Serie A Team of the Round – Napoli

Just one shout-out win with multiple goals in this round and it belonged to Napoli, as Sampdoria find themselves again on the wrong end of the column despite showing some improvements compared to the first two outings.

The Partenopei wanted to put behind them a very bitter loss to Juventus considering the way it went down, while they had prevailed over Fiorentina in the opener. Carlo Ancelotti tweaked his system moving Fabian Ruiz back to pivot, Piotr Zielinski filled in for the banged up Lorenzo Insigne on the left flank and Hirving Lozano partnered Dries Mertens up front. Elijf Elmas and Nikola Maksimovic gave Allan and Kostas Manolas a breather ahead the mammoth Champions League clash with Liverpool. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Three

Fiorentina-Juventus: despite the two tough losses, la Viola showed some intriguing stuff up front against both Napoli and Genoa. The potential is there, but the whole team needs to tighten up and build up some chemistry. Franck Ribery is primed to get more minutes after the break and they should finally counter-balance a line-up that is always too reliant on Federico Chiesa. The ones that will benefit the most are the centre-forwards and for the time being Kevin-Prince Boateng will likely be the top option until Dusan Vlahovic and Pedro find their footing. Gaetano Castrovilli has already shown that he can be dangerous with his cuts, while Erick Pulgar hit the net twice on penalties and will have more opportunities to put his shooting prowess to good use in a slightly modified role. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Two

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

Serie A Match of the Round – Fiorentina vs Napoli

Straight up fireworks on Friday night as Napoli paid a visit to Fiorentina. Vincenzo Montella unleashed the youth movement, fielding Gaetano Castrovilli, Riccardo Sottil and Dusan Vlahovic together from the get-go, while Carlo Ancelotti, who could not use Arkadiuz Milik and Hirving Lozano, deployed Dries Mertens as false-nine, supported by Fabian Ruiz, José Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne, while Mario Rui was picked over Faouzi Ghoulam on the left flank. Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Kostas Manolas, Pol Lirola and Erick Pulgar debuted with their respective teams. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 1

Results: Juventus and Napoli started with three points as the Bianconeri nipped Parma, while the Partenopei outlasted Fiorentina in a crazy match. Atalanta staged a glorious comeback against SPAL, Milan took a tumble in Udine and Roma were too naïve versus Genoa. Lazio thrashed Sampdoria and Inter did the same against Lecce. Torino edged out Sassuolo. Verona hanged on to dear life versus Bologna and Brescia caught Cagliari off guard on the road.

Confirmations: Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile, Luis Muriel and Simone Zaza got off to a flier thanks to their braces. The Colombian striker had the most impressive one, sigle-handedly turning the SPAL bout. Kevin-Prince Boateng, José Callejon and Joaquin Correa bagged terrific cross-shots, while Erick Pulgar remains deadly on penalties. Continue reading

Three Juventus Players Set to Be Reborn Under Sarri

With the Massimiliano Allegri era officially over, the Juventus brass identified Maurizio Sarri as the man to lead the revolution at the club. While the past five seasons under Allegri were largely successful, there were clear signs of stagnation, especially amongst some of the side’s key performers. With the former Chelsea boss now at the helm, however, expect a rebirth of sorts for many of these players. Here are three Juventus men that are worth keeping an eye on going into the new season.

Alex Sandro (left back)  

When the Brazilian first joined the bianconeri, he was regarded as one of the best fullbacks in the world, and lived up to the hype early on offering some much needed offensive enterprise and flair from the left. However, over the course of the last two seasons, Alex Sandro’s progression has come to a screeching halt, and the former Porto man has looked a shade of his former self.

Luckily for the for the 28-year-old, Sarri tends to get the most out of his offensive fullbacks. At Napoli, Sarri’s tactical setup meant Faouzi Ghoulam played an important role in the final third, and reached a new level under the veteran tactician. Through the use of offensive overloads, Sarri’s fullbacks see plenty of the ball in the opposition’s half, and are seen as much more than mere defenders; a luxury that was not afforded to the Brazilian under Allegri.

At Chelsea, it was much of the same. Whether it was Marcos Alonso or Emerson, both defenders played an integral role in the final third, and progressed as players. Under Sarri, expect Alex Sandro to put his recent woes behind him and re-emerge as one of football’s elite left backs.

Paulo Dybala (attacking-midfielder)

Last season, the Argentine looked out of sorts whenever called upon, and regularly failed to impact proceedings under Allegri. Whether he was playing as the side’s main striker or on the wing, Dybala never fully looked like himself and had his worst season yet in bianconero, netting five goals in Serie A action. Much of this falls on Allegri’s pragmatic outlook, however, la Joya must assume some responsibility and soldier on in the upcoming season.

In Sarri’s first press conference, he quickly outlined that Dybala, alongside Ronaldo and Douglas Costa, will play a key role for him in the final third. At Napoli, the tactician got the best out of Lorenzo Insigne, Callejon and Higuain and turned them into the league’s most feared offensive trios. If his exploits with Insigne are anything to go by, a Napoli player most similar to Dybala, expect the Argentine international to have a big season in Turin.

While it’s still unclear where exactly Dybala will feature given Ronaldo’s presence, he will undoubtedly play a key role in Sarri’s progressive setup, and could finally focus on putting his creativity to use to open up opposition’s defences rather than tracking back. Big season ahead for Juventus’ crown jewel.

Douglas Costa (winger)

The Brazilian, much like Dybala, had a tumultuous season under Allegri riddled by injury problems, and disciplinary concerns. While it was recently reported that the former Bayern man is of interest to French giants PSG, Sarri quickly quashed those rumours and indicated the winger is someone he’s extremely keen on working with.

Given his electric nature, Douglas Costa will fit like a glove in Sarri’s 4-3-3 and will offer some much needed pace and unpredictability in the final third. However, there’s one concern: Sarri’s tactical scheme is one of rigidity and repetition, which may pose an issue to a mercurial player like Douglas Costa.

In any case, if Sarri is able to bridge that gap and demonstrate to him the merits of his setup, expect Douglas Costa to be on his A game next year and torment defences.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 31

Scudetto Juve: Buffon immortale, Dybala 22 gol / SPECIALE

Juventus-Milan: the Bianconeri are coming off a convincing outing in Cagliari, where they notched their second shutout win in a row and in general their seventh victory in the last eight fixtures. On the other hand, the Rossoneri failed to take home the full loot for three matches in a row as they lost to Inter and Sampdoria and then tied with Udinese. The Old Lady is likely to have back both Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala for this game, while Cristiano Ronaldo is slated to sit one more out. Some players could be spared in the Ajax game, in any case Moise Kean and Federico Bernardeschi are in terrific form and have lead them scoring-wise. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 28

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Andrei Radu (7 points): there was just one clean sheet in this round and amazingly it was the top scoring offence, Juventus’ one, that got shackled, so the Genoa goalie was the only one to bring home seven points and he did not even had to sweat too much to do it.

Domenico Criscito (5 points): he gets the token spot for the Griffon’s back-line, which featured all the highest earners among defenders, for his diligent work on both phases. He has been a crossing machine after switching to left back. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 27

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Juventus-Udinese: despite being under siege for the whole second half, the Bianconeri survived in Napoli and further broaden their lead atop of the standings. Despite the results in the domestic league, where they have won four in a row and seven in the last eight and are still undefeated, the squad seems to be trending down in the last couple of weeks. The Zebrette are coming off two massive wins over Chievo and Bologna, which allowed them to jump to the 15th position and move seven points clear of the final three spots. Miralem Pjanic and Joao Cancelo are suspended and coach Massimiliano Allegri is expected to heavily rotate the squad ahead of the second leg with Atletico Madrid, but they are not particularly deep. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Napoli vs Juventus

 

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A very entertaining Serie A round was capped off by the seminal encounter between Napoli and Juventus, which, by all accounts, was one of the strangest matches of the season. The Partenopei approached the game trying to cut into the Bianconeri’s sizeable lead and to maintain their impeccable home record, while the Old Lady was looking to put any residual comeback hopes to sleep.

Carlo Ancelotti confirmed the defensive formula he has been using lately, which features Kevin Malcuit and Elseid Hysaj as fullbacks and Nikola Maksimovic filling in for the injured Raul Albiol. Continue reading