Federico Bernardeschi: Time for redemption?

With Juventus struggling in the final third, Federico Bernardeschi may just be presented with an opportunity to redeem himself. After an indifferent finish to last season, Bernardeschi faded and failed to establish himself as a set-starter. When Maurizio Sarri was hired, however, many expected the former Fiorentina man to take the next step in his career, something that until now has not happened.

In 17 Serie A appearances this season, Bernardeschi is yet to register an assist or score a goal. That’s over seven hundred minutes of football with nothing to show for. Despite this, the 26-year-old could yet turn it around. After failing to implement the 4-3-3 successfully at the start of the season, Sarri turned to a more narrow 4-3-1-2 and deployed Bernardeschi as the side’s trequartista. 

While he may seem suited to the role given his technique, Bernardeschi needs space to operate and is far more effective from a wide position. When he plays for Italy there, the Juventus man looks more threatening and creates many chances.

As a result, the Juventus winger has looked out of place in the hole and offers close to nothing in the final third. Fast forward to match-day 26 and Sarri is now turning back to the 4-3-3, presenting Bernardeschi with a unique opportunity for redemption.

In Juventus’ last three games, Cuadrado has been deployed on the right alongside Dybala and Ronaldo. The Colombian international has injected some much-needed pace and unpredictability in the final third, but one problem remains. With Cuadrado in the front-three, Juventus’ right-back options leave a lot to be desired. As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sarri starts Bernardeschi in the front-three with Cuadrado returning in defence.

In the past, Bernardeschi demonstrated he can play with Ronaldo and showed early signs of a budding partnership. Factor in Dybala’s mobility and ability to interchange at will, and Bernardeschi could thrive on the right-hand side of a front-three. Since returning from injury, the 26-year-old has made cameo appearances and is slowly finding his rhythm again.

Douglas Costa is another player that could feature alongside Ronaldo and Dybala, however, the Brazilian struggles to stay fit. As a result, expect Bernardeschi to get more minutes than his counterpart. If the former Fiorentina man seizes his opportunities, he may just finish the season as Juve’s starting right-winger.

Right now, the side desperately needs a spark in attack and could use Bernardeschi back at his best. When the 26-year-old was at Fiorentina, he was a constant counter-attacking threat and had a keen eye for goal. Until now, the Juventus faithful haven’t seen this side of him. As the season wears on and with crucial games upon us, expect Sarri to try and revitalize Bernardeschi and give him a new lease on life. While he may be on his way out this summer as it’s been widely reported, this end of season run-in presents Bernardeschi with an opportunity for redemption. It’s up to him if he takes it.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 26

Lazio-Bologna: the only game between two teams that actually played last week. The Biancocelesti extended their superb run by grinding out a W versus Genoa, thanks to the usual Ciro Immobile goal and two unlikely heroes coming through, Adam Marusic, who has started over Manuel Lazzari in two matches in a row, and Danilo Cataldi. While Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored against Inter, the bonuses for their other two fantasy stars, Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa, have not been there in recent rounds, leaving Felipe Caicedo as the only serviceable option besides the capocannoniere. Jony has taken over for the injured Senad Lulic and, while he is a high-volume crosser, he has come up with just one assist so far. It could be another ripe day for their offense considering that the Felsinei have a soft defence. Continue reading

Sarri set to shake things up once more

Going into a crucial stretch in the season, Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri is weighing his options and is reportedly considering shaking things up in the final third. In an attempt to introduce more dynamism into the side, the former Napoli tactician will deploy Paulo Dybala as a false nine and will shift Juan Cuadrado from defence into the attack. We saw glimpses of this setup this past weekend against Brescia and according to Gazzetta dello Sport, is something Sarri will persist with this match-day against cellar-dwellers SPAL.

With an important game against Lyon coming up, the pressure is on Sarri to get Juve into the quarter-finals comfortably and look to make a deep European run. The veteran tactician previously had success with a false-nine setup at Napoli when he deployed Dries Mertens there.

While Dybala and Mertens are different players in their own way, both are extremely technical and do a good job at linking the midfield to attack. More importantly, they’ve both proven to be deadly finishers. As la Joya is set to play closer to goal, expect more involvement from Dybala. If anything, a central role suits the former Palermo man better and will undoubtedly help Juve create more chances in the final third.

When Sarri was initially hired, many expected Dybala to occupy this role, but it has since taken 24 match-days to get there. In recent times, Juventus have struggled in the final third and have typically relied on individual brilliance to see them through. Recognizing this, Sarri is keen on making changes.

Beyond shifting Dybala into a central position, Sarri is reportedly moving Cuadrado out of defence and into the attack. After the side failed to adequately replace Joao Cancelo, Sarri used the Colombian international at right-back. Initially, the position switch worked wonderfully, but injuries to key men in the attack mean Sarri’s forced to shuffle the deck once more.

Cuadrado has played in Juve’s front-three in their last two games and has added some much-needed unpredictability and speed up top. Other than his ability to beat his man, the former Fiorentina winger stretches opposition defences regularly and is a counter-attacking threat. Until this switch, Sarri fielded his typical 4-3-1-2 formation, which sorely lacked width and pace.

The formation switch also suits Juve’s current attacking options better than Sarri’s narrow ‘Christmas Tree’. While Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa are still out injured, a 4-3-3 gives them the opportunity to play out wide in their natural roles, rather than being pigeon-holed into a central position. With Ronaldo drifting in from the left-wing and Dybala interchanging, Cuadrado, Douglas Costa or Bernardeschi will all have a chance to stake a claim for the final place in the front-three. The increased competition will likely help the wingers hit new heights.

As Juventus look to compete on three fronts, simply put, they will need to create more chances. Sarri’s latest shuffle may not work, but it’s definitely worth a shot, and if anything, suits Juventus’ attacking options way better than their current setup.

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Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 25

Thomas Strakosha: since they scored twice against Inter, Lazio now boast the best statistical defence in the League with their 21 conceded goal. Genoa are improving, but the Biancocelesti back-line is a good bet for this round.

Milan Skriniar: Inter instead have not looked the same defensively sans Samir Handanovic between the sticks. Perhaps the captain will be back on Sunday, in any case the Sampdoria clash could be the right one for them to bounce back and Skriniar is an ex-Blucerchiato.   Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 24

SPAL-Juventus: Luigi Di Biagio devised a new system in his debut, arraying his men with a 4-3-3. While they failed to get the win, they attacked more than usual and Andrea Petagna bagged the ninth goal of his campaign. Federico Di Francesco has always been playing in very offensive role, but he is more comfortable out wide and the trident was completed by Mattia Valoti in that case, although Gabriel Strefezza will have his chances too. The duo gets a bump thanks to the coaching change, likewise Mirko Valdifiori, who resurfaced and can be a decent weapon on set pieces, as a matter of fact he picked up an assist with a corner kick. Simone Missiroli is back at box-to-box like earlier in his career, joining the sneaky Lucas Castro. On the downside, Arkadiusz Reca, and Mohamed Fares when he will be ready, will feature as fullback, so few meters behind what they were accustomed to doing. Scoring has been one of their main issues so far, as they have no reliable contributors behind Petagna. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 24

Juan Musso (7 points): a pretty good number of clean sheets in this round as seven defences managed to stymie the opponents. Udinese’s Argentinian goalie had the best save of the weekend, actually a double one as he parried away a point-blank header going to the ground with cat-like agility and then had the alertness of slapping away the ball before a tap-in. Parma’s Simone Colombi had a sensational save as well on an attempted chip shot.

Adama Soumaoro (8 points): on top of stopping an in-form Bologna team, three Genoa defenders picked up bonus point for their contribution on the other end. The spot on behalf of the trio goes to the newcomer Soumaoro, who has taken full advantage of Cristiano Romero’s absence to show his worth and scored with a clinical sliding finish, on feed by Andrea Masiello (7 points) no less. Domenico Criscito (9) instead canned another penalty late to round up the score. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 24

Standings implications: Lazio emerged victorious in the crunch game with Inter, thus surpassing the Nerazzurri in second position and staying one point behind Juventus, which did their job versus Brescia. Roma put up a fight in Bergamo, but Atalanta still rallied back and took home a monumental victory in the Champions League race as they have built a six-point lead over the direct rival.

Parma re-entered the conversation for the sixth spot by railroading Sassuolo and caught Verona in the standings, then Milan answered on Monday night. The Scaligeri and Udinese did not get in the way of the respective targets with a nil-nil tie, but it will not be long before the Zebrette will have to resume watching underneath them. Genoa and Lecce continue streaking by toppling Bologna and SPAL, putting all the other relegation zone competitors in high alert, especially Sampdoria, which were trounced by Fiorentina and are now in 17th position, so sandwiched between the two.

Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 24 vs Brescia

Even if the score was not too one-sided, Juventus controlled the Brescia game from start to finish, taking care of business in a favourable match-up.

Giorgio Chiellini (5 points): nothing too interesting to report from the performance of the defenders, as they were challenged just once or twice by a very timid and resigned opponent. As a matter of fact, Daniele Rugani and Leonardo Bonucci had their highlights on the other box and the young centre-back was denied a goal only by a sensational save. Danilo and Alex Sandro took advantage of the narrow formation of the adversaries to motor down the flanks more than usual and a decent amount of success while doing that. The best news was the return on the pitch of the grizzled captain, who takes home a token spot while he begins to gear up for the battles that are ahead. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Coppa Italia semis vs Milan

Juventus showed modest improvement compared to their last two road showings and managed to obtain a positive result out the San Siro clash with Milan despite letting the opponents have their way for the majority of the game.

Gianluigi Buffon: the back-line for the most part did an okay job in holding in check the opponents, which did not manifactured many clear-cut chances despite having the lion’s share of possession, then the veteran goalie stepped up when he needed to, with a pair of strong saves, in particular on an Ante Rebic’s effort under the bar in the first half and then coming out on the Croatian attacker after intermission. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23

Roma-Bologna: the Giallorossi are in a funk and have played just one convincing game out of the last five. They will be without Lorenzo Pellegrini due to suspension and it is a massive loss considering that he is the mastermind of their offense. They should get Henrikh Mkhitaryan back from injury and perhaps even starting considering the hole at no.10. The other option is likely Diego Perotti and they seem to always be awarded a penalty when he is out there. Edin Dzeko has scored in three straight games and they will face a pretty suspect back-line. Cengiz Under took a step back versus Sassuolo, but he is always pretty assertive when he decides to play, while Justin Kluivert has not done much since coming back from injury, but should improve over time. Paulo Fonseca has elected to keep Aleksandar Kolarov on the bench in the last two matches for tactical reasons, but the decision has not really moved the needle so the stud left-back should soon be back in the XI. Continue reading