Napoli-Sampdoria: the Partenopei had a disappointing two-game meeting with Milan, as they did not manage to beat them in the weekend and then got got in Coppa Italia. They are undefeated at home, where they have won four games in a row, often scoring multiple goals. The Blucerchiati are coming off a thumping against Udinese, their fourth W in the last six fixtures and they lost only to Juventus since the beginning of December. While Lorenzo Insigne is stuck in a prolonged drought, Arek Milik has done most of the damage for the Azzurri up front, with Dries Mertens chipping in from time to time and some contribution from José Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Piotr Zielinski, but not in a consistent way. Continue reading
Roma-Torino: the Giallorossi are on the up and up with three wins in the last four games, over Genoa, Sassuolo and Parma and have re-entered the Champions League fray. The Granata continue to be a little uninspiring, they have prevailed just twice in their last seven games, but they are still undefeated on the road and have shared the spoils in the majority of away matches. Patrick Schick has had a resurgence is the last month and the duel with Edin Dzeko is legitimate now. They have also recovered Lorenzo Pellegrini, who was having a great season before getting hurt and makes them very menacing up front, since Cengiz Under, Bryan Cristante, Nicolò Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert have all been productive before the break and even Javier Pastore showed some life in Coppa Italia. Continue reading
The first ever Serie A boxing day will culminate in a tasty match-up between Inter and Napoli.
Frosinone-Milan: the Ciociari snatched a decent draw in Udinese in Marco Baroni’s first game, but they need some Ws as they have gotten just one so far and it dates back to October 28th. The window to reduce the gap is closing quickly. Milan are sputtering in the last period: they have prevailed just once in the last six fixtures, tying with Lazio, Torino and Bologna and losing to Juventus and Fiorentina. They have been unable to score in the past three games. With so little time to work with, the new coach did not change much, opting for a 3-5-2 and benching Joel Campbell to have one more midfielder, Francesco Cassata. Continue reading
Lazio-Cagliari: after four draws in a row, the Biancocelesti came a cropper in Bergamo, following another subpar performance. The Sardinians have been unable to win in the past six weeks and they caught on Sunday their first L at home versus Napoli. So both teams are reeling, one more of the other considering their seasonal targets. Simone Inzaghi is giving Sergej Milinkovic-Savic every opportunity to get off his schneid, but he keeps misfiring. Luis Alberto is showing some signs of life, but he is far away from last year’s level of brilliance. So Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa remain their only two productive fulcrums, with Marco Parolo at times able to chip in. Continue reading
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
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:
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”.
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…
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.
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
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
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
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