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 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

Juventus Top Performers – Round 13 vs Atalanta

Juventus succeeded in a game that they truly had no business winning, thanks to 15 minutes of fury and a Pipita-led comeback, thus avoiding the first blemish of the season and defending the top spot in the standings.

Matthijs De Ligt: he was properly dominating, uncorking his best display of the season when the team needed the most. The back-line was under heavy fire for about an hour, but his slides and blocks kept things from unravelling. Atalanta broke through once, but he and Leonardo Bonucci defended with great attention in the box, preventing the score from getting out of hand. The captain had some misplaced passes and did not stand out as much, but he was solid as well. Mattia De Sciglio instead was again underwhelming and severely bested by the more energetic Hans Hateboer on the flank and way too soft while trying to stop the cross that led to the goal. Continue reading

Did Juventus fail to learn lessons from last summer with Bonucci and Cuadrado’s extensions?

Albert Einstein once famously said that “insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result” which applies to all sorts of walks of life. This mantra has become very popular with those looking to turn their lives around, but it applies to all sorts of walks of life including football transfers and signings.

More and more clubs are learning that signing older players to long term deals is usually a great way to hamstring your club financially, while focusing on younger players helps you lower your wages while providing assets to make significant capital gains down the road.

Juventus saw this first hand last summer when they were able to make a massive plusvalenza on Moise’ Kean since he was a home grown player while struggling so significantly to move the likes of Sami Khedira, Blaise Matuidi, Gonzalo Higuain and especially Mario Mandzukic that they strongly considered selling Paulo Dybala to make a big enough capital gain to cover the cost of having such an expensive squad.

While both Matuidi and Khedira found themselves frequently starting so far this season and Gonzalo Higuain had a very surprising renaissance, the squad is so bloated that Emre Can and Mario Mandzukic were kept off the Champions League squad and Adrien Rabiot has struggled to find regular playing time (things could have been even worse had Aaron Ramsey been able to stay healthy).

So with all of this in mind, you can make a case Juventus is engaging in some insane behavior since they are repeating same behavior with the announcement of extensions for Leonardo Bonucci through 2024 and Juan Cuadrado through 2022 (both players have the same agent by the way) despite the fact they are 32 and 31 respectively. On top of that because of their bloated squad, Juventus is carrying a massive wage bill which is now even higher because both Bonucci and Cuadrado

But is there a case to be made that these extensions do have some appropriate reasoning behind it? At bare minimum they have to be better decisions than last year’s puzzling decision to give new deals to Sami Khedira and Mario Mandzukic? Safe to say the latter is certainly true since at least Bonucci and Cuadrado have been amongst the best players at their respective positions this season which certainly could not be said for Khedira and Mandzukic last year.

Bonucci has certainly come a long way in the past eighteen months. He was a pariah with many fans of the club because of his one season at Milan and upon his return, he was often a liability on defense. When Juventus signed Mathijs De Ligt this summer and acquired the rights to Mehdi Demiral after previously parking him at Sassuolo because they didn’t have a non EU slot available, many expected Bonucci to leave when the first links to Paris St Germain emerged.

Paratici and Sarri have to be thrilled that those talks went nowhere and Bonucci stayed. On top of Chiellini suffering a torn ACL, Demiral looked completely overmatched when he started against Hellas Verona, which aren’t exactly known for having a potent attack, De Ligt has had some fairly significant growing pains adapting to a new league and living up to his price, and despite his former mentor Sarri joining the club- Daniele Rugani is as much an afterthought as Juventus as “Solo” is with Star Wars fans.

Bonucci has been one of the best center backs in all of Serie A this season and has kept the captain armband during Chiellini’s absence even when Gigi Buffon started- a clear sign he’s been fully accepted back at the club after his sabbatical at Milan. But it does remain to be seen how Bonucci’s contract will look like in 2022 and 2023 when he’ll be well into his mid 30s earning over 6 million after taxes.

Juan Cuadrado went from being a super sub to becoming Joao Cancelo’s replacement. There’s a lot of concern when the Portuguese international left Turin because he was such a devastating offensive weapon, arguably the only spark of creativity in Allegri’s pragmatic and predictable offense.

Cuadrado has more than made up for what Joao Cancelo provided offensively, while being nowhere near as much as a liability defensively as his predecessor who had to be benched in key matches because there was serious concern he would make a costly mistake. Now Cuadrado has been so effective that there’s talk Juventus will sell Mattia De Sciglio, who started over Joao Cancelo in those key matches last season, since he has nailed down the starting job.

Considering how thin the market at right back in, giving Cuadrado a new contract until 2022 doesn’t seem that bad because just a few months before the only realistic options to replace Joao Cancelo included overpaying for Trippier, bringing back Dani Alves who had off field issues previously at Juventus or hoping Hysaj could turn his career around.

So while on the surface it looks like Juventus is repeating the same behavior with contract extensions to older players, there are enough mitigating circumstances to say Paratici is right to gamble he can prove Albert Einstein wrong.

Sarri dishes bad news about Ronaldo and more in presser

Maurizio Sarri held an early presser ahead of the Atalanta and begun by addressing the status of Cristiano Ronaldo and the recent controversy: “We did not really need to clear the air. I come from the amateurs in the 90’s and the reactions after subbing off were the same. Either I spent all my time trying to clarify that or I let them blow some steam. It is not a problem, the issue is his knee injury, which got worse in the second Portugal match. We are trying to solve it through some specific practices: it is affecting him mentally as well. We want him back for the Champions League tilt with Atletico Madrid, he has 99 percent chances of missing tomorrow’s match.”

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Cuadrado renews contract and Danilo speaks

Juventus made official another extension today as they locked up Juan Cuadrado until 2022. The Colombian international, who has been at the club since 2015, had an expiring contract and has become an integral part of the squad this season reinventing himself as a fullback. He has notched 15 goals and 15 assists in 151 appearances thus far.

The other right back Danilo instead spoke to Sky Sport on Thursday night, looking ahead at the upcoming Atalanta clash: “The games after the international break are never easy, especially against opponents that are having a good season and have outstanding players. We can not stumble though, we have to defend the top spot. If we want to maintain the ambition of winning the League, we have to succeed in every match. We must stay focused and go there aiming at getting the three points.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 12

Inter-Verona: while Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku continue to be very reliable, the Beneamata are getting additional pieces back, as Matias Vecino scored in Champions League and Stefano Sensi looked pretty good in his stint off the bench. The two are certainly better fantasy options than Roberto Gagliardini, who filled in while they were sidelined, and the ex Sassuolo player, in particular, was fantastic at the beginning of the season. Valentino Lazaro was okay against Brescia and his skill-set is interesting, especially against the minnows where he would not need to defend a lot. Matteo Politano got hurt in Dortmund, so the first man up off the bench in the attack would be Salvatore Esposito. Verona have scored just nine times so far, so their back-line is certainly in play despite the ongoing clean sheet-less run. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 11 – Derby della Mole

Juventus emerged victorious in a very hard-fought Derby where Torino brought their A game, but a rather random goal made the difference.

Matthijs De Ligt (9 points): he would have gotten the nod even if he did not score because he was very assertive in the back, held the opponents gravitating his area in check and also delivered a pair of heavy hits to send a message. He was at the right place and the right time to punch it home to decide the contest. He also uncorked some tasty long-balls in the first half, a part of his skill-set he had yet to display in Turin. The lack of the VAR did go his way on an early borderline call on a handball. Wojciech Szczesny exuded the usual confidence when called into action, in particular on a late sneaky strike by Cristian Ansaldi on the near post. The defensive phase tightened up in the game where it faced the most pressure, which is likely not an accident considering that the level of attention had to stay high at all times. Not a good return in the starting lineup for Mattia De Sciglio, who looked too slow and out of place and was too often a liability. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Nine

Lecce-Juventus: the Salentini have weirdly been better away than at home, but, in any case, they are set to be pesky in most of the contests due to their daring style. While Gianluca Lapadula was out nursing an injury, Khouma Babacar proved to be a better reference point for the offense, even though he is unlikely to be particularly consistent in terms of scoring. With his latest performance, Diego Farias is seriously threating the starting job of Filippo Falco, who has not been able to produce despite starting in the eight matches. Marco Mancosu has instead bagged four goals, three on penalties, and he is always lurking as the trailer. Andrea Tabanelli is the other midfield tasked with meaningful offensive duties, while left back Marco Calderoni has found the target twice from distance so far. Continue reading