third place Sassuolo who have been a real surprise package this season. Roma are unbeaten at home so far with three wins and one draw and that includes winning their last three in a row. Last season Roma won this fixture 4-2 and Sassuolo do not usually travel well to the capital.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was firing on all cylinders before the Napoli defeat and has scored 5 goals so far and the club will be hoping that he can recapture his fantastic form. The midfielder also has the most fantasy points for the team with 38 so far and his fantasy value is 7.5m.

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Roma’s hot start comes crashing down against Napoli

Roma kicked off the season in sensational form after their bizarre forfeit against Hellas Verona, propelling themselves into an unlikely title race. The Giallorossi’s hot start came to an abrupt end, suffering a comprehensive defeat against Napoli. Paulo Fonseca’s side failed to get into the game, eventually losing 4-0 to the Partenopei.

While it is the side’s only defeat on the field this season, the manner in which they lost was slightly concerning. Roma was completely played off the pitch by Gennaro Gattuso’s men and will need to turn it around ahead of the holiday stretch. Bryan Cristante, a midfielder by trade, has had to deputize at the back due to an injury crisis at the club, and did a solid job – that was until Sunday.

Summer arrival Marash Kumbulla is expected to return to the lineup, after battling with COVID-19 for the better part of the last two weeks. The defender’s return will offer Roma some much-needed stability at the back, allowing Cristante to return to a more familiar position.

Beyond their defensive woes on Sunday, Napoli completely overran Fonseca’s side in the middle of the park. Jordan Veretout and Lorenzo Pellegrini struggled to get a grip of things in the midfield and regularly turned over possession. Roma’s 3-4-2-1 setup has worked in recent weeks, but in big games, their midfield duo needs support.

Whether it is a winger tracking back centrally, or one of their wingbacks coming into the middle, Fonseca would be wise to make a tactical adjustment. Otherwise, Roma risks getting outnumbered in the midfield in every big game. Gattuso took full advantage of this opportunity, deploying a midfield three of Diego Demme, Fabian Ruiz, and Piotr Zielinski.

The Polish international was a constant menace in the final third and often drifted between the lines, without being marked. Fabian Ruiz, on the other hand, was offered more freedom by Gattuso and regularly popped up in and around the area. As Demme shielded the back four, Fabian Ruiz and Zielinski’s runs opened up Roma’s rearguard and overloaded the middle of the park. If Roma wants to continue its fine run of form, Fonseca should take note of this and make the appropriate tactical changes.

As a result of their midfield struggles, Roma’s front three of Pedro, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Edin Dzeko were largely stranded up top. Mkhitaryan often dropped deep to collect possession but was unable to find outlets in the final third. Roma’s wingbacks tried to get forward in support, but Napoli did well to double up on their markers out wide and nullify their threat.

Roma had been flying high before matchday nine, but have since been rocked back to earth following their heavy defeat. Fonseca would be wise to learn from his side’s mistakes and retool his setup ahead of the upcoming stretch. Roma has made some significant progress under the Portuguese tactician and is arguably a few tweaks away from hitting their best form. It may have taken a 4-0 defeat, but it might just help them in the long run.

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Fantasy Serie A: Players to watch in matchday 9

Matchday nine is officially upon us with a number of intriguing matchups on deck. League leaders Milan take on Fiorentina, while the high-flying Sassuolo will host a struggling Inter side. Elsewhere, reigning champions Juventus take on the newly-promoted Benevento and will be hoping to continue their recent resurgence.

Here are three players you might want to add to your fantacalcio sides ahead of the upcoming matchday:

Alex Sandro – Juventus (4.5): The Brazilian has returned to action after his long injury layoff, and is slowly establishing himself as a starter in Andrea Pirlo’s new-look Juventus. Equally comfortable a left wingback as he is at left centerback, expect Alex Sandro to feature prominently this season. The former Porto man most recently made his Champions League debut against Ferencvaros, marauding the left flank at will.

As he looks to put his injury problems behind him, Sandro will be hoping to reach his former heights. With Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini sidelined for the foreseeable future, Alex Sandro should get regular minutes. At 4.5 million euros, adding the leftback to your team is a no brainer.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Roma (4.5): The Armenian international has taken Serie A by storm this season, propelling Roma into an unlikely title race after eight matchdays. Mkhitaryan has hit the ground running this year, netting five goals and four assists to kick off the season, emerging as a catalyst in the final third for Roma.

The former Manchester United man was at the heart of the action in Roma’s most recent triumph in the Europa League, drawing a penalty. Jordan Veretout converted with great aplomb from the spot, leading Roma to an important three points. As the Giallorossi travel to Napoli to take on Gennaro Gattuso’s men, Mkhitaryan will need to be at his best this weekend.

Much like Sandro, the 31-year-old represents a low-cost option that will likely generate a number of fantacalcio points. Include him in your sides before his price skyrockets! On current form, it is only a matter of time.

Aleksey Miranchuk - Atalanta (5.5): The 25-year-old has taken time to adapt to Atalanta’s setup, but is starting to make an impact in Bergamo. Miranchuk already has two goals to his name in under 50 minutes of action and is ready to stake his claim for a bigger role within Gian Piero Gasperini’s side.

Atalanta’s offensive ranks may be congested at the moment, with Duvan Zapata, Papu Gomez, and Josip Ilicic the preferred starters, but Miranchuk will have his opportunity to impress. Atalanta’s upcoming clash against Hellas Verona is a good chance for Gasperini to rotate his men and give Miranchuk some meaningful minutes. Gli Orobici are coming off a big win against Liverpool in midweek and will be hoping to give their starters some rest ahead of the final two matchdays.

The Russian international has impressed in his limited supersub appearances and should get the nod against Verona on Sarturday. At 5.5. million euros, Miranchuk is good value for money; especially in a free-scoring Atalanta side.

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Mkhitaryan in the form of his life as Roma go 3rd with third win in a row

There were no problems for Roma who went 3rd in the league as they beat Parma 3-0 for the 3rd win in a row in Serie A.

Paulo Fonseca’s side were ruthless as they scored all of their goals in the first half, having 5 shots on target alone in that period. Parma had to make do with having 1 shot on target for the whole match.

The plaudits will once again be paid to Henrikh Mkhitaryan who scored 2 goals, and a few weeks ago scored a hat trick. The player is on fire and is obviously enjoying himself.

With his 2 goals Mkhitaryan earned 10 points at the weekend in the fantasy rankings and he now has a total of 38. This total is enough to make him currently the best player in the rankings for Serie A.

So far this season Roma have scored 19 goals and Mkhitaryan has been involved in 9 of them, scoring 5 and assisting in a further 4.

The opening goal in the Parma game came after 28 minutes after some lovely work from Leonardo Spinazzola. His reverse clever pass found Borja Mayoral unmarked in the area and tucked away with precision. That was Mayoral’s first goal of the season and also Spinnazola’s first assist.

Minutes later it was 2-0 and this was a belter. Mkhitaryan picked up a bouncing loose ball on the edge of the area and thumped it home. Then just a few minutes after that it was 3-0, this goal again for Mkhitaryan won’t be remembered as was just a simple tap in.

Roma may have been left frustrated in the second half as no further goals developed but they had done their job early on and earned the three points. With the club in 3rd place they are just 3 points behind AC Milan.

Paulo Fonseca happy with Roma’s performance

“We put in an excellent performance, especially in the first half, as we scored three goals and could’ve had quite a few more. I think the team played well, in the second half we controlled the situation and still created more chances to find the net. I always said Mkhitaryan is a great professional who can do well in various different roles, so I am not surprised by what he’s doing. The team is feeling confident. It’s true Edin Dzeko is very important to us, but it’s also important to see that the team maintains its identity despite changing numerous players.”

Roma prepare for Cluj and receive fantastic boost

Roma will play Cluj in the Europa League on Thursday evening and the club received some good news. Striker Edin Dzeko has been passed fit to play in the game. It was initially thought that he would miss this one and instead make his comeback from injury against Napoli at the weekend.

It is expected that Dzeko will start from the bench and play at least 20 minutes of the game to get his fitness levels up before the Napoli match.

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Edin Dzeko hoping to return this month as Giallorossi prepare for new director of club

Roma have not played since November 8th due to the international break and their next game will be against Parma. The big news surrounding this is the return of Edin Dzeko back from injury. Although the player is set to miss the Parma clash the target is to have the Bosnian international back before the end of the month.

At the beginning of the season it seemed that Dzeko was on the verge of joining Juventus but an eleventh hour change means that the talented striker has stayed with the Giallorossi at least for this season.

Dzeko’s possible return in a weeks time has been making all of the headlines in Italy and that’s for good reason considering that he’s scored 81 goals in just 177 league appearances for the club.

Tiago Pinto is welcomed to Roma from Benfica

Roma have taken advantage of a break in domestic football duties to appoint a new director of football and have chosen 36 year old Tiago Pinto. Pinto will come from Benfica. Pinto had been with Benfica for 3 years and his new role at the club will not commence until January. Pinto said “Leaving Benfica was a very tough decision, given what we have achieved together over the past eight years, but the chance to join a resurgent Roma and to contribute to that momentum under this dynamic new ownership was a professional opportunity that I could not turn down.”

Preparing for Parma

Roma’s next game will be at home to Parma. The club come into the game in 4th place and are just 3 points behind current leaders Milan. At Stadio Olimpico Roma are undefeated after 3 games winning 2 and drawing one and come into this game with back to back wins. Their last match at home ended in a 2-0 win over Fiorentina.

The Giallorossi could be without Chris Smalling who has become ill through food poisoning. Smalling has made a big impact on the team but after his Coronavirus and now this he has had a stop and start time to the new campaign.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was banned from playing for Armenia in the international games because of recently contracting Coronavirus and this means that the player who has amassed the most fantasy points with 28 so far must be a doubt for the Parma game. A lot of responsibility will fall onto the shoulders of Jordan Veretout who has earned 22 points this season for the Italians and been their second best player in the fantasy rankings.

R.I.P Dino Da Costa

Roma legend Dino Da Costa has passed away at the age of 89. Da Costa scored 75 goals in 160 games for Roma and played for the club for six years between 1955-1961. In scoring 106 goals Da Costa is 8th in the all time club scoring charts for Serie A.

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Mkhitaryan the hat-trick hero as Roma climb into the top 4 but lose Verona appeal

Roma picked up their 4th win of the season as they beat Genoa 3-1 at the weekend and the hero who emerged from the game was Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The player scored a hat-trick to boost his club who left the Genoa came with back to back wins.

This was a game dominated by the visitors Roma who had 6 shots on target in the first half alone and it was a real surprise that the first half looked like it was going to end 0-0. But with 2 minutes of stoppage time to play Roma found their goal. Mkhitaryan the number 77 rose as if he was standing on a ladder such was his advantage for a final Roma first half corner and drove an unbeatable header into the net.

In football when one team scores just before half time it can have quite a psychological effect on the game. However Genoa came out fighting in the second half and just 5 minutes into the second period Genoa found themselves level. And what a brilliant one it was. Football is a team game after all and this felt like the ultimate one. Starting deep in their own half the club played one touch football, it took five passes to open up Roma and stun them and Marko Pjaca slotted away with ease. His reaction to the goal said it all, and it is goals like these that football is reminded of how much it is missing the fans.

Having said that with Genoa being at home their fans would be ultimately left disappointed as Roma struck back. It took until the 66th minute and was slightly scrappy but showed how the club do not give up loose balls, eventually the ball fell to Bruno Peres who simply had to tap a cross into the running Mkhitaryan to easily score his 2nd of the game.

Mkhitaryan’s third and Roma’s winner was sealed with five minutes to go, this time Pedro was the provider. And it was the best goal of the game. A neat cross on the edge of the area found Mkhitaryan just inside it who smashed the ball home in fantastic style. It was a game that Roma dominated from start to finish having 18 attempts on goal. Genoa of course did play their part but there was always likely only going to be one winner at the weekend. Roma are now in 4th place on 14 points and three points behind league leaders AC Milan.

Understandably Roma coach Paulo Fonseca was full of praise for his side. “We showed great personality and we deserved to win. We had four or five clear chances to score and we were always focused at the back. They scored on our only mistake. It’s important to feel this commitment. We conceded one goal but we scored three and we could have done more. After Genoa’s goal we had a great reaction, we scored two goals and it’s important to feel this ambition.”

Roma lose Verona appeal

In theory Roma haven’t lost this season although anyone can see by their league statistics that they have lost a game. This is because of their match v Verona earlier in the season where the club fielded an ineligible player by mistake in Amadou Diawara. The Italian FA voided the game at 0-0 and gave Verona a 3-0 default victory going by the rules. The appeal has been officially rejected though and Verona keep their win.

Mkhitaryan the hat-trick hero

Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s hat trick were his first goals of the season and he revealed that injured striker Edin Dzeko spoke to him before the goal and said score a goal. Well he did better than that. Even though it was first goals of the season he has assisted in another 4 goals already and has been an important part of the clubs strengths.

Mkhitaryan earned 14 fantasy points at the weekend and he has 28 in total which means he is currently the most successful player at Roma to have in your team.

It’s the international break now and Roma’s next game isn’t until November 22nd where they will play Parma at home.

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Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round Seven

David Ospina (7 points): it was finally revenge of the defenses in this round as, after few goal-filled matchdays, nine teams managed to keep a clean sheet, which is by far the best clip so far this season. There were some strong goalkeeping performances, also among those who conceded, but the clutchest one belongs to the Napoli player, who watched the game for about 60 minutes, as Bologna barely attacked, but came through while under heavy fire late, defending the narrow lead of his team with a couple of monster saves. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Six – Top Matches

INTER-PARMA

Inter: Romelu Lukaku suffered a thigh injury that will cost him at least one game and the Nerazzurri will have to make up for the loss of their target man, something that rarely happened last year. Alexis Sanchez is dealing with a small problem as well, therefore Lautaro Martinez, who has slowed down after opening the campaign with three straight goals, will have to shoulder the attack, then they will hope Andrea Pinamonti can be decent right away. They also briefly used Ivan Perisic as second-striker in the last game. Stefano Sensi is back on the shelf with his customary muscular problems: Christian Eriksen had some flashes last week, but so far him and Marcelo Brozovic have produced nothing too exciting. Their best midfielder has been Nicolò Barella (two assists), while Arturo Vidal has mostly taken care of the dirty work. At some point Radja Nainggolan will get in on the action, but it has not happened yet. Fortunately, Achraf Hakimi (one goal, two assists) was a false positive and he will resume plowing the flank from the start here, while Ashley Young has shaken off the virus and will challenge Ivan Perisic, who has been solid (two assists) but has not really taken off. Their back-line has improved with Alessandro Bastoni back in the fold.

Recommended picks: Martinez, Perisic, Hakimi.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Previews – Round Five – Top Matches

ATALANTA-SAMPDORIA

Atalanta: the Bergamaschi looked unprepared to match Napoli’s aggressiveness in the last fixture and the much-anticipated bout ended with a shocking beating. They will look to return to form in Serie A as well after pummelling Midtjylland. Alejandro Gomez has been the tip of the spear so far and straight-up one of the best players in the League. Luis Muriel has put his name in the stat-sheet twice, like Sam Lemmers, who has made the most of his limited opportunities. Duvan Zapata has been more up-and-down. Josip Ilicic looked rusty in his first game back, but that is understandable: the good news is that he indeed came back and the coach will likely give him regular minutes to get him into shape. Ruslan Malinovskyi is questionable due to an injury, which may lead to some playing time for the intriguing Aleksey Miranchuk. Their stud wing-backs Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens have scored one goal each, with the German international adding two assists.

Suggested picks: Gomez, Muriel, Zapata. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy Team – Round Four

Mattia Perin (7 points): just three goalies managed to keep a clean sheet in this round, two actually in the Monday match. Perin was by far the busiest of the lot and had to intervene on several attempts by Verona, mostly from outside the box, and had his best save on a header by Marco Davide Faraoni.

Tommaso Augello (11 points): every defender for the Blucerchiati could have a place in the top XI, but the nod for everybody else naturally goes to the hard-working left-back, who assisted Fabio Quagliarella with a gorgeous cross and then hit the net with a precise little volley from outside the box. Continue reading