Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 24

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Samir Handanovic: Inter remain one of the most trustworthy defences and they have allowed the fewest goals at home. They will tangle with Sampdoria this week, which have been shutout in their last two games.

Faouzi Ghoulam: Mario Rui got hurt against Fiorentina, which paves the way for the Algerian left back, who is always a threat offensively. Napoli have kept three clean sheets in a row.

Jens Larsen: while Udinese are laboring as a team, the Danish is thriving as wing back and is much more involved offensively, even scoring recently. Chievo have given up a lot of goals as of late and have failed to hit the net in three of their last four road fixtures. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 24

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Juventus-Frosinone: the Bianconeri quickly bounced back in Sassuolo after the 3-3 draw with Parma and have won four times in the last five fixtures, fortifying their lead in the standings. The Ciociari have been pesky recently and they are coming off a surprise win over Sampdoria, their second in a row on the road, and they are now within striking distance from the 17th spot. With Champions League just around the corner, Cristiano Ronaldo might be rested for the second time in Serie A, which would mean more scoring opportunities for Mario Mandzukic, Federico Bernardeschi and Paulo Dybala, or whoever will compose the front-line. Continue reading

Allegri Must Make Amends With Dybala

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With Juventus entering a crucial stretch in their season, Massimiliano Allegri must put aside his differences with Paulo Dybala and find a place for him in his lineup. Immediately. 

When the bianconeri took on Parma last weekend, La Joya was left on the bench and stormed off in frustration after Allegri used his third and final substitute. The former Palermo man has since apologized for his outburst and was constrained to the sidelines once more in Juventus’ most recent win against Sassuolo, coming on in the 83rd minute.

This season, Dybala has seen a change in his role and has typically operated from deeper, as per Allegri’s instructions. The Juventus tactician even went so far as to dub him a “box-to-box” midfielder in a press-conference earlier this season. Adapting to a completely new role, Dybala has experienced some growing pains and has struggled to influence games from the midfield.

All too often, the 25-year-old wanders wide in hopes of carving out space for himself. What this leads to, however, is Dybala getting less touches near the opposition’s goal and far less chances to use his creativity to dictate play.

With Ronaldo occupying the sole striker position, it doesn’t leave much room for the Argentine international in the final third. Factor in Mario Mandzukic’s importance and ability to combine with the former Real Madrid star, and you quickly realize Dybala is an awkward fit in Allegri’s current setup. While the obvious solution would be to field Dybala behind Mandzukic and Ronaldo, it would take away from the Croatian’s aerial threat – something Juventus could ill afford.

Since being fielded on the left wing, Mandzukic has been able to bully the opposition’s fullback and take advantage of the notable height difference to head home crucial goals. Fielding him centrally again would make the former Bayern Munich man face off in the air against centre-backs and would reduce his aerial presence. This season, Mandzukic has been immense for the bianconeri and has established himself as their big-game player, scoring against Napoli, Inter, Milan, Roma and Lazio. Moving him positions at this point in the season would not only be detrimental to his game, but to Juventus’ overall play. So where does all this leave Dybala?

Over the course of his career, the Juventus playmaker has been at his most dangerous playing behind a striker as a trequartista. In this role, he’s capable of playing between the opposition’s lines and play off his teammate. Last year, Dybala scored 22 goals in league play when playing alongside Higuain – something that Allegri should not banish from his memory just yet.

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 23

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The next Serie A round will start very early, on Thursday, and stretch throughout the weekend.

Lazio-Empoli: it was not necessarily pretty, but the Biancocelesti returned to winning ways against Frosinone after three unsatisfactory results and now are in the fifth spot, tied with Roma and Atalanta, one point away from Champions League. The Azzurri came back against Chievo, collecting the second draw in the last three fixtures after a slew of losses, but behind them Bologna have gotten closer. The Biancocelesti are really banged up and, considering the minuscule turnaround, there is growing pessimism about the presence of Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto, who got hurt on Monday. Joaquin Correa should be able to play and in this scenario he and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic become very attractive fantasy assets and Felipe Caicedo could be a cheap plug considering he has scored in the last round. Valon Berisah and Riza Durmisi might be unlikely protagonists.  Continue reading

Allegri: “We will need the right type of performance to bounce back”

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri previewed the Parma clash earlier today: “Giorgio Chiellini’s injury is not too serious, but it will take him 10-15 days to recover. He is likely to miss the next two games and then we will re-evaluate him.”

On the lineup: “Mario Mandzukic will return tomorrow and I have yet to decide who to field alongside him and Cristiano Ronaldo. Somebody needs a break because we have spent a lot of energies, we need fresh legs. Martin Caceres is a reliable player and will pair up with Daniele Rugani tomorrow. Miralem Pjanic is ready, we will see about the box-to-box midfielder, I might use Federico Bernardeschi there. Leonardo Spinazzola has good chances to start, Mattia Perin will be in the XI. The most important thing is to get back on track.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 22

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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

Caceres and Benatia speak, Juventus sell Audero and road records

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The arrival of Martin Caceres was made official yesterday and the defender re-introduced himself to the club’s TV: “I am very happy for this return, this has always been my home. When I received the proposal, I looked back at all my years here. This jersey has been part of my heart. Everything comes in threes and it is the second time I join in January. I scored on my debut twice and they were meaningful goals, so I hope it will happen again. This team, despite all their winning, does not want to stop and that is how I felt about them looking at them from the outside. I have played in every position in the back-line, so I can be a jack-of-all-trades that can help the squad. I will bring enthusiasm and I will give my best, trying to prove every day that I am the same player I was when I left two and half years ago. As far as Cristiano Ronaldo goes, his career speaks for itself and he can prove in Serie A too what kind of champion he is.” Continue reading

Allegri on the Atalanta game: “Who makes fewer mistakes will advance”

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri talked to the press today ahead of the Coppa Italia clash with Atalanta and begun by updating on the injured players: “Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira are available, while I will evaluate Mario Mandzukic today, but he looks very good. Juan Cuadrado and Andrea Barzagli are out. Leonardo Bonucci will miss time too, but his injury is less severe than anticipated, so we hope to have him back as soon as possible. There will be some changes tomorrow, somebody will rest.”

On the defence: “We have four centre-backs and one of them is hurt, Medhi Benatia left. Martin Caceres is finalizing his transfer and if everything goes well he will be there tomorrow. Daniele Rugani has not played much thus far, Mattia De Sciglio can move to the middle if necessary. We will take it one game at a time.” Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 21

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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

Bernardeschi Shines in Mandzukic’s Absence

With Mario Mandzukic out indefinitely, Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri turned to Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi to provide the width against Chievo. While the Brazilian would steal the headlines with his thundering strike in the first half, it was Bernardeschi’s performance that stood out from the rest. The Italian made the most of his second start in three games, and dominated proceedings from the left wing, adding an assist to Daniele Rugani from a dead-ball late in the game.

The former Fiorentina man got the start in an unfamiliar left midfield role, yet proved to be a consistent threat against the visitors, combining with his teammates wonderfully. Whether he was taking on his man one on one or splitting the defence with an inch perfect through ball, Bernardeschi pulled the strings for Juventus. As Miralem Pjanic was rested, someone needed to pick up the creative burden; Bernardeschi did exactly that.

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