De Zerbi’s Sassuolo Starting to take Shape

When Roberto De Zerbi was hired by Sassuolo, much was expected from the veteran Italian tactician. After all, like Maurizio Sarri, De Zerbi emphasizes the importance of positional play and attractive football above all else. In his first season with the club, the neroverdi finished in mid-table and showed glimpses of the football De Zerbi was hoping to implement. This season, Sassuolo are once again safe from the drop, and appear to be slowly hitting form.

Sassuolo are unbeaten in their last three and most recently dispatched Roma, scoring four past the giallorossi. While De Zerbi’s men have a well-rounded roster filled with young talents across the board, it’s the exploits of their front-four that has made the difference.

The Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga partnership is one of the league’s most devastating one-two punches out wide and both are comfortable taking up central positions, much to the dismay of their markers. Filip Djuricic and Hamed Junior Traore have taken turns playing as the side’s trequartista and have done an excellent job linking the midfield to attack.

In recent times, Djuricic has taken his game to the next level as evidenced by his goal and assist and overall impressive outing against Roma. When the Serbian is not on his game, Juventus loanee Traore duly steps in and is already up to three goals on the season. The 19-year-old made a name for himself at Empoli last season and is one of the league’s most promising young talents.

Veteran striker Ciccio’ Caputo leads the line to devastating effect and has built off last season, where he made a name for himself, netting 16 goals for the relegated Empoli. This season, the 32-year-old has already registered 10 goals and is well on his way to besting last year’s tally. If he can continue his goalscoring exploits, he may just be an outside bet for Mancini’s Euro 2020 roster. After all, beyond Immobile, Italy lack true goalscorers and Caputo could come in handy despite being on the wrong side of thirty.

When Sassuolo’s front four are on form, they’re difficult to stop and interchange positions wonderfully in De Zerbi’s free-flowing system. Behind them, Manuel Locatelli and Pedro Obiang, two well-rounded registas, provide the platform and passing range the side needs to stretch the opposition. Both players are tidy in possession and are unafraid to jump into the tackle when need be. If Sassuolo can keep this core together and De Zerbi can keep implementing his ideas, the neroverdi may just make a European push as of next season.

While their defence remains error-prone, it features young players with high upside like Jeremie Toljan, Marlon Santos, Fillippo Romagna and Georgios Kyriakopoulos. Turkish defender Mert Müldür is another young defender worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses even if he hasn’t featured much as of yet. Given their inexperience at the back, Sassuolo most recently added Vlad Chiriches to their rearguard, in hopes of adding stability and leadership to an overall impressive core.

As the season draws to a close and with safety from the drop no longer a concern, De Zerbi can freely introduce his ideals and set a solid foundation for years to come. While they are far from achieving what Atalanta have done under Gian Piero Gasperini, gli Orobici have provided a blueprint Sassuolo can follow. In many ways, De Zerbi’s men have what it takes as they possess a host of budding young talents ready to take the next step in their careers.

With De Zerbi at the helm, the neroverdi have one of the league’s most progressive managers and are primed to take the leap from the mid-table to contending for European places. Whether they can keep hold of their manager and young players is another story altogether. But one thing’s for sure: Sassuolo are on the right track and remain one of the peninsula’s most interesting young sides.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 22

Sassuolo-Roma: an early red card took the Neroverdi out of the Sampdoria game pretty early, but they still came away with a decent point, even though they were understandably unable to do much on offense. In the previous round, Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga propelled them past Torino the previous week and they have an intriguing front-line when everybody is healthy and on his day, since they are quite moody, the concerns are more on the other end and the suspension of Federico Peluso adds to those. Francesco Caputo has not scored since mid-December after a fast start, while their duo of no.10s Hamed Traore and Filip Djuricic, who generally alternate, have been able to do a decent amount of damage. Manuel Locatelli and Pedro Obiang/Francesco Magnanelli rarely attack due to their defensive position, they have combined for just one goal, while Jeremy Toljan and Grigoris Kyriakopoulos are decent fullbacks, but the match-up is pretty hard. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 19

Atalanta: a clean bill of health for the Goddess, but Musa Barrow and Roger Ibanez have not been called up because they are about to transfer.

Bologna: Blerin Dzemaili will be back after missing one with the flu, Ladislav Krejci is inching closer to recovering from a knee bruise. Gary Medel suffered a hamstring strain and will miss three weeks. Stefano Denswil has been ruled out. 

Brescia: Andrea Cistana and Sandro Tonali are suspended. Alfredo Donnarumma and Emanuele Ndoj are expected to return after skipping one with muscular ailments. Daniele Dessena is almost ready after a malleolous fracture.

Cagliari: Fabrizio Cacciatore picked up a thigh problem that will force him to sit out the upcoming game, likewise Federico Mattiello. Luca Ceppitelli (foot) has yet to be cleared, while Alessio Cragno, even if he is not ready to play yet, has been called up for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 17

Fiorentina-Roma: with Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli at half service due to physical problems, Dusan Vlahovic stepped up and saved the day against Inter. The Serbian prospect had gotten some decent run before but without doing much with it and instead delivered off the bench. Chiesa and Castrovilli are considered day-to-day and they are their two most best contributors, so their level of competitiveness will hinge on their recoveries. Kevin-Prince Boateng got the start after a while and had only minor chances, but they might have to rely him a lot in this one and he is listed as a midfielder, which makes him a bit intriguing depending on their injury situation. The other okay elements like Marco Benassi and Erick Pulgar have been silent for a long while. Dalbert has outplayed Pol Lirola as far as fullbacks are concerned. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 15

Inter-Roma: the Nerazzurri keep riding their elite striking duo and Lautaro Martinez has been balling out over the last few matches, as he is coming off two braces in a row. Romelu Lukaku did not score last week, but he has already reached the double-digit threshold in the domestic league. Antonio Candreva and Marcelo Brozovic both dished an assist in the last game and they are the two members of the supporting cast who are more likely to pick up bonus points. Matias Vecino has an history of scoring in big games and he has done some damage recently. Their back-line, instead, has not been airtight in the past couple of months, but Stefan De Vrij showed up big on the other end. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 14

Juventus-Sassuolo: Cristiano Ronaldo came back midweek and now it will be interesting to see whether or not he will be load managed in Serie A player after the knee injury. Nevertheless, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala have been excellent in relief and have been able to contribute also when coming off the bench in their standard configuration. Douglas Costa got hurt again, which takes away their most explosive option at no.10, so it will Federico Bernardeschi and Aaron Ramsey running the show there for a while, but they both have not done damage in a while. Ramsey has the most upside in the duo. Khedira is fading and, while Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi are serviceable contributors, they are not strong fantasy options. It could be instead the right kind of match-up for Miralem Pjanic to have a meaningful offensive role, while Juan Cuadrado has been a pretty good fullback for a while now. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 13

Atalanta-Juventus: after producing at an historic pace through the first ten weeks, the Goddess failed to score in their last two matches against Sampdoria and Cagliari. Josip Ilicic and Ruslan Malinovskyi are suspended, but the Slovenian attacker has appealed, but they will get a boost from the return of Duvan Zapata, who is expected to feature at least in limited capacity. He notched six goals in seven appearances before getting hurt. Luis Muriel is no longer red-hot, as he has not found the target in the last three rounds, but he will be again their main scoring option from the jump. Alejandro Gomez is going through something similar, but he always has loads of potential as an assist-man. Mario Pasalic is likely to move to the hole and he can pretty sneaky there. Robin Gosens has been their best wing-back so far, but also Timothy Castagne has hit the net once. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 37

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Sassuolo-Roma: the Neroverdi were handed their first loss since April last week by Torino, even though they certainly put up a fight, despite not being in need of points. The Giallorossi defeated Juventus with a late surge, garnering their fourth win in the last six rounds, tying in the other two and staying close to the fourth spot. Sassuolo have found the target in five of the last six rounds and La Lupa have not been great defensively on the road: they have spread the wealth around since Domenico Berardi was the only one to bag one in multiple matches. Jeremie Boga, Stefano Sensi, Manuel Locatelli and all the defenders contributed scoring-wise: Boga and Sensi have been their most lively contributors in the last few fixtures. The Giallorossi are getting a lot from Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko, while the latest tactical change, if confirmed, would help the likes of Nicolò Zaniolo, Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert, as the last two would see more minutes. Lorenzo Pellegrini is iffy due to a thigh ailment and his absence could allow Bryan Cristante to have a big role.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 36

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Juventus: Paulo Dybala (calf), Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh), Emre Can (thigh) and Alex Sandro have resumed practicing fully and therefore should be available on Sunday, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Daniele Rugani (thigh) will not come back this week. Federico Bernardeschi is suspended. Moise Kean is out with the flu, Leonardo Bonucci with a bruised ankle.

Napoli: David Ospina is on personal leave to tend to a personal matter in Colombia. Nikola Maksimovic (toe) is slated to remain on the shelf, while Amadou Diawara (foot) got in a full practice after a long time, so he might be called up. Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Adam Ounas have been surprisingly ruled out due to small ailments.
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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 34

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Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini has good chances to be back from a calf contracture and Martin Caceres from a thigh strain, while Douglas Costa (calf). Paulo Dybala (quad) and Mario Mandzukic (knee) will not be back this week. Rodrigo Bentancur has been ruled out with muscle fatigue.

Napoli: Raul Albiol is expected to return after missing time following a knee clean-up surgery. Vlad Chiriches hurt his shoulder in the last game and will undergo surgery, while Nikola Maksimovic and Amadou Diawara are nursing foot issues. Adam Ounas skipped the last two games due to a muscular ailment, but he is back in the squad list. Allan and Lorenzo Insigne are both fatigued and have been ruled out.  Continue reading