Three Things to Watch in the Derby d’Italia

With the Derby d’Italia coming up, albeit behind closed doors, the implications couldn’t be bigger. With a win, Inter pull themselves within three of Juve with a game in hand on the Italian champions. A loss for the nerazzurri, however, could spell the end of their title challenge. Juventus, by contrast, will be looking to bounce back after a tough defeat against Lyon and will be keen on keeping Lazio at a distance.

The biancocelesti are in fine form and are currently just one point behind Juventus. Without further ado, here are three things to look out for in the latest iteration of the Derby d’Italia.

1) Where is Christian Eriksen?

Since joining Inter, Eriksen has been eased into Conte’s set-up and often comes on as a super-sub. Against Milan, the former Tottenham man started on the bench and impacted the proceedings from a more advanced role in the second half. Considering Conte’s rigid 3-5-2 formation, it will be interesting to see if the veteran tactician deploys Eriksen from the start against Juve.

While he has used him in the hole behind Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, Conte is not exactly a risk-taker and typically opts for defensive solidity. Against Juventus, expect Eriksen to play a crucial role, however, it remains to be seen whether it’s off the bench or from the start. As the season wears on, the Danish international will see his influence on the side slowly increase, but hopefully for Inter, it won’t be too late.

For now, Eriksen’s progression is definitely something to keep an eye on.

2) Juventus’ midfield dilemma continues. 

You could have written this section three years ago and it still would have been true. Since Pogba and Vidal left Juve, their midfield has not been the same, an issue the bianconeri are yet to address. Beyond bosman signings, reinforcements in the middle of the park have been few and far between, something which has come to haunt Juventus today.

We’re going into match-day 26 and it still seems Sarri is unsure of his best midfield trio. Does it include Ramsey and Rabiot? Is Pjanic the bianconeri’s best option at regista or is it Rodrigo Bentancur? Questions that as of right now have no answers, which is deeply concerning. After fielding Rabiot and Bentancur alongside Pjanic in mid-week, expect Sarri to shuffle his deck once more in hopes of finally establishing his preferred midfield.

The Derby d’Italia is as good an opportunity as any for a midfielder to stake a claim for a starting role and Sarri will be hoping the enormity of the game will spur on his uninspired midfield. Until now, they’ve been lackluster and that needs to change.

3) Will the lack of fans impact the game? 

After the Coronavirus spread to Italy, it was announced that most games in Northern Italy will be played behind closed doors. While the logic makes sense and avoids further pandemic, it will undoubtedly be odd in this clash. The whole season has been building up to this Derby d’Italia and now the fans won’t even be able to be there.

Fans play a crucial role at establishing atmosphere in a stadium and spurring their team onto victory. Without them at the Allianz Stadium, it will be interesting to see just how the game will be affected. Will it still feel like a title race? Does it give Inter the advantage or will the calm give Juve the upper hand?

While it will definitely be strange to see an empty Derby d’Italia, the game itself promises to be an enthralling affair between two of Italy’s best sides. Lazio will be looking on eagerly.

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Serie A Round 5 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Up

This past weekend in round 4 of the Serie A season delivered some scintillating displays. From Nicolò Barella bossing the midfield in Inter’s commanding 2-0 win over rivals AC Milan in the Derby della Madonnina, to Napoli newcomer Fernando Llorente following up his big midweek performance in the UEFA Champions League vs Liverpool with a brace against Lecce, there were plenty of noteworthy performances deserving of much praise. But, with a quick turnaround to the first set of midweek fixtures lurking for round 5, it is time to turn our attention to those whose stock has risen in the world of ‘fantacalcio.’

Here are five players trending in the right direction and deserving of a look for your squad. Continue reading

Weekend in review: Ramsey downs Hull, Juve record and Atletico complete the impossible

With the latest weekend of football action, there were loads of points available to our fantasy football managers as records were broken, two long waits for honours were ended and one milestone moved a step closer to fruition – plenty for the players to play for, in that case – and some really made the most of it.

For starters, it would be remiss not to mention the achievements of Antonio Conte’s Juventus this season. They won the Serie A title with a European record points overhaul of 102, and secured their 30th Italian title to boot – their third consecutively. For any fantasy managers who had the foresight to include captain Gianluigi Buffon, then that was a great shout. He has been Juventus’ best player points-wise this season, and his season total of 520 only leaves him 220 points behind the overall winner, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez. Considering Buffon is a goalkeeper, that is a fantastic feat – he added a healthy 30 points to his overall tally by keeping a clean sheet against visitors Cagliari.

Moving on to the long waits mentioned previously, there were two – Arsenal finally ended their nine-year wait for some silverware by beating Hull in the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday, and the sense of relief was tangible as the usually calm and quiet Arsene Wenger was lifted onto his player’s shoulders, smiling like a Cheshire Cat absolutely doused in champagne. Anyone with a certain Welshman by the name of Aaron Ramsey in their fantasy football team will have been over the moon to see him netting the Gunners’ winning goal in extra time and bagging himself the Man of the Match award to boot.

Moving over to Spain, Atletico Madrid prepared for their upcoming Champions League Final against city rivals Real by earning a draw at title foes Barcelona, securing themselves their first league championship in 18 years – much like Antonio Conte at Juventus, coach Diego Simeone has received widespread acclaim for his side’s footballing standards this season. The club’s top performer over the season in this fantasy football competition has been on-loan goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, with 550 points overall – however, the 22-year-old Belgian failed to add to that total as Barca managed to grab the lead through Alexis Sanchez, who added 20 points to his own total to finish off with a healthy 475.

Atletico’s title win gives them a real psychological boost ahead of that clash with Real in Lisbon, and the prospect of a league and European cup double is now tantalisingly close – though the 2-2 result the last time these two sides met offers little in the way of statistical aid. Real are by far the more experienced of the two clubs at this level, and will be looking to their top performer Cristiano Ronaldo – indeed, the second most prolific points-grabber in fantasy football with 695 – to turn up the heat as the club look to secure their 10th Champions League trophy and prevent Atletico from achieving their first ever double of this nature.