Mkhitaryan in the form of his life as Roma go 3rd with third win in a row

There were no problems for Roma who went 3rd in the league as they beat Parma 3-0 for the 3rd win in a row in Serie A.

Paulo Fonseca’s side were ruthless as they scored all of their goals in the first half, having 5 shots on target alone in that period. Parma had to make do with having 1 shot on target for the whole match.

The plaudits will once again be paid to Henrikh Mkhitaryan who scored 2 goals, and a few weeks ago scored a hat trick. The player is on fire and is obviously enjoying himself.

With his 2 goals Mkhitaryan earned 10 points at the weekend in the fantasy rankings and he now has a total of 38. This total is enough to make him currently the best player in the rankings for Serie A.

So far this season Roma have scored 19 goals and Mkhitaryan has been involved in 9 of them, scoring 5 and assisting in a further 4.

The opening goal in the Parma game came after 28 minutes after some lovely work from Leonardo Spinazzola. His reverse clever pass found Borja Mayoral unmarked in the area and tucked away with precision. That was Mayoral’s first goal of the season and also Spinnazola’s first assist.

Minutes later it was 2-0 and this was a belter. Mkhitaryan picked up a bouncing loose ball on the edge of the area and thumped it home. Then just a few minutes after that it was 3-0, this goal again for Mkhitaryan won’t be remembered as was just a simple tap in.

Roma may have been left frustrated in the second half as no further goals developed but they had done their job early on and earned the three points. With the club in 3rd place they are just 3 points behind AC Milan.

Paulo Fonseca happy with Roma’s performance

“We put in an excellent performance, especially in the first half, as we scored three goals and could’ve had quite a few more. I think the team played well, in the second half we controlled the situation and still created more chances to find the net. I always said Mkhitaryan is a great professional who can do well in various different roles, so I am not surprised by what he’s doing. The team is feeling confident. It’s true Edin Dzeko is very important to us, but it’s also important to see that the team maintains its identity despite changing numerous players.”

Roma prepare for Cluj and receive fantastic boost

Roma will play Cluj in the Europa League on Thursday evening and the club received some good news. Striker Edin Dzeko has been passed fit to play in the game. It was initially thought that he would miss this one and instead make his comeback from injury against Napoli at the weekend.

It is expected that Dzeko will start from the bench and play at least 20 minutes of the game to get his fitness levels up before the Napoli match.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Seven – Other Games

CAGLIARI-SAMPDORIA

Cagliari: they were again productive on the offensive end as Giovanni Simeone and Joao Pedro both found the target, registering respectively the fifth and the fourth goal of their campaigns, but some defensive problems did them in versus Bologna. While Riccardo Sottil had scored in the previous game, Adam Ounas came off the bench really well and could get an opportunity to start in this one. Nahitan Nandez has enjoyed a more offensive role but has yet to post goal or an assist, while Marko Rog and Razvan Marin’s contribution in the final third is limited, even though the ex-Ajax could make up for it with his set piece prowess. Their fullbacks have both been very good, as Charalampos Lykogiannis has found the net once and Gabriele Zappa has provided two assists. Continue reading

Inter lose thriller at Real Madrid following a draw against Parma

Two games, no wins and yet Inter scored 4 goals and should have scored more. The Nerazzurri would have taken something from this week which included a draw against Parma and defeat against Real Madrid, because in both games they didn’t play too bad.

Inter had found themselves 2-0 down at home against Parma courtesy of two second half strikes by Gervinho. The first was a belter but the second could have been taken care of and was more about scrappy defending from Inter who would have been disappointed at conceding a goal which in most games would have killed the game.

To their credit though Inter finally woke up and just two minutes later had pulled a goal back through Marcelo Brozovic who powered through Parma’s defence and kept on his feet to slot the ball home. Inter were a transferred team in the 2nd half and Parma scoring a second rattled them. In the first half for example they managed just 2 shots on target but in the 2nd half that increased to seven as they increased the pressure.

Despite Inter having goal line chances cleared off the line, time was running out and it seemed that they would lose the match. But a free kick swung into the area found the glancing head of Ivan Perisic who in the 92nd minute made it 2-2. Inter then had a chance to win the game but Arturo Vidal somehow missed strong contact on a cross to out it away.

It’s another two points dropped for Inter and it has happened at home but considering they were 2-0 down Antonio Conte the Inter coach will have taken this. The result leaves Inter in 6th place and five points behind league leaders Milan. Inter are drawing games but have only lost once in their last five and next weekend they will take on Atalanta away from home.

Inter lose thriller against Real Madrid

Inter followed up their draw in Serie A by losing 3-2 to Real Madrid in Spain. Though they started as the underdogs they gave Zinedine Zidane’s men a real scare. Madrid did find themselves 2-0 up within 33 minutes through goals by Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos but Inter kept their hopes alive by pulling the game back to 2-1 in the 35th minute through Lautaro Martinez.

Then the comeback hero v Parma Ivan Perisic did it again getting Inter’s 2nd goal making the game 2-2 in the 68th minute. However with just ten minutes left to play Rodrygo scored a third for Real to give them 3 precious points. Madrid had started their group slowly and this match at home really was a must win.

As for Inter the loss was bad news and Conte’s team have just 2 points after 3 games. But the group is close with Borussia Monchengladbach the group leaders only on 5 points. The pressure is on Inter though who will play Real Madrid at San Siro on November 25th and they will likely have to pick up all three points to keep in the mix.

Romelu Lukaku has managed to earn the most fantasy points for Inter with 19 so far. But he missed the Parma game and Real Madrid clash. There is no further word on his injury but the club will be hoping that the Belgian international will be fit to play against Atalanta this weekend.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Six – Top Matches

INTER-PARMA

Inter: Romelu Lukaku suffered a thigh injury that will cost him at least one game and the Nerazzurri will have to make up for the loss of their target man, something that rarely happened last year. Alexis Sanchez is dealing with a small problem as well, therefore Lautaro Martinez, who has slowed down after opening the campaign with three straight goals, will have to shoulder the attack, then they will hope Andrea Pinamonti can be decent right away. They also briefly used Ivan Perisic as second-striker in the last game. Stefano Sensi is back on the shelf with his customary muscular problems: Christian Eriksen had some flashes last week, but so far him and Marcelo Brozovic have produced nothing too exciting. Their best midfielder has been Nicolò Barella (two assists), while Arturo Vidal has mostly taken care of the dirty work. At some point Radja Nainggolan will get in on the action, but it has not happened yet. Fortunately, Achraf Hakimi (one goal, two assists) was a false positive and he will resume plowing the flank from the start here, while Ashley Young has shaken off the virus and will challenge Ivan Perisic, who has been solid (two assists) but has not really taken off. Their back-line has improved with Alessandro Bastoni back in the fold.

Recommended picks: Martinez, Perisic, Hakimi.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Five – Other Games

SASSUOLO-TORINO

Sassuolo: the Neroverdi were tested by Bologna, but they reacted vigorously and nabbed another win thanks to goal by their usual difference-makers, Francesco Caputo (fourth in the season), Domenico Berardi (third) and Filip Djuricic. The Serbian attacker started off slowly but found the target in the last two outings. Gregoire Defrel and Lukas Haraslin have hampered by injuries, while Jeremie Boga and Nicolas Schiappacasse had to deal with COVID, so the final spot in their front-line is up for grabs. Hamed Traore has first dibs if the absentees do not return, but Maxime Lopez could be an option as well. At some point they will have to start using Boga, but he missed a lot of practice time because of the virus. Mert Muldur and Georgios Kyriakopoulos have yet to turn it on this season, while Manuel Locatelli and Mehdi Bourabia have both hit the net once despite their role. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four – Other Games

BOLOGNA-SASSUOLO

Bologna: the Felsinei have been unconvicing in their two road games, against Benevento and Milan, while they hanged four goals on Parma on their lone home one. They had their chances against the Sanniti but could not knock one through. They lost Andreas Skov Olsen for significant time during the break and so Riccardo Orsolini will recapture the starting job, but he will have to watch out for Emmanuel Vignato if he does not wake up. Musa Barrow has taken a bunch of shots but has yet to score, the leading man in that regard has been Roberto Soriano and also Rodrigo Palacio has notched one. The absences of Gary Medel and Andrea Poli will force them to field either Mattias Svanberg or Nicolas Dominguez, who carry more value because they participate more in the final third. Sassuolo tend to leave some room to counter and they have a pair of speedsters. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Three

Atalanta: Pierluigi Gollini (PCL tear), Aleksey Miranchuk (thigh strain) and Matteo Pessina (patellar dislocation) will once again be unavailable and the coach raised some concern regarding Cristiano Piccini, who has not been able to practice fully since joining. The fact that they are signing another player in his role does not bode well for his timetable. The team announced that somebody tested positive but did not disclose whom: Mattia Caldara and Rafael Toloi are absent out of the blue. 

Benevento: Federico Barba returned midweek but subbed off in the first half and has been ruled out. Andres Tello (thigh) and Oliver Kragl (neck) are again sidelined. Nicolas Viola (meniscus) might not be back for the first game after the break. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Three – Other Games

FIORENTINA-SAMPDORIA

Fiorentina: the Viola were rather unlucky to be pipped at the post by Inter, but on the offensive end they surely raised the bar compared to opener, primarily thanks to a superb Franck Ribery, who shredded the defence and dished two assists. However he is said to be banged up, so the others could have a bigger role in this case. Gaetano Castrovilli, who notched the second goal in a row, and Federico Chiesa capitalized, while Christian Kouame benefitted from a generous feed by Giacomo Bonaventura. The ex-Genoa striker has separated himself from Patrick Cutrone and Dusan Vlahovic as main centre-forward and should end up being their primary scorer, even though generally throughout his career he has fared better as second-striker. The Gigliati are pretty stacked offensively and Cristiano Biraghi has been exuberant down the left flank.

Suggested picks: Kouame, Chiesa, Ribery.

Sampdoria: the Blucerchiati thought they had the Benevento game in the bag, but the Sanniti had different plans. Despite the second-half collapse, the Blucerchiati produced more than against Juventus, as natural, and Fabio Quagliarella quickly opened his seasonal tally, followed up by Omar Colley’s first Serie A goal. The offense got a boost with the addition of Antonio Candreva as right winger, who provided an assist right away. Federico Bonazzoli and Jakub Jankto instead have not been great in the first two games, while the secondary option Morten Thorsby was supplanted by Valerio Verre in the midfield last week, who was pretty good at Verona, but featured in a much more advanced position. Tommaso Augello uncorked few decent crosses in the last game, while Manolo Gabbiadini hit the post immediately upon subbing in and might get the start this week. Jankto has been ruled out, which could lead to an extended run for newcomer Mikkel Damsgaard or last year’s late bloomer Kristoffer Askildsen.

Suggested picks: Quagliarella, Candreva, Gabbiadini.

SASSUOLO-CROTONE

Sassuolo: the Neroverdi predictably detonated in the Spezia match, taking advantage of a lousy defence, and could be in a similar spot this week given Crotone’s early struggles on that front. Jeremie Boga still has not cleared the COVID-19 protocol: Lukas Haraslin was limited by an injury in the last game, but Gregoire Defrel picked up the slack more than convincingly, while Filip Djuricic and Francesco Caputo quickly shook off an underwhelming opener and Domenico Berardi nailed a PK. Manuel Locatelli is already playing at an excellent level, but he is not so prone to picking up bonuses. As far as the full-backs go, where there is some potential, Rogerio is hurt and Grigoris Kyriakopoulos is not as impactful, while on the right Jeremy Toljan has so far played more than Mert Muldur, who is generally more exuberant, although a little unbridled.

Suggested picks: Caputo, Berardi, Djuricic.

Crotone: the Pitagorici could not keep up with Genoa and Milan in the first matches and the going will not get any easier here, also considering their injury problems, as it is manifest that they need Ahmad Benali’s playmaking and leadership in the midfield. The coach has kept Junior Messias there to have more offensive punch, but it is not the same thing. Denis Dragus got the start to replace Emmanuel Riviere up front and was sprightly, the main problem though is that their fulcrum Simy has yet to get going and most of their offense goes through him. Nicolò Zanellato and Luca Cigarini generally take more care of the dirty work in the midfield. They added Pedro Pereira and Arkadiusz Reca on the flanks last week: the latter figures to be a bigger factor when it comes to attacking, but Andrea Rispoli and Salvatore Molina, who already had an assist, are no slouches on that regard.

Suggested picks: Messias, Simy, Dragus.

UDINESE-ROMA

Udinese: the Zebrette lost the second game in a row, this time against the lowly Spezia, and once against struggled to come up with convincing offense. Kevin Lasagna missed a pair of chances like in the opener, but that was about it on open play. Stefano Okaka and Ilija Nestorovski have not had a much impact so far, while they are almost completely depleted in the midfield, where they were forced to field 18-year-old Martin Palumbo, on top of other youngster Mamadou Coulibaly. Roberto Pereyra could be a decent factor, but it is not certain he will be available for this one due to bureaucratic elements. Therefore, Rodrigo De Paul will remain almost the sole source of playmaking, even should he be forced to play again in front of the defence. Thomas Ouwejan looked pretty promising when he subbed in Wednesday, certainly more enticing that Marvin Zeegelaar.

Suggested picks: De Paul, Lasagna, Okaka. 

Roma: he missed a pair of sitters, but the Giallorossi inevitably looked much better with Edin Dzeko back in the lineup and his quality flick-ons and passes started up several interesting sorties against Juventus. Jordan Veretout cashed in, and also canned a PK, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan was denied by the goalie. The major development is that Paulo Fonseca kept Pedro in the formation and moved Lorenzo Pellegrini to the pivot position, where Amadou Diawara and Bryan Cristante generally play. Therefore, the Spaniard is set to be one of their main weapons, while the Italian midfielder loses some shine as he is more far away from the box, but his playmaking could come through anyway, especially in easier matches where they are expected to attack consistently, like this one. He notched nine assists last season. It is pretty strange that Mkhitaryan still has not scored since he had few tasty chances.

Suggested picks: Dzeko, Mkhitaryan, Pedro.

BENEVENTO-BOLOGNA

Benevento: the Sanniti have been surprisingly shoddy in the back to begin the season, although keeping up with Inter might be difficult for anybody. However, they have been more productive than expected on the other end and while the goals in the opener were rather fluky, two by Luca Caldirola, one by Gaetano Letizia, the output coming from Gianluca Caprari (brace) and Gianluca Lapadula (one assist) should be more sustainable. The two already looked in sync, even though Lapadula’s minutes are being monitored due to lack of fitness: Gabriele Moncini has not really grabbed the brass ring in relief and so Lapadula is set to lead the charge whenever healthy. They added Iago Falque earlier this week and he can be a big weapon if in good conditions, but he will have to beat out last year’s starter Roberto Insigne, who is a substantial part of their offense. Some rotation could lead to good minutes for Marco Sau, who had 13 goals last year. The two box-to-box have not been particularly involved in the offensive proceedings.

Suggested picks: Caprari, Lapadula, Insigne.

Bologna: the Felsinei broke through in the derby with Parma thanks to a magnificent Roberto Soriano (two goals, one assist), but they had shown interesting stuff late versus Milan as well, despite the poor result. They are among the most proactive and productive sides among the minnows. Andreas Skov Olsen and Rodrigo Palacio joined Soriano in the stat-sheet in the last game, which is not great news for Riccardo Orsolini, which seems to have a long-standing beef with coach Sinisa Mihajlovic that is trying to make his flourish, and Nicola Sansone, who has seen little playing time in the early going. Musa Barrow is likely due after few attempts in the first two matches. Aaron Hickey played great in his debut and might quickly unseat Mitchell Dijks at left-back, while Lorenzo De Silvestri is always a steady hand. Jerdy Schouten has been splendid so far, but his role is pretty defensive.

Suggested picks: Barrow, Soriano, Palacio.

PARMA-VERONA

Parma: as if things were not going badly enough for the Ducali, Roberto Inglese and Andreas Cornelius both picked up last-minute injuries before the last game and so they were forced to field a very light attack. Gervinho, who did not have his signature burst right after a small physical problem, and Yann Karamoh did not do the trick and Andrea Adorante is the only pure centre-forward left. Hernani scored, on a Gaston Brugman sly feed, but only because of a defensive blunder. The Brazilian midfielder had not hit the target last season despite often firing away from distance. They will indeed get back Jasmin Kurtic after a technicality kept him out for the second game in a row, so that should lift them a little since they were forced to field Jacopo Dezi in the previous game. He and Jasmin Kucka might be biggest threats than their strikers all things considered. They need reinforcements from the transfer market.

Suggested picks: Gervinho, Kurtic, Kucka.

Verona: the Scaligeri will never be the most explosive team, but they tend to find a way to get the job done, especially because their stifling defence allows them to pick up good results even when they do not shine offensively. Samuel Di Carmine subbed off and will be out this week, but Andrea Favilli bagged the game-winning goal, his first Serie A one. They are adding some pieces since Darko Lazovic was able to make an appearance, but Federico Dimarco was surely serviceable on the left flank, and Ebrima Colley fared well in limited minutes. Antonin Barak has strong upside used as attacking midfielder and Adrien Tameze has been very promising. With different protagonists, they are getting back to the formula that propelled them last season, aided by the playmaking of Miguel Veloso and Mattia Zaccagni.

Suggested picks: Favilli, Barak, Zaccagni.

MILAN-SPEZIA

Milan: the Rossoneri took care of busines against Crotone, with Franck Kessie converting a penalty kick and Brahim Diaz netting his first goal in the Peninsula. They have another easy match-up on tap, however they will be undermanned and likely spent because. Ante Rebic injured his elbow in the past game and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is iffy due to COVID-19. It will likely up to youngster Lorenzo Colombo to lead the attack, while Rafael Leao should be ready for more playing time with one more week of practice under his belt following a long quarantine. With all the absences, Hakan Calhanoglu will have an even bigger role and, while he has been great in Europa League, he has not found the target in Serie A play yet. Samu Castillejo and Alexis Saelemaekers will have to make to make their presence felt in the final third more and they could unleash Theo Hernandez to get a boost.

Suggested picks: Calhanoglu, Colombo, Castillejo.

Spezia: the Aquilotti confirmed to be a pesky team in the Udinese game, what was a little stunning was to see Andrej Galabinov being this effective (three goals) after he failed to reach the double digit in the last three years. Emmanuel Gyasi picked up an assist, while Daniele Verde was fairly bubbly down the right flank and he is more at ease there than Kevin Agudelo, but the latter can play in a number of spots. Matteo Ricci has already had an helper and a goal called back, while Giulio Maggiore and Paolo Bartolomei have been more subdued and they have yet to fully explore all the new additions to the midfield. Tommaso Pobega and Lucien Agoume could be pretty interesting, but the hierarchies have yet to fully take form and they might just roll with last year’s starters anyway.

Suggested picks: Galabinov, Gyasi, Verde. 

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Growing excitement over Gattuso’s Napoli

“Nobody gave me anything,” is reportedly the mantra Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso is trying to instil in his players.

The former Milan legend understands this better than most. As a player, Gattuso wasn’t blessed with the divine talents of his partner-in-crime, Andrea Pirlo, or even with the skillset of vastly underrated teammate Massimo Ambrosini. Gattuso was a fighter, someone who wasn’t going to pick out a rampaging right-back with a sumptuous 40-yard diagonal pass or produce an outrageous piece of skill, he was the player who did the grunt work, who took the ball from the opposition and gave it to his more talented colleagues. The Calabrian-native made a career out of it, and won a flurry of accolades as a result.

And in his short stint as Napoli coach, he’s succeeding in transferring his ethos to the players. Gattuso has brought a tighter cohesion to the team, installed a more diligent work ethic than had seemingly been evident during the final months of the Carlo Ancelotti era.

Gattuso guided the club to the Coppa Italia title in June, beating Juventus 4-2 on penalties. It was their first piece of major silverware since lifting the same trophy in 2014. It must also be remembered that Napoli beat Lazio, Inter and Juve en route – three of the top four sides last season – and conceded a single goal.

Going into this season, the club has almost gone under the radar. The €60m signing of Victor Osimhen hasn’t received the coverage that a signing of that expense should garner. Much of the focus surrounding the club has been on the potential departures of Kalidou Koulibaly and Arkadiusz Milik.

Eight goals in their first two Serie A games without reply suggests that Gattuso’s side mean business. They looked sluggish in the opening half against Parma on the opening day, and didn’t spring into life until the introduction of Osimhen in the second half, who caused havoc with his mere presence.

The Nigerian was granted his first start against Genoa at the San Paolo, and was instrumental in Napoli’s 6-0 demolition job, including a deft touch for Piotr Zielinski’s goal. Whilst Osimhen hasn’t got on the score sheet himself, it’s evident that he offers more to the Partenopei than Milik, who’s more static and less nimble than the 21-year-old.

Furthermore, Chucky Lozano has impressed Gattuso with his start to the season following a disappointing debut campaign in Italy. “I’m not giving anything to him,” said Gattuso following the 6-0 win. “He’s a different player now, he’s got great strength in his legs, and doesn’t fall to the ground like a kid when he gets kicked.” Lozano has inherited the departed Jose Callejon’s position on the right flank in Gattuso’s 4-2-3-1 system, and with the pressure of being the club’s most expensive signing lifted due to the arrival of Osimhen, the Mexican is beginning to look like the player Napoli shelled out €42m on a year ago.

During the Maurizio Sarri reign, the point was always argued that Napoli had a great starting XI, but little in the way of players that could’ve come off the bench and made a difference. However this is no longer the case. The January signings of Diego Demme, Stanislav Lobotka, Matteo Politano and the summers arrivals of Andrea Petagna, Amir Rrahmani and Osimhen have given Gattuso a far greater squad depth than either of his two predecessors were afforded.

In addition to having a bigger squad, with Serie A allowing five substitutions for this season only, Napoli could be one of the main beneficiaries of the rule, as Inter exemplified in their 4-3 win against Fiorentina last weekend.

Whilst yes, one could argue that their two wins were only against Parma and Genoa and that it’s very early in the season to be making grand proclamations, but, whisper it quietly – Napoli look a formidable opponent, and are in with a strong chance of securing Champions League football next season.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round One

Bologna: Gary Medel is suspended and is also recovering from a grade one strain in the semimembranosus muscle on the right thigh, therefore he could miss week two as well.

Cagliari: Luca Ceppitelli, Filip Bradaric and Kiril Despodov are quarantining after catching COVID-19 in late August. Gaston Pereiro suffered a fifth metatarsal fracture in the right foot about two weeks ago and he has a 45-day timetable. Alessandro Deiola is recovering from a clean-up surgery on the right knee he had during his time at Lecce. Continue reading