Standings implications: Juventus did not squander the second chance to wrap up the title race and took home the ninth Scudetto in a row with a two-nil win against Sampdoria. Inter leapfrogged Atalanta in second position with a comfortable win over Genoa, while the Goddess shared the spoils with Milan. Roma gained two points over the Rossoneri in the race to the fifth spot as they topped Fiorentina. Napoli helped those two team out by defeating Sassuolo in a bizarro game and there are no longer doubts regarding who will qualify to Europa League, it is just a matter of positioning. Parma eked out one in Brescia. With Lecce losing to Bologna in heart-breaking fashion, everybody is safe besides Genoa, even tough Torino could not beat SPAL, while Udinese bested Cagliari.
Atalanta: Rafael Toloi will miss the next game due to a hamstring strain, while Berat Djimsiti with a bruised quad.
Bologna: Ibrahima Mbaye is suspended. The infirmary is emptying out since Nicola Sansone, Gary Medel and Federico Santander are poised to be available following thigh strains, Roberto Soriano after a bruise, leaving only Mitchell Dijks (foot), Ladislav Krejci (knee) and Mattias Svanberg (thigh) on the shelf. Continue reading
Roma-Bologna: the Giallorossi are in a funk and have played just one convincing game out of the last five. They will be without Lorenzo Pellegrini due to suspension and it is a massive loss considering that he is the mastermind of their offense. They should get Henrikh Mkhitaryan back from injury and perhaps even starting considering the hole at no.10. The other option is likely Diego Perotti and they seem to always be awarded a penalty when he is out there. Edin Dzeko has scored in three straight games and they will face a pretty suspect back-line. Cengiz Under took a step back versus Sassuolo, but he is always pretty assertive when he decides to play, while Justin Kluivert has not done much since coming back from injury, but should improve over time. Paulo Fonseca has elected to keep Aleksandar Kolarov on the bench in the last two matches for tactical reasons, but the decision has not really moved the needle so the stud left-back should soon be back in the XI. Continue reading
Pau Lopez: Roma have not given up more than one goal in four consecutive contests and they will face the least productive offense on the League, Udinese’s, which has scored just five times so far. The Spaniard goalie is not very flashy but he gets the job done.
Matteo Darmian: Parma have a plus match-up on the docket versus Verona, which famously have trouble hitting the net. Their back-line is down to bare bones after the injuries to Bruno Alves and Riccardo Gagliolo, but it should be enough in this one and Darmian also participates actively to the offense. Continue reading
Parma were clearly the best team of the week as they rolled the reeling Genoa, even though a cheap goal ruined a glorious fantasy haul.
The Gialloblù were coming off a road loss to SPAL but had beaten Torino and Sassuolo in the last two home fixtures, climbing up the standings. Roberto D’Aversa lost Bruno Alves the day before the match and gave Kastriot Dermaku a chance in the heart of the defence, keeping Riccardo Gagliolo on the left flank, while Matteo Darmian returned from injury on the other one. In the midfield, Matteo Scozzarella and Antonino Barillà were chosen over Hernani, while the trident was the usual one. Continue reading
Atalanta: Luis Muriel returned in Champions League from his tonsillitis and thus they have no injuries to worry about.
Bologna: Roberto Soriano is suspended, while Mitchell Dijks is trying to come back from a ribs contusion, but he has yet to resume practicing fully.
Cagliari: Charalampos Lykogiannis is dealing with some Achilles soreness, while Ragnar Klavan has some thigh muscle fatigue. They are iffy for the weekend. Christian Oliva and Simone Pinna are under the weather. Among these, only Oliva has been able to recover enough to be called up. Continue reading
Salvatore Sirigu: Lecce have yet to score in this campaign and therefore Torino are in prime position to keep the clean sheet that has eluded them thus far, primarily due to the good level of the opponent they have faced thus far.
Francesco Acerbi: Lazio have conceded just one goal so far and SPAL are certainly not the most explosive side, so their defensive leader might be able to pick up some points during the weekend. Continue reading
A pretty eventful deadline day in Italy ended with the most anticipated news of the summer as Mauro Icardi finally left Inter to join PSG on loan with option. Roma finished off their summer with two more international additions: Nikola Kalinic and Henryk Mkhitaryan, while Milan brought in another striker in Ante Rebic, sending André Silva to Eintracht Frankfurt in return.
Napoli rounded up their attack by signing free agent Fernando Llorente, who is back in Italy after playing for two seasons at Juventus. The Spaniard has not been prolific with Tottenham, just two goals in Premier League in the last two seasons while he scored a bit more in the various cups, but they wanted a back-up for Arkadiusz Milik and he could be useful in late-game situations. Continue reading
By now, the board and Ed Woodward will have analysed which players will be part of the club’s long-term plans, and which individuals they feel that don’t have a future at all at Manchester United. And although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is only the interim coach at this moment of time, the hierarchy will surely be asking for his comments and vital opinions on who should be kept at the club at all costs.
On the other hand, some of the players who are used as a squad rotation will be given a few more chances to prove themselves before the current season is over. The Red Devils don’t have too much deadweight to carry like they used to a couple of years ago, however, there are some players that have been at the club for far too long or are simply not good enough for Premier League football.
Looking at the first team line-up as well as the squad depth as a whole, it can be easily stated that the club are in need of four to five new additions before they can mount a serious challenge in all competitions. And in order to achieve this, they will have intelligently sell a number of players during the summer transfer window, before they can go on to bringing anyone over to Old Trafford.
It’s time to look at the players that should be offloaded in the summer…
Although a lot of the focus is on either Chris Smalling or Phil Jones as the main weakness within the backline, not much has been mentioned or stated about the right-back Antonio Valencia. Despite being a natural winger in his peak years in the Premier League, he has shown to be a player that can just about defend his area whilst his attacking and crossing ability has become non-existent over the last number of seasons.
With his contract coming to an end in the summer, it would be ideal for the club to let him go on a free transfer or give him a contract and then sell him off for a small amount of money. In the end, as long as he is far and far away from the club before the next footballing season, then shall Manchester United’s defence be able to move forward as a whole on both sides of the pitch. Without a doubt.
Juan Mata has been in the Premier League for a really long time, and the only shame is that he spent most of his time in England as a right-winger rather than in his favourite position in the number ten role. The former Chelsea and Valencia player has never failed to come up with the assists and goals when it was much needed, though, he has been unable to produce the numbers on a regular basis.
As a whole, he simply does not have the pace or the physical ability to start as a winger, which dents United’s chances of producing successful counter-attacks. If the board and Ed Woodward are clever, they aggressively sell the attacking midfielder as he still has value and can become a superstar at a lower club, and it allows them to recover a fair amount they once spent on Juan Mata in 2014.
It’s actually incredible to see that Marcos Rojo is still a Manchester United player, someone who is constantly on the sidelines with injury problems here and there whilst receiving a contract extension that he simply did not deserve. Believe it or not, the centre-back has made the same amount of appearances for Argentina at the 2018 World Cup and for Manchester United so far this season.
Unfortunately for the 28-year-old, he has failed to achieve the potential he once had when he joined the club and has time and time again, proved to be an ongoing liability in the back line whenever he starts. Given that he is out of his depth and is a player that would not be sorely missed once he leaves the club, United will then be able to bring in someone from the youth academy to develop.
Following the departure of Jose Mourinho and the short-term arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Marouane Fellaini has become one of the few players that does not fit the current coach’s style of play and has also been hit with a few unfortunate injury issues. Not only that, he has hardly been regarded as a player that represents Manchester United as a whole and what they proudly stand for.
For sure, he is not athletic, intelligent or proactive enough to be seen as a regular starter or even as an option from the bench, but he did come up with the vital goals for when the side needed him the most during the Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho era. Now, that the club are returning onto the right path, the attributes and services that Marouane Fellaini provides is no longer required at Old Trafford.
Since completing his monumental move from Serie A to the Premier League in the summer of 2015, Matteo Darmian has shown his impressive versatility to play as a left-back, right-back and centre-back when required. On the other hand, he has failed to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League as well as the wingers that are filled with pace and trickery, which has led to him falling behind the likes of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and now Diogo Dalot for the right-back position.
The Italian international has only completed five league appearances so far this season, seriously implying that he wasn’t in Jose Mourinho’s plans and he isn’t seen as a player to be utilised by Solskjaer himself. With Serie A clubs in Inter Milan, Juventus and Napoli reportedly being interested in the full-back, it would only make sense for the club and the player to part ways in the summer.
Will Napoli hold on to Allan?
Paris St Germain have been enthralled with the Brazilian midfielder ever since they faced him in the group stage of the Champions League. The French club also have a great relationship with Napoli dating back to their deals for Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi and after offering to more than double what Allan currently makes, the player is quite intrigued by the move.
Napoli are notorious for being tough negotiators and considering they have no debt or Financial Fair Play issue, they can hold firm in demanding a Godfather like offer to let Allan go in January. Napoli have to also feel good about their great track record with finding midfielders on the market, Fabian Ruiz has been one of the best newcomers to Serie A this season and has ensured the midfield unit didn’t skip a beat despite Jorginho’s departure and Marek Hamsik being a year older.
Napoli have targeted Cagliari’s Nicolo Barella, Villareal’s Pablo Forlans and Celta Vigo’s Stanislav Lobotka as players who could help offset Allan’s departure. Considering that the former Udinese box to box midfielder is now 28 this would be the ideal time to sell and a massive transfer fee could make it easier to keep Koulibaly in the summer.
Does Allegri trust Rugani enough to let Benatia leave?
Many assumed that Juventus policy of letting the player’s will reign supreme with transfer moves would end with Beppe Marotta’s departure. But despite the more aggressive stance on market that came with the Cristiano Ronaldo signing, it looks like the bianconeri will continue to be open to letting players who want to leave go.
The newest player to do is Mehdi Benatia, who has seen his role reduced after Leonardo Bonucci’s arrival. The Moroccan center back is pushing to join Qatari club Al Duhail who are offering him a rich contract. While Juventus tried to convince him to stay, they are now looking for veteran alternatives with old friend Martin Caceres as the favorite with Ivanovic and Skrtel as alternatives.
The fact that sporting director Paratici is looking for a veteran could be seen as a lack of faith in Daniele Rugani who has never started in a significant Champions League and tends to play against the lower table teams. The former Empoli defender has long been seen as a potential long term to Chiellini, but he wasn’t able to capitalize on the opportunities given to him during the season Bonucci spent at Milan.
Will Milan be able to further bolster Gattuso’s squad?
Despite their strict Financial Fair Play parameters, the rossoneri have been able to add two expensive new additions in Paqueta and Piatek, whom they were able to pay in one installment. The rossoneri had the wiggle room to do so because of the significant savings on Higuain’s wages and the fact that Chelsea is paying half of the 18 million loan fee they owed Juventus for the Argentine striker.
While the moves they’ve made are already impressive, can Leonardo pull a rabbit out of his hat during the days of the Condor as they were called when his mentor Galliani used to run Milan’s mercato? The rossoneri are doing all they can to bring Yannick Carrasco back to Europe, but they can only acquire him on loan with option to buy and with the Belgian international taking a pay cut on his current wages.
Which wing back will return to Serie A?
They don’t call Italy “Il bel paese” (the beautiful country) for no reason. While players often leave Serie A to chase bigger pay checks, they are more than happy to return. This January we have seen Muriel, Gabbiadini, Sansone and Kucka come back and there’s a chance at least one between Matteo Darmian and Davide Zappacosta follows their path.
Lazio have been linked to Zappacosta for some time, but they are faced with some tough demands from Chelsea who are determined to include a forced option to buy in a potential loan deal. While Lazio maybe a bit more motivated to get a deal done now that Jordan Lukaku is heading to Newcastle, they will likely rely on Zappacosta’s agent Alessandro Lucci to work as a mediator with Chelsea to get better terms.
Darmian on the other hand has been a transfer target for Juventus dating back to his time at Torino, and now that Inter have closed the deal for Cedric Soares they are the only feasible Italian destination for him. So far Manchester United have been asking for a loan with financial considerations with a hefty option to buy to let Darmian, but now that there’s less of a market for him, they may just lower their demands.