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
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
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
Lazio-Inter was the most anticipated match going into round 24: it was pretty tight but still had a decent amount of action, so it takes home the shout-out in combination with its potentially huge significance in the title race.
The Biancocelesti were handed their last loss in the first meeting between the two sides back in September and then proceeded to go on a still ongoing terrific run, although they had slowed down a bit lately with two draws in the past four contests. The Nerazzurri were instead coming off two Ws, the first versus Udinese and then a crazy one in the Derby. Continue reading
Never before has Karim Benzema been such a revered figure at the Santiago Bernabeu. Indeed, the French striker is in the form of his life, currently leading Lionel Messi in the Pichichi standings for La Liga’s top goalscorer. In the post-Cristiano Ronaldo it is Benzema who has stepped into the void left by his former Portuguese teammate.
And yet Real Madrid must face the reality that their first choice centre forward and top scorer is well into the twilight of his career. Benzema is 32 years old and while he has aged well, becoming a wiser, shrewder player in his 30s, there will come a time when the passages of time start to have an effect on the physicality of the Frenchman.
It could be for this reason that Real Madrid are reportedly looking at Lautaro Martinez. The Argentine striker has been a sensation for Inter this season, striking up a partnership with Romelu Lukaku to fire Antonio Conte’s side to the top of Serie A. He is now considered one of the brightest young forwards in the European game at this moment.
Martinez has previously been linked with Barcelona. The Catalans are believed to be in the market for a new striker as they look for a long term replacement for Luis Suarez. Stylistically, it’s easy to see why Barca see Martinez as a suitable fit. There are elements of Suarez’s game to that of the Argentine.
Real Madrid could also use a player like the Inter forward, though. Benzema might still have a few seasons left in the tank, but the signing of Martinez could give Zinedine Zidane the option of using the two up front as a duo. He has tried this with Luka Jovic on occasion this season, but the Serbian has yet to truly prove he belongs in the Santiago Bernabeu since joining from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer.
Whether it happens this summer or in another transfer window, it seems inevitable that Martinez will be the subject of a Europe-wide pursuit involving many of the sport’s biggest clubs. There’s reason to believe the Argentine would be a good fit for Barcelona, a move to England might also appeal with Manchester City mentioned as suitors, but Real Madrid would be foolish not to at least put themselves forward as an option.
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Atalanta-Roma: the Goddess continue to add to their offensive arsenal, as Duvan Zapata is returning two his usual pre-injury numbers (two goals and three assists in the last four games) and Ruslan Malinovskyi came through last week. The Ukrainian attacker seems to have surpassed Luis Muriel as first option off the bench. Josip Ilicic did not score against Fiorentina, but still had a great performance and he has been en fuego for a while. The one small negative is that, with their front-line now featuring two quality scorers, Alejandro Gomez is back at looking more to feed them rather than finishing on his own: as a matter of fact he set up two goals last week and has not hit the net since in six weeks. Timothy Castagne came back and he is a bigger offensive weapon than the more diligent Hans Hateboer, but they will likely continue to alternate, while Robin Gosens on the opposite flank is slowing down a bit after a gorgeous January. Mario Pasalic fumbled away a pair of sitters in Florence. Rafael Toloi (one goal and six assists) has been their most intriguing defender. Continue reading
Currently 22 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, it’s clear that Manchester City must strengthen in the summer or risk falling further behind Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side.
Whilst Manchester City haven’t exactly been terrible this season, the points gap to the league leaders is astronomical. But that just goes to show just how strong Liverpool are this campaign, with a slip up looking extremely unlikely. Continue reading
Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is dealing with some thigh soreness but there is optimism it is nothing serious. Timothy Castagne resumed practicing after some knee pain and Lennart Czyborra is available as well following a contracture. Tomas Sutalo will miss time with a navicular bone edema.
Bologna: Takehiro Tomiyasu is suspended. Nicola Sansone should be fine after some muscle fatigue and Stefano Denswil is on track to return from a thigh problem. Gary Medel (thigh) and Ladislav Krejci (knee) are poised to remain on the shelf.
Brescia: Mario Balotelli will finish serving his two-game suspension. Continue reading
Match-day 21 saw Italy’s top three all drop points with Juventus picking up their second loss of the season against Napoli. Despite this, Lazio and Inter weren’t able to capitalize and drew their games against Roma and Cagliari respectively. This week, Italy’s top sides will all be looking to return to winning ways as Juve will host Fiorentina and Lazio take on SPAL. Inter, by contrast, will look to beat Udinese.
With match-day 22 upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your elevens. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Gonzalo Higuain (FWD, Juventus, Value 15.43 ) – After a storming start to the season, the former Real Madrid man has slowed down and has looked fatigued when given a starting role. Against Fiorentina, expect Sarri to use Higuain off the bench rather than from the start. The Juve hitman failed to create anything of note against Napoli on the weekend and looked sluggish in and out of possesion. As a result, a spell on the sidelines could prove to be exactly what the doctor ordered.
At 15.43M, let’s face it, you can do better than Higuain. After all, he’ll feature mostly off the bench as the season draws to a close.
Armando Izzo (DEF, Torino, Value 13.00 ) – The Torino man had an outing to forget against Gian Piero Gasperini’s high-flying Atalanta and got sent off in a 7-0 defeat. Izzo, a defender typically known for his solidity and imposing physique, has looked off the pace recently and could use the weekend off. With the red, he frankly has no choice.
Torino have also had a week to forget conceding a further four goals against Milan in their most recent Coppa Italia defeat. That’s eleven goals in two games. As a result, you would be wise to temporarily swap out the veteran defender out of your sides.
Domenico Criscito (DEF, Genoa, 7.93 Value ) – Much like Izzo, Criscito had a weekend to forget. While Genoa’s scoreless draw against Fiorentina wasn’t the worst result all things considered, it could have been much more for the Grifoni. Criscito was handed a golden opportunity from the spot to gift his side a crucial three points, but much to his dismay spurned the spot-kick. It was his first penalty miss of the season and came at a painfully unfortunate time.
With Genoa stuck in the relegation zone, Criscito will need to rise to the occasion and deliver captain-like performances. For now, however, his stock is low.
Lautaro Martinez (FWD, Inter, Value 18.95 ) – Despite his goal on the weekend, Martinez makes the list. The month of January has been a frustrating one for Conte’s men as they have dropped points against Cagliari, Lecce, and Atalanta. All draws that might come back to haunt them at the end of the season.
The frustration arguably hit a boiling point against the Sardinians as Martinez let his anger get the best of him and was sent off deep into stoppage-time. He was subsequently suspended for Inter’s next two games. The nerazzurri will now have to make do without his services for the foreseeable future at a crucial time in their season. While Martinez features in most fantacalcio sides and rightfully so, keep an eye on the Argentine international’s progression over the next few weeks.
Rodrigo De Paul (MID, Udinese, Value 13.44) – The Udinese man has failed to follow up last season’s impressive exploits and has struggled in Friuli. While Udinese lack creativity and alternative options in the final third, De Paul has shied away from responsibility and was anonymous in his side’s most recent defeats against Parma and Milan.
While Udinese are relatively safe from the drop, De Paul will need to step up if he foresees a big-money move in the summer.
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Thomas Strakosha: the Biancocelesti held up against Napoli’s attack, confirming their solidity at home, and the goalie answered the bell when he was required. It is not a particularly great round for defences on paper, so it is better to stick with safe picks.
Matthijs De Ligt: the injury of Merih Demiral will allow him to return to the XI on a consistent basis and he did look good against Roma and in Coppa Italia. Juventus have allowed nine goals at home (second-best in Serie A), so their defenders can be deployed even though Parma are the quintessential sneaky team. Continue reading