Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 25

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Juventus: Sami Khedira underwent a heart ablation with an arrhythmogenic atrial focus and will miss a minimum of one month. Emre Can is suspended. Douglas Costa remains questionable with the quad injury that has forced to skip the last few games.

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne is disqualified, while Mario Rui has slim chances to return from a thigh pull.

Inter: Mauro Icardi took some tests this week, which revealed no structural damage on his achy knee, but he is still poised to be unavailable this week amid the standoff with the managament. Balde Keita is having a hard time shaking off a thigh strain. Continue reading

Allegri and Pjanic preview Atletico vs Juventus

Juventus Live wire

Coach Massimiliano Allegri and Miralem Pjanic held late yesterday the usual pre-game presser. The coach begun by announcing that Sami Khedira has not been called up and later the club informed that the midfielder will undergo testing for a atrial arrhythmia that emerged yesterday: “We lose a world-class player and will remain with four available midfielders.”

Paulo Dybala will play tomorrow. It is a game unlucky any others this season, but it is similar to what we already faced in previous years. Champions League has always been a goal for us and whether from the outside they give us more or less chances to win does not concern us. Continue reading

Allegri Opting For Caution Against Atletico Madrid

Juventus Training Session

With their crucial Round of 16 clash approaching, it appears Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri will go for pragmatism when the bianconeri take on Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Rather than sticking with his three-pronged attack, the former Milan tactician has reportedly been tinkering with Joao Cancelo at right midfield and Mattia De Sciglio at right back in a 4-4-2 – leaving Paulo Dybala on the bench in the process.

Allegri has opted for caution in the past, and has often used this defensive 4-4-2 in away clashes in the Champions League. With Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira occupying the two central midfield positions, Blaise Matuidi typically shifts wide on the left, blocking the opposition’s right flank.

Up top, the tactician is reportedly going to field Mario Mandzukic alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. While a 4-4-2 would essentially mirror Atletico’s formation and would go a long way in nullifying their offensive firepower, this setup has backfired for Allegri in the past before. Against Real Madrid in the Champions League final, the Italian manager went for a similar formation, with Dani Alves occupying the right wing.

His pragmatism worked initially against the Spanish giants, however, as soon as Zinedine Zidane made some tactical tweaks at half-time, his 4-4-2 and by consequence, Juventus’ European dream, soon fell apart. The bianconeri found themselves consistently on the back foot, and had nothing to show for in the final third.

On Wednesday, Allegri cannot afford a similar performance and must find a way to achieve defensive solidity without sitting too deep and playing too safe. An away goal at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium could go a long way in this tight affair and might prove to be the difference over two legs.  While having players like Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi come off the bench against tired legs could sway the tie, one of them needs to start against Los Colchoneros. 

Considering Mandzukic’s flexibility and ability to play on the left both in the offensive and defensive phases, Allegri should field Dybala alongside Ronaldo. The Argentine has played his best football when deployed in a partnership and has recently developed a blossoming relationship with the Portuguese superstar. Coming off an impressive performance and a thunderbolt of a goal against Frosinone, now would be a good time to provide La Joya continuity. Against a defensively staunch Atletico Madrid side, Juventus will need all the creativity they can get to break their deep block.

With Ronaldo attracting much of the centre-backs’ attention, Dybala will have the license to roam between the lines and could carve out space for himself – either to fire strikes or find a teammate in space. As Ronaldo and Dybala wreck havoc centrally, Mandzukic will have ample opportunities to let his presence be known in the eighteen-yard box going up against Santiago Arias.

As it stands now, Allegri’s reported setup will stifle his side in the final third and will inevitably isolate Ronaldo and Mandzukic – forcing Juve to go wide to Cancelo. Considering Godin’s aerial presence and Jan Oblak’s command of his box, filtering in crosses from the wing – a common Allegri tactic – will fail miserably. With the clash approaching, time will tell if Allegri’s caution will be repaid or whether another European disaster is on the horizon for Juventus.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 24

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Juventus-Frosinone: the Bianconeri quickly bounced back in Sassuolo after the 3-3 draw with Parma and have won four times in the last five fixtures, fortifying their lead in the standings. The Ciociari have been pesky recently and they are coming off a surprise win over Sampdoria, their second in a row on the road, and they are now within striking distance from the 17th spot. With Champions League just around the corner, Cristiano Ronaldo might be rested for the second time in Serie A, which would mean more scoring opportunities for Mario Mandzukic, Federico Bernardeschi and Paulo Dybala, or whoever will compose the front-line. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 23

Chievo vs Roma - Serie A Tim 2018/2019

Salvatore Sirigu (7 points): some outstanding goalkeeping in this round, in particular by Alban Lafont and Gianluigi Donnarumma, but the spot goes to the Torino player, who saved a penalty.

Aleksandar Kolarov (9 points): another terrific display but the veteran fullback, who notched his sixth goal in Serie A with a potent cross-shot at the end of a fast-break.

Ola Aina (9 points): the Chelsea loanee has been impressive thus far and decided the Udinese game with a header on the far post on a cross coming from the other wing back, a staple in Walter Mazzarri’s schemes. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 23

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Standings implications: Juventus’ led atop of the table swelled up again as the Bianconeri routed Sassuolo, while Napoli could not break through in Florence and had to settle for a nil-nil tie. Inter returned to winning ways in Parma after three rounds. All the teams involved in the Champions League race won this week: Milan outfaced Cagliari, Roma did the same with Chievo on Friday, Atalanta successfully came back at home versus SPAL and Lazio squeezed past Empoli. Sampdoria lost steam in the Europa League zone with the second loss in a row, an appalling one to Frosinone in this case, while Torino are now eighth after nipping Udinese. Frosinone’s victory drags few more clubs into the mud: there are six teams in six points, with two going down. Bologna was the only other side that brought home a relatively positive result in those neighborhoods as they tied with Genoa. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 23

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As it is often the case, Juventus roared back after two stumbles, escaped the first wild 15 minutes and then proceeded to cruise to victory, re-sending Napoli back to -11 in the standings.

Mattia De Sciglio (5 points): the spot would have gone to Wojciech Szczesny if it was not for that botched unnecessary deep clearance in the second half that rattled the fans’ coronary arteries. However, he did keep thing from unraveling right away with a daredevil coming out on Filip Djuricic, where he took and won the gamble, and then brilliantly saved an attempt from downtown by Manuel Locatelli. Continue reading

Allegri talks ahead of Sassuolo-Juventus

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri begun by addressing the talk of the week, which was Paulo Dybala leaving the bench early against Parma: “He apologized and it was the only right thing to do since he is an intelligent guy. The club gave him the no.10, which is a big responsibility, and he is the vice-captain. His behavior was not aligned to that, but he understood and the case is closed.”

On Dybala’s role: “It has not changed, it is just a matter of skills of who plays alongside him. Cristiano Ronaldo is different from Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic. He has always had few chances, even though he did not score. He plays in the same position, it is not like he is used as fullback. He has always been involved in the build-up of the action and always tried to finish it as well. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 23

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The next Serie A round will start very early, on Thursday, and stretch throughout the weekend.

Lazio-Empoli: it was not necessarily pretty, but the Biancocelesti returned to winning ways against Frosinone after three unsatisfactory results and now are in the fifth spot, tied with Roma and Atalanta, one point away from Champions League. The Azzurri came back against Chievo, collecting the second draw in the last three fixtures after a slew of losses, but behind them Bologna have gotten closer. The Biancocelesti are really banged up and, considering the minuscule turnaround, there is growing pessimism about the presence of Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto, who got hurt on Monday. Joaquin Correa should be able to play and in this scenario he and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic become very attractive fantasy assets and Felipe Caicedo could be a cheap plug considering he has scored in the last round. Valon Berisah and Riza Durmisi might be unlikely protagonists.  Continue reading

Squad Overhaul on the Horizon at Juventus

With Juventus conceding six goals in their last two games, question marks have been raised about Massimiliano Allegri and his side’s ability to deliver the Champions League for the first time in 23 years. In just over two weeks time a clash against La Liga giants Atletico Madrid awaits where the stakes could not be higher. A round of sixteen exit would be a disastrous end to an indifferent campaign for the bianconeri; a campaign in which European success was stressed from day one at Villar Perosa. Despite signing Mr. Champions League himself – Cristiano Ronaldo – the Italian champions look no closer to winning Europe’s elite competition than they were last season. In fact, you could argue their chances at winning it all are lower. If Juventus’ recent woes are anything to go by, it means a squad overhaul is on the horizon.

After whimpering out of the Coppa Italia in embarrassing fashion against Atalanta, Juventus hosted newly-promoted Parma. For the first time since March 2012, the bianconeri lined up without one member of their famous ‘BBC’ trio and fielded a hardly inspiring centre-back partnership of Daniele Rugani and latest acquisition Martin Caceres. Since Mehdi Benatia’s departure, reports have surfaced that the Juventus brass would entrust Rugani with a bigger role moving forward, however, it’s safe to say, the defender failed in his first real test.

Continue reading