Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 30

JUVENTUS-TORINO

Juventus: the Bianconeri are thriving offensively thanks to the great form of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, who scored in three consecutive matches. Douglas Costa contributed off the bench versus Genoa and he can be a factor even if he rarely plays full matches because of his injury history. Juan Cuadrado picked up an assist in the past match and he has been effective despite the more defensive role. Rodrigo Bentancur is in outstanding form but is not very prone to picking up bonuses. Their run of clean sheets was interrupted by a consolation goal, but they will be facing a sputtering attack in this one. Continue reading

Serie A Fantay Preview – Round 29

TORINO-LAZIO

Torino: the Granata had a nice reaction after falling in an early hole versus Cagliari, but an untimely penalty did them in. Andrea Belotti has found the target for two straight matches and has been excellent missed penalty aside. Simone Zaza is unlikely to be present, but Simone Verdi and especially Cristian Ansaldi, two of their most talented players, saw minutes in the past match and could be ready to start, unlocking few options up front, first of all the advancement of Alex Berenguer. Ansaldi had a positive impact after he subbed on, Verdi might need more time and had been struggling prior to the lockdown. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 28 – Sunday Games

Milan-Roma: the Rossoneri had an excellent performance against Lecce, although the quality of the opponents, especially in the back, needs to be taken into consideration. The light front-line worked out wonderfully as Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Giacomo Bonaventura all scored and Hakan Calhanoglu dished out two assists. Even Rafael Leao netted one off the bench. It is set to be confirmed as a whole because Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be at most be ready for a brief stint. Rebic and Bonaventura have the biggest chances to take home bonuses and Roma are not particularly stingy, while Calhanoglu runs most of the offense. Theo Hernandez picked it up where he left off and was one of their engines.

Suggested picks: Rebic, Bonaventura, Calhanoglu. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 27

Fiorentina-Brescia: the Viola will welcome back Franck Ribery, at least in limited fashion at first, and the coach is ready to tweak is system to accommodate him either in the hole or on the left wing, joining Dusan Vlahovic/Patrick Cutrone and obviously Federico Chiesa up front. In the meantime, it could be Gaetano Castrovilli taking on a bigger role. Alfred Duncan and Marco Benassi have some decent potential.  It is an extremely appealing match-up considering Brescia’s defensive woes and absences: Vlahovic and Castrovilli in the particular were in great form before the lockdown. Continue reading

Serie A Club of the Round – Sampdoria

Only two shut-out wins over the weekend, by Lazio and Genoa, but neither was accompanied by a particularly impressive display. Verona and Lecce could have been deserving for their upsets over Juventus and Napoli, but instead the shout-out goes to Sampdoria, which were tied with Inter for the largest win of the round in their away comeback against Torino.

The Blucerchiati were looking to bounce back after losing badly in two of the last three matches, against Napoli and Lazio and getting an underwhelming tie with Sassuolo in the other one. Continue reading

Sampdoria vs. Napoli: Team news, stats and prediction

Gennaro Gattuso and his Napoli stunned their hated rivals Juventus last weekend at home with a 2-1 win, a result the Partenopei undoubtedly hope to ride and build momentum from as they pay Sampdoria a visit on Monday.

At this point of the season, with the title far beyond their reach, Napoli now must set their sights on sneaking into the top four or, at the bare minimum, snagging themselves a Europa League spot. Last weekend’s  2-1 win over Juventus may be exactly what was needed for the Azzurri to get back on track and make a serious push up the table.

On Monday, Gennaro Gattuso’s side head to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to take on Sampdoria in a match some are calling ‘the Polish Derby’ for the abundance of Polish internationals on display.

Three Poles in total are set to feature, including Piotr Zielinski and Arkadiusz Milik for the visitors from Naples and newly turned 25 year old Karol Linetty suiting up for the Blucerchiati.

For Napoli – sitting 11th in the table, five points from 6th and 12 from 4th – their objectives have been clearly defined. As for Claudio Ranieri and his Samp, gaining some separation from the bottom three remains priority and a positive result here would go a long way in ensuring their safety.

TEAM NEWS

Napoli conducted their fare share of business during last month’s winter market, adding the likes of midfielders Stanislav Lobotka and Diego Demme, the latter who is expected to get the starting nod in this one.

The 28-year old defensive midfielder arrived over from RB Leipzig and is still looking to have his first real significant performance in the middle of the park. Ruiz and Zielinski often like to push forward and assert themselves by either picking a pass or penetrating into the final third to create that final ball into the forward men. Look for Demme to play a key role in this one.

Defensively, Gattuso is expected to roll with a central tandem of Luperto and Maksimovic, this despite having both Manolas and Koulibaly on the roster. Given how sporadically Napoli defend this season, it is hard to predict just how well they will show up against a Samp side who, while they aren’t relishing in a big production year for Fabio Quagliarella, do have a few players who can hurt them in the attacking end.

Up front, the attacking trio of Callejon, Milik and Insigne are set to start. The Polish international leads Napoli in domestic scoring with 7 goals and serves as the focal point up front for the two wide players to play.

Callejon and Insigne enjoyed a good amount of success last weekend vs Juventus, combining on the Italian’s goal which wound up being the match-winner after Cristiano Ronaldo pulled one back late. In his last four games across all competitions, Insigne has scored four goals, hinting that perhaps he could be the difference in breaking down a Samp side who tend to be a bit more defensively solid in their own yard.

Napoli squad: Meret, Ospina, Karnezis; Mario Rui, Luperto, Maksimovic, Di Lorenzo, Hysaj, Koulibaly, Manolas; Demme, Allan, Elmas, Zielinski, Lobotka; Callejon, Llorente, Lozano, Mertens, Politano, Insigne, Milik.

Projected Napoli XI (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Maksimovic, Mario Rui; Ruiz, Demme, Zielinski; Callejon, Milik, Insigne

STATS AND FACTS

  • Napoli have won 7 of their last 8 matches against Sampdoria in all competitions.
  • Napoli have scored at least 2 goals in 9 of their last 10 matches against Sampdoria in all competitions.
  • Napoli have outscored Sampdoria 14 to 7 in the two sides previous six meetings combined in all competitions.
  • Napoli are averaging 56% possession to Sampdoria’s 44% through 21 matches each.

PREDICTION

Napoli are without question coming off their biggest result of the season, so it is only natural to believe they will begin building momentum from this point forward. But, this season has been far too turbulent from them that conventional wisdom may not be applicable. Yet, what does work in their favor is their improved fitness and the return to normalcy by having key players coming back each week. While Koulibaly, Manolas or Meret aren’t likely to get nods, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the general vibe around the squad is more upbeat and that bodes well for Napoli to put in a real positive showing away.

As was mentioned, Samp typically feed off their home crowd, and as a result, can make matters uncomfortable for opposing sides. However, this feels like the kind of match Napoli will have to grind out and get their hands dirty if they want to leave victorious. Gattuso’s grinta will trickle down and ensure that is the case.

Sampdoria 1-2 Napoli

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Lazio face test of squad depth as fixtures, injuries and suspensions pile up

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Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi is currently undergoing one of his biggest tests of the season.

That may seem like an odd thing to read, given that his team have forgotten how to lose; last weekend’s victory over Napoli marked a club record 10th league win in a row.

In that time, they’ve ended a 30-year wait to beat AC Milan at San Siro in Serie A, a 16-year winless run at home to Juventus in the league and most recently a six-match losing run against Napoli.

It’s tempting to think Lazio can just plug in and play at the moment, that Inzaghi has little more to do than send his team out on the pitch with the instructions: “Same again, lads”.

But the coach’s skill in keeping this run going shouldn’t be underestimated – and his biggest challenge could be just around the corner.

Lazio aren’t blessed with a squad boasting enormous strength in depth, and the loss of one undisputed starter can have a big impact on the way they perform.

Inzaghi already lost his hugely influential midfield pair Lucas Leiva and Luis Alberto through suspension for the trip to Brescia at the start of the year, and their absence was felt as Lazio toiled before snatching another late win.

Captain Senad Lulic is suspended for Sampdoria’s visit on Saturday, while Francesco Acerbi and Stefan Radu will miss the following weekend’s Rome Derby if they pick up another booking.

Danilo Cataldi, who is also one yellow card away from suspension, has been ruled out for almost three weeks with an injury sustained during the midweek Coppa Italia win over Cremonese, while Joaquin Correa hasn’t recovered in time to face Samp and joins long-term absentees Adam Marusic and Jordan Lukaku in the stands.

With the injuries and suspensions piling up, much is being asked of few.

Saturday’s clash with Claudio Ranieri’s side will be the third game in a run of six matches in 15 days for the Biancocelesti, and another five are yet to come before 9 February.

The routine 4-0 win over Serie B opposition on Tuesday evening highlighted the lack of quality in depth that Inzaghi has available to him, regardless of the handsome scoreline.

Ciro Immobile, Acerbi and Luiz Felipe were all handed starting spots yet again, despite clearly being in a position where they would benefit from some rest.

The reserve players brought in to the Lazio XI from the bench included the likes of Bastos, Patric and Bobby Adekanye. They all performed well, but they are expected to be comfortable against this level of opposition.

Comparatively, some of the squad rotations rolled out by Inter and Juventus this week included bringing in Alexis Sanchez, Diego Godin, Valentino Lazaro, Gonzalo Higuain, Daniele Rugani and Federico Bernardeschi.

That, in a nutshell, is why any talk of Lazio competing for the Scudetto is premature.

Lazio’s strongest XI is the third-best in Serie A, but these players aren’t superhuman and they’ll be running on fumes or risking injury if they are made to continue at this frantic pace for much longer.

This is where Lazio’s early elimination from the Europa League may turn out to be a blessing in disguise; this busy stage of the season has tripped them up before, but now they have more time between league games to recover and work on details.

The question now is whether Claudio Lotito will choose to do something very uncharacteristic and open his chequebook during the January transfer window.

Lazio’s attack is threadbare in terms of options, and always has been. Immobile’s sensational form over the last three-and-a-half seasons has helped gloss over this fact, but the recent injury to Correa has highlighted the lack of options once again: Felipe Caicedo and Adekanye are the only other natural attackers in the squad.

Striker Lamin Jallow has been heavily linked with a move from Salernitana, Lotito’s other club, but how the 24-year-old will adapt to the demands of a Serie A Champions League race is a complete unknown.

Inzaghi is a fan of SPAL’s Alberto Paloschi, but he is another player who is unlikely to get fans off their seats in excitement.

Matias Vecino of Inter is perhaps the most interesting, high-profile player Lazio are considering for a mid-season move, but the signing would make little sense as it would only increase options in what is already the most competitive area of the squad, central midfield.

For now, this incredible wave of momentum should hopefully be enough to carry Lazio forward.

Inzaghi’s skill in the rotation and selection of his squad so far shouldn’t be underestimated, but the biggest test is yet to come.

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AC Milan 0-0 Sampdoria: Rossoneri fail to convert their chances in frustrating game

AC Milan failed to redeem themselves after the 5-0 defeat against Atalanta before the break, managing just a draw against Sampdoria at San Siro this afternoon. Certainly, taking their position in the standings into account, one point simply isn’t enough. 

The first half of the game was certainly drowsy, to say the least, as both sides had a lot of technical errors. As a result of this, they both failed to assert themselves and the tempo of the game really dropped. On a positive note, though, Milan had most of the possession in the first 45 minutes. Continue reading

AC Milan vs. Sampdoria: Team news, stats and prediction

The Christmas break has come to an end (finally), and AC Milan are hoping to bounce back from the disastrous 5-0 loss against Atalanta last time out. Taking on Sampdoria at San Siro, the fans are expecting to see a completely different side as they need all the points they can get to climb the standings. 

Of course, the season hasn’t been what the Rossoneri had hoped for thus far, sitting in 11th place far away from a top-four finish. That said, the season isn’t over and there is still time to put a positive spin on this campaign, although it won’t be easy to achieve for Stefano Pioli’s men.  Continue reading

Serie A Round 17 Mini Preview

Sampdoria-Juventus: the Blucerchiati are not the most good-looking side in the Peninsula, but they are often capable of getting the job done due to extemporaneous goals, with the Derby della Lanterna serving as the latest example. Fabio Quagliarella is a bit banged and could not follow up his great display in Cagliari, while Manolo Gabbiadini has been their top scorer with four goals so far. The other guy stepping up to the plate has been Gaston Ramirez, who has notched three goals and one assist in the past two months. Besides the trio, it is hard to trust other players fantasy-wise even though Jakub Jankto will likely be back in the XI and Fabio Depaoli has recovered from his injury. Karol Linetty and Morten Thorsby are pretty energetic players, and the Polish midfielder picked up an assist in the last fixture, but they usually do not contribute much in the offensive end. Continue reading