On the Rise: Dejan Kulusevski

When Dejan Kulusevski was loaned to Parma from his parent club Atalanta not much was made of the move. Given gli Orobici’s wide array of attacking talents, many thought the young Swede was just another player who would go out on perennial loan spells before being sold. However, since joining Parma, the 19-year-old has established himself as a set starter and is a crucial piece to their front-three. But who exactly is Kulusevski?

Having grown up in Atalanta’s youth ranks after joining from his boyhood club Brommapojkarna, the 19-year-old got a comprehensive footballing education in Bergamo for three years. After all, Atalanta’s youth system is highly regarded and is viewed as one of the best in Italy. Last January, Kulusevski made his debut for Gian Piero Gasperini’s men in a 5-0 drubbing of Frosinone. The 19-year-old would make another two appearances before the season came to a close.

Given his lack of playing time and gli Orobici’s depth in the final third, Atalanta decided it was best to loan him out to Parma. With I Crociati, Kulusevski has been able to play regular minutes and has impressed this season. Typically fielded on the right-wing alongside Roberto Inglese and Gervinho, the 19-year-old is able to combine his pace and keen eye for goal to devastating effect.

In many ways, Roberto D’Aversa’s counter-attacking system suits Kulusevski’s qualities and makes the most of his talents. Given his success in this system, it’s only a matter of time before Gasperini calls him back and adds him to his arsenal of weapons.

In addition to being a goalscoring threat, Kulusevski has been Parma’s main creator this season, averaging 2.1 key passes per game. Given the freedom to roam between the lines and filter in centrally, the Parma man is able to make the most of his vision. After all, when he first started his career, he was initially an attacking midfielder.

In his seven appearances this season, Kulusevski is already up to three assists and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Moreover, he’s currently responsible for over 30 per cent of his side’s key passes and expected assists, highlighting his importance to D’Aversa.

In the most recent international break, the young forward played as a striker in U21 Sweden’s 5-0 win. From a central position, Kulusevski punished the Icelandic defence, continuing his impressive form and notching a brace. In the past, he also represented Macedonia at the youth levels but eventually chose Sweden.

Currently, Parma sit in 12th place on nine points and will be taking on Genoa after the international break comes to a close. I Grifoni have struggled this season and will be a good opportunity for Kulusevski to keep the positive streak going.

Beyond this season, Kulusevski appears primed for a return to his parent club Atalanta and join Gasperini’s free-scoring side. Given his qualities, the young Swedish international seems a match made in heaven with Gasperini.

As it is the case for any young talent, it’s all about maintaining this level of play beyond a few games. If his recent displays are anything to go by, it shouldn’t be a problem for Kulusevski.

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Serie A Round 4 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

Match-day three has come and gone and it’s now time to look ahead to the next round of fixtures. Inter look to remain perfect in the Derby della Madonnina against Milan while Juventus will be hoping to return to winning ways against newly-promoted side Hellas Verona. The in-form Napoli will also take on Serie A new-boys and will be travelling to Lecce. Otherwise, free-scoring sides Bologna and Roma lock horns at the Dall’Ara in what promises to be an enthralling affair.

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

Gervinho (ATT, Parma, Value 15.9) -The former Arsenal man hasn’t had the best of starts to the Serie A season scoring just one goal in his first three affairs. In Parma’s last game against Cagliari, Gervinho looks devoid of any ideas in the final third and was wasteful in front of goal. This week’s fixtures see Parma go up against a Lazio side looking to redeem themselves from their slip-up against SPAL. As a result, expect Parma to find themselves on the backfoot for much of this game, like it’s been the case for the first three games of the season.

While it’s still early days, Parma’s lack of creativity and invention in the final third may just cost them points and catapult them into a relegation dog-fight. And frankly, it will cost you fantasy points if you persevere with Gervinho. At 15.9 million, there are undoubtedly better options than the Ivorian.

Rodrigo De Paul (MID, Udinese, Value 16.9) - Much like Gervinho, the Argentine midfielder is playing on a side that will surely be among the candidates for relegation. If that weren’t enough to persuade you from dropping De Paul, the Udinese midfielder recently got sent off for slapping Inter winger Antonio Candreva in his side’s most recent defeat. With De Paul suspended for Udinese’s next game, it’s as good a time as any to make use of your free transfer between rounds and swap him out of your team.

While De Paul will come back strong from the sending off, at 16.9 million the midfielder is frankly not worth the trouble. Especially when you consider you can get Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and save 1.4 million, just to name one example.

Douglas Costa (ATT, Juventus, Value 10.6) - The Brazilian was initially my bargain pick for this year’s edition of fantasy Serie A but he has since seen his value rise as he’s established himself as a set starter in Turin. Despite his positive performances and his two assists against Napoli, you would be wise to temporarily shift Douglas Costa out of your sides as he’s recently picked up an injury sidelining him for the better part of two weeks.

With Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi waiting in the wings, the bianconeri have no shortage of options to replace the former Bayern Munich man. As a result, expect Douglas Costa to be eased into action slowly. Until then, there’s good value out there for 10.6 million.

Lucas Paqueta (MID, Milan, Value 8.3) - Initially, the Brazilian international was supposed to be a match-made in heaven for Marco Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2. Capable of playing behind the strikers or on the left-hand side of the midfield three, Paqueta, in theory, fits like a glove in the Milan manager’s setup. However, reality is a different beast altogether and Paqueta has since fallen out of favour with Giampaolo.

The former Sampdoria tactician recently claimed that Paqueta has to be “less Brazilian” and simplify his game, to which the midfielder responded immediately via Instagram. As a result, expect the former Flamengo man to be in the dog-house for the time being.

Luis Alberto (MID, Lazio, Value 15.5) - The Spaniard was a difficult inclusion, however, given his high valuation, the former Liverpool man had to make the list. After two impressive performances against Sampdoria and Roma, Luis Alberto struggled to make an impact against SPAL.

With Lazio taking on CFR Cluj in the Europa League this week, expect Simone Inzaghi to rotate his eleven. Considering the biancocelesti’s multitude of options in the midfield and final third, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Luis Alberto given some rest against Parma. For 15.5 million, you can do better.

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 1

Parma-Juventus: the Ducali have done a lot to improve their midfield and their attack over the summer and, while they are currently a little short-handed in the back, they are set to be a more palatable fantasy squad throughout the season. Gervinho is already on form, Roberto Inglese is back to full health and they will have a proper back-up, Yann Karamoh could be intriguing even though he has not won over the coach yet, Hernani and Gaston Brugman are nice complementary pieces and Dejan Kulusevski could be a jack-of-all-trades. Juraj Kucka, who was a stud from January on, might miss the game with a calf injury, but they are more equipped to replace him. Continue reading

Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

deligt

All in all, it was a pretty quiet week in Serie A, but it still included some massive deals, as Juventus pulled off one of the transfers of the summer by acquiring Matthijs De Ligt from Ajax, while Roma have commenced re-building the back-line with Gianluca Mancini from Atalanta and won the race to sign Jordan Veretout from Fiorentina

The Orobici have signed Ruben Malinovskyi from Genk, who is somebody to keep an eye on fantasy-wise since he was extremely productive in Belgium, thanks to penalties and other set pieces. Continue reading

Handanović relieved to secure Champions League berth

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Samir Handanović spoke to Inter TV in the immediate aftermath of the Nerazzurri’s crucial 2-1 victory over Empoli last night. The Nerazzurri captain once again turned in a superb performance, making several critical saves before Radja Nainggolan scored a typically late winner in front of a packed San Siro. Here is what the Slovenian had to say: Continue reading

Nainggolan thanks Inter fans for their unwavering support

nainggolan

Radja Nainggolan spoke to the media in the immediate aftermath of Inter’s 2-1 victory over Empoli last night, which secured their passage to the group stage of next season’s UEFA Champions League. Indeed, the Belgian scored the goal which ultimately allowed the Nerazzurri to achieve their main objective, but reserved special praise for the club’s fans for their support throughout the match. Here is what he had to say: Continue reading

Spalletti delighted by Inter’s never say die attitude

spalletti

Luciano Spalletti spoke to the media in the aftermath of last night’s 2-1 victory over Empoli, which allowed Inter to secure a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. The Tuscan coach was very pleased by his players’ willingness to fight until the end and overcoming the nerves and tension within the confines of San Siro. Here is what he had to say: Continue reading

Champions League Race: A Comprehensive Breakdown

With the Champions League race going down to the wire in Serie A, the final match-day promises to make for exciting viewing. Atalanta, Inter and Milan are separated by a mere point, while the possibility of Roma sneaking in can’t be discounted either.

At the moment, it is Gasperini’s men, and Spalletti’s nerazzurri that control their own fate, while the other two sides are on the outside looking in – albeit a little too close for comfort. As entry to Europe’s elite competition promises a pitfall of cash and prestige, achieving Champions League football is of the utmost importance, and could have serious repercussions on any of these sides’ transfer windows.

Let’s being with Gasperini’s Atalanta. Against all odds, gli Orobici find themselves in third, and control their own destiny in their final game. Win, and they qualify for the Champions League. After an impressive season that saw them play high-flying football, and reach the Coppa Italia final, Atalanta could cap it off with a berth in next season’s Champions League.

While technically they are the home side for this clash, Atalanta have recently been remodelling their stadium, conveniently relocated all their remaining home games to Sassuolo. As luck would have it, Atalanta’s last game is, of course, against Sassuolo.

The neroverdi have nothing to play for, but have always proven to be a difficult opposition. However, in their first game, Gasperini’s men dispatched them rather easily, pumping six past Sassuolo. With Duvan Zapata, Alejandro Gomez, and Josip Ilicic firing on all cylinders, they should have enough to beat the “visitors”.

Inter, on the other hand, take on Empoli at the San Siro. With Empoli languishing in and around the relegation zone, the Tuscan-based outfit will be fighting for their life, and won’t be easy to overcome. In fact, Aurelio Andreazzoli’s men have been one of the league’s most in-form sides, winning their last three games. As a result, this clash won’t be as straightforward as the table suggests, and the nerazzurri will need to be at their best.

Inter’s cross-town rivals, Milan, will be travelling to the Stadio Paolo Mazza to take on SPAL 2013. After months of being in the top four, the rossoneri now find themselves in fifth, however, just one point back of Atalanta and Inter. Should Gattuso’s men claim the victory, and either of their competitors drops points, Milan will be making their long-awaited return to Champions League football. If they don’t, however, they will be kicking themselves, as they were in the driver’s seat for the most part of the season.

While Milan will need some help to qualify, at the very least, their odds are better than Roma’s. Ranieri’s men will need a small miracle to qualify on the final match-day. They’ll need to beat Parma by five clear goals, while Milan and Inter lose, and Atalanta avoid defeat. Unlikely.

Otherwise, they’ll need to win, while all of their other competitors lose their games. Another unlikely scenario. Much like Milan, Roma have themselves to blame for this, and have been dropping points to the league’s provinciali all season.

In any case, whichever way this race ends, there will be fireworks. Either Gasperini’s Atalanta cap off their phenomenal cinderella season in impressive fashion, or both Milan giants will be returning to Europe’s elite competition together. And Roma, well, best of luck. You’ll need it.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 38

Empoli v FC Internazionale - Serie A

Atalanta-Sassuolo: the Goddess survived Juventus’ second half push last week and returned from Turin with a precious point that allowed them to catch Inter and maintain a narrow lead over Milan. They have not lost since February 23rd and triumphed in eight of the following 12 rounds. Sassuolo are right in the middle of the pack but played spoiler last week by drawing with Roma. They have been defeated just once in the last eight matches, tying in five occasions. Josip Ilicic scored at the Stadium after being shut out for few weeks and also their rock Duvan Zapata and Alejandro Gomez will be popular picks since the Neroverdi are not the stingiest bunch. Neither are the Bergamaschi to be honest: the locals have spread the wealth in terms of scoring, but in general Domenico Berardi, Jeremie Boga and Stefano Sensi have been their best contributors in the final months. Hans Hateboer’s suspension makes it clear that Timothy Castagne and Robin Gosens will man the flanks: the former is more interesting since he is listed as a defender and in the midst of a prolific run. Continue reading

Spalletti warns Inter players to roll up their sleeves against Empoli

spalletti

Luciano Spalletti spoke to the media in the aftermath of Inter’s 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Napoli last night. While keen to stress that qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage remains in the Nerazzurri’s hands, the Tuscan tactician did not hold back when asked what went wrong for his side at the Stadio San Paolo. Here is what he had to say: Continue reading