Spalletti full of praise for Icardi and Lautaro ahead of Napoli showdown

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Luciano Spalletti held his traditional pre-match press conference ahead of Inter’s crucial Serie A match against Napoli tomorrow night. It is clear the 60-year-old Tuscan is under no illusions about how tough an encounter it will be, while he was also full of praise for Argentine duo Mauro Icardi and Lautaro Martínez. Here is what he said to the journalists who gathered at the Suning Training Centre earlier this afternoon: Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 37

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Juventus: Leonardo Bonucci has recovered from his ankle sprain, Daniele Rugani from hamstring soreness and even Mario Mandzukic was able to practice fully late in the week after dealing with a patellar tendon problem for a while. Moise Kean has shaken off the flu. Giorgio Chiellini has picked up yet another calf ailment, but he is available. Miralem Pjanic is fine after twisting his ankle last week.

Napoli: Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have good chances to return after skipping one with muscle fatigue. Nikola Maksimovic and Amadou Diawara are close to healing from their foot infractions. David Ospina is still in Colombia for personal reasons, while Adam Ounas remains questionable after missing one. Continue reading

Škriniar happy and proud to extend Inter contract

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On the day he extended his Inter contract until the summer of 2023, Milan Škriniar spoke of his delight to Sky Sport and Inter TV. Here is what the Slovak defender had to say: “It’s a great milestone for me, I’m very happy to have extended my contract with Inter and I’m proud that I’ll be able to wear this shirt in the future. I want to thank the club and the fans for the confidence that they’ve always shown in me. Continue reading

Assessing the market for wingbacks in Serie A

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After goal keepers and center backs, let’s assess the wing back market in Serie A. Let’s start by looking at the current depth chart for the top teams in the league:

Juventus- on paper the bianconeri are in great shape at the position after acquiring Cancelo last summer and signing Alex Sandro to an extension during the season. In addition, Spinazzola showed flashes of being a starting caliber wingback at a top club while De Sciglio is an adequate backup. However, should Allegri stay on at the club, it’s not out of the question Cancelo is sold and replaced with a more defensive right back.

Napoli- we witnessed a transition at the position for the partenopei. Hysaj and Ghoulam can no longer be considered the starters and while Malcuit is an intriguing option at least offensively, in order to take a leap forward Napoli simply can’t rely on Mario Rui as much. Napoli have been heavily linked with Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier.

Inter- it’s probably not a good sign that despite bringing in numerous new faces (Vrsaljko, Asamoah, Soares) the nerazzurri’s best wing back ended up being D’Ambrosio. Asamoah may be energized by Conte’s expected arrival but on the opposite side of the pitch, we’ll almost certainly see a new addition with Manchester City’s Danilo at the top of the list.

Atalanta- going into the season Gosens and Hateboer were the most underrated starting wingback duo in Serie A , but thanks to Atalanta’s great season they are no longer under the radar. Castagne has taken an extra step in his development and looks to be a star in the making. Even though they’ll be competing on multiple fronts, Atalanta will probably have to replace at least one of these three.

Milan- the rossoneri are so deep at this position that I had honestly forgotten they still had Strinic on the squad. Calabria and Conti are both starting caliber right backs and compliment each other quite well skill set wise, on the left side both Rodriguez and especially Laxalt have failed to live up to expectations.

Roma- the giallorossi invested heavily in Karsdorp two years ago and gave Florenzi a rich extension during the season. Kolarov continues to be one of their most important players at 33, while Santon can only be considered a backup. Luca Pellegrini could be the long term answer at left back.

Lazio- after Marusic took a substantial step compared to last season, sporting director Tare’ brought in Romulo in January. Just like Kolarov at cross town rivals Roma, the biancocelesti still heavily rely on a 33 year old in Lulic at the left wing.

 

Here are the wingbacks currently in Serie A who are expected to be in the transfer news headlines:

Joao Cancelo- could the talented Portuguese wingback leave Juventus after just one season same way he did at Inter? Should Allegri stay in Turin that is not out of the question and despite investing 40 million on him less than a year ago, Juventus could turn a profit when you consider how scarce the right wing back market. Joao Cancelo could be a great fit in the Premier League should he change teams once again.

Timothy Castagne- it will be interesting to see if Atalanta chooses to sell Gosens in the summer and give the starting job to Castagne or sell the most precious asset since Castagne has clearly higher upside and value. The 23 year old Belgian international has already scored 4 goals this season and has all the tools needed to be a starting left back on a top team in the near future. Castagne has already been linked to both Milan and Inter as well as teams abroad.

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Manuel Lazzari- it wasn’t particularly surprising to see SPAL turn their season around once the 25 year old wing back returned from an injury earlier this year. At times it felt like manager Semplici’s offensive game plan was to give the ball to Lazzari to see if he could make it down the flank for a pin point cross. Lazzari has been previously linked to Napoli but would also be a great fit at Inter playing for Conte or at Lazio where he would be a considerable upgrade over Marusic/Romulo.

Nicola Murru- the former Cagliari left back has been in our lives for so long that it’s hard to believe he’s only 24, He’s now ready to make the leap at a bigger club after completing the next phase in his development at Sampdoria. Murru could be an intriguing fit at Lazio, Napoli and Roma.

Diego Laxalt- obviously Higuain and Caldara ended up being massive disappointments for Milan this season for different reasons, but Laxalt isn’t that far behind in this ranking of underachievers. The Uruguayan performed very well in the World Cup last summer following a strong season at Genoa, he looked more than ready to take a leap at a club like Milan. Laxalt would be an ideal fit on a club that uses a 3 man center back defense so his own coverage liabilities can be minimized.

Ola Aina- Torino acquired him in the summer on loan with an option to buy set at 10 million euro and considering his strong performances, there’s no doubt Torino will exercise this right- but there maybe teams with deep pockets looking to pounce on opportunity to sign a left back with Serie A experience who won’t turn 23 until October of this year for an even higher amount.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo- the Empoli left back made the most of his first season in Serie A and will certainly remain in Italy’s top division even if his current club gets relegated. Di Lorenzo could be a great option for a team like Atalanta, Torino, Fiorentina and Sampdoria should they decide to sell their current starter.

Cristiano Biraghi- the former Inter youth team product had an excellent start to the season which culminated with making his debut on the senior Azzurri squad. But with Fiorentina collapsing in the second half of the season, there has been a lot less buzz surrounding Biraghi’s name.

Rogerio/Lirola- the two Sassuolo wingbacks have quite a bit of experience in Serie A despite being 21 years old. Squinzi’s club shrewdly acquired Lirola outright from Juventus for 7 million last year, while Rogerio has already been linked to Chelsea during the January window as a potential replacement for Emerson Palmieri. Look for at least one of them to move to a bigger club this summer.

 

 

Spalletti insists Inter are fully-focused on securing Champions League berth

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Luciano Spalletti spoke to the media ahead of Inter’s crucial Serie A match against Chievo tomorrow night. Here is what the 60-year-old said to the journalists who gathered at the Suning Training Centre earlier this afternoon: Continue reading

Chievo clash is an absolute must win for Inter

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Just under 12 months ago, Inter secured their long-awaited return to the UEFA Champions League group stage thanks to the most dramatic of late turnarounds against fellow hopefuls Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico. Despite being comfortably in third place for the vast majority of the current campaign, the Nerazzurri have once again shown an unenviable desire to make life difficult for themselves. Indeed, with three games remaining this season, qualification for next season’s edition of Europe’s premier club competition looks far from certain though, crucially, Inter’s fate still very much in their own hands. Continue reading

Summer Shopping: Serie A’s Top Five Targets

With the year winding down to a close, most Serie A sides already have one eye on the summer transfer window. While this past season may not have gone to plan for most of Serie A’s elite, a majority of them are just a couple of additions away from being serious competitors. Here’s one player for each of the league’s top five. For brevity, Atalanta and Lazio among others have been excluded.

1) Juventus: Tanguy NDombele (Lyon)

After yet another European failure, it’s time Juventus address their midfield issues once and for all. Lyon’s Tanguy NDombele is among world football’s hottest prospects in the middle of the park, and has demonstrated he’s ready to play for a bigger club. Just this season, NDombele went head-to-head with both Barcelona and Manchester City’s deep midfield ranks, and did not look one bit out of place.

Just recently, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas came out and said he’d willingly sell NDombele to Juventus ahead of other suitors, provided “his friend” Andrea Agnelli pays up. The Frenchman would slot in seamlessly alongside Ramsey and Pjanic, however, it remains to be seen if NDombele is a concrete target for Juventus.

2) Napoli: Donny van de Beek (Ajax) 

The Ajax midfielder may not get as much credit as his fellow compatriots Frenkie de Jong, and Matthijs de Ligt, but he’s proven to be just as important for them between the lines. van de Beek burst onto the scene this season, and emerged as a essential aspect to Erik ten Hag’s tactical schemes, roaming between the opposition’s lines at will, and getting himself into dangerous scoring positions. Outside of his crucial goals against Juventus and Tottenham, van de Beek is good with the ball at his feet like most Ajax graduates, and would slot in wonderfully into Napoli’s midfield.

Since Hamsik’s departure, the partenopei have lacked a driving force in the midfield, and van de Beek could prove to be exactly what’s needed. Alongside Fabian Ruiz, expect the Dutchman to wreck havoc. Napoli could also use a fullback, but that goes without saying.

3) Inter: Timothy Castagne (Atalanta)

Inter are one of the most well-rounded outfits in Serie A outside of Napoli and Juventus, and don’t require much tweaking this summer. With Mauro Icardi and Lautaro Martinez up top, and the trio of de Vrij, Skriniar and Godin at the back, Inter are simply lacking a manager to put it all together. Should Antonio Conte arrive as it’s being reported, he will undoubtedly field a back three, with his traditional wing-backs in a 3-5-2 setup.

With both the back-line and strike partnership more or less sorted as well as the midfield, Inter could use another wingback as they are unlikely to redeem Vrsaljko or Cedric. Here’s where Atalanta’s Timothy Castagne comes in. The Dutchman has been a key element to Gasperini’s side over the years as a wing-back, and is a traditional Conte player. Castagne’s play is eerily reminiscent of a prime Stephan Lichtsteiner, however, blessed with more end-product. As a result, I expect him to become a priority for Marotta, whether or not Conte arrives.

4) Roma: Juan Musso (Udinese)

This past summer Roma tried replacing Alisson with Swedish international Robin Olsen, and Serie A journeyman Antonio Mirante. Neither have proven to be a long-term solution to the departed Brazilian, leaving the giallorossi without a reliable number one going into next season. Luckily, there are a number of up and coming shot-stoppers in Serie A that Roma could turn to.

While Alessio Cragno and Alfred Gomis are interesting options, Roma should look no further than Udinese’s Juan Musso. The Argentine has gone from strength to strength this season, and has made the number one spot his own in Friuli with a string of impressive performances. In the past, Roma have shown a propensity to take a risk on goalkeepers on the cusp, and should do the same with Musso. They won’t regret it.

5) Milan: Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) 

Where to begin with Milan? The rossoneri could use a creative midfielder, a left winger and arguably another centre back. Ajax’s Ziyech checks off two of these boxes and should be made a priority in Milanello. With just a 25 million euro release clause, Ziyech is both cost-effective, and has the potential to become a world class player in the near future.

As he’s typically deployed as a ball dominating, out-and-out winger, his signing would take off some of the creative burden from the likes of Suso, Paqueta, and would even allow Calhanoglu to feature centrally more regularly. Not to mention, Ziyech has tormented elite opposition this season, be it in the Champions League or in the Eredivisie. Milan shouldn’t say no to his teammate David Neres either if Ziyech isn’t feasible.

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Ranocchia insists Inter must always aim to be the best

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Having recently extended his contract with Inter until the summer of 2021, Andrea Ranocchia discussed his passion for the Nerazzurri colours during an interview with Sky Sport earlier this week. Here is what the Italian defender had to say about his love of the club and the race to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage: Continue reading

Politano determined to fire Inter into Champions League

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Matteo Politano spoke to Mediaset earlier this week ahead of Monday night’s crucial Serie A match between Inter and Chievo at San Siro. Here is what the 25-year-old winger had to say: “There are still three games to go. We have a small advantage; therefore, we must do well to achieve our goal as soon as possible. Chievo have already been relegated but there are no gifts in this league. They’ll come to Milan with clear heads and with nothing to lose. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 36

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Juventus: Paulo Dybala (calf), Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh), Emre Can (thigh) and Alex Sandro have resumed practicing fully and therefore should be available on Sunday, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Daniele Rugani (thigh) will not come back this week. Federico Bernardeschi is suspended. Moise Kean is out with the flu, Leonardo Bonucci with a bruised ankle.

Napoli: David Ospina is on personal leave to tend to a personal matter in Colombia. Nikola Maksimovic (toe) is slated to remain on the shelf, while Amadou Diawara (foot) got in a full practice after a long time, so he might be called up. Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Adam Ounas have been surprisingly ruled out due to small ailments.
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