Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 33

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Thomas Strakosha: fresh off a saved penalty in the Udinese game, he could be able to take home few more bonus points against Chievo, which have scored just nine times on the road.

Jens Larsen: the two-game trip to the Nation’s Capital went poorly for Udinese, which were handled by both Roma and Lazio. However, they have had much success at home, while Sassuolo are pedestrian away and the fullback has been able to haul in points in six of the last eight tilts at the Friuli stadium. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 32

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The round was rather meager in terms of scoring, but prolific for defenders.

Andrea Consigli (7 points): Sassuolo pulled the strings for most of the clash with Parma, but it was not for his save on Fabio Ceravolo’s penalty in the first half they could have found themselves in a very eerie situation.

Frank Kessié (9 points): the Milan powerhouse decided the seminal bout with Lazio with a penalty, which perhaps he should not have even taken, and went mano-a-mano with the talented opponents all night long. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 32

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Standings implications: Juventus did not bother showing up in Ferrara and allowed SPAL to take home a precious W that gives them a nice cushion. Napoli returned to winning ways after three rounds, mathematically condemning Chievo to Serie B after a very tough season. Inter prevailed in Frosinone, dealing a big blow to the Ciociari’s remaining hopes. Milan and Roma were both successful in the Champions League race and put three more points between themselves and Lazio. Empoli resisted against Atalanta. Torino did not find a way to down Cagliari, while Sampdoria bested Genoa after two losses, timidly re-entering the fray for Europa League. Another home draw for Fiorentina in Vincenzo Montella’s debut, as the match with Bologna ended with no goals, allowing the Felsinei, alongside Empoli, to get a little closer to Udinese and Genoa. Sassuolo and Parma shared the spoils. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 31

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Standings implications: Juventus outlasted Milan on Saturday and are now one point away from the title since Napoli were held to a draw by Genoa. Roma were the only ones to succeed among the teams gunning for a Champions League berth and have pulled closer to the Rossoneri and Atalanta, who have just more point. Inter kept the suitors at bay by drawing against the Orobici, while Lazio salvaged a point at the buzzer against Sassuolo. A slow round in the Europa League race too, as Torino could not find a way to perforate Parma and the Blucerchiati were bested at home by the Giallorossi. Fiorentina keep slipping and Stefano Pioli is on the hot seat after the loss to Frosinone. In the relegation zone, Udinese capped off a big week by topping Empoli and moving four points clear of Bologna, which responded and got out of the final three spots on Monday night by trashing Chievo. Cagliari are almost save after sinking SPAL, which stay in precarious position. Frosinone are trying to mount a late comeback that would be quite incredible: the two consecutive Ws put them five points behind Empoli.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 30

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Milan-Udinese: the Rossoneri slowed down just as things were starting to get really interesting, as they were defeated by Inter and Sampdoria after they had managed to surpass the Nerazzurri riding a five-game winning streak. They also have to look behind at the onrushing Atalanta and Lazio. Udinese came out on top in Igor Tudor’s second debut, besting Genoa after two losses to Juventus and Napoli, although their home numbers were solid also before the firing of Davide Nicola. Milan have had troubles feeding Krzysztof Piatek in the last two matches and they do not really have a second reliable scoring option because Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu are more creators and have not had much feeling with the goal recently. Samu Castillejo did not deliver in Genoa despite the opportunity to start. Lucas Paquetà and Franck Kessie were benched after international duties, but they should be back in the XI here and could provide a decent boost. The Brazilian starlet might play closer to the guy and Patrick Cutrone could get to start over Suso in a different scheme.  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

Mancini Makes Questionable Choices in The Final Third

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Since being appointed Italy boss after the World Cup debacle, Roberto Mancini has done well to implement a distinct style of play, and identify key players for his setup moving forward. With the defence and midfield all but set, barring a few adjustments, the attack remains Mancini’s last puzzle. While the former Inter tactician has introduced the likes of Federico Chiesa and Moise Kean into the fold, some of Mancini’s choices in the final third have been questionable, to say the least.

In Mancini’s latest selections, Vincenzo Grifo and Leonardo Pavoletti both got the call to represent their nation. The latter, a 30-year-old mid-table journeyman, won’t be on the international scene for much longer and failed at the only big club he was at, while Grifo has only played eight games in league action this season thus far for Freiburg and has never demonstrated to be anything more than a decent squad player.

After years of struggling for options in the final third, Mancini is finally blessed with various talents in the attacking department, be it with Bernardeschi, Chiesa, and Kean among others. Now is not the time to experiment with players who are on the wrong side of 30 or haven’t been consistent in front of goal.

Regardless of their form this season, neither Pavoletti or Grifo will represent Italy next summer, and neither deserves to take valuable experience away from the nation’s budding forwards. What is more puzzling is that the in-form Andrea Belotti was left home, despite his recent resurgence.

The Torino forward has lead the line exceptionally well, and has propelled I Granata into an unlikely race for European football. While he’s had better goal tallies in past seasons, Belotti has become a more well-rounded forward under Walter Mazzarri and is ready for another go on the international scene. At 25 years old, Il Gallo is about to enter the prime of his career, and is an excellent option for Mancini.

Another player who could have also gotten the call ahead of Pavoletti and Grifo was Mario Balotelli. Despite some previous attitude concerns, Supermario’s has been Italy’s most consistent forward over the years, and has done well in Marseille, scoring four goals in his last six games. Mancini had this to say about Balotelli’s exclusion.

“Balotelli still isn’t in peak condition, he’s improving but I expect a lot from him and he can improve further. In general, all of the technical players are improving and this is comforting for me.” (Source: Twitter – @Azzurri)

The reality is that, much like Balotelli, Grifo hasn’t played much for Freiburg, and yet still received a call-up. Had Mancini cited previous indiscipline as his reason, it would have made Balotelli’s exclusion understandable. Regardless, Supermario deserves one more run with the Nazionale, and will likely get the chance next time around.

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While Mancini has done relatively well at blending youth with experience, another player who should have, at the very least, been part of the training camp is Milan’s Patrick Cutrone. Since breaking onto the scene, the Milan forward has demonstrated all the raw abilities of a top forward, and has a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

At just 21 years old, Cutrone, alongside Juventus’ Moise Kean, are easily Mancini’s best long-term bets. Since Krzysztof Piatek’s arrival, however, Cutrone has found playing time hard to come by. Despite this, he deserves a shot with the national team, and could prove useful at the upcoming Euros if given consistent playing time.

Moving forward, Mancini can’t keep turning to the likes of Pavoletti and Grifo as they are taking away development time from Italy’s potential, long-term number nines. Let’s face it, neither will make the final squad while Belotti, Balotelli and Cutrone all have a great shot. The ball’s now in Mancini’s court.

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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 26

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Standings implications: Juventus most likely inflicted the final blow to the title race with a 1-2 win over Napoli in a crazy game. Milan leapfrogged Inter in the third spot as they eked out a win against Sassuolo, while the Nerazzurri were blitzed by Cagliari back on Friday. Roma stayed behind as they got battered by Lazio, which re-entered the fray for the fourth spot, as they have six fewer points than the Beneamata, but have to recover one game. Atalanta and Torino remain in hot pursuit of an Europa League berth with their convincing victories over Fiorentina and Chievo. Massive points for the Sardinians and for Udinese in the relegation zone: the Friulani moved seven points clear of Bologna after besting them on Sunday afternoon. Frosinone and Empoli treaded waters down there with their gritty ties against Genoa and Parma. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 26

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Cagliari-Inter: the Sardinians are coming off a 0-1 loss to Sampdoria, where they were offensively challenged, and have prevailed just once in the past seven games, where they have been beaten five times. Inter had a crazy one with Fiorentina last week, where they were pipped at the post due to a questionable penalty. They had defeated Parma and the Blucerchiati in the two previous fixtures and need point to stave off Milan and Roma’s comeback. The Rossoblù have found the net in just one of their last five games and only with one player, Leonardo Pavoletti. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 24

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Standings implications: Juventus tacked on two more points to their lead, as they walloped Frosinone, while Napoli could not come up with a goal versus Torino. Inter seem fully back as they showed some fight against Sampdoria, winning their second in a row. Milan prevailed in the key clash with Atalanta, remaining in control of the Champions League race. Lazio got beat in the final minutes by Genoa. Roma kept up with the Rossoneri by edging Bologna. Fiorentina leapfrogged Torino and Sampdoria thanks to the drubbing they handed to SPAL. Empoli jumped out of the relegation zone with a commanding victory over Sassuolo, closing the gap with the Estensi, but also Udinese and Cagliari snatched the full loot despite much tribulation, against Chievo and Parma.  Continue reading