Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 15

Salvatore Sirigu: Torino are not close to last year’s defensive levels, but perhaps the gritty win over Genoa will get them going. More importantly, they are slated to face a Fiorentina team that could be very depleted up front.

Timothy Castagne: he is coming off an assist and could stay in the lineup due to other players’ injuries. In any case, while Castagne is the most appealing, all Atalanta defenders and Pierluigi Gollini are good picks this week because they are finally tightening up in the back with three clean sheets in their past four games, including Champions League.   Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 15

Inter-Roma: the Nerazzurri keep riding their elite striking duo and Lautaro Martinez has been balling out over the last few matches, as he is coming off two braces in a row. Romelu Lukaku did not score last week, but he has already reached the double-digit threshold in the domestic league. Antonio Candreva and Marcelo Brozovic both dished an assist in the last game and they are the two members of the supporting cast who are more likely to pick up bonus points. Matias Vecino has an history of scoring in big games and he has done some damage recently. Their back-line, instead, has not been airtight in the past couple of months, but Stefan De Vrij showed up big on the other end. Continue reading

Paratici comments on De Ligt, the strikers and the coaching change

Juventus’ top executive Fabio Paratici gave another interview, this time to Tuttosport. After reaffirming the club’s serenity about Cristiano Ronaldo’s status and future, he commented on Giorgio Chiellini’s incendiary’s words about Real Madrid robbing the Portuguese ace of the Balloon d’Or last year: “He truly deserved it, he is the best. Giorgio was right, some clubs have more power on the international scale, but I do not how you can influence an award like this.” Continue reading

Serie A Game of the Round – Juventus vs Sassuolo

Juventus’ first faux pas at home came at the hands of Sassuolo in a great match, which had the proper amount of fun and signifcance, with no disrepect to the fantastic Cagliari-Sampdoria thriller.

The Bianconeri came into the fixture having won four in a row, the most recent out thanks to a late surge against Atalanta, while the Emiliani were pipped at the post by Lazio last week and in general had showed improvements over the last four rounds.

Maurizio Sarri picked Gonzalo Higuain and Federico Bernardeschi over Paulo Dybala and Aaron Ramsey up front, with Cristiano Ronaldo made the XI for the second game in a row after knee injury. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 14

Juventus-Sassuolo: Cristiano Ronaldo came back midweek and now it will be interesting to see whether or not he will be load managed in Serie A player after the knee injury. Nevertheless, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala have been excellent in relief and have been able to contribute also when coming off the bench in their standard configuration. Douglas Costa got hurt again, which takes away their most explosive option at no.10, so it will Federico Bernardeschi and Aaron Ramsey running the show there for a while, but they both have not done damage in a while. Ramsey has the most upside in the duo. Khedira is fading and, while Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi are serviceable contributors, they are not strong fantasy options. It could be instead the right kind of match-up for Miralem Pjanic to have a meaningful offensive role, while Juan Cuadrado has been a pretty good fullback for a while now. Continue reading

Juventus Top Perfomers – UCL Round 5 vs Atletico Madrid

Juventus reached their first objective of the season by securing the top spot in their Champions League group with a one-nil victory over Atletico Madrid that was accompanied by one of the best team’s showings in a while.

Matthijs De Ligt: he was bound to be the pick anyway because he always sticks out a little bit more than his partner in crime Leonardo Bonucci and then cemented it with an outstanding block on Joaquin Correa, who had slipped past the back-line, shooting the gap in a hurry and simply bum-rushing the opponent. The defence gave up just one clear-cut chance, although Alvaro Morata was likely offside on that incredible whiff, even when the Colchoneros switched to a ludicrously offensive lineup, confirming that it tends to perform better when under pressure. Wojciech Szczesny is oozing confidence these days and did not have to do too much, while the duo of fullbacks for the evening, Danilo and Mattia De Sciglio, did not mess anything up but rarely bothered attacking, so the standard ‘compitino’. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 13

Standings implications: Juventus and Inter continue to forge ahead at the same pace, as the Bianconeri successfully turned around late the demanding match-up against Atalanta, while the Beneamata had an easy time handling Torino. Lazio extended his winning streak to five matches in dramatic fashion, thus defending the third spot from the ambitions of Roma, which instead housed Brescia. Milan and Napoli shared the spoils in a predictably underwhelming contest. Verona’s strong season continued with a one-nil win over Fiorentina, while Bologna and Parma shared the spoils in a thrilling Derby. Sampdoria outlasted Udinese. Cagliari lost some ground since they threw away a two-nothing lead against Lecce. SPAL and Genoa drew in the Monday night game, which really left nobody satisfied.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 13

Juan Musso: it is not a particularly appealing round for the top defenses, so it might be time to think outside of the box. Udinese have rediscovered some stinginess with Luca Gotti at the helm and will tangle with Sampdoria, which are tied with SPAL as least productive attack in the League and have never scored more than one goal. The Argentinian goalkeeper is a certainty at this point.

Chris Smalling: the Roma back-line has not been particularly airtight, but they have one of the better match-ups on hand against the cratering Brescia, which have not found the target more than once since late September. The English defender has been quite the surprise with his imposing physicality and he is a menace on set pieces too. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 13

Atalanta-Juventus: after producing at an historic pace through the first ten weeks, the Goddess failed to score in their last two matches against Sampdoria and Cagliari. Josip Ilicic and Ruslan Malinovskyi are suspended, but the Slovenian attacker has appealed, but they will get a boost from the return of Duvan Zapata, who is expected to feature at least in limited capacity. He notched six goals in seven appearances before getting hurt. Luis Muriel is no longer red-hot, as he has not found the target in the last three rounds, but he will be again their main scoring option from the jump. Alejandro Gomez is going through something similar, but he always has loads of potential as an assist-man. Mario Pasalic is likely to move to the hole and he can pretty sneaky there. Robin Gosens has been their best wing-back so far, but also Timothy Castagne has hit the net once. Continue reading

Solving Sarri’s Attacking Conundrum

Since returning from the first international break, Juventus have looked lethargic in the final third and have struggled to find the back of the net. In a majority of the biaconeri’s wins, one goal has separated them from their opponent and they have rarely played the opposition off the pitch. While much was promised when Maurizio Sarri was hired, we are yet to see Sarriball in full flow. Currently, the former Napoli tactician is faced with a selection headache in the final third and is under immense pressure to make his front-three fire on all cylinders.

Right now, Cristiano Ronaldo is experiencing a rough patch and has arguably played his worst football in recent memory. Sarri has not shied away from tough decisions and has subbed off the Portuguese superstar in Juventus’ last two wins. Despite reports suggesting Ronaldo was carrying a knock, the former Real Madrid man joined up with Portugal for the international break and scored a hat-trick.

Alongside him, Sarri has typically opted for one of Gonzalo Higuain or Paulo Dybala. In Sarri’s ‘Christmas-Tree’ (4-3-1-2) formation, an out-and-out number nine is of the utmost importance and Higuain has thrived since returning. Whether he’s linking up the attack with deft touches around the box or creating space for himself to score, Higuain has epitomized what a modern number nine is and is almost undroppable.

Much like Higuain, Dybala has benefitted greatly from Sarri’s arrival and has put last season’s woes behind him. Most recently, la Joya scored a crucial goal against Milan, gliding past their captain Alessio Romagnoli as if he wasn’t there. Before these match-winning exploits, Dybala notched a brace against Lokomotiv Moscow and has regularly been Juventus’ best player this season. Given his good form along with Higuain’s importance to Sarri’s tactical schemes, it’s difficult to leave one of them on the bench.

Yet, in the name of balance, it needs to be done. Otherwise, with Dybala, Higuain and Ronaldo all on the pitch, Sarri fears Juve would be overrun in the midfield. He briefly used the trio together against Inter but promptly brought on another midfielder into the fold to regain control.

Factor in Douglas Costa’s return to fitness and electric nature on the ball and it’s clear Sarri is faced with quite the selection conundrum in attack. Should he play a 4-3-3 to accommodate the Brazilian? On the other hand, who should he drop between Higuain and Dybala? Finally, and perhaps most crucially, how does he get the most out of an out-of-form Ronaldo? These are all questions Sarri will be pondering deeply over the course of this international break and will largely come to define this season.

Despite the headaches these issues may give him, it’s a positive problem for Sarri. After all, who wouldn’t want an attack as deep and as versatile as Juve’s? The important thing now, however, is piecing it all together all-while maintaining defensive solidity and balance. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.

As Sarri has shown, this prospect is much more difficult than it seems and is a delicate situation to approach. Over the course of the next months, Sarri’s handling of the situation will dictate how far Juve will go and will shape the future of Juventus’ attack.

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