Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 30

JUVENTUS-TORINO

Juventus: the Bianconeri are thriving offensively thanks to the great form of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, who scored in three consecutive matches. Douglas Costa contributed off the bench versus Genoa and he can be a factor even if he rarely plays full matches because of his injury history. Juan Cuadrado picked up an assist in the past match and he has been effective despite the more defensive role. Rodrigo Bentancur is in outstanding form but is not very prone to picking up bonuses. Their run of clean sheets was interrupted by a consolation goal, but they will be facing a sputtering attack in this one. Continue reading

Serie A Fantay Preview – Round 29

TORINO-LAZIO

Torino: the Granata had a nice reaction after falling in an early hole versus Cagliari, but an untimely penalty did them in. Andrea Belotti has found the target for two straight matches and has been excellent missed penalty aside. Simone Zaza is unlikely to be present, but Simone Verdi and especially Cristian Ansaldi, two of their most talented players, saw minutes in the past match and could be ready to start, unlocking few options up front, first of all the advancement of Alex Berenguer. Ansaldi had a positive impact after he subbed on, Verdi might need more time and had been struggling prior to the lockdown. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 28 – Sunday Games

Milan-Roma: the Rossoneri had an excellent performance against Lecce, although the quality of the opponents, especially in the back, needs to be taken into consideration. The light front-line worked out wonderfully as Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Giacomo Bonaventura all scored and Hakan Calhanoglu dished out two assists. Even Rafael Leao netted one off the bench. It is set to be confirmed as a whole because Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be at most be ready for a brief stint. Rebic and Bonaventura have the biggest chances to take home bonuses and Roma are not particularly stingy, while Calhanoglu runs most of the offense. Theo Hernandez picked it up where he left off and was one of their engines.

Suggested picks: Rebic, Bonaventura, Calhanoglu. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 27

Fiorentina-Brescia: the Viola will welcome back Franck Ribery, at least in limited fashion at first, and the coach is ready to tweak is system to accommodate him either in the hole or on the left wing, joining Dusan Vlahovic/Patrick Cutrone and obviously Federico Chiesa up front. In the meantime, it could be Gaetano Castrovilli taking on a bigger role. Alfred Duncan and Marco Benassi have some decent potential.  It is an extremely appealing match-up considering Brescia’s defensive woes and absences: Vlahovic and Castrovilli in the particular were in great form before the lockdown. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview and Predictions – Round 25 – Makeup Games

Serie A resumes with a soft relaunch that features the matches that were postponed in March.

Torino-Parma: the Granata were one of the least interesting teams fantasy-wise before the stoppage, with Andrea Belotti being the only okay piece to rely on. The coach has been working on ways to fix that and might go with a more aggressive scheme this time around, with the Rooster and Simone Zaza together and Alex Berenguer and Simone Edera on the flanks, since Simone Verdi will be out for a while. They also lost Daniele Baselli, another substantial blow, and Cristian Ansaldi, one of their biggest playmakers, is not totally right. Besides the spry Berenguer (five goals so far), it is a wait-and-see approach. Continue reading

Europa League Race: Contenders, Pretenders and Dark-Horses

As the season draws to a close, the race for European places intensifies. If the season were to end today, Juventus, Inter, Lazio, and Atalanta would represent Italy in the Champions League while Roma and Napoli would have to content themselves with Europa League football.

Currently, the table could not be tighter as just four points separate sixth-place from eleventh. Let’s now take a look at the main contenders, pretenders and dark-horses for the Europa League.

Contenders: 

Roma and Atalanta: As it stands right now, one of Atalanta and Roma are pretty much guaranteed to occupy one of Italy’s two Europa League spots. Gasperini’s men are six-points ahead of the giallorossi in the fourth and final Champions League place and will be eager to maintain their advantage to qualify for Europe’s elite competition. Given Roma’s recent form, they may slide further down the table, but it’s difficult to see them finish outside the top six. As a result, expect Roma to make the Europa league leaving one last spot for the rest of the pack.

Napoli and Milan: After rough starts to the season, Napoli and Milan sacked their managers and almost immediately witnessed an upturn in their fortunes. Napoli have now won four of their last five and seem primed for a strong finish while Milan are finally playing with an identity. With Roma almost surely occupying the first Europa League spot, Napoli and Milan will likely duke it out for the remaining place. Napoli, however, will need to be better against sides under them as they have demonstrated complacency in those clashes. Milan, on the other hand, have taken care of Italy’s provinciali, but struggle against Italy’s elite.

Pretenders: 

Parma and Cagliari: Both sides got off to the season in fine form, but have recently struggled for results. Rolando Maran’s Cagliari haven’t won any of their last five clashes while Parma have proven to be far too inconsistent. In addition to their goal-scoring woes, Parma lack creative depth across the midfield, which will come back to haunt them in their hunt for European football. Cagliari, by contrast, benefitted by some incredible finishing earlier in the year; exploits that cannot be sustained throughout a full season. Expect both sides to slide further down the table as the season wears on.

Dark-Horses: 

Bologna-Hellas Verona: These two are here for vastly different reasons. On one hand, Hellas Verona have one of the league’s best defences propelling them into the race for European football while Bologna have scored freely all season and have shown no signs of slowing down. While Mihajlovic’s men have struggled in their last two games, they possess more quality in the final third than their counterparts and could go toe-to-toe with anyone in Italy. The same applies to Verona, who recently overcame Juventus in a game where they largely dominated. Milan and Napoli may be favourites for the last European spot, but Verona and Bologna will make it interesting over the next 12 match-days.

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Serie A’s Top Three Breakout Stars

Over the years, Serie A has acted as a home to some of the world’s best up and coming players. Whether it’s established talents like Matthijs de Ligt and Gigio Donnarumma or relatively new ones like Lautaro Martinez, Italy has proven to be a great platform for young players to earn their stripes. This season has been no different and a number of players have made the most of their opportunities and have taken their games to the next level.

Here are the Serie A’s three breakout stars from the 2019-2020 season.

Dejan Kulusevski – Parma: On loan from Atalanta, Kulusevski made the most of his temporary spell at Parma and was undoubtedly one of this season’s breakout stars. The Swedish international is capable of playing on the wing or centrally and has established himself as an elite creator with Parma. Playing in a counter-attacking system, Kulusevski’s pace, and spatial awareness have set him apart from the rest. His five goals and seven assists on the season indicate he’s been able to add end-product to his game, something his new employers, Juventus, will be hoping for. It will be interesting to see where Sarri sees the Atalanta youth product in his setup. Is it in the front three or in the midfield?

Whether he’s breaking the lines with an incisive pass or taking on his marker with speed, Kulusevski is one of the league’s trickiest customers. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Juventus dropped nearly 45 million euros for the 19-year-old. If he’s able to maintain his current form, there’s no reason why the Parma man won’t be able to make the transition to the big stage.

Jeremie Boga – Sassuolo: After countless loan spells, Boga made the move to Sassuolo from Chelsea and got the consistency he so desperately craved. With the neroverdi, Boga has been afforded freedom in the final third and often drifts centrally from a left-wing position. Much like Kulusevski, the former Chelsea youth product thrives in a free-roam role and has done so in De Zerbi’s free-flowing system. Many clubs are actively looking for a winger who can beat his man and Boga fits the bill perfectly.

Currently, Boga is averaging the most successful dribbles per game (4.3) in the league and represents a constant menace in the final third. While end-product was previously a concern, it seems Boga has put his finishing woes behind him, having scored five goals already on the season. If you needed any more proof of this, take a look at his curler against Torino from 25 yards out or his chip over Gianluigi Buffon. With many clubs after him, it’s time Boga seriously considers his future and continues his progression into an elite attacking midfielder.

Gaetano Castrovilli – Fiorentina: Moving away from the final third, Fiorentina’s Gaetano Castrovilli is one to watch and is arguably the biggest talent on this list. A natural mezz’ala by trade, Castrovilli combines an impressive range of passing with an uncanny ability to beat his man. Much like Boga, Castrovilli thrives with the ball at his feet and successfully completes 3.2 dribbles per game. In many ways, Castrovilli’s play is eerily reminiscent to that of a young Marchisio, albeit one that’s more comfortable taking on his man. Moving forward, he will need to add more end-product to his game, but his three goals and two assists on the season are a good start.

With a number of Italy’s clubs lining up for the young man, it seems Castrovilli’s days with Fiorentina are numbered. Simply put, Castrovilli has a lot to ponder going into the summer.

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Dejan Kulusevski is Everything Juventus Need

Today it was reported that Juventus beat fierce rivals Inter to the signature of Atalanta’s highly-rated Dejan Kulusevski. After spending last season with gli Orobici’s youth setup, the 19-year-old was loaned out to Parma this season and has since broken onto the scene in Italy, with four goals and seven assists in 17 appearances.

Beyond his output, Kulusevski has established himself as one of the league’s rising stars and is a major reason behind Parma’s positive start to the season. The Swedish international will remain at the Tardini for the rest of the season to continue his development. But who exactly is Kulusevski?

Player Profile:

Position: Attacking midfielder/winger.

Age: 19.

Height: 6’1 (186cm)

Nationality: Sweden.

Preferred Foot: Left.

Since arriving in Italy, Kulusevski has proven to be an extremely versatile player, capable of playing through the middle or on the wing. Given Parma’s counter-attacking setup, the 19-year-old has often been deployed on the left-wing, making the most of his impressive pace. The former Atalanta man thrives when tasked with running behind opposition defences, however, is equally capable at picking the final ball.

In fact, only Lazio’s Luis Alberto has more assists (11) than him this season. Kulusevski’s departure next summer will leave a gaping hole in Parma’s attack as he has played a direct role in 11 of gli Crociati’s 24 goals this season thus far. Moreover, the 19-year-old is currently averaging 2.4 key passes per game and has registered over 30 shot assists on the season already.

For context, Juventus superstars Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo are averaging 1.8 and 1.7 key passes per game, respectively. Bar Pjanic, no Juventus midfielder comes close to Kulusevski’s production in the final third. And even then, the Bosnian international’s output still pales in comparison to the Parma man. While it remains to be seen if the Swedish international can translate his breakout season to a big team, one thing’s for sure: He will add some much-needed creativity, precision, and unpredictability to an otherwise machine-like and sloppy Juventus.

Given his creativity and versatility, it begs the question: Where exactly will Kulusevski fit in Sarri’s plans? The question itself raises more questions than answers. After all, the Parma man can play a multitude of roles and Sarri is yet to define his best formation with the bianconeri. Is it a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-3-3? Time will tell.

From a young age, the 19-year-old mainly featured as a trequartista, but has since evolved as a winger under Roberto D’Aversa’s watchful eye. He’s also played deeper in the midfield with Atalanta’s youth teams and has incredible progression numbers to match a mezz’ala role. As the season wears on and Kulusevski joins his new team in the summer, his role will undoubtedly become clearly defined. There is much uncertainty surrounding his position as of right now, but he will provide Sarri with valuable tactical flexibility.

Another factor to consider in this equation is Juventus’ future acquisitions: Will they finally splash the cash for a big name midfielder? The bianconeri are in dire need of a technical midfielder since Pogba’s departure, but appear to have addressed that with Kulusevski’s signing. While the two players couldn’t be more different in terms of what they bring to the table, the Swedish international has proven to be quite the creative force in the final third. The reality is Juventus wouldn’t drop nearly forty million euros on him if they didn’t believe he can play a significant role as early as next season.

Moving forward, Kulusevski will need to demonstrate his end-product on a more consistent basis. After all, it’s only his first season in the top flight. Regardless, the 19-year-old appears to have all the tools necessary to take the next step in his career and establish himself as an elite creator at the top level; as long as the bianconeri are ready to properly accommodate him and give him the playing time he requires to fully develop. If Kulusevski and Juve can do this, he’s exactly what the Italian champions have been missing all these years.

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Transfer Watch: One Player For Each of Italy’s Big Six

With the transfer window set to re-open, Serie A clubs are taking to the mercato with differing objectives. While some will be looking for that one missing piece of the puzzle, others are in need of significant retooling. In any case, the January window tends to be quiet, but may present unique opportunities; opportunities clubs simply can’t turn down. Zlatan to Milan, for example.

Here’s one player for each of Italy’s big six.

Juventus - Arturo Vidal: The Italian champions are off to a relatively good start in the Maurizio Sarri era and are looking primed for a deep European run. Despite this, their midfield options leave a lot to be desired and are in dire need of reinforcement. Sami Khedira will spend most of the season sidelined while his stunt-double Emre Can appears to be on his way out.

New signings Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey haven’t exactly hit the ground running and will need more time to adapt to their new surroundings. As a result, the Chilean midfielder is an ideal target as he is already familiar with the club and will add some much-needed industry in the middle of the park. Juventus, however, will have to stave off significant interest from Inter. After all, it was Giuseppe Marotta who initially brought Vidal to Italy in the first place.

Inter – Dejan Kulusevski: The Atalanta loanee has been in great form this season and has emerged as a significant creative threat in the final third. While Parma will be reluctant to terminate his loan and Atalanta will be looking for an inflated fee, the Swedish international is everything Antonio Conte needs. Industrious off the ball and creative on it.

Currently, the nerazzurri are running with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, but will need to add depth if they want to compete with Juve’s deep squad. If he’s available, Inter should be all over it.

Roma – Andrea Petagna: Roma go into the New Year in a comfortable position, four points ahead of fifth-place Atalanta and into the knockouts of the Europa League. While Paulo Fonseca has done an incredible job with the tools at his disposal, the giallorossi could use some reinforcements in the January mercato, most notably at backup striker.

Nikola Kalinic frankly has not worked as Roma need someone more reliable in Dzeko’s absence. SPAL’s Andrea Petagna has demonstrated he’s worthy of a shot and has an abundance of experience in Serie A. Other options are Premier League newcomers Patrick Cutrone and Moise Kean. Both have struggled to adjust to life in England, but the latter is unlikely to move now with Ancelotti’s hiring. Cutrone, however, may be worth a punt.

Napoli – Sandro Tonali: While the Brescia midfielder is arguably on everyone’s Christmas wish-list, Napoli should do whatever it takes to acquire Tonali. Whether they secure him and loan him back directly to his parent club for the rest of the season, or slightly overpay to acquire him immediately, Tonali is exactly the type of player the partenopei need.

He is equally capable of dictating play as he is breaking it up and is a self-proclaimed Gattuso fan-boy. Many may liken him to Andrea Pirlo, but Tonali himself admits his style of play is closer to that of the Napoli tactician. Who knows if that plays into his decision? Regardless, it’s worth a shot.

Milan – Jeremie Boga: Milan have been crying out for a creative force down the left for years now and have yet to see anyone of note arrive. The Sassuolo midfielder is a constant menace in the final third and is regularly beating his man with ease, averaging 4.1 successful dribbles per game. At just 22, Boga would fit in with Milan’s supposed youth movement and should be available for a decent price.

In addition to playing on the left, he can also slot in as a trequartista should a new manager arrive in the summer and shake up the system. Boga to Milan is a no-brainer.

Lazio – Daniele Rugani: This seems like a long-shot, but Lazio could use another defender, especially if they want to compete with Juve and Inter for the Scudetto. Rugani desperately needs a change of scenery and could benefit from playing under the inspiring Simone Inzaghi. The biancocelesti could use another ball-playing centre-back alongside Francesco Acerbi, something Rugani proved to be at Empoli.

The Juventus man is currently out-of-favour in Turin and could be available on a short-term loan with an option to buy. Under the right conditions, Rugani to Lazio may just make enough sense.

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Parma 0-1 AC Milan: Hernandez rewards the Rossoneri in the dying minutes

AC Milan managed to get back to winning ways as Hernandez came up big for the Rossoneri, scoring his third goal of the season. However, it certainly wasn’t easy for Pioli’s men, as their lack of composure in the final third was painful to watch this afternoon. 

The Rossoneri started the first half really well, looking like a much better team than what we have seen in the last few weeks. After just two minutes, they created their first chance as Piatek did well to find Calhanoglu in the box. The Turkish international struck it well, but the goalkeeper didn’t have to intervene as it went wide. Continue reading