Juventus Top Performers – Round 29 vs Genoa

Juventus pulled the plug a smidge too early in the Genoa game, failing to extend their streak of clean sheet, but other than that it was a very mature performance, the best one after the resumption, coronated by three superb goals by their star attackers.

Leonardo Bonucci: another solid outing by both centre-backs, with the Italian one beating out Matthijs De Ligt because the Dutch teammate had a careless pass late in the box that could have been picked off by an opponent, leading to all sorts of troubles. The duo stood up to two very physical strikers, countering with their own muscularity and not letting up until the final 15 minutes. Nothing out of the ordinary for Wojciech Szczesny and Danilo, as the latter did not mess anything up this time. Continue reading

Serie A Top Fantasy XI – Round 27

Robin Olsen (7 points): four clean sheets in the 27th round and therefore four goalies managed to rack up points, as David Ospina, Salvatore Sirigu and Wojciech Szczesny join the Cagliari player in such list. Sirigu had a very strong outing as well, but Olsen just edges him thanks to a fantastic late save on Andrea Petagna, where he threw himself in front of the striker to deny a clear-cut opportunity. It is not outlandish to think that he will supplant Alessio Cragno.

Faouzi Ghoulam (7 points): only one defender scored in this matchday, Fiorentina’s German Pezzella, but they conceded once, therefore the three spots are reserved to members of the teams that blanked their opponents. Ghoulam played just a handful of minutes but picked up an assist with a venomous corner kick towards the far post, which was successful met by Hirving Lozano for the two-nil against Verona. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 27 vs Bologna

Juventus got off their schneid with the assistance of some sloppy defending by Bologna and kicked off the Serie A resumption with a fairly convincing two-nothing win on the road.

Leonardo Bonucci (five points): other than some oddly misplaced passes by Wojciech Szczesny and some unnecessary risks in the early build-up of some actions, especially at the beginning of the season, it was a sound display for the back-line, once again perfectly anchored by the two centre-backs. Matthijs De Ligt was flashier as usual, Bonucci just a bit tidier and had a great block very late to deny a clear-cut chance by an opponent in a mad scrum. The clean sheet was marred by the deepening of the troubles at left back, as Mattia De Sciglio was forced to bow out due to an injury after an acceptable display and Danilo was sent off for two silly yellow cards. Continue reading

Fan Zone: Isak on Ibrahimovic, Romagnoli & other Milan topics

Despite his young age, Isak Möller is a knowledgeable and well-seasoned Milan fan. He is an integral part of www.sempremilan.com and you can find him on Twitter @Isak_Moller.

Below is the latest Q&A with Isak- again I cannot highlight enough how much of a big Milan fan he is! The club is struggling to win trophies but it does not mean the fans have disappeared! Here we go:

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Milan players (ranked by preference) and why?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: As a Swede, it would be impossible not to choose the big striker. I started following Milan (and football in general) in 2010, meaning the first season I watched in full ended with us winning the Scudetto! Zlatan was a huge part of this and we really missed him when he left. Even at 38 years-old, arriving for his second spell at the club, he has made an incredible difference.

Paolo Maldini: Although I never got to see him in action before he retired, it’s an obvious choice. The greatest players are never forgotten, and the defender is certainly one of these. Ever since I started following the Rossoneri, he has been the symbol for the red and black colors, keeping the club’s reputation intact.

Alessio Romagnoli: As mentioned, I wish I had followed Milan back in the day. But since that isn’t the case, it would be silly not to pick a player from the more recent years. Joining from Roma in 2015, Romagnoli has been one of our best players, keeping us from crumbling completely. He has certainly become a fan favorite, giving his all while wearing the captain’s armband.

2) From the current team, pick your favorite Milan player by position. Pick one for DEF, one for midfield and the same for attack, & why?

DEF: Obviously, I have to choose Romagnoli for this one as well. Although this season has been tough, the 25-year-old has continued to perform on a consistent level, which isn’t exactly easy given the number of changes made throughout the course of the season.

MID: Hakan Calhanoglu. Yes, I’m one of those fans. If there is one player that has divided the Milan fan-base in recent years, it’s the Turkish midfielder. You could argue that he’s inconsistent, but in my opinion, he’s a very important player even when he isn’t performing at his best level. Hopefully, Ralf Rangnick can help him improve further next season, should he arrive.

STR: Of course, Ibrahimovic. It’s no coincidence that the Rossoneri have performed a lot better since his arrival in January, seemingly elevating the likes of Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Ismael Bennacer. Hopefully, he will stay for next season as well, although it looks unlikely.

3) Most important Milan victory in your lifetime? Why?

I would probably have to say the Champions League win against Liverpool in 2007, getting revenge on the English side. And since it’s the last time we won the competition, it obviously makes it a bit more important.

4) Your all-time favorite Milan match? Why? 

It has to be the Supercoppa Italiana final against Juventus in 2016. After beating the Bianconeri a few months earlier in the league, courtesy of a Manuel Locatelli rocket, we managed to do it again against all odds. It was also the first trophy in quite some time, and although I watched the 2010/11 Scudetto season (I was very young), this win meant more to me.

5) What’s Milan’s objective for this season? Is it making the Europa League, or perhaps the Champions League?

As always, the objective is to reach the Champions League. However, looking at the current standings, it becomes pretty clear that the Rossoneri will have to fight for the Europa League.

6) Where do you see Milan’s weaknesses? Is it the midfield or are the issues defensively?

At the beginning of the season, I would have said the midfield, or perhaps even the attack. However, since Pioli changed the formation to a 4-2-3-1, everything has worked a lot better. I think it’s just a case of getting better players, which obviously is something that Milan will work on this summer.

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7) Different from ranking your favorite Milan players in Questions 1&2, who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Milan jersey?

I think it has to be Paolo Maldini. In addition to being an icon of the club, he has also become an icon of defending. I don’t think it needs further explaining, really, as he’s known all over the world as a spectacular player.

8) Who is the most critical player for this Milan team? Is it Rebic, Ibra or Theo Hernandez?

For the time being, I think I speak for the entire Milan community when I say Ibrahimovic. Sure, you could argue that both Hernandez and Rebic have done better on the pitch. However, you can’t deny the Swede’s incredible impact on the team, turning things around after a poor first half of the season.

9) Who should Milan sign realistically? If you can pick 3 players to strengthen the squad ahead of the next season?

If I can only pick three players, it would have to be one for each department. Milan desperately need a centre-back, in my opinion, and signing a player like Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic would make it interesting for the future. For the midfield, the choice is obvious: Sandro Tonali. The competition is fierce, but I don’t think we should rule out the Rossoneri. Up front, there has been a lot of talk about Gianluca Scamacca, who certainly is a name for the future. However, if we need to replace Ibrahimovic, I’d say Arkadiusz Milik.

10) Why did Bonucci and Higuain fail to impress at Milan?

I think it was a combination of many things. Let’s just put it this way, Leo Bonucci wasn’t the only disappointing player that season, although it must be said he was very good under the guidance of Gennaro Gattuso. In the end, he clearly just got homesick. As for Gonzalo Higuain, he’s no longer the goalscorer he used to be. In half a season at Milan, he got 8 goals and 3 assists. This season, with Juve of course, he has 8 goals and 8 assists. Considering he has played more games with the Bianconeri, it’s not much of a difference if you ask me.

11) Based on the above, would you sign another player from the current Juve squad if he’s made available? 

I wouldn’t mind someone like Daniele Rugani, although he isn’t a personal favorite of mine. Merih Demiral would obviously boost our squad, but the price tag is simply too high. That’s about it, though.

12) When football resumes, do you see Milan with any realistic chance of making 4th to qualify for the Champions League?

Not at all, but you never know! I’m afraid we’ll have to settle for the Europa League.

 

Juventus Top Performers – Round 26 vs Inter

Juventus broke through with a fairly flucky goal in the second half after a balanced first 45 minutes and actually for once gained steam after getting the lead and managed to control the remaining portion of the contest, gaining a monumental W and returning on top of the standings.

Matthijs De Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci (5 points): no separation between the two centre-backs, who perfectly tag-teamed to stymie one of the most vaunted striking duo in the League. They matched Romelu Lukaku’s physicality and contained Lautaro Martinez’s movements, and, as a matter of fact, even in the Nerazzurri’s best moments, the chances came from the ancillary players. Wojciech Szczesny answered the bell on the lone dangerous daisy-cutter from distance, while Alex Sandro put in the usual decent but not superb shift. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 25

Atalanta: Berat Djimsiti was a late scratch for the Champions League game but he is simply dealing with a bruised quad and so he could be available on Sunday. Tomas Sutalo continues nursing a foot edema.

Bologna: Stefano Denswil and Jerdy Schouten were red carded last week. Gary Medel (hamstring) and Roberto Soriano (thigh bruise) are the closest to recovering, but this week is too early for them. Mitchell Dijks (foot) and Ladislav Krejci (knee) will not be back before the end of the month, same for Federico Santander (hip) and Nicola Sansone (hamstring). Mattias Svanberg picked up a thigh strain and will miss three-to-four weeks. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23

Roma-Bologna: the Giallorossi are in a funk and have played just one convincing game out of the last five. They will be without Lorenzo Pellegrini due to suspension and it is a massive loss considering that he is the mastermind of their offense. They should get Henrikh Mkhitaryan back from injury and perhaps even starting considering the hole at no.10. The other option is likely Diego Perotti and they seem to always be awarded a penalty when he is out there. Edin Dzeko has scored in three straight games and they will face a pretty suspect back-line. Cengiz Under took a step back versus Sassuolo, but he is always pretty assertive when he decides to play, while Justin Kluivert has not done much since coming back from injury, but should improve over time. Paulo Fonseca has elected to keep Aleksandar Kolarov on the bench in the last two matches for tactical reasons, but the decision has not really moved the needle so the stud left-back should soon be back in the XI. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 21 vs Napoli

In a tough day for the whole sports world, Juventus put out their worst and most unexplainable performances of the season in Naples, started playing only when the horse had already bolted and failed to take advantage of the enemies’ stumbles earlier in the day.

Leonardo Bonucci: the back-line was decent for about 70 minutes and the first goal did not come from a mistake by the defenders, but rather from Lorenzo Insigne having too much freedom to shoot from outside the box and Wojciech Szcesny rejecting it too centrally, although the save was not that easy. In the second, instead, which turned out to be very meaningful, Insigne was left alone in the box on a rebound and Matthijs De Ligt slightly deflected the shot, rendering pretty useless a pretty good outing up to that point. So the spot goes to the captain, only because somebody has to get it. Continue reading

Juventus Top Perfomers – Coppa Italia vs Roma

Juventus punched their ticket to the Coppa Italia semi-finals courtesy of the prairies left by Roma in the first half and will face the winner of the Milan-Torino contest.

Leonardo Bonucci: one player in each role made it to stat-sheet so compiling the list is not exactly rocket science. The captain quite miraculously avoided the offside trap on the second ball after a set piece to notch yet another goal in what is becoming a prolific season for a defender. It was instead Daniele Rugani who stood out for his work in the back with a pair of timely reads, general precision and also a little more physicality than usual. Gianluigi Buffon was unlucky on the goal but avoided troubles with a great coming out on an unguarded Alessandro Florenzi in a one-on-one situation deep into the second half, preventing a major turn of the worst. The one-handed save in the final minutes was even prettier but not as significant. Danilo got hurt pretty early, while Alex Sandro turned his usual solid but unspectacular shift it. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 21

Brescia-Milan: the Rondinelle will not have Mario Balotelli for a couple of matches, but Ernesto Torregrossa has actually carried the load scoring-wise recently and he and Alfredo Donnarumma formed a formidable partnership last season in Serie B, so they might be able to survive the blow. They have added two intriguing pieces in January in Birkir Bjarnason, who was very dangerous for a midfielder in his time in Pescara, and Simon Skrabb: they should both have their chances because Nikolas Spalek at no.10 has been pretty inconsistent. Sandro Tonali is coming off a two-assist performance and also Stefano Sabelli and Romulo have been decently proficient in a supporting role. Continue reading