Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 31

LECCE-LAZIO

Lecce: another losing effort caused by the nth defensive collapse, but the Giallorossi looked a tiny bit better offensively versus Sassuolo, as Diego Farias returned to the XI and was livelier than Filippo Falco and Riccardo Saponara and Khouma Babacar did a little bit more than usual. The goals came on corner kick and then through the usual penalty kick by Marco Mancosu and it is pretty crazy how many fouls they manage to draw in the box. Antonin Barak has yet to recapture is best form after an injury, but he remains their most appealing non-Mancosu midfielder.

Suggested picks: Mancosu, Farias, Babacar. Continue reading

How might Lazio solve their striker emergency against AC Milan?

IMG_1556

The phrase ‘selection headache’ gets thrown around a lot in football journalism.

But it wouldn’t be a great surprise if the puzzle facing Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi on Saturday has had him reaching for the paracetamol.

The capital club came from behind to win for the second game in a row against Torino on Tuesday night, a result that kept Serie A leaders Juventus just four points away.

But their efforts came at a price, as strike partners Ciro Immobile and Felipe Caicedo picked up bookings that ruled them out of Saturday’s clash with AC Milan at the Stadio Olimpico through suspension. Continue reading

Serie A Fantay Preview – Round 29

TORINO-LAZIO

Torino: the Granata had a nice reaction after falling in an early hole versus Cagliari, but an untimely penalty did them in. Andrea Belotti has found the target for two straight matches and has been excellent missed penalty aside. Simone Zaza is unlikely to be present, but Simone Verdi and especially Cristian Ansaldi, two of their most talented players, saw minutes in the past match and could be ready to start, unlocking few options up front, first of all the advancement of Alex Berenguer. Ansaldi had a positive impact after he subbed on, Verdi might need more time and had been struggling prior to the lockdown. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 28 – Sunday Games

Milan-Roma: the Rossoneri had an excellent performance against Lecce, although the quality of the opponents, especially in the back, needs to be taken into consideration. The light front-line worked out wonderfully as Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Giacomo Bonaventura all scored and Hakan Calhanoglu dished out two assists. Even Rafael Leao netted one off the bench. It is set to be confirmed as a whole because Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be at most be ready for a brief stint. Rebic and Bonaventura have the biggest chances to take home bonuses and Roma are not particularly stingy, while Calhanoglu runs most of the offense. Theo Hernandez picked it up where he left off and was one of their engines.

Suggested picks: Rebic, Bonaventura, Calhanoglu. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 27

Fiorentina-Brescia: the Viola will welcome back Franck Ribery, at least in limited fashion at first, and the coach is ready to tweak is system to accommodate him either in the hole or on the left wing, joining Dusan Vlahovic/Patrick Cutrone and obviously Federico Chiesa up front. In the meantime, it could be Gaetano Castrovilli taking on a bigger role. Alfred Duncan and Marco Benassi have some decent potential.  It is an extremely appealing match-up considering Brescia’s defensive woes and absences: Vlahovic and Castrovilli in the particular were in great form before the lockdown. Continue reading

Fan Zone: Isak on Ibrahimovic, Romagnoli & other Milan topics

Despite his young age, Isak Möller is a knowledgeable and well-seasoned Milan fan. He is an integral part of www.sempremilan.com and you can find him on Twitter @Isak_Moller.

Below is the latest Q&A with Isak- again I cannot highlight enough how much of a big Milan fan he is! The club is struggling to win trophies but it does not mean the fans have disappeared! Here we go:

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Milan players (ranked by preference) and why?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: As a Swede, it would be impossible not to choose the big striker. I started following Milan (and football in general) in 2010, meaning the first season I watched in full ended with us winning the Scudetto! Zlatan was a huge part of this and we really missed him when he left. Even at 38 years-old, arriving for his second spell at the club, he has made an incredible difference.

Paolo Maldini: Although I never got to see him in action before he retired, it’s an obvious choice. The greatest players are never forgotten, and the defender is certainly one of these. Ever since I started following the Rossoneri, he has been the symbol for the red and black colors, keeping the club’s reputation intact.

Alessio Romagnoli: As mentioned, I wish I had followed Milan back in the day. But since that isn’t the case, it would be silly not to pick a player from the more recent years. Joining from Roma in 2015, Romagnoli has been one of our best players, keeping us from crumbling completely. He has certainly become a fan favorite, giving his all while wearing the captain’s armband.

2) From the current team, pick your favorite Milan player by position. Pick one for DEF, one for midfield and the same for attack, & why?

DEF: Obviously, I have to choose Romagnoli for this one as well. Although this season has been tough, the 25-year-old has continued to perform on a consistent level, which isn’t exactly easy given the number of changes made throughout the course of the season.

MID: Hakan Calhanoglu. Yes, I’m one of those fans. If there is one player that has divided the Milan fan-base in recent years, it’s the Turkish midfielder. You could argue that he’s inconsistent, but in my opinion, he’s a very important player even when he isn’t performing at his best level. Hopefully, Ralf Rangnick can help him improve further next season, should he arrive.

STR: Of course, Ibrahimovic. It’s no coincidence that the Rossoneri have performed a lot better since his arrival in January, seemingly elevating the likes of Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Ismael Bennacer. Hopefully, he will stay for next season as well, although it looks unlikely.

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

I would probably have to say the Champions League win against Liverpool in 2007, getting revenge on the English side. And since it’s the last time we won the competition, it obviously makes it a bit more important.

4) Your all-time favorite Milan match? Why? 

It has to be the Supercoppa Italiana final against Juventus in 2016. After beating the Bianconeri a few months earlier in the league, courtesy of a Manuel Locatelli rocket, we managed to do it again against all odds. It was also the first trophy in quite some time, and although I watched the 2010/11 Scudetto season (I was very young), this win meant more to me.

5) What’s Milan’s objective for this season? Is it making the Europa League, or perhaps the Champions League?

As always, the objective is to reach the Champions League. However, looking at the current standings, it becomes pretty clear that the Rossoneri will have to fight for the Europa League.

6) Where do you see Milan’s weaknesses? Is it the midfield or are the issues defensively?

At the beginning of the season, I would have said the midfield, or perhaps even the attack. However, since Pioli changed the formation to a 4-2-3-1, everything has worked a lot better. I think it’s just a case of getting better players, which obviously is something that Milan will work on this summer.

IMG_1556

7) Different from ranking your favorite Milan players in Questions 1&2, who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Milan jersey?

I think it has to be Paolo Maldini. In addition to being an icon of the club, he has also become an icon of defending. I don’t think it needs further explaining, really, as he’s known all over the world as a spectacular player.

8) Who is the most critical player for this Milan team? Is it Rebic, Ibra or Theo Hernandez?

For the time being, I think I speak for the entire Milan community when I say Ibrahimovic. Sure, you could argue that both Hernandez and Rebic have done better on the pitch. However, you can’t deny the Swede’s incredible impact on the team, turning things around after a poor first half of the season.

9) Who should Milan sign realistically? If you can pick 3 players to strengthen the squad ahead of the next season?

If I can only pick three players, it would have to be one for each department. Milan desperately need a centre-back, in my opinion, and signing a player like Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic would make it interesting for the future. For the midfield, the choice is obvious: Sandro Tonali. The competition is fierce, but I don’t think we should rule out the Rossoneri. Up front, there has been a lot of talk about Gianluca Scamacca, who certainly is a name for the future. However, if we need to replace Ibrahimovic, I’d say Arkadiusz Milik.

10) Why did Bonucci and Higuain fail to impress at Milan?

I think it was a combination of many things. Let’s just put it this way, Leo Bonucci wasn’t the only disappointing player that season, although it must be said he was very good under the guidance of Gennaro Gattuso. In the end, he clearly just got homesick. As for Gonzalo Higuain, he’s no longer the goalscorer he used to be. In half a season at Milan, he got 8 goals and 3 assists. This season, with Juve of course, he has 8 goals and 8 assists. Considering he has played more games with the Bianconeri, it’s not much of a difference if you ask me.

11) Based on the above, would you sign another player from the current Juve squad if he’s made available? 

I wouldn’t mind someone like Daniele Rugani, although he isn’t a personal favorite of mine. Merih Demiral would obviously boost our squad, but the price tag is simply too high. That’s about it, though.

12) When football resumes, do you see Milan with any realistic chance of making 4th to qualify for the Champions League?

Not at all, but you never know! I’m afraid we’ll have to settle for the Europa League.

 

Andrea Agnelli’s Superleague Represents All That is Wrong With Football

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has come under the fire for recent comments about Gian Piero Gasperini’s high-flying Atalanta, claiming they aren’t worthy representatives for Italy in the Champions Leauge. The Juventus president has regularly been on record in favour of a European superleague and criticized the Champions League’s current format.

In an interview at the FT Business of Football Summit in London, Agnelli said:

“I have great respect for everything that Atalanta are doing, but without international history and thanks to just one great season, they had direct access into the primary European club competition. Is that right or not?”

In case you missed it this season, Atalanta are primed to qualify for Europe’s elite eight having smashed Valencia 4-1 in their opening leg. After a rough opening three games, Atalanta found stability and did well to progress to the round of 16 against all the odds. In addition, Gasperini’s men are currently in fourth place, three points ahead of Roma with a game in hand, indicating last season’s success was far from a one-off.

Factor in that Atalanta are competing with Europe’s elites with a fraction of the budget, their rise becomes all the more impressive. In many ways, that’s what football is all about. It’s about the plucky underdog that defies all odds and finds a way to win. It’s about that team that goes against the grain and hits unprecedented heights when no one expected them to. If Agnelli’s superleague is put into place, these success stories will be fewer and far between if any at all, and would completely eliminate the magic of the sport.

For the last two seasons, Gasperini’s men have outplayed Italy’s traditional giants, pipping them to the final European places. Last season, they finished ahead of Inter, Milan, Roma, and Lazio and deservedly so. Despite this, Agnelli maintains their European qualification should not be guaranteed.

“Then I think of AS Roma, who contributed in recent years to maintaining Italy’s ranking. They had one bad season and are out, with all the consequent damage to them financially.”

If the superleague goes through as Agnelli wishes, it would reward clubs based on history and brand name, rather than results. In essence, the rich would get richer. In a society where elites control most facets of everyday life, football must reject this wholeheartedly and keep a meritocracy in place. Inefficiencies remain with the current system as big spenders are typically rewarded, however, less so than in a superleague, for example. In sports, most of the time, you get what you deserve. If you put in the work, chances are you’ll get rewarded accordingly.

Few clubs, if any, in Italy have innovated like Atalanta and have built a base for long-term success. Gli Orobici play an expansive brand of football, promote a host of youth talents annually and will soon be playing in their own stadium. While they may not be considered as one of Italian football’s pioneers, or one of the Seven Sisters, they shouldn’t be punished either for not being there from day one. A case could even be made that Atalanta are currently the nation’s most progressive side and represent all that is good with Italian football. 

Agnelli’s comments, while they may seem like one man’s opinion, represent a far bigger problem in football that currently exists. Europe’s elite have no regard for their league’s provinciali and will stop at nothing until the current format is blown up for their own benefit. Simply put, they’re in it for themselves. In an era where Europe’s elites have each other’s backs, the rest of Italy and the world, must do the same. Otherwise, we’ll be seeing the same 16 teams, if not fewer, every year fight for Europe’s crown. And where’s the fun in that?

Sign up to eurofantasyleague.com the game where football fans meet to compete.

 

 

 

Europa League Race: Contenders, Pretenders and Dark-Horses

As the season draws to a close, the race for European places intensifies. If the season were to end today, Juventus, Inter, Lazio, and Atalanta would represent Italy in the Champions League while Roma and Napoli would have to content themselves with Europa League football.

Currently, the table could not be tighter as just four points separate sixth-place from eleventh. Let’s now take a look at the main contenders, pretenders and dark-horses for the Europa League.

Contenders: 

Roma and Atalanta: As it stands right now, one of Atalanta and Roma are pretty much guaranteed to occupy one of Italy’s two Europa League spots. Gasperini’s men are six-points ahead of the giallorossi in the fourth and final Champions League place and will be eager to maintain their advantage to qualify for Europe’s elite competition. Given Roma’s recent form, they may slide further down the table, but it’s difficult to see them finish outside the top six. As a result, expect Roma to make the Europa league leaving one last spot for the rest of the pack.

Napoli and Milan: After rough starts to the season, Napoli and Milan sacked their managers and almost immediately witnessed an upturn in their fortunes. Napoli have now won four of their last five and seem primed for a strong finish while Milan are finally playing with an identity. With Roma almost surely occupying the first Europa League spot, Napoli and Milan will likely duke it out for the remaining place. Napoli, however, will need to be better against sides under them as they have demonstrated complacency in those clashes. Milan, on the other hand, have taken care of Italy’s provinciali, but struggle against Italy’s elite.

Pretenders: 

Parma and Cagliari: Both sides got off to the season in fine form, but have recently struggled for results. Rolando Maran’s Cagliari haven’t won any of their last five clashes while Parma have proven to be far too inconsistent. In addition to their goal-scoring woes, Parma lack creative depth across the midfield, which will come back to haunt them in their hunt for European football. Cagliari, by contrast, benefitted by some incredible finishing earlier in the year; exploits that cannot be sustained throughout a full season. Expect both sides to slide further down the table as the season wears on.

Dark-Horses: 

Bologna-Hellas Verona: These two are here for vastly different reasons. On one hand, Hellas Verona have one of the league’s best defences propelling them into the race for European football while Bologna have scored freely all season and have shown no signs of slowing down. While Mihajlovic’s men have struggled in their last two games, they possess more quality in the final third than their counterparts and could go toe-to-toe with anyone in Italy. The same applies to Verona, who recently overcame Juventus in a game where they largely dominated. Milan and Napoli may be favourites for the last European spot, but Verona and Bologna will make it interesting over the next 12 match-days.

How well do you know Italian football? Do you want to battle the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? Play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

 

AC Milan 1-1 Juventus: Ten-man Rossoneri concede late equaliser after VAR controversy

After taking the lead in the second half, Milan were heading towards an important result ahead of the return leg in March. However, instead, Juventus managed to find a way back into the game as Cristiano Ronaldo converted a penalty in the final minute of the ordinary time. 

For the Rossoneri, certainly, it’s a disappointing result after having defended so well in the second half, even with ten men. However, the performance goes to show that the first half against Inter wasn’t a fluke, which is a sign that the fans wanted to see from the team tonight. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Inter vs Milan

The Derby della Madonnina delivered in terms of entertainment value and was a classic tale of two halves, as Milan dominated before the break, but then Inter turned the table and earned a potentially massive win as far as the title race is concerned.

The Nerazzurri were looking to get definitely back on track, as they had won last week versus Udinese, but had tied three times in a row before that. Milan instead, after a three-game winning streak, had equalized with Verona. Continue reading