Juventus can reload with Serie A players alone

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No matter what coach will be chosen, Juventus will have to address some glaring needs in the upcoming transfer market session, but they might be able to fill them with the usual modus operandi: plucking players from other Serie A teams. Here are some of the three biggest holes.

A heir to Giorgio Chiellini: the Old Lady had a good thing going in the first half of last season, where for a while they were able to rotate two well-assorted duos, Leonardo Bonucci-Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani-Chiellini, and go with Bonucci-Chiellini in the most demanding fixtures. Eventually, the Moroccan centre-back grew tired for the lack of consistent playing times and asked to leave and Martin Caceres was a temporary cheap patch. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 38

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Juventus: Blaise Matuidi and Federico Bernardeschi are suspended, while Joao Cancelo and Mario Mandzukic both fractured their nose in the same week and are unavailable for Sunday. Alex Sandro is dealing with a rib contusion. Douglas Costa (calf), Mattia Perin (shoulder) and Sami Khedira (knee) remain sidelined as expected. Cristiano Ronaldo will be rested, while Wojciech Szczesny has suffered a knee injury.

Napoli: Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Amadou Diawara looked close to returning from a foot fracture for a pair of weeks, but he was again unable to make the squad list, like Adam Ounas that is banged up and David Ospina, who is still in Colombia. Mario Rui is out with an undisclosed injury.  Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 36

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Antonio Mirante (7 points): he prevented Roma from going down in the score time and time again in the Juventus clash, superbly rejecting Juan Cuadrado and Paulo Dybala’s point-blank finishes.

Alessio Romagnoli (5 points): just three clean sheets in this round, so all the top point-getters among defenders come from Roma and Milan. The Rossoneri captain did not necessarily have the most imposing outing, but led the back-line in Florence, contributing to holding La Viola scoreless.

Cedric Soares (5 points): Inter easily stopped Chievo on Sunday night, allowing their defenders to haul in five points, which are enough to make the TOTW in this round. The right back contributed to the second goal by hitting the post, then Ivan Perisic cashed in on the rebound.

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Assessing the Center Back Market in Serie A

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After looking at the goalkeeper position earlier this week, let’s review the market for center backs in Serie A. Let’s start with which top teams could use an addition or two

 

 

Juventus- Chiellini proved to be Juventus’ most important player this season and the fact that he’ll be 35 this year should give the team urgency to bolster this position especially since Bonucci was often a liability defensively while Rugani showed he’s not ready to be a starter at a club of this caliber. Emre Can could be used a center back more frequently but that would further weaken a midfield that isn’t great to begin with.

Napoli- there will be a lot of suitors for Koulibaly, and even though he’s expected to stay at the club, Albiol’s age and recent injuries, make the center back position a key need moving forward regardless of what Koulibaly does.

Inter- the nerazzurri are loaded at the position with Diego Godin joining Skriniar and De Vrij. Should Conte replace Spalletti, he’ll have a new version of the BBC waiting for him at la Pinetina.

Atalanta- the Bergamaschi could use an upgrade at the position especially since there’s a lot of suitors for Gianluca Mancini.

Roma- not upgrading this position in January is one of the many significant mistakes Monchi made at the club. The situation could get even more dire when you consider Kostas Manolas has a 36 million euro exit clause which is also valid in Italy.

Milan- Romagnoli took another step forward this season while Musacchio was considerably better than in his first campaign in Serie A. If Caldara can fully recover from his recent ACL injury, this will be one position where Milan can stay put with on the market.

Lazio- while Acerbi proved to be a more than adequate relacement for De Vrij, the rest of the biancocelesti’s center backs aren’t good enough to start for a team that wants to consistently compete for a Champions League spot. Should Inzaghi leave this summer, Lazio could also move away from a 3 center back defense which would have an impact on their summer plans- but regardless sporting director Tare’ needs to find at least one above average center back.

 

Now let’s look at the center backs in Serie A who will almost certainly be in the transfer news headlines

 

Koulibaly, Skriniar, Romagnoli- all three are expected to stay at their respective teams, but because of their impressive ability, they will certainly be targets for rich clubs abroad.

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Kostas Manolas- while De Ligt and Varane are Juventus’ top targets to build their defense around in the post Chiellini era, the Greek defender could be a very good stop gap. His speed would be an asset on a team that got run over by Atalanta and Ajax this season and the bianconeri have a great relationship with his agent Mino Raiola. Manolas’ profile was raised internationally last season thanks to Roma’s deep Champions League run, so he could also receive offers from outside of Serie A.

Nikola Milenkovic- the versatile Bosnian defender has been previously linked to Manchester United but Fiorentina’s very disappointing season has taken away some of his luster. But considering his ability to play as both a center back and right wing back, despite his considerable height, he will still be attractive to many teams.

Fiorentina spent just 5 million for him, so they can easily turn him into a massive profit. It will be interesting to see if Napoli or Roma get in the mix, considering he’ll turn 22 in October, MIlenkovic would still have considerable resale value down the line.

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Gianluca Mancini- between Atalanta’s magical run and making his debut for the Azzurri senior squad, this has been a magical season for the 23 year old defender from Pontendera. Roma has been targeting him for quite some time to either be Manolas’ partner or replacement and despite Monchi’s departure, a move to Italy’s capital still makes the most sense.

 

Nicholas NKolou & Armando Izzo- assuming he lands the Roma job, Petrachi would love nothing more than to bolster his new defense with one or two of Torino’s current key players. But the expected divorce from president Cairo looks to be quite acrimonious so it’s unlikely the granata would let either be reunited with Petrachi. Keeping both would be quite the statement from Torino especially when you consider their performances this season have elevated their profiles on the market.

Merih Demiral & Cristian Romero- while Juventus is expected to sign at least one big name at the center back position, their sporting director Paratici will also look to add a young player or two for the future. Juventus worked in synergy with Sassuolo to bring Demiral to Serie A from Turkey and he has more than distinguished himself since arriving, he’s very tall and has significant margins for improvement when you consider he’s only 21 years old.

Juventus is also expected to acquire Romero from Genoa, don’t be surprised if the transfer fee is rather substantial in light of the fact the amount of the Sturaro signing raised eye brows (remember that it’s very flawed to look at deals in a vacuum when clubs do a lot of business with one another). Both Romero and Demiral could however stay at their current clubs for another year.

 

Bruno Alves & Nicola Bastoni- Parma’s two stand out center backs could be on the move this summer. The veteran Portuguese international was linked to Juventus and Inter in January as a potential replacement for Benatia and Miranda respectively but ended up staying put. Bastoni on the other hand is on loan from Inter but would likely be better off staying on D’Aversa’s squad one more season so he can play regularly.

Joachim Andersen & Omar Colley- while Quagliarella has rightfully dominated the story lines surrounding Sampdoria, sporting director Osti has continued his streak of discovering intriguing center backs following Skriniar’s explosion. Considering that Colley is four years older than Andersen, he could be sold first.

 

Who are the most important players on the top Serie A teams?

With May around the corner it’s not surprising to see the amount of transfer rumors increasing as fast as the box office figures for the new “Avengers” film. Team’s sporting directors have already worked on Bosman signings as well as the early stages of transfer negotiations, but while looking for additions is what excites the fans, having a strong sense of what the squad needs is equally important.

While we’ll look at the specific teams needs for all of the top Serie A clubs in next couple of weeks, let’s first focus on who the most irreplaceable player is on each squad (which is by no means necessarily the best player). This exercise will give us a good sense of where each top Serie A team needs to focus in the summer

chiellini 

Juventus

 

Giorgio Chiellini

 

Mehdi Benatia’s surprising departure in January highlighted Chiellini’s importance to Allegri’s squad. While Leonardo Bonucci did improve Juventus’ passing game, which shouldn’t be understated when you consider that aside from Pjanic the rest of the midfielders are below average in this regard, the former Milan captain was responsible for most of the goals Juventus conceded so far this season. 

For the second season in a row, Rugani received significant opportunities to play, but despite getting a contract extension it’s hard to argue he made the most of them. Simply put, Juventus was a different team without Chiellini, who will turn 35 in August- upgrading the center back position maybe even more important than in the midfield when you consider Emre Can’s improvements in second half of the season and Aaron Ramsey’s imminent arrival.

 

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Napoli

 

Kalidou Koulibaly

While Chiellini isn’t Juventus’ best player, its hard to argue against Koulibaly being both the best and most important player at Carlo Ancelotti’s disposal. The center back has arguably been the best player at his position in the league the past two seasons and he’s become even more important in light of Raul Albiol’s recent injury. 

Considering Napoli’s ability to find quality midfielders, both in Italy and abroad, they are much better off trying to replace someone like Allan and Zielinski than Koulibaly, a player who has completely embraced the city and looks likely to stay for years to come despite being courted by numerous top clubs. While Maksimovic has shown improvements this season, Napoli still needs to focus further on finding Koulibaly a long term partner in the middle of the defense.

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Inter

 

Marcelo Brozovic

Borja Valero’s biological age and Radja Nainggolan’s lifestyle which makes him older than he is, make the Croatian international Spalletti’s most important player. Last summer Inter did try to bolster their midfield by pursuing Luka Modric and Arturo Vidal, a pursuit they’ll have to resume in the coming weeks.

Look for Marotta and Ausilio to monitor Brozovic’s teammate on the Croatian national team Ivan Rakitic, should he fail to  sign an extension, Inter could make a strong push to acquire him. 

 

Atalanta

 

Remo Freuler

No team in Serie A had a more devastating offensive trio than Zapata, Ilicic and Papu Gomez this season but for a team to do as well as Atalanta has you also need someone who can cover for them. Freuler was already considered one of the most underrated defensive midfielders in Serie A going into the season, but he has elevated his stock to go along with his team’s rise.

Numerous clubs in Serie A and abroad will be testing the Percassi’s family resolve this summer when it comes to their jewels, but when you consider Gasperini has to exciting prospects in Castagne and Barrow at wing back and striker, keeping the Swiss international will be more important than others.

 paqueta

Milan

 

Paqueta’

 

Just a few months ago the story line was that investing substantially on a young Brazilian with no experience in Europe at a time that the club was facing FFP restrictions was a huge gamble. Fast forward to the last few weeks and Milan’s game plan and offensive strategy has been described as “il nulla” (nothingness) since Paqueta’ suffered an injury.

While Romagnoli and Bakayoko are better players at this stage of their careers, Milan does have some options at their positions and Piatek has a more than adequate backup in Cutrone- but both strikers suffer from a significant lack of service when Paqueta is out. Bonaventura’s expected return will help, but Milan needs more creative players to improve next season.

 

Roma

 

Kostas Manolas

 

The giallorossi have numerous intriguing options in the midfield and while Dzeko has had a down season, Ranieri does have a few options offensively especially when you consider El Shaarawy’s consistency and brilliance. But the back line is a whole other story especially since Monchi didn’t sign any new additions in January leaving the squad with Fazio, who has become a liability in a 4 man defense while Marcano and Juan Jesus are backups at best.

To make things worse, Manolas has a very reasonable exit clause worth 36 million euro (which is also valid in Italy) making the center back position a massive priority for whoever is named as the club’s next sporting director.

Lazio v SPALSerie A4/11/2018. 

Lazio 

 

Francesco Acerbi

 

While the former Sassuolo center back’s name has been in the headlines recently for the incident with Kessie’ and Bakayoko, his performances on the pitch had already made him into one of the story lines of the season. Acerbi proved to be a brilliant replacement for De Vrij, but he is simply not enough if Lazio wants to continue being in the mix for a Champions League spot- none of the other center backs on Inzaghi’s squad can be described as above average at their position.

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 34

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Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini has good chances to be back from a calf contracture and Martin Caceres from a thigh strain, while Douglas Costa (calf). Paulo Dybala (quad) and Mario Mandzukic (knee) will not be back this week. Rodrigo Bentancur has been ruled out with muscle fatigue.

Napoli: Raul Albiol is expected to return after missing time following a knee clean-up surgery. Vlad Chiriches hurt his shoulder in the last game and will undergo surgery, while Nikola Maksimovic and Amadou Diawara are nursing foot issues. Adam Ounas skipped the last two games due to a muscular ailment, but he is back in the squad list. Allan and Lorenzo Insigne are both fatigued and have been ruled out.  Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 31

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Marco Sportiello (7 points): few unexpected clean sheets in this round, which had some extraordinary saves, but not by goalkeeper that managed to keep the goal locked up. Among them, Pierluigi Gollini had probably the best performance, but he was docked one point because he was booked. So the shout-out goes the Frosinone player for his alert work in Florence against a pretty good offence.

Erick Pulgar (13 points): the reigning player of the month confirmed his proficiency from the penalty spot by convering two in the span of three minutes.
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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 30

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Juventus: Cristiano Ronaldo remains on the mend, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic joined him due to a calf ailment and the flu. No recoveries among their long-term injured players.

Napoli: Dries Mertens suffered a blow to the tibia against Roma, while Elseid Hysaj has some muscle fatigue: they are questionable but they have been called up. Lorenzo Insigne is not expected to be back in this round, while David Ospina remains sidelined with a head injury. Raul Albiol, Vlad Chiriches, Faouzi Ghoulam and Amadou Diawara remain out. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 29

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Juventus: Cristiano Ronaldo picked up a thigh strain while playing with Portugal and is unlikely to play in the next three games. Sami Khedira has been cleared to practice after a heart problem, but it will take him a little longer before playing. Douglas Costa (quad, calf), Juan Cuadrado (knee) and Andrea Barzagli (calf) remain sidelined, while Mattia De Sciglio has recovered from a thigh pull.

Napoli: Fabian Ruiz will be available after a tough flu. Lorenzo Insigne was on track to play but suffered a relapse of a thigh contracture.  Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 28

Empoli v UC Sampdoria - Serie A

Juventus: none among Mattia De Sciglio (thigh), Andrea Barzagli (calf), Dougls Costa (quad, calf), Sami Khedira (heart) and Juan Cuadrado (knee) is expected back this week. The first one is the closest to recovering. Cristiano Ronaldo will be rested. 

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne was scratched from the XI in Europa League due to a muscular problem in the warm-up. Vlad Chiriches subbed off for the same issue, while Amadou Diawara has a foot infraction: they have all been given a 20-day prognosis. Fabian Ruiz has the flu.

Milan: Cristian Zapata is back in the squad list after spending time on the mend with a thigh strain. Continue reading