Inter vs. AC Milan: Coppa Italia quarter-final – Team news, stats and prediction

After the heavy defeat against Atalanta at the weekend, Milan need to bounce back as soon as possible and they have a perfect opportunity on Tuesday evening. Inter are the designated home side in the Coppa Italia quarter-final clash and while a win would be a great boost, it could also be another rough set-back. 

The Rossoneri failed to live up to their usual standard against Atalanta and were beaten fair and square by three goals to nil. With both Ismael Bennacer and Hakan Calhanoglu out, they just couldn’t get their play going and didn’t really have many chances to grab at least one goal.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19 – Top Matches

MILAN-ATALANTA

Milan: the Rossoneri keep navigating their several absences in brilliant fashion and Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to the XI with a bang in Cagliari, putting together a brace and moving to 12 goals in the season in just eight appearances. The COVID outbreak is getting resolved as Rade Krunic and Ante Rebic tested negative, but their conditioning will have to be assessed in practice and Theo Hernandez was a false positive, so only Hakan Calhanoglu is out, which is a major loss, but at least they are in a better spot numerically and they recovered their stud fullback. Rafael Leao (three goals, one assist in the last five games) will be back from suspension and will likely supplant Jens Petter Hauge that has been pretty quiet despite seeing good minutes. Franck Kessie let Zlatan take the PK in the past game but he will probably re-gain those duties in this one: he has notched six goals and two assists in the season. Davide Calabria is trending up as he provided a great helper in the past game and also hit the net recently.

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Inter make a statement by beating Juventus to pile pressure on Milan

Matchday 18 felt like the moment that this seasons Serie A title race turned into a two horse one and there is even more likelihood that a team from Milan will be crowned the winners.

Milan beat Cagliari but all of the plaudits were saved for Inter who beat Juventus in a huge match at San Siro. It felt like a turning point because one could not fathom the problems that would have been borne out of a Juventus victory for Inter. Firstly they would now be six points behind Milan have dropped to 4th and Juventus would be 2nd on 36 points.

But that wasn’t the case and Inter stepped up when they needed too. It was an interesting game though given that neither Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez featured in the goals or even the assists.

The game got off to an incredible start when Cristiano Ronaldo thought he had opened the scoring in the 11th minute but his goal was ruled out for offside. And then 60 seconds later Inter took the lead. Nicolo Barella who has been in good form lately crossed the ball and Arturo Vidal who has taken some bad press recently found some space to head in the cross past Gianluigi Buffon the veteran goalkeeper to put Inter in the lead.

It was a shell shock moment for Juventus given that they thought they had taken the lead only to now be trailing in the game.

Juventus looked for the equaliser and played some intelligent football in the first half and most of the possession. But Inter were happy to sap up some pressure and had 10 goal attempts in the 1st half alone with half of those shots on target.

Much like the first half the second period started with incident and Inter were celebrating being 2-0 up within seven minutes of the restart. This time Barella went from provider to goal scorer his 2nd of the season but most important. Barella’s brilliant shot flew into the net after a cross by Alessandro Bastoni his 2nd assist of the season and Inter were in party mode.

The second half soon petered out and there were only 3 shots on targets between the two sides with Inter having just one, but that was the goal.

Inter coach Antonio Conte was obviously very happy with the win, he said: “We prepared well and it’s satisfying to see that we were right about the things we thought could hurt Juventus. The lads followed the plan perfectly and I am very happy for them, because these are games that must give you self-belief, let you understand you are on the right path. We already saw fruits of this process last season, we are continuing to see them this term. Juventus were an important reference point, a side that dominated Serie A for nine years, having done exceptional work both on the field and as a club.”

A whole host of players for Inter earned 7 points in the fantasy rankings including Nicolo Barella who was named official man of the match. Barella did lose some points as he was booked late on.

Inter’s next game will be on January 22nd when they take on Udinese away from home. Udinese are in 15th place and have lost 9 games this season and that includes losing their last 2 at home. It will be another interesting game for Inter who will be expected to win. If Milan lose at home to Atalanta then Inter will go top of the league.

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Roma go 4 games unbeaten as they prepare for the derby against Lazio

Such is the latest standard in Serie A that even though Roma have won 10 points from their last four games they would only be sixth based on form. But the Giallorossi have bigger fish to fry than just statistics as they aim to win the title for the first time in 2 decades.

A Serie A title is on the cards for Paulo Fonseca’s team who enter match day 18 in third place and just six points behind league leaders Milan.

Recent results have been brilliant and their 3 game winning run was only stopped by Inter at the weekend as the two clubs drew 2-2. However it would be Roma leaving the Stadio Olimpico as the happier side given that they were losing the game with just four minutes to go.

Gianluca Manciniian who had been booked earlier in the game for using his elbow went from villain to hero as he scored a lovely headed goal which reminded any football fan of Italian football of how Paolo Rossi used to score. Mancini scored in the 86th minute to save a defeat and it’s now been almost a month since Roma lost a game in the league.

In the midweek game before the Inter match Roma played Crotone away from home and eased to a 3-1 victory. The Giallorossi had taken a 2-0 lead through a brace by Borja Mayoral and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who had lost his touch in goal in the last few weeks scored the third.

Can Roma win the league title for the first time since 2001?

Roma have only won the Scudetto 3 times in their history and whilst they won’t be the favourites to win this season the clubs consistency has got fans talking and getting excited. Presently they just need to get past both Milan teams who are in 1st and 2nd place. But there is the looming threat of the sleeping giant, Juventus who have started the season slow but are now gaining momentum and they are only a point behind Roma. The bookmakers have Roma at odds of 17.00 (16/1) to win the league. The current favourites are Inter at 2.50 (6/4) and they are followed by the 9 time in a row champions Juventus who are 3.00 (2/1).

Lazio v Roma

The Derby della Capitale will take place on Friday evening when Roma meet Lazio and it will be a significant one. If Roma win they will stay in 3rd place but will have the same points as Inter with 37 and will have moved 4 points clear of Juventus. It might not look like giant steps but it will be positive.

Lazio are in 8th place and a win would take them just 3 points shy of Roma and dent their fierce rivals title hopes and European ones. Here is how the last 5 matches when Lazio have been at home have ended in the derby.

September 1st, 2019-    Lazio 1-1 Roma

March 2nd, 2019 -         Lazio 3-0 Roma

April 15th, 2018-            Lazio 0-0 Roma

December 4th, 2016-     Lazio 0-2 Roma

April 3rd, 2016-              Lazio 1-4 Roma

Lazio wins: 1, Roma wins: 2, Draws: 2

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 18 – Top Matches

LAZIO-ROMA

Lazio: Ciro Immobile took a little back-seat in the Parma game, where two other fellow attackers shined, Luis Alberto, who broke the deadlock with his third goal in the last five matches, and Felipe Caicedo, who found the target for the second round in a row, moving to six total in the season. The Golden Boot recipient had scored in all the previous five tilts. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic dished his fifth assist to add to his two goals, as his role is slightly different this year, but he has maintained a decent level of production. Manuel Lazzari cashed in on his good moment with his second assist of the season, catching up with fellow wing-back Adam Marusic in that regard. Joaquin Correa (one goal, one assist) could be back at least in limited fashion in this one, but Caicedo has filled in admirably. The Sergeant tends to deliver in big matches.

Recommended picks: Milinkovic-Savic, Immobile, Alberto.  Continue reading

Inter lose pace on rivals Milan as Roma and Juventus come charging for Antonio Conte’s team

After having a fantastic record in the league Inter gained just 1 point this past week as they played two games. First it would be defeat at Sampdoria going down 2-1 to record only their 2nd defeat of the season and then they would draw 2-2 with Roma in a very entertaining game.

The defeat at Sampdoria really hurt the club because Milan finally lost a game, their first of the season and this was the time to catch them up. Milan lost 3-1 at home to Juventus.

The Sampdoria game looked like it wasn’t going to be Inter’s when Alexis Sanchez missed a 12th minute penalty, the omens were in the air and this just wasn’t going to be Inter’s night. Sampdoria took a 2-0 lead into half time and despite Stefan de Vrij pulling a goal back for Antonio Conte’s team they would go on to lose the game.

Normally Romelu Lukaku would have taken Sanchez’s place but he was back and recovering from a minor injury and had to start the match from the bench as a precaution. Inter had 11 shots on target and were far the better team but they couldn’t find that 2nd goal to get back into the game.

This past week hasn’t been easy for Inter whose 2 recent games have both been away from home and whilst they were expected to beat Sampdoria many thought they could struggle at the Stadio Olimpico against Roma and that so proved to be true.

In the end the final result did seem fair though with Roma starting well but as the game went on Inter creating the better chances. Inter found themselves 1-0 down early on when Lorenzo Pellegrini took a shot from outside the area after great build up play by Roma. The half ended 1-0 to the home side.

Inter though were piling on the pressure in the 2nd half and hit back with two goals in short time. The first was a brilliant powerful header from Milan Skriniar, the defender has been in great form lately.

It would be another defender who would help Inter out and put them in the lead a few minutes later with a brilliant strike by Achraf Hakimi. Inter looked like they would go on to win the game and there was just four minutes remaining when Roma broke their hearts.

Gianluca Mancini scored a great flick on header almost a classic style in the vein of the great Paolo Rossi to secure a point from Roma.

As a result the league is looking exciting however Milan has taken a 3 point lead from Inter and they have 40 points. Roma have 37 and have several teams hot on their trail in the form of Roma, Juventus and even Atalanta aren’t that far behind with 31 points.

Next weekend is the big one for Inter as they will face the champions of the last 9 seasons Juventus at home. Lose that and they could slip six points behind if Milan beat Cagliari.

What this week has proven is that despite the obvious talents of this Inter team where there are goals in all positions, they really miss a 100% Romelu Lukaku, he is the player they rely on and the heart beat of this team.

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Martinez the hat trick hero as Inter hit Crotone for 6

Inter beat Crotone 6-2 to march on in Serie A and they are just a point behind Milan in what is looking like a two horse race now for the league title.

Inter have not lost in 10 games and they have earned 26 points from their last 30 as they continue their relentless route chasing Milan. It was a fantastic performance from Antonio Conte’s team although what was incredible is that they actually went behind in the game.

Crotone took a surprise lead as early as the 12th minute from a headed cross but less than 20 minutes later Inter were leading the game. First through Lautaro Martinez who hadn’t stopped scoring goals up until now but had gone a little goal shy for his standard. Martinez smashed home superbly from a Romelu Lukaku assist and even though it was only 1-1 you got the feeling at that moment that there would only be one winner. Soon it was 2-1 due to an own goal, though it appeared that Martinez had scored his second but replays showed he clearly hadn’t.

But the excitement was not over yet when just a few minutes later Crotone were awarded a penalty and converted for 2-2, the teams went in at half time with this score. Whilst Inter had been technically the much better side there was no denying that the visitors had played a good first half and had many threats on goal themselves.

Martinez made it 3-2 just before the hour mark from a tight angle- he was so full of confidence in this game. A few minutes later the power and strength of Lukaku shrugged off a few defenders to make it 4-2 and now the game looked like Inter would collect all three points.

A 5th goal came and it was Martinez’s hat trick after he was in the right place when a shot was saved but he pounced on the re bound with his head from just a few yards out. Achraf Hakimi who has been in brilliant form for Conte’s team rounded off the game by making it 6-2. Matteo Darmian assisted Hakimi who scored from a thundering shot and the defender ironically probably scored the best goal of the game.

Inter’s 3 best performing players so far this season:

1. Romelu Lukaku 52pts

Lukaku has scored 12 goals and assisted in a further 3 and is having arguably his best season in his career to date and has the most points of any player at Inter.

2. Lautaro Martinez 42pts

Martinez recently picked up 14 points in one game v Crotone and looks like being one of the really special forwards in this new era of football. He has scored 9 goals and made another three.

3. Achraf Hakimi 32pts

Hakimi looks like he is everywhere on the pitch and has so much passion and desire. For a defender his stats are fantastic and he has scored 5 goals and assisted in another three. He has also helped to keep 3 clean sheets.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 16 – Top Matches

CROTONE-ROMA

Crotone: they tried to keep up with Inter on Sunday thanks to the first goals in Serie A of Niccolò Zanellato and Vladimir Golemic, but they ultimately ended up being overwhelmed. Junior Messias showed up with an assist, his first one, while he has found the target five times. Emmanuel Riviere is taking playing time away from Simy, but neither has been very prolific or really dangerous. Given the role, it is unlikely that Zanellato will turn into a fantasy weapon: in the midfield Salvatore Molina (one goal, four assists) and Milos Vulic surely have more value, while left-back Arkadiusz Reca (one goal and five helpers) has been a valuable reference point on the flank. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 15 – Top Matches

INTER-CROTONE

Inter: Lautaro Martinez snapped out of his scoring slump against Verona, bagging a lovely volley and moving to six goals in Serie A in the season. He has been streaky one way or the other. It was a rare game where Romelu Lukaku (11 goals) did not find the target, while Achraf Hakimi dished his fourth assist and he has been en fuego in the recent matches. Marcelo Brozovic picked up a helper as well on the Milan Skriniar goal, while Ivan Perisic did not a whole lot despite playing in a more offensive role than usual. With Arturo Vidal now fully healthy, that tactical solution probably will not be presented again and in any case the Croatian international has not showed well enough to be an option. Nicolò Barella has been pretty quiet recently but he too has four assists in the season, but his activity in the final third depends on how the midfield is composed. Stefano Sensi and Ashley Young are secondary options.

Recommended picks: Lukaku, Martinez, Hakimi. Continue reading

Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s rebirth to propel Roma back into the Champions League

Since assuming the reins in 2019, Paulo Fonseca has wasted no time implementing his footballing philosophy in the nation’s capital. The veteran tactician has proven to be a willing learner since making the switch to Italian football, switching from his preferred 4-3-3 into a more fluid 3-4-2-1. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has arguably been the biggest benefactor of the formation change, establishing himself as one of Serie A’s deadliest creative threats.

The Armenian international is off to one of the best starts to a season in recent memory, registering seven goals and six assists in 14 appearances. Mkhitaryan has combined wonderfully with Edin Dzeko and Pedro up top, interchanging freely in the final third. The former Arsenal man has excelled with his newfound freedom and has since led the Giallorossi into third place heading into 2021.

Roma has failed to qualify for the last two editions of the Champions League and will be eager to make their return to Europe’s elite competition. Beyond the prestige that comes with the competition, Champions League qualification would represent more funds to bolster the side. Mkhitaryan’s rebirth offers a cause for excitement in the nation’s capital and could propel Roma back into the conversation alongside Europe’s elite.

The 31-year-old initially broke onto the scene back in 2016 in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, emerging as an elite attacking midfielder under Jurgen Klopp. Mkhitaryan finished the season with 11 goals and 15 assists in 28 starts, prompting interest from England’s giants. The Armenian international eventually made the move to Manchester United, where he struggled to replicate his past exploits. Simply put, English football did not suit Mkhitaryan’s skillset.

Mkhitaryan later moved to Arsenal in hopes of reviving his career, but once again, failed to prove his worth in London. His woes in England meant he was available on the cheap, with Roma swooping in for his signature, securing him on a loan deal. The former Manchester United man impressed on his loan, scoring nine goals and recording five assists in 16 appearances. The decision to trigger their option for him proved to be an easy one for Roma.

The switch to Italian football has since helped Mkhitaryan get his career back on track and show glimpses of his past form. The Armenian international is currently on pace to beat his breakout season with Dortmund and surpass his personal best for goals and assists. Beyond his impressive numbers, Mkhitaryan makes Roma tick in the final third.

The 31-year-old is always looking to dictate play in possession and regularly looks to take on his man. His connection with Dzeko has made for one of Italy’s most intriguing strike partnerships this season, with the Giallorossi netting 31 goals already on the season. Given both their experience, expect Roma to continue their run of form heading into 2021.

Fonseca’s men open up the new year against Sampdoria and Crotone, but they can’t get too comfortable. After all, mouth-watering clashes against Inter and Lazio await them in the space of five days, wrapping up an enthralling month of January. With Mkhitaryan firing on all cylinders, the Italian giants will like their chances.

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