Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 12

milanjuventus

The next slate before another international break is pretty juicy.

Genoa-Napoli: the Griffon have not won in four games and the effects of the coaching change have not been palpable, since they continue to concede a lot. They lost twice in San Siro last week and the schedule does not do them any favor. The Partenopei easily romped Empoli last week and have won three out of their last four games, looking splendid at times. Krzysztof Piatek has not scored for four games in a row, which is unlikely to be a coincidence, and their last goals under Milan Juric have been pretty random, by Cristian Romero on a free kick, by Romulo on a penalty and by Daniel Bessa on a defensive mishap. Continue reading

Mertens returns to starring role for Napoli

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-GENOA-NAPOLI Napoli’s impressive 5-1 Serie A demolition of Empoli last weekend showed how they are returning to dominant form in Italy.

They now look set to pick up their annual pursuit of rivals Juventus, who are chasing an eight consecutive Serie A title, with Napoli trailing in third, by six points.

The biggest news for Carlo Ancelotti’s team also been the explosive nature with which they have beaten teams in recent weeks – with talisman Dries Mertens at the heart of it. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 10

napoliroma

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

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 9

udinesenapoli

Serie A returns with a pretty decent slate capped off by the mouth-watering Milan derby on Sunday night.

Roma-Spal: the Giallorossi have solved some of their initial problems and have put together a three-game winning streak, defeating Frosinone, Lazio and Empoli. The Estensi are going in opposite direction, since have suffered four straight losses, to Fiorentina, Sassuolo, Sampdoria and Inter, after a hot start. Eusebio Di Francesco seems to have found the right scheme for his men, a 4-2-3-1 with Lorenzo Pellegrini in the hole. The youngster has been remarkable filling in for the injured Javier Pastore, to the point that there is a real competition here. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 8

laziofiorentina

It will be inevitably a quieter round compared to the previous ginormous one, but Serie A never lacks reasons to tune in.

Udinese-Juventus: the Zebrette have certainly been more interesting this season, but after losing just once in the first five games, they have been defeated two times in a row, against Lazio and Bologna, so their point total is not that conspicuous. The Bianconeri from Piedmont, on the other hand, are coming off a seminal win over the main title contenders, Napoli, and have prevailed in the first nine games of the season. They will eventually come a cropper, but they have had a lot of success in the past in this stadium. Rodrigo De Paul has been leading the charge for the home team, but very little help scoring-wise from his teammates: Kevin Lasagna notched just one, Lukasz Teodorczyk and Darwin Machis are still scoreless, Ignacio Pussetto found his first last week. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 7

juventusnapoli

A seminal Serie A weekend is approaching, featuring the Derby della Capitale and Juventus-Napoli.

Roma-Lazio: the Giallorossi shook off at least part of the negativity surrounding them by routing Frosinone on Wednesday, which is not particularly difficult these days, but they needed it. They had won just in the opening round. The Biancocelesti keep feasting on the minnows and are coming off four wins in a row. La Lupa has been so inconsistent so far, but 4-2-3-1 with Javier Pastore in the hole and Steven Nzonzi and Daniele De Rossi screening the defence might ultimately be the way to go, at least in big matches. Stephan El Shaarawy has been their most trustworthy player so far, but Cengiz Under broke through on Wednesday and he does not need a lot to get hot. Continue reading

Napoli prepare for Juventus showdown with midweek win

Napoli

Napoli face their biggest game of their Serie A season this weekend as they head to Turin to face bitter rivals Juventus.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side have been the perennial bridesmaid during Juventus’ record breaking seven consecutive title wins, finishing second or third in six of those campaigns.

They were unable to break the stranglehold under former boss Maurizio Sarri, and how they are hoping that the experience of Ancelotti will give them a fresh impetus.

Their season has begun well, with five wins from six, with defeat away at Sampdoria their only blot on their copybook, compared to Juventus’ 100% record so far.

Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 6

interfiorentina

Inter-Fiorentina: the Beneamata is coming off a rewarding result against Sampdoria, their second win in Serie A. They have showed some improvements between the last game and the one versus Tottenham, but they have not turned the corner yet. For instance, they have not found a way to constantly feed Mauro Icardi in the box, and he is still scoreless in the domestic league. Ivan Perisic and Radja Nainggolan have compensated on that front, then their dangerousness on set pieces has helped. Antonio Candreva has surprisingly looked better than the newcomers Matteo Politano and Balde Keita. Continue reading

Milan need to sort out their defensive issues

In the first half of last season, Milan were shambolic in defense, conceding ridiculous goals at the wrong place at the wrong time and struggled to make the difference at the other end of the field. Despite winning against AS Roma, there are a few pressing concerns in defense this season.

There were some mitigating factors in the previous year. The infusion of new players and the formation of a new defensive set up. Leonardo Bonucci’s arrival prompted the then manager Vincenzo Montella to opt for a three back because of the defender’s familiarity with that system. Effectively laying the platform for one man.Ricardo Rodríguez, Mateo Musacchio and Alessio Romagnoli had to adapt to this new organization and in most instances they wilted. Among some of the embarrassing displays were the two zero defeat to Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris and the 4-1 debacle at the hands of Lazio at the Stadio Olympico.

But Milan did improve in the second half of the season after Gennaro Gattuso was installed as the head coach. Gattuso steadied the ship and change the structure of the team to a back four. The Rossoneri conceded 15 goals in 19 games before the end of May 2018. After such improve, you would expect that the Diavolo would demonstrate some level of resilience and reliability at the back, but it hasn’t been the case so far.

The season is just two games old, but there are worrying defensive weaknesses that must be addressed. Milan continue to bleed in defense after shipping in four goals in their first two matches. What is more frustrating is the systemic errors committed by players. The reckless concession of possession in Milan’s half and the inability of players to deal with shots from distance. In the two games against Napoli and AS Roma, we saw how Gattuso’s men struggled against their opponent during set pieces.

A bit of narration.

In the 2-1 win over Roma, the manner in which Milan reacted to Javier Pastore’s conner kick is very telling. Pastore sent the cross into the mixer, hoping to find the height of either Dzeko or Fazio, Gianluigi Donnarumma comes out to parry the ball out, it fall to Stephan El Shaarawy close to the edge of the 18yard box, the little Pharaoh sends in a pass which deflects off the foot of Daniele De Rossi, marked by Mateo Musacchio, the ball gets to Davide Calabria with his arms around Patrik Schick, the young Italian kicks the ball with his weaker foot to Federico Fazio, and the Argentine hits in the rebound to put Roma on level pegging.

Now let’s cast our mind back to the 3-2 defeat at the San Paolo against Napoli. The home side equalized the second goal from a corner kick. Jose Callejon hits the ball in from the left side flag, Tiémoué Bakayoko heads the ball out of the box, which fall to Piotr Zieliński, the Napoli midfielder shoots right from the edge of the 18yard and the ball finds its way into the back of the net.

Dissecting the problem.

Milan are failing to pick up these players who patrol outside the 18yard box. And they are mostly players with the ability to provide an incisive pass to create goal scoring opportunities. In the two instances narrated above, there was no sense of closing down both El shaawary and Zielinski when they received the ball.

The positioning of the defenders when a cross is sent in the box. Given Patrick Schick’s height and strength, it’s quite perplexing to see Calabria trying to put a brake on the Czech International. This should have been the job of Kessie or Bonaventura. Calabria invested his strength in his arm around the Roma forward, weakening his position to attack the ball as precisely as he should.

It must also be noted that Steven Nzonzi’s VAR disallowed goal also resulted from a corner kick.

Milan have a relatively youthful defense with a 19year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma in the post so the lack of experience almost always bites them. It will take time and patience for them to grow strong and mature together.  Gattuso still needs to sort out the best center back partnership for Alesio Romagnoli. Mateo Musacchio is not the most popular in defense whiles Caldara is yet to start a game this season, but could be crucial in redefining the Rossoneri’s defensive identity. He may be the lynchpin in the defense.

Conceding four goals in two games is not the best way to kick start a campaign, It gives opponents confidence when anytime they are on the offensive and set jitters among the defenders. Milan must get the basic rules of defending right.

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Serie A Fantasy Game Predictions – Round 4

napoli-fiorentina

Inter-Parma: the Beneamata grabbed their first win of the season in Bologna, where they were shorthanded and were led by Radja Nainggolan and Ivan Perisic. Mauro Icardi should be back this week. Luciano Spalletti is still figuring out how the best way to incorporate the newcomers and is looking for the best solution in the midfield, which lacks in creativity. The performances in the three matches have been wildly inconsistent, both on the bright side and on the more negative one. Anyway, the two goal scorers from the past game are good picks in this round and will likely be for the rest of the season. Continue reading