Juventus Top Performers – Round 15 vs Lazio

Juventus brought something close to their A-game in the first half of the Saturday night game, but the game took a turn for the worst right before intermission and they ultimately, down to ten men, they could not contain a superb Lazio team, suffering the first loss of the season

Wojciech Szczesny: every defender had their fair share of troubles in this one, but the Polish goalie at least kept the score close for a while with an outstanding double save on a Ciro Immobile penalty and the subsequent rebound. He tried his best not to foul Joaquin Correa there but still brough him down and was hung out to dry by his teammates on the other two goals. Continue reading

Sarri addresses the team’s issues in pre-Lazio presser

Coach Maurizio Sarri held today the usual pre-game presser ahead of the clash with Lazio: “Since we have had some troubles after the Champions League matches, we hypothesized that there could be an unconscious motivational drop while approaching the Serie A ones. Maybe it is just a dip in mental and nervous energies. I am confident after seeing the practices, then as always the pitch will do the talking.”

“Every point is important at the end of the day, every game matters at the same level. I understand that some matches are more emphasized than others on a journalistic level, but rationally where everything is still on the line. 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

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

Juventus Top Performers – Round 14 vs Sassuolo

Despite getting an early lead, Juventus again waited to be in a hole before playing with some purpose, but this time could not pull off the comeback and overcome a woeful defensive day and were thus held to a tie by Sassuolo.

Leonardo Bonucci (3 points): the veteran centre-back hit the net with a sneaky and probably deflected strike and was not necessarily at fault into the collapses on the two goals. The first one generated on a corner kick on the other end so most of the team failed to track back, then Jeremie Boga did the rest with a gem. On the second one, Matthijs De Ligt started things off with an errant pass that he should have avoided in the first place, Juan Cuadrado did not settle it and then Gianluigi Buffon had a senior citizen moment on a routine shot. Surely the worst showing by the back-line since the Napoli game at the beginning of the season. Alex Sandro returned from his injury but was very lacklustre and slow in general. 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

Juventus Top Performers – Round 12 vs Milan

More of the same from Juventus against a very game Milan, as the Bianconeri were unable to take control of the game and were forced to defend a lot, but the depth of the roster and the quality of the substitutions came to the rescue once again, this time through the angel face of Paulo Dybala.

Wojciech Szczesny (7 points): the fact that the goalie was the co-best player is pretty telling about how the match unfolded. He pulled off a sensational save on a Lucas Paqueta header in the first half and then he was supremely focused on all the attempts from long-range, which he never batted away centrally.  Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round Ten vs Genoa

Juventus replicated the exact same performance they had in Lecce on Wednesday and it almost ended with the same result, if it was not for a blatant mistake by an opponent and a perfect Cristiano Ronaldo penalty to save the day.

Leonardo Bonucci (3 points): the back-line produced a goal with the interim captain, who was very foxy in cashing in on an uncertainty by Andrei Radu for a pretty comfortable header. However, they gift wrapped another goal to the enemies, this time with Alex Sandro being the culprit with a schoolboy error, as those errant passes should never even considered, let alone actually made, in that area. Daniele Rugani was rusty and it showed and he risked being sent off way too often. He could be a reclamation project down the line, but this was not the right game to trot him out. Continue reading

Bentancur adapting to life under Maurizio Sarri

When Maurizio Sarri was first appointed as Juventus boss, many expected Rodrigo Bentancur to benefit greatly. After all, the Uruguayan international is slick in possession and is a classic regista, a position Sarri greatly values. In many ways, he epitomizes everything the veteran manager looks for in a midfielder. However, life under the former Napoli tactician didn’t get off to a great start as Sarri regularly fielded Sami Khedira and Blaise Mautidi alongside Miralem Pjanic, relegating the 22-year-old to the bench. With limited minutes, Bentancur was constrained solely to cameo appearances.

In recent weeks, however, Bentancur has seen his playing time increase and has played the full ninety minutes in consecutive games. Rather than play as the side’s deepest midfielder, Sarri has used the former Boca Junior man as a mezz’ala on the right-hand side of Pjanic. This is a new position for the player as he’s typically used to playing as a number six. In this role, Bentancur often filters in centrally as a regista, giving the Bosnian international the license to roam forward. While on paper he’s fielded as a mezz’ala, Pjanic and Bentancur’s understanding of space means he occupies both positions at times.

Against Lokomotiv Moscow, at first, Bentancur was used as an attacking midfielder behind Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo. When that didn’t work, the Uruguayan international was quickly shifted deeper into midfield, once again, alongside Pjanic.

From a more familiar position, Bentancur regained control and looked way better in possession. Before the season started it seemed it was either Pjanic or Bentancur, however, Sarri has demonstrated he’s willing to use them together given their ability to interchange positions at will.

Tomorrow, Bentancur is expected to start at the heart of midfield against Genoa, after Pjanic picked up a knock in Juventus’ most recent draw against Lecce. As the side’s regista, expect the 22-year-old to dictate play and link the midfield to attack. It will be interesting to see how Bentancur performs in Pjanic’s absence as it will be the first time he plays without the Bosnian this season. Thus far, the duo have formed an unlikely partnership and give Juventus’ midfield some much-needed technique and directness.

With Pjanic on the pitch, Bentancur takes on a more subdued role as opposing defences are focused on the former Roma man. From a wider position in midfield, Bentancur filters in between the lines and is able to carve out space for himself in dangerous areas. Take the Inter game, for example. As Marcelo Brozovic was marking Pjanic for most of the game, Sarri introduced Bentancur to create a numerical advantage in the middle of the park.

Despite playing as a mezz’ala, the Uruguayan midfielder was often in central positions and played a crucial role in Gonzalo Higuain’s winner, providing the assist. With Pjanic in a deeper position, Bentancur played in an advanced role behind the strikers. As Dybala moved freely around the pitch, Inter’s defence struggled to keep track of the bianconeri’s midfielders, leaving Bentancur time and space to find Higuain on the winner.

Against Genoa, however, Bentancur is expected to play the regista role on his own; a challenge he’ll surely welcome. Despite his positive performances in recent weeks, he’s yet to prove he can handle the midfield workload on his own and has struggled in the past when tasked with dictating play.

If Bentancur impresses tomorrow, it will pose Sarri with quite the selection headache moving forward. Either continue using the Uruguayan from a mezz’ala role in tandem with Pjanic, or keep an in-form player on the bench. Remember, there’s also Sami Khedira, Blaise Matuidi and Adrien Rabiot to account for. In any case, Bentancur’s progress this season is something Juventus will welcome, especially considering their midfield woes.

Are you a Serie A expert? Can you defeat the top Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you think so, play www.fantasyseriea.com now!