Gianluigi Donnarumma (36 points): it may seem odd to somebody, but yes, Donnarumma is still a youngster as he is just 21, which is a little mind-blowing since he has been around for few years now. He finished fifth for points among goalkeepers, behind veterans Samir Handanovic (63) and Wojciech Szczesny (50) and then Thomas Strakosha and Juan Musso, who picked up 49 and 37 points respectively and are four and five years older. A very solid campaign for Milan’s bulwark who, as always, produced some monster performances, avoided glaring blunders, picked up 13 clean sheets (tied for second in the League, one shy of the leader Musso) and parried away four penalty kicks, the most by anybody. The Rossoneri better hurry up in the negotiation to extend his contract and lock him up long-term. Continue reading
Fiorentina confirmed Beppe Iachini would be returning as their coach going into the new season, after replacing Vincenzo Montella on an interim basis in December. La Viola has struggled for consistency all season, hovering just over the relegation zone. While Iachini steadied the ship upon his arrival, this appointment does not exactly fall in line with Fiorentina’s ambition. The Tuscan based outfit has secured a number of promising young talents in recent times and could regularly be challenging for European places.
A mid-table to lower-tier specialist, Iachini isn’t exactly the ideal profile to lead the charge and usher in progressive football. Fiorentina currently possesses an impressive young core, boasting the likes of Nikola Milenkovic, Federico Chiesa, Gaetano Castrovilli, and Christian Kouame among others. Considering the wealth of talent of Iachini’s disposal, much was expected from La Viola this season. Fiorentina, however, disappointed and only recently hit form, propelling themselves into a comfortable mid-table finish.
The main question mark going into the new season for Fiorentina is the futures of their star men. Chiesa has been linked with a big-money move to both Juventus and Inter over the past few weeks and looks intent on leaving Tuscany when the mercato opens. Another player who seems to be on everyone’s radar is la Viola’s towering defender Milenkovic. Capable of playing anywhere across the back four, the Serbian international has since emerged as a hot transfer target both in Italy and abroad. Manchester United was reportedly interested in the Fiorentina man as they look to bolster their defense.
In this sense, much of la Viola’s success next season will depend on them retaining their star players. If they are unable to do so, Iachini’s men may just be gearing up for yet another season filled with relegation scares. Should Fiorentina hold on to their star men, they will be in a great position to take the next step and qualify for the Europa League for the first time in four years.
That being said, Iachini’s confirmation will only hold Fiorentina back moving forward. When Rocco Commisso initially purchased the club, the expectations in Tuscany were high. The American businessman quickly invested in the side and has since built a young and vibrant roster. The play on the field, however, has left a lot to be desired with la Viola struggling for results and battling relegation.
As the side looks to take the next step and return to the upper echelon of Italian football once and for all, Fiorentina will need to bring in a more progressive manager. Managers like Gian Piero Gasperini and Roberto De Zerbi have taken Italy by storm this season and Fiorentina would benefit immensely from having a progressive thinker at the helm.
Eusebio Di Francesco was briefly linked to the Fiorentina job over the last few days, but la Viola decided against hiring the former Sassuolo tactician. In many ways, Di Francesco’s 4-3-3 would have suited Fiorentina’s roster and young core better, but the upper brass opted to confirm Iachini. With the new season kicking off in just under two months’ time, Fiorentina will be hoping they don’t regret their decision to do so – even if all the signs are pointing to it.
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Alessio Cragno (7 points): it was revenge of the defences in the penultimate round, as six teams managed to keep the clean sheet. Among their goalies, the Cagliari one stood out the most in the Juventus match, as he produced several great saves, with the best one coming on a late scorcher.
Danilo D’Ambrosio (9 points): Antonio Conte fielded him as tactical centre-back and the move panned out against Napoli as he was not shy in attacking despite the role and Napoli were outnumbered when it came to covering men, so he found himself wide-open in the box on a deep incursion and finished with aplomb. Continue reading
Standings implications: Juventus did not squander the second chance to wrap up the title race and took home the ninth Scudetto in a row with a two-nil win against Sampdoria. Inter leapfrogged Atalanta in second position with a comfortable win over Genoa, while the Goddess shared the spoils with Milan. Roma gained two points over the Rossoneri in the race to the fifth spot as they topped Fiorentina. Napoli helped those two team out by defeating Sassuolo in a bizarro game and there are no longer doubts regarding who will qualify to Europa League, it is just a matter of positioning. Parma eked out one in Brescia. With Lecce losing to Bologna in heart-breaking fashion, everybody is safe besides Genoa, even tough Torino could not beat SPAL, while Udinese bested Cagliari.
A surreal Serie A round still had a good dose of action and some massive results. Here are the top performers from the weekend.
Juan Musso (7 points): five teams managed to earn a clean sheet and, out of all the goalies involved, Udinese’s one had the most meaningful save, on a Federico Chiesa potent cross-shot that could have swung the Fiorentina match late.
Nikola Milenkovic (5 points): Fiorentina’s defence held up well versus Udinese, allowing limited chances, and the Serbian defender also had one of the biggest chances for his side with a strikingly quick volley that went just wide. Continue reading
Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is dealing with some thigh soreness but there is optimism it is nothing serious. Timothy Castagne resumed practicing after some knee pain and Lennart Czyborra is available as well following a contracture. Tomas Sutalo will miss time with a navicular bone edema.
Bologna: Takehiro Tomiyasu is suspended. Nicola Sansone should be fine after some muscle fatigue and Stefano Denswil is on track to return from a thigh problem. Gary Medel (thigh) and Ladislav Krejci (knee) are poised to remain on the shelf.
Brescia: Mario Balotelli will finish serving his two-game suspension. Continue reading
Emil Audero: Sampdoria have tightened it up in the back since Claudio Ranieri took over, allowing multiple goals just twice in the past nine fixtures, to Cagliari and Juventus, so their goalie is unlikely to do harm against a depleted Brescia squad that has never scored more than twice so far on the road.
Francesco Acerbi: Lazio are quietly tied with Juventus for the second-best statistical defence in the League behind Inter and have surrendered just seven goals at home thus far. Their leader could be a decent selection against the ever-underwhelming Napoli. Continue reading
The international break came and went and it’s now time to look ahead at this weekend’s clashes with a particular focus on your fantacalcio sides. In this weekend’s big clashes, Juventus are travelling to Bergamo to take on Atalanta while a struggling Napoli side will be locking horns with Milan. Otherwise, Antonio Conte’s Inter will be looking to keep the pressure on Juve with a win against Torino.
With match-day 13 upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Adrien Rabiot (MID, Juventus, Value 4.5) – The French midfielder has struggled for playing time and continuity since joining Juventus and will likely be sidelined for a couple more games through injury. When the former PSG man joined the Italian champions, much was expected from him. With Juventus struggling for technical options in the middle of the park, many thought Rabiot was a perfect fit for Sarri. Since the beginning of the season, however, the former Chelsea tactician has opted for the veteran presences of Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira in his place.
As a result of his lack of playing time, rumours have surfaced that Rabiot is looking at alternatives across Europe. Despite his low price-tag, keep him out of your sides for the foreseeable future.
Dries Mertens (ST, Napoli, Value 13.93) – The Napoli hitman started off the season in sensational form but has since slowed down in recent weeks. With a player revolution on the cards in southern Italy, expect Napoli’s woes to continue. While Milan haven’t exactly epitomized defensive solidity, their most recent performance against Juventus was encouraging and they’ll look to continue that against Napoli.
Given Ancelotti’s wide range of options on the bench, be-it through Fernando Llorente or Arkadiusz Milik, it’s possible Mertens is subbed out early if his indifferent form continues. At 13.93M, it’s a good idea to look elsewhere for now.
Nikola Milenkovic (DEF, Fiorentina, Value 18.69) – After a good run of form, Vincenzo Montella’s viola have been brought back down to earth. Following their 1-1 draw against Parma, Fiorentina took on a high-flying Cagliari side and got dominated from the first minute, losing 5-2. While they are favourites on paper against Hellas Verona, the newly-promoted side have demonstrated that they are no pushovers scoring goals against Inter and Juventus.
Factor in their defensive commitment and this won’t be an easy game for Fiorentina. Given Milenkovic’s elevated price-tag and his side’s recent struggles at the back, you would be wise to temporarily swap him out of your fantacalcio sides.
Luis Muriel (ST, Atalanta, Value 16.49) – The Colombian striker, much like Mertens, started the season in top form and was finding the back of the net with ease. However, in recent times, his goalscoring touch has left him and he hasn’t scored in his last three games. With a game against Juventus on deck, it won’t get much easier for Muriel.
The bianconeri have conceded the least amount of goals in Italy and have looked increasingly solid at the back as the weeks have passed. Despite Atalanta’s free-scoring nature, expect this game to be a tight affair. As a result, it’s difficult to justify Muriel’s 16.49M price-tag.
Mario Balotelli (ST, Brescia, Value 6.96) - Supermario hasn’t enjoyed the best of times since his homecoming and has struggled to find the back of the net this season. In addition to his goalscoring woes, Balotelli was recently racially abused by Hellas Verona’s faithful; abuse that has reportedly weighed on the former Milan man even beyond the pitch.
This week, Balotelli also had a training dispute with new manager Fabio Grosso and was sent home early. Considering all these factors, it appears Balotelli needs time to regain his focus. At 6.96M, it’s worth looking into other low-cost options.
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Standings implications: it took them 96 minutes, but Juventus downed Genoa therefore replied to Inter, which looked tired but withstood Brescia’s assault. Napoli and Atalanta shared the spoiled in the most anticipated match of the round. The Roma teams dominated, with the Giallorossi trashing Udinese away and Lazio doing the same to Torino at the Olimpico Stadium. Cagliari continue to march on and upended Bologna. Fiorentina staged a comeback to defeat Sassuolo. Verona blitzed Parma on the road, while Sampdoria and Lecce tied one-one. Milan have a pulse and squeaked by SPAL. Continue reading
Alex Meret (7 points): pretty solid goalkeeping by those who earned a clean sheet, Bartlomiej Dragowski and Marco Silvestri in particular, but the nod goes to the Napoli youngster, who managed to parry away a cannon shot by Cristian Ansaldi and exuded confidence throughout the game.