Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 20

Bartlomiej Dragowski (7 points): quite amazingly, there was only just one clean sheet in this round and it belonged to Fiorentina, who were stout defensively against Napoli, which are in a tough sledding still have weapons and talent up front. La Viola are finally tightening it up in the back, showcasing the solidity of their young goalie.

Pol Lirola (7 points): he outpaced his fellow teammates, who all racked up five points, since he fed Dusan Vlahovic prior to the second goal, although most of the credit goes to the teammate for that missile. He has been a non-factor so far this season, perhaps the assists will get him going.   Continue reading

Player Focus: Jeremie Boga

This season Serie A has seen a number of breakout stars make a name for themselves and attract interest from Europe’s elite. Sassuolo attacking midfielder Jeremie Boga is no different, and has established himself as one of the peninsula’s creative threats. Capable of beating the opposition with skill or finishing from range, Boga is a multi-faceted forward and is versatile enough to occupy multiple positions.

Under Roberto De Zerbi, the former Chelsea youth product has primarily featured from the left-wing but often drifts in centrally, interchanging positions with Juventus loanee Hamed Junior Traorè. Most recently, Sassuolo’s front-four combined to devastating effect against Torino, scoring two quick-fire goals and propelling them to victory over the Granata.

Boga would finish the game with a wonderfully taken goal and an assist on Berardi’s winner. Playing alongside Traorè and Berardi, Boga has really come into his own and has since been shortlisted by Italy’s elite, including Napoli and Milan among others.

While his end-product was a concern in the past, the Ivorian international has taken the step up this season and has already notched five goals for the neroverdi. Among those five goals is a carefully dispatched chip over the legendary Gianluigi Buffon in a draw against Juve and a perfectly-hit top corner effort against Torino’s Salvatore Sirigu most recently.

In addition to his increasing output, no player in Italy beats their man with as much ease as Boga does. Currently, the 23-year-old is averaging 4.3 successful dribbles per game and is proving to be a constant menace, be-it on the wing or through the middle. For context, Fiorentina Gaetano Castrovilli is the next player on the list with 3.1 successful dribbles per game. While his incredible turn of pace helps him on the counter, Boga’s main success with the ball at his feet comes from his innovation. Whether he has a tight angle or he’s given time and space, Boga is regularly scanning the field for the most dangerous option.

In the past, consistency has been an issue for the Sassuolo forward, but he has since hit his stride with Sassuolo. Playing under a progressive manager in De Zerbi, Boga has made the most of the freedom afforded to him and has filtered between the lines with regularity.

Francesco Caputo, Sassuolo’s number nine, is extremely mobile and often swaps positions with Boga, affording the winger further room in the eighteen-yard box. In this case, the player’s tactical versatility comes to the fore. Whether he’s stretching the opposition’s defence wide on the counter or finding a pocket of space in behind the midfield, Boga’s positional awareness is proving to be his ultimate asset.

Moving forward, many teams will be keeping tabs on Boga’s progress and will shortly be knocking at Sassuolo’s door with official bids. The important thing for the 23-year-old now is maintaining this level week in, week out and demonstrate he’s ready to take the next step in his career. Then it’s all about picking the right team to continue his development. While it’s still early days for Sassuolo and Boga, all the signs are pointing to a big-money move this summer.

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Transfer Watch: One Player For Each of Italy’s Big Six

With the transfer window set to re-open, Serie A clubs are taking to the mercato with differing objectives. While some will be looking for that one missing piece of the puzzle, others are in need of significant retooling. In any case, the January window tends to be quiet, but may present unique opportunities; opportunities clubs simply can’t turn down. Zlatan to Milan, for example.

Here’s one player for each of Italy’s big six.

Juventus - Arturo Vidal: The Italian champions are off to a relatively good start in the Maurizio Sarri era and are looking primed for a deep European run. Despite this, their midfield options leave a lot to be desired and are in dire need of reinforcement. Sami Khedira will spend most of the season sidelined while his stunt-double Emre Can appears to be on his way out.

New signings Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey haven’t exactly hit the ground running and will need more time to adapt to their new surroundings. As a result, the Chilean midfielder is an ideal target as he is already familiar with the club and will add some much-needed industry in the middle of the park. Juventus, however, will have to stave off significant interest from Inter. After all, it was Giuseppe Marotta who initially brought Vidal to Italy in the first place.

Inter – Dejan Kulusevski: The Atalanta loanee has been in great form this season and has emerged as a significant creative threat in the final third. While Parma will be reluctant to terminate his loan and Atalanta will be looking for an inflated fee, the Swedish international is everything Antonio Conte needs. Industrious off the ball and creative on it.

Currently, the nerazzurri are running with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, but will need to add depth if they want to compete with Juve’s deep squad. If he’s available, Inter should be all over it.

Roma – Andrea Petagna: Roma go into the New Year in a comfortable position, four points ahead of fifth-place Atalanta and into the knockouts of the Europa League. While Paulo Fonseca has done an incredible job with the tools at his disposal, the giallorossi could use some reinforcements in the January mercato, most notably at backup striker.

Nikola Kalinic frankly has not worked as Roma need someone more reliable in Dzeko’s absence. SPAL’s Andrea Petagna has demonstrated he’s worthy of a shot and has an abundance of experience in Serie A. Other options are Premier League newcomers Patrick Cutrone and Moise Kean. Both have struggled to adjust to life in England, but the latter is unlikely to move now with Ancelotti’s hiring. Cutrone, however, may be worth a punt.

Napoli – Sandro Tonali: While the Brescia midfielder is arguably on everyone’s Christmas wish-list, Napoli should do whatever it takes to acquire Tonali. Whether they secure him and loan him back directly to his parent club for the rest of the season, or slightly overpay to acquire him immediately, Tonali is exactly the type of player the partenopei need.

He is equally capable of dictating play as he is breaking it up and is a self-proclaimed Gattuso fan-boy. Many may liken him to Andrea Pirlo, but Tonali himself admits his style of play is closer to that of the Napoli tactician. Who knows if that plays into his decision? Regardless, it’s worth a shot.

Milan – Jeremie Boga: Milan have been crying out for a creative force down the left for years now and have yet to see anyone of note arrive. The Sassuolo midfielder is a constant menace in the final third and is regularly beating his man with ease, averaging 4.1 successful dribbles per game. At just 22, Boga would fit in with Milan’s supposed youth movement and should be available for a decent price.

In addition to playing on the left, he can also slot in as a trequartista should a new manager arrive in the summer and shake up the system. Boga to Milan is a no-brainer.

Lazio – Daniele Rugani: This seems like a long-shot, but Lazio could use another defender, especially if they want to compete with Juve and Inter for the Scudetto. Rugani desperately needs a change of scenery and could benefit from playing under the inspiring Simone Inzaghi. The biancocelesti could use another ball-playing centre-back alongside Francesco Acerbi, something Rugani proved to be at Empoli.

The Juventus man is currently out-of-favour in Turin and could be available on a short-term loan with an option to buy. Under the right conditions, Rugani to Lazio may just make enough sense.

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Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 17

A reduced pool this week with Juventus-Sampdoria taking place on Wednesday and Lazio and Verona not playing due to Sunday’s Supercoppa Italiana.

Salvatore Sirigu: SPAL broke out of their road drought and have found the target in the past three matches, but they remain one of the most anaemic offenses in Europe, with only Watford having scored less than them in the top five leagues. The veteran goalie has been as reliable as they come despite being behind an imperfect back-line.

Stefan De Vrij: Inter have re-started keeping clean sheets, two in the past four games, and the Dutch defender offers the most upside on the other end. Genoa have failed to hit the net in three of their past five matches. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 17

Fiorentina-Roma: with Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli at half service due to physical problems, Dusan Vlahovic stepped up and saved the day against Inter. The Serbian prospect had gotten some decent run before but without doing much with it and instead delivered off the bench. Chiesa and Castrovilli are considered day-to-day and they are their two most best contributors, so their level of competitiveness will hinge on their recoveries. Kevin-Prince Boateng got the start after a while and had only minor chances, but they might have to rely him a lot in this one and he is listed as a midfielder, which makes him a bit intriguing depending on their injury situation. The other okay elements like Marco Benassi and Erick Pulgar have been silent for a long while. Dalbert has outplayed Pol Lirola as far as fullbacks are concerned. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 15

Salvatore Sirigu: Torino are not close to last year’s defensive levels, but perhaps the gritty win over Genoa will get them going. More importantly, they are slated to face a Fiorentina team that could be very depleted up front.

Timothy Castagne: he is coming off an assist and could stay in the lineup due to other players’ injuries. In any case, while Castagne is the most appealing, all Atalanta defenders and Pierluigi Gollini are good picks this week because they are finally tightening up in the back with three clean sheets in their past four games, including Champions League.   Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 15

Inter-Roma: the Nerazzurri keep riding their elite striking duo and Lautaro Martinez has been balling out over the last few matches, as he is coming off two braces in a row. Romelu Lukaku did not score last week, but he has already reached the double-digit threshold in the domestic league. Antonio Candreva and Marcelo Brozovic both dished an assist in the last game and they are the two members of the supporting cast who are more likely to pick up bonus points. Matias Vecino has an history of scoring in big games and he has done some damage recently. Their back-line, instead, has not been airtight in the past couple of months, but Stefan De Vrij showed up big on the other end. Continue reading

Serie A Game of the Round – Juventus vs Sassuolo

Juventus’ first faux pas at home came at the hands of Sassuolo in a great match, which had the proper amount of fun and signifcance, with no disrepect to the fantastic Cagliari-Sampdoria thriller.

The Bianconeri came into the fixture having won four in a row, the most recent out thanks to a late surge against Atalanta, while the Emiliani were pipped at the post by Lazio last week and in general had showed improvements over the last four rounds.

Maurizio Sarri picked Gonzalo Higuain and Federico Bernardeschi over Paulo Dybala and Aaron Ramsey up front, with Cristiano Ronaldo made the XI for the second game in a row after knee injury. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 14

Standings implications: changing of the guard atop of the standings as Juventus stumbled against Sassuolo and Inter took full advantage with a two-one victory over SPAL. Lazio keep dominating and trashed Udinese in this round, while Roma prevailed on a difficult pitch like Verona’s one. Atalanta returned to form with by manhandling Brescia away, instead Napoli’s issues continue as they were upended at home by the middling Bologna. Torino and Milan obtained gritty slump-busting Ws against Genoa and Parma, while Lecce again showed off their ability on the road with a one-nil win in Florence. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 14

Juventus-Sassuolo: Cristiano Ronaldo came back midweek and now it will be interesting to see whether or not he will be load managed in Serie A player after the knee injury. Nevertheless, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala have been excellent in relief and have been able to contribute also when coming off the bench in their standard configuration. Douglas Costa got hurt again, which takes away their most explosive option at no.10, so it will Federico Bernardeschi and Aaron Ramsey running the show there for a while, but they both have not done damage in a while. Ramsey has the most upside in the duo. Khedira is fading and, while Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi are serviceable contributors, they are not strong fantasy options. It could be instead the right kind of match-up for Miralem Pjanic to have a meaningful offensive role, while Juan Cuadrado has been a pretty good fullback for a while now. Continue reading