Standings implications: Juventus topped Lazio, not without some troubles, and moved considerably closer to Scudetto, as the other chasers slowed down since Inter shared the spoils with Roma and Atalanta could not make Verona bend the knee. Napoli and Milan stay at the same level as they were both successful, the Rossoneri versus Bologna, the Partenopei against Udinese. While that is inconsequential with Napoli taking home the Coppa Italia, the Devil got closer to Roma and built a sizeable cushion over Sassuolo, which were held to a tie in Cagliari. Fiorentina kept it going against Torino.
Roma-Bologna: the Giallorossi are in a funk and have played just one convincing game out of the last five. They will be without Lorenzo Pellegrini due to suspension and it is a massive loss considering that he is the mastermind of their offense. They should get Henrikh Mkhitaryan back from injury and perhaps even starting considering the hole at no.10. The other option is likely Diego Perotti and they seem to always be awarded a penalty when he is out there. Edin Dzeko has scored in three straight games and they will face a pretty suspect back-line. Cengiz Under took a step back versus Sassuolo, but he is always pretty assertive when he decides to play, while Justin Kluivert has not done much since coming back from injury, but should improve over time. Paulo Fonseca has elected to keep Aleksandar Kolarov on the bench in the last two matches for tactical reasons, but the decision has not really moved the needle so the stud left-back should soon be back in the XI. Continue reading
Atalanta: Josip Ilicic lost the appeal so he will serve the second game of his suspension. Ruslan Malinovskyi is disqualified as well. Duvan Zapata is not ready after missing time with a thigh strain despite the early optimism, while Luis Muriel and Remo Freuler, who picked up some muscular ailments with their national teams, should be fine.
Bologna: Mattia Bani and Danilo are banned. Takehiro Tomiyasu is poised to come back from a thigh strain, while Federico Santander suffered the same injury few days ago and will miss three weeks. Roberto Soriano and Mitchell Dijks will miss another one due to a knee and toe edema respectively, also Mattia Destro remains on the shelf due to knee soreness. Continue reading
Despite Saturday’s chaotic win over Genoa, the Milan officials have elected to axe Marco Giampaolo and appoint Stefano Pioli after an underwhelming start of the season, which saw them collect three wins and four losses, against Udinese, Inter, Torino and Fiorentina. They are currently 13th in the table. The new boss has agreed to a two-year contract.
Pioli most recently coached Fiorentina for almost two seasons, as he resigned last April and then the team went into a downward spiral under Vincenzo Montella. He had led them to an eight-placed finish the year before. Continue reading
Milan-Brescia: the first game under Marco Giampaolo presented the same issues the Rossoneri suffered from last season, primarily keeping the ball up front and feeding their main striker. They managed to get only some limited offensive forays without never building a constant assasult. A faux pas that could lead to some tactical and personnel change, with Suso possibly returning to the flank and Ismael Bennacer and Rafael Leao getting the nod from start. If they can turn it around, it could be a decent spot for Krzysztof Piatek, but it is tough to trust them right now. The Rondinelle showed to be solid right away in a fairly tough road game in Cagliari: last year’s design worked and the defense held up. If that continues to be the case, Alfredo Donnarumma will be one to watch, he scored 26 goals in Serie B, same as Dimistri Bisoli, who is their most dangerous midfielder, while Sandro Tonali’s fantasy production is a little shakier because it hinges on set pieces. Continue reading
After bringing in Rade Krunic earlier in the summer, Milan have acquired another midfielder from Empoli: Ismael Bennacer, who was bought for €16M and inked a five-year contract. The 21-year-old Algerian international is coming off his breakout season, where he piled up 37 appearances and provided three assists. He was just recently named the best player in the 2019 African Cup of Nations, where he was very instrumental in the Desert Warriors’ win.
A product of Arsenal’s youth academy, Bennacer has moved to Italy in the summer of 2017, immediately becoming a starter for the Azzurri. Continue reading
Despite being relegated to Serie B in heart-breaking fashion, Empoli’s roster contained many up and coming talents. Following their relegation many Serie A side are looking to claim their best players on the cheap.
Just last week, Napoli signed Giovanni Di Lorenzo – who had his best season yet, scoring five goals and registering three assists – while Empoli’s underrated midfield trio has since been dismantled.
Today, it was reported that Juventus signed Hamed Traore for 12 million euros and will loan him out immediately to Sassuolo. Fiorentina reportedly signed him in the January transfer window, but forgot to deposit his contract with the league. Juventus took full advantage of their mistake, and snapped up the midfielder immediately.
The 19-year-old had a phenomenal season under Aurelio Andreazzoli, and established himself as one of the league’s most enticing midfield prospects. Equally capable of defending as he is attacking, Traore looks to be a complete midfielder, and will undoubtedly make the move to Juventus in the near future if he keeps developing.
At Sassuolo, Traore finds himself in an ideal situation and will play under yet another progressive manager in Roberto De Zerbi. As a result, expect Traore to continue his progression next season.
Outside of Traore, Rade Krunic also made the move to one of Italy’s elite. Milan signed the Bosnian midfielder for 8 million euros, and will reunite with his former manager Marco Giampaolo. While Krunic isn’t exactly the big-money move Milan fans wanted in the midfield, he will offer some much needed depth and creativity to the side. Capable of playing as a mezz’ala or behind the striker, if need be, Krunic will get plenty of minutes to prove himself.
In his 33 appearances this season, the midfielder scored five goals – two of which were wonder-strikes against Sassuolo and SPAL. Other than his ability to find the back of the net, the former Empoli midfielder registered seven assists, highlighting his directness and ability to pick a defence apart at will. At just 25 years old, and given he’s already familiar with Giampaolo, expect Krunic to only improve from here, and make the most of his move to Milan.
Ismael Bennacer, on the other hand, is still at the club for the time being, but it’s only a matter of time before the midfielder leaves. Currently, Genoa are favourites for his signature, however, it’s important to note that Arsenal hold the right to match any accepted offer. In the past, a number of English and French clubs have been linked with the Algerian midfielder, therefore don’t rule out foreign interference yet.
Playing at the base of the midfield, Bennacer dictated tempo at will for Empoli. His five assists are but one indicator of his immense talent, and range of passing. While signing with Genoa would represent a lateral move, it’s only a matter of time before the 21-year-old makes the leap to a big club. In addition, reuniting with Andreazzoli, would give him a sense of familiarity he’ll need to keep developing.
With Krunic and Traore already gone, it hasn’t taken long for Empoli to cash in on their talents. As the summer transfer window rolls on, expect the Tuscan-based outfit to continue profiting on their scouting exploits.
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No matter what coach will be chosen, Juventus will have to address some glaring needs in the upcoming transfer market session, but they might be able to fill them with the usual modus operandi: plucking players from other Serie A teams. Here are some of the three biggest holes.
A heir to Giorgio Chiellini: the Old Lady had a good thing going in the first half of last season, where for a while they were able to rotate two well-assorted duos, Leonardo Bonucci-Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani-Chiellini, and go with Bonucci-Chiellini in the most demanding fixtures. Eventually, the Moroccan centre-back grew tired for the lack of consistent playing times and asked to leave and Martin Caceres was a temporary cheap patch. Continue reading
With the Serie A season coming to a close, many of the league’s relegation-bound sides will be putting their best players on the market. Needing to trim their wage bill, some players will be available cheaply, opening the room for bargains. Every year there’s a few players that stick out from the rest, and frankly deserve better than a season in Italy’s second division. Here are three players who might be worth a look into for Italy’s mid-table sides.
Chievo – Mariusz Stepinski (Striker)
In his second season in Italian football, Stepinski has grown immensely as a forward, and has done his best to lead Chievo’s misfiring front-line. While goals proved hard to come by in Verona this season, the Polish forward found the back of the net six times, two of which came in the early goings of the year against Juventus and Roma.
At just 24 years old, Stepinski deserves another shot at top flight football, albeit with a more progressive side. Simply put, any side in the bottom half of the table could make do with his services.
Midfielder Sofian Kiyine could also be of interest to sides looking to bolster their midfield with youth, and has demonstrated he’s more than capable of holding his own.
Empoli – Ismael Bennacer (Center Midfield)
The Empoli midfielder has been in sensational form this season, and has done exceptionally well at the heart of the Tuscan’s midfield. Bennacer has proven equally capable of shielding the back four, as he is spreading the ball as evidenced through his five assists, and is undoubtedly ready for a bigger club. With many of Serie A’s sides missing a link between attack and defence, the Algerian could prove to be an under-the-radar, low-cost option.
However, English giants Arsenal reportedly have a lowly 6 million euros buy-back clause in the 21-year-old’s contract, and are worth monitoring themselves. With Empoli’s Serie A status in doubt, expect Bennacer to be on the move come summertime.
Teammate Francesco Caputo, and his 15 goals, are also worth mentioning, but his age may prove to be a deterrent for most sides. In any case, the striker could prove to be an interesting option for the newly-promoted sides.
Frosinone – Camillo Ciano (Attacking Midfielder)
With Frosinone going down to Serie B, many of their players will be available rather cheaply. While loanees Francesco Cassata, and Andrea Pinamonti are of great interest, they will return to their parent clubs Sassuolo and Inter respectively. If either is available again, they should definitely be made priorities. However, Serie A’s mid-table to lower tier sides would be wise to focus their attention on attacking midfielder Camillo Ciano.
The 29-year-old has proven effective in a front two, and is versatile enough to play behind the striker as well. His seven goals and four assists illustrate he’s worthy of Italy’s top flight, and will undoubtedly be on the radar of the newly-promoted outfits looking for goals, and creativity in the final third. As he is nearing 30 years old, Ciano could prove to be a bargain.
Sportiello is worthy of consideration, as well, but is coming off one of his poorer seasons since establishing himself as a number one within Italy.
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Two perfect results in this round, one rather predictable by Juventus against Frosinone, which has already been covered on the site, the other a little more surprising, by Empoli, which rolled past Sassuolo. The Azzurri had not won since December 9th and copped just two points in the past nine fixtures, against Cagliari and Chievo, and were beaten in all the remaining ones.
Giuseppe Iachini fielded Afriyie Acquah over Hamed Traorè and Cristiano Dell’Orco over Jacob Rasmussesn compared to his most used line-up. Sassuolo posed very little resistance, perhaps caught by surprise by the vigor of the opponents, and Francesco Caputo and company pulled the strings all game long. Continue reading