Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 24

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Samir Handanovic: Inter remain one of the most trustworthy defences and they have allowed the fewest goals at home. They will tangle with Sampdoria this week, which have been shutout in their last two games.

Faouzi Ghoulam: Mario Rui got hurt against Fiorentina, which paves the way for the Algerian left back, who is always a threat offensively. Napoli have kept three clean sheets in a row.

Jens Larsen: while Udinese are laboring as a team, the Danish is thriving as wing back and is much more involved offensively, even scoring recently. Chievo have given up a lot of goals as of late and have failed to hit the net in three of their last four road fixtures. Continue reading

Serie A Game of the Week – Fiorentina vs Napoli

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This round was a little light in terms of big matches, but the most anticipated one, Fiorentina-Napoli, delivered from an entertainment standpoint even though it ended with no goals.

The Viola came into the game having tied in three of the previous four games and looking for a big result that could boost them in the Europa League race, while the Partenopei squashed Sampdoria last week, but had dropped points in the two previous road fixtures against the Milan teams. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 23

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The next Serie A round will start very early, on Thursday, and stretch throughout the weekend.

Lazio-Empoli: it was not necessarily pretty, but the Biancocelesti returned to winning ways against Frosinone after three unsatisfactory results and now are in the fifth spot, tied with Roma and Atalanta, one point away from Champions League. The Azzurri came back against Chievo, collecting the second draw in the last three fixtures after a slew of losses, but behind them Bologna have gotten closer. The Biancocelesti are really banged up and, considering the minuscule turnaround, there is growing pessimism about the presence of Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto, who got hurt on Monday. Joaquin Correa should be able to play and in this scenario he and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic become very attractive fantasy assets and Felipe Caicedo could be a cheap plug considering he has scored in the last round. Valon Berisah and Riza Durmisi might be unlikely protagonists.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 19

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Gianluigi Donnarumma: while Milan’s attack has been languishing lately, their back-line has been pretty robust, allowing just one goal in the last four fixtures, and the young stud contributed to that with some excellent saves. They will host SPAL, which have failed to find the target in the last three matches.

Raul Albiol: on paper, a great match-up for the Napoli’s defence, since Bologna have not hit the net in the previous three contests and did it just six times so far on the road. He will have to lead the department due to the suspension of Kalidou Koulibaly. He scored in the last home game. Continue reading

Serie A Injury Report – Round 16

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Juventus: Joao Cancelo has a torn meniscus and will return after the break. Juan Cuadrado hyperextended his knee against Young Boys and he will not play in the weekend, while Medhi Benatia (knee soreness) has recovered. Rodrigo Bentancur is suspended, Sami Khedira will not come back from his ankle injury. Andrea Barzagli is out with a quad strain.

Napoli: Mario Rui subbed off against Liverpool due to a muscular injury that has yet to be evaluated, while Simone Verdi should make the squad list after being on the mend for a good chunk due to a pair of injury, the latest being an ankle sprain. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 14

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The next Serie A slate is pretty tasty on paper.

Fiorentina-Juventus: the Viola are having a weird season. They started off decently, showing well especially at home, where they are still undefeated and have a sound defense, but they have struggled to score recently. They have not netted more than one since late September and they have drawn in their last five matches, against Cagliari, Torino, Roma, Frosinone and Bologna. On the other hand, the Old Lady is cruising with 12 wins in the year, four in a row after the tumble against Genoa, but it will be tested before the break. Fiorentina’s offensive problems stem primarily from Giovanni Simeone and Marko Pjaca’s poor form, as they have combined for just three goals so far. Federico Chiesa is always doing stuff, but he has not bagged many as well. Continue reading

Fiorentina Must Fix Their Attack

It’s easy to think Fiorentina’s 1-1 draw at the Stadio Artemio Franchi versus AS Roma was a fantastic result when viewed in isolation. It meant the Viola remain unbeaten at home and are currently five points behind 4th place, a finish that would secure Champions League football for next season.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 11

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Just a pair of juicy match-ups on deck this week, while the top teams will try to take advantage of cozy fixtures on paper.

Napoli-Empoli: the Partenopei were not super sharp versus Roma, they salvaged a draw but could have probably done more if they did not put themselves in the predicament of having to come back. It was the first time they dropped points at home. Empoli have not won since the first game, but they certainly put up a fight against Juventus before Cristiano Ronaldo decided to win it. Continue reading

Poor Recent Performances Worrying For Fiorentina

After a superb start to the season, those who follow Serie A were beginning to discuss Fiorentina as a potential contender for a Champions League spot. A 6-1 win over Chievo Verona in their opening game of the campaign was followed up with three home wins without conceding a goal as the Viola ground out a 1-0 win over Udinese before smashing three past SPAL and two more versus Atalanta.

Away results had been disappointing, but the fixture list had played a big factor, defeats in tough clashes versus Napoli, Inter and Lazio and a draw with Sampdoria understandable for the side with the lowest average age in all of Europe’s top five leagues.

Yet recently, the Tuscan side have struggled to find the back of the net, an unexpected 1-1 home draw versus Cagliari seemingly a blip before they also failed to impress during a result with the same scoreline away to Torino. While there is no doubt that Pioli has done an excellent job so far, these latest setbacks have just started the faintest whispers of discontent towards the Coach from the supporters.

“We brought home a good result, considering we didn’t play well, and that is nothing to be sniffed at,” said Pioli during his post-match comments.“In the second half we actually played better and had the best scoring opportunities. We struggled with their pressing and didn’t move enough off the ball.

 “We can and must work on many situations, but the psychological approach from my players was excellent and a real sign of progress. We suffered for the result and that is important.”

 His statements may well be accurate, but loyalties are all-too often forgotten during a negative run of results, and the boss will have to turn things around so quickly if he is to avert those voices of discontent from gathering weight. This will not be easy with a home game versus AS Roma next on the billing, but – as the man himself professed in his press conference – there are some clear issues that can be worked on in training.

 The most obvious of these is the form of Giovanni Simeone. Travelling to Argentina in consecutive international breaks after he received his maiden start for the Albiceleste in September has clearly caused fatigue, and Pioli responded to his poor performance versus Cagliari by dropping the 23-year-old from the starting XI versus Torino.

He would fail to have a single shot in 86 minutes of action at home to Cagliari, and last Saturday’s match in Turin marked his sixth appearance without a goal. The boss will now have to ascertain whether to persist in the hope he can overcome his barren spell, or whether to give veteran forward Cyril Thereau a go in his place.

 However, the blame does not lie purely on Simeone. In moving Jordan Veretout to a deeper midfield role, the Coach seems to have stifled any creativity in the middle of the park. Perhaps it’s now time to allow the former Aston Villa man to express his clear prowess going forward, instead slotting Bryan Dabo into the holding role. Such a move would surely provide the forwards with more service but – whatever Pioli decides to do – it remains clear that something must be changed in this area if the Viola are to succeed.

 Another complaint voiced by supporters was that Fiorentina are attempting too often to bypass an ineffective midfield by resorting to long balls in order to play in Federico Chiesa. This is putting too much pressure on the 21-year-old to carry the team, a heavy burden for a developing star. This approach is reflected in no less than 68 long balls and only 246 short passes versus Torino, and a poor passing success rate of 49.5% overall this term.

 A win versus Roma will be a tough ask at the weekend, but Pioli must work on the aforementioned issues this week in training, in order that there is at least visible progress being made. At some point, the Coach and his young side will have to stand strong and come through this bad patch, their inexperience no longer a reason to excuse them from a lack of points on the board.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 10

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The next Serie A round features few titillating match-ups.

Empoli-Juventus: the Azzurri’s talented offence showed up in Frosinone, but this time they were held back by their back-line. They have won just once so far, in the season opener, and lost five times. The Old Lady dropped point for the first time against Genoa, but then bounced back in Champions League. The Bianconeri are pretty short-handed due to injuries, this could be the right spot for Federico Bernardeschi or Douglas Costa because they have not gotten many minutes in the last two fixtures. Continue reading