Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 28

Gianluigi Donnarumma (7 points): goals galore in Serie A in the last round and just two goalkeepers kept a clean sheet, Milan’s one and Wojciech Szczesny. Neither was particularly challenged, but Donnarumma did it against an better opponents.

Matthijs De Ligt (9 points): the Dutch centre-back rounded out Juventus’ trashing of Lecce with an easy finish from close range, notching his third goal of the season. He was the top point-getter over the weekend. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 28

Standings implications: Juventus took care of business against Lecce, but Lazio came back late against Fiorentina, so the gap between the title contenders stays at four points. Inter came back to life late and rallied against Parma, so the top four teams were all successful. Atalanta needed an extra effort to down Udinese but kept cruising, enlarging the cushion over Roma, which were defeated by Roma, and staving off Napoli’s push. The Partenopei breezed past SPAL. A quality W for Milan, which built a little lead over Verona in Europa League race, as the Scaligeri were pipped at the post by Sassuolo. Two consecutive wins for Cagliari, which toppled Torino and are looking to re-join the rest of the bunch fighting for a continental berth. Bologna returned to winning ways by outlasting Sampdoria. Down low, Genoa could not fully expolit a favorable round and gained just a bit of separation over Lecce by tying with Brescia, but they are now on a par with Sampdoria, which lost again.

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Juventus Top Performers – Round 28 vs Lecce

Juventus jogged around in the first half, but key mistakes by the opponents paved the way to what ended up to be a larger-than-deserved rout. Lecce caused some troubles at the beginning of the game, but were the cause of their own demise for the second straight round.

Matthijs De Ligt (9 points): just two defenders on the pitch and they got to rest for half of the contest since the lights went off for the Salentini after the red card. The start was not promising as the lack of focus in the back-line was palpable, but no harm was done in this case despite a pair of chances. The Dutch starlet came through on the other hand with a freebie for the four-nil. Wojciech Szczesny had no saves. Continue reading

Fan Zone: Giuseppe on Del Piero & Trezeguet plus Juve’s weaknesses!

In the latest Q&A, Giuseppe Bognanni- a massive Juventus fan- shares many of the highlights as a supporter of the Bianconeri but also brings up one of the lowest points summed up by the serious injury to club legend Alessandro Del Piero against Udinese.

Giuseppe provides some expected answers but he also raises some intriguing points. Without any further delay, let us get to the main topics discussed in the Q&A.

1) Name your 3 all-time favorite Juve players. Why did you choose them? 

Alessandro Del Piero – Much of this has to do with this unique connection I’ve built with Del Piero. Now looking back, I can confidently say it is because we both entered the serious phase of our football at the same time. Del Piero as a professional Juventus player, and myself as a true and committed supporter.

I grew up with his skills, “alla Del Piero” free-kicks and goals. I remember wearing laces around my football socks as he did. As strange as this may sound, I felt pain when he was injured against Udinese. Seeing him fighting to come back was an example for me during my youth. I cried tears of joy when he scored against Germany in World Cup 2006. A few weeks later he proved himself again as a man of values, leading by example and staying at Juventus despite not knowing if we would be relegated into the third or second division.

David Trezeguet - Quando gioca segna sempre Trezeguet” which translates to “When he plays, Trezeguet always scores”… David is the foreign player with most goals for Juventus. I loved seeing him paired with Alex. When both were starting, I always felt reassured and I was confident goals would arrive. He could disappear from the game but as soon as the ball was in the area or let me just say “his” area, it was a moment of panic for the defenders. He was elegant and humble but also a real killer in front of goal.

Edgar Davids –  If it hasn’t become clear by now, let me just say Alex and David are above all the rest in my opinion. A third pick is always tough- Juve featured the likes of Zidane, Pavel Nedved, Marchisio and Paolo Montero… but if I am forced to choose then Edgar Davids makes it to the podium. He was an absolute beast. He had the Grinta of someone like Gennaro Gattuso but was way more technical. Remember the Nike promotions? Davids with his glasses on, his swagger… How could any young Calcio fan resist?

2) From the current team name your favorite Juve player by position (One each from DEF, MID and ATT).

First, let me just say that my chosen players are linked to each other despite not being from the same country and despite playing in different positions. All three arrived young at the club yet came with great potential- particularly the Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt and of course La Joya Paulo Dybala. Don’t forget Rodrigo Bentancur who represented Uruguay during World Cup 2018 and then in Copa America 2019 when he was entrusted with and duly converted his penalty-kick in the shootout (Peru would eliminate Uruguay on penalties).

DEF: Matthijs de Ligt. I am going to start off by saying Matthijs is my boy! He is the young and talented defender several of the big clubs wanted to sign. Without hesitation he preferred Juve over those elite teams. He’s already learning Italian which is also a sign he’s a smart young man who does everything possible to adapt to his new reality. Being so young and receiving so much criticism after his debut for Juve were hard enough to knock down many others but not him

MID: Rodrigo Bentancur. The young Uruguay midfielder was called the new Zinedine Zidane by my father. That should be enough, onto the next pick Dybala! He’s probably exaggerating a bit but the idea is there. I was at the stadium against Udinese and I noticed Rodrigo was impressive. Against Udinese (something about that team and Juve) he played his first game as a Regista instead of Miralem Pjanic. What a game. What a player. Bentancur showed the vision, defensive skills, forward thinking and fast thinking too. Overall, he rarely ever complains and he has accepted the fact he arrived young and needed to learn and work hard to be in the Starting XI yet he has not given up. He is taking his chances and impressing!

ATT: Paulo Dybala. Paulo has been at Juve for five seasons now and while he has had his ups and downs, no one can deny his immense talent. A times, he was not placed in the ideal position to shine. He may not have a great right foot, but La Joya more than makes up for it with an incredible left-foot. Most importantly, he showed many times how much love he has for Juve.

3) Most important Juve victory in your lifetime? Why?

Being a Juventus fan is great because you have a lot of victories to choose from. To my great misfortune I’m a Libra and when the choices are too many I start doubting. So as  a Libra I get extra allowance and therefore I am picking two victories not one!

Udinese – Juventus 0-2 on May 5th, 2002- It is so important because it represents our famous motto “Fino alla Fine” and more. Can you imagine Lazio beating Inter 4-2 but Juve not believing in a comeback and failing to beat Udinese? That would have been tragic! Luckily, we not only have famous catch phrases but we believe in them too- as a club, a squad and as fans!

Juventus – Parma 4-1 on September 11th, 2011- The wind was changing. A game plan executed so well that as a Juventino- and after two consecutive 7th places- you truly felt the club was entering a new era.

4) Name your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

I am definitely going with Juventus-Milan on October 2nd, 2011. The final result was a memorable 2-0 win.

It was my first time at the Juventus Stadium with my father, brothers and other family members. We played incredibly well against the title holders. Everything was perfect. The late Claudio Marchisio brace was crazy. What a remarkable game on all levels. Simply put, Juve’s back!

And seeing my father jumping from his seat and finding him 5 rows below, celebrating with Juve fans we never met before was crazy but unforgettable.

5) Pick two from Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, and Arturo Vidal for your midfield, and why?

People who follow me on twitter or YouTube know how much I love Paul Pogba. When you read Marchisio, I read Juventus. Still, if I must choose only two for a perfect 4-4-2 than I go for Pirlo and Vidal.

Pirlo’s vision, ability to find impossible passing lanes, his greatness at short and long range passing, his leadership and free-kicks are unparalleled. He gives you that sense of security and you know he’ll invent something out of nothing. He will come up with a genius move.

And what about Vidal? I say Vidal because the genius needs a protector. A beast, a player you always want on your team. Vidal has great understanding of football, is a fighter, the perfect box-to-box midfielder and on top of that he will give that 110% for you. He is the poster boy for Fino alla Fine.

6) What is Juve’s main weakness? Is it the right-back or left-back position, or the  midfield which is often mentioned as the squad’s Achilles heel? 

From the moment our midfield was dismantled it became one of our persistent weaknesses.

I also think we have great individuals but not a great team. Our squad has a mix of skillful and physically strong players but they have often looked incompatible together. One of the major problems we have since last year is the Dybala and Pjanic tandem. It just doesn’t work. Miralem can’t play in a two-man midfield. He’s not fast enough and misses the physical attributes needed to pull his weight on the defensive end. He needs to be protected by two other midfielders.

Dybala can’t play in a 4-3-3 if he’s on the right side of the field. He’s lost there and tends to wander and then veer towards the center instinctively a lot during the game. When he plays as a Falso Nueve or in a 4-3-1-2 it’s even more clear how the two can’t play together. As we miss creativity and contribution from the midfield, Dybala goes back to start building and creating himself. That means Pjanic remains in the back without any offensive duties- they create an automatic overlap in duties.

Look at this season, when did Pjanic play extremely well? At the start, when Paulo was benched. When were Dybala’s best games? Inter, Udinese, etc all games where Pjanic was benched or injured. That in my opinion is also the reason why both names are always rumored to be on the way out- perhaps one must go?

7) Who is the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

I think this one is a given and you should know by now that I am sticking my neck out for my “football career partner” Alessandro Del Piero! The Del Piero pre-Udinese injury (the dreadful date of November 8th, 1998) was the goat. The real goat. Remember at the time Serie A was the best any elite player could dream of.

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 26 – Second Half

A surreal Serie A round still had a good dose of action and some massive results. Here are the top performers from the weekend.

Juan Musso (7 points): five teams managed to earn a clean sheet and, out of all the goalies involved, Udinese’s one had the most meaningful save, on a Federico Chiesa potent cross-shot that could have swung the Fiorentina match late.

Nikola Milenkovic (5 points): Fiorentina’s defence held up well versus Udinese, allowing limited chances, and the Serbian defender also had one of the biggest chances for his side with a strikingly quick volley that went just wide. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 26 vs Inter

Juventus broke through with a fairly flucky goal in the second half after a balanced first 45 minutes and actually for once gained steam after getting the lead and managed to control the remaining portion of the contest, gaining a monumental W and returning on top of the standings.

Matthijs De Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci (5 points): no separation between the two centre-backs, who perfectly tag-teamed to stymie one of the most vaunted striking duo in the League. They matched Romelu Lukaku’s physicality and contained Lautaro Martinez’s movements, and, as a matter of fact, even in the Nerazzurri’s best moments, the chances came from the ancillary players. Wojciech Szczesny answered the bell on the lone dangerous daisy-cutter from distance, while Alex Sandro put in the usual decent but not superb shift. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – UCL – First leg vs Lyon

Juventus fell into a coma for about 20 minutes in the first half in Lyon and that was enough to ruin a game that they for the most part conducted, or at least tried to, as the adversaries withstood a late push that could have easily led to a goal. The Bianconeri will have their work cut out for them in Turin against a very diligent team.

Matthijs De Ligt: the Old Lady keeps finding ways to give up wacky goals and the latest instalments was conceding while the back-line was all discombobulated because the Dutch starlet was on the sidelines getting treatment for a deep cut. It was a tidy performance besides that, but a goal is often enough to swing the qualification in this competition. De Ligt, with heavy bandage on his head, had almost a vintage Giorgio Chiellini performance in the second half and his recuperations deep into enemy territory set the tone. Danilo and Alex Sandro had plenty of room to attack but they did not take advantage of it due to a host of misplaced passes and crosses. Continue reading

Champions League: Lyon vs Juventus Preview

Champions League resumes on Wednesday, so Juventus will be back in the competition where they had the most success in so far, as they cruised during the group stage. If it was not for a late two-goal comeback by Atletico Madrid back in the first game, they would have prevailed in each of the six matches in the group stage.

Finishing in first position allowed them to land a fairly cosy match-up with Lyon in the round of 16, an opponent they have familiarity with, since they have faced them four times in recent years, winning in three occasions. The French club is also not having a particular great season as they are in 7th position in Ligue 1 and do not boast a particularly good record at home. Continue reading

The players Juve must offload this summer

Juventus remain tied first in Serie A, are in the semi-final of Coppa Italia and are still in the Champions League. Despite still being in contention on all three fronts, Juve’s unimpressive performances- for an extended period of time- highlight the need for change at the club.

Several players must be sold or released from their contract. Below is a list of the players who should no longer be part of the Bianconeri squad for 2020/21 season:

Mattia de Sciglio

The Italian full-back is often sidelined by injury or fitness concerns. There are three advantages to keeping Mattia: his relatively low salary, his ability to play as right-back or full-back and the fact he is Italian.

No wonder the Juve supporters- at least on social media- were divided when word broke out about a potential swap deal which would involve Mattia joining French champions PSG.

While de Sciglio has experience with Italy as well, there’s no point denying that he is often injured. He has featured even less than Aaron Ramsey and Douglas Costa- two other injury-prone players who have played more minutes than Mattia in the Italian league.

Daniele Rugani

Rugani is still 25-years-old but his future at Juve appears to be coming to an end. Every season the expectation is that Rugani will get more playing time and his chance to prove he can cut it at a massive club such as Juve.

So far this season he has managed a single appearance in Serie A. This is despite captain Giorgio Chiellini’s heartbreaking injury during the first weekend of action in Italy. Young signings Merih Demiral and Matthijs de Ligt have stolen the spotlight and already showed they are much more prepared to start for Juve this season.

Despite Demiral’s unfortunate injury, Rugani still cannot get any playing time with de Ligt partnering club captain Leonardo Bonucci in the heart of the defense. With Chiellini expected to return to action soon, it’s hard imagining Rugani getting much playing time. The best outcome for both club and player would be for Rugani to move elsewhere to cement his place as a starter while Juve can earn a decent fee from his sale.

Sami Khedira

The veteran midfielder- a former World Cup winner- turns 33 years-old before the end of the season. The German has started just 9 league games (with another 3 substitute appearances) in Serie A this season. Last season, he started just 8 times in the league with another 2 appearances as a substitute.

Such stats highlight not just the player’s inability to remain injury free but also his declining ability on a squad in desperate need of physical presence and younger legs to cover more ground. Khedira is also among Juve’s big earners in terms of salary.

Factoring in age, declining ability and a considerable salary, Juve should offload Sami in the summer.

Aaron Ramsey

Ramsey seems to do all the rights things such as learning Italian and he is well liked- whether by Arsenal or Juve fans- but has failed to meet expectations when it comes to the most important thing: simply being able to step on the field to play on a regular basis.

Ramsey has started just 6 league games with another 6 appearances as a substitute. Those are very poor numbers for a midfielder brought it not just to fill a squad member or serve as backup. Per revised figures, Ramsey is one of the club’s highest earners, behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.

To earn such a high salary, Ramsey needs to repay that with not just regular appearances in the league and in Europe but also some solid performances. The concern is Ramsey’s recent history does not bode well. He made just 14 league starts and another 14 substitute appearances in the Premier League in 2018/19.

If we go back to the 2016/17 season, he made just 13 starts and a further 10 league appearances as a substitute. Even during one of his best seasons in recent memory, the 2017/18 season, Ramsey made 21 starts and another 3 appearances as a substitute in the English league. Clearly, the Welshman has fitness concerns and a history with injuries.

Douglas Costa

Just as Ramsey, winger Douglas Costa spends more time getting treatment than starting matches for the Bianconeri.

So far Costa has started just 5 league games with another 8 appearances as a substitute. He is currently injured again. For the 2018/19 season, he made just 7 starts with another 10 appearances as a substitute in Serie A.

Costa is extremely talented and is very fast, but he just cannot stay fit or healthy. He is 29-years-old so it could be worthwhile to sell him this summer over keBreping an injury prone player who will make at most 15 league appearances next season. Juve should cash in and reinvest the money where needed.

Other names

There are a few other players who should be sold under the right circumstances. For instance, if full-back Danilo receives the right offer and Juve can make up the fee paid last summer then it would be wise to sell him. The Brazilian player is injury prone and was signed as part of the deal to sell Cancelo to Manchester City.

Another name to consider is Blaise Matuidi. The Frenchman can cover space and is a willing runner but this is football and at Juve he is required to do much more than just run around. When fully fit, Matuidi can track back and tackle, however, has poor control and is a poor passer as well.

Matuidi slows down the team and often kills the momentum when Juve launch counter-attacks. His need to take multiple touches to control or pass the ball mean that the opposition may have recovered by the time he released the ball or passed it to a teammate. Matuidi also turns 33 years-old in a few weeks.

Another player who should be sold is Federico Bernardeschi who is having an awful season. Bernardeschi’s last impressive performance was against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League in the Round of 16 last season.

If Juve’s management is looking to conquer and then dominate in Europe, some of the struggling players must be sold to make way for better players with the right skills. This summer is expected to be a decisive one in Juve’s quest to maintain hegemony in Italy and to win in Europe. The Champions League is the aim of certain club stars, particularly Cristiano Ronaldo.

 

Juventus Top Performers – Round 23 vs Verona

A bizarro game for Juventus, which had managed to weather a massive early storm versus Verona, got the lead through a super goal, but then caused their own demise with two avoidable blunders.

Matthijs De Ligt: after being bailed out by a VAR review due to a slight offside on a set piece, where Wojeciech Szczesny fumbled a very catchable ball, the back-line mostly held up against the pressure up until late. The collapse was sudden and self-inflicted, as Rodrigo Bentancur and Miralem Pjanic mismanaged a ball near the box on the second goal and Leonardo Bonucci, who had stood out until that point, got literally caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The handball was  accidental, but his positioning was way off and referees are consistent in punishing those kind of movements. Since Alex Sandro again did nothing of note, the nod goes by default to the Dutch youngster, who was not involved in severe way the two incidents. Continue reading