Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 15

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Standings implications: Juventus sank Inter in the most anticipated game of the round, while Napoli wiped out Frosinone, maintaining the distance from the top spot and gaining ground on the Nerazzurri. Both Roman teams were incredibly pipped at the post against Cagliari and Sampdoria and Fiorentina tied the game late versus Sassuolo. Milan and Torino shared the spoils, so the only team prospering in the Europa League zone was Atalanta, which upended Udinese on the road. Among the relegation strugglers, Empoli keep soaring with the third win in the last month, this time over Bologna. Genoa showed grit in the one-one tie with SPAL in Cesare Prandelli’s debut. Continue reading

Serie A’s Rising Stars of the Season

I have found that the easiest way to rank teams at the start of the season is to look at how many blue chip and red chip players they have. A blue chipper is good enough to start for a title challenger, while a red chipper is an above average player at his respective position. Of course, as the new season unfolds some new players take a leap and start fitting these criteria- with this in mind, let’s take a look at the emerging stars in Serie A:

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Patrick Cutrone- Milan’s new management team showed a lot of faith in the 20 year old striker by not adding another attacker to go with Higuain after Carlos Bacca and Andre Silva headed to la Liga. While Higuain’s back problems and recent suspension made them regret this decision, this development has nothing to do with Cutrone’s performances.

The rossoneri’s youth team product has drawn comparisons to both Pippo Inzaghi for his ability to sniff out scoring opportunities  and Mario Mandzukic for his work rate and demeanor, I simply like to say Patrick Cutrone is Italian for “Makes Things Happen”.

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Nicolo’ Zaniolo- Inter’s sporting director Piero Ausilio did everything he could to keep the 19 year old midfielder while negotiation the deal for Radja Nainggolan. But Monchi simply refused to part ways with the Belgian international without getting back Zaniolo, while also never considering the idea of giving Inter a buy back clause.

While many of Roma’s signature acquisitions have struggled the past two years, Zaniolo has already started two matches against Real Madrid (and showed a lot of progress the second time around) and put in a great performance against his former club Inter. So far we have seen Zaniolo play more in a trequartista role, but his future will likely be as a mezzala and as a key player for the Italian national team.

Ola Aina/Soualiho Meite’- while Simone Zaza and Roberto Soriano’s return to Serie A was the headline of the granata’s mercato this summer, the two new players to have made the biggest impact are youngsters new to Italian football. Torino has so far won the swap deal with Monaco involving Antonio Barreca (who could return to Serie A in January) and Soualiho Meite’, who has become a constant starter in Mazzari’s midfield.

On the other hand Ola Aina made the best of Cristian Ansaldi’s injury and become one of the most dynamic left wing backs in Calcio- it’s almost certain that Torino will exercise their option to acquire him permanently from Chelsea next summer.

Christian Kouame’- Genoa will likely get back to top part of the mid table should both Piatek and the Ivorian striker produce at the same time. While the Polish striker strived under Davide Ballardini, he struggled when Ivan Juric replaced him, but that coaching change is what launched Kouame’ who has terrorized Serie A defenses in the past few months. At least now they‘ll be on a level playing field with new manager Cesare Prandelli.

While Piatek has so far mainly shined for his finishing, Koaume has more variety to his game- he combines excellent dribbling skills with above average passing and heading ability, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Koaume’ is the one with a bigger market next summer… 

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Joaquim Andersen/Nikola Milenkovic/William Troost Ekong- while everyone knows about Koulibaly, Skriniar, De Vrij, Manolas, Chiellini and Bonucci (all players who won’t be sold in January by the way) there’s also a new breed of exciting center backs in Serie A.

After spending a season on the sidelines to acclimate himself to Italian football, Andersen has become Sampdoria’s best defender. The 22 year old Dane has adapted well to Giampaolo’s back line which is quite demanding when it comes to maintaining tight lines and has shown a lot of maturity on and off the pitch.

While a lot was expected from Fiorentina’s attack, the defense has been the consistent bright spot. Milenkovic has shown excellent versatility since he has performed well as a right wing back despite his height and previous experience as a center back- he has also managed to score as many goals as Chiesa and Simeone.

Udinese found a gem in Turkey when they discovered William Troost Ekong, the Nigerian center back has been a consistent starter under both Velazquez and new manager Davide Nicola and is already a target for numerous clubs in Serie A and abroad. 

Gianluca Mancini-  could the 22 year old be the next installment of Gasperini’s fool’s gold? In recent years we have seen numerous former Atalanta players struggle once they left Bergamo so there may be come second guessing when observing the center back’s impressive performances.

Mancini has essentially replaced Mattia Caldara this season, not only is he performing well in the 3 man back line, just like Caldara he has also shown a penchant for scoring goals. After becoming a regular on the Under 21 look for Mancini to get a selection to the Azzurri’s senior squad in 2019. 

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 15

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The next round features one of the games of the season, Juventus-Inter, and few other juicy match-ups.

Juventus-Inter: the Bianconeri got the better of Fiorentina, extending their winning streak to five fixtures, but in that occasion they were not as dominant as the final score showed. Against Roma, Inter dropped points for the second time in a row on the road and, despite scoring twice, they never looked in control. The same thing happened in Bergamo, but they are extremely opportunistic, so they can never be counted out. Cristiano Ronaldo added one to his tally with a penalty in Florence, while Rodrigo Bentancur continues to impress. Mario Mandzukic is generally money in big matches, while Douglas Costa has the potential to be a factor off the bench. Despite being useful in other areas, Paulo Dybala’s offensive stats in Serie A have been subpar. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 14

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The last round was a top-heavy one, with several of the most selected players picking up bonus points and rewarding their fantasy owners, even though not necessarily all of them made the team of the week.

Juan Musso (7 points): only three clean sheets this week, for a stat that continues to be very seesawing. As a matter of fact, two came in the same match, where the Argentinian goalie outdueled Sassuolo’s Andrea Consigli and held down the fort and helping Udinese bring home a good point. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 14

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Standings implications: Juventus continue to roll and toppled Fiorentina, but Napoli outlasted Atalanta away. Roma showed great character against and the big match of the round ended in a 2-2 draw. Milan put together a gritty comeback against Parma: a valuable result that allowed them to leapfrog Lazio, which got halted by Chievo. Sampdoria finally got a win trouncing Bologna, which are officially in trouble. SPAL and Empoli shared the spoils in a very well played game, similarly to Frosinone and Cagliari. Torino downed Genoa with two quick goals at the end of the first half, while Sassuolo-Udinese was scoreless. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 14

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The next Serie A slate is pretty tasty on paper.

Fiorentina-Juventus: the Viola are having a weird season. They started off decently, showing well especially at home, where they are still undefeated and have a sound defense, but they have struggled to score recently. They have not netted more than one since late September and they have drawn in their last five matches, against Cagliari, Torino, Roma, Frosinone and Bologna. On the other hand, the Old Lady is cruising with 12 wins in the year, four in a row after the tumble against Genoa, but it will be tested before the break. Fiorentina’s offensive problems stem primarily from Giovanni Simeone and Marko Pjaca’s poor form, as they have combined for just three goals so far. Federico Chiesa is always doing stuff, but he has not bagged many as well. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 13

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The next round could be a little one-sided for the top clubs, but surprises are always around the corner in Serie A and there still a couple of juicy games on deck.

Juventus-SPAL: the Bianconeri prevailed in the always tense match-up with Milan, surviving a penalty but appearing pretty dominant overall. They have won in 11 of the first 12 games, setting a new Serie A-point record to start the season. SPAL looked a little better against Cagliari, but squandered a two-zip lead and had to settle for a tie. They had lost in six of the previous seven fixtures. Mario Mandzukic returned to the starting XI with an immediate goal, then Cristiano Ronaldo bagged another one. Continue reading

Time For Mancini To Look To Patrick Cutrone

After yet another toothless display against Portugal, Azzurri fans are crying for a fresh start in the final third. Something clearly needs to change as it’s the first time in Italy’s illustrious history that they go winless in six consecutive home games. With the side struggling for goals, Italy boss Roberto Mancini has tried everything to get his side firing again.

When the false-nine experiment with Lorenzo Insigne didn’t quite pan out, the former Inter tactician reinstated Ciro Immobile into the fold. While the Lazio man is prolific at club level, he’s yet to translate that form in Azzurro blu and has a mere seven goals in 35 appearances for the national team, most of which came against second-tier sides. As Italy look to restore themselves as a European superpower on the international scene, it’s time to start anew and give Milan’s Patrick Cutrone a shot at the role.

In the past, Immobile and Andrea Belotti have been given an opportunity to make the number nine spot their own, yet have regularly failed to impressed when tasked with leading the line. Other than not finding the back of the net, they both rarely involved themselves in the buildup and typically cut a frustrated figure until they were eventually subbed off. While both have demonstrated they have a keen eye for goal in Serie A, neither of them has demonstrated they have the character to play for Italy and went missing in action in Gli Azzurri’s crucial game against Sweden.

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Serie A Match of the Round – Milan vs Juventus

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Milan-Juventus was the most anticipated match coming into the round and it did not disappoint, even though the score ended up being a little lopsided. As if there were not enough storylines already, one arose even before the start as Massimiliano Allegri elected to keep Leonardo Bonucci on the bench, sparing him a date with a very hostile environment. His replacement Medhi Benatia had a mixed performance.

The Bianconeri came into the game trying to maintain their lead over Napoli, which were victorious on Saturday, and looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss against Manchester United in Champions League. Milan had prevailed in five of their last Serie A fixtures, twice thanks to Alessio Romagnoli in the final minutes. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 12

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The next slate before another international break is pretty juicy.

Genoa-Napoli: the Griffon have not won in four games and the effects of the coaching change have not been palpable, since they continue to concede a lot. They lost twice in San Siro last week and the schedule does not do them any favor. The Partenopei easily romped Empoli last week and have won three out of their last four games, looking splendid at times. Krzysztof Piatek has not scored for four games in a row, which is unlikely to be a coincidence, and their last goals under Milan Juric have been pretty random, by Cristian Romero on a free kick, by Romulo on a penalty and by Daniel Bessa on a defensive mishap. Continue reading