Empoli Trio Set for Big Moves

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Despite being relegated to Serie B in heart-breaking fashion, Empoli’s roster contained many up and coming talents. Following their relegation many Serie A side are looking to claim their best players on the cheap.

Just last week, Napoli signed Giovanni Di Lorenzo – who had his best season yet, scoring five goals and registering three assists – while Empoli’s underrated midfield trio has since been dismantled.

Today, it was reported that Juventus signed Hamed Traore for 12 million euros and will loan him out immediately to Sassuolo. Fiorentina reportedly signed him in the January transfer window, but forgot to deposit his contract with the league. Juventus took full advantage of their mistake, and snapped up the midfielder immediately.

The 19-year-old had a phenomenal season under Aurelio Andreazzoli, and established himself as one of the league’s most enticing midfield prospects. Equally capable of defending as he is attacking, Traore looks to be a complete midfielder, and will undoubtedly make the move to Juventus in the near future if he keeps developing.

At Sassuolo, Traore finds himself in an ideal situation and will play under yet another progressive manager in Roberto De Zerbi. As a result, expect Traore to continue his progression next season.

Outside of Traore, Rade Krunic also made the move to one of Italy’s elite. Milan signed the Bosnian midfielder for 8 million euros, and will reunite with his former manager Marco Giampaolo. While Krunic isn’t exactly the big-money move Milan fans wanted in the midfield, he will offer some much needed depth and creativity to the side. Capable of playing as a mezz’ala or behind the striker, if need be, Krunic will get plenty of minutes to prove himself.

In his 33 appearances this season, the midfielder scored five goals – two of which were wonder-strikes against Sassuolo and SPAL. Other than his ability to find the back of the net, the former Empoli midfielder registered seven assists, highlighting his directness and ability to pick a defence apart at will. At just 25 years old, and given he’s already familiar with Giampaolo, expect Krunic to only improve from here, and make the most of his move to Milan.

Ismael Bennacer, on the other hand, is still at the club for the time being, but it’s only a matter of time before the midfielder leaves. Currently, Genoa are favourites for his signature, however, it’s important to note that Arsenal hold the right to match any accepted offer. In the past, a number of English and French clubs have been linked with the Algerian midfielder, therefore don’t rule out foreign interference yet.

Playing at the base of the midfield, Bennacer dictated tempo at will for Empoli. His five assists are but one indicator of his immense talent, and range of passing. While signing with Genoa would represent a lateral move, it’s only a matter of time before the 21-year-old makes the leap to a big club. In addition, reuniting with Andreazzoli, would give him a sense of familiarity he’ll need to keep developing.

With Krunic and Traore already gone, it hasn’t taken long for Empoli to cash in on their talents. As the summer transfer window rolls on, expect the Tuscan-based outfit to continue profiting on their scouting exploits.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 38

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Juventus: Blaise Matuidi and Federico Bernardeschi are suspended, while Joao Cancelo and Mario Mandzukic both fractured their nose in the same week and are unavailable for Sunday. Alex Sandro is dealing with a rib contusion. Douglas Costa (calf), Mattia Perin (shoulder) and Sami Khedira (knee) remain sidelined as expected. Cristiano Ronaldo will be rested, while Wojciech Szczesny has suffered a knee injury.

Napoli: Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Amadou Diawara looked close to returning from a foot fracture for a pair of weeks, but he was again unable to make the squad list, like Adam Ounas that is banged up and David Ospina, who is still in Colombia. Mario Rui is out with an undisclosed injury.  Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 37

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Juventus: Leonardo Bonucci has recovered from his ankle sprain, Daniele Rugani from hamstring soreness and even Mario Mandzukic was able to practice fully late in the week after dealing with a patellar tendon problem for a while. Moise Kean has shaken off the flu. Giorgio Chiellini has picked up yet another calf ailment, but he is available. Miralem Pjanic is fine after twisting his ankle last week.

Napoli: Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have good chances to return after skipping one with muscle fatigue. Nikola Maksimovic and Amadou Diawara are close to healing from their foot infractions. David Ospina is still in Colombia for personal reasons, while Adam Ounas remains questionable after missing one. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 37

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Sassuolo-Roma: the Neroverdi were handed their first loss since April last week by Torino, even though they certainly put up a fight, despite not being in need of points. The Giallorossi defeated Juventus with a late surge, garnering their fourth win in the last six rounds, tying in the other two and staying close to the fourth spot. Sassuolo have found the target in five of the last six rounds and La Lupa have not been great defensively on the road: they have spread the wealth around since Domenico Berardi was the only one to bag one in multiple matches. Jeremie Boga, Stefano Sensi, Manuel Locatelli and all the defenders contributed scoring-wise: Boga and Sensi have been their most lively contributors in the last few fixtures. The Giallorossi are getting a lot from Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko, while the latest tactical change, if confirmed, would help the likes of Nicolò Zaniolo, Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert, as the last two would see more minutes. Lorenzo Pellegrini is iffy due to a thigh ailment and his absence could allow Bryan Cristante to have a big role.

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Serie A Match of the Round – Empoli vs SPAL

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At this point of the season, the heftiest points are often on the line in the bouts between relegation strugglers, although it rarely happens that one terminates with a 2-4 result like Empoli-SPAL.

The Azzurri were coming off a good point on the road in Bergamo, but they need wins to get out of the third-to-last spot, while the Estensi beat Juventus’ second/third stringers last week and had prevailed in four of their last five fixtures.

Aurelio Andreazzoli, who has to navigate through several absences, chose Cristiano Dell’Orco as left wing-back, Dimitrios Nikolao to shore up the Matias Silvestre-less back-line and preferred to advance Rade Krunic rather than using Dimitri Oberlin up front. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 33

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Thomas Strakosha: fresh off a saved penalty in the Udinese game, he could be able to take home few more bonus points against Chievo, which have scored just nine times on the road.

Jens Larsen: the two-game trip to the Nation’s Capital went poorly for Udinese, which were handled by both Roma and Lazio. However, they have had much success at home, while Sassuolo are pedestrian away and the fullback has been able to haul in points in six of the last eight tilts at the Friuli stadium. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 31

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Marco Sportiello (7 points): few unexpected clean sheets in this round, which had some extraordinary saves, but not by goalkeeper that managed to keep the goal locked up. Among them, Pierluigi Gollini had probably the best performance, but he was docked one point because he was booked. So the shout-out goes the Frosinone player for his alert work in Florence against a pretty good offence.

Erick Pulgar (13 points): the reigning player of the month confirmed his proficiency from the penalty spot by convering two in the span of three minutes.
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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 31

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Standings implications: Juventus outlasted Milan on Saturday and are now one point away from the title since Napoli were held to a draw by Genoa. Roma were the only ones to succeed among the teams gunning for a Champions League berth and have pulled closer to the Rossoneri and Atalanta, who have just more point. Inter kept the suitors at bay by drawing against the Orobici, while Lazio salvaged a point at the buzzer against Sassuolo. A slow round in the Europa League race too, as Torino could not find a way to perforate Parma and the Blucerchiati were bested at home by the Giallorossi. Fiorentina keep slipping and Stefano Pioli is on the hot seat after the loss to Frosinone. In the relegation zone, Udinese capped off a big week by topping Empoli and moving four points clear of Bologna, which responded and got out of the final three spots on Monday night by trashing Chievo. Cagliari are almost save after sinking SPAL, which stay in precarious position. Frosinone are trying to mount a late comeback that would be quite incredible: the two consecutive Ws put them five points behind Empoli.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 31

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Juventus: Mario Mandzukic (flu), Paulo Dybala (calf) and Leonardo Spinazzola (knee) have recovered from their problems, while Cristiano is sitll out. Sami Khedira, Douglas Costa and Juan Cuadrado have ramped up their activity and are close to returning, but they will not be called up in this round. Martin Caceres will miss three weeks with a thigh strain.

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne is said to have almost recuperated from his thigh contracture and could be in the squad list in this round. David Ospina (head), Faouzi Ghoulam and Vlad Chiriches (thigh) should be in the squad in list, while Raul Albiol is not far away.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 30

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Milan-Udinese: the Rossoneri slowed down just as things were starting to get really interesting, as they were defeated by Inter and Sampdoria after they had managed to surpass the Nerazzurri riding a five-game winning streak. They also have to look behind at the onrushing Atalanta and Lazio. Udinese came out on top in Igor Tudor’s second debut, besting Genoa after two losses to Juventus and Napoli, although their home numbers were solid also before the firing of Davide Nicola. Milan have had troubles feeding Krzysztof Piatek in the last two matches and they do not really have a second reliable scoring option because Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu are more creators and have not had much feeling with the goal recently. Samu Castillejo did not deliver in Genoa despite the opportunity to start. Lucas Paquetà and Franck Kessie were benched after international duties, but they should be back in the XI here and could provide a decent boost. The Brazilian starlet might play closer to the guy and Patrick Cutrone could get to start over Suso in a different scheme.  Continue reading