The transfer market window is over, but there could still be some signings out of the free agent pool in the coming weeks and there are some decent names out there, especially for the mid-to-low table teams. Claudio Marchisio terminated his contract with Zenit to rehab from knee surgery, but he will not coming back to Serie A unless he changes his stance of playing only for Juventus in Italy. Likewise Keisuke Honda, that after spending time at Pachuca and Melbourne is now looking to move to his home country. Continue reading
Serie A teams have been moderately active over the last two weeks. Atalanta completed the biggest deal by signing Luis Muriel, who was previously at Fiorentina but owned by Sevilla. Inter spent a considerable amount of money to activate the option to buy Matteo Politano from Sassuolo, which was never in doubt despite the formula of the transfer, and youngster Eddy Salcedo from Genoa.
Chievo Verona needed some cash to register to Serie B and few clubs helped them out by poaching the some of their most interesting players: Sampdoria acquired the energetic right back Fabio Depaoli, which will likely lead to the exit of one between Bartosz Bereszynski and Jacopo Sala, while Bologna signed the solid centre-back Mattia Bani, who will contribute to filling in for Lyanco, who was brilliant in the second half of last season but they were unable to retain him after the loan spell from Torino. Continue reading
The French international has been an important figure in Gennaro Gattuso’s side this season, after joining on a season long loan from Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea back in August 2018.
He has played in 24 of Milan’s 30 Serie A games in 2018-19, with 10 in Europa League and cup action for the San Siro club.
Milan-Juventus was the most anticipated match coming into the round and it did not disappoint, even though the score ended up being a little lopsided. As if there were not enough storylines already, one arose even before the start as Massimiliano Allegri elected to keep Leonardo Bonucci on the bench, sparing him a date with a very hostile environment. His replacement Medhi Benatia had a mixed performance.
The Bianconeri came into the game trying to maintain their lead over Napoli, which were victorious on Saturday, and looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss against Manchester United in Champions League. Milan had prevailed in five of their last Serie A fixtures, twice thanks to Alessio Romagnoli in the final minutes. Continue reading
Juventus: Mattia De Sciglio is out again with a hamstring ailment.
Napoli: Alex Meret remains out for arm fracture, he should miss the next one as well. No issue for Lorenzo Insigne after last week’s blow to the knee. Fabian Ruis is out with muscle fatigue.
Roma: Diego Perotti is nursing a bruised ankle, but he might be in the squad.
Here’s the first edition of the Serie A recap, which will provide some quick thoughts on the round that just ended.
Standings implications. Juventus are de facto champions since Napoli dropped two more points and the gap in the goal difference is too wide. It is not officially official, but it is as close as it gets. Inter earned two points to Lazio for the fourth spot and the showdown in the final matchday will likely decide the final team qualifying to Champions League. Sampdoria are virtually eliminated from the Europa League race since they are five points behind the seventh-placed Atalanta, which were leapfrogged by Milan despite a great performance against Lazio.
At the bottom of the table, Verona are mathematically relegated, while Sassuolo are safe. Chievo and Spal nabbed monumental wins, putting Cagliari in real troubles. There are now five teams within two points, with one going down.
Confirmations. Mauro Icardi, Matteo Politano and Hakan Calhanoglu extended their hot streaks. Paulo Dybala did not have a great game but still hit the target, Simone Verdi converted a penalty in an unfavourable match-up. Patrick Cutrone has the biggest nose for the goal among Milan’s centre-forwards. Cengiz Under, Sami Khedira and Musa Barrow continue to produce, same for Mariusz Stepinski. Both Spal strikers took advantage of Benevento’s lousy defence. Giacomo Bonaventura, Douglas Costa and Marcelo Brozovic shined and notched a pair of assist each, Josip Ilicic could have had a similar haul if it was not for Thomas Strakosha and the rest of Lazio’s defenders. Alisson had a couple of tremendous saves.
Guess who is back. It did not propel Napoli to victory, but Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik snapped their scoring slump. Valter Birsa scored a crucial goal, his first since October.
Surprise scorers. The first three are not that astonishing since they are attackers, but it was their first this season, or in Serie A in general: Rafinha finally coronated a string of good performances with a goal, Giuseppe Rossi found the net after over a year and Seung-Wong Lee had the consolation goal against Milan. Ignazio Abate and Andrea Ranocchia have not started much this year and it was certainly a surprise to see them in the scoresheets: the Milan right back even scored a pretty goal on an open play.
Flops of the round. The defences of Bologna, Torino, Udinese and Verona were already headed for tough games, but the blunders of Sebastien De Maio and Nicolas Burdisso did not help. Napoli’s Mario Rui and Pepe Reina had a miscommunication on Lorenzo De Silvestri’s score, which was probably more on the fullback. Gianluigi Buffon sent an errant pass towards Daniele Rugani, who caused a penalty. Sampdoria did not show up in Sassuolo. Not exactly flops, but Gonzalo Higuain and Ivan Perisic did not join the goal fest thrown by their teammates and Edin Dzeko had a quiet outing.
Clutch goal of the day. Not a ton of late-game heroics in this one, the shut-out goes to Fiorentina’s Bryan Dabo timely trail on a feed by Diego Falcinelli to complete the comeback and defeat Genoa.
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The international break was not that beneficiary for injury recoveries: here are the latest updates.
Juventus: Alex Sandro and Sami Khedira got hurt with their national teams: the muscular injury of the Brazilian left back is believed to be more serious and he will miss the Milan game, while the midfielder has a bruised knee, but he is available. Juan Cuadrado will return on the bench after sports hernia surgery, while Federico Bernardeschi will be available next week and he will not require knee surgery. Mario Mandzukic did not make the squad list due to a last-minute contusion.
Here are the updates on few players’ conditions ahead of the upcoming Serie A round.
Juventus: Medhi Benatia is suspended. Stephan Lichtsteiner was subbed off midweek due to some back pain and Benedikt Howedes missed the last game due to muscle fatigue, but they are both available this week. Sami Khedira is not because of the flu. Juan Cuadrado and Federico Bernardeschi continue to rehab their tough injuries: it is not a given that they will be able to return this season.
Napoli: Vlad Chiriches appeared ready last week after a hamstring (biceps femoris) pull, but it looks like he will need a little more time. Faouzi Ghoulam is recovering from a patella fracture.
A big news rocked Milan on Friday: Andrea Conti suffered an ACL tear in the left knee during a practice. He will undergo surgery and he is set to be out for at least five months, meaning that will return in March at the earliest, in April more realistically. Milan signed Conti this summer from Atalanta for €25M after a lengthy negotiation.
Against Austria Wien, Vincenzo Montella changed his formation from a 4-3-3, which had some depth issues, to a 3-5-2, that was briefly experimented in the pre-season as well. In the pre-game presser, the coached stated that it was a natural tactical evolution considering the arrival of Leonardo Bonucci, a three-man defence master, and that he was simply waiting for the return from injury of Alessio Romagnoli to use it consistently. The poor showing against Lazio, where the team looked extremely vulnerable, evidently speeded things up. Rossoneri easily defeated the Europa League opponent, with Hakan Calhanoglu shining in the midfield and André Silva scoring a hat-trick.
Conti was set to be a big weapon in this formation as he is tailor-made to be a wing-back. Playing in this position helped him ascend to the top echelon of Serie A fullbacks last season. Conti has a knack for scoring: he excels in making those sneaky cuts past the last defender and is a good finisher, both with his feet and his head. He tallied eight goals and provided four assists last season at Atalanta.
Milan are numerically equipped to replace Conti: they have two more right back at their disposal in Ignazio Abate and Davide Calabria. However, there is a gulf quality-wise and there were good reasons why revamping the fullback corps was a point of emphasis in the transfer market window. Abate can run but he is poor crosser and his finishing skills are non-existent, Calabria is a youngster who has yet to flourish and has struggled at times.
There is a solid chance that the one wing will look clipped, therefore making the formation unbalanced and predictable: Ricardo Rodriguez and Calhanoglu or Giacomo Bonaventura all gravitate on the left side and, without a threat like Conti on the other flank, focusing on that area will be an easy adjustment for the opponents. In this formation, Suso features as no.10/second-striker. He thrived last season when he was permanently moved to the winger position, but at this point he should have enough confidence to play more centrally. Anyway, this development could push Montella to tinker with the standard scheme, advancing Calhanoglu or Bonaventura a little and having Suso slightly moved to the right, making it a 3-4-2-1 that could soften the blow of Conti’s loss from the tactical standpoint.
It would be a stretch, but if Abate or Calabria did not produce enough, they could think about adapting someone there. Suso would be the first option, even though you would burden an exquisite offensive player with heavy defensive tasks. Bonaventura has always been very versatile and hard-working: he has played a little bit as left wing-back in the past, but he is right-footed and that would smooth the transition. Considering the splendid early returns on Calhanoglu as a midfielder, Bonaventura would find himself on the bench most often than not with this new lineup and that would be a waste. The final option is Fabio Borini, who has become an utility player after starting his career as a striker: the learning curve would be steep, but he might be able to pull it off.
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