Atalanta-Juventus: after producing at an historic pace through the first ten weeks, the Goddess failed to score in their last two matches against Sampdoria and Cagliari. Josip Ilicic and Ruslan Malinovskyi are suspended, but the Slovenian attacker has appealed, but they will get a boost from the return of Duvan Zapata, who is expected to feature at least in limited capacity. He notched six goals in seven appearances before getting hurt. Luis Muriel is no longer red-hot, as he has not found the target in the last three rounds, but he will be again their main scoring option from the jump. Alejandro Gomez is going through something similar, but he always has loads of potential as an assist-man. Mario Pasalic is likely to move to the hole and he can pretty sneaky there. Robin Gosens has been their best wing-back so far, but also Timothy Castagne has hit the net once. Continue reading
Alex Meret: he quickly bounced back from an uncharacteristic error and Napoli have had a stingy back-line at home, giving up multiple goals just once. They might be able to take advantage of the fact that Genoa’s best striker, Christian Kouame, will not be available. David Ospina also showed pretty well when called upon.
Stefan De Vrij: Inter have conceded in few games in a row, but Verona have struggled almightily to produce offensively and will be without one of their main weapons, Miguel Veloso. The Dutch defenders has been able to feed the strikers twice thanks to his strong passing game. Continue reading
Brescia fired Eugenio Corini on Sunday night after the loss to Hellas Verona and announced today the hiring of Fabio Grosso. The Rondinelle are in the middle of a three-game losing streak, as they have been defeated recently also by Genoa and Inter. They are penultimate in the standings, having collected just seven points so far by downing Cagliari and Udinese away and tying with Fiorentina.
The Biancoblu had their best performances against the top teams, as they were in the match until late versus Juventus, Napoli and the Nerazzurri, always losing by just one goal, but that did not translate into positive results in easier contests, which doomed Corini, even though he led them to the promotion with a dominant season last year. Continue reading
Standings implications: a weird round results-wise since three of the top four teams shared the spoils against minnows. In chronological order, Juventus could not get past Lecce, Inter equalized against Parma and Napoli did not come up with a game-winner versus SPAL. Atalanta were the only ones to capitalize on the other contenders’ misfortune, demolishing Udinese. Lazio outlasted Fiorentina, while Roma took advantage of Milan’s blunders. Cagliari tied with Torino away, while Bologna and Sassuolo returned to winning ways, sinking Sampdoria and Verona respectively. Genoa bounced back in Thiago Motta’s debut by staging a glorious second-half comeback against Brescia. Continue reading
Initially likened to a certain Andrea Pirlo because of his appearance and position, Brescia’s Sandro Tonali has since taken Serie A by storm. Playing at the base Eugenio Corini’s midfield trio in a traditional regista role, the U-21 international has taken to the top flight like a fish to water and has dictated proceedings.
Alongside the veteran presences of Daniele Dessena and Dimitri Bisoli, the 19-year-old is given the license to drive forward with and without the ball. After watching him play, it’s easy to forget he hasn’t even hit 20 years old yet. His most recent performances have attracted interest from Serie A’s elite as Juventus, Napoli, Inter, and Milan are all said to be keeping tabs on the player.
Fiorentina have also shown interest in the player and have sent scouts to watch him. In addition to having the pick of the litter in Italy, Tonali is being monitored by English giants Manchester United as well as Paris Saint-Germain.
Despite the uncanny resemblance to Pirlo and the fact that they both emerged from Brescia, comparing the two is lazy. They may play the same position, but do so very differently. While Tonali boasts an impressive range of passing, he’s more eager to drive with the ball at his feet than the legendary Milan midfielder. In his seven appearances this season, he’s already averaging 1.6 completed dribbles per game and has emerged as Brescia’s most important ball progressor with the ball at his feet.
Outside of possession, Tonali is like a bulldog. Always eager to win the ball back, the Brescia man is regularly nipping at the heels of the opposition. Due to his aggressive nature, Tonali’s play off the ball has drawn comparisons to a certain Gennaro Gattuso. High praise, indeed.
Beyond his energetic presence in the middle of the park, Tonali has demonstrated he can play the killer pass. Often times, younger players display promise but lack in end-product. This is not the case for Tonali. Having already registered two assists on the season, the Brescia midfield is unlucky not to have more. As his 2.3 key passes per game suggest, Tonali is regularly finding teammates in dangerous positions.
Whether it’s from open play or from a whipped in cross from a set-piece, Tonali’s right boot poses a considerable threat to opposition defences. As he gets more top flight action, expect Tonali’s assist and chances created tallies to keep increasing.
With every big club in Italy practically on his tail, it’s now time Tonali makes the right decision and join a side where he can play regularly. After all, he’s just 19 years of age and can’t afford to have his development stifled. From this perspective, Fiorentina is an ideal landing spot, provided they are capable of giving him regular minutes.
Milan, Inter and Napoli could be interesting options for Tonali, as well, but the 19-year-old should request guarantees before joining. The last thing he needs is cameo appearances off the bench at this stage in his career.
Regardless of his next move, one thing is clear: Tonali is Italy’s best midfield prospect and is the real deal. The Pirlo comparisons will only continue as his career goes on, yet the 19-year-old has shown he’s ready to carve out his own path. The ball’s now in his court.
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Juventus-SPAL: the Bianconeri have not been very spectacular in the last two matches against minnows, but they got the job done with the contribution of few different players. Cristiano Ronaldo has shaken off his injury and will be back in this one, Paulo Dybala has outperformed Gonzalo Higuain in the last couple of outings, but the latter is usually closer to the goal. Aaron Ramsey has been pretty good and they could carry on with the tactics where he is heavily featured, but it remains to be seen whether he can play thrice in a row, otherwise Adrien Rabiot or Federico Bernardeschi could get the nod there and reap the benefits of a very offensive role. They have gotten goals from Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi, even though Sami Khedira is generally the midfielder who is most involved in the offense. Juan Cuadrado loses some steam because he is forced to play as right back for the time being. Continue reading
Brescia-Juventus: two questions loom large on the game, one for each side. Mario Balotelli is eligible to return after the suspension, but his conditioning might be a problem after skipping the summer preparation, so he might be initially be kept on the bench. Cristiano Ronaldo has been ruled out due to muscle fatigue and it is new situation under Maurizio Sarri; they also do not have Douglas Costa, so they lack a pure left-wing player. Federico Bernardeschi could certainly be adapted there, but he has struggled so far, so the coach might try new solutions, like for instance fielding Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain together. Whoever ends up starting up front will have to shoulder a bigger load sans Ronaldo. Continue reading
Milan-Brescia: the first game under Marco Giampaolo presented the same issues the Rossoneri suffered from last season, primarily keeping the ball up front and feeding their main striker. They managed to get only some limited offensive forays without never building a constant assasult. A faux pas that could lead to some tactical and personnel change, with Suso possibly returning to the flank and Ismael Bennacer and Rafael Leao getting the nod from start. If they can turn it around, it could be a decent spot for Krzysztof Piatek, but it is tough to trust them right now. The Rondinelle showed to be solid right away in a fairly tough road game in Cagliari: last year’s design worked and the defense held up. If that continues to be the case, Alfredo Donnarumma will be one to watch, he scored 26 goals in Serie B, same as Dimistri Bisoli, who is their most dangerous midfielder, while Sandro Tonali’s fantasy production is a little shakier because it hinges on set pieces. Continue reading
Eleven days after the end of the January transfer market window, Juventus announced the signing of Aaron Ramsey for next summer, which was secured weeks, if not months, ago. The Bosman move will cost the club only €3.7M in agents’ fees, while the midfielder has penned a four-year contract, with a reported €7M salary.
Ramsey has been a regular at Arsenal since 2010 and racked up 359 appearances with the Gunners, scoring 61 goals and providing 64 assists. In London, he has won the FA Cup and the Community Shield three times. The 28-year-old will be the third Welsh in the history of the Bianconeri after John Charles in the late 50’s and Ian Rush in the 80’s. Continue reading
Six years ago, a 20-year-old Marco Verratti was on the market after a stellar first season with high-flying Pescara in Serie B. After what seemed like an eternity of negotiations, Juventus eventually deemed their 12 million euros price-tag too high, and pulled out of the deal, allowing Paris Saint-Germain to snap up the diminutive playmaker. Today, Verratti is still dominating the middle of the park in Ligue Un, and is easily worth four times the price. Juventus have since signed Miralem Pjanic, but missing out on Verratti is a decision the bianconeri still rue today.
The Juventus brass may still be licking their wounds, but they now have the opportunity to learn from their past lapse in judgement and make things right by splashing on Brescia midfielder and Italy international Sandro Tonali. Similar to Verratti, Tonali has had a phenomenal season in Italy’s second division and is attracting interest from all over. As a result, Brescia have slapped a 20 million euro price tag on their prized possession and are unwilling to budge on their valuation. While it may be a bit steep for an unproven midfielder, it’s time for Juventus to stop fretting over the price and secure Tonali before other suitors join the race. After all, they know all too well how quickly others will pull the trigger and bank on potential.
Tonali, while likened to Andrea Pirlo due to his position and silky hair, is more of a modern regista himself. Equally capable of splitting open a defence as he is at making a tackle, the 18-year-old makes for a long-term solution to Juventus’ ongoing midfield conundrum.