Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Three

Atalanta: Timothy Castagne will at least be called up after missing a month due to a torn meniscus, while Rafael Toloi and José-Luis Palomino both picked up a minor thigh injuries. There is more optimism about the Argentinian defender. 

Bologna: Danilo suffered a thigh strain and will miss at least a pair of matches.

Brescia: Ernesto Torregrossa hurt his quad against Milan and will likely miss few matches. Bruno Martella, who subbed early too, escaped without major calf complications but will still miss this one. Giangiacomo Magnani has not recovered from his thigh problem, while Andrea Cista is good to go after hurting his hand. Mario Balotelli is still suspended. Emanuel Ndoj needs to more time to return from ankle surgery.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Two

Atalanta: Timothy Castagne will miss another one as he is recovering from a meniscus tear, but he should be ready after the break.

Bologna: no absentees for the Felsinei who will play tonight.

Brescia: Mario Balotelli continue serving his suspension, while Giangiacomo Magnani will miss another one too. Ernesto Torregrossa has recovered and might start. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 1

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is a suspended, while Luis Muriel is sick, which will cost him a place in the XI but not the call-upTimothy Castagne had surgery to remove a torn meniscus and should miss the first two games.

Bologna: Jerdy Schouten picked up a knee sprain in the pre-season but he has recovered enough to be called up. 

Brescia: Mario Balotelli is disqualified for the first four fixtures, while Ales Mateju will sit out just the first one for the same reason. Emmanuel Ndoj is dealing with an ankle injury that will cost him some time. Andrea Cistana missed the recent Coppa Italia game for a similar, but smaller, issue, but could be back for the opening match. Daniele Dessena, Daniele Gastaldello have recovered from small injuries, while Giangiacomo Magnani and Ernero Torregrossa have been ruled out.  Continue reading

Underestimate Roma at your own risk

Over the years, Roma have consistently sold the side’s best performers due to constraints imposed by Financial Fair Play. This past summer has been no different in the nation’s capital. Kostas Manolas is already on his way to Napoli, while Edin Dzeko to Inter seems to be a mere formality. Despite the need to balance the books, the giallorossi have still managed to put together an impressive team, and frankly, are a few additions away from being a bonafide top four side next season.

After hiring Paulo Fonseca, a young and progressive tactician, Roma wasted no time and secured Napoli regista Amadou Diawara in the Manolas deal. For just under 20 million euros, the giallorossi signed one of Italy’s most promising young midfielders, and an ideal talent to play at the base of Fonseca’s 4-3-3. Diawara struggled for consistent playing time at Napoli, but will use this move as an opportunity to recreate his past form.

Alongside Diawara, two of Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Zaniolo and Bryan Cristante will likely feature. After an initial rough patch, Pellegrini has demonstrated he has what it takes to play for a top club, and has developed into a real menace between the lines in the final third. It also remains to be seen how Fonseca will fit Zaniolo in his setup, but he would compliment Diawara and Pellegrini nicely in a midfield three.

With newcomer Leonardo Spinazzola and club bandiera Alessandro Florenzi getting forward with regularity, expect free-flowing football at the Stadio Olimpico next season. However, for this to happen, Spinazzola will need to stay fit while Florenzi will need to up his game after a sub-par season.

In addition, young players like Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert will be given a new lease on life under Fonseca and will be encouraged to express themselves to the fullest. Under has displayed his talent in glimpses, but needs to maintain his form over the course of an entire season if he’s to be relied upon. Kluivert, by contrast, had an indifferent first season with Roma and will be looking to redeem himself, especially if Stephan El Shaarawy leaves for China as it’s being reported.

Patrik Schick is another player who could benefit from Fonseca’s appointment. Since arriving at the club, the Czech international has looked devoid of any confidence, and has struggled to impose himself. In his breakout season with Sampdoria, the striker netted 11 goals in just 14 starts; a pattern of form Roma will be eager for the 23-year-old to recreate.

While Roma fans will be feeling hard done by their recent sales, at the very least the club is moving forward with a clear direction in mind. At the moment, their squad is young, vibrant and full of Italian talents on the upswing. Given Fonseca’s past experience with Shakhtar, he seems to be the ideal candidate to lead the giallorossi in the next phase of their rebuild. If recent reports are to be believed and Roma add a quality centre-back, don’t be surprised to see the giallorossi high up the table challenging Italy’s elite. Underestimate them at your own peril.

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How Paratici rejuvenated Juventus’ back four

Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici has wasted no time this summer, securing Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey on bosmans, and has revolutionized the bianconeri’s back four for years to come. Last week, it was reported that the Italian champions beat PSG and Barcelona to Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt. The highly rated 19-year-old wasn’t the only defender Juventus signed, as Paratici also completed deals for Genoa’s Cristian Romero and Sassuolo’s Merih Demiral. Since 2011, Juventus’ success has largely been built on their resolute backline and the famous BBC, yet, recently, with their key defenders on the wrong side of thirty, they’ve shown signs of wear and tear.

Last season, Leonardo Bonucci returned to the club after a poor year with Milan, and has looked a shade of his former self, making routine errors. Recently, it’s been reported that Bonucci may be on his way to PSG, if the sides can agree on a fee. Chiellini, on the other hand, has been solid as ever, but has been regularly sidelined with recurring injuries. As a result, Juve’s 70 million euro swoop for de Ligt is a no-brainer. The Dutch international is arguably the world’s most talented young centre-back, and will immediately establish himself as a leader in Turin. Alongside the veteran presence of Chiellini, expect the Dutchman to take his game to the next level.

Other than de Ligt, Paratici turned to three Serie A talents to rejuvenate the defence: Demiral, Romero and Roma’s Luca Pellegrini. Demiral has already asserted himself as a regular with the Turkish national team and can even feature at right back. At just 15 million euros, the former Fenerbahçe youth product may prove to be the bargain of the summer.

Romero, by contrast, will likely remain on loan at Genoa for another season and is one for the future. His 30 million euro price-tag shows that Paratici holds him in high-esteem, but another season with I Grifoni will allow him to keep growing.

Outside of central defence, Paratici took a risk and swapped Leonardo Spinazzola for Pellegrini and just under 10 million euros. Throughout his loan spell with Cagliari this past season, Pellegrini demonstrated immense upside, registering two assists in 23 appearances.

Spinazzola has struggled with injuries in the past but appears to have put his fitness concerns behind him. In fact, he was arguably the best player on the pitch in Juventus’ comeback win against Atletico Madrid. Despite this, Paratici went ahead with the swap. While Spinazzola is more ready now, the former Roma defender arguably has a higher ceiling, but will need playing time to grow. With Alex Sandro struggling for form, expect the 20-year-old to be given ample opportunities.

Juventus’ defence has long been their strong suit, but this past season’s shakiness was undoubtedly a rude awakening for their top brass. Paratici has since acted proactively, securing four talents within two weeks, all of which can be elite in the right environment. While the bianconeri’s revolutionized backline may not be the BBC of old, they have all the potential in the world to write their own story, and for that, Paratici must me commended.

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Juventus and Roma swap left backs

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Juventus and Roma have exchanged left backs as Leonardo Spinazzola is headed to the Italian Capital, while Luca Pellegrini moves to Turin. The ex-Atalanta man has been valued €29M, the former Cagliari loanee €22M, therefore the Bianconeri receive some cash compensation. Both defenders inked a four-year contract.

With this trade, the Giallorossi get somebody who is ready to take over in case Aleksandar Kolarov leaves and can potentially be used on both flanks, while the Old Lady acquire a youngster with higher upside to back up Alex Sandro, if they decide to keep him on rthe roster. Both clubs register a full net profit since the two players are homegrown. Continue reading

Roberto Mancini Puts Italy on the Right Track

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Since being appointed as Italy boss, Roberto Mancini has set Gli Azzurri on the right path, and has guided them to four wins out of four in their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign thus far. 

In their most recent clashes, Italy travelled to Athens to take on Greece, and dispatched their European counterparts within thirty-three minutes, by a score of 3-0.

In their next game against Bosnia, Mancini’s men fell behind early, but mounted a second half comeback to prevail by a score of 2-1. Under Gian Piero Ventura, the side lacked character, and would have likely dropped points in a game like this. With these two wins, Italy now find themselves comfortably in first place, scoring 13 goals, and conceding one in the process. In addition to getting results, this is the best football Italy have played in recent memory, and have demonstrated an identity.

Once again, Mancini was rewarded for sticking with the highly technical midfield of Nicolo Barella, Jorginho, and Marco Verratti, and now has his side well on their way to the upcoming Euros. Together, the trio provide a blend of youth, experience and quality on the ball, and offer the national team some much needed creativity in the final third.

While many initially doubted the midfield’s defensive awareness given their smaller frames, Verratti, Jorginho and Barella have demonstrated they are capable of offering solidity to their back four. Given their similar profiles, Verratti and Jorginho often interchange roles at the base of the midfield, and don’t give their opponents a reference point.

With Barella making late, unmarked, runs into the box, it makes for a truly malleable midfield; something the Azzurri have sorely lacked over the past four years. The Cagliari captain’s drive has been rewarded, and already has two goals on the qualifying campaign.

Much like it’s the case in the midfield, Mancini has not shied away from taking risks with his front three. Since his appointment, the former Inter tactician has called up a number of up and coming talents, including the likes of Moise Kean and Federico Chiesa among others.

In the past, Ventura was afraid to take risks, and typically stuck with Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti up front, despite their struggles. When both strikers were misfiring, Italy did not have a plan B, and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. Rather than having set starters, like his predecessor, Mancini has mixed and matched at will, and has used a plethora of forwards across the front line. This keeps the Italian forwards on their toes, and ensures no one gets complacent. Moreover, if Italy are struggling in the final third, Mancini is able to turn to different solutions.

One player that has benefitted immensely from Mancini’s reign has been Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne. The diminutive forward was reduced to a bit-part role under Ventura, and largely struggled to make an impact on the pitch when called upon. Under Mancini, Insigne has established himself as a crucial player, and has scored two goals in his last two games. In addition, his assist to Verratti against Bosnia helped Gli Azzurri seal all three points.

On the defensive end, on the other hand, Mancini has decided to maintain the status quo and has typically gone with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. However, the Italian tactician has tinkered with his fullbacks, alternating between Leonardo Spinazzola, Emerson and Gianluca Mancini. While Mancini is a centre-back, he offers the Azzurri tactical flexibility from the right-hand side of defence, and often drops as a third centre-back when in possession. With the Atalanta man dropping centrally, it allows the left-back to get forward and overload with his winger.

While it’s still early days for Gli Azzurri, the future looks bright under Roberto Mancini. Using a blend of experience, and youth, the Italian tactician has demonstrated character both in his selections, and tactical setups. With no one’s place in the team secured, Italy have – for the first time in a while – shown hunger, and a desire to return to the top.

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Deschamps staying with France, Chiellini, Cuadrado and Spinazzola speak

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Didier Deschamps was one of the candidates for the Juventus job, but he confirmed his commitment to the French national team in a presser yesterday: “The situation is clear, my spirit and my energies are focused on qualifying to the next European Championship, even though I am glad my name is brought up in big clubs’ coaching searches. However, my future is decided and tied to France.”

Giorgio Chiellini, Juan Cuadrado and Leonardo Spinazzola attended an event organized by the Insuperabili charity yesterday. The captain weighed in on Massimiliano Allegri’s exit: “We concluded a cycle and we have to thank him, then Juventus will go on as always. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 36

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Atalanta-Genoa: the Bergamaschi keep soaring and bested Lazio in a seminal clash last week, garnering their third win a row and building a little lead over Roma in the race to get the fourth position. They have not been defeated since the beginning of March. The Griffon is coming off two 1-1 ties in a row, versus SPAL and Roma, squandering a massive late opportunity on Sunday. They are four points above the third-to-last position. Suspensions are piling up for Gian Piero Gasperini and he will not be able to count on two defensive centre-pieces, Gianluca Mancini and Andrea Masiello, and more importantly on Alejandro Gomez, which will also not allow him to rotate the squad much ahead of next week’s cup final. Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata will take on an even larger load than usual: the Slovenian genius has been slowed down by some nagging injuries, while the Colombian powerhouse continues to lay hurt on opponents. Continue reading

Crucial Summer Ahead for Juventus

After wrapping up their eighth consecutive Scudetto following their 2-1 win over Fiorentina, Juventus will now focus their efforts on addressing the issues plaguing their roster. While the bianconeri added two trophies to their haul this season, they failed in Europe losing to a superior Ajax side over the two ties, and were sent packing in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta. Both defeats spoke volumes of this Juventus side and demonstrated just how fragile the Italian champions are when pressed. Here are three fundamental questions they must answer come summertime if they are to achieve European glory.

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1) Massimiliano Allegri: In or out? 

Since their collapse in Cardiff, Juventus have not been the same, and look a side devoid of an identity. This season much of the same problems persisted. The bianconeri strolled to the Scudetto, barely challenging themselves in the process as their competitors consistently shot themselves in the foot. Frankly, most Serie A tacticians would have won the title with this roster.

What’s more frustrating for Juve is that Allegri has completely failed at instilling a consistent style of play, and largely depends on individual brilliance to see him through. And when all else fails, the Italian champions typically bombard the box with crosses, and hope for Mandzukic or Ronaldo to come through. When opposing sides pressed the bianconeri high, and played without fear, by contrast, Juventus struggled to put three passes together.

When the board meets with Allegri to discuss the past season, they should replay the Ajax and Atalanta games. In both instances, Juventus cowered deep in fear, while the bolder team was rewarded for their self-confidence. If Juve are to win the Champions League, they need a fearless leader, and one thing’s for certain: Allegri is not that. It’s the end of the Allegri era, as we know it.

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2) Project Fix The Defence. 

Since Antonio Conte brought back Juve from consecutive seventh place finishes, the bianconeri’s defence was always their foundation and backbone for success. With Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini, Juventus possessed arguably the strongest backline in the world, and kept opponents at bay with ease.

However, with Barzagli nearing retirement and Bonucci looking like a shadow of his former self since his controversial return, Juventus’ defence has been a weak point for the side and has held the team back. Factor in Alex Sandro’s continued struggles, and it’s clear to see: Without Chiellini, Juventus are a mess at the back.

Considering Daniele Rugani’s stagnation, and Bonucci’s regular lapses in concentration, it’s time Juventus revamp their defence. First of all, they shouldn’t hesitate to sell Rugani and Alex Sandro as soon as a good offer arrives. The former has been a disaster when called upon, and shirks at the first sight of a physical battle. Alex Sandro, by contrast, has lost most of his pace, and offers close to nothing in the final third.

With Cristian Romero already on his way from Genoa, and Leonardo Spinazzola improving with every week, the state of Juventus’ defence remains decent. However, they will need at least two reinforcements: a centre-back and a left back.

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3) Project Fix the Midfield.

Much like the defence, Juventus’ midfield is in complete disarray, and lacks a true leader. Since dismantling their midfield in 2015 by selling Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, the bianconeri are yet to bolster the midfield sufficiently. At the moment, only Miralem Pjanic and potentially Emre Can are worthy starters, while the others are solid bench options at best.

Even Pjanic and Can, who on their day are world beaters, struggle to impose themselves, and aren’t meant to lead the midfield as seen through the Ajax clashes. Despite Aaron Ramsey’s arrival, Juventus are still lacking one profile in their midfield. A ball-winner capable of maintaining possession. What they would do for a prime Claudio Marchisio again? But Juventus could settle for Lyon’s Tanguy N’Dombele.

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