Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 26 – Late Games

CROTONE-TORINO

Crotone: Simy bagged his eighth goal of the season, in pretty lovely fashion too, in the Atalanta game, but that was about it for their offensive production in a very demanding match-up. Adam Ounas, who was their top guy lately, and Samuel Di Carmine were late scratches and it is unclear whether they will be available for this one. Sans Ounas, they would lean hard on Junior Messias, who is seeking to snap out of a scoring slump. They lack punch in the midfield as Salvatore Molina, Ahmad Benali and Milos Vulic are all banged up, as Niccolò Zanellato, Jacopo Petriccione and Eduardo Henrique are not as offensively gifted. If one recovered, he would be among the top three options, instead the spot goes to Arkadiusz Reca (1 goal, 3 assists), who continues to wreak havoc down the left flank. Pedro Pereira is not as flashy, but he too has set up three teammates. Continue reading

Who should replace Gennaro Gattuso?

Napoli took aggressively to this past transfer window, securing Victor Osimhen for a record fee. The southern-based club was largely expected to challenge for the title this season but has since failed to deliver. While recurring injury problems have undoubtedly played their part, Napoli has simply not been good enough. As their struggles persist, reports suggest Gattuso will not last past this season.

Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis is yet to offer him a contract renewal, highlighting his lack of faith in the World Cup winner. A number of high-profile names have been linked to the Napoli hot-seat, including Massimiliano Allegri, Vincenzo Italiano, Maurizio Sarri, Rafa Benitez, and most recently Luciano Spalletti.

Let’s start with Allegri. Napoli would be lucky to have the former Juventus boss on its touchline, but his arrival remains unlikely. Allegri is reportedly holding out for his next opportunity and has his sights set on a move to England. While he would definitely bring some much-needed stability to Napoli, the chances of him arriving are slim to none.

Beyond Allegri, a sensational reunion with Maurizio Sarri has been reported. As the old Italian saying goes, “la minestra riscaldata non e mai buona.” Reheated soup is never good. The veteran tactician had his shot and brought Napoli as far he could take them. The season he spent in Turin with Juventus will not help his chances either, but as a whole, Napoli should stay away from Sarri. Their side is vastly different from the one he lead and would require a total shift in the way they play.

The same logic applies to Rafa Benitez. The only reason the Spaniard is being linked back with a move to Napoli is due to the familiarity he already has with the club. The former Liverpool boss is not a great fit with the club’s current project and would not be able to deliver the consistency they so desperately crave.

That leaves us with the final two options: Spezia’s Vincenzo Italiano and Luciano Spalletti. In many ways, these are arguably Napoli’s best two options to replace Gattuso. On one hand, Spalletti has a proven track record of results in Italy, most recently delivering Champions League football with Inter. While on the other, Italiano has impressed with Spezia and appears ready to take the next step to a bigger club.

Spalletti definitely offers more guarantees, but Italiano would introduce a fresh style of play, opting for an aggressive pressing system. At the end of the day, the final decision will come down to De Laurentiis. The Napoli president has proven he can swing either way – going with experienced options in the past in Benitez or Ancelotti or going the unproven route by hiring Sarri off the back of his breakout year with Empoli.

An article on Napoli’s managerial situation would not be fair without giving Gattuso a fair shake. Who knows – the Partenopei can still turn their fortunes around, string a positive run of results, and finish the season strongly. Crazier things have happened. Gattuso has already proven he can steady a sinking ship, leading Napoli to a Coppa Italia triumph last season, but appears to be in his final days.

Napoli would be wise to start considering alternatives starting with Spalletti and Italiano. While Benitez and Sarri are both on the table, going back with your ex is seldom a good idea. Let’s face it – neither would be able to lead Napoli to new heights. Elsewhere, securing Allegri would be a masterstroke, but the veteran tactician reportedly sees his future elsewhere.

With just 15 games to go and a big decision looming large, De Laurentiis has a lot to consider. Whether he opts for an experienced bench boss or the new kid on the block remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: He is not short on options.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 24 – Late Games

CROTONE-CAGLIARI

Crotone: as expected the Juventus clash proved to be too hard for them to overcome, even though Junior Messias got few shots off and Adam Ounas tried to get something going with his mazing runs. The duo will lead the way again here in a much easier fixture. Messias has bagged seven goals thus far, while Ounas scored on his second appearance with the Squali and will be facing his former team, which did not trust him too much. Samuel Di Carmine has quickly unseated Simy but has not really shined thus far. The coach initially tweaked his system in the past game, but the changes were not that profound. Salvatore Molina returned from a lengthy absence and he was dynamic early in the season (one goal, four assists). Milos Vulic has not made the stat-sheet but he has been very busy over the last couple of matches and could be due. Left-back Arkadiusz Reca (one goal, three helpers) has been one of their most consistent players. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23 – Late Games

PARMA-UDINESE

Parma: they did manage to score against Verona, thanks to a successful penalty kick by Juraj Kucka, but they lost again and their offense left a lot to be desired. The midfielder has tallied their last three goals. Yann Karamoh looked decently spry in his return to the XI, while Gervinho and Andreas Cornelius are stuck in an endless slump and the former is in pretty lackluster form. Joshua Zirkzee had a pair of chances after subbing in but did not exploit them. Valentin Mihaila was the liveliest out of their youngsters, but so far the coach has been very conservative in giving minutes to them. Jasmin Kurtic has hit the net a couple of times in the season and he is not shy when it comes to bomb away from distance. If they somehow managed to play more proactively, their fullbacks Andrea Conti and Giuseppe Pezzella would have some interest. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 22 – Top Matches

SPEZIA-MILAN

Spezia: Vincenzo Italiano shook things up against Sassuolo, going with Kevin Agudelo as false-nine over Andrej Galabinov and, while the bouncy attacker did not score, the solution worked out pretty well as he added an element of unpredictability and a ton more pace. It could be the solution here again as it does not look like M’Bala Nzola will be ready to start. Diego Farias is likely to be sidelined, which will allow Daniele Verde to stay in the XI, but so far he has had success mostly in Coppa Italia. Emmanuel Gyasi’s starting job instead has never really been in question and he returned to the stat-sheet after months in the previous match: he is now up to two goals and four assists. Their second leading scorer Tommaso Pobega (three goals) is back from suspension and their midfield does not have the same punch without him, even though Matteo Ricci has been a nice assist-man and Giulio Maggiore is decently involved in their offense, but not as effective as the Milan loanee. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 21 – Early Games

FIORENTINA-INTER

Fiorentina: the news for them is that somebody not named Dusan Vlahovic managed to hit the net, as Franck Ribery bagged his first goal of the season with a pretty play against Torino. The Frenchman had indeed started to show better recently: he also has four assists in the season, but he has had an hiccup in practice, which could allow Jose Callejon or Christian Kouame to get the nod in this one. Giacomo Bonaventura has been their only other scorer in recent games and he showed up versus Torino with an assist, thus picking up bonuses in two matches in a row. His role will be bigger due to the suspension of Gaetano Castrovilli. Erick Pulgar, who is first in line to replace the teammate, has some value due to PK duties, but he has not done much this year, while Sofyan Amrabat could move to a more dynamic position. Cristiano Biraghi is a secondary option as he has tallied one goal and four assists thus far. Their defense has been quite stingy but the match-up is complicated. Continue reading

Can Gennaro Gattuso turn it around at Napoli?

Gennaro Gattuso has been thrust into the hot-seat at Napoli in recent weeks, with reports suggesting his future is in doubt in southern Italy. While Aurelio De Laurentiis publicly denied all rumors and backed Gattuso, the former Milan tactician is still under pressure. Napoli slumped to back-to-back defeats against Juventus and Hellas Verona, adding further fuel to reports about Gattuso’s sacking.

Massimiliano Allegri and Rafa Benitez have since been touted as potential replacements but as De Laurentiis has highlighted, Gattuso will be given a shot to turn it around. The World Cup winner demonstrated his ability to rescue a sinking ship last season after inheriting a struggling Napoli side from Carlo Ancelotti. Gattuso instantly offered the Partenopei stability and led them to a Coppa Italia triumph.

While this season’s struggles are worrying, Napoli’s upcoming run of games will, in many ways, define Gattuso’s future. The Partenopei have since bounced back with consecutive wins against Spezia and Parma and will now shift their attention to Atalanta in the Coppa Italia semifinals. A game against Genoa is sandwiched between their intriguing two-legged tie with Gasperini’s side, offering them a chance to build momentum.

Napoli will then take on Juventus on February 13 before taking on Granada in the Europa League Round of 32. Gattuso’s side also takes on Atalanta, once more, but this time in league action. Make no mistake about it – February is the most important month in Gattuso’s tenure.

Should the former Milan boss steer them into the next round of the Coppa Italia and the Europa League, he will earn himself some temporary respite in the Napoli hot-seat. Clashes against Juventus and Atalanta will not be easy, but Napoli possesses the firepower and talent to get the job done.

Hirving Lozano is firing from all cylinders in his second season, while Victor Osimhen is expected to make his return to action this month. The Nigerian international has battled injuries all season and will be eager to put them behind him ahead of an important stretch. Andrea Petagna has deputized for the former Lille man in his absence and has largely done a good job. However, as the important games pile up, Gattuso will want his record signing at his disposal.

Gattuso has earned himself the opportunity to lead Napoli out of this tough time and oversee the Partenopei into a difficult month of February. While Gattuso is in De Laurentiis’ good graces for the time being, he cannot afford to get too comfortable. Elimination from the Europa League and Coppa Italia could just seal his fate come summertime. Gattuso will take solace in the fact that his side remains in contention on all three fronts and are right in the mix for top four ahead of the second half of the season.

Gattuso has demonstrated he is capable of turning it around before and will need much of the same heading into February. As reports surrounding his potential replacement intensify, the pressure is on Gattuso.  Whether he can deliver the goods again remains to be seen – but as February rolls around – De Laurentiis will soon find out.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19 – Top Matches

MILAN-ATALANTA

Milan: the Rossoneri keep navigating their several absences in brilliant fashion and Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to the XI with a bang in Cagliari, putting together a brace and moving to 12 goals in the season in just eight appearances. The COVID outbreak is getting resolved as Rade Krunic and Ante Rebic tested negative, but their conditioning will have to be assessed in practice and Theo Hernandez was a false positive, so only Hakan Calhanoglu is out, which is a major loss, but at least they are in a better spot numerically and they recovered their stud fullback. Rafael Leao (three goals, one assist in the last five games) will be back from suspension and will likely supplant Jens Petter Hauge that has been pretty quiet despite seeing good minutes. Franck Kessie let Zlatan take the PK in the past game but he will probably re-gain those duties in this one: he has notched six goals and two assists in the season. Davide Calabria is trending up as he provided a great helper in the past game and also hit the net recently.

Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 18 – Top Matches

LAZIO-ROMA

Lazio: Ciro Immobile took a little back-seat in the Parma game, where two other fellow attackers shined, Luis Alberto, who broke the deadlock with his third goal in the last five matches, and Felipe Caicedo, who found the target for the second round in a row, moving to six total in the season. The Golden Boot recipient had scored in all the previous five tilts. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic dished his fifth assist to add to his two goals, as his role is slightly different this year, but he has maintained a decent level of production. Manuel Lazzari cashed in on his good moment with his second assist of the season, catching up with fellow wing-back Adam Marusic in that regard. Joaquin Correa (one goal, one assist) could be back at least in limited fashion in this one, but Caicedo has filled in admirably. The Sergeant tends to deliver in big matches.

Recommended picks: Milinkovic-Savic, Immobile, Alberto.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 16 – Top Matches

CROTONE-ROMA

Crotone: they tried to keep up with Inter on Sunday thanks to the first goals in Serie A of Niccolò Zanellato and Vladimir Golemic, but they ultimately ended up being overwhelmed. Junior Messias showed up with an assist, his first one, while he has found the target five times. Emmanuel Riviere is taking playing time away from Simy, but neither has been very prolific or really dangerous. Given the role, it is unlikely that Zanellato will turn into a fantasy weapon: in the midfield Salvatore Molina (one goal, four assists) and Milos Vulic surely have more value, while left-back Arkadiusz Reca (one goal and five helpers) has been a valuable reference point on the flank. Continue reading