Locatelli, Pogba, and the midfielders Juventus should be targeting

Juventus may be coming off a triumph in the Italian Supercup, but the Italian champions are in serious danger of relinquishing their stranglehold over Serie A. Milan and Inter have run away with it in the first half of the season, with the Bianconeri trailing Stefano Pioli’s side by 10 points already. As the second half of the season approaches, Juve’s midfield woes have become more apparent.

Manuel Locatelli has been heavily linked with a move to Turin, reuniting him with his idol Andrea Pirlo. The Sassuolo midfielder has taken Italian football by storm this season, establishing himself as one of the league’s elite deep-lying playmakers. In many ways, Locatelli is exactly the type of profile Juventus lack in the middle of the park. Comfortable in possession, the Italian international would be a significant upgrade on Rodrigo Bentancur and could slot in nicely next to Arthur. His 40M euro price-tag will seem like a bargain in 2 years time.

Beyond Locatelli, Juventus is reportedly interested in a sensational swoop for Paul Pogba. Mino Raiola – the Frenchman’s agent – sent shockwaves throughout the footballing world when he claimed his client was on the market come the summertime. Pogba allegedly would appreciate a move back to Italy, where he has played the best football of his career. The major stumbling block, however, is his pricetag as he won’t come cheap. Manchester United will, at the very least, be seeking to break even on the midfielder, demanding well over 100 million euros.

Other than the increased price-tag, it will be interesting to see where the World Cup winner would slot in Pirlo’s system. Pogba does not thrive in a double pivot and may just be an awkward fit between the lines alla Aaron Ramsey. Juve should think twice before pulling the trigger and ask themselves whether they have what it takes to accomadate the French international.

If finances are tight, Juve can always shift its focus to Udinese’s Rodrigo De Paul. The Argentine midfielder is crying out for a move to a bigger club and is more than ready for the step up. De Paul is arguably the best fit for Pirlo’s Juve, given his ability to play as a deep-lying playmaker or roam between the lines. The Udinese man would walk directly into Juve’s starting 11, usurping Aaron Ramsey in the trequartista role. De Paul boasts an impressive engine and is versatile enough for Pirlo’s hybrid 4-4-2/3-5-2 formation.

The final option for the Bianconeri is Lyon’s Houssem Aouar. Juventus has been heavily linked with a move for the French midfielder in the past and could just return for him this summer. A dynamic midfielder by trade, Aouar has all the tools to emerge as a bonafide creative threat for Pirlo’s Juve. At just 22 years old, the midfielder has his entire career ahead of him and would make for an excellent fit in Turin. Aouar thrives when tasked with linking up the midfield and the attack and has even shown he can play in a double pivot.

Fabio Paratici often says it is incredibly difficult to improve on Juve’s current roster, but the reality is, any of these midfielders would become starters in the side’s current setup. While a Pogba reunion may steal the headlines, Locatelli and De Paul are arguably the better fits and would come cheaper. Given Juve’s working relationship with Sassuolo and Udinese, the Italian champions can negotiate a crafty deal for both midfielders, without sacrificing the club’s finances. Aouar remains an interesting option should either midfielder become unavailable, but the next step for Juve is ridding itself of its deadwood.

Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot, and Rodrigo Bentancur have all shown glimpses of their potential, but are the furthest thing from consistent. Only once these midfielders are sold can Juve begin dreaming of De Paul and Locatelli.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you’re for it play fantasyseriea.com!

 

Three Reasons Why Sassuolo’s Hot Start Can Continue

In a season unlike any other, Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo has taken Serie A by storm, throwing their name into the title race. The Neroverdi are unbeaten after eight games, recording five wins, and currently sit just two points back of Milan in first place. While cinderella stories in Serie A are few and far between, excluding Atalanta, there is reason to believe Sassuolo’s recent success is sustainable.

De Zerbi’s men have put in place a clear system over the years and have continuously gotten better. As an intriguing matchup with Inter awaits them in matchday nine, here are three reasons why Sassuolo’s hot start might just continue.

1) Boga-Caputo-Berardi is all the firepower they need. 

Few frontlines in Italy have as good an understanding as Sassuolo’s devastating trio. Whether it’s intricate movements, inch-perfect passes or the ability to beat their men one-on-one, Sassuolo’s attack has fired them to new heights this season. In fact, no side has scored more than the Neroverdi this season, with Sassuolo scoring 20 goals in their first eight games. Francesco Caputo has picked up exactly from where he left off last season, registering five goals and two assists in just six starts.

Club captain and all-time goalscorer – Domenico Berardi – has established himself as an elite creative threat in the final third, kicking off the season in fine form. Beyond his productive start, the winger was most recently called up to the national team and played an integral role in Gli Azzurri punching their ticket into the UEFA Nations League final four. Berardi found the back of the net in consecutive games, staking a claim for a starting position.

If Sassuolo’s dynamic attack keeps producing, nothing is stopping them from pulling an Atalanta and breaking into Italy’s top four.

2) Manuel Locatelli. 

The former Milan man has kicked into another gear this season and has undisputedly taken the next step in his career, establishing himself as one of Italy’s premier midfielders. Locatelli has since attracted interest from across Italy, with Juventus emerging as the favorites for his signature. Much like Berardi, Locatelli used the latest slate of international fixtures to make a name for himself and emerge as a crucial piece to Mancini’s setup.

Locatelli plays an extremely important role in De Zerbi’s setup and is largely tasked with dictating the proceedings in the middle of the park. The 22-year-old feeds Sassuolo’s dynamic attack and relays possession diligently, offering some much-needed balance in the midfield. Sassuolo may just possess the most in-form midfielder in Italy at the moment in Locatelli. Provided his recent ascent continues, the Neroverdi can keep dreaming.

3) Sassuolo’s underrated squad players. 

Locatelli, Boga, Caputo, and Berardi may steal all the spotlight, but that shouldn’t take away from Sassuolo’s underrated squad players. Filip Djuricic plays an important role as the side’s number ten, linking the midfield to attack, while Vlad Chiriches and Gian Marco Ferrari offer stability from the back.

In many ways, Sassuolo’s strength lies in their ‘next man up’ mentality and self-belief. When the side was missing Berardi and Caputo against Napoli, they did not panic. De Zerbi altered his setup to a back three and put faith in his squad players. Sassuolo did not disappoint, emerging 2-0 winners. Summer arrival Maxime Lopez opened his account on the season and is yet another budding young talent to watch out for.

As the season wears on, these squad players will have to demonstrate they can contribute when called upon, as they have done in the early goings of the season. If they can continue delivering, there is no reason why Sassuolo can’t aim for top four – at the very least.

Are you a Serie A expert? Can you defeat the top Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you think so, play fantasyseriea.com now!

Three Takeaways From Italy’s UEFA Nations League Games

Italy punched its ticket to the final four of the UEFA Nations League this past weekend, with crucial wins over Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The final round is set to be played in October 2022. Roberto Mancini has not shied away from calling up a plethora of budding talents, naming a 41-man squad for the latest slate of games.

Gli Azzurri are currently riding a 22-game unbeaten run and have since emerged as legitimate contenders for the UEFA Nations League. Here are three takeaways from Italy’s latest training camp:

1) Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne emerge as first-choice contenders. 

Mancini has called up a number of wingers in recent training camps, indicating the starting roles are up for the taking. Vincenzo Grifo, Federico Chiesa, Stephan El Shaarawy, and Federico Bernardeschi among others have all staked their claim for a more prominent role, but if Italy’s latest games were anything to go by, none of them will likely start come Euro 2020.

Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi have demonstrated they are ready to lead Gli Azzurri’s frontline, combining to devastating effect in the final third. The Sassuolo man has made the most of his opportunity, scoring goals in consecutive games this international break. Berardi has emerged as one of Italy’s elite creators with Sassuolo and should be handed a more significant role.

Insigne, on the other hand, has kicked into another gear this season, taking his game to another level. The diminutive playmaker was arguably Italy’s man-of-the-match in both of his nation’s games this past break, assisting Berardi’s goal against Bosnia and Herzegovina with an inch-perfect pass. In many ways, the left-wing position is Insigne’s to lose going into the Euro.

In any case, there are a number of players ready to step up in their absences, as Mancini has regularly demonstrated with his callups. As of right now, there is no reason why the Insigne-Berardi tandem should not start.

2) Locatelli sets himself apart from his midfield counterparts. 

The Sassuolo midfielder’s recent ascent to stardom has been nothing short of meteoric, with Locatelli emerging as one of Italy’s midfield maestros. As it is the case up front, Italy has no shortage of midfield options and could turn to a wide array of options in the middle of the park. Jorginho seems to be a mainstay under Mancini and has impressed when called upon, while it is hard to argue against Nicolo Barella.

The Inter man has been in sensational form under Antonio Conte and has proven he is more than ready for regular minutes with the national team setup. This leaves the third and final midfield position up for grabs. Naturally, it is Marco Verratti’s to lose, but the Paris Saint-Germain man has regularly failed to translate his domestic dominance in an Azzurri shirt.

Manuel Locatelli dominated the proceedings in Italy’s games, indicating he may just be the missing link in the midfield. The Neroverdi midfielder offers the side some much-needed balance, both in and out of possession. While Verratti may be seen as the favourite to start going into Euro 2020, Locatelli can easily overtake him with more consistency.

3) There are still more questions than answers at #9. 

Andrea Belotti spearheaded Italy’s attack in both of Italy’s games in Ciro Immobile’s absence, and frankly, did not disappoint. The Torino man led the line with great aplomb, netting an important goal against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite impressing in both games, Belotti has his limitations and is yet to take the leap alongside Europe’s elite hitmen.

If Italy is to have a shot at major trophies, Mancini will need to assess his striking options and determine his preferred number nine. Immobile and Moise Kean are in the running, while Francesco Caputo has an outside shot. It may just come down to who’s in form going into the tournament.

Sign up to eurofantasyleague.com the game where football fans meet to compete.

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round Six

Andrea Consigli (7 points): another tough round for defenses as just two of them blanked the opponents. While Roma managing to do that against Fiorentina was predictable, Sassuolo had not shown any semblance of solidity in the back thus far, but they tighten it up in the Napoli clash and Consigli had some pivotal saves, especially an early one on Victor Osimhen after giving away the ball with a careless pass.

Rogerio (7 points): he got credited with an assist as he fed Maxime Lopez prior to the goal, but the teammate did all the heavy lifting there. He played as left wing-back as Sassuolo tilted their system in this one and he was very busy on both ends, besting his direct opponent Giovanni Di Lorenzo. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Four

Standings implications: Milan is atop of the table after convincingly besting Inter in the Derby della Madonnina. They are followed by Sassuolo, who staged an furious comeback against Bologna. Napoli made a statement by trouncing Atalanta, while Juventus could not get past Crotone. Lazio got stunned by Sampdoria on the road. Fiorentina wasted an early two-notching lead versus Spezia, while Cagliari outlasted Torino. Udinese nabbed their first points in dramatic fashion and Roma outgunned a fiery Benevento.  Continue reading

Sassuolo demonstrating European credentials early on

Since Roberto De Zerbi’s appointment, Sassuolo has played a scintillating brand of football, predicated on heavy possession and the intricate movement of their front three. The veteran tactician has successfully imparted his footballing philosophy on the Neroverdi in recent years and have since emerged as legitimate contenders for Europa League football. Sassuolo has already picked up seven out of a possible nine points to start the season, recording consecutive 4-1 wins in league play, indicating their European credentials.

While Jeremie Boga has missed his side’s first three games through injury, Sassuolo have not missed a beat. Last season’s standouts – Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo – have picked up from where they left off, scoring goals in their last two games. The latter most recently recorded a brace against Crotone, fresh off receiving yet another Azzurri callup.

Caputo joined Sassuolo last season from a relegated Empoli side for a mere 7.5 million euros and is proving to be the bargain of the summer. The veteran hitman notched a record 21 goals last season, trailing only Romelu Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile. Caputo has carved out an important role for himself in De Zerbi’s system, regularly interchanging with Sassuolo’s wingers both in and out of possession.

Caputo has demonstrated his keen eye for goal and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Most recently, Caputo’s deadly finishing was on display after being played through on goal against Crotone. The 33-year-old made no mistake, lobbing the keeper with great aplomb and bringing his tally to three on the season already.

Berardi, on the other hand, opened the scoring against the newly-promoted outfit on Saturday and was dominant throughout. The Sassuolo winger has emerged as one of the league’s most consistent creators from out wide and is coming off a career year, in which he scored 14 goals and registered 10 assists. Berardi is on pace for a similar season already and will surely begin attracting interest from Italy’s top sides.

The 26-year-old has been courted by Italy’s traditional giants in the past but has regularly rejected them in favor of staying with Sassuolo. As De Zerbi’s men look to return to Europe, Berardi may just remain for the long run and establish himself as a club legend.

Beyond Sassuolo’s dynamic frontline, Manuel Locatelli has stood out in the early goings of the season. The former Milan midfielder was heavily linked with a move to Juventus earlier in the summer but has since decided to remain with Sassuolo. Locatelli’s passing range was on display once again against Crotone, delivering an inch-perfect switch of play on the Neroverdi’s first goal. Locatelli was later rewarded for his dominant performance, notching Sassuolo’s fourth and final goal.

De Zerbi relies on Locatelli to dictate the tempo in the middle of the park and supply his front three regularly. The Italian international has demonstrated he’s more than ready to take the next step in his career and dominate the proceedings in the middle of the park, week in, week out. As the season wears on, expect Locatelli’s name to emerge atop many sides’s mercato wishlists.

While Sassuolo’s start is encouraging, it’s important to exhibit caution. After all, they’ve beaten the two newly promoted sides and played out to a draw against Cagliari. Regardless, there is no reason why De Zerbi’s men shouldn’t be aiming for Europa League football at the very minimum and have a talented foundation in place for years to come. It may be early days, but Sassuolo are establishing themselves as the Serie A’s latest darlings and have shown no signs of slowing down.

How well do you know Italian football? Want to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? Play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Scouting Report: Manuel Locatelli

Manuel Locatelli has adapted wonderfully to life under Roberto De Zerbi at Sassuolo and has since attracted interest from Italy’s giants, including Juventus. According to recent reports, however, the Neroverdi are reluctant to part ways with their midfield maestro and have slapped a 40 million euros price-tag on Locatelli. But who exactly is the Sassuolo man?

Player profile:

Age: 22

Position: Centre midfielder

Height: 185 cm

Nationality: Italy

Locatelli has emerged as one of Italy’s premier talents this season, dominating the proceedings in the middle of the park. Despite his imposing physique, the former Milan man is extremely technical and thrives with the ball at his feet. Locatelli combines a wide range of passing with impressive vision and has since established himself as one of Serie A’s finest registas. The 22-year-old has regularly proven to be a willing runner in the midfield and is unafraid to jump into a tackle.

In fact, Locatelli was recently called up by Roberto Mancini to Italy’s senior national team setup, rewarding his good season at Sassuolo. Locatelli initially came through Milan’s youth ranks, breaking into the first team in 2016. The 22-year-old spent three years with the Rossoneri, making 48 appearances before being loaned out to Sassuolo.

His move to Sassuolo helped Locatelli get his career back on track and develop into one of Italy’s finest midfielders. Roberto De Zerbi’s possession-based system has undoubtedly helped him in this respect and makes the most of Locatelli’s qualities. The former Milan man averaged an impressive 88% pass completion percentage last season and registered five assists, indicating he’s slowly adding end product to his game. In addition, Locatelli averaged 1.5 key passes per game last season and combined wonderfully with Sassuolo’s dynamic front three.

Jeremie Boga, Francesco Caputo, and Domenico Berardi formed one of the league’s deadliest frontlines last season, interchanging dangerously at will in the final third. With Locatelli and Pedro Obiang behind them, the Neroverdi emerged as one of Italy’s most intriguing sides, imposing their style of play wherever they went. As next season approaches, Sassuolo will be eager to retain their star men, especially Locatelli.

Locatelli has played an integral role in their recent rise, acting as the anchor in midfield. While the links to Italy’s giants persist, it will be interesting to see if the former Milan man will take the leap. If his recent form is anything to go by, however, Locatelli has proven he has all the qualities to do so and carve an important role out for himself at his future club.

Juventus have reportedly been keeping tabs on the 22-year-old and have had several meetings with Sassuolo. The Bianconeri are currently in the midst of rejuvenating their midfield, adding the likes of Weston McKennie and Arthur. Locatelli’s arrival would represent a continued shift in transfer policy for the Italian champions, highlighting their desire to revolutionize their ageing roster and reduce the wage bill.

While Locatelli may not be ready for a starting role with Andrea Pirlo’s men, the Sassuolo man is more than ready to play significant minutes and offer some much-needed quality in the midfield. Juventus struggled last season in the middle of the park and could use a midfielder of Locatelli’s ilk.

Locatelli’s recent call-up indicates he’s ready to take the next step in his career and become a regular with Gli Azzurri. The midfielder has represented Italy across all youth levels and has demonstrated he can cut it at the highest level. As a move to Juventus beckons, Locatelli will be eager to translate his recent form with Sassuolo to a bigger club and keep establishing himself as one of Italy’s most promising young midfielders.

Play the most challenging Fantasy Calcio game by clicking here www.fantasyseriea.com

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.

Sign up to eurofantasyleague.com the game where football fans meet to compete.

 

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