On the Rise: Gaetano Castrovilli

Every Serie A season a new wave of talents break onto the scene and steal the headlines. This season has been no different as countless youngsters have staked their claim to make a name for themselves. Fiorentina’s Gaetano Castrovilli is one of these players. Making the most of his regular minutes under Vincenzo Montella, the 22-year-old has now established himself as a key member of la Viola’s eleven.

Typically fielded as a mezz’ala (outside of the midfield three), Castrovilli is able to make the most of his enterprise and drive his team forward. Currently, the midfielder’s 2.6 dribbles per game is the fourth most in Serie A and is a clear sign Montella turns to him to progress the ball in the midfield. 
When he’s not driving with the ball at his feet, Castrovilli has proven to be a willing runner without it. In many ways, his game is eerily similar to that of Juventus legend Claudio Marchisio. He’s at his most dangerous making late, unmarked runs into the box and has proven to have a knack for being at the right place at the right time.
In possession, the Fiorentina man is equally as impressive and plays positively whenever given the chance. Castrovilli is currently averaging 1.4 key passes per game and is becoming a creative threat in the middle of the park. Alongside Milan Badelj and Erick Pulgar, the 22-year-old has carved out a role for himself as the ‘runner’ of the midfield trio, offering industry both in and out of possession. In Badelj, Castrovilli and Pulgar, la Viola currently possess one of the league’s most technical midfield units, capable of covering ground and protecting their defence in the process. 
Most recently, the young midfielder notched his first goal in Serie A in Fiorentina’s 3-1 win over Milan. Castrovilli was excellent against the rossoneri and gave the viola faithful a glimpse of what’s hopefully to come from him.
Considering newly-appointed Fiorentina president Rocco Commisso wants to usher in a new era in Tuscany, predicating the importance of quality and youthful Italians, expect Castrovilli to become a center-piece of his vision. Alongside Federico Chiesa, the 22-year-old can help his side put last season’s woes behind them and kick off a new era. 
Montella has had success with young players in the past and we’re already starting to see his impact on the side. Currently, Fiorentina sit two points out of fourth place having already played Napoli, Juventus, Atalanta and Milan. Moreover, despite the results not always going their way, Montella’s men have looked the better side in most, if not in all, of these games. As their schedule gets easier, expect la Viola to keep climbing up the table with Castrovilli emerging as a key man.
If the 22-year-old is able to maintain this level, a national team call-up shouldn’t be too far away. While Italy’s midfield ranks are currently congested with the likes of Stefano Sensi, Marco Verratti and Jorginho, gli Azzurri lack a true mezz’ala beyond Inter’s Nicolo Barella. Having already qualified to Euro 2020, expect Mancini to experiment and Castrovilli to get a chance with the senior setup.
After all, he’s earned it. 
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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Seven

Genoa-Milan: both offenses have looked very anaemic in recent matches, as the coaches, who are well-known for their proactive mentality, seem to have struggled to convey their ideas to the players. The Griffon have failed to score in the past two matches. Christian Kouame has led them with three goals so far and has been the only consistent contributor, while Andrea Pinamonti has been struck out since week one and ceded minutes to Antonio Sanabria and Andrea Favilli, who have not fared much better. They have yet to find a midfielder that can do some damage in the final third: Lasse Schone is too far away from the goal, but his aim on free kick is getting better, Ivan Radovanovic is shooting a lot but without precision and, like Lukas Lerager, he is more of a substance player than a quality one. Riccardo Saponara has not cracked the XI with enough continuity to be a fantasy factor. There is some appeal on the flanks, where Paolo Ghiglione and Marko Pajac have been serviceable. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Six

Juventus-SPAL: the Bianconeri have not been very spectacular in the last two matches against minnows, but they got the job done with the contribution of few different players. Cristiano Ronaldo has shaken off his injury and will be back in this one, Paulo Dybala has outperformed Gonzalo Higuain in the last couple of outings, but the latter is usually closer to the goal. Aaron Ramsey has been pretty good and they could carry on with the tactics where he is heavily featured, but it remains to be seen whether he can play thrice in a row, otherwise Adrien Rabiot or Federico Bernardeschi could get the nod there and reap the benefits of a very offensive role. They have gotten goals from Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi, even though Sami Khedira is generally the midfielder who is most involved in the offense. Juan Cuadrado loses some steam because he is forced to play as right back for the time being. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 5

Brescia-Juventus: two questions loom large on the game, one for each side. Mario Balotelli is eligible to return after the suspension, but his conditioning might be a problem after skipping the summer preparation, so he might be initially be kept on the bench. Cristiano Ronaldo has been ruled out due to muscle fatigue and it is new situation under Maurizio Sarri; they also do not have Douglas Costa, so they lack a pure left-wing player. Federico Bernardeschi could certainly be adapted there, but he has struggled so far, so the coach might try new solutions, like for instance fielding Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain together. Whoever ends up starting up front will have to shoulder a bigger load sans Ronaldo. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Milan Derby

The most anticipated match of the round had a clear winner, as Inter came out on top with a two-nil result, but it was still pretty intense and entertaining.

The Nerazzurri came into the game having won the three previous matches against Lecce, Cagliari and Udinese, but had to bounce back from lackadaisical and costly performance in Champions League against Slavia Prague. Milan had scraped by Verona and Brescia in the last two. Antonio Conte kept Antonio Candreva on the bench since he suffered a knock in the most recent fixture, picking Danilo D’Ambrosio to man right flank, while the rest of the XI was the standard one, with Lautaro Martinez partnering Romelu Lukaku up front and Nicolò Barella in the midfield. Marco Giampaolo changed his selection again as he fielded Rafael Leao up front, next to Krzysztof Piatek and Suso, while Andrea Conti filled in for the suspended Davide Calabria at right back. Lucas Paqueta and Ismael Bennacer were again left on the bench. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four

Juventus-Verona: the Old Lady had a subpar performance in Florence but obviously will be in a much better spot this week at home against a relegation struggler. Cristiano Ronaldo usually does not go scoreless for long and Gonzalo Higuain is not a bad pick either, as for now the coach has refrained from using Paulo Dybala there. Douglas Costa, who was their go-to-guy so far, will miss time, so Federico Bernardeschi and Juan Cuadrado will return to prominence. Until the coach entrusts one of the newcomers, Aaron Ramsey in particular, Sami Khedira remains the most appealing midfielder for his offensive dexterity. Their defenders are surely worth consideration. Continue reading

Serie A Round 3 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

Now that the international break has come and gone, it’s time to get back to the football that matters. This match-day, Juventus and Inter will look to maintain their perfect record against Fiorentina and Udinese respectively while Napoli take on Sampdoria. Otherwise, Roma host Roberto De Zerbi’s high-flying Sassuolo in what promises to be a top clash.

With match-day three upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Bartosz Bereszyński (DEF, Sampdoria, Value 6.3) - The Sampdoria defender has endured a torrid start to the season as the blucerchiati have struggled immensely defensively. After conceding seven goals in their first two games against Lazio and Sassuolo, it won’t get any easier for Bereszyński and co. as they travel to the San Paolo to take on Napoli. With Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon and Hirving Lozano all expected to feature at one point or another, expect another goal-fest.

While the Pole was initially seen as a decent, low-cost option due to his offensive thrust, now may be a good time to get him off your fantacalcio side.

Pau Lopez (GK, Roma, Value 6.3) - Let’s get something straight – Pau Lopez has not been at fault for Roma’s porous defence and has played a minimal role in the goals conceded thus far. In the first two games of the season, it’s clear he’s a notable improvement on the departed Robin Olsen. That being said, the Spaniard could only do so much on his own and currently, the Roma rearguard is struggling. 

With a clash set against De Zerbi’s Sassuolo, it would be wise to shift the goalkeeper out of your side, even temporarily, until the giallorossi fix their issues at the back. After all, Domenico Berardi is in fine form and will be looking to hurt Roma’s suspect back four.

Kostas Manolas (DEF, Napoli, Value 13.8) - When the Greek international joined Napoli, he was expected to form a brilliant partnership alongside Senegalese stalwart Kalidou Koulibaly. Two games into the season, it’s been nothing of the sort and the partenopei have already conceded seven goals. While they have played Fiorentina and Juventus, two opponents who find the back of the net with ease, Napoli’s defensive concerns remain a cause for concern.

At 13.8 million euros, you would be wise the drop the former Roma man and replace him with another defender. For example, Inter’s Diego Godin is available for a mere 9 million euros and will be slotting in the nerazzurri’s defence regularly from this point forward.

Krzysztof Piątek (ATT, Milan, Value 12.9) - While it’s the second week in a row the Milan man features in this series, his quality is not in question. However, with rossoneri boss Marco Giampaolo still experimenting with his best eleven, it will take some time before we see the best from Piątek. Until now, the Polish international has started alongside Samu Castillejo in the first game and came off the bench in the second game.

Before joining Milan, Castillejo was primarily a winger and has struggled to adapt to Giampaolo’s narrow system. As a result, he makes for an awkward fit alongside Piątek. Until Giampaolo establishes his best eleven and the new signings are fully integrated into the team, I would keep the former Genoa man out of my fantacalcio side.

Nicolo Barella (MID, Inter, Value 12.3) - Another player of great quality features in this week’s piece. Again, his inclusion can be attributed to the competition for places at Inter, rather than his own form. Last match-day, Inter boss Antonio Conte went with Matias Vecino in his place, as Barella came off the bench with just over twenty minutes to play.

While the former Cagliari captain will surely become a starter for Inter in the long-run, Conte will arguably take time before giving him a starting position. After all, he did the same thing with a certain Paul Pogba. As a result, your 12.3 million could be better spent.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Two

Milan-Brescia: the first game under Marco Giampaolo presented the same issues the Rossoneri suffered from last season, primarily keeping the ball up front and feeding their main striker. They managed to get only some limited offensive forays without never building a constant assasult. A faux pas that could lead to some tactical and personnel change, with Suso possibly returning to the flank and Ismael Bennacer and Rafael Leao getting the nod from start. If they can turn it around, it could be a decent spot for Krzysztof Piatek, but it is tough to trust them right now. The Rondinelle showed to be solid right away in a fairly tough road game in Cagliari: last year’s design worked and the defense held up. If that continues to be the case, Alfredo Donnarumma will be one to watch, he scored 26 goals in Serie B, same as Dimistri Bisoli, who is their most dangerous midfielder, while Sandro Tonali’s fantasy production is a little shakier because it hinges on set pieces. Continue reading

Inter acquire Nicolò Barella from Cagliari

barella

After a lengthy negotiation, Inter managed to sign Nicolò Barella from Cagliari, with a strong assist by the player who refused other destinations even if the talks between the two teams stalled for a while. The formula chosen is season-long loan with obligation to buy and the total package, including some bonuses, will cost around €45M. The 22-year-old midfielder has penned a five-year contract.

Barella has had a steady rise over the last three years in Sardinia, to the point where he became a centre-piece of the Italian national team too. He accumulated 112 appearances with the Rossoblù, scoring seven times and collecting six assists. He had his most prolific campaign in 2017/2018, where he tallied six goals, three on penalties. Continue reading

Marotta and Conte Propelling Inter Forward With A Clear Vision

When Giuseppe Marotta was appointed as Inter’s sporting director after an abrupt departure from Juventus, the nerazzurri sent a clear message of intent to the rest of the league.

Rather than being satisfied with vying for a place in the top four, Inter wanted to emerge as contenders once more. Gone are the days of Pazza Inter and they have since been replaced with stability and a particular focus on the team rather than the individual. Marotta’s track record is impressive within Italy, and he played a major role in Juventus’ ascent back to the top of Italian and European football.

However, much of this success couldn’t have been achieved without the initial groundwork laid down by Antonio Conte in 2011. In the tactician’s first season, Juve’s roster was nowhere near what it is today, and frankly was inferior to Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan that they were up against. Instilling this belief of ‘us v them’ and bringing back a sense of accountability to the side, Juventus won their first Scudetto in years against all the odds.

skysports-antonio-conte-conte-chelsea_4223853

To this day, It remains a mystery how the bianconeri would finish that season undefeated with the likes of Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic leading the line and Paolo De Ceglie featuring regularly. At the same time, however, Juve’s success with limited resources was a testament to Conte’s great work.

Now reunited with Marotta at Inter, expect no less from the veteran tactician. The duo have been together in Milan for a mere couple of months and have already banished notorious bad apples, Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan from the club.

As per Bleacher Report, Marotta proclaimed neither player had a spot in Conte’s team. “Talent can win you games, but the squad wins you the league, which is the main objective we are setting out for,” said Marotta. “They are not part of our project, with all due respect.”

While both Icardi and Nainggolan have been among Inter’s top performers and are a major reason behind their recent Champions League qualification, their exclusions show that Conte and Marotta are ready to build a true team rather than a collection of talented individuals; something that the Inter brass have struggled with in the past. If the nerazzurri’s summer activity is anything to go by, you can already see the duo’s work slowly being put into place.

Much like it was the case at Juventus, Marotta turned to a free transfer to shore up a squad need, and brought in Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan is among the best defenders in the world and will fit like a glove in Conte’s back three alongside Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij. In many ways, this is Inter’s version of Juventus’ BBC, albeit with way more to prove.

Diego Godin

Outside of defence, Inter have secured Italian internationals Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi for their midfield. Both players are the archetypal Conte midfielders and possess the qualities the former Chelsea tactician demands. Determined, technical and team-oriented. In Inter’s new-look midfield, Barella will act as a mezz’ala (#8) making late runs into the box much like Marchisio did at Juve while Sensi will be used as the side’s regista. In this role, the former Sassuolo man will be able to make the most of his range of passing and in many ways, will be a poor man’s Andrea Pirlo for Conte.

Realizing that centre midfield wasn’t their only need, Marotta quickly concluded a deal for Valentino Lazaro. At just 23 years old, the fullback has demonstrated he’s a hard worker and is the prototypical two-way player. Lazaro will be a much welcomed addition down the right-hand side; think Stephan Lichtsteiner but with more upside and end-product.

To round off Conte’s 3-5-2, he has requested Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku. While the Belgian has blown hot and cold for the Red Devils, finding the back of the net has never been an issue for the former Chelsea man. With his towering physique and keen eye for goal, expect the 26-year-old to slot in wonderfully alongside Lautaro Martinez. Martinez and Lukaku are the typical, hard-working, ‘small-big’ partnership Conte has turned to in the past. Think Vucinic-Giovinco, Tevez-Llorente, Eder-Pelle, and so on and so forth. Inter are reportedly tabling their first bid for the striker shortly and have prioritized the Belgian.

With both Conte and Marotta leaving Juventus on poor terms in their own way, the duo have now reconnected at their fiercest rivals and are well on their way at creating a Juventus 2.0, but this time, in Milano. Banishing drama-kings Icardi and Nainggolan was the first step, followed by the acquisitions of prototypical Conte players. It may not end the same way as the league is much stronger than it was in years past, but one thing’s for sure: Linking up Conte and Marotta is Inter’s best bet at silverware in nearly a decade.

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