Chiellini rallies the troops ahead of Napoli clash

FC Juventus Player Giorgio Chiellini Portrait Session

Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini spoke to Sky Sport yesterday afternoon: “The away games in Champions League take a toll mentally and physically and it was not easy to play in another road match right away. We were not scintillating in Bologna, but we got the job done. The loss in Madrid was heavy, but we recovered. The fixture with Napoli will be great, they made us sweat in the last few years.”

“We think a little about the second leg with Atleti every day, but we will focus solely on that after the next two matches. We want to seal the deal in Serie A and prove that we deserve to be top of the league with this gap. I think it is a fair one. Continue reading

Losers of the January Window in Serie A

On Sunday we looked at the winners of the January window while today we look at those who have been weakened after the four weeks of transfer moves

benatia

Juventus

The absolute worst case scenario possible from the ill timed Mehdi Benatia sale materialized as rapidly as Don Draper drinking an Old Fashioned. Both Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini suffered injuries leaving Allegri no choice but to start Daniele Rugani and new addition Martin Caceres against Parma- a match in which the bianconeri ended up giving up 3 goals at home against a newly promoted team.

Predicting how much this will continue to be a problem for the Serie A champions essentially comes down to how much you believe in Rugani, but it’s important to note last season the former Empoli center back was given first crack at replacing Leonardo Bonucci and ended up losing his spot to Benatia which resulted in Juventus’ defense looking substantially better.

Regardless of how you feel about Rugani, the bottom line is Juventus replaced their second best pure defender after Giorgio Chiellini with Caceres who was on his way to Japan after failing to establishing himself at Lazio. Juventus should have done more to make it worthwhile for Benatia to wait five months before moving for Qatar by offering him more financially rather than investing in Caceres on top of the opportunity of being on a potential Champions League winner.

Monchi 

Lazio/Roma

The two Roman clubs were very quiet during the January window with Romulo as the only fairly substantial addition joining either club. While Zaniolo’s explosion as well as Pellegrini and Cristante’s strong performance made it logical for Monchi to stand pat when it came to improving his midfield, not signing a defender- especially after giving up 7 goals to Fiorentina the day before the window closed- may cost the team substantially. 

When you go beyond looking at the January window in a vacuum for both clubs, not doing more to bolster Inzaghi and Di Francesco’s squads is even worse when you consider the substantial improvement Milan with Piatek and Paqueta. 

hamsik 

Napoli ?

 

If you want to take context and opinion out of the equation, no team in Serie A lost a player as substantial in the January window without a replacement than the partenopei with Marek Hamsik. As I write this the deal with Dalian isn’t completed yet, but in the very likely event that it goes through Napoli at least showed clubs interested in Koulibaly, Allan and their other jewels that they will not be bossed around and will only sell on their terms.

On Wednesday, Napoli announced that the deal with the Chinese club was off because of the payment terms (not to be confused with transfer fee) which showed the rest of the world they will not be bullied even when it comes to accommodating the wishes of one of their most iconic players. Letting Marko Rog go out on loan now looks a bit more adventurous, but as long as Napoli don’t suffer multiple injuries they should have no problem replacing Hamsik in the summer considering their great track record with midfielders.

 

Empoli

 

Completing deals that will send Traore and Rasmussen to Fiorentina in the summer made sense considering that the Tuscan club has always been about selling players who shine for them for profits only to replace them with new prospects, but letting Zajc go to Fenerbahce effective immediately may come to bit them since other teams in the race to avoid relegation (SPAL and Cagliari especially) made fairly substantial improvements.

Group E Belgium vs Italy 

Emanuele Giaccherini and Stefano Sorrentino

 

While Chievo essentially waived the white flag in the race to avoid relegation by selling Radovanovic, Obi and Birsa the former Juventus midfielder and stand out goalkeeper ended up staying. At least Sorrentino will be to tell his grandchildren that he saved a Ronaldo penalty by staying with the Flying Donkeys, but Giaccherini was deprived of the opportunity to play for a team that can also give him an opportunity in Serie A next season. The Antonio Conte favorite is still effective enough to start for quite a few mid table teams in Serie A.

 

Serie A Club of the Round – Napoli

napoli

In a round full of ties, only Napoli and Bologna brought home the full loot and the Partenopei, which rag dolled a worthy opponent, were quite clearly the best team in this week-end. The Azzurri came into the game looking to wash out the bitter taste of an underwhelming two-game trip to San Siro against Milan, where they were held to a nil-nil tie in Serie A play and eliminated from Coppa Italia due to a paltry performance.

Carlo Ancelotti was a little more cautious versus Sampdoria and picked Arkadiusz Milik and Lorenzo Insigne up front, with José Callejon and Piotr Zielinski manning the flanks, rather than fielding his three strikers together. Elseid Hysaj and Alex Meret made their return to the starting XI, while Raul Albiol was spared due to a nagging ailment. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 22

romamilan

Napoli-Sampdoria: the Partenopei had a disappointing two-game meeting with Milan, as they did not manage to beat them in the weekend and then got got in Coppa Italia. They are undefeated at home, where they have won four games in a row, often scoring multiple goals. The Blucerchiati are coming off a thumping against Udinese, their fourth W in the last six fixtures and they lost only to Juventus since the beginning of December. While Lorenzo Insigne is stuck in a prolonged drought, Arek Milik has done most of the damage for the Azzurri up front, with Dries Mertens chipping in from time to time and some contribution from José Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Piotr Zielinski, but not in a consistent way. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 21

under

Juventus: Mario Mandzukic is trying to come back from high strain, but it might be too early. Miralem Pjanic and Joao Cancelo are dealing with minor calf ailments, while Sami Khedira has a sore knee: they are unlikely to be available this week, but the fullback has a shot. Medhi Benatia (groin), Andrea Barzagli (thigh) and Juan Cuadrado (knee) remain out.

Napoli: Marek Hamsik will return from a thigh strain, while Allan is experiencing some back pain and has been ruled out.

Inter: Balde Keita (thigh) will not be able to come back this week, while Sime Vrsaljko is under the weather and also nursing an achy knee. Matteo Politano is fatigued.  Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 20

keita

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

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 19

lazzari

Juventus: Blaise Matuidi and Medhi Benatia missed the last game, but they will be available to play. Federico Bernardeschi has been called up after missing time with a thigh pull. Rodrigo Bentancur is suspended. Juan Cuadrado underwent knee surgery and could be on the shelf for three months. 

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne and Kalidou Koulibaly were handed two-game bans. Marek Hamsik subbed off against Inter due to a thigh injury and will try to recover for the first game of 2019. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 17

ACF Fiorentina v AC Milan - Serie A

Lazio-Cagliari: after four draws in a row, the Biancocelesti came a cropper in Bergamo, following another subpar performance. The Sardinians have been unable to win in the past six weeks and they caught on Sunday their first L at home versus Napoli. So both teams are reeling, one more of the other considering their seasonal targets. Simone Inzaghi is giving Sergej Milinkovic-Savic every opportunity to get off his schneid, but he keeps misfiring. Luis Alberto is showing some signs of life, but he is far away from last year’s level of brilliance. So Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa remain their only two productive fulcrums, with Marco Parolo at times able to chip in. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 13

sampgenoa

The next round could be a little one-sided for the top clubs, but surprises are always around the corner in Serie A and there still a couple of juicy games on deck.

Juventus-SPAL: the Bianconeri prevailed in the always tense match-up with Milan, surviving a penalty but appearing pretty dominant overall. They have won in 11 of the first 12 games, setting a new Serie A-point record to start the season. SPAL looked a little better against Cagliari, but squandered a two-zip lead and had to settle for a tie. They had lost in six of the previous seven fixtures. Mario Mandzukic returned to the starting XI with an immediate goal, then Cristiano Ronaldo bagged another one. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 8

laziofiorentina

It will be inevitably a quieter round compared to the previous ginormous one, but Serie A never lacks reasons to tune in.

Udinese-Juventus: the Zebrette have certainly been more interesting this season, but after losing just once in the first five games, they have been defeated two times in a row, against Lazio and Bologna, so their point total is not that conspicuous. The Bianconeri from Piedmont, on the other hand, are coming off a seminal win over the main title contenders, Napoli, and have prevailed in the first nine games of the season. They will eventually come a cropper, but they have had a lot of success in the past in this stadium. Rodrigo De Paul has been leading the charge for the home team, but very little help scoring-wise from his teammates: Kevin Lasagna notched just one, Lukasz Teodorczyk and Darwin Machis are still scoreless, Ignacio Pussetto found his first last week. Continue reading