Standings implications: Juventus further extended their lead after pummeling Udinese as Napoli equalized in Sassuolo. Both Milan and Inter were successful against minnows in this round, the Rossoneri beat Chievo, the Beneamata did the same with SPAL, and therefore head into next week’s Derby separated by just one point, with the Devil on top. Roma sweated it out by bested Empoli and remain in pursuit. Atalanta recorded a big win in the Europa League race by besting Sampdoria on the road, but Torino staged a comeback in Frosinone and the two remain hand-in-hand, while Lazio lost some ground as they were held to a one-one tie in Florence. Waiting to see what Empoli will do, only Bologna took home the W in the rear: they stay in the 18th spot, but have closed a little the gap with Empoli, SPAL and Udinese.
Juventus: Federico Bernardeschi will be good to go after leaving the last game with a chest injury. On the other hand, Douglas Costa is iffy due to a bruised quad and Leonardo Spinazzola has a sore ankle. Giorgio Chiellini (calf) will be out again, while Leonardo Bonucci (ankle) is making a late push to be in the squad list.
Napoli: Amin Younes is having troubles with the surgically repaired Achilles tendon. Raul Albiol is reportedly dealing with a patellar tendon issue that could turn out to be a very serious one.
Inter: Matteo Politano will serve the final game of his suspension. Balde Keita has been called up despite the coach saying that he is not ready. Borja Valero is out with knee soreness.
Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini suffered a calf pull that should force him to miss a couple of games. Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira returned in Coppa Italia, while Mario Mandzukic (ankle) is expected to be available this week. Emre Can is ill but available.
Napoli: Fabian Ruiz is suspended. Raul Albiol and Elseid Hysaj are fatigued, while Adam Younes is banged up: the first two have called up, the winger has not.
Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is suspended, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) are banged up after the Supercoppa, but they could recover by Monday. Mario Mandzukic will be on the mend for a couple more weeks and Medhi Benatia remains iffy with a sore groin.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne, Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Dries Mertens is trying to shake off an ankle sprain and his presence is not 100 percent certain. Marek Hamsik is not expected to come back from his thigh strain. Raul Albiol is fatigued, but available. Continue reading
Defending Serie A champions Juventus kick off 2019 with a double header of cup action, and the chance to write another chapter of history in their recent dominance.
Max Allergi’s side face a trip to Bologna on January 12th, in the first leg of their last 16 tie of the Coppa Italia, and then on January 16th they take on AC Milan in the Italian Super Cup final.
The match has already attracted attention, albeit controversial, as the Italian FA have sanctioned the game to be played in Saudi Arabia, at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium, in Riyadh.
Juventus: Federico Bernardeschi is expected to be called up after shaking off an adductor problem, while Alex Sandro subbed off in Champions League because of a thigh issue that has not been disclosed yet, so he is questionable for the Fiorentina game. Sami Khedira (ankle) and Emre Can remain out for this week.
Napoli: Raul Albiol suffered a mild ankle sprain against Red Star Belgrade and he is at risk for the Monday game. After picking up the same injury, Amin Younes should be at the coach’s disposal, while Simone Verdi is set to skip another one, and likely few more, because his was more severe. Continue reading
Juventus: Sami Khedira (hamstring) and Mario Mandzukic (ankle) played in Champions League, while Douglas Costa was ruled out for another thigh problem, same for Moise Kean. They are unlikely to be available for the weekend. Federico Bernardeschi is questionable for the muscular ailment that has been bugging him for a while.
Inter: Radja Nainggolan started against Barcelona, but he is still less than 100 percent because of the recent ankle sprain so he could be rested.
Napoli: Dries Mertens subbed off versus PSG because of a bruised shoulder, but he avoided further complications and should be good to go for the weekend. Continue reading
Juventus: Mario Mandzukic has practiced fully this week so he has recovered from an ankle sprain. Sami Khedira has resumed training regularly in the last couple of days after a hamstring strain and he could be available in limited capacity on Saturday. Giorgio Chiellini and Federico Bernardeschi are fatigued and have been ruled out by coach Allegri. Emre Can will miss 30-40 days after having his thyroid removed for some nodules.
The midweek round is always a little wacky, mainly due to some heavy rotation by the managers. The most recent one was no different and several teams failed to score. Here is a quick recap of what went down.
Standings implications: Juventus and Napoli keep marching on and did quick work of their Emilian opponents. Roma returned to winning ways by steamrolling Frosinone, while Inter and Lazio maintained their momentum by defeating Fiorentina and Udinese. Atalanta and Torino shared their spoils in a dull match, while Sampdoria was held to a nil-nil tie in Cagliari. Genoa grabbed another home win over Chievo. Sassuolo fly high after they resounding win over SPAL, while Milan had another disappoint result in Empoli. Continue reading
“Biglia? It may seem like Lucas is my son, but these are players with precise characteristics. When I say that he is irreplaceable, I say it strongly. I’m not biased, he has the specific qualities I need. He is a fundamental player on a tactical level: he filters, he gives compactness and closes many lines of passing. He can make a few mistakes, but he has characteristics that few in this team have.’’ Those were views of Gennaro Gattuso when quizzed about the performance of Lucas Biglia after the 2-1 defeat of AS Roma.
Not a lot of Rossoneri fans will be enthused by Gattus’s remarks about Lucas Biglia been irreplaceable, because more is expected from the Argentine. Biglia endured a challenging first year at Milan last season as he struggled to influence games from his position. Instead, he was guilty of costly errors either from a back pass or an inability to shield the ball when press by two opposing attackers. Mistakes that opponents used to punish Milan. These miscalculations was once again witnessed when Milan played Napoli at the San Paolo as Piotr Zieliński pulled one back after Biglia lost control of the ball in front of the 18yard box.
Truth be told the 32 year-old Argentine did creditably well in the first half of that game, it was actually his pass that found Suso on the right before the Spaniards cross was headed down for Bonaventura to volleyed home. But it is worth noting that, Biglia was substituted for Tiémoué Bakayoko in the 58th minute in the second period of the Napoli game.
So has Lucas Biglia suddenly find form, and if so, what does Gattuso’s irreplaceable comment mean?
Certainly, Gattuso has shown Biglia is replaceable if he fails to perform to his expectation and he proved it when he hurled him out of the first game in Naples. Meaning the Argentine must continue to produce a higher consistent performance to enjoy the current found love of his coach. Rino did also issue a warning that “When I see players who don’t believe in what I say then I’ll go home.”
Biglia has not failed to show his quality as a player and what he can offer Milan on a good day, but his lack of consistency has become a source of frustration for many Milanisti. The Argentine does not affect games quite like Miralem Pjanić does for Juventus or Jorginho previously for SSC Napoli. At least not with his passes. There is considerable concern about his sideways balls to colleagues, his lack of competence to thread balls through the middle to find a player in open space and his timing to pick a pass.
The position of a deeper lying player maker has been clearly defined by Italian Legend and Midfield Maestro Andrea Pirlo since his days at San Siro, and he has become the paragon by which others are judged. In recent times Jorginho who just joined Chelsea from Napoli has performed in somewhat equal measure, but perhaps, no one may exhibit the class and vision of Andrea Pirlo on the ball, someone who controls the game from behind. And Milan is yet to find someone who would produce anything close to what their former midfielder yielded during his 10years stint with the Diavolo. It never happened with former Captain Riccardo Montolivo.
These days, defenders such as Leonardo Bonucci, Jerome Boateng, Segio Ramos, Kalidou Kolibaly Giorgio Chiellini are showing the quality of driving forward and providing passes from deep to create scoring opportunities in attack. AC Milan is missing that from Biglia. Another downside to his game is the obvious lack of pace he shows when Milan is under siege. He is easily bypassed by attacking opponents, maybe needs more protection from Franck Kessie because he is not a ball winner.
Gattuso remark about Biglia been indispensable could also be looked at from another perspective which could be justified. And that is there is a lack of quality replacement for the Argentine. In the absence of Biglia, the only player capable of playing satisfactorily in that role is Riccardo Montolivo. A player whose name sparks derision from a lot of Rossoneri fans, and that’s partly because just like the current occupant of that position, he failed to meet the demands of that role. Manual Locatteli deputised for Biglia last season, but has been sent on loan to Sassuolo to gather more experience and Andrea Bertolacci will require a leap of faith from Gennaro Gattuso to have a look into the starting eleven.
Despite the visible potential of Tiémoué Bakayoko, the Frenchman is currently finding it difficult to convince fans outside France that his outstanding performance for AS Monaco in the 2016/17 title winning season wasn’t deceptive. Last night, at the Sardegna Arena against Cagliari, Bakayoko came on for Giacomo Bonaventurar, and once again failed to have a telling effect from midfield. The on loan Chelsea midfielder may thrive as the season grows, but he needs a bit of Serie A education during training sessions.
Lucas Biglia may be irreplaceable for Gattuso, but that’s because there is no quality substitute on the bench.
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