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

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

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 18

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The first ever Serie A boxing day will culminate in a tasty match-up between Inter and Napoli.

Frosinone-Milan: the Ciociari snatched a decent draw in Udinese in Marco Baroni’s first game, but they need some Ws as they have gotten just one so far and it dates back to October 28th. The window to reduce the gap is closing quickly. Milan are sputtering in the last period: they have prevailed just once in the last six fixtures, tying with Lazio, Torino and Bologna and losing to Juventus and Fiorentina. They have been unable to score in the past three games. With so little time to work with, the new coach did not change much, opting for a 3-5-2 and benching Joel Campbell to have one more midfielder, Francesco Cassata. Continue reading

Serie A Injury Report – Round 17

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Juventus: Sami Khedira should be back to the squad list after missing time with an ankle sprain. Joao Cancelo, Juan Cuadrado (knee) and Andrea Barzagli are not expected to return in 2018.

Napoli: Simone Verdi is likely to be called up as he has been working with the rest of the team for a week now. Mario Rui missed the last game due to muscle fatigue and has been excluded from the squad list again. Alex Meret has a sore shoulder that needs to be monitored. Allan has been ruled out due to back pain.

Inter: Kwadwo Asamoah is suspended. Matias Vecino (thigh) and Dalbert (calf) have been on the sidelines for the last few games, but they will be available. Joao Miranda is fatigued and is very likely to miss the game. Continue reading

Serie A Injury Report – Round 16

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Juventus: Joao Cancelo has a torn meniscus and will return after the break. Juan Cuadrado hyperextended his knee against Young Boys and he will not play in the weekend, while Medhi Benatia (knee soreness) has recovered. Rodrigo Bentancur is suspended, Sami Khedira will not come back from his ankle injury. Andrea Barzagli is out with a quad strain.

Napoli: Mario Rui subbed off against Liverpool due to a muscular injury that has yet to be evaluated, while Simone Verdi should make the squad list after being on the mend for a good chunk due to a pair of injury, the latest being an ankle sprain. Continue reading

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 Club of the Week – Inter

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Frosinone were pipped at the post as far as the award goes: their showing in Ferrara was as impressive as surprising, even though there were some positive signs lately and the pesky trident composed by Joel Campbell, Daniele Ciofani and Camillo Ciano gives them a puncher’s chance in the relegation race. However, Inter beat Lazio three-nothing at the Olimpico and therefore they deservedly get the shout-out.

The game was in doubt until the late afternoon because of inclement weather, but, aside for a quick downpour, it was generally not ruined by the rain. Continue reading

Serie A Injury Report – Round 9

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Juventus: Paulo Dybala had a little scare with Argentina, but his knee is fine. Daniele Rugani nursed a rib fracture during the break. The only injured player is Sami Khedira, who is dealing with a hamstring strain. Leonardo Spinazzola is close, but he has not been called up for this weekend.

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne has picked up a minor injury and will not be available. Kalidou Koulibaly returned early from international duties because of muscle fatigue and he is likely to rest. Faouzi Ghoulam (kneecap fracture), Amin Younes (torn Achilles) and Alex Meret (arm fracture) are inching closer to a return but the could be held out for another week. Sebastiano Luperto is fatigued. Continue reading

Luciano Spalletti should shoulder blame for Inter’s earlier wobbles.

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If you cast your mind back to how Luciano Spalletti’s team started last season, you realize that Inter Milan have been less productive this season. Before their one zero win over Sampdoria last Saturday, the Nerazzurri had amassed just four points from four games and sat 15th position on the league rung. That is nine points short of what they achieved after match day four in the previous campaign.

There are a couple of factors that have accounted for this bad start, and one of them could be laid right at the doorstep of the manager Luciano Spalletti. Spalletti has been doing a lot of tinkering with his team selection and system, which hasn’t helped them much. It’s quite understandable that the Italian tactician wants to his new recruits to bed into his method and assimilate his ideas very early in the season, but the lack of consistency in his approach has been problematic.

Now let’s photograph some of Luciano Spalletti’s confusion with clear illustrations.

In Inter’s opening fixture against Sassuolo at the MAPEI Stadium, the manger played a back four which comprised of João Miranda and Stefan de Vrij as center back pair, whiles Dalbert Chagas and Danilo D’Ambrosio played as laterals. In the midfield, Luciano Spalletti opted for Matías Vecino  alongside Marcelo Brozović with new signing Lautaro Martínez playing behind Mauro Icardi. The captain had Kwadwo Asamoah supporting him from the left wing and Matteo Politano on the other side. Inter dominated possession but was on par with Sassuolo on the number of shots on targets and corners. In the end, the home side held onto Domenico Berardi’s 27th minute penalty kick.

At home to Torino at San Siro, Luciano Spalletti altered his starting line-up and changed the system to a back three. Miranda was pulled out for M. Škriniar alongside S. De Vrij and Danilo D’Ambrosio to form a trio at the back. Š. Vrsaljko and Asamoah played as wing backs whiles Perisic and Politano attacked the flanks with Icardi as the target man. He maintained the midfield duo of Brozovic and Vecino.  Inter squandered their two goal lead before the interval as Torino rallied in the second half to level the score.

Against Bologna, Spalletti returned to a back to four and made three chances to the previous line- up. M. Škriniar and S. de Vrij continued their centreback partnership. D. D’Ambrosio and Asamoah played as lateral defenders. Roberto Gagliardini took the place of Vecino with Radja Nianggolan playing behind Keita Balde Diao. Inter produced an assured performance in the second period of that game, scoring three goals through Nainggolan, Perisic and substitute Antonio Candreva.

It’s normal for coaches to rest players in a league game ahead of a Champions League fixture, and given Inter’s absence in the European Competition for the past seven years, it was imperative that they started with a win on home soil. And before that, was a home game against promoted side Parma who are proving to be tough customers for the established teams in the league. Spalletti maintained a chunk  of the players in the previous game but still made two changes with Dalbert Henrique taking the place of Asamoah and Candreva coming in for Politano.

The change of players and systems means the manager is not wedded to one particular approach, but it sends the message that Luciano Spalletti is yet to find the right permutation for the team. Nainngolan is a huge character in midfield, dominant and very demanding. The Belgian is all about strength, passion, technique and athleticism. Playing him behind Icardi or Keita doesn’t seem to be the ideal fit. Nainggolan has proven to be a threat from A distance with his long range shots, but he is not a reliable creative player. He can function better in tandem with Brozovic in the middle of the pitch.

In Kwadwo Asamoah, Spelletti has got a versatile player capable of operating both as a left back and a winger, but Asamoah’s favorite position, the role he revels in, is playing behind the attack. Inter’s midfield is currently oversubscribed with the manager having to rotate between Borja Valero, Vecino and Gagliardini. However, the Ghanaian will be a vital component in the Nerrazurris charge for a successful league campaign.

It would have been ideal for inter to have approached the Tuesday’s Champion league game against Totteham Hotspurs in a much healthier position. The Nerazzurri didn’t look like a team prior to the 2-1 win over the English side. They looked disjointed and uninspiring, with their defending a bit abject this season. Luciano Spalletti’s comments after overcoming Spurs was quite significant about his team’s performance “We weren’t at the level, in a couple of areas, which we had prepared to be. Some phases of the game could have been managed better. “A victory like this, after having come from behind, gives us a lot of enthusiasm and allows us to believe more about the future’’

We can’t say how far Inter will go into the Champions League, but after showing determined spirit to come from behind to secure a very important victory they could go far. The win over Spurs proved to be a shot in the arm for Spalletti’s men as they continued with another victory away to Sampdoria on Saturday. Hopefully Inter will make up for their early stutters to close the gap on their opponents in the league.

Support for the manager was beginning to sag after a year, but winning two games on the trot should blow the doubt and lift confidence around the team. Talent wise, Inter are the best of the chasing pack, but Spalletti’s team need to be a real title threat by churning out consistent performances. The manager’s lack of clarity of how to deploy his players in the right system is what contributed to their poor start.

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Serie A young midfielders power Uruguay’s World Cup run

Uruguay v France: Quarter Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

The Russian campaign of La Celeste ended in bitter fashion as their main weapon Edinson Cavani was unable to play against France due to a calf pull. Uruguay displayed impressive organization and incredible sturdiness, but could not respond to Les Bleus’ blows in the round of 8. Lucas Torreira, Matias Vecino, Rodrigo Bentancur, Diego Laxalt and Martin Caceres had pretty important roles in Tabarez’s XI.

The defensive phase was the main focus of the Charruas’ not named Cavani or Luis Suarez, even though El Matador still tracked back a lot, and Torreira and Vecino, who started every game as the duo of central midfielders, had a prominent part in that mentality. Continue reading