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

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23

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

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 22

Wojciech Szczesny (7 points): just three clean sheets in this round, by Juventus, Inter and surprisingly Lecce. The Polish goalkeeper had the busiest performance among those involved, especially in the first half of the Fiorentina game, where he batted away a point-blank deflection by Federico Chiesa and answered the bell on a pair of potent long-range efforts.

Matthijs De Ligt (9 points): the Dutch defenders bagged his second goal of the season with a header on a corner kick and contributed to stymieing Fiorentina with the usually muscular performance. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 22 vs Fiorentina

Juventus came out with the right attitude in the Fiorentina game, survived a ten-minute lull in the first half, got the lead late with a penalty and then proceeded to earn a larger-than-deserved result to get back on track after the Napoli faux-pas.

Matthijs De Ligt (9 points): the Dutch starlet rounded up the score with a relatively easy header on a corner kick. The two centre-backs took turns in leading the defence: Leonardo Bonucci was flashier in the first half, thwarting a pair of actions, in particular a solo run by Federico Chiesa, where he intervened just in the nick of time before the opponent escaped unabated to the goal; the ex-Ajax man stood out with his physicality in the second half. Wojciech Szczesny’s contribution to the cause should not be overlooked as he prevented La Viola from getting the lead with three superb saves, two on point-blank attempts and one on a long-range effort. Alex Sandro had an unusual pep in his step after intermission, but pretty much more of the same out of him. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 21

Bartlomiej Dragowski: after a long period of time where they always conceded, Fiorentina have kept two clean sheets in a row and their young goalie shined. They will host Genoa this week, which have scored more than once in just one of the last five rounds. Among their defenders, Pol Lirola is finally on the up-and-up.

Matthijs De Ligt: the starlet has been impressive in the last few matches and, while the Juventus defence has had troubles blanking opponents, they rarely give up multiple goals and could be able to contain Napoli’s stammering attack in check. Continue reading