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

Serie A Game of the Week – Round 38: Lazio vs Inter

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A clear-cut choice this week for game of the week, as Lazio-Inter was simply one of the most dramatic and flat-out best matches of the season and obviously had a lot of stake. The Nerazzurri had just one result to qualify to the next Champions League and they had to win on the road against a team that has arguably performed better all year long. However, showing great character and determination and seizing the opportunities presented to them, they were successful.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 38

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The final round was a fitting end to a very entertaining season.

Standings implications. Inter won the battle of Olimpico and qualified to Champions League over Lazio thanks to the head-to-head record. Milan battered Fiorentina and held onto the sixth-spot, so Atalanta will have to go through the lengthy Europa League playoffs this summer. Crotone are the third relegated team after Benevento and Hellas Verona: SPAL, Cagliari, Chievo and Udinese all ended up winning, so they would not have avoided the drop even if they had prevailed against Napoli.  Continue reading

Serie A Player Status Updates – Round 36

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Injuries pile up at the end of the season and unfortunately some top players got caught.

Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is suspended, while Mario Mandzukic will be held out due to a cut on the ankle. Giorgio Chiellini, Stefano Sturaro and Mattia De Sciglio are out with their previous injuries. Benedikt Howedes suffered yet another muscular ailment. 

Napoli: Kalidou Koulibaly is disqualified and Faouzi Ghoulam continues to rehab his fractured patella.  Continue reading

Serie A Game of the Week – Round 35: Inter vs Juventus

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Once again, the most anticipated fixture of the round came through in terms of drama, so Inter-Juventus is a natural pick for game of the week.

Inter came into the match looking to extend his two-game winning streak and keep up with Roma, which had defeated Chievo earlier on Saturday. Juventus were trying to bounce back after the tough loss in last week’s big match and put pressure on Napoli, which would play on Sunday versus Fiorentina.

Luciano Spalletti made a couple of changes to the lineup he was using recently, putting Antonio Candreva back in for Yann Karamoh and inserting Matias Vecino for Borja Valero, who was not 100%.  Continue reading

Serie A Player Status Updates – Round 34

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Some of the most recognizable players risks being out in the upcoming round, here are the updates on everybody’s conditions.

Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is trying to recover for the big match against Napoli after skipping one due to a hamstring contracture and there are good chances he will be able to. Same for Mario Mandzukic, who was unavailable in Crotone due to gastroenteritis. Stefano Sturaro has a sore Achilles tendon, Mattia De Sciglio is out with a foot injury.

Napoli: no problems for the Partenopei, other than Faouzi Ghoulam who has been out for a while with a patella fracture.  Continue reading