Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 24 – Early Matches

SPEZIA-PARMA

Spezia: they laid a big and weird egg versus Fiorentina, probably because they were praised too much following the great win against Milan. After a longer wait than expected, this should be indeed the game where M’Bala Nzola returns from his ankle injury. Kevin Agudelo has been a nuisance for opposing defenders as a false-nine, but he has not scored, while the Frenchman has been a star with nine goals in 13 appearances and so he is on the radar even if he is used only off the bench. Emmanuel Gyasi (two goals, four assists) has been serviceable so far, and so have been Diego Farias (three goals) and Riccardo Saponara, although the latter has yet to pick up bonus points. Tommaso Pobega must be dealing with an injury because he has not played in some time: his back-ups Nahuel Estevez and Leo Sena are not on the same level offensively, while Giulio Maggiore is more interesting and recently hit the net. Simone Bastoni (one goal, four assists) is back from suspension and he has been a force down the left flank. Continue reading

Why Lazio could spring an upset over Bayern Munich

When Lazio was initially drawn against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, many deemed it mission impossible for the capital-based club. Overcoming the reigning champions is a tall ask for anyone, let alone – at the time – a struggling Lazio side. Simone Inzaghi’s men have since turned their fortunes around, surging up the Serie A table. In fact, Lazio enters its clash against the Bavarian giants on Tuesday with seven wins in its last eight games.

Other than their defeat against Inter, where they dominated possession, Lazio has arguably been Italy’s most in-form side since the turn of the new year. Bayern Munich goes into the game off the back of a poor run of form, having dropped points in its last two games in league action. While you would be foolish to rule out Hansi Flick’s men, recent form suggests they can be beaten.

Lazio must be wary, however, as last season the Bundesliga outfit flicked a switch in the knockout stages and outscored the opposition 18-3 on route to the final. The Biancocelesti may be a heavy underdog, but have all the tools to spring an upset over Bayern Munich.

Ciro Immobile has shown no signs of slowing down this season and has delivered when called upon in the Champions League with five goals in four games. If Lazio has a chance at progressing, the Italian international will need to lead by example and deliver a top-class performance at home. Immobile has typically struggled on the biggest stage, but as Euro 2021 approaches, he will be eager to prove he can get it done against the very best.

Beyond Immobile, Lazio’s midfield tandem of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto is among the very best left in the competition. The former imposes his physique and regularly looks to go beyond the strikers, while few midfielders can deliver a final ball as good as Luis Alberto. The Spaniard has even added goals to his game this season, most recently scoring the winner in Lazio’s win over Sampdoria.

While Lazio may be good value to score against Bayern Munich, their progression very much depends on keeping a clean sheet on Tuesday. Inzaghi’s men welcome the Bavarian giants to the Stadio Olimpico and simply cannot afford to concede an away goal. Francesco Acerbi will be tasked with thwarting Robert Lewandowski, having gotten the better of him on the international stage before.

Playing against Bayern Munich, however, is a completely different challenge for the veteran defender and is arguably his biggest test yet since joining the Biancocelesti. The veteran presence of Pepe Reina between the posts should help alleviate some pressure off Lazio’s rearguard.

The final challenge for Lazio will be the battle on the wings. Alphonso Davies marauds the left flank at will alongside Kingsley Coman, while Leroy Sane will be raring to go himself on the opposite wing. If Inzaghi’s men can’t contain Bayern Munich’s wide men, the tie is as good as done.

Mohamed Fares and Adam Marusic will undoubtedly have their hands full on Tuesday and will need to step up. The Algerian has been all too guilty of switching off at times but will need to be at his best helping Matteo Musacchio down the left-hand side of the defense. Marusic has impressed this season, but facing Bayern’s dynamic duo is a different beast altogether.

Make no mistake about it – It won’t be easy but Lazio has what it takes to get the job done against Bayern Munich. All Inzaghi can ask for from his men is to give themselves a chance to progress going into the second leg in Germany. Lazio has a devastating front-line, a quality midfield, and an experienced backline. Whether they can all come together remains to be seen, but don’t count out Inzaghi’s men just yet.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23 – Early Matches

FIORENTINA-SPEZIA

Fiorentina: to nobody’s surprise, Dusan Vlahovic was again Fiorentina’s lone scorer in the past round, notching his seventh goal in the past 11 rounds. Franck Ribery was ruled out late and replaced by Christian Kouame, who had a decent but unfruitful display. With the Freshman still sidelined, that spot is up for grabs between Kouame, Valentin Eysseric and Jose Maria Callejon as neither has really separated himself from the pack. Kouame is the one with the highest break-out potential. Giacomo Bonaventura is coming on as he has posted one goal and one assist in the past four rounds, while Gaetano Castrovilli is continuing his disappearing act even though they rely on him a lot. Cristiano Biraghi (one goal, four helpers) has been a nice weapon throughout the season but he has not picked up bonuses in a long while. Kevin Malcuit and Aleksandar Kokorin would have some value if the coach decided to give him good minutes as they are in dire need of an offensive spark. Continue reading

Inter storm to the top of Serie A after win over Lazio as Milan collapse against Spezia

Finally it has happened for Inter and Antonio Conte, they are in 1st place in Serie A with 16 games to go as they convincingly beat a strong rival in Lazio 3-1.

Inter had been on the tails of their eternal rivals Milan for the majority of the season and it will be a fantastic feeling to know that they are now kings of the hill so to speak. Milan were outclassed against lowly Spezia losing that game 2-0 in what was seen as a surprise result but Milan were never really in the game.

Inter and Lazio is always a big game and Lazio themselves have had a decent season and even after this defeat are only 2 points from a Champions League place. Inter knew this would be a hard game but Conte’s team dominated play from the first whistle and looked ultra confident throughout their play.

Inter took the lead when Lazio’s Wesley Hoedt committed a foul in the area and the referee pointed to the spot and Hoedt was quickly booked for his actions. Romelu Lukaku stepped up and made no mistakes shooting past Pepe Reina in goal. It was just the right start that the home side needed.

Lukaku made it 2-0 just minutes before half time but not before a VAR review and the goal was in the balance because of Lukaku’s position, the question was did the pass he receive come from his Inter team mate? If so the goal wouldn’t have stood but Lukaku rightly pointed out that the ball had indeed come off of an Lazio defender and the goal stood.

Just after the hour mark Inter were not cruising the game anymore when Lazio struck back after a free kick. The actual free kick was not the problem as the ball was going wide but the ball deflected from Lazio player Gonzalo Escalante and into the net. It was a lucky goal but all of a sudden Inter could feel the pressure at 2-1. It wouldn’t last.

Just three minutes later Inter scored a brilliant goal which would finish the game. Lukaku collected the ball down the right wing and with blistering pace just went past players like they were not there, he squared the ball to an unmarked Lautaro Martinez who scored his 11th goal of the season. The scenes of celebration were wild as the players along with manager Conte embraced.

Even though there was still thirty minutes to play Inter knew they had won this game and indeed it finished 3-1. Inter go top although only by 1 point and there is all to play for. Inter’s next game is against, wait for it…. Milan on Sunday. What a match that will prove to be 1st v 2nd.

Martinez the boy wonder staying with Inter for now

Lautaro Martinez has been brilliant for Inter and has scored 11 goals so far in the league and assisted in another 4 goals. All eyes are on the striker but he is set to stay at Inter, much to the relief of the fans. Martinez is expected to sign a new 3 year contract which would tie him to Inter until June 2024.

Lukaku the 2nd best striker in Europe in the fantasy rankings

The fantasy rankings has Romelu Lukaku as the 2nd best striker in Europe and the Belgian currently has 68 points and has scored 16 goals. He is only 5 points behind the number 1 striker which is currently Tottenham’s Harry Kane. Kane has scored 13 goals so far but has assisted in another 11. Making up the rest of the top 5 are Cristiano Ronaldo, Heung-Min Son and Luis Suarez.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 22 – Top Matches

SPEZIA-MILAN

Spezia: Vincenzo Italiano shook things up against Sassuolo, going with Kevin Agudelo as false-nine over Andrej Galabinov and, while the bouncy attacker did not score, the solution worked out pretty well as he added an element of unpredictability and a ton more pace. It could be the solution here again as it does not look like M’Bala Nzola will be ready to start. Diego Farias is likely to be sidelined, which will allow Daniele Verde to stay in the XI, but so far he has had success mostly in Coppa Italia. Emmanuel Gyasi’s starting job instead has never really been in question and he returned to the stat-sheet after months in the previous match: he is now up to two goals and four assists. Their second leading scorer Tommaso Pobega (three goals) is back from suspension and their midfield does not have the same punch without him, even though Matteo Ricci has been a nice assist-man and Giulio Maggiore is decently involved in their offense, but not as effective as the Milan loanee. Continue reading

Roma fall 9 pts behind after derby defeat against Lazio and exit Coppa Italia

Of all the defeats Roma can take in a Serie A season the one that will always hurt the most is the defeat in the derby and at the weekend Paulo Fonseca’s team were no match for Lazio.

Lazio ran out 3-0 winners and while the final result looked more like gloss against a game that was closer no one could deny that Lazio were the more attacking side and deserved their win.

A terrible defensive error by Roma’s Ibanez allowed Lazio a glorious chance which Ciro Immobile snapped up to put the designated home side in the lead. That was Immobile’s 12 league goal of the season as he tries to catch up to Cristiano Ronaldo and is only 3 goals away from that target.

By the 23rd minute Lazio were 2-0 up courtesy of Luis Alberto. It was a strange goal as Manuel Lazzari came bursting into the area on the right hand side and he thought he had been fouled for a penalty, the referee waved on. However Lazzari quickly got up and passed the ball to an unmarked Alberto who slotted home well.

The best goal was saved for last in the 2nd half when Alberto placed the ball into the lower bottom right corner from just outside the area and his expression after the goal said it all, he knew it was a special goal and also a special derby performance from his club on such an important occasion.

The result means that Roma have fallen 9 points behind Milan in the race for the title and the Giallorossi are in 4th place on the same points as Napoli with 34 but they in turn are 6 points behind 2nd placed Inter. Despite losing their 4th game of the season Roma are still in a Champions League place but we are not even at the halfway stage of the season yet.

Coach Fonseca was obviously disappointed and a little dejected by the defeat against Lazio. Fonseca said: “We can’t change what happened, but we can start thinking that what happened should not happen again. The team must understand that we can only change the future by changing our attitude in the game. As I said I’m above all disappointed for our fans.”

Roma crash out of Coppa Italia against Spezia

Paulo Fonseca talked Spezia up and said they would be a dangerous side and he was correct. Spezia knocked out Roma after extra time winning 4-2. It was a game full of incident and for Spezia fans and the neutral it was one full of excitement too.

It looked all over for Roma after Spezia took an early two goal lead but the home side were able to pull a goal back just before half time through Lorenzo Pellegrini’s penalty. When Henrikh Mikahitaryan made it 2-2 late on in the 2nd half it seemed as though Roma were easing themselves back into the game and would go on and win it either in normal time or extra time, but Spezia would get the final say.

Roma imploded in extra time and had not one but 2 players sent off within 30 seconds of each other. Gianluca Mancini was given a his 2nd booking after a tripping and then frustration built up and Pau Lopez followed him for an early bath. Although the game was still 2-2 it became stretched and Spezia made playing against 9 men count and scored 2 goals soon after to kill the match. This was a very disappointing result for the club.

Tension mounts after sacking of Gianluca Gomber

Not only did Roma lose in the Coppa Italia to Spezia but they would have in fact been kicked out of the competition even if they had won the game. This was because the club made six substitute choices instead of the required 5 allowed.

The blame did not go to Paulo Fonseca as ‘team manager’ Gianluca Gomber was in charge of the count of subs being made. Unlike for example in England where only 3 subs are allowed, although five in the cup, in Italy and other major leagues 5 are allowed in all the games.

Gomber made the fatal error and was sacked by the club on Wednesday morning, the day after the game. But it doesn’t end there as Roma’s players are furious with the decision. Gomber was part of the behind the scenes team and the players had a close and good relationship with him. The players have made it known that they want Gomber reinstated and that anyone can make a mistake. Watch this space!

Could Fonseca be sacked too?

The big news breaking this week is that Roma coach Paulo Fonseca could be sacked. It is understood that the club were expecting to be much closer at the top of the league but 9 points seems like a mountain and now they have been knocked out of the cup Fonseca could go.

It has been rumoured that Max Allegri and Maurizio Sarri have emerged as the favourites to take over the club and that Fonseca’s job is under real threat. One would expect that if Roma fail to impress at the weekend where again they will face their cup conquerors Spezia he could be walking.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19 – Top Matches

MILAN-ATALANTA

Milan: the Rossoneri keep navigating their several absences in brilliant fashion and Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to the XI with a bang in Cagliari, putting together a brace and moving to 12 goals in the season in just eight appearances. The COVID outbreak is getting resolved as Rade Krunic and Ante Rebic tested negative, but their conditioning will have to be assessed in practice and Theo Hernandez was a false positive, so only Hakan Calhanoglu is out, which is a major loss, but at least they are in a better spot numerically and they recovered their stud fullback. Rafael Leao (three goals, one assist in the last five games) will be back from suspension and will likely supplant Jens Petter Hauge that has been pretty quiet despite seeing good minutes. Franck Kessie let Zlatan take the PK in the past game but he will probably re-gain those duties in this one: he has notched six goals and two assists in the season. Davide Calabria is trending up as he provided a great helper in the past game and also hit the net recently.

Continue reading

Roma go 4 games unbeaten as they prepare for the derby against Lazio

Such is the latest standard in Serie A that even though Roma have won 10 points from their last four games they would only be sixth based on form. But the Giallorossi have bigger fish to fry than just statistics as they aim to win the title for the first time in 2 decades.

A Serie A title is on the cards for Paulo Fonseca’s team who enter match day 18 in third place and just six points behind league leaders Milan.

Recent results have been brilliant and their 3 game winning run was only stopped by Inter at the weekend as the two clubs drew 2-2. However it would be Roma leaving the Stadio Olimpico as the happier side given that they were losing the game with just four minutes to go.

Gianluca Manciniian who had been booked earlier in the game for using his elbow went from villain to hero as he scored a lovely headed goal which reminded any football fan of Italian football of how Paolo Rossi used to score. Mancini scored in the 86th minute to save a defeat and it’s now been almost a month since Roma lost a game in the league.

In the midweek game before the Inter match Roma played Crotone away from home and eased to a 3-1 victory. The Giallorossi had taken a 2-0 lead through a brace by Borja Mayoral and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who had lost his touch in goal in the last few weeks scored the third.

Can Roma win the league title for the first time since 2001?

Roma have only won the Scudetto 3 times in their history and whilst they won’t be the favourites to win this season the clubs consistency has got fans talking and getting excited. Presently they just need to get past both Milan teams who are in 1st and 2nd place. But there is the looming threat of the sleeping giant, Juventus who have started the season slow but are now gaining momentum and they are only a point behind Roma. The bookmakers have Roma at odds of 17.00 (16/1) to win the league. The current favourites are Inter at 2.50 (6/4) and they are followed by the 9 time in a row champions Juventus who are 3.00 (2/1).

Lazio v Roma

The Derby della Capitale will take place on Friday evening when Roma meet Lazio and it will be a significant one. If Roma win they will stay in 3rd place but will have the same points as Inter with 37 and will have moved 4 points clear of Juventus. It might not look like giant steps but it will be positive.

Lazio are in 8th place and a win would take them just 3 points shy of Roma and dent their fierce rivals title hopes and European ones. Here is how the last 5 matches when Lazio have been at home have ended in the derby.

September 1st, 2019-    Lazio 1-1 Roma

March 2nd, 2019 -         Lazio 3-0 Roma

April 15th, 2018-            Lazio 0-0 Roma

December 4th, 2016-     Lazio 0-2 Roma

April 3rd, 2016-              Lazio 1-4 Roma

Lazio wins: 1, Roma wins: 2, Draws: 2

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 18 – Top Matches

LAZIO-ROMA

Lazio: Ciro Immobile took a little back-seat in the Parma game, where two other fellow attackers shined, Luis Alberto, who broke the deadlock with his third goal in the last five matches, and Felipe Caicedo, who found the target for the second round in a row, moving to six total in the season. The Golden Boot recipient had scored in all the previous five tilts. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic dished his fifth assist to add to his two goals, as his role is slightly different this year, but he has maintained a decent level of production. Manuel Lazzari cashed in on his good moment with his second assist of the season, catching up with fellow wing-back Adam Marusic in that regard. Joaquin Correa (one goal, one assist) could be back at least in limited fashion in this one, but Caicedo has filled in admirably. The Sergeant tends to deliver in big matches.

Recommended picks: Milinkovic-Savic, Immobile, Alberto.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 16 – Top Matches

CROTONE-ROMA

Crotone: they tried to keep up with Inter on Sunday thanks to the first goals in Serie A of Niccolò Zanellato and Vladimir Golemic, but they ultimately ended up being overwhelmed. Junior Messias showed up with an assist, his first one, while he has found the target five times. Emmanuel Riviere is taking playing time away from Simy, but neither has been very prolific or really dangerous. Given the role, it is unlikely that Zanellato will turn into a fantasy weapon: in the midfield Salvatore Molina (one goal, four assists) and Milos Vulic surely have more value, while left-back Arkadiusz Reca (one goal and five helpers) has been a valuable reference point on the flank. Continue reading