Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 24

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Juventus-Frosinone: the Bianconeri quickly bounced back in Sassuolo after the 3-3 draw with Parma and have won four times in the last five fixtures, fortifying their lead in the standings. The Ciociari have been pesky recently and they are coming off a surprise win over Sampdoria, their second in a row on the road, and they are now within striking distance from the 17th spot. With Champions League just around the corner, Cristiano Ronaldo might be rested for the second time in Serie A, which would mean more scoring opportunities for Mario Mandzukic, Federico Bernardeschi and Paulo Dybala, or whoever will compose the front-line. Continue reading

Three things we learned from AC Milan’s three-goal win against Cagliari

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AC Milan managed to beat Cagliari at the San Siro earlier this evening, completely dominating the opponents for a majority of the game. In fact, the Rossoneri set a new record for the number of shots on goal under Gattuso (11), which ultimately resulted in a 3-0 win.  

Once again, the new boys Paqueta and Piatek proved to be the difference the Rossoneri have searched for. The first goal, however, was gifted by the away side’s captain, Ceppitelli, whose touch on Cragno’s rebound put Milan in front. The lead was then extended just ten minutes later as Calabria’s wonderful cross was met by Paqueta at the back post, with the Brazilian making no mistakes on the volley.

Of course, Krzysztof Piatek couldn’t leave the pitch without getting on the scoresheet. As luck would have it, after a scrappy situation, the Polish striker was at the right place at the right time, putting the game to bed with Milan’s third goal. Down below are three things we learned from this important win.

1. Calabria proving his qualities amidst all the debate 

Davide certainly had a great game at right-back, further proving why he should be given the nod ahead of Conti, who’s a bit of a fan favourite. Defensively, the 22-year-old was absolutely flawless, closing down the right flank on numerous occasions.

When going forward, he wasn’t too shabby either. As previously mentioned, he was responsible for a beautiful assist to Paqueta, and he could’ve had a goal himself. However, Cragno just about claimed it after a nice flick by Calabria which beat the defender.

2. Paqueta once again crucial in every aspect

Since arriving, the Brazilian has started all of the games, which in itself is a sign of strength. Rightfully so, he’s been given the chance and boy has he taken it. Today’s game was no exception, as the midfielder continued to perform in the defence, midfield and attack.

His ability to link up with his new teammates, especially Calhanoglu, has quite frankly been stunning. This evening, he also got a goal to show for his efforts, making it all look so easy. Moving forward, he will continue to be crucial for Gattuso’s side.

3. Donnarumma’s 150th appearance – another clean sheet

Gigio, who’s arguably been the best Milan player in the last few weeks, made his 150th appearance (all comps) for the club this evening. Having kept 51 clean sheets ahead of the game, the Rossoneri defenders helped him add yet another to this tally.

Luckily for Milan, the number 99 has seemingly returned to consistently putting in great performances, as was further proven today. The defenders didn’t play poorly by any means, but their goalkeeper was called into action a few times, and he did everything right.

Overall, it was a great display by the entire team, and Gattuso should be happy with the efforts ahead of the important clash with Atalanta next weekend.

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When you invest in football at the right time & it pays off

Football is a strategy game and if you play your cards right you can keep your winning streak. Most clubs ensure that the managers and players just do that since it is a result-driven industry and business. With all the money that is at stake and all the investments made, no one can afford to let it go to waste.

But how do you put a winning strategy into place? Well, it encompasses more than just putting eleven men on a pitch. You have to think about the team's formation, select the right players for each game, make sure there is great chemistry within the team but also between the players and managers.

You make choices prior to starting the competition wishing it would just work fine. You select the best people available out there and aim for another successful season. Sometimes it does work perfectly and other times the contrary happens. And this is the time where you need to be smart and act fast if you want drastic changes. Being by acquiring new players or changing managers if needed.

We have seen it recently with the sacking of José Mourinho by Manchester United in mid-season. Following a bad start for the club, he has been replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer which has proven to be a successful decision. This type of change paid off in Premier League but some investments have been profitable in other European teams as well this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus is probably the most illustrating example. After 9 years with Real Madrid and more than 300 goals scored, he decided to take on a new challenge. In the 30 games he has played with the Bianconeri, he already scored 19 goals. The most notorious being the only goal against Milan allowing the team to win the Supercoppa final.

Another phenomenon of the Italian League is Krzysztof Piatek. The young Polish pistolero, is worth every penny the club spent during the winter transfer window. He replaced Gonzalo Higuaín that was not showing enough results for the club (8 goals in 22 games). It seems like the Argentine striker is doing a way better job at Chelsea where he already scored 2 goals in 3 games.

Piatek had already scored 19 goals for Genoa before his transfer. After only 3 games with his new club, he already showed tremendous skills and scored 3 goals. Not to mention that he scored twice for Milan against Napoli, a decisive win that sent them through the Coppa Italia semi-finals. According to Gattuso, Milan’s coach, he is a far better striker than Higuaín and the fans already adore him.

In the Bundesliga, Paco Alcácer is another impressive player. The Spanish striker had been loaned by Barcelona to Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of the season. He made a great debut with the club on top of securing decisive wins in his early games. Management was so impressed by his amazing performances that it decided to sign him on a permanent basis. So far he has scored 12 goals in 15 games.

In Monaco, there has been a lot of drama going on lately with the dismissal of Thierry Henry and the return of Leonardo Jardim. Cesc Fàbregas joined the club in mid-January and already illustrated himself. The player scored the winning goal for Monaco against Toulouse. This was his first one but an important one. This gives Monaco its first win in seven league games and allowed them to get out of the relegation zone.

These few examples show the importance of investing in the right people at the right time. If a team is not performing well then someone has to ring the alarm and make the necessary adjustments. When done properly it can have a huge positive impact on the team’s success.

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 23

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Juventus: Federico Bernardeschi will be good to go after leaving the last game with a chest injury. On the other hand, Douglas Costa is iffy due to a bruised quad and Leonardo Spinazzola has a sore ankle. Giorgio Chiellini (calf) will be out again, while Leonardo Bonucci (ankle) is making a late push to be in the squad list.

Napoli: Amin Younes is having troubles with the surgically repaired Achilles tendon. Raul Albiol is reportedly dealing with a patellar tendon issue that could turn out to be a very serious one.

Inter: Matteo Politano will serve the final game of his suspension. Balde Keita has been called up despite the coach saying that he is not ready. Borja Valero is out with knee soreness.

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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

Three Positives From Lazio’s Win Against Frosinone

With a number of teams vying for top four, Lazio desperately needed to claim the three points against Frosinone to maintain pace. While the biancocelesti weren’t at their best, Simone Inzaghi’s men did just enough to get the victory and remain in the race for top four alongside Milan, Atalanta, and fierce rivals Roma. As a whole, Inzaghi will be pleased with his side’s recent form, given their indifferent end to 2018. Here are three positives from Lazio’s win against Frosinone.

Opting to give Lucas Leiva a rest, Inzaghi fielded Milan Badelj  at the heart of midfield and tasked him with shielding the defence. Until now, the Croatian hasn’t lived up to expectations and has largely disappointed when given a chance. Against Frosinone, however, Badelj was at this best and demonstrated exactly why Lazio were so eager to snap him up this past summer.

The former Fiorentina man finished the game with the most aerial duels won, the most tackles, and the most ball recoveries. When Frosinone looked dangerous, Badelj was typically there to clear; something Inzaghi will be hoping continues, especially considering the biancocelesti are competing on three fronts.

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Serie A Match of the Round – Roma vs Milan

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There were a couple of compelling and down-to-the-wire matches in this round, but the most anticipated one did not disappoint, even though it was not the highest scoring one, so Roma-Milan gets the shout-out.

Roma were coming off four hellish days, as they wasted a three-nothing lead against Atalanta in Serie A play and more importantly were smoked by Fiorentina in Coppa Italia. The vultures have started gathering over Eusebio Di Francesco’s head, even though the recent results were actually fine, but obviously a 1-7 loss in a big black eye. Quite the opposite for Milan, who immediately reaped the benefits on their investment on Krzysztof Piatek, who carried them past Napoli in the domestic cup, and had tied with the Azzurri in the previous round. Continue reading

Three points against Roma would complete perfect week for AC Milan

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On Sunday evening, AC Milan will take on the team just behind them in the standings, AS Roma, who are within one point’s distance of the Rossoneri. In other words, Gattuso’s men will look to top off the week with yet another big win, following perhaps their best performance of the season last time out. 

Milan knocked out Napoli of the Coppa Italia after the debutant Krzysztof Piatek scored twice within just 27 minutes, certainly proving his worth straight away. In addition to the Polish brilliance up front, the Rossoneri’s defenders were fantastic in keeping the Partenopei’s attackers far from Donnarumma, as the away side didn’t get many chances to work with. 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

Atalanta and Sampdoria: Serie A’s Party Crashers

Every season there’s one team in Serie A that pushes above their weight and vies for European football among the league’s elite. With Lazio, Milan and Roma all fighting for top four this year, they all seem to have forgotten about Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta and Marco Giampaolo’s Sampdoria. Both sides have been in excellent form playing impressive football and have now entered the Champions League race without making too much of a fuss. Right now, the five teams are separated by a mere three points going into a crucial stage of the season.

Led by the eternal Fabio Quagliarella, who has now scored in 11 consecutive games equalling Gabriel Batistuta’s record in the process, Sampdoria find themselves just two points back behind fourth place Milan. Giampaolo has been able to get the most out of his men in his preferred ‘Christmas Tree’ formation (4-3-1-2) and has since attracted interest from the peninsula’s elite for his good work. Insisting on possession football and building patiently, the blucerchiati have dominated the opposition at times, and have proven to be a match for any team in the league.

While Quagliarella is the one bagging the goals, the impressive work done by midfield dynamos Dennis Praet and Karol Linetty should not go unnoticed. Juventus loanee Emil Audero has also manned the sticks wonderfully in his debut season in Serie A, especially with the veteran presence of Lorenzo Tonelli in front of him.

Atalanta, on the other hand, have played some explosive football this season and lead the league in scoring with 47 goals. In fact, gli Orobici have found the back of the net 16 times in their last four league games, three of which coming most recently in their comeback against Roma on the weekend. With Duvan Zapata flanked by Alejandro Gomez and Josip Ilicic, Gasperini’s side posses arguably one of the world’s most underrated front-lines. Zapata is currently on 15 goals on the season and has now scored in Atalanta’s last nine games in all competitions.

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