Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round Four

Gianluigi Buffonhe is rumoured to be getting the first start since coming back and Juventus have a good opportunity for a clean sheet against Verona. The previously indicated Alex Meret is in strong form but he might be rested this week ahead of the midweek round.

Diego Godin: Inter’s defense has been as advertised and should continue to grow as it gels after some absences. They could take advantage of the fact that Milan have not figured out the proper combinations up front yet. He is coming off an assist and it would not be surprising to see him solve a big game or two with his headers. Continue reading

Lorenzo Pellegrini: Fonseca’s Mister X

Since Paulo Fonseca has taken over in the nation’s capitalit’s been clear he’s actively trying to implement his possession-based football from day one. In many ways, the former Shakhtar Donetsk man has succeeded as Roma are among the highest-scoring sides in the league and have looked lethal in the final third. While their defence has left a lot to be desired, their offensive impetus is a good starting point for the giallorossi. Fonseca’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation has since given Roma’s forwards newfound freedom in the final third.

Lorenzo Pellegrini is but one of many benefactors of the managerial change in Trigoria and has seen his importance grow within the side. Initially used on the left of Fonseca’s double pivot, the former Sassuolo man has since been shifted further forward as the side’s number ten. After all, his creativity and vision were wasted deep in midfield.

From the trequartista position, Pellegrini is able to make the most of his range of passing and intelligent movement to hurt the opposition. In his side’s most recent game, the 23-year-old put on a passing clinic against his former side, registering three assists in Roma’s 4-2 win over Sassuolo.

While he begins games centrally, the midfielder has no issues interchanging positions with Nicolo Zaniolo in wide areas, giving the opposition no reference point. From wide positions, defences often forget about him until he makes a late, darting run. In Italy’s most recent qualifier against Finland, Pellegrini started the game at left-wing and simply put, did a job, highlighting his versatility.

Moving forward, expect Fonseca to continue deploying Pellegrini higher up the pitch, especially considering he has no shortage of options for his double pivot. With the 23-year-old’s mobility, Roma are able to overload the opposition in the final third and make the most of these numerical advantages.

Equally capable of picking apart the opposition with a pass or firing one himself, Pellegrini is the ideal trequartista for Fonseca’s system. As Cengiz Under is out indefinitely, Roma are lacking invention in front of packed defences, something Pellegrini could definitely help out with.

With Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert among others flanking him, it makes for a truly versatile front-line behind the towering Edin Dzeko. Factor in Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s arrival – a player comfortable with playing anywhere across the front-line – and it makes for a truly diverse attacking corps in the nation’s capital. Moreover, given their ability to interchange positions at will, Roma’s attack in full flow will be difficult to stop.

As the giallorossi are set to begin their European campaign against Istanbul Basaksehir and will travel to the in-form Bologna on the weekend, expect Fonseca to keep experimenting with Pellegrini in the final third. Considering he can play just about anywhere, the former Sassuolo man will undoubtedly be a key player for the Portuguese tactician and will be looking to take the next step in his career. If his performance against Sassuolo is anything to go by, Pellegrini is in for a big season with Fonseca at the helm.

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Serie A Best XI – Round Three

Alex Meret (7 points): Napoli breezed past Sampdoria, but their goalie saved them twice in the first half, with a great instinctive save on Alex Ferrari and then hypnotizing Emiliano Rigoni on a one-on-one.

Luca Ceppitelli (7 points): he exaggerated in the Parma game with a brace, finding the target first with his feet as he was left all alone in the box and then with a textbook and more traditional header. A rare appearance in the top XI for a defender that did not keep a clean sheet. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Three

Fiorentina-Juventus: despite the two tough losses, la Viola showed some intriguing stuff up front against both Napoli and Genoa. The potential is there, but the whole team needs to tighten up and build up some chemistry. Franck Ribery is primed to get more minutes after the break and they should finally counter-balance a line-up that is always too reliant on Federico Chiesa. The ones that will benefit the most are the centre-forwards and for the time being Kevin-Prince Boateng will likely be the top option until Dusan Vlahovic and Pedro find their footing. Gaetano Castrovilli has already shown that he can be dangerous with his cuts, while Erick Pulgar hit the net twice on penalties and will have more opportunities to put his shooting prowess to good use in a slightly modified role. 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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Roma appoint Fonseca

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Roma picked an up-and-comer to lead the squad, Paulo Fonseca from Shakhtar Donetsk. The manager agreed to a two-year contract and his hiring was made official on Tuesday morning. He takes over from Claudio Ranieri, who was appointed as caretaker manager after the sacking of Eusebio Di Francesco in March. La Lupa closed the season in sixth position, their worst finish in the six years.

In Ukraine, Fonseca won seven trophies in the last three seasons: three national titles, three domestic cups and one supercup. His side dominated and prevailed in 100 of the 135 matches, at one point collecting ten clean sheets in a row and breaking that record with 24 in a season. Continue reading

Opinion: Juventus can reload with Serie A players alone

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No matter what coach will be chosen, Juventus will have to address some glaring needs in the upcoming transfer market session, but they might be able to fill them with the usual modus operandi: plucking players from other Serie A teams. Here are some of the three biggest holes.

A heir to Giorgio Chiellini: the Old Lady had a good thing going in the first half of last season, where for a while they were able to rotate two well-assorted duos, Leonardo Bonucci-Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani-Chiellini, and go with Bonucci-Chiellini in the most demanding fixtures. Eventually, the Moroccan centre-back grew tired for the lack of consistent playing times and asked to leave and Martin Caceres was a temporary cheap patch. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 38

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Standings implications: it was a rollercoaster because of the chronological order of the events, but the Champions League race finished in the same way it was entering the round, as Atalanta and Inter were successful and staved off Milan. The Nerazzurri sent Empoli to Serie B as Genoa’s grand plan to wait for the Beneamata to win worked out, as neither them or Fiorentina were interested in attacking in their match. Roma bid farewell to Daniele De Rossi with a W over Parma.

Among the meaningless games, Juventus got beat by Sampdoria, Napoli by Bologna, while Udinese bested Cagliari on the road and Frosinone and Chievo shared the spoils in a nil-nil tie. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 38

Empoli v FC Internazionale - Serie A

Atalanta-Sassuolo: the Goddess survived Juventus’ second half push last week and returned from Turin with a precious point that allowed them to catch Inter and maintain a narrow lead over Milan. They have not lost since February 23rd and triumphed in eight of the following 12 rounds. Sassuolo are right in the middle of the pack but played spoiler last week by drawing with Roma. They have been defeated just once in the last eight matches, tying in five occasions. Josip Ilicic scored at the Stadium after being shut out for few weeks and also their rock Duvan Zapata and Alejandro Gomez will be popular picks since the Neroverdi are not the stingiest bunch. Neither are the Bergamaschi to be honest: the locals have spread the wealth in terms of scoring, but in general Domenico Berardi, Jeremie Boga and Stefano Sensi have been their best contributors in the final months. Hans Hateboer’s suspension makes it clear that Timothy Castagne and Robin Gosens will man the flanks: the former is more interesting since he is listed as a defender and in the midst of a prolific run. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 37

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Juventus: Leonardo Bonucci has recovered from his ankle sprain, Daniele Rugani from hamstring soreness and even Mario Mandzukic was able to practice fully late in the week after dealing with a patellar tendon problem for a while. Moise Kean has shaken off the flu. Giorgio Chiellini has picked up yet another calf ailment, but he is available. Miralem Pjanic is fine after twisting his ankle last week.

Napoli: Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have good chances to return after skipping one with muscle fatigue. Nikola Maksimovic and Amadou Diawara are close to healing from their foot infractions. David Ospina is still in Colombia for personal reasons, while Adam Ounas remains questionable after missing one. Continue reading