Pjanic delighted for personal and team’s form

Miralem Pjanic discussed the state of the team and his stellar moment in a Sunday’s interview with Sky Sport: “I feel great, I had a strong start. I am confident and in my prime. The team is playing well and I am having fun. The goals are surely nice, but what matters the most is to be in first position in the Champions League group and in the league. We have to maintain that during the upcoming stretch of matches and maybe increase the gap.” Continue reading

Sarri provides injury updates and more ahead of Bologna game

Maurizio Sarri was back in front of the press today to discuss few topics ahead of the Bologna game. He started off by assessing the form of Douglas Costa and the other injured players: “I do not know where the news about his return came from because he has always been practicing on his own so far. The question about the scheme will be relevant at a later time. Danilo, Aaron Ramsey and Mattia De Sciglio all re-joined the group in the last few days.” Continue reading

Which Serie A team has the most margin for improvement this season?

The second international break of the season is a good opportunity for Serie A teams to take stock of their strengths and weaknesses. Both Milan and Sampdoria went beyond a self appraisal and decided to use the two week window with no games as an opportunity to make a coaching change, but for the rest this break is the ideal time to find ways to improve.

With that in mind, which top Serie A teams have the most margins for improvement? let’s rank them

 

 

Atalanta 

While many, including yours truly, genuinely believed there would be some regression after a stellar season that saw most of their top players perform at the highest level of their careers, Atalanta have been just as devastating in Serie A where they find themselves in third place and with the second highest goal differential in the league.

But unlike the other teams listed in this article, there isn’t much margin for improvement. Duvan Zapata will be out for three weeks following an injury during the international break, the defense has performed better than expected with Kjaer seamlessly replacing Mancini and goalkeeper Gollini earning a selection to the Italian national team. Atalanta will however now be able to play their home matches in Bergamo again after their curva was rebuilt and new addition Malinovski can continue to improve while Ilicic has yet to be as consistently brilliant as last season. Atalanta will have to continue to prove they aren’t a fluke rather than looking for ways to get better.

 

Inter

 

The nerazzurri won their first six Serie A matches of the season before losing to Juventus in a close match at San Siro. They have the best goal differential in the league with plus 10, have received some strong contributions from almost all their new additions especially Godin, Barella and Sensi while Handanovic, De Vrij and Brozovic continue to be some of the best players at their respective position in all of Serie A.

While the nerazzurri have performed at almost their peak level in the domestic league, there’s still some margin for improvement once Romelu Lukaku develops more chemistry with Lautaro Martinez. With D’Ambrosio’s recent injury we’ll also likely see Valentino Lazaro make his debut- the Austrian international has the potential to be an upgrade from what we’ve seen from Candreva to so far this season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lazio 

 

No top Serie A team went through less changes than the biancocelesti who brought back manager Simone Inzaghi as well we as all of their core players. With that in mind, they have fallen short of expectations since they are in sixth place because they are unable to consistently win the matches in which they are the favorites.

Luis Alberto, Milinkovic Savic, Acerbi and especially Immobile have performed at their top level which doesn’t leave much room for growth beyond hoping new center back Vavro and wingback Lazzari can become the impactful additions they were expected to become. Lazzari had gotten off to a strong start but then struggled enough to lose playing time to Marusic.

 

Roma

The giallorossi are one of the most exciting team to watch in Serie A because of their free flowing offense and their leaky backline. Roma should be a bit concerned with the fact Dzeko and Kolarov have been their two best players, but they can also point to some significant margins for improvement once Pellegrini, Under and Mkhitaryan return from their injuries and once Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling can get more reps playing together.

 

 

Juventus 

 

Right before the international break, Inter were reminded of the saying “if you want to be the champ, you have to beat the champ”. Juventus displayed their depth and ruthlessness at San Siro in the final Serie A match and reminded the rest of the league why they’ve won the last eight scudetti.

If that wasn’t frightening enough, the bianconeri have considerable margins for improvement- Sarri now has more time to implement his ideas and because of the depth of his squad, he can alternate between two formations. Douglas Costa is returning from an injury, Dybala has started to develop better chemistry with Cristiano Ronaldo, and speaking of the Portuguese striker, it’s only a matter of time until he goes on a scoring streak.

If that weren’t enough De Ligt can be considerably better than what he’s shown so far, Rabiot could eventually replace Matuidi and Chiellini will be back for the stretch run of the season.

 

Milan 

 

The rossoneri are three points away from relegation zone and four behind Napoli for the last Champions League spot so they have some clear margins for improvements while also having hope they can completely turn their season around. Their new manager Pioli has been in a similar situation when he took over at Inter a few years ago and it’s hard to imagine Paqueta’ and Piatek not turning things around in a new system.

Look for Pioli to get the most out of new additions Leao, Hernandez, Bennacer and Rebic while Caldara could be an upgrade over Musacchio as Romagnoli’s partner. A healthy Bonaventura would also feel like what Galliani would describe “as like a new addition”.

 

Napoli 

 

While the partenopei are in nowhere near as dire a situation as Milan, they have the most margin for improvement of any top team. Koulibaly has really struggled since missing the pre season because of the Africa Cup, Milik will finally be fully fit for the first time this season after rehabbing from a painful injury, while both Manolas and Lozano have yet to perform at the level expected from two of the most expensive additions in the club’s history. Ancelotti’s squad could also receive a significant boost from a return to form for Lorenzo Insigne and Faouzi Ghoulam.

 

De Ligt discusses his start in Turin plus injury updates

Matthijs De Ligt talked about his mixed start in Italy in an interview with Dutch site Nu.nl: “The most important lesson I have learned so far at Juventus is that you need to have confidence in yourself. At the beginning, I was very worried about not making mistakes, but obviously you should never do that. I had never played before with that in my mind. My focus centred too much around that in the first few weeks. I took stock after the Atletico Madrid match, I wanted to resume performing with confidence. Something can always go wrong, but I am sure things will improve and I have started getting better from that day on.” Continue reading

Big Week Ahead For Sarri and Juventus

With Juventus set to take on Bayer Leverkusen and Inter this week, it’s the bianconeri’s first real tests of the season since the Napoli clash. In recent weeks, the Italian champions have impressed and have begun showing positive signs that Sarriball is well and truly on its way.

However, Hellas Verona, Brescia and SPAL aren’t exactly the fiercest of challengers and will likely all be near the relegation zone come the season’s end. As a result, the following week will act as the all-important litmus test: Are Juventus real Champions League contenders under Maurizio Sarri and can they keep their Serie A crown?

After going with the 4-3-3 for the early goings of the Serie A season, Sarri went back to his roots and has deployed the more narrow 4-3-1-2 over Juventus’ last three games. This is a formation that the former Chelsea boss used throughout his time with Empoli with great success. In the absence of Douglas Costa, the bianconeri lack wide players capable of beating their men in the final third. While Juan Cuadrado has been a pleasant surprise since returning to the fold, Federico Bernardeschi has disappointed.

The former Fiorentina man frankly lacks the pace to be an out-and-out winger and has looked poor in the early stages of this season. Sarri has even claimed in a recent press conference that Bernardeschi’s future is arguably from a deeper, more central role in midfield as a mezz’ala. 

The formation change has also coincided with Paulo Dybala’s return to form. Since switching to the ‘Christmas Tree’ formation, the former Palermo man has played an integral role in the buildup and has looked incredibly dangerous between the lines. Linking up with either Cristiano Ronaldo or Gonzalo Higuain, la Joya is not far off his brilliant best.

Outside of Dybala’s return to form, this formation also suits new arrival Aaron Ramsey. Playing in an advanced role, the Welsh international is able to infiltrate the opposition’s defence with late runs into the box. Since returning from injury, Ramsey has been in sensational form and is establishing himself as a key piece to Sarriball.

Equally capable of running behind the defence as he is playing neat touches in tight spaces, Ramsey is the missing piece in Juventus’ eleven. With Miralem Pjanic, Adrien Rabiot and Sami Khedira behind him, the Turin-based giants are now capable of fielding a blend of skill and tenacity in the middle of the park.

Defensively, Juventus are showing improvements, as Matthijs de Ligt is growing every week alongside Leonardo Bonucci. While their fullback crisis is worrying, Alex Sandro has had a phenomenal start to the season and will look to continue that this week.

With Leverkusen and a top-of-the-table clash against Inter on the horizon, Juventus are going to need to continue familiarizing themselves with their new formation and manager’s playing philosophy. As their performances keep improving, it’s clear Sarriball is well on its way. With Juventus’ new arrivals blending in nicely with Ronaldo and co. it’s only a matter of time before free-flowing football is the norm in Turin.

Pick your stars and compete with other Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-champions-league.com

Sarri and Pjanic set the stage for the Leverkusen game

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri warned the team about the difficulty of the Champions League clash against Bayern Leverkusen in today’s presser.

“If we have clear ideas on the next opponent, we can not think about Inter since we will face a strong side, they are just one point beind Bayern Munich, they have above average possession and physicality. It will be a demanding game, they like to hold the ball, looking past them would be an unforgettable mistake.”

On Kai Havertz: “He combines his physique with great technical skills. They are using him in the hole or on the flanks, he looks compete to me, he could play as box-to-box. He has great charisma for his age, he is one of the brightest prospects in Europe.” Continue reading

Danilo and De Sciglio injury updates and Barzagli returns

Juventus issued an update on the two injured fullbacks on Wednesday: Danilo, after subbing off early in the Brescia game, has been diagnosed with a mild biceps femoris strain in the right left thigh, while Mattia De Sciglio, who has been out for ten days now, has not recovered yet from his muscular ailment. They have both been ruled till the next international break, which means that they will skip the upcoming matches against SPAL, Bayern Leverkusen and Inter. Juan Cuadrado, while adapted to that position, is the only right back standing. Emre Can and Merih Demiral have limited experience in that role if necessary. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 5

Brescia-Juventus: two questions loom large on the game, one for each side. Mario Balotelli is eligible to return after the suspension, but his conditioning might be a problem after skipping the summer preparation, so he might be initially be kept on the bench. Cristiano Ronaldo has been ruled out due to muscle fatigue and it is new situation under Maurizio Sarri; they also do not have Douglas Costa, so they lack a pure left-wing player. Federico Bernardeschi could certainly be adapted there, but he has struggled so far, so the coach might try new solutions, like for instance fielding Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain together. Whoever ends up starting up front will have to shoulder a bigger load sans Ronaldo. Continue reading

Romelu Lukaku is becoming a massive hit in Serie A despite the racists

When Romelu Lukaku joined Inter Milan to play in Serie A there were those that doubted the Belgian striker would be able to adapt to a league known for its defence. But Lukaku has just won the Milan derby, as Inter beat AC Milan 2-0 and he has got off to a superb start in the league.

In truth one could wonder why Manchester United sold him- was it because he had an average last season, where he scored 12 league goals. That’s very possible but he was still averaging 1 goal every 2 games and all in all was very consistent. But maybe the move has done Lukaku well. Maybe just maybe he was beginning to go stale at United, and had spent too much time in the Premier League. It does seem evident with the way he has started at Inter Milan that he needed his career to be refreshed. For now it is working wonders.

Lukaku has scored 3 goals in 4 Serie A games for his new club and has hit the ground running. His start means that he will now be a constant pick in the Inter Milan side. In Italy clubs have been notorious for dropping players to the bench who do not start their careers well. Lukaku has simply been on fire, make no mistake.

As for the club Inter Milan look like being at their most strongest since the Jose Mourinho years a decade ago. They are top of the league with 4 wins from as many games, have scored 9 goals and conceded just one, and also are 2 points in front of Juventus who have won the league for the past eight years. The Old Lady as Juventus are called finally seem to have a genuine rival.

Inter will be hoping that Lukaku can transform some of his brilliant form into the Champions League also, and the club did struggle in their first game when only a last minute injury time goal saved them from losing against Slavia Prague at home.

The only sour note of course with regards to Lukaku’s move to Italy is the racism he has had to endure. It has been a sad state of affairs with even his own fans defending racist chants from opposition fans. A Journalist on TV was also suspended for commentating on Lukaku, and the truth is with UEFA doing next to nothing, this will continue as clubs are not being discouraged.

But at least Lukaku his answering the best way he can, and that is on the pitch scoring plenty of goals.

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Juventus Top Performers – Round Four vs Verona

Juventus got tested beyond expectations by a very aggressive Verona, but slowly figured it out and managed to come out on top to nab the third win of the season.

Gianluigi Buffon: he was spared on the penalty, but then Miguel Veloso scored anyway moments later with a scorcher. The Portuguese midfielder challenged him over and over again in the second half with his sharp free kicks, but he did not cave and pulled off one of his signature saves on Darko Lazovic late to preserve the tie. As for the rest of the defence, Danilo and Alex Sandro were passable, but containing the widest players of the opponents is starting to become a recurrent issue. They both covered a lot of ground though and thwarted few chances with quick runs. Merih Demiral was too exuberant to open the match and caused an avoidable penalty, but his explosiveness was actually very useful on few reads and clearances in the box.  Continue reading