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

Serie A Club of the Round – Roma

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In a round that included just two shutout wins, by Roma and Milan, the Giallorossi got the best result of the week, even though they did not exactly dominate the clash with Juventus and were lucky not to go down in the score. Bologna had the most convincing display, but Parma’s consolation goal and the fact that they were gifted two own hauls did not make for a rich fantasy haul.

They had tied in Genoa the week before, letting Atalanta slip away in the standings. They have not lost since March 31st, winning four out of seven games.

Claudio Ranieri tilted his approach and went with an interesting tactic that saw Steven N’Zonzi as the lone pivot, sandwiched between Nicolò Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini, while Justin Kluivert started on the right wing, completing the trident that comprised Edin Dzeko and Stephan El Shaarawy as per usual. 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

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 35

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Juventus-Torino: the Bianconeri have no more achievements to pursue in Serie A, but they still showed up at San Siro last week and equalized in the second half after a poor start. They have yet to drop one at home. The Granata continue to be in the hunt not only for a Europa League berth: the fourth spot is four points away. They have defeated Milan and Genoa in their last two contests and have lost just once in the past 14. Cristiano Ronaldo scored last week and Miralem Pjanic has contributed with two assists recently. Federico Bernardeschi and Moise Kean are alternating next to the Portuguese ace, but neither is in supreme form, while Juan Cuadrado is starting to look sprier and Joao Cancelo is coming back on too. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 32

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SPAL-Juventus: after winning three games in a row, against Roma, Frosinone and Lazio, SPAL were bested by Cagliari, but their recent streak gave them a little breathing room over the last three positions. Juventus toppled Milan last week, winning for the eighth time in the last nine matches and they are one point away from clinching the title. For the Estensi, Andrea Petagna has been a rock all year long, showing to be a much more prolific striker compared to his time at Atalanta. Manuel Lazzari is their main playmaker off the right flank and has picked up eight assists thus far. Jasmin Kurtic is also occasionally able to collect some bonus points, while they have not got much out of the second-striker role, as Mirco Antenucci, Andrea Paloschi and Sergio Floccari have combined for just six goals. Continue reading