Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 22

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Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini suffered a calf pull that should force him to miss a couple of games. Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira returned in Coppa Italia, while Mario Mandzukic (ankle) is expected to be available this week. Emre Can is ill but available.

Napoli: Fabian Ruiz is suspended. Raul Albiol and Elseid Hysaj are fatigued, while Adam Younes is banged up: the first two have called up, the winger has not.

Inter: Matteo Politano was slapped with a two-game ban. Stefan De Vrij is dealing with some muscle fatigue, but he has been called up, while Balde Keita remains out.  Continue reading

Gennaro Gattuso has got a huge job on hands

Money does not always correlate with success, and that was the story of AC Milan last season when they went on a spending spree adding nine new players to instigate a revolution. The headliner, was the signing of Leonardo Bonucci from rivals Juventus. However, after a year with the Rossoneri as captain, Bonucci is back with the Old Lady while Milan received promising defender Mattia Caldara in exchange. 

Despite a less than a year experience as a coach in Serie A, there is residual believe that Gattuso can restore the Diavolo back to its past glory days. And with Leonardo Araújo and Paulo Maldini play key roles at management level, the Gattuso can only be confident that his job is safe for now.

Last Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Napoli at the San Paolo was evidence of how far the Rossoneri were behind last season’s top four teams. It revealed a team with startling defensive flaws, lack authority in midfield and devoid of character. The very qualities that, Napoli showed to come from behind to score three goals.

The Diavolo addressed a key position of need in the transfer window by signing Gonzalo Higuain from Juventus as the team struggled for goals last season with Nicola Kalinic as their top marksman. Higuain is a proven goal scorer with not less than 15 goals in each of the four season he has spent in serie A .However, his efficiency will largely depend on the understanding he develops with the likes of Hakan Çalhanoğlu , Jack Bonaventura and Suso. Most significantly the quality of services from his supporting cast.

One thing is apparent in this Milan side, there are some rough edges that, individually, Gattuso needs to smooth out, particularly the young players. The decision making of Davide Calabria, Franck Kessié wayward shots, Suso’s crosses, Donnarumma’s lack of confidence playing from the back, Bonaventura’s hesitations in key moments in games, Mateo Musacchio’s reading of the game, Ricardo Rodriquez’s poor offensive participation and Lucas Biglia’s lack of ball progression. The lack of leadership and personalities in this team is very glare. Likewise the issue of immaturity and mental toughness.

The season is still embryonic though, but it’s hard to deny that the negatives seem to outweigh the positives. Having said that, there is still cause to be optimistic as the season wears on.

In defense, the return of Andrea Conti  should solve the problem at right back as the former Atalanta defender shows better judgement in his passes and attacks the flanks with more purpose and precision. This could free Suso to provide more support to Higuain in attack and supplementary interplay from the right channel. Then there is the issue of the center back pairing. Gattuso opted for a partnership between Alessio Romagnoli and Mateo Musacchio in their first Serie A game, but it’s difficult to envisage this coupling in a long term.

It is the vision of many Milanisti to see a partnership of Caldara and Romagnoli, based on the idea that these two could lead the Azzurris defence in the not too distant future. The departure of Leonardo Bonucci means there is a vacuum of leadership at the back, as both Caldara and Romagnoli lack a bit in stature and experience. However Pepe Reina’s know-how and leadership qualities could be key in the dressing room whiles mentoring Donnarumma.

One key area that Milan have been suffering from in the past couple of years is the midfield. For a club that had the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Massimo Ambrosini, Kaka, Rui Costa and the warrior, Genaro Gattuso, it’s a big disappointment watching the current crop. Milan lack presence and expertise in midfield. Lucas Biglia should be more imaginative with his passes and tactful on the ball. Kessie is a burst of energy and athleticism, but very limited technical wise. His energy can be more useful if he stays close to Biglia to break down opponents’ attacks rather than waste opportunities in support of the attack.

Milan inability to stock their midfield with A list players could bite them for the second time in a roll as Tiémoué Bakayoko, Andrea Bertolacci, Riccardo Montolivo may not offer much. Milan, just don’t have enough quality to play themselves out of situations when they are under pressure.

This Friday, Hakan Çalhanoğlu returns to action against AS Roma. And the Gialorrosi will be looking to exact revenge after the Rossoneri inflicted a two nil defeat on them at the stadio Olimpico last season.  The Turkish international’s creativity alongside Bonaventura should give Milan confidence in attack.

Genaro Gatusso has got a huge job on his hands as his team needs to massively improve if they have any aspirations of making the top four. It’s not enough for him to be taking the blame for the poor performance of his players, there must be evidence of progress on the pitch.

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Serie A Player Status Updates – Round 2

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Juventus: Mattia De Sciglio is out again with a hamstring ailment.

Napoli: Alex Meret remains out for arm fracture, he should miss the next one as well. No issue for Lorenzo Insigne after last week’s blow to the knee. Fabian Ruis is out with muscle fatigue.

Roma: Diego Perotti is nursing a bruised ankle, but he might be in the squad.

Inter: Milan Skriniar is available, Radja Nainggolan should be as well, but he is more likely to feature off the bench. Continue reading

Serie A Weekly News Recap

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The transfer market formally opened this week and so a flurry of moves were made official. Gianluigi Buffon joined PSG; Inter signed Stefan De Vrij and Kwadwo Asamoah on free transfers and acquired Lautaro Martinez from Racing; Milan brought in Pepe Reina, Ivan Strinic and Alen Halilovic without paying anything.

Napoli announced the arrivals of Alex Meret and Orestis Karnezis from Udinese and Fabian Ruiz from Real Betis, for whom they paid around €30M. Sampdoria have bought Jakub Jankto from Udinese, who totalled nine goals and 12 assists over the last two seasons with the Zebrette. Continue reading

Napoli appoint Carlo Ancelotti

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Napoli have chosen Carlo Ancelotti as their next coach, the president Aurelio De Laurentiis announced on Wednesday. The manager has signed a three-year, €15M contract, with the final being an optional one, and will keep some of staff in place. Ancelotti replaces Maurizio Sarri, who finished second in the past season, breaking the club’s point record.

Over his illustrious career, Ancelotti has won domestic titles with Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich and the Champions League with the Rossoneri (twice) and the Merengues. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 36

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Here’s the first edition of the Serie A recap, which will provide some quick thoughts on the round that just ended.

Standings implications. Juventus are de facto champions since Napoli dropped two more points and the gap in the goal difference is too wide. It is not officially official, but it is as close as it gets. Inter earned two points to Lazio for the fourth spot and the showdown in the final matchday will likely decide the final team qualifying to Champions League. Sampdoria are virtually eliminated from the Europa League race since they are five points behind the seventh-placed Atalanta, which were leapfrogged by Milan despite a great performance against Lazio.

At the bottom of the table, Verona are mathematically relegated, while Sassuolo are safe. Chievo and Spal nabbed monumental wins, putting Cagliari in real troubles. There are now five teams within two points, with one going down.

Confirmations. Mauro Icardi, Matteo Politano and Hakan Calhanoglu extended their hot streaks. Paulo Dybala did not have a great game but still hit the target, Simone Verdi converted a penalty in an unfavourable match-up. Patrick Cutrone has the biggest nose for the goal among Milan’s centre-forwards. Cengiz Under, Sami Khedira and Musa Barrow continue to produce, same for Mariusz Stepinski. Both Spal strikers took advantage of Benevento’s lousy defence. Giacomo Bonaventura, Douglas Costa and Marcelo Brozovic shined and notched a pair of assist each, Josip Ilicic could have had a similar haul if it was not for Thomas Strakosha and the rest of Lazio’s defenders. Alisson had a couple of tremendous saves.

Guess who is back. It did not propel Napoli to victory, but Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik snapped their scoring slump. Valter Birsa scored a crucial goal, his first since October.

Surprise scorers. The first three are not that astonishing since they are attackers, but it was their first this season, or in Serie A in general: Rafinha finally coronated a string of good performances with a goal, Giuseppe Rossi found the net after over a year and Seung-Wong Lee had the consolation goal against Milan. Ignazio Abate and Andrea Ranocchia have not started much this year and it was certainly a surprise to see them in the scoresheets: the Milan right back even scored a pretty goal on an open play.

Flops of the round. The defences of Bologna, Torino, Udinese and Verona were already headed for tough games, but the blunders of Sebastien De Maio and Nicolas Burdisso did not help. Napoli’s Mario Rui and Pepe Reina had a miscommunication on Lorenzo De Silvestri’s score, which was probably more on the fullback. Gianluigi Buffon sent an errant pass towards Daniele Rugani, who caused a penalty. Sampdoria did not show up in Sassuolo. Not exactly flops, but Gonzalo Higuain and Ivan Perisic did not join the goal fest thrown by their teammates and Edin Dzeko had a quiet outing.

Clutch goal of the day. Not a ton of late-game heroics in this one, the shut-out goes to Fiorentina’s Bryan Dabo timely trail on a feed by Diego Falcinelli to complete the comeback and defeat Genoa.

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Serie A Club of the Week – Round 35: Fiorentina

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Few teams had impressive displays in the weekend: Roma, Atalanta, Sampdoria and Crotone all pounded their respective opponents and also had very juicy fantasy hauls, with multiple players either finding the target or assisting. However, the most dominant performance of the round belongs to Fiorentina, which also managed to keep a clean sheet, differently from the other teams.

In the big game against Napoli, Stefano Pioli confirmed the scheme he has been heavily relying to recently: a 4-3-1-2 with Riccardo Saponara in the hole, behind Federico Chiesa and Giovanni SimeoneContinue reading

Serie A Game of the Round – Juventus vs Napoli

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Juventus-Napoli was supposed to be the title decider, and it might very well turn out to be, even though the race is wide open considering the narrow gap in the standing. However, after few weeks where the Bianconeri were looking to run away, the Partenopei swung the momentum in their favour with a seminal result that was the logical consequence of a great team performance and a proactive mentality.

The Turin club came into the game looking to atone from an unsatisfactory draw against Crotone and to possibly seal deal and go up seven points. Napoli were coming off a double comeback against Udinese, which allowed them to stay close to the rivals.

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Serie A Fantasy Game Predictions – Round 30

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A pretty uneven Serie A round is capped off by the mighty clash between Juventus and Milan.

Bologna-Roma: the Felsinei came away with a good point at Olimpico against Lazio, which marked the return to the scoresheet of Simone Verdi, who is by all accounts their best players. They stopped the slide after two tough losses and the return of Rodrigo Palacio adds some versatility and some pizzazz to their attack. Blerin Dzemaili started with a bang after coming back, but he has not been heard since. The Wolf has prevailed in six of their last seven Serie A fixtures and have won in four straight away matches. Edin Dzeko has resumed scoring consistently and they have gotten good contribution from Stephan El Shaarawy and Diego Perotti, while Radja Nainggolan is back to his “ninja” levels. Cengiz Under has understandably slowed down a little and suffered a knee sprain with Turkey. Alisson and the rest of the Giallorossi back-line is worth consideration because they have kept four clean sheets in the last five matches.

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Serie A Game of the Week – Round 28: Inter vs Napoli

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A pair of thrillers went down over the weekend, with both Lazio and Milan scoring at the very last second. Although it was not a high scoring game, Inter-Napoli was the match of the week because of its intensity, but more importantly for its significance in the Scudetto and the Champions League races.

The Derby della Madonnina was postponed last week, so Inter were looking to bounce back from a tough defeat in Genoa, where they did not show up, but they had gathered some good results in a row at San Siro. The Partenopei were seeking atonement after last week’s unusual home loss against Roma, where their defence fell apart.

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