Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 15

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Standings implications: Juventus sank Inter in the most anticipated game of the round, while Napoli wiped out Frosinone, maintaining the distance from the top spot and gaining ground on the Nerazzurri. Both Roman teams were incredibly pipped at the post against Cagliari and Sampdoria and Fiorentina tied the game late versus Sassuolo. Milan and Torino shared the spoils, so the only team prospering in the Europa League zone was Atalanta, which upended Udinese on the road. Among the relegation strugglers, Empoli keep soaring with the third win in the last month, this time over Bologna. Genoa showed grit in the one-one tie with SPAL in Cesare Prandelli’s debut. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 15

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Juventus were rather fortunate to not find themselves in a hole after a shaky first half and hour, when they allowed some clear-cut changes to Inter, then begun to take control of the operations late in the first half and managed the game pretty well after getting the lead.

Joao Cancelo (7 points): the Portuguese fullback was a little imprecise defensively in this one, but he continues to be absolutely electric when running up and down the flank. On top of being a constant thorn into Inter’s side, he gets the credit for that cross that had such a sharp trajectory that could not be intercepted by Samir Handanovic and set up Mario Mandzukic’s comfy header. Continue reading

Big Game Mandzukic Helps Juventus Prevail in Derby d’Italia

With Inter coming into the latest Derby D’Italia in good form and with the potential to open up the title race, Juventus had to be on their toes. While it wasn’t the bianconeri’s best performance to date, Allegri’s men did just enough to best their counterparts and claim the three points in unspectacular fashion, extending their lead at the top to 11 points. The game started at break-neck pace with both teams exchanging chances early on, however, Inter looked more threatening with midfielder Roberto Gagliardini hitting the post mid-way through the first half.

Awoken by the near goal, Juventus kicked into another gear and started to dominate the possession again, yet struggled to break down Inter’s resolute back four. The breakthrough came in the second half when Joao Cancelo, formerly of Inter, found himself one-on-one with the man who replaced him Šime Vrsaljko. After cutting the ball to his preferred right foot and a slightly body feint later, the high-flying fullback carved out enough space for himself to deliver an inch-perfect cross to an onrushing Mario Mandzukic. Like we’ve seen countless times in Juve’s big games in recent times, the Croatian bullied his former teammate Kwadwo Asamoah at the back post and slotted home with ease; an Allegri trademark over the years.

Backed by a man-of-the-match performance by defensive stalwart Giorgio Chiellini, Mandzukic’s goal would be enough for Juve to prevail on the night and apply further pressure on title challengers Napoli ahead of their clash against Frosinone. While Ronaldo, Dybala and Douglas Costa provide the flair in the final third, Allegri’s Juventus still very much relies on the warrior-like mentality imparted by Chiellini and Mandzukic. Since the former Milan tactician has taken over, both players have been at the heart of the side’s success like none other and have come to typify exactly what it means to play for Juve.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 15

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The next round features one of the games of the season, Juventus-Inter, and few other juicy match-ups.

Juventus-Inter: the Bianconeri got the better of Fiorentina, extending their winning streak to five fixtures, but in that occasion they were not as dominant as the final score showed. Against Roma, Inter dropped points for the second time in a row on the road and, despite scoring twice, they never looked in control. The same thing happened in Bergamo, but they are extremely opportunistic, so they can never be counted out. Cristiano Ronaldo added one to his tally with a penalty in Florence, while Rodrigo Bentancur continues to impress. Mario Mandzukic is generally money in big matches, while Douglas Costa has the potential to be a factor off the bench. Despite being useful in other areas, Paulo Dybala’s offensive stats in Serie A have been subpar. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 14

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The next Serie A slate is pretty tasty on paper.

Fiorentina-Juventus: the Viola are having a weird season. They started off decently, showing well especially at home, where they are still undefeated and have a sound defense, but they have struggled to score recently. They have not netted more than one since late September and they have drawn in their last five matches, against Cagliari, Torino, Roma, Frosinone and Bologna. On the other hand, the Old Lady is cruising with 12 wins in the year, four in a row after the tumble against Genoa, but it will be tested before the break. Fiorentina’s offensive problems stem primarily from Giovanni Simeone and Marko Pjaca’s poor form, as they have combined for just three goals so far. Federico Chiesa is always doing stuff, but he has not bagged many as well. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 13

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Standings implication: Juventus had an easy time against SPAL and Inter got back on track by spanking Frosinone,so they both gained ground on Napoli, which were astonishingly held to a tie at home against the lowly Chievo. Lazio equalized at the buzzer in the meeting with Milan. Roma against sputtered, this time in Udine. Genoa and Sampdoria shared the spoils in the Derby della Lanterna. Parma got a quality win over Sassuolo. Fiorentina did not found the deciding goal in Bologna and had to settle for a nil-nil draw. Empoli mounted a furious comeback to best Atalanta. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 13

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A competent showing by Juventus on Saturday, which put pressure and came through at opportune times against SPAL and came away with a convincing two-nothing win.

Alex Sandro (5 points): a meticulous performance by the whole back-line, which finally was able not only to keep the clean sheet, but also deny the opponent any good chance. Sandro had the tough task of containing SPAL’s best player, Manuel Lazzari, and rendered the enemy a non-factor mostly thanks to aggressiveness, which forced the rival to track back so much that he could not attack effectively. Even if he was unable to link up with a teammate on of his crosses in this case, he always serves as a precious release valve for the actions and that is especially true when Joao Cancelo is resting. Mattia De Sciglio did not do badly either, but the two are just at different levels playmaking-wise. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 13

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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

Juventus Top Performers – Round 12

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Juventus partly learned their lesson and managed to put the game away, avoiding a tense final, even though they could have gone for the jugular earlier. With the win, Juventus set a new Serie A record for points after 12 matches. Here are the top performers for each position.

Wojciech Szczesny (7 points): if the defense managed to keep a clean sheet in a big spot, a lot of the credit goes to the goalie, who was masterful on the Gonzalo Higuain penalty, guessing the right direction and diving beautifully. He needed that after a blunder against Manchester United. Giorgio Chiellini had his usual strong performance, while Joao Cancelo was rather quiet until partaking to the final goal, where his shot was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma but led to Cristiano Ronaldo’s tap-in. Continue reading