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

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 14

Atalanta: Luis Muriel and Hans Hateboer subbed off due to knocks on the knee in Champions League, but there is optimism they will be able to play Saturday. Duvan Zapata flew to Spain for further check-ups on his thigh and will remain sidelined. Rafael Toloi is suspended. Simon Kjaer has been ruled out due to fatigue. 

Bologna: Mattia Destro is improving after his knee problem and could be called up, while Mitchell Dijks (toe) and Roberto Soriano (knee) are having troubles absorbing edemas. The midfielder is actually at risk of missing all the December games. Federico Santander is nursing a thigh strain. Continue reading

Serie A Round 8 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

The international break came and went and gave us fantacalcio managers some much-need time to step away from our teams and evaluate where it’s all gone wrong…or right! However, don’t get too comfortable as the next game-week is already upon us. Lazio will be hosting Atalanta in what promises to be an exciting clash, while Stefano Sensi returns to Sassuolo with Inter. Otherwise, Juventus take on a fiery Bologna side at the Allianz Stadium.

With match-day eight upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your fantacalcio side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Allan (MID, Napoli, Value 13.9) – The Napoli midfielder has struggled for consistency this season and looks set for a period on the sidelines. Considering Eljif Elmas’ and Fabian Ruiz’ good form, expect the Brazilian to be rotated out of the eleven. While Allan is important for what he does off the ball for the partenopei, it doesn’t benefit you in Fantasy Serie A. The 28-year-old is also a yellow card risk costing you points and has already picked up two cautions on the season.

At 13.9 million euros, look elsewhere for your midfield.

Fabio Quagliarella (ATT, Sampdoria, Value 17.7) – Sampdoria are currently a club in disarray and sit in last place in the standings. Having just fired Eusebio Di Francesco, it will take some time for Claudio Ranieri to get the blucerchiati firing on all cylinders again. After the international break, Sampdoria host Paulo Fonseca’s Roma, in what promises to be yet another difficult clash for them. Fabio Quagliarella has struggled as a result of the chaos in Genoa and has only found the back of the net once this season, albeit in a 4-1 loss against Sassuolo. Much like it was the case last season, it was from the spot.

Given Sampdoria’s recent issues and Quagliarella’s inefficiency in front of goal, it would be wise to temporarily swap the 36-year-old out of your elevens. At least until Ranieri steadies the ship.

Cristian Zapata (DEF, Genoa, Value 17.7) – After a positive start to the season, the defender has struggled for form and has seen his Genoa side slide down the table to 19th. In addition to not getting the results, I Grifoni’s defence has looked porous, conceding goals at will. If that weren’t enough to drop him from your side, Zapata is an aggressive defender and is unafraid to slide into a tackle. Currently, the 33-year-old is on three yellow cards, costing your crucial fantasy points in the process.

At 17.7 million euros, it’s time you bid adieu to Zapata and remove him from your eleven once and for all. It doesn’t look like things are getting any better in Genoa anytime soon.

Duvan Zapata (ATT, Atalanta, Value 26.8) - Let’s get something straight. Zapata has been in sensational form this season and would never have made this list if it wasn’t for his recent injury while on international duty. He’s currently among the top fantacalcio point earners alongside Ciro Immobile and has picked up from where he left off last season.

However, his recent injury will reportedly sideline him for a minimum of three weeks. Given Atalanta’s wide array of attacking options, they have no pressure to force him back into action anytime before that. As a result of this in addition to his inflated price-tag, it would be wise to move him out of your roster for the next three game-weeks at least.

Christian Kouamé (ATT, Genoa, Value 24.5) – Yet another player from the Genovese clubs makes this list as Kouamé has struggled for form in recent weeks. After a positive start to the season that saw him notch three goals, the attacker has tailed off and has been inefficient in the eighteen-yard box. Much like Sampdoria, Genoa are currently a club in disarray, who’s manager’s future is in danger. Given the uncertainty surrounding the club, expect Kouamé’s goalscoring woes to continue.

At 24.5 million euros, it’s time to move on from the talented young man.

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Sampdoria appoint Ranieri after the firing of Di Francesco

It took them few days, but Sampdoria finally hired their new coach on Friday, after dismissing Eusebio Di Francesco on Monday following a disastrous start. The veteran manager, coming off a two-month stint at Roma, agreed to a two-year contract.

Ranieri won half his matches with La Lupa last year, posting then four draws and two losses. Over his long career, he has worked in four different countries and also led the Greek national team for a while. In the Peninsula, he spent time at Cagliari, Napoli, Fiorentina, Parma, Juventus, Roma and Inter, while abroad he is best known for his spells at Valencia, Chelsea, Monaco and obviously at Leicester, where he shocked the world by winning Premier League in 2016. Continue reading

International Break Coaching Carousel

The second international break of the season is typically an opportunity for Serie A clubs to (over)react to a poor start to the season and make a coaching change. The extra week of training allows for a new manager to more easily settle into a new reality, so we’ll likely see a change or two, while other managers may receive the dreaded vote of confidence.

While many assumed Vincenzo Montella would be the first manager replaced, especially since he hadn’t been hired by Fiorentina’s new owners, the former Milan manager has actually strived after a poor start. Ironically the managers most in danger of losing their jobs (and one of them will have likely received a pink slip by the time you read this) were all hired during the summer so in a sane world you would assume they would be getting a bit more time. 

  

 

Available Jobs

 

Milan- despite the chaotic win against Genoa, the rossoneri are seriously considering sacking Marco Giampaolo. The former Sampdoria manager has looked confused in every aspect of his job- his lineups featured some desperate decisions (Andre’ Silva starting two days before being loaned out as the most egregious example), he hasn’t developed the players the club acquired in the summer, Paqueta and especially PIatek have regressed on his watch, he gave up on the formation he used all summer and has made puzzling statements during interviews- an important aspect of the job at a club of Milan’s magnitude.

Beyond improving on results, the most important task for Milan’s next manager will be to develop Bennacer, Leao, Hernandez, Rebic and get Paqueta and Piatek back on track because of the significant expense of acquiring them. Milan also needs a manager who will get them to play as hard as they did under Giampaolo’s predecessor Rino Gattuso. 

 

Genoa- after avoiding relegation in the final match of the season, president Preziosi bolstered the squad significantly in the summer by signing defenders Zapata and Barreca, promising striker Pinamonti and (shockingly) former Ajax starting midfielder Schone. Preziosi entrusted the team to Aurelio Andreazzoli who was known for playing a version of Sarriball at Empoli while using a 3 man defense.

There were strong indications Andreazzoli would be sacked after the 4-0 loss to Lazio and the subsequent defeat against Milan makes his situation even more dire. Genoa will need a manager who can guide them out of the relegation which won’t be easy considering that all three newly promoted teams look well equipped for Serie A- to add insult to injury, former Genoa manager Juric has done very well with Hellas Verona.

Sampdoria- the blucerchiati lost two of their best players in the summer in Praet and Andersen and even the most optimistic person couldn’t have expected Quagliarella to come close to repeating his previous campaign. Eusebio Di Francesco will likely be sacked by the time you read this, his situation (and that of his eventual replacement) will be further complicated by the fact the club has been rumored to be sold for the past few months. Just like Genoa, Sampdoria need a manager who can get them results immediately.

Udinese- just a few weeks ago, sporting director Marino shared some harsh words about manager Igor Tudor and it feels likely that a change will happen in next few weeks. While Udinese were surprisingly able to hold on to De Paul, they have one of the lowest payrolls in Serie A, further proof that a state of the art club owned stadium isn’t a silver bullet to solve all problems. The Friulani will need a manager able to get the most out of Fofana, Mandragora, Lasagna and De Paul to avoid relegation.

 

Managerial Candidates

 

Luciano Spalletti- certainly understandable that Milan fans would love to see him replace Giampaolo since he did get Inter back to the Champions League for two years in arrow, but considering that Spalletti is still earning over 4 million after taxes from Inter (and has a long term contract) it’s almost certain he’ll take a sabbatical year like Conte did with Chelsea, rather than taking over a team in crisis mid season and one that will have to deal with Financial Fair Play restrictions for foreseeable future. This also applies to Max Allegri, who will almost certainly coach abroad next season.

Claudio Ranieri- the architect of the Leicester miracle did quite well at Roma when he replaced Di Francesco. He solidified the defense, made a much needed goalkeeper change and almost got the giallorossi to the Champions League. Ranieri is an ideal stop gap option for a big club, on top of being very tactically sound, he’s used to the pressures of managing a big club- plus he’s a very likeable guy which helps with how a team in crisis is perceived.

Stefano Pioli- Fiorentina got significantly worse last season when Montella replaced him. Pioli also did fairly well when he took over at Inter mid season but did suffer an end of the season classic Pazza Inter collapse, he also received universal praise for how he handled Astori’s tragic death. Pioli can also be more than just a stop gap manager for a club like Sampdoria or Genoa, while for Milan he would be likely a bridge to next season.

Rino Gattuso- his reputation as a manager has certainly improved when you consider he had a Milan, that was no better than current version and likely worse, contending for a Champions League spot going into last match of the season. Gattuso was linked to Genoa after their devastating loss to Lazio and a return to Milan cannot be fully excluded.

Rudi Garcia- the former Marseille manager had an overall successful stint at Roma and could be an option for Milan should they decide to go with a manager who could lead them beyond this season.  

 

Beppe Iachini- while he’s mainly known for being the longest tenured manager of the Zamparini era at Palermo, last season his reputation took a hit when he failed to save Empoli who eventually went back to Andreazzoli and achieved better results. Iachini will likely either be a backup option for the clubs who fail to sign Pioli or could return to Udinese.