Serie A Fantay Preview – Round 29

TORINO-LAZIO

Torino: the Granata had a nice reaction after falling in an early hole versus Cagliari, but an untimely penalty did them in. Andrea Belotti has found the target for two straight matches and has been excellent missed penalty aside. Simone Zaza is unlikely to be present, but Simone Verdi and especially Cristian Ansaldi, two of their most talented players, saw minutes in the past match and could be ready to start, unlocking few options up front, first of all the advancement of Alex Berenguer. Ansaldi had a positive impact after he subbed on, Verdi might need more time and had been struggling prior to the lockdown. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 28 – Sunday Games

Milan-Roma: the Rossoneri had an excellent performance against Lecce, although the quality of the opponents, especially in the back, needs to be taken into consideration. The light front-line worked out wonderfully as Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Giacomo Bonaventura all scored and Hakan Calhanoglu dished out two assists. Even Rafael Leao netted one off the bench. It is set to be confirmed as a whole because Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be at most be ready for a brief stint. Rebic and Bonaventura have the biggest chances to take home bonuses and Roma are not particularly stingy, while Calhanoglu runs most of the offense. Theo Hernandez picked it up where he left off and was one of their engines.

Suggested picks: Rebic, Bonaventura, Calhanoglu. Continue reading

Serie A Injuries and Suspension Report – Round 28

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic returned from an ankle problem in the last game, thus they have nothing else to worry about.

Bologna: Federico Santander and Andreas Skov Olsen will be out for a while due to thigh strains.

Brescia: Jhon Chancellor (thigh) will miss another one. Andrea Cistana is not close after repairing his peroneal tendon during the lockdown. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 27

Fiorentina-Brescia: the Viola will welcome back Franck Ribery, at least in limited fashion at first, and the coach is ready to tweak is system to accommodate him either in the hole or on the left wing, joining Dusan Vlahovic/Patrick Cutrone and obviously Federico Chiesa up front. In the meantime, it could be Gaetano Castrovilli taking on a bigger role. Alfred Duncan and Marco Benassi have some decent potential.  It is an extremely appealing match-up considering Brescia’s defensive woes and absences: Vlahovic and Castrovilli in the particular were in great form before the lockdown. Continue reading

Coronavirus Outbreak Nullifies Home-Field Advantage

The 237th instalment of the Derby d’Italia will be a defining moment in the season for both sides. On one hand, Inter desperately needs the three points to maintain the pace with Lazio and Juve at the top, while the bianconeri, by contrast, would like to keep Antonio Conte’s men at arm’s length. After all, a win against their fierce rivals would extend their lead to nine over the nerazzurri, with just one game in hand. With Lazio in fine form, three points are of paramount importance for Sarri’s men ahead of their crucial Champions League return leg against Lyon.

The game was initially set to be played last week in Turin, in front of their usual 40,000 spectators. With former Juventus captain Antonio Conte returning as an opponent for the first time since switching allegiances, the Allianz Stadium promised to be hostile. Many fans have even petitioned for Conte’s star to be removed at the Allianz Stadium after he joined Inter.

However, with the coronavirus spreading across the nation, the Italian Government ruled that all sporting events until April 3 would need to be played behind closed doors. As a result, Conte and Marotta will have to wait until next season to receive their “warm” welcomes.

While the game promises to be an evenly-matched tilt, the ruling puts Inter at a slight advantage. For one, the deafening home crowd won’t be present to distract them and they’ll be able to lock in like never before. On the other hand, Conte excels at motivating his men for one-off battles as we have seen throughout his young managerial career and will benefit from the relatively quiet, empty stadium. There may not be fans present, but one thing’s for sure: Conte’s voice will be heard, whereas Sarri is far more observant on the touchline.

In a game like this, Conte gets the advantage and will likely be motivating his men full throttle. With everything on the line tomorrow, expect Inter to come out firing from all cylinders. The stadium ban is an unprecedented situation that nullifies Juve’s home advantage, and Inter will be looking to fully capitalize on it.

For Sarri, the challenge is unique. After seeing his side underperform after the new year, Juve have fallen behind in the title race for the first time. Simply put, a reaction is needed or they may be in for a rough finish to the end of the season. Juve may have the game in hand on Lazio, but the biancocelesti have been in sensational form and have shown no signs of stopping. In many ways, they’ve been the best side in Italy this past season. Anything but a win against Inter and Juventus will find themselves in second place by tomorrow night; a worrying prospect indeed.

With Inzaghi’s men focusing solely on the league, it will be quite the uphill battle to climb if they fall behind, especially with no fans to support them. Factor in Juventus’ narrow deficit in the Champions League and the bianconeri’s minds may just be on their European exploits.

On the bright side, the last week has allowed Sarri’s men to regain energy and rest ahead of a crucial stretch. Due to injuries and a lack of depth in key areas, a majority of Juventus’ squad needed this.

No matter which way you put it, tomorrow’s derby d’Italia will be an awkward affair. The contrast of having massive title implications but no fans present make it so, there’s no way around it. While Sarri will be eager to prove he’s the right man for the job after coming under fire, Conte and his men are more than happy to play spoiler and throw their name in the hat for the Scudetto. For now, it’s advantage Conte.

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What does the Serie A fixture chaos mean for Lazio?

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The worst, it seems, is over.

After a maddening week of indecision, bickering and downright incompetence from Italy’s football authorities, some answers have finally been delivered as to how Serie A will deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The Italian government have issued a decree confirming that all sporting events in the country are to be played behind closed doors until 3 April.

Up until this point, Lazio’s superb season has been unaffected by the public health crisis.

But after a week of contradicting statements and last-minute U-turns, now is the time to answer some of the key questions surrounding the new reality in Italian football. Continue reading

Three Things to Watch in the Derby d’Italia

With the Derby d’Italia coming up, albeit behind closed doors, the implications couldn’t be bigger. With a win, Inter pull themselves within three of Juve with a game in hand on the Italian champions. A loss for the nerazzurri, however, could spell the end of their title challenge. Juventus, by contrast, will be looking to bounce back after a tough defeat against Lyon and will be keen on keeping Lazio at a distance.

The biancocelesti are in fine form and are currently just one point behind Juventus. Without further ado, here are three things to look out for in the latest iteration of the Derby d’Italia.

1) Where is Christian Eriksen?

Since joining Inter, Eriksen has been eased into Conte’s set-up and often comes on as a super-sub. Against Milan, the former Tottenham man started on the bench and impacted the proceedings from a more advanced role in the second half. Considering Conte’s rigid 3-5-2 formation, it will be interesting to see if the veteran tactician deploys Eriksen from the start against Juve.

While he has used him in the hole behind Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, Conte is not exactly a risk-taker and typically opts for defensive solidity. Against Juventus, expect Eriksen to play a crucial role, however, it remains to be seen whether it’s off the bench or from the start. As the season wears on, the Danish international will see his influence on the side slowly increase, but hopefully for Inter, it won’t be too late.

For now, Eriksen’s progression is definitely something to keep an eye on.

2) Juventus’ midfield dilemma continues. 

You could have written this section three years ago and it still would have been true. Since Pogba and Vidal left Juve, their midfield has not been the same, an issue the bianconeri are yet to address. Beyond bosman signings, reinforcements in the middle of the park have been few and far between, something which has come to haunt Juventus today.

We’re going into match-day 26 and it still seems Sarri is unsure of his best midfield trio. Does it include Ramsey and Rabiot? Is Pjanic the bianconeri’s best option at regista or is it Rodrigo Bentancur? Questions that as of right now have no answers, which is deeply concerning. After fielding Rabiot and Bentancur alongside Pjanic in mid-week, expect Sarri to shuffle his deck once more in hopes of finally establishing his preferred midfield.

The Derby d’Italia is as good an opportunity as any for a midfielder to stake a claim for a starting role and Sarri will be hoping the enormity of the game will spur on his uninspired midfield. Until now, they’ve been lackluster and that needs to change.

3) Will the lack of fans impact the game? 

After the Coronavirus spread to Italy, it was announced that most games in Northern Italy will be played behind closed doors. While the logic makes sense and avoids further pandemic, it will undoubtedly be odd in this clash. The whole season has been building up to this Derby d’Italia and now the fans won’t even be able to be there.

Fans play a crucial role at establishing atmosphere in a stadium and spurring their team onto victory. Without them at the Allianz Stadium, it will be interesting to see just how the game will be affected. Will it still feel like a title race? Does it give Inter the advantage or will the calm give Juve the upper hand?

While it will definitely be strange to see an empty Derby d’Italia, the game itself promises to be an enthralling affair between two of Italy’s best sides. Lazio will be looking on eagerly.

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Dangers, banana skins and must-wins: Plotting Lazio’s route to an improbable Scudetto

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Lazio’s stunning win over Inter last weekend made it difficult for even the most hardened cynic to deny their involvement in this year’s Serie A title race.

The come-from-behind victory demonstrated the infectious belief and confidence of Simone Inzaghi’s side yet again, not to mention their quality, as Sergej Milinkovic-Savic impressed and Ciro Immobile bagged his 26th goal of the season.

With 24 rounds of the Serie A season played, Lazio are one point behind Juventus in second, and two points ahead of Inter.

Although Inzaghi and his players continue to trot out the cliched “one game at a time” line on a regular basis, the temptation of looking ahead has proven too much for others to resist. Continue reading

Paul Pogba or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic: Who would you take?

After his most recent man-of-the-match performance against Inter, Sergej Milinkovic Savic is drawing comparisons to Europe’s elite midfielders and rightfully so. Many are even making the case that the 24-year-old is the best midfielder in the league right now. After all, the Serbian international is as well-rounded as they come. He can score goals, he dominates aerial duels both in his own half and in the final third and is slick in possession.

It’s since been reported that Italy’s elite are queuing up for the Lazio man, including the likes of Juventus and Inter. Whether Lazio will sell the player is a completely different story; especially if they go on to win the Scudetto.

It’s also recently been reported that Paul Pogba is on his way out of Manchester United and will be available this summer. His agent, the infamous Mino Raiola, is currently hard at work and is trying his best at wedging himself between his client and the club. Considering both are of similar age and will command the same price, which player would you go with? Let’s have a look.

Both players are similar in the sense that they operate best from a mezz’ala role, and enjoy making late runs into the back post, where they can use their physical presence to create space. In addition to their aerial prowess, both Pogba and Milinkovic-Savic are equally capable at firing from range and don’t have to be asked twice to shoot. When it comes to scoring goals, however, I might have to give the Frenchman the slight advantage. Pogba has demonstrated more consistency in this respect over the years.

Defensively, it’s another close call as both players are increasingly involved in their own third, be it through tackles and interceptions. While Pogba has improved in this respect in recent seasons and has become defensively responsible, Milinkovic-Savic currently has the upper hand. The Lazio man is currently averaging 1.6 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game, and makes his presence felt inside his eighteen-yard box. Advantage SMS.

Beyond preventing goals, creating them is equally important. In this respect, Pogba is the more accomplished player. Milinkovic-Savic possesses a great range of passing himself, but the Manchester United man simply creates more chances; chances that translate into goals. Last season, Pogba registered ten assists in all competitions and he regularly leads his side in this regard. While Milinkovic-Savic is slowly developing this facet to his game, as illustrated through his four assists this season, he still lags behind the Frenchman when it comes to end-product. Point, Pogba.

All in all, if they’re both available for similar prices, I’d probably take Pogba and even then, it’s too close to call. In my opinion, he’s the better goalscorer and creator and is equally dominant in the air. Wages, agent fees, and availability come into play, but any team looking to bolster their midfield have no choice but to take a flyer on these two.

Now have your say: Who would you take on your team?

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What to Watch for in Serie A: Round 24

Can you believe we are headed into round 24 of the 2019/20 Serie A season? Neither can we.

For this set of fixtures, there is no shortage of action coming our way. Here, we provide you with what you should be watching for in this weekend of calcio.  Continue reading