Atalanta: Matteo Pessina returned in Champions League from a late-season patellar dislocation. Ruslan Malinovskyi had an old scar in his adductor flare up and missed the previous game, but he is set to be available Saturday. Cristiano Piccini (knee) could return sooner rather than later, while Pierluigi Gollini (knee) is at least two weeks away.
Brescia: they actually played better than expected versus Lazio, where they had some opportunities to score, in particular with Ernesto Torregrossa, but were unable to cash in. Several injuries left them with a skeleton crew as Torregrossa, Florian Aye, Nikolas Spalek and Jaromir Zmrhal are the only attackers available. All of them, excluding Aye, have been able to hit the net recently, while Sandro Tonali and Bruno Martella have been pretty good in the less offensive roles.
Suggested picks: Torregrossa, Spalek, Zmrhal. Continue reading
Parma: Dejan Kulusevski willed them to victory, again, versus the lowly Brescia with an assist and a scorcher and he is finishing his stay in style, while Gervinho has been pretty paltry in recent matches, scoring just once in the last seven. Gianluca Caprari took advantage of his increased minutes and converted a PK, while among the other back-ups Luca Siligardi has been the liveliest. Roberto Inglese is tough to trust since his minutes are still spotty. Juraj Kucka returned from a short absence and he and Jasmin Kurtic are surely capable of doing damage offensively. Matteo Darmian is coming off his first goal of the season and also Riccardo Gagliolo notched one lately but their fullbacks will have their hands full defensively in this one.
Suggested picks: Kulusevski, Kucka, Caprari. Continue reading
Cast your mind back to Atalanta’s third strike in their six-goal demolition of Brescia 10 days ago.
Ruslan Malinovskyi received the ball in the left hand channel of the Brescia half, some 35 yards from goal. The Ukrainian dropped the shoulder to sidestep Mattia Viviani, ran into a more central position, pulled back his traction engine of a left foot and unleashed a missile that flew into the bottom corner of Lorenzo Andrenacci’s goal.
It was yet another screamer for the Malinovskyi scrapbook. “I don’t have a bad left foot,” he joked in his first interview for Atalanta last summer. It’s safe to say that Malinovskyi was slightly understating things. Continue reading
Thomas Strakosha (7 points): he was under heavy fire in the second half in Udine, and saved by the post on a late strike by Rodrigo De Paul, but managed to fend for himself, bouncing back after a pair of costly howlers.
Cristiano Biraghi (10 points): he was instrumental in Inter’s little second half push to breeze past SPAL as he found the target with a right-footed strike from just outside the box and perfectly teed up Alexis Sanchez for a tap-in with a sharp cross. Continue reading
Alessio Cragno (7 points): a pretty good matchday for defenses this time around and the Cagliari goalie was the best one for the second week in a row, as he denied Lecce attackers with multiple strong saves and shined in particular on a one-handed one on Diego Farias late.
Federico Fazio (9 points): he had dropped way down in the pecking order, but the simultaneous absences of Chris Smalling and Bryan Cristante, who was used in the back in the last tilt, allowed him to return to the XI and he bundled it over the line on a corner kick to score the pivotal first goal in Brescia. Continue reading
Standings implications: Juventus staved off Atalanta’s ambitious in the top match of the round, while Lazio fell on its face again, so the lead atop of the standings is now eight points. Inter are now tied for second place after overwhelming Torino in the second half. Roma took care of business against Brescia and remain in control of the fifth position because Napoli and Milan drew in the Sunday night game. Sassuolo won their fourth match in a row and are beginning to put a little bit of pressure on Milan, while Verona and Bologna got pipped the post by Fiorentina and Parma.
Atalanta: Ruslan Malinovskyi is suspended for yellow-card accumulation. Josip Ilicic is not 100 percent after an ankle sprain but he is at his coach’s disposal. José Palomino is out with a thigh injury.
Bologna: Federico Santander and Andreas Skov Olsen remain out with thigh strains. Andrea Poli will miss up to ten days with a thigh pull.
Robin Olsen (7 points): four clean sheets in the 27th round and therefore four goalies managed to rack up points, as David Ospina, Salvatore Sirigu and Wojciech Szczesny join the Cagliari player in such list. Sirigu had a very strong outing as well, but Olsen just edges him thanks to a fantastic late save on Andrea Petagna, where he threw himself in front of the striker to deny a clear-cut opportunity. It is not outlandish to think that he will supplant Alessio Cragno.
Faouzi Ghoulam (7 points): only one defender scored in this matchday, Fiorentina’s German Pezzella, but they conceded once, therefore the three spots are reserved to members of the teams that blanked their opponents. Ghoulam played just a handful of minutes but picked up an assist with a venomous corner kick towards the far post, which was successful met by Hirving Lozano for the two-nil against Verona. Continue reading
Standings implications: sadly, a late decision by the League to postpone few matches that were scheduled to be played behind closed doors took the legs from underneath the second round in a row and now the table is poised to be full of asterisks for a while.
In the limited ones that were indeed played, Lazio took full advantage of Juventus-Inter not happening, got the job done versus Bologna and jumped on top of the standings. Atalanta dismantled Lecce, thus fending off Roma in the Champions League race, which survived Cagliari’s late rally. Continue reading