Juventus-SPAL: the Bianconeri have not been very spectacular in the last two matches against minnows, but they got the job done with the contribution of few different players. Cristiano Ronaldo has shaken off his injury and will be back in this one, Paulo Dybala has outperformed Gonzalo Higuain in the last couple of outings, but the latter is usually closer to the goal. Aaron Ramsey has been pretty good and they could carry on with the tactics where he is heavily featured, but it remains to be seen whether he can play thrice in a row, otherwise Adrien Rabiot or Federico Bernardeschi could get the nod there and reap the benefits of a very offensive role. They have gotten goals from Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi, even though Sami Khedira is generally the midfielder who is most involved in the offense. Juan Cuadrado loses some steam because he is forced to play as right back for the time being. Continue reading
Having started the season with two defeats, the last thing Fiorentina needed this weekend was a meeting with Juventus. A heart-breaking 4-3 loss to Napoli was followed up with a dire display away to Genoa, but Vincenzo Montella must now prepare his side for a clash against their bitter rivals from Turin.
With the international break giving him two weeks to prepare, the Viola boss could be forgiven for wishing they were facing an easier opponent but the new Fiorentina President insists he is calm about the situation.
“We’ll have to win a game sooner or later,” owner Rocco Commisso told La Gazzetta dello Sport recently. “Now what matters is that the lads work well during the break, in a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone, from Montella to the last of our players. I have to be supportive and not put any pressure on them. I’ll be back for the match against Juve, but if it goes badly then I’ll watch our next few matches on TV!”
The break also saw the end of the transfer window, and Fiorentina were very busy, working the market until the last second to strengthen their squad as much as possible. Montella is expected to keep the 4-3-3 formation he used in the first two games, with many of those new faces – including Martin Caceres, Pedro, and former Leicester City man Rachid Ghezzal – only earning a place among the substitutes.
Franck Ribery is likely to make an appearance from the bench too, meaning the attack will once again feature Kevin-Prince Boateng, Federico Chiesa and Riccardo Sottil. The midfield is filled with the kind of gritty, dynamic players who often cause Juve problems as Milan Badelj will be flanked by impressive youngster Gaetano Castrovilli and set piece specialist Erick Pulgar,
The defence now looks complete, Brazilian left-back Dalbert providing a good balance with Pol Lirola on the opposite flank as German Pezzella and Nikola Milenković marshal the centre of the field. But the latter pair know their hands will be full on Saturday afternoon. Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo have both already been among the goals for the Bianconeri, while Douglas Costa looks reborn under Maurizio Sarri’s more attacking approach.
This match is also expected to see Adrien Rabiot get his first start in Juve colours following his summer move from Paris Saint-Germain, the Frenchman featuring alongside Miralem Pjanić and Sami Khedira in midfield.
Giorgio Chiellini’s absence will be huge for both sides, and his injury might be a major factor in the coming weeks as the Old Lady takes on some difficult opponents. Matthijs de Ligt showcased his huge potential at Ajax, but against Napoli last time out the Netherlands international looked lost as the Partenopei mounted a spectacular comeback.
Without their skipper De Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci will need to be vastly improved in the face of a testing Stadio Artemio Franchi atmosphere, and Fiorentina will certainly look to push Juventus from the opening whistle.
Juan Musso: Udinese were very sound against Milan and managed to stymie most of the opponents’ offense. They might be able to replicate that against Parma and the Argentinian goalkeeper is a sure thing by now.
Milan Skriniar: he is the only one standing in Inter’s big three in the back, as Diego Godin and Stefan De Vrij are currently injured. Despite the make-shift rearguard, the Nerazzurri could still be able to stop a Leonardo Pavoletti-less Cagliari that could not hit the net against Brescia last week. Continue reading
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
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
There were barely any deal in the first few sleepy days of August, where Fiorentina and Milan were the main protagonists. La Viola signed Kevin-Prince Boateng and Pol Lirola from Sassuolo and sold Vitor Hugo to Palmeiras, hinting a switch to their defensive philosophy since they used to deploy Nikola Milenkovic at right back, but will no go with a more normal and aggressive look. The Rossoneri instead cashed in on Patrick Cutrone, who joined Wolverhampton, and substituted him with Rafael Leao from Lille, who projects to be a better fit next to Krzysztof Piatek, and then announced Ismael Bennacer from Empoli on Sunday. Juventus completed the sale of Moise Kean to Everton. Continue reading
After a slow start to their window due to the ownership change, Fiorentina are starting to get a move on and added two players from Sassuolo: Kevin-Prince Boateng and Pol Lirola. The 31-year-old journeyman was purchased for a minimal €1M fee, while they spent €14M plus add-ons for the right back.
Boateng started last season well while playing as false-nine for the Neroverdi, scoring four times in 13 games. However, he could not turn down Barcelona’s offer in January, but featured just four times with the Blaugrana. Over his career, he has spent time with Eintracht Frankfurt, Las Palmas, Schalke 04 and Genoa and is obviously best known for his two stints at Milan.
The Ghanaian attacker can feature in a number of positions and plugs the hole left by the departure of Luis Muriel. If they bring in a pure centre-forward or decide to continue relying on Giovanni Simeone, Boateng will end up playing more as second-striker or left winger.
Lirola has been a very energetic fullback over the last three seasons in Emilia, appearing 92 times and notching three goals and seven assists. He is coming off his best season to date, where he provided seven helpers and was a constant thorn on the opponents’ side while motoring up and down the flank.
Fiorentina have been adapted Nikola Milenkovic to that role in the last few years, but they will now utilize a more traditional and offensive-minded right back, with the Serbian youngster deployed as centre-back. As a further indication of that, they sold Vitor Hugo to Palmeiras. The latest rumours also suggest that they could keep former Lecce loanee Lorenzo Venuti, another typical fullback, on the roster to back up the new acquisition.
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As we hurtle towards the end of another gruelling La Liga campaign, Barcelona will already be looking towards a successful 2019/20 season, and to that end Eric Abidal will need to do some wheeler-dealing in the transfer market.
With Matthijs De Ligt just one name being mentioned as a possible new signing, it’s clear that the Catalans will have plenty to do across the summer.
The futures of most of their players remain crystal clear, but there are question marks too. Continue reading
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde was firm in his commitment to pushing for further glory, after his side wrapped up an eighth La Liga title in the last 11 seasons.
A 1-0 win at home to Levante means the Catalan side have secured their title defence, with three league games to spare before the end of the 2018-19 season.
The former Athletic Bilbao coach will now focus his squad’s energies on completing a first treble since 2015. Continue reading
Barcelona will look to have successfully retained their La Liga title before the end of April, in time for a potential Champions League semi final.
As it stands, Ernesto Valverde’s side a huge favourites to win back to back domestic titles, with a ten point lead over second place Atletico Madrid, with nine games to go in the 2018-19 campaign.
If Barcelona win all of their forthcoming games, they will be Spanish champions again with three games to spare – winning the league at home to Levante at the Nou Camp on April 27th.